Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Some of the best friends I've never met

I was an only child for six years, with a lot of aunts and uncles and hands on grandparents and parents. From what they tell me, it made me a bit of a tyrant and one of my frequent demands was that books be read to me again and again. Hum the hamster was an early favorite. Gamma hunted him down for me a few years back at an obscure book site. I can't remember a time when I couldn't read.

I always had friends from the neighborhood and school, but I wasn't a kid that needed to be entertained. I was frequently off living a very full and exciting life inside the pages of my books, which I read insatiably as soon as I was gifted with new ones or returned from a library trip with my mom or Gamma.

Ramona, Beezus, Peter Hatcher and his annoying little brother Fudge. Laura and Mary Ingalls. The Boxcar Children. Sheila Tubman. Claudia and Jamie and the mysterious Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.

I remember agonizing over not being able to just read Christopher Pike's party series all day. Andrea and I discussed the fate of our older friends on the bus on the way to school every morning.
No one ever monitored my reading, so I was shocked and intrigued by the Dollangangers and Casteels in V.C. Andrews books early on. I breezed through The Babysitter's Club. I came of age with Margaret and some other Judy Blume girls, as well as the Wakefield twins. I remember reading countless Sweet Valley High books during the summer weeks I spent at the shore with my family.

In Mr. Epting's ninth grade english class we were reading silently and I cried my eyes out at the end of Great Expectations even though it seemed that Pip and Estella would end up together. The melancholy uncertainty got to me anyway.
The day I met Jane Eyre changed me forever. What a girl, that Jane. I could carry on through my teens and adulthood, but we'd be here for days and days.

Some days I can remember more things about characters in books and how I related to them than I can remember about myself. I've frequently spoken of book characters as if they're real people. There is nothing like a book where the character comes alive for you. Authors who excel at characterization rock.
Books have given me so much and opened up ideas and worlds to me I'd never be aware of otherwise. What are some of your favorite characters?

If you like book talk, consider linking up with Jana of Jana Says and me on Tuesday, November 11 to share your recent read (s).
Life According to Steph

You mean more book talk?
Sorry not sorry, my friends. 
Book nerds, represent.
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Linking up with Kathy for Humpday Confessions 

 Linking up with Shanna for Random Wednesday

Linking up with Liz for Fitness Blondie's Blog Hop:
The Hump Day Blog Hop

Friday, October 24, 2014

Favorite Fall Nail Polishes

1. Zoya Pandora
2. Zoya Chanelle
3. Zoya Aubrey

essie favorite fall polishes

4. Essie Bahama Mama
5. Essie It's Genius
6. Essie Merino Cool
7. Essie Cashmere Bathrobe
8. Essie Warm & Toasty Turtleneck
9. OPI I'm Not Really a Waitress
10. OPI Baguette Me Not
Nail polish is fucking awful to photograph, really. There is much more distinction in the Essie colors than the Polyvore Pretty above leads you to believe.

Your turn to hook a sister up. What are your fall favorite polishes?

Toodleoo, mofos. Happy weekending.

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Linking up with  Meet @ the Barre

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Sunday Soup: Shrimp & Corn Chowder

As I've said eleventy billion times, I make soup on Sundays. Hence the title of most of my soup posts beginning with Sunday Soup. A durr. I make it on some other days too, but mainly on Sundays. Soup says love to me and has ever since I stood on a chair while Mom Mom wrapped my little hand around a wooden spoon, dipped it into the veggie beef barley on the stove, and taught me how to stir.

As a bonus, soup is usually pretty good for you. Sometimes, it's not so good for you. Those creamy, cheesey, salty soups we love can contribute to a case of plump buttocks. I subscribe to Cooking Light magazine, but I often find their recipes a little under-seasoned. I appreciate them doing the legwork on lightening them up though.

This Sunday I took Cooking Light's Shrimp & Corn Chowder and jazzed it up a little. I doubled the original recipe, desiring leftovers. This was more than enough to feed six people. So if you are solo or just want one meal, feel free to halve the recipe!

10 center-cut bacon slices, chopped
2 bunches of green onions, sliced thin (white and green parts)
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tbs minced garlic
Just shy of a 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
5 cups 2%  milk
2.5 cups chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper (black okay)
1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 bags large uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined (I used the 41-50 count bags from Target and thawed them first)
5 cups frozen corn kernels (if you have fresh, use that! I used fresh corn that I had frozen and it was the bomb dot com)

Cook bacon in a large pot over medium heat 6 minutes or until crisp.

Remove bacon with a slotted spoon, leaving the drippings in there.

Add green onions, thyme, and garlic to pan. Saute two minutes.

Sprinkle flour over and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.

Stir in milk and turn heat up, continually scraping the bottom of the pot to get all the browned goodness up as flavor. After about three minutes, add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium.

Add kosher salt, white or black pepper, crushed red pepper, dry mustard and onion powder. Stir well and let cook two minutes. Add corn, wait four minutes and add shrimp. Cook four minutes or until shrimp are done.

I served with a spinach salad and some french bread with butter. Perfect.

So, buttery bread...
Does it negate the light soup?
Let us not discuss.

What's your favorite soup?
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Linking up for
Martinis & Bikinis

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Shit MFD Said Vol. 11

Watching COPS, which is on 24 hours a day in our house
MFD: Steph, you secretly love COPS.
Me: Why would you think that?
MFD: I know it. You do. Watch! Did you see what happened there?
Me: I don't care.
MFD: Stephanie, you do care. You do.

Scary music on TV
Me: What is this?
MFD: Hmm.
Music gets scarier
Me: Mike! What is it? 
MFD: Cujo. 
Me: No! Turn it off. 
MFD: Steph, why? We have dogs.  It's okay.

Upstairs getting changed, Mister Softee music plays on the street as Softee rolls by
MFD: Look at him going by all slow! He sees my light on upstairs! Yelling out the window STOP!
He finally got it - in October. He pulled up in his car as Softee was
driving byand honked a million times, then ran right at him. 
MFD: Steph, where did the apples in the fridge go?
Me: Seriously? They were moved down one shelf
MFD: Yes!
Me: Did you look?
30 second pause
MFD: Oh. 

In bed, 11 pm
MFD: Shit. I put an apple in the freezer and left it in there. 
Me: You'll need to throw that out. 
15 min later
Me: Are you eating? 
MFD: Yes. 
Me: What?
MFD: The frozen apple. It's very good. 

The note he wrote to leave for the cleaning lady

Bloggers, are you linking up for the Hump Day Blog Hop over at Fitness Blondie every Wednesday? It's a great way to find some new reads and get some new readers! Liz has also partnered with Quest nutrition for a great giveaway that ends tonight. Check it out!

All read and approved by MFD before they go live...
Shit MFD Said Vol 1
Shit MFD Said Vol 2
Shit MFD Said Vol 3
Shit MFD Said Vol 4
Shit MFD Said Vol 5
Shit MFD Said Vol 6
Shit MFD Said Vol 7
Shit MFD Said Vol 8
Shit MFD Said Vol 9
Shit MFD Said Vol 10

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Avgole-nono Soup

There is a very simple and delicious Greek soup called Avgolemono. It's a beautiful blend of chicken stock, a lemon and egg sauce, and rice. Today's soup is Avgolemono's bastard child, Avgole-nono. It was born of a desire to elevate a chicken veggie soup and a lazy resistance to making rice.

Chicken stock (I didn't measure because I made it from scratch, I think about 8 cups)
2 cups chicken, chopped
6 carrots, washed and chopped (not peeled)
4 stalks celery, chopped
1.5 cups orzo
2 eggs
juice of 2 lemons
zest of 1 lemon
kosher salt
white pepper
Stock from scratch - carcass, one onion sliced in half with skin on, celery flakes, kosher salt
Boil stock, carrots and celery. Add a bit of kosher salt. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Add orzo and chicken and bring to a boil again. Boil 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit 30 minutes.

When you put the orzo in, crack two eggs in a bowl and set aside. After the soup has been sitting for 30 minutes, beat eggs until frothy. Add juice of lemons. Get a ladle full of broth and add slowly to egg and lemon mixture to temper it, mixing constantly. Stir sauce into soup, add zest of one lemon, and turn heat back on, stirring frequently to incorporate. Add some more kosher salt and dill to taste.

The egg lemon mixture elevates it a little, making it smooth and lovely.

Soup tip: if your rice or pasta in a soup sucks up all of your liquid, you can always add more stock at the end - rice and pasta tend to absorb it so there are plenty of times a day or two after I make it I'm adding more stock! 

Smooth, velvety soup.
Similar to blue suede shoes?
Elvis would approve.
Tomorrow: Shit MFD Said.

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Linking up for
Martinis & Bikinis

Saturday, October 11, 2014

So you say you want more veggies? Spinach muffins

Hey ohhh. Happy Saturday. One of my Choose Your Own Adventure Goals for this month is to try all new recipes in categories like breakfast, soup, appetizer, main dish, side dish, and dessert. Another one of my goals is to add more veggies to my diet. These spinach muffins kill two birds with one stone. Thanks to my friend AEB for sharing the recipe with me - she's also responsible for the zucchini pie I make!

This recipe is from The Green Forks with few alterations.

1 cup  flour
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1/4 cup flax seed
3/4 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1.5 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
¾ cup milk
1 (6 ounce) bag fresh baby spinach
2 mashed bananas - I used some out of the freezer
1-2 tbs applesauce 
2 tsp  vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°F and line two 12-cup muffin pans with paper liners. I only got 16 muffins out of these because I filled mine a little high.

Whisk together dry ingredients in a large bowl: both flours, flax seed, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.

Using a food processor, process spinach until you get some room in there. Add oil and milk and process  until completely puréed. Add banana, applesauce, and vanilla; process just to mix.

Pour wet mixture into dry mixture and fold together with a rubber spatula until completely combined.

Fill muffin cups about ⅔ full and bake 17-19 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

When they cooled, I flash froze them in the pan then stored them in a ziploc in the freezer. All set to go for this week's breakfasts!

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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

What makes me tick: being reserved

One of my nightmares is someone drawing attention to me in a crowd. A stand up comedian pointing me out. Someone making me come up to the front and do something. Center stage is not a place for me and if you try to cajole me onto it literally or figuratively, you will piss me off.

Cue the extroverts out there: Oh come on! Live a little! You're no fun! Correct. I am no fun in the spotlight because I have no fun in the spotlight. But a blog is like a spotlight I broadcast from myself, isn't it? The act of blogging itself is extroverted.

Like most people, I have both introvert and extrovert tendencies. I think it's crazy to think you're either or even though that's all the rage these days. While I tend to think of myself more as an introvert, I'm not ever afraid to speak up or out, connect, make eye contact, talk to strangers, meet someone for the first time, or anything like that, all of which are extrovert characteristics. I'm very forthcoming in person. But put the spotlight on me and I am a deer in headlights.

I think that has a lot to do with me being reserved, which can be misconstrued as self conscious or shy - while it's neither of those, it's definitely introverted. Shyness implies fear of interacting with and approaching others. I have no problem with that. I'm also rarely self conscious - I've done plenty of things that make me look the fool and just don't give a fuck about how I appear to other people a majority of the time.

So what's the difference between shy and reserved? Being reserved means I just typically prefer to keep more of myself behind a wall until I know you better. I reserve part of my real self, get it? It's a defense mechanism. I will talk to someone I don't know all the live long day in general terms about any number of topics, but I will likely not actually reveal much about myself. I excel at holding people at arm's length when I want or need to.

When you're in, you're in, so you might never have even seen the wall. I'm also good at hiding it from you when it is there, because it's not in place to make you feel bad. It's not a wall that's built to keep you out - it's a wall that's there to keep me in until I'm comfortable enough to take it down.

I think it's interesting to think about all the different facets of our personalities and what makes us tick. What's something that makes you tick? Do you have more introvert or extrovert tendencies?

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Linking up with Kathy for Humpday Confessions 

 Linking up with Shanna for Random Wednesday

Linking up with Liz for Fitness Blondie's Blog Hop:
The Hump Day Blog Hop

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Show Us Your Books! - What I read in September

My friend Jana at Jana Says and I are both big readers. So the second Tuesday of each month we're blogging about the books we read the previous month. We thought we'd do this together, and if any of you readers out there would like to join us, that would be grand. Give a shout in the comments if you'd like it to be a link up.

Like my initial book post about what I read this summer, I will never be summarizing books because others do it better. If you want the book summary, click on the title and it'll take you there in a jif. The purpose of this post is to let you know what I thought of it.

As always, big shout out to the Philadelphia Free Library system for supplying me with all of these books. Much obliged.

My September Reads
The House at Riverton by Kate Morton - I really enjoyed The Secret Keeper when I read it last year. This book gets three stars out of five. I just didn't really click with it.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling - This was an enjoyable read and cemented the fact that I'd like to be friends with Mindy Kaling. Did I like it as much as Bossy Pants by my best friend Tina Fey? No, I did not. But I did like it.

We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas - This book was in all the magazines as the book to read. To be honest, for a while, I was like what the hell is so great about this book? It felt like it would never end - it was 648 freaking pages. I'm glad I stuck with it, but an editor whacking off at least 200 pages would've been a good thing. However it's the author's debut novel so I'm sure he fought for his blood, sweat, and tears to be contained. As far as characters go, Eileen was perpetually disgruntled even when things went her way, so by the time they were really not going her way, I had little sympathy left. The son was an epic turd and the father...What it ends up being about was interesting enough for me to keep reading, but if you don't have the time or the patience, skip it.
Overseas by Beatriz Williams - I have sung the praises of A Hundred Summers and The Secret Life of Violet Grant, both by Williams, on this blog before. This one, not so much. It was like a cross between a soft core Fifty Shades of Grey and a less well written version of The Time Traveler's Wife. The dialogue made me die inside a little - Williams way overdid the cheeky English words. Not my cup of tea, but if it's yours, check it out.

Crank by Ellen Hopkins - It's about, you know, crank...which the main character refers to as the Monster. Written as you see below, it was easy to devour. I can't imagine going down that hole, but I'm sure a lot of people couldn't before they started using. It was hard, subject matter-wise - why the hell would someone do this? What kind of life is this? But those are the same things that made it page turning.
Inside the pages of Crank
Never Fade (The Darkest Minds #2) by Alexandra Bracken - YA dystopian lore, the second in a series (my take on the first can be found here). I enjoyed the second more than the first and will continue with the series. This shit is sort of crazy, but isn't all dystopian lore?

The Secret Place (Dublin Murder Squad #5) by Tana French - I devoured the first four books of this series that's not a series like you think of a series as being in 2012. The latest one was released in January 2014, and I finally got around to it. It did not disappoint. I had to stay up until past 1 a.m. one night to finish it. I truly enjoyed all of these books and this one was no exception.

Slide into a book...
Is reading all day a job?
If not, can it be?

What was your favorite recent read? Are we friends on goodreads?

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Friday, October 3, 2014

Ways to Define a Day

Before I go to sleep at night, I turn the lights out, settle in just so, put my trusty sleep mask on, take a deep breath of the lavender I've sprinkled on my pillow, and reflect on my day.

Did I survive? At the basest level, I define every day by me still being there at the end of it. No matter what happened,  even if it was awful, it's over. I can take the sleep cure and wake up to a brand new chance. In that sense, every day truly is a good day.

Was I grateful? Every day, not just on bad days and near Thanksgiving. It is not happy people who are thankful. It is thankful people who are happy. There is always something for which to be grateful.

Was I productive? Did I cross most things off the to do list? If not, did I at least take care of the important items? Did I work hard at work? If I didn't, chances are I won't sleep soundly that night.

How did I treat others? I can totally be a snarky asshole with my BFFs and tell it like it is, which is sometimes not a nice way to be. I need to balance that by being kind to people where I can. Did I help anyone today? Was I open to offering some supportive or encouraging words to someone who needed them?

Was there laughter? There has to be laughter. Every day, even in situations that aren't funny. I can't get by without it. If I feel like I haven't laughed enough, I'll think of something that always makes me laugh so I can get it in.

Was there time to just be? Was there time when I wasn't working, doing, reading, looking at my phone, cooking, cleaning, exercising, driving?  That's not to say I don't do some of my best thinking during those activities...but to me, just being implies stillness. Just being lets my mind wander where it will, glossing over things and snagging on others. Out of all the ways to define a day, this one is most crucial to refueling. Time spent just being, sitting outside and watching the sky go by, thinking of everything or nothing, is time well spent no matter how busy the day was.

What are some ways you define a day?

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Getting the Picture — Choosing a Good Digital Camera

This is a  post written by Hollie Richardson in collaboration with Tesco. Since I am constantly taking photos and have a few different levels of cameras, I always read stuff like this and thought others like me might enjoy this post. Happy reading, shutterbugs. 

Finding the right digital camera for your needs is a difficult business. There are hundreds of readily available reviews and buying guides out there, but usually, you won’t know a good fit until you take your own set of pictures. Good photographers can achieve accomplished shots with equipment as basic as a pinhole camera, while there are cameras that can make even the most lackluster snapper look good. 

Point-and-click cameras: bring your subject closer
For those who don’t want to be tied down by the weighty body and peripheral kit necessary to a DSLR, the point-and-click digital camera takes the strain out of shots. Wildlife photography will benefit infinitely from the likes of the Canon Powershot SX50, one of the digital cameras available at Tesco. This little beastie is capable of a 50x zoom, bringing subjects closer than a camera phone or DSLR, and with enough settings to give you considerable control over shots.

Camera phones for impromptu special moments
No longer the sole remit of the selfie-enthusiast or Instagram addict, some of the newest generation of smart phones could make you forget there ever was such a thing as the X-pro filter. The Apple iPhone has consistently produced crisp, colorful shots, and their new iPhone 6 looks set to keep up the good work with a new sensor that includes focus pixels. Its equally accomplished peers, such as the HTC One M8 and the Nokia Lumia series are also striving hard to put the power back in your pocket. Any of these will make a worthy addition to the arsenal of the casual photographer.

DSLR Cameras: for the consummate professional
For those purists who love working with lenses, who crave ultra-definition, and don't mind toting an impressive bag of tricks around, the DSLR is hard to beat. For taking high- resolution product shots, or providing the press with a decent snap, a mid-range DSLR like the Nikon D3000 will do just as well in the hands of a professional as an amateur; its auto mode and VR lens series are very forgiving.

When choosing a camera, it’s worth being realistic about what purpose it will serve. The thought of diving in at the deep end and buying a DSLR might appeal, but beyond the bells and whistles, it’s all being proud of what lies within the frame.

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