Finding my way home

Today, I took the long way home. After leaving my mom’s house, I drove south. The city and the suburbs open up to vast country — to empty fields and hazy mid-winter sky. Though the weather is below 35 degrees, the heat is on in my car, and I’m driving fast towards the place I now call home, growing my wings and finding what suites me. The song playing on the radio is my jam, and I turn up the volume. The Sunday slowly rolls off my shoulders and into the following week. I am ready for cold mornings, for work, for volunteering, for whatever this week brings.


I’ve come to love winters in the midwest. The cold that nips at your nose, figure tips, and toes. This winter has been exceptionally beautiful. While we’ve seen a lot of hazy blue-gray sky days, my heart has felt more at peace and at home than it has in a long time.

I often feel hugely out of place. I often feel like an imposter, like I’m not good enough. But lately, I’ve found peace and calmness in doing my thing well in quiet and without much glamour or fuss. I’ve been enjoying slow evenings at home, maybe a candle lit with some soft music in the background. I have books littering my coffee table. Dishes linger in the sink from many good meals cooked. I like the process these evenings bring, the inviting warmth. Maybe I’m not supposed to be chasing a moment in the spotlight; I think my nerves would definitely testify that I freeze up and become accident prone when there are a ton of eyes on me. Maybe I just need a quiet corner to do my work well.

That is what this winter has been teaching me. While the outside world beckons us during spring and summer, it’s okay to draw into the warm, quiet, and gentle peace that occupies the winter.

I’ve taken time off of Instagram this month. I’m trying to read through as many books as possible while taking this time off from online socialization. Ideally, I’m trying to read through the entire stack of books on my bedside table before officially downloading the app again. Although I love the window Instagram and other social media gives into other’s perspectives and pieces of lives people are willing to share, I found myself addicted to the scrolling, the watching, the disconnecting it led to in my own life. Since stepping away, I’ve noticed that I have more time to read words in books, write my own words, or just sit quietly while waiting for my coffee while in line at Starbucks or in the mornings when I’m sipping coffee. I’ve noticed that I can hear my own thoughts rather than constantly listen to others’. While I fully love hearing others’ revelations and ideas, sometimes it would seem like they knew me better than I knew myself. I needed this time for my thoughts to surface, to know myself better and my feelings deeper. I need this quiet time to think and to breathe.

Regardless though, I love sharing photos, and I miss sharing the small beautiful moments I find myself in — like swing dancing on a Friday night and being downtown late at night, as the coffee shop closes and I’m in the corner with my Love sipping on warm drinks. Or like the other day, when I found myself in the middle of the country, my man is driving, and I’m in the passenger’s seat looking out at the horizon. The earth getting darker and darker, the sun sunk below twenty minutes ago and the clouds are tucking into bed the northern part of the world.

Here are a few moments I found myself in these past 16 days. The beautiful and the messy. I lay them out here for the sake of sharing stories and documenting this small, beautiful life I find myself in. The life I’m starting to pay more attention to, this winter, where I’m starting to feel more alive and more at home.

January 7, 2022

I woke up to the coldest morning of the winter thus far. The freeze started last night. I came home late while it was snowing — a beautiful image of white glitter gracefully falling under an amber streetlight. All was quiet. It felt as though all the comosion and chattiness of the world was put on hold and all that mattered was that moment, the stars and clouds blanketing the earth and lulling it to sleep.

This morning the flakes cling to the windows of the cars and frost freezes to the tips of the grass. It’s in the single digits but the sky is clear blue. The tree limbs bare. Everything is frozen in place. Inside my tiny apartment, the air has a tinge of coldness to it even though I have the heat on. I make pour over coffee and peel a clementine. The quiet from the night before still lingers as the world stretches and wakes. My feet are cold against the kitchen tile, sleepy eyes and dreams reside. I’m ready to start the day.

Ode to the new year while sitting in my kitchen

The daylight floods my kitchen. The sun sends yellows rays through my blinds that streak across my cabinets, counters, and walls. Coffee is keeping warm in a Chemex on the stove. A pan of gluten-free cake that I made last night sits on the counter. It’s enticing me to come eat it all in one big gulp. The sink is clean with no dishes and only a little bit of soap residue. The dishwasher has a little blue light indicating that the contents are washed and dried, ready to be put away. Poetry magnets are stuck to the side of my fridge and on the front cling photos of the past year — portraits of my brother, my pup saydee, and my Love, a poem, some post cards. There is also a running grocery list, so I don’t forget what I need the next time I make a trip to the store. Succulents sit in the window seal, basking in the glow and thriving even though it’s 32 degrees outside. My pantry is full, stocked with almost all the necessary ingredients to make anything on the fly: bags of flour, sugar (both cane and brown), baking soda, chocolate chips, honey, canned tomatoes, chicken stock, bread, onions and garlic, a handful of different dried pastas, oils and vinegar, chips for snacking, Cheerios for breakfast, peanut butter and jam, marshmallows, an assortment of teas, and a tub of hot cocoa powder. My fridge is fairly stocked with the necessities, too: milk and creamer, orange juice, butter (tons of butter), eggs, carrots and celery, navel oranges, heavy whipping cream, lettuce and baby tomatoes, condiments (ketchup, mustard, and mayo), yogurt, lemon juice, the remnants of a bottle of sauvignon blanc, leftover soup from last night. 

I sit here, writing this at my kitchen island. Fresh purple flowers sit in the middle, bringing color and life to my kitchen in mid-winter. A small piece of paper that says “Strong convictions precede great actions” props itself against the base of the vase. It came from the fortune cookie I had on the second day of the new year. 

I’m writing in this space where I cook food to feed my family and myself. I’m writing this at the beginning of the new year. My life isn’t perfect, and I am deeply flawed. I learned a lot in the past year, and there is a lot to know ahead of me. Yet I’m here in this space that is somewhat tidy, somewhat lived in, somewhat peaceful — I feel at home. 

A Week in (Cooking) a Meal — a.k.a. my blog about Thanksgiving

A Week in (Cooking) a Meal — a.k.a. my blog about Thanksgiving

So initially, I was going to write my second A Week in Meals, but this week was Thanksgiving. And this year, I was tasked with shopping and cooking the majority of my family gluten and dairy side of our thanksgiving meal. (Part of my fam eats gluten/dairy-free, and they took on their menu.)

I spent two days prepping and three days cooking. Overall, I think I cooked/baked 15 dishes.

Needless to say, we did not run out of food. Also, needless to say, I didn’t do much other cooking than thanksgiving cooking last week. I ate takeout a few times — both for my sanity in the kitchen and so I wouldn’t be tempted to dip into the dishes I had already finished. (Thank you, Enzos Pizza and Great Wall Chinese.) So for the most part, the things I ate right up until the holiday weren’t that blog worthy. So instead, I’m focusing this blog post entirely on the prepping, baking, cooking, and eating of Thanksgiving.

Most of my family was out of town right up until Thanksgiving, which is why I was tasked with the job of cooking. But I didn’t take it lightly. Deep down inside, I have always wanted to cook Thanksgiving dinner.

I’m not a professional cook, despite the fact that I started this series and constantly post about food on Instagram to aspire to be like Drew Barrymore, Joy the Baker, or Alison Roman. However, I have seen Thanksgiving as the holiday that all the foodies and cooks have heart eyes over. It’s the holiday that is all about the cooking and the food and the eating until your hearts content. Cooking in my apartment kitchen, using all the tools and cookware I’ve compiled, just felt right. It felt exciting, fulling and brought me lots of joy overall.

Not pictured in these photos was the transportation of all the food from my apartment to the house where we had Thanksgiving, then from the house to another house with a fridge that had enough room to store all the food. It was a challenging feat, but we did it.

Over the half a week I cooked, I made my kitchen messy. I cooked leeks and greens gratin, apple tart, green bean bake, cranberry sauce, challah bread, deviled eggs, and pumpkin bread. Actually, I baked the pumpkin bread twice because the first time, the bread leaked all over the bottom of the oven and smoked up my entire apartment.

Note to self: always have a leak tray in case of these specific situations, especially when using a rented oven.

On Monday, I worked a really long day to take Tuesday off and use it as preparation day and baking day.

When Tuesday came along, I woke up early and took a grocery store run to get all the last minutes of ingredients I needed; then, I spent the day prepping and baking.

As soon as I was back and had everything squared away, I started cooking. I worked quickly to keep the butter in the pie dough cold. I baked the pumpkin bread. I chopped apples. I boiled the chicken stock. I gave delicate time and attention to the challah. On Wednesday, I had to work a half-day. But I also finished the rest of the pies. I prepped the leak and greens gratin and green bean baked. I whisked up the cherry whip my mom loves. I chopped, whipped, and ladled the delicate but firm yolks, mayo, and relished into egg whites to make deviled eggs. And then packed everything into my car and headed to my mom’s house.

On the actual day of Thanksgiving, all I had to do was bake the mac and cheese, top the gratin and green bean casserole with toppings and toast them in the oven, make gravy, and heat everything else up. Oh! And the charcuterie board! I can’t forget about curating the charcuterie board.

Several dishes made it to the table that I will try my hand at again. I didn’t have enough elbow noodles for my baked mac and cheese, so instead, I used penne. I thought this would work out just fine, but since they were bigger than an elbow noodle, they weren’t as soaked in the cheese cause and became a little too crispy. I used my homemade chicken stock in the gravy, but even with the thickener added, it was still too runny. I placed the sugar cookies a little too close together on my small baking sheet, and they ended up melding into one another in the oven, turning into square cookies instead of round ones.

There were a few places where I felt like I succeeded, though! The challah bread turned out sweet and exquisite. When I was cooking the chicken stock on the stove, I sat the bowl of rising dough near it, and it rose perfectly, the most perfect I’ve ever seen bread dough rise. And the braid turned out imperfectly beautiful. (I will always make chicken stock and bread together from here on out.)

The deviled eggs turned out a smash — I found this natural dill relish that, at first glance, looks bland but is packed with flavor. Then I topped them all with dill and smoked paprika.

I’m also rather proud of the pies and the second batch of pumpkin bread. These are a staple we have every Thanksgiving, but just making them in my kitchen from scratch using the techniques I’ve taught myself over the last year was fulfilling.

So I have some places I’ve improved, some areas I still need to work on. It might not have been a perfect Thanksgiving meal, but it was a satisfying one — and I think everyone’s stomachs were full by the end of it. Overall, I’m happy my family made it back home just in time for the holiday.

How was your Thanksgiving? What was your favorite thing to cook, bake, or eat?

P. S. — The Friday post Thanksgiving, my Love and I have made a tradition where we make and eat “Ross’s sandwich” with all our Thanksgiving leftovers. Although our recipes might differ slightly from Ross’s coveted sandwich, we make sure always to include the “moist maker,” a third piece of bread in the middle of the sandwich that is soaked in gravy. It’s always a win.

A Week in Meals

Welcome to the first “A Week in Meals,” a littel collection of some of the things I ate or cooked within past seven days. 

I started this project, first of all, because I wanted something to look forward to posting on Sunday. I wanted a dedicated topic to cultuvate over the week and then complie together. 

The second reason I started this project is because I’ve had the urge to write about the things I’m eating and cooking. Sometimes when you get those nudges to do something, you just have to follow it and see where it takes you. So here I am. Welcome along for the ride.

I actually made a lot of food this week instead of eating out, which has become a bad habbit of mine. This little project was inspirtion to stay in, see what I have on had in my pantry, and cook. 

One thing I noticed while compling this post together was that I cooked a lot of pasta (which isn’t  particularly a bad thing). I also advenured a bit and roasted a chicken, which as so much fun. 

I will say, that I’m working on the way I’m taking photos. I love photography and have taken many photographs in my time, but I’m still getting around learning the best ways to photograph food (esecailly what lighting to use in my first floor apartment). So bare with me as I lean into the creative process and learn as I go. 

And now, without further ado, my week in meals… 

Sunday

I made Pea Parmesan Pasta from Ella Risbridger’s cookbook Midnight Chicken. Along with the starchy, creamy parm sauce and peas in this dish, I roasted cherry tomatoes. They fit in so well. On Sunday, I did a lot of writing and had some family over for the afternoon, so instead of staying up and making an elaborate meal, I just made this simple pasta dish that worked as a quick, 15 minute comfort food.

Monday

Similar to my Sunday night meal, I made pasta with parmesan but instead of peas and tomatoes, I used kale. The boiled kale was soft and silky in this dish and I just love the pop of color it adds along with the neutral pasta and parm along with the blue willow dish. (Does anyone else use fancy dishes to make their food more presentable, just because?)

Tuesday

Okay, so after work on Tuesday I got a huge jolt of energy and I funneled it into making a roasted chicken. I already had a whole chicken in my fridge waiting to be used at some point. I was really inspired by Ella Risbridger this week and her recipe for midnight chicken was wonderful, to say the least. The recipe did call for fresh chili, which the grocery store was out of, so instead I used bell peppers and it was still delish. The recipe also make a honey lemon ginger tea that tasted like a hug in a cup. The use of minimal tools and using my hands mostly for the recipes was grounding and a way to really connect with myself after a long day. This recipe will be on the docket to make many times again. Plus, this chicken fed me for the rest of the week.

Wednesday

On Wednesday, I had eaten a lunch with my brother and by the time dinner rolled, I wasn’t too hungry. I still wanted a bit to eat though, so I turned on a pot of water to boil and made deviled eggs. These little nuggets of creamy yolks and soft egg whites were the perfect thing to eat in anticipation for Thanksgiving dinner, which was just over a week away.

Thursday

I didn’t get a good photo of my homemade fettuccine pasta. The whole process of making noodles is enthralling and requires your whole attention, and then eating them is so comforting that you forget to take any photos. Making pasta is therapeutic—from kneading the dough to slowing feeding it through the pasta maker, flattening it out one notch at a time. I added some of the leftover roasted chicken from Tuesday and make a chicken and noodles dish. My love and I ate the meal by candlelight.

Friday

Friday was another busy day wrapping up the workweek. But I made two things that I’d like to share. The first was my morning latte made with eggnog and cinnamon. My goodness was this a perfect combination for the holidays. Being the first time I had eggnog in coffee, I don’t know if I can go back to regular creamer until the new year.

The second thing I made on Friday was this chicken sandwich on a toasted sourdough bagel. I added mayo, roasted tomatoes, and smoked gouda cheese on top of some more leftover roasted chicken. It gave me the energy to slide across home base as I finished up my work week.

Saturday

On Saturday, my love and I adulted as we ate leftovers from the week with in the midst of Christmas music and holiday decorations. We put up my first Christmas tree in my little apartment, which was a joy to do. Our leftovers consisted of the homemade pasta and roasted chicken from Thursday and a gigantic burrito from Blue Cactus from Friday night.

And that wraps up my first “A Week in Meals” blog. If you’ve read this far, thanks for following along. These weren’t the fanciest meals or photos ever published on a blog; but honestly, the food itself matter less than the solace I found cooking and sharing the meals with the people I did. Even among a busy week, these small meals were a bright spot that led me to feel more connection to myself and my loved ones.

I’ll see you back here next week with another around of “A Week and Meals,” which will include Thanksgiving dinner! In the meantime, what food have you been cooking and eating? Who have you shared a meal with this week?

Until next Sunday.