Saturday, February 28, 2015

March Goals

Since my February goals worked out pretty well, I am sharing with you my March goals.  I am trying to limit my monthly goals to just 5 things, as too many is setting me up for failure and too few is not much of a challenge.

I created a page in my Filofax that shows the month, birthdays of the month, holidays, and monthly goals.  I have the page at the front of my Filofax so that when I open it up it reminds me and keeps me focused on my goals.  I find that visually seeing the written goals is what works best for me.  Also, the birthday and holiday listing is quite helpful.

Now for my March goals.

1. Finish my Nike+ challenge. Less than 40 miles to go by the 28th.  I think I can swing it.

2. Read Hidden Girl: The True Story of a Modern Day Slave by Shyima Hall.  I am not sure where to start with the book but I will say this, human trafficking is closer than you think and may even be happening right next door.  That is the issue this book talks about.  A memoir by Shyima Hall who was a slave living in Irvine, California before authorities found her and brought her to safety.  Now a spokeswoman against human trafficking, this books sets to discuss the little secret no one talks about.  I bought this book when it first came out as I wanted to support Ms. Hall as this is something I truly believe in.  I am now finally going to read her story.

If you want to support the fight against human trafficking, I highly suggest Restore NYC non-profit.  Check out their website HERE.

3. Burn my CDs to my computer.  I have hundreds (literally) of old CDs that I am finally succumbing to transferring to digital and getting rid of the physical CDs.  This is going to be a long process, but the reward will be tenfold.

4. Have another personal spa day.  I am working on balancing my mind, body, and spirit and a personal spa day will help with all three components.

5. Start biking again.  This also goes along with balancing mind, body, and spirit.  Also, I love biking so why but other things before that?

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Book Review: Mennonite In A Little Black Dress

Mennonite in a Little Black Dress: A Memoir of Going HomeMennonite in a Little Black Dress: A Memoir of Going Home by Rhoda Janzen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An unexpected bout of sarcastic humor. Rhoda Janzen's memoir about her time returning to her parent's home in California in a close knit Mennotite community was an unexpected delight. A breeze to read, you will find you lose track of time through her stories and memories of a time in her life where she was coping from an accident and her unexpected divorce. I found that I laughed at loud at times from her wit and never felt sorry for her but instead cheered on her resolve as she cops with huge issues in her life. And how could you not cheer for this woman whose husband left her for Bob from  She parallels what she is coping with now alongside her memories of her childhood and growing up Mennonite.  The translation of her mother's songs through me into fits of giggles.  Growing up in a religious family I found that I had some similar reflections of life that she does now. One particular analogy in the memoir I found quite thought provoking regarding burying a non-Catholic solider in a Catholic cemetery.  I won't spoil it for you, but I hope it makes you think as well.

I suggest reading this book on a porch in the summer or in a nice bath. Don't take life too seriously, you will never make it out alive.

Cross this book off of my list of things to do in February.  Another goal accomplished!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Another day, another great brunch

Just wanted to share with you some pictures from the brunch at my mother's house.  I actually took my book "Tea Fit For A Queen: Recipes and Drinks for Afternoon Tea (Historic Royal Palaces)" by Historic Royal Palaces Enterprises Limited from my COTM and decided to make some tea sandwiches.  One was called a Jam Penny which I thought was cute so I made it.  See below for the food from our fun brunch.

Bananas, mango, and raspberry fruit salad

Jam Pennies made with homemade Pomegranate Jelly

Greek Yogurt parfait with hazelnuts and maple syrup

Veggies and hummus

Classic Egg Salad Sandwich wedges

Donna Hay Three Cheese Frittata with basil


Saturday, February 21, 2015

20-Minute Spicy Sriracha Sausage and Zucchini Stir Fry

When you don't want to go out but also want to eat something delicious, I suggest pulling up your lovely Pinterest feed and seeming meals you have pinned and taking a chance.  That is exactly what we did the other night for dinner.  I wanted something spicy but did not want to go out.  I felt bored wit the food I had so I took a chance and looked at pins from pinterest.  Eureka!  I found this recipe from Baker By Nature and had to give it a try.  I made a few adjustments with the help of my sister and the final product was amazing.  We are making this again soon!

20-Minute Spicy Sriracha Sausage and Zucchini Stir Fry
modified from Baker By Nature

(1) 8 oz. package pad thai noodles or the like
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
3 links of spicy sausage
2 medium zucchinis, cut in half vertically, then cut into thin half moon shapes
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 Tbsp brown sugar
2 1/2 Tablespoons soy sauce
2 Tablespoons Sriracha hot sauce
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 cup fresh cilantro (or more if you are like me)
3 green onions, sliced thinly
1. Begin a large pot of salted water to boil. Once the water reaches a full boil, add the noodles and cook according to the package directions (about 4-5 minutes).

2. While waiting for the water to boil, prepare the spicy Sriracha sauce. In a small bowl stir together the brown sugar, soy sauce, Sriracha, ginger, and sesame oil.

3. In a large skillet melt 1 tablespoon of butter over medium heat. Add the crushed red pepper to the butter, and once it's completely melted whisk in the eggs. Stir gently and cook for about 3 minutes. Once the egg is done cooking, keep the pan on the burner but transfer eggs to a small plate; set aside. Add 1 tablespoon of oil to the pan and increase the heat to medium-high. Add sausage and cook for 2 minutes on each side, or just until firm and bright pink. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to a clean plate; set aside. Add zucchini to the pan, increase heat to high, and remaining oil; stir fry until just charred; about 3 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook for one minute.

4 Add drained noodles to the skillet along with the cooked egg, sausage, and prepared sauce. Turn the heat on to medium-low, and stir until everything is coated well with the sauce. Sprinkle the sliced green onions and cilantro and serve at once!

This dish is nice if paired with a very chilled white wine. I highly suggest Fess Parker Chardonnay. Of course, I am partial to California wines. (Also, the Fess Parker Frontier Red is quite good and carried at BevMo. But let's not get me started on wines or else we will be here all month!)

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

2015 Year of the Ram

Year of the Ram, Sheep, or Goat as it is know in Chinese culture is the year 2015.  (February 19, 2015 to be specific.) For my sisters and I this is the New Years we truly enjoy celebrating.  Somehow January 1st is still too close to the holidays and proper reflection time cannot be had.  The Chinese New Year is a full month later and somehow brings more weight in the meaning.

The year of the Ram (I am going with Ram because I am a Capricorn) is meant to stand for invention, perseverance, good manners, taste, and yet also worry and lack of foresight.  With these characteristics in mind I have set some goals I want to work on in 2015.

Year of the Ram Goals:

1. Go to more cultural events.  I have been jonesing to go to a new and fabulous art exhibit, more concerts, and maybe even expand my horizon and attend a lecture on a new topic. Upon traveling, you are out and about and rarely in your hotel room. You are exposed to all that your surroundings have to offer which in turn offer up lifelong memories and experiences.  Seeing the Eiffel Tower at night while sipping coffee and talking Brazilian dance lessons in a Parisian cafe.  Art, culture, history, all rolled into one.  My last night in London I had an opportunity to chat with about 15 people from across Europe in which we discussed art, culture, and history.  I was in heaven.  History is not my strong suit but I have been noticing that I have been a sponge lately as history helps to have a greater understanding of arts and culture.  I want to have more nights like this and the one mentioned in Paris to help expand my own experiences and world views.

2. Cook more/have more dinner parties.  Almost self-explanatory but cooking and having dinner parties makes me happy and makes me socialize more. I want to try out a few more recipes from my cookbooks and this is a way to make me do it.

3. Multi-task less.  I have come to the realization that multi-tasking is actually harmful rather than being super productive.  It splits your focus and details are missed.  You end up doing two mediocre tasks rather than spending the time to do things well.  I have been multi-tasking so much that I find when I am expected to do one task at a time it is harder for me to focus.  I am going to fix that.

4. Set realistic and challenging goals and complete them. I want to get back to setting goals and working towards something.  Setting goals helps me to focus on what is important and completing goals has such a wondrous impact on my psyche that is a reward in and of itself.

5. Make at least one cooking video.  This is a fun project that I have want to do for quite some time and finally decided to write it down so that I have to do it. I have actually never made a video before so this should be interesting.

I have decided to only do 5 goals because I want to be realistic and focused on just those tasks.  I hope you too can set some goals for the Year of the Ram.

Image Sources {1}

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Shreduary: Level 2 with Anita

As much as I could have stayed on level 1 for a little longer I got a text from my sister saying she was moving on to level 2 so I felt the need to as well. First off, if any of you are also on level two you are awesome. There is a lot that I like as far as exercises for level 2 such as hammer curls and the loads of squats. What I failed to remember are the mountain climbers and plank twists. They suck. Who is with me?

As soon as I heard the word “plank” it all came flooding back into my memory. Sure, those plank twists at the end are killer for your abs, but really? With every twist and turn I can feel the pain in my stomach and refuse to quit. These used to be a lot easier and I fully plan on getting back to that level where the word “plank” does not drive me into twitches and spasms. All that being said, I still chose to have a high level of intensity while doing the exercises more on the Anita level verses Natalie. Also, is it just me or are the walk-out pus-ups easier than standard pus-ups?

I just wanted to say that level 1 is still quite respectable and even though the DVD is only about 25 minutes, if you use heavier weights and bring a higher level of intensity, I guarantee you that you will be sweating.

How are you guys feeling about the DVD so far? What level are you on? Was there anything that Jillian said that stuck with you or made you laugh out loud? Also, are you doing anything besides The Shred that is helping you?

Thank you all again for the texts, video messages, emails and the like. You guys are awesome!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Plain Jane COTM - February 2015

Fennel, cherry tomato, and crumble gratin
Image source & recipe HERE

I did it, I had my first try at cookbook of the month.  I had class on Groundhog Day and so my family tradition of watching the classic movie named after the not so celebrated holiday had to be put on hold.  We celebrated with dinner and a movie on Wednesday night and I said I would cook.

I narrowed down my choices and decided to cook from two cookbooks from my Plain Jane COTM series.  The first was the main course from "The Cast Iron Skillet Cookbook, 2nd Edition: Recipes for the Best Pan in Your Kitchen" by Sharon Kramis and Julie Kramis Hearne.  I decided to cook something that I never eat, pork.  The dish was the fennel-seared pork tenderloin with blackberry sauce.  The vegetable side dish was from "Ottolenghi" by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi.  I wanted to make sure that the main dish and side dish had adjacent flavors and so I decided on making the fennel, cherry tomato, and crumble gratin.

Sorry for the lack of pictures, but the lighting was awful and the pictures did not turn out unlike the food.  The flavors were amazing and I ended up eating more than I thought I would as did everyone else as there were no leftovers.

The pork, although it took much longer to cook than the recipe said it would, was delicious, but it was really the blackberry sauce that was the star.  The flavors were like a rich wine and really added succulence to the pork.

The fennel, cherry tomato, and crumble gratin was a lighter dish than I expected.  Lighter in terms of flavor not calories.  The roasted fennel had a really soft and mellow flavor in which the cherry tomatoes added in the last stage of cooking really helped to brighten the dish and add a contrast of texture and color.  Ottolenghi and Tamimi have yet to let me down with there once again flavorful, simple, and delicious recipes.

These two dishes will be hitting my table again soon.  It is too early to tell if they will be part of my "signature dish/meal" but only time will tell.


To see a list of the Plain Jane Cookbook of the month for 2015, click HERE.

To check out the books I cooked from, see below.

"The Cast Iron Skillet Cookbook, 2nd Edition: Recipes for the Best Pan in Your Kitchen" by Sharon Kramis and Julie Kramis Hearne {HERE}

"Ottolenghi" by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi {HERE}

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Plain Jane Cookbook of the Month

As you may or may not know, has a thread for a cookbook of the month.  What cookbook of the month or COTM is basically readers vote on a cookbook to cook through that month and report on the recipes and how they turned out.  It is a very encouraging website to get you cooking and to try those books that may have been sitting on your shelf. I actually participated in this a few years back and discovered what is now one of my favorite cookbooks, "Jerusalem" by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi.

Well I wanted to get back into a cookbook a month club in 2015 but have not had the best of luck.  The first two months of the year the books were not available at the library.  (I get the books from the library first and test them out and if they are truly worthy I will buy them.) Then it dawned on me, why don't I create my own cookbook on the month?  I have lots of cookbooks that I have barely cooked through and would love the challenge/opportunity to try more of their recipes.  So here are the nine books I have chosen.  I have not yet set a designated month for each, but here are the selections that are currently on my shelves.

"A Kitchen In France: A Year of Cooking In My Farmhouse" by Mimi Thorisson {HERE}

"The Sprouted Kitchen: A Tastier Take on Whole Foods" by Sara Forte {HERE}

"Cooking at the Kasbah: Recipes from My Moroccan Kitchen" by Kitty Morse {HERE}

"The Cast Iron Skillet Cookbook, 2nd Edition: Recipes for the Best Pan in Your Kitchen" by Sharon Kramis and Julie Kramis Hearne {HERE}

"The Bonne Femme Cookbook: Simple, Splendid Food That French Women Cook Very Day" by Wini Moranville {HERE}

"Jerusalem" by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi {HERE}

"Ottolenghi" by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi {HERE}

"Gourmet Today:More than 1000 All-New Recipes for the Contemporary Kitchen" edited by Ruth Reichl {HERE}

"Tea Fit For A Queen: Recipes & Drinks for Afternoon Tea (Historic Royal Palaces)" by Historic Royal Palaces Enterprises Limited {HERE}

I will update you on how things turn out.  If you want to participate too let me know!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Book Review: How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are

How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are: Love, Style, and Bad HabitsHow to Be Parisian Wherever You Are: Love, Style, and Bad Habits by Anne Berest
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What can I say? If you are a francophile than you will like this book. If you like slightly sarcastic women then you will like this book. If you enjoy reading about cultural differences then you will like this book. If you like picking a book up, reading a bit, then setting it down to read later then you will like this book.

I was a little mislead as to this books format as I thought it was going to be a guide as to the cultural difference between how American women and French women's life and interactions. I was wrong, but I was okay with that. In fact, I quite enjoyed each of the author's tones in their 2-4 page stories. There are four author's and each one has a distinct voice although I cannot place the voice with the specific author. This book would be great if you do not have a set time that you can read and you want to be entertained in short spurts of time. Often I find I have to carve out and dedicate time to reading a book so that I can remember characters and sequences of events. Not so for this book as each 2-4 page chapter is a story in and of itself. The graphics and pictures scattered throughout the book gave you the feeling of a true French woman's essence. It turns out that American women and French women are not all that different, or at least I found that I myself was a lot like the authors of this book. Neurotic, lovable, flamboyant, insecure, and prideful are some of the qualities expressed but you could not help but want to be friends with each and everyone of the authors.

This is a quick read and great for just sitting around at a coffee shop and having the occasional conversation with the stranger next to you just as a French woman would. I hope you enjoy.

P.S.  I can check this one off of my February Goals list that I posted.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Shreduary: Check-in #1

Source {1}

Well folks first off I want to say Happy Groundhog Day. Unfortunately Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow today which means 6 more weeks of winter. All that to say, that give us 6 more weeks to prepare for beach bodies!

Source {2}

Shreduary (Shred-February) as I am coining the phrase, has begun! I have already received a few emails of encouragement as well as check-ins from you guys which is great motivation. I personally want to lose the weight I have gained in the past year and a half as well as tone and fit comfortably in my jeans. I am amazed at the gamut of people and reasons for shredding and am loving hearing from you guys.

I shredded this morning and had a bit of a reflection. Seriously, pay attention to Anita when you have to do jumping jacks. Nothing moves on that girl. She is 2% body fat. My goodness. Well clearly that will be me and you by the end of Shreduary. Keep up the emails and the good work!


I sent this email to some friends and family and my sister said I should post it here.  Hop you guys are inspired and if you want, you can encourage me along the way in Shred-uary.

NOTE: This email is to be read like you were watching a late night infomercial.

Are you one of those people whom every holiday season vows that you will not gorge yourself on the pumpkin pie and Stove Top stuffing and yet when it comes down to Turkey day it is every man for himself?

Did you go to wave goodbye to your friend and when you stopped waving your underarm continued?

Did you watch the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show eating a bowl of Hagan Daaz and wondering why you don't have six-pack abs?

Well then this challenge is for you!

Come and join what everyone one is talking about...or maybe 15 of my closest friends. I am challenging you to do the Shred with me for the month of February. Why? Well first of all I need your help and encouragement to get back in shape and encouragement is one of your best qualities. Now let me say I do not plan or expect on anyone doing the Shred each day of the 28 days. I am setting a goal to Shred 3-4 times a week. I am hoping to make it to level 2 in all honesty. Throughout the 28 days I will send a weekly email and discuss progress and reflections from the workout.

Will you join me on the journey?

Please respond to this email with one of the following responses:

* Shred This! I am in! 3-4 days will be tough, but I will do it with you sister!

* Commitment is not my middle name. How about 2 times a week? I have a busy schedule but I still want to support you.

* I am already a rockstar, as you know, but I will send you words of encouragement during your Shred November.

* Shredder was my favorite character in Teenage Mutant Ninja Tutles. 3-4 times a week is wimpy, but I support you. Mark me down for 5-7 times a week and watch my get shredded.

Your event planner,

Deborah "28 days away from being shredded" aka Plain Jane

Inspiration: Getting Organizer

Another inspiration from YouTube regarding getting organized.  A throw back to the day planner.

As a kid I always remember my mother having one of these which had a color-coded calendar and an address book.  (This of course was years before any smart phone let alone cell phone was available.)

If you want to talk about an organized person then you should meet my mother.  Our chores were listed out and rotated each week as was listed on the family calendar.  Each of us kids was designated a specific color. The large calendar on the refrigerator had to be filled out and highlighted with your designated color each week so that schedules could be accommodated for events and noted the level of chores we were responsible for that week.  If chores were not done properly you knew who was in trouble.  The regiment must have made life a lot easier for a single-mother raising three girls and her organization rubbed off onto each of us.

I do use my phone calendar, but it does not have the visual appeal that works best for my organization style.  I like to see all events for the week and month at one time and have different colors for different genres.  My phone makes the color coding a little cumbersome and the view settings are limited.  In the weekly view you can only see a few hours for each day rather than the entires days schedule of events.  Also, I am a list maker and note taker and would like to have one place for all of these tasks.  I carry around a moleskin notebook for my notes, thoughts, ideas, and lists.  Why note just carry a day planner instead?

While I am in the process of honing what works best for me, I found inspiration from this video below and I hope it inspires you as well.