7.20.2017

{Recipe} One Pan Garlic - Parmesan Sausage & Roasted Veggies

Ya'll know I'm always on the hunt for easy weeknight meals that don't involve chicken & are still healthy.  I love a good sheet pan recipe because they generally require little work & even less clean up.  When I stumbled across this dish, I thought it looked really good & something that J would be totally into.  What I wasn't expecting was how much I was going to love this dish! It was SO full of flavor & SO easy to throw together.  All you have to do is chop some vegetables & throw them on a pan.  Seriously, anyone could make this.
We subbed Jenny-o turkey sausage to make the dish healthier & served it over brown rice.  The combo was perfect.  However, I'm a bit of a dink sometimes & totally forgot to add the parmesan at the end. BUT it was still delicious without!  The other nice thing is the ability to basically use any veggies you want.  We had some leftover broccoli & green beans from dinners the week before & I literally just threw them all on the pan. It reheated easily & was just as good on day 2.  I'm already planning on making this dish again next week!

ABOUT:
Serves: 4
Prep time: 10 - 15 mins (pending how fast you can chop)
Cook time: 25-30 mins
How difficult was this for me? SO EASY!

INGREDIENTS 
9 ounces smoked sausage (I used Jenny-o Turkey) - make sure it is encased, not ground - sliced
2 cups chopped red potato (I used 2 small red potatoes)
3/4 lb green beans (a solid handful will suffice) - trimmed & halved
1.5 cups broccoli
2 chopped peppers - big square pieces
5 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1 Tbsp dried parsley
1 Tsp paprika
1/2 Tsp garlic powder
1/4 Tsp salt
1/4 Tsp pepper
1/4 Tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F
Line a large baking sheet with tin foil or parchment paper
Prep all the veggies  & slice the sausage
Throw all the veggies & sausage on the baking sheet
Drizzle olive oil & seasonings over entire sheet.  Toss to evenly coat.
Place baking sheet in oven for 25-30 mins until veggies & meat are thoroughly cooked.  
I did give the mix a toss midway thru the cooking process.
This was halfway thru
Remove from heat & sprinkle with fresh parmesan.
Serve immediately!

Adapted from Chelsea's Messy Apron


7.17.2017

California Wine Festival Santa Barbra 2017



One of the things I loved the most about living in Chicago was all the different summer festivals.  Every weekend there was some kind of street fair celebrating a culture or holiday.  Since I've moved to LA, there has definitely a lack of fest-ing in my life, so this summer I decided to do something about it.  While looking at multiple lists of possible festivals to attend, the California Wine Festival was a for sure MUST.  The festival, featuring 60+ wineries, takes place twice during the summer; once in Dana Pointe & once in Santa Barbara.  3 Days of different events, endless tastings & a ton of vendors all beachside; there was only one thing to do.  I rounded up 3 of my wine-loving girlfriends & we headed for Santa Barbara.
One of my friends found us an AMAZING Airbnb about 20 mins from town.  The property was huge & consisted of multiple places to stay.  Our little home was the building on the right. The best part of this house though was the views.  
Given that my friends & I all work, we were only able to attend the beachside tastings on Saturday.   We decided to take a car service since we knew we'd be drinking, however, we ran into a little bit of a problem getting the car out of the driveway. 
Saddest Lexus ever
One AAA call & an hour later, we were on our way.  We decided to purchase the VIP tickets prior to attending the festival, which got us the tickets at a discount.  Our tickets included early entrance (so much for that) to the tasting, access to a private pavilion that provided food, reserve wines & most importantly, shade!
Given that we got to the festival 2 hours late & because I didn't pay any attention to what time the festival ended until the car got stuck,  we had to make up for lost time.

 Luli quickly became one of our favorites. Now if only we could find them in actual stores...
In addition to the 60+ wineries in attendance, there were also a ton of other vendors: jewelry, chocolates, clothing, hot dogs...you name it.
Needless to say, we had a great time at the festival!
 When the festival was over,  we decided to continue on our wine seeking adventure & made a stop at the Santa Barbara Winery tasting room downtown.
After this, we were just about spent. But needless to say, we had a great day!

Things we learned: 
-Stay closer to town when using a car service
-Pay attention to the start & end times of festivals
-We will for sure be coming back next year


7.14.2017

{Style} My Picks from the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale!

Happy Friday ya'll!  If you follow any blogs at all, you know that yesterday was the first day of the early access Nordstrom Anniversary Sale.  In order to access the sale now, you must be a Nordstrom cardholder.  If you're a frequent Nords shopper & don't have their store card, I HIGHLY recommend it! If you tried to shop yesterday & experienced all their site problems (took me 5 hours to check out!) they're offering 10x the normal points! If you don't have the card, the sale opens to public on 7/21.

I have a method to how I shop these sales & I'm curious if anyone else shops this way.  I go thru each category & place everything I want in my cart.  Once I'm done, I go to check out & freak out at how much I'm about to spend. So I take a second pass & instead of removing the items I'm not DYING to have, I move them over to my wish list. After my blood pressure returns to normal, I make my Initial Purchase.  In the next few days while waiting for my items to arrive,  I'll scoured the sale a few more times, adding more items to my wish list.  Once my IP items arrive (Nords is FAST), if I decide to return anything, I'll go back to my cart & re-examine my wish list. More likely than not, I'll make a Secondary Purchase.  If I keep everything from my IP, I often make myself stop shopping. Occasionally, I buy one more pair of shoes, but that's it. Anyone else do their sale shopping in rounds or is it just me?

Most bloggers were so on top of their shit when the sale started, they had their posts with their choices ready to go yesterday.  In typical Rachel fashion, I'm a day behind. But in my defense, the time I had set aside yesterday to blog turned into me fighting with the Nords checkout page. Those problems have been resolved.  Below are items from either my IP or are currently sitting on my wish list just waiting to be scooped up in my SP.  I clearly have a color palette going for fall don't I...



Just a note! The beautiful grey sweater in #7 is already sold out in this color, but it does come in black & the black is sitting on my wish list!

7.12.2017

Garlic Parmesan Knots

Well, I'm updating this post today, but truthfully...most of the original pics are pretty good, despite being 4 years old. I've moved kitchens since these were originally blogged about &  my current kitchen is dark, so taking decent pics is always a big struggle.  So today I'm resharing this recipe with a combo of old & new pics. 4 Years later & these knots were just as good as when I first made them!

Holy crap, these were SO good. I am all about easy recipes, even if it means using, gasp, pre-made items from the grocery store. Sometimes I just don't feel like starting from scratch, & this past weekend was one of those times.  I found this delicious looking slow cooker creamy spaghetti recipe (post coming tomorrow) & I wanted something easy as a side. I turned to a trusty staple, Six Sisters Stuff and found a recipe they claimed, "Your family will think you whipped em up from scratch!" so that sounded good to me! They were absolutely delicious. I can't wait to make these again!

Garlic Parmesan Knots
Makes: 24 knots
Cook time according to Six Sisters: 15 mins
Cook time according to Rachel: 15 mins
How difficult was this for Rachel? Easy!

Ingredients:                                  

1 tube refridgerated buttermilk biscuits
(honey butter homestyle are def recommended)
1/4 cup canola oil
3 tbsp grated parmesan
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried oregano


Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Cut each biscuit into thirds. Roll each piece into thin tubes. Tie in a knot and tuck the ends behind.
 Place 2 inches apart on greased baking sheet
 Bake 6-8 mins until golden brown (my oven works quickly. 6 mins was enough for me)
While the knots bake, in a separate medium bowl, combine oil, parmesan, garlic powder and oregano
Remove knots from heat & let cool but only for a minute. You want them nice & hot while dunking them in the seasonings
Dip warm knots into mixture. Make sure completely covered.
 Let knots set for a few mins, then serve!


7.06.2017

Finally Doing Shit or Why At 32 I Decided To Get My First Tattoo



So this past weekend I did something pretty major...for me that is.  I've always been a pretty straight laced kid (yes, I still consider myself a kid); I never really rebelled as a teen or had those crazy black-out-drunk-slutty-years in college.  Sure, I drank before I was 21 (sorry mom & dad), I went to the bar/frat parties in college & had boyfriends.  But at the heart of it all, I've always played it pretty safe because I like being a good kid.  (I swear though,  I'm still a good time)

In the last year, I've been really itching to step outside my comfort zone & do something unexpected for me, but I could never figure out exactly what it was that I wanted to do.   I decided to cut off about 8 inches of my hair which was a big change, but let's be real. Hair is hair. It's not THAT crazy & it has already been growing back at warped speed. It felt like a good start, but it didn't completely satisfy that itch.  It was hard to articulate what I was feeling & I certainly couldn't explain where this feeling was coming from, so I tried to ignore it best I could. But then my break thru "Aha!" moment happened.  I was watching a really sweet Buzzfeed video where siblings chose surprise tattoos for each other.  Each person didn't get to see what their sibling decided on until after the tattoo was complete.  Can you imagine getting something permanently inked on you without seeing it first?  After watching this video I realized it; I wanted to get a tattoo.
Yep, that's the face I made almost the entire time
Ok hold up. Me, the girl who is so terrified of needles, I wouldn't get a 2nd ear piercing because I was scared of the pain.   This new craving was really throwing me because I'd never felt the desire or need to get a tattoo before. Tons of my friends have them; some were planned out, some on whim.  Seriously, shout out to anyone who has gotten a tattoo on a whim.  I'm such a planner & control freak, I could never get something permanently inked on my body without REALLY thinking it thru. So props to you folks.  Truthfully, I never thought it was something I'd ever be able to do even if I did really plan it out.

But, the more I tried to ignore my desire to get inked, the more I realized I really wanted to do this. I started asking myself why I thought I couldn't get a tattoo.  What was it that was holding me back?  I decided if I could make a list (see, planner) of all the things that were stopping me & I could tackle each issue, maybe this was something I could get the nerve to do.  So,  what were my reasons?
1. MY FEAR OF NEEDLES & INABILITY TO TOLERATE PAIN
I knew from the moment I began scouring the internet for tattoo ideas that I wanted something very small & delicate.  I began questioning all my friends with tattoos about the level of pain they experienced & how long their intricate tattoos took. I had a friend take a fork & stick me in my wrist to try & replicate the pain. (Hey Katy? You poking me with the fork on my wrist did NOT do the needle justice!) If I got something really small & it couldn't possibly take that long to do...I could probably handle the pain for 10-15 mins.

2. IT'S AGAINST THE JEWISH RELIGION
Ok, this was a tough one.  Ever since I was a kid, I was taught tattoos were against the Jewish religion; Jews just didn't get tattoos. I was told Jews shouldn't desecrate their bodies (apparently ear piercings don't count),  & you can't be buried in a Jewish cemetery if you have a tattoo.  Now,  I was raised in the Reform movement, the more lax movement if you will.  I went to Sunday school, I was Bat Mitzvah'd, Confirmed & graduated from my temple high school...hell, I was the president of our class senior year.  However, because we were/are a Reform household, things like bacon, cheeseburgers & pepperoni pizza were common. Shrimp cocktail? ALWAYS.  Now that I'm older, out of the house,  & don't have children, I don't often prioritize Judaism in my every day life.  I've slacked on going to services, I still love me a good shrimp cocktail...but I didn't want to completely turn my back on something that is a part of who I am.  Torn & looking for answers, I went where everyone goes when they don't know what to do: google.
Guess what, LOTS OF JEWS GET TATTOOS. I don't know why I was so surprised, but I was  quite shocked & a bit relieved. This article in the NY Times from 2008, really helped me understand the issue of tattoos in Judaism. To summarize the article;  Leviticus 19:28 states "You shall not make gashes in your flesh for the dead nor incise any marks on yourself: I am the Lord." Ok so that's the law. However, the law was written because tattooing was largely a pagan practice, done to mark slaves or show devotion to a pharaoh.  Tattooing has clearly evolved since this time as has our society. So it's really important that the Jewish religion (& truthfully, all religions) continue to evolve to remain relevant with our current society. I mean, there is a law about not wearing linen. Come on.  This realistic reasoning I can absolutely get behind.   So many rules in all religions are so archaic & just not logical for the current times.

I also came across this article, I'm a Rabbi with Tattoos, Ask Me Anything.  The title in itself is enough. If a rabbi can get a bunch of tattoos, why can't I?

3. WHAT HAPPENS WHEN I GET OLD & WRINKLY?
OK this thought briefly crossed my mind.  So I googled (again) "grandparents with tattoos"...seriously if you want to be entertained, do your own search. But for real, have you ever looked at 75 year old skin? Wrinkles, sun spots, veins...it looks, well, old. So what difference does it make if I have a tiny tattoo that also looks old? It's not like I'm vying to become a senior citizen model.  When I'm old, it will be a reminder that I didn't hold back & had the courage to do something I was terrified of doing.

4. MY PARENTS WILL KILL ME
Well, this is probably the biggest reason why I wouldn't get a tattoo.  Let me just be blunt; I hate pissing off my parents. Back in March, I decided to test the waters a bit & emailed my folks (I was too chicken to call) that I was thinking of getting a tattoo.  I wanted to give them some time to at least get used to the idea before I just showed up with my new ink.  I also wanted them to know I was being serious about this & not just running off on a whim (again, PROPS TO THOSE WHO CAN.)  My mom's first reaction was, "But you hate needles!" She knows me well.  My parents actually reacted better than I was expecting & I know I'm lucky for that.   I don't know if they'll ever actually accept my tattoos, but at least they're speaking to me. On the flip side,  I am an adult...at least I pretend to be. I can't live my life as a 32 year old married woman & not make my own decisions about what I do with my body.  I hope my folks read this post to help them understand why I wanted to do this & I hope it's somewhat comforting to know that I do value your opinion SO much, but this is just something I had to do for me. Love you guys!

So those were my big 4 reasons not to get a tattoo.  Would I still get a tattoo if any of these issues weren't able to solve themselves? I think so, but it certainly does help silence some of my concerns.
OK, but now what was I going to get? Well, this was actually the easiest part of the whole process.  I've had my dog Duke for almost nine years & he has been with me through some huge milestones. He came  into my life when I was single, living in Chicago & heartbroken.  Duke was just the bundle of unconditional love & puppy kisses that I needed to bring me out of my slump.   Duke was there through boyfriends, miserable jobs,  a move across the country, the purchase of our first home, an engagement & a marriage.  He is by far the most well behaved dog I've ever known & has the sweetest personality. He is so much of my heart & means so much to me...how could he not be what I get?
Pre tat cocktails
I reached out to Melissa Martell at Earth Altar Studio after a friend recommended her.  I did my research on her & her style & it felt like did exactly what I wanted.  The studio itself is like no tattoo or piercing joint I've ever been to.   It is ridiculously adorable on the inside & looks more like a boutique than a tattoo parlor. The studio is owned & run by all women artists (except one) & that in itself had me hooked. I shared with Melissa some inspiration images ahead of time & when I arrived (after consuming a cocktail with my friend Katy) the stencil was already drawn & she NAILED IT.  It was exactly what I wanted.  Small, delicate & perfect. An hour later, I walked out with this AMAZING tattoo & a huge sense of accomplishment/relief.
Now that it's been a few days, every time I look at my wrist I can't help but smile. This was a big deal to me & am so proud of myself for taking the plunge & making this happen. Plus, now that Duke is getting a touch older, I will always have a piece of him with me.  I'm gonna go stare at my wrist some more...




7.03.2017

2017 Summer Reading List!



Happy almost 4th of July!!  Seriously I can't believe it's already July.  I'd been planning on making this post go live a few weeks ago, but life has just caught up with me.  For those that have been following along, I started a new position within the company I've been working at for the last 2 years & the workload has essentially trippled.  It's been incredibly challenging & I've definitely learned a lot, BUT my old position opened back up & this girl is TAKING it.  It's a lateral move & I'm OK with it! So with that said, once I officially move back over, I should be able to resume posting on a more consistent basis.  Now, let's get back to books...

So, I'm still not done with the 2016 Pop Sugar Reading Challenge (catch up here) but I'll blame that on not finishing the 2015 challenge until March of 2016.  I'm only 4 books away from finishing (woop!) so naturally, I'm looking ahead to all the books I want to read this summer.    Here's how my list is shaping up thus far...

 If you haven't read Crazy Rich Asians,  stop what you're doing & pick up this book. It's the perfect summer read & I couldn't be more excited for the 3rd installment in this series.  Rich People Problems picks up when Nicholas Young hears his grandma, Su Yi, is on her deathbed. He rushes to be by her bedside--but so has the entire Shang-Young clan from all corners of the globe, ostensibly to care for their matriarch but truly to stake claim on the massive fortune that Su Yi controls. With each family member secretly fantasizing about getting the keys to Tyersall Park--a trophy estate on in the heart of Singapore--the place becomes a hotbed of intrigue.  Kevin Kwan's gloriously wicked new novel reveals the long-buried secrets and rich people problems of Asia's most privileged families. 




Daisy’s father is always waiting for her at the bus stop, but today, he isn’t. When Daisy says her house is right down the road, she’ll be fine, & begins to wheel herself away, Fikus, the bus driver lets her go. That's the last time she is seen. Nearly everyone in town suspects or knows something different about what happened. They also know a lot about each other. The immigrants who work in the dairy farm know their employers’ secrets. The manager of the Laundromat knows who laid a curse on the town & why. The police officer doesn't realize how much he knows. They are all connected, in ways small & profound, open & secret. Tornado Weather is an affecting portrait of a complex & flawed cast of characters striving to find some measure of fulfillment in their lives. Though the characters’ triumphs are often modest, the hope for redemption is real-- Kennedy brilliantly shows that there is nothing average about an average life. 

We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from New York Times bestselling author, National Book Award finalist, & Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart. 

A beautiful & distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.
 


At what point does childhood end & adulthood begin? Mandy Berman's evocative debut novel, Perennials, captures,  through the lens of summer camp, a place that only appears to be untouched by the passing of time, both the thrills & pain of growing up. 
Rachel Rivkin & Fiona Larkin used to treasure their summers together as campers at Camp Marigold. Reunited as counselors, their relationship is more complicated. Rachel, a street-smart city kid raised by a single mom, has been losing patience with her best friend's insecurities; Fiona, the middle child of a not-so-perfect suburban family, envies Rachel's popularity with their campers & fellow counselors. For the first time, the friends start keeping secrets. Through them, & from the perspectives of other counselors & campers, we witness the tensions of the turbulent summer build to a tragic event, which forces Rachel & Fiona to confront their pasts & the adults they're becoming. A seductive blast of nostalgia, a striking portrait of adolescent longing, & a tribute to both the complicated nature & the enduring power of female friendship, Perennials will speak to everyone who still remembers that when innocence is lost forever.

Welcome to LA? 90's  Hollywood gets an Italian makeover in Things That Happened Before The Earthquake. This poignant & ruefully funny coming-of-age novel featuring a teenage girl who's on shaky ground in more ways than one.
Eugenia, a typical Italian teenager, is rudely yanked from her privileged Roman milieu by her hippieish filmmaker parents & transplanted to the strange world of the San Fernando Valley. With only the Virgin Mary to call on for guidance as her parents struggle, she must navigate her huge new public high school, complete with Crips & Bloods, Persian gang members, a car-based environment of 99-cent stores, obscure fast-food & all-night raves. She forges friendships with Henry, who runs his mother's  memorabilia store, & Deva, who introduces her to the alternate cultural universe that is Topanga Canyon. Then the 1994 earthquake rocks the foundations not only of Eugenia's home but of the future she'd been hoping for herself.


Lina is spending the summer in Tuscany, but she isn’t in the mood for Italy’s famous sunshine & fairy-tale landscape. She’s only there because it was her mother’s dying wish that she get to know her father. But what kind of father isn’t around for sixteen years? All Lina wants to do is get back home. But then she is given a journal that her mom had kept when she lived in Italy. Suddenly Lina’s uncovering a magical world of secret romances, art, and hidden bakeries. A world that inspires Lina, along with the ever-so-charming Ren, to follow in her mother’s footsteps and unearth a secret that has been kept for far too long. It’s a secret that will change everything she knew about her mother, her father—and even herself. People come to Italy for Love & Gelato, someone tells her, but sometimes they discover much more.




One day Carver Briggs had it all—3 best friends, a supportive family, & a reputation as a talented writer at  Nashville Academy for the Arts. The next day he lost it all when he sent a simple text to his friend Mars, right before Mars, Eli, & Blake were killed in a car crash. Now Carver can’t stop blaming himself for the accident, & he’s not the only one. Eli’s twin sister is trying to freeze him out of school.  Mars’s father, a powerful judge, is pressuring the district attorney to open a criminal investigation. Carver does have some allies: Eli’s girlfriend, & only person to stand by him at school; Dr. Mendez, his new therapist; & Blake’s grandma, who asks Carver to spend a Goodbye Day with her to share their memories. Soon the other families are asking for a Goodbye Day with Carver, but he’s unsure of their motives. Will they all be able to make peace, or will these Goodbye Days bring Carver one step closer to a complete breakdown or—even worse—prison?


A nation on the verge of a new era & a girl caught between her past & the ever-expanding present. The year is 1972, &the beaches of Los Angeles are the center of the world. Dropping into the embers of the drug & surf scene is Suzy Whitman, who has tossed her newly minted Vassar degree aside to follow her older sister into open skies & the borderless adventures of stewardessing for Grand Pacific Airlines. In Sela del Mar, California-a hedonistic beach town in the shadow of LAX-Suzy skateboards, suntans, & flies daily & nightly across the country. Motivated by an escape from her past & a new taste for danger & belonging, Suzy falls into a drug-trafficking scheme that clashes perilously with the skyjacking epidemic of the day.
Rendered in the brilliant color of the age & told with spectacular insight & clarity, Fly Me is a story of dark discovery set in the debauchery of 1970s Los Angeles. 



Megan Miranda’s novel, All The Missing Girls, is a nail-biting, breathtaking story about the disappearances of two young women—a decade apart—told in reverse.
It’s been 10 years since Nicolette Farrell left her rural hometown after her best friend, Corinne, disappeared without a trace. Back again to care for her ailing father, Nic is plunged into a shocking drama that reawakens Corinne’s case & breaks open old wounds long since stitched. The decade-old investigation focused on Nic, her brother Daniel, boyfriend Tyler, & Corinne’s boyfriend Jackson.  Within days of Nic’s return, Annaleise goes missing. Told backwards—Day 15 to Day 1—from the time Annaleise goes missing, Nic works to unravel the truth about her  neighbor’s disappearance, revealing shocking truths about her friends, her family, & what really happened that night 10 years ago.



A few days after Christmas, pairs of a man's pants hang from the trees. The pants belong to Howard Young, a prominent history professor, recently diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. Howard's wife, Annie, summons their daughter, Ruth. Freshly disengaged from her fiancĂ©, 30-year-old Ruth quits her job & arrives home to find her parents' situation worse than she'd realized.  As Howard's condition intensifies, the comedy in Ruth's situation takes hold, gently transforming her grief. She throws herself into caretaking: cooking dementia-fighting meals, researching supplements, anything to reignite her father's once-notable memory. When the university finally lets Howard go, Ruth & one of her father's handsome former students take their efforts to help Howard one step too far. Told in captivating glimpses & drawn from a deep well of insight, humor, & unexpected tenderness, Goodbye, Vitamin pilots through the loss, love, and absurdity of finding one's footing in this life.

In a series of essays, written as a letter to his son, Coates confronts the notion of race in America & how it has shaped American history, many times at the cost of black bodies & lives. The author poignantly asks & attempts to answer difficult questions that plague modern society. In this short memoir, the "Atlantic" writer explains that the tragic examples of Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, & those killed in South Carolina are the results of a systematically constructed & maintained assault to black people--a structure that includes slavery, mass incarceration, & police brutality as part of its foundation. From his passionate & deliberate breakdown of the concept of race itself to the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement, Coates powerfully sums up the terrible history of the subjugation of black people in the United States. Between The World And Me is a timely work, this title will resonate with all teens--those who have experienced racism as well as those who have followed the recent news coverage on violence against people of color




***All summaries are compliments of goodreads. Please don't think I'm that decent of a writer. Most have been shortened/slightly altered