Sunday, January 29, 2012

Don't worry, we still eat.

This week has been so hectic. Work has been super stressful, and I had chores, appointments, and plans every day after work this week. Despite the busyness, most of my evenings were actually very enjoyable, like my Monday night dinner date with Stephanie, a Wednesday night dinner date with Marie, Lauren, & Sarah, going to the Nashville Symphony with Nathan on Thursday, and having Caroline over to watch Disney's 101 Dalmatians on Friday. Nonetheless, I kept myself too busy this week to post on our tasty creations! But don't worry, we're still cooking & still eating plenty. :-)

Here is one of my favorite new dishes: warm butternut squash & chikpea salad, from Smitten Kitchen.

I usually opt for soup with butternut squash, but a friend of mine made this salad for us one night, and I fell in love. The flavor combinations are fabulous, and it's a dish that requires ingredients I either already always have, or can use in multiple other dishes. Oh, I just love it! And it's pretty:

This recipe is super easy. Just peel & dice 1 or 2 butternut squash, toss them in olive oil, salt, & pepper, and roast them in the oven until soft. Meanwhile, combine a can of chickpeas, some diced red onion, & chopped fresh cilantro. The dressing is a combination of lemon juice, tahini, olive oil, garlic, & water. Mix the dressing, then toss everything all together & eat while warm. It is so incredibly delicious, and is certainly one of my new favorite dishes. Yum!

We also tried a new soup recipe from Vegetarian Times. It was interesting (good interesting). The ingredient list includes cabbage, pine nuts, arborio rice, white beans, and spices. It was a nice, mellow, nutty soup. I enjoyed it, but it's probably not something I'll make all the time. Definitely worth the adventure, though!

Truthfully, we've been eating like champs. I just have been really bad about taking pictures & blogging about food, or anything else for that matter. Sometimes I just want to live and not have to worry about documenting it. And in those moments, that's exactly what I do! And I feel pretty good about that. But when I have time & can remember to, I enjoy sharing my adventures & reflecting on my days.

And for dinner tonight: Dijon braised brussels sprouts & creamy carrot soup!!! :-)

Friday, January 27, 2012

Grandpop's Words

"Worship does not interrupt theological study. Theological study grows out of worship. We do not attach worship to church life as something extra; it is at the very heart of our fellowship together. A mother does not put a pretty ribbon in her daughter's hair to make her pretty, but because she is."

John Broadus Sessoms (my grandpop)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


A few things today that make me really, really happy:

Celestial Seasonings sleepytime vanilla tea: must drink every night before bed. So relaxing, calming, and delicious.

Vinyasa Yoga: I just found my favorite instructor, and I'm so excited every time I think about what I can gain from my yoga practice. I look forward to every class, and I've started my home practice. And I swear, chaturanga is going to finally get my arms in shape! Yoga is a really empowering thing for me. I know it's a kinda hippie, uppity thing, but it's a great practice for me to incorporate the body-connectedness that I learned to cherish in my dance training, along with the spiritual connectedness and exercise that I've been yearning for in my life. It's just kind of perfect for me right now. Lord knows I need some stress relief in my life!

Remains of the Day: I'm reading this lovely novel by Kazuo Ishiguro, and I'm absolutely loving it. It satisfies my Anglophilia and my love for beautiful, wordy, descriptive writing. Also, the movie is great. I can't wait to re-watch it after I finish the novel.

Corduroy and Fiero: duh. I do not have to explain.

My job at Park Center: Despite this week being stressful and slightly tense, I'm realizing every day just how much I adore my job. I'm feeling a part of the team and accepted, possibly even kind of liked, by my coworkers. I finally feel like an integral part of something big & important. It's a nice feeling. And every day I learn more about my clients, which makes me appreciate and cherish my job even more.

Married life: I'm not sure this one's even worth explaining. Obviously it's the best thing ever. I will never be able fully explain the extent to which this was the best decision I've ever made. Sure, marriage is hard and complicated, but what in life worth having isn't at least somewhat hard & complicated? I get to spend every moment with someone who loves me and whom I love desperately. We may not always agree with each other or understand one another's thinking, but we try so hard to understand; we support one another no matter what; we listen as best we can; we give what we can of ourselves to the other. Pride falls away; jealousy disappears; who is right and who is wrong no longer matters; the only thing that holds any stake is our love for one another and our pursuit of justice and peace in the world. I can't honestly say this of any other relationship I have ever had. That is the power of love, and the reason I know that marriage was the right step for us (and, I should note, this does not at all mean that I think marriage is the "right" or "best" decision for everyone else).

Cooking: It is so refreshing to be able to create my own meals with some guidance, some ingenuity, and some practice. I love fresh food, I love learning how to cook certain types of food, and I love eating. It all works together perfectly.

Winter: I'm still holding out hope that we might have a real winter, which is bringing me a tiny bit of happiness.

The future: There is just a lot to be excited about and happy for.

The present: See all of the above.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

A wonderful weekend.

This weekend was a truly wonderful one. I had time to relax, moments to share with friends, and lots of food!

Friday night after work, Nathan & I stayed in and lounged around the house--one of our favorite pastimes.

I started my Saturday early, at an 8am social justice committee meeting. I attend these meetings every week (except for my holiday hiatus), but this week was particularly special because of the guest of honor- Reverend James Lawson. He is an incredible man, and was one of the strongest leaders of the civil rights movement. He was right alongside MLK, and he continues fighting for racial justice today as he did those many years ago. He is a huge inspiration to me and many others, and I could hardly even believe that I was sitting right next to him, listening to him speak wisdom to the struggle for racial justice in Nashville. What an amazing, empowering, encouraging way to start my day!

If you aren't familiar with Lawson's work, here's a video!

After an incredible morning, I got to end my Saturday with dinner Stephanie & her sister Sarah at a new Nashville restaurant, The Pharmacy. It's in East Nashville where I work, and it is SO good. They have amazing beers, phosphate sodas, and all kinds of burgers. Highly recommended. After dinner, we went to see one of our friends' band, Humming House, play a show at the basement. It was a great show, and it was so nice to see so many friends there.

I finished up my weekend with resting on Sunday, going to yoga, cooking a killer dinner, and then watching Downton Abbey. Who could ask for more?!

Oh, and the food...... Ohhhh the food. I'll post pictures from our killer dinner later, but for now, here are a few yummy snacks I made:
Though guacamole is known as a summer party favorite, avocados are actually in season right now, so of course I got some.
Making perfect guacamole is so easy. I just gutted an avocado into a bowl, added some diced red onion, finely chopped cilantro, a touch of lime juice, and lots of salt. Using a potato masher, or even a fork, just mash up the ingredients & go to town. Best snack ever.

Now, another great snack is coleslaw. I used my heavy-duty food processor with the slicing and shredding attachments, which my awesome mother-in-law got me for Christmas. Making coleslaw is a lot of fun with that thing. Somehow though, after all was said & done, my kitchen looked like this:
And it was perfectly clean before all of this!
I pretty much used an entire head of Napa cabbage (all but the 2 cups I reserved for use in a dinner recipe!), so I ended up with a LOT of slaw. I decided to try two different dressings for the slaw. I don't like mayonnaise based slaw, so I went with two vinaigrettes--cumin mustard vinaigrette and sweet soy vinaigrette. For the slaw with the soy dressing, the addition of some cashews is perfect! My slaw just has shredded cabbage, shredded carrots, diced yellow & red onions, and the dressings. It's the perfect salad for a side dish or a stand-alone snack. I LOVE it!!
So. Much. Slaw.
Well, the weekend has come & gone. I'm feeling pretty recharged & hoping to make it through what I anticipate is going to be a difficult week at work. Please consider sending along a prayer, good thoughts, etc., our way this week as we work with some very difficult & saddening situations. I need some strength for it... Luckily the past 5 months in my position have toughened me up significantly. I guess that's good?

And, some happy news- I officially applied to be a Big Sister with the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. I'm just waiting to see if I'm accepted! Fingers sooooo tightly crossed. :-)

Friday, January 20, 2012

Miss Representation

I had the privilege of going with a few friends to see a screening of the film Miss Representation, focusing on the demeaning and negative portrayals of women in media in American culture. It was astounding. I always knew that these images were being shown and consumed by young girls; I've felt the sting of insecurity of my femininity and the pressures of the media and society to be something that I'm not. But somehow it was all brought to my attention again in a new light, reminding me of the urgency to put an end to these damaging messages and portrayals of women. This was one of the best films I've seen in a while, and it's probably one of the most important films made in my lifetime. I think everyone - girl, boy, woman, man - needs to see this movie. I don't mean like "oh it's really good, you totally need to see it!"... I mean, we all need to see this film and understand the serious threat of the current attitude in the media. Please see it, seriously. Find a screening in your area by clicking here.

Turning a human being into a thing is almost always the first step toward justifying violence against that person.
- Jean Kilbourne, Wellesly Center for Women
as quoted in Miss Representation

Thursday, January 19, 2012


Hey y'all. This is my best friend Stephanie, standing next to the mayor of Nashville, Karl Dean. She works her butt off at an awesome job that she worked her butt off to get. Basically, she's one of my role models and an incredibly powerful woman. Also, she's pretty badass.

Ps- I stole this photo from Facebook.... Hope you don't mind Steph!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The mythical vegetable

I always knew that beets were a real vegetable, but until this week I had never seen one in real life. And I had certainly not tried to cook with them! You see, my dear mom hates, hates, you might even say detests, beets. She used to tell this story of an awkward dinner where everything had beets in it, so you can imagine that we never ate beets in the Stone household. They were like a mythical vegetable... I'd heard of them, but never had seen proof of their existence. Honestly, I can't say that I was ever saddened by this or felt like I was missing out on something. Let's be real, beets are just kinda weird.

Then, whether destiny or coincidence, we ended up with beets in our CSA this go-round. I was determined to make something good out of them. And also determined to do it without having to go to the grocery store for ingredients (this, mind you, was out of pure laziness, not creative ambition or anything honorable). I researched how to best prepare beets and some feasible recipes, then tweaked them based on what I had in my kitchen. I'm surprised to say, I actually liked the dish I made. I honestly was just hoping to not hate it, but I legitimately enjoyed it! Honestly, I don't see myself craving beets a lot (or ever), and they certainly don't threaten to replace asparagus as my #1, but I made a satisfying dish out of the dreaded beet, and by that I am contented.

Also, beets make for beautiful photos. They're so vibrant!

The roasted beets.

Now these are some really pretty collard greens!

A little chiffonade of the greens.

Jeez, so colorful!

The final dish. Sautéed onions, collard greens, and roasted beets over couscous!
A little Gorgonzola on top balances out the sweetness of the beets.

Isn't it a pretty dish?
Mission accomplished. I'm proud to say that I unveiled the mystery behind the mythical beet.

In case you now have a deep desire to make this dish, here's what I did:
  • Roast beets (I used 4- 3 red and 1 golden) in aluminum foil with olive oil, salt, pepper, & thyme for about an hour at 400 degrees F.
  • Sautee about 1/4 white or yellow onion in olive oil. Add in one minced garlic clove. Add salt, pepper, & thyme to taste. 
  • Once onions start softening (but not browning), add in fresh collard greens, preferably cut in a chiffonade. Cook until greens start to wilt. 
  • Add in beets, cut to whatever size you prefer. Cook on low heat for another 10 or 15 minutes, adding oil if it becomes too dry. 
  • Serve over couscous or quinoa, with a bit of gorgonzola or another sharp bitter cheese (this helps balance the sweetness of the beets). 
How about it, Ma? You gonna try some beets soon?! :-)

In other news, everything is well at the Dryden household. The cats continue to melt my heart daily with their cuteness. Nathan has started the semester at Vanderbilt, and he is keeping himself busy with classes, working at the library, and interning at The Nashville Food Project. He also continues to be an incredible husband/man/friend. Marriage is awesome, duh. And my job is going really well. I feel like it gets better every day. I'm able to accomplish more and help more people every day that I add experience and knowledge to my tool belt. I love what I do. Today I had a triumphant moment: after a long victorious day of getting paperwork done with clients, I helped someone find affordable medication, and I got our agency 100 prescription discount cards! Yay! A good day, indeed.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Pita + hummus = heaven.

Thank goodness for hummus. We always have an abundance of garbanzo beans and white beans at our home, so making hummus is never an issue... But what to dip in it?!

Well, I've found the answer. Within my beautiful Bread Bible lies a wonderful recipe for pita bread. And oh boy, did I try it & love it. Now, granted, my first attempt at pita bread did not yield the lovely puff pocket I was aiming for, but it was very much still pita bread & very much delicious. Especially dipped in homemade white bean hummus.
My beautiful bread bible. :-)
Mixing the ingredients...
Setting it for a night of rising in the fridge...
It has risen!...
Risen and ready to shape into little pitas!
Ready for a ride in the oven!
White bean hummus before its ride in the food processor...
Oh yum, hummus.
The final products! Let the snacking commence!! :-)
This was a much more daring attempt than some of my others, and I was overall pleased with how they turned out. I'm pretty sure that the lack of puff was due to my overworking the dough, rather than using a rolling pin. I'm going to adjust this for my next attempt at pita pockets, which will be very soon!

And next on the bread-making agenda..... Whole wheat sandwich bread!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Dinner Party

Monday night Nathan & I had over two of our best friends, Ian & Jessica. They're siblings, and Nathan lived with them for a year in college. They're some of the nicest people, and I love spending time with them. Jessica is a social worker with a lot of similar interests as me, so we always have lots to talk about. And Ian, well Ian is like a brother to me, and I adore him. He's also a cat-whisperer, and our kitties love their uncle Ian.

For dinner, we had a delicious meal of flaky brie appetizer, baked pasta, home-baked garlic bread, veggie-stuffed salad, and chocolate torte for dessert. Mmmmm. A few dinner photos:
Pasta with vodka sauce, veggies, soy chorizo (Stephanie gave me that idea! And it's so good!), and some mozzarella & Parmesan on top. Oh, it was tasty.
Bread!!! And then I cut it up, put some olive oil, garlic, & herbs on it, and toasted it in the oven.
Such a tasty meal. I ate too much, obviously.
And the Brie. Ohhhh, the Brie.
I do wish I had taken photos of people rather than just the food. Oh, actually, it appears that Jessica took a really pretty photo of herself on my iPad. So cute!

And then there's Fiero. Just waiting for us to give him some food:

All in all, we had a really fun time together. We ate a lot, talked a lot, and played Dutch Blitz, which involved us berating Ian, me yelling rudely, and Jessica beating us mercilessly.

Basically, we have awesome friends. :-)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Happy today.

I'm feeling particularly optimistic about life today.

...Maybe it's because I woke up next to my best friend.
Or maybe it's because I spent my evening eating delicious dinner and playing games with two of our best friends.
Or perhaps it's because I get to spend my 8-4 having conversations and sharing life with some of the most amazing people.
Or, it could even be due to the fact that I get to spend the weekend in the Smoky Mountains (only my favorite place) with some really awesome women... and a hot tub.
Maybe it's because I've been daydreaming about moving to Scotland with my husband for a year.
Or because I've been thinking about the future, when we'll have a family, a house, and a dog.
And possibly also because I'm thinking about how great things are now, in the present.

I guess it's all of those reasons.

St Andrews.... yeah, I could live here for a year.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Death Comes to Pemberley

I just finished this book, and I want to share it with you! Now, normally I'm not really into fan fiction. I think it's a fun genre and seems generally appealing, but I've just never been that interested. This book was somehow different. I heard about it in an interview with the author on NPR, and it sounded right up my alley. P.D. James is a pretty well-known (though I had never heard of her) mystery writer with a love for Jane Austen, and she wrote Death Comes to Pemberley as a sequel to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. In the interview, she laughingly admitted that she didn't know there was an entire world of Jane Austen fan fiction floating around. She had her assistant research on the Internet to see if there were any similar books out there... She's old and doesn't use a computer. James said that she aimed to keep the writing style and characterization as true to Austen's original as she possibly could, and I personally think she hit the nail on the head.

The book is elegantly written in a style much akin to Austen's, which means of course that descriptions are lengthy and detailed and take up as much of the book as does any sort of action. This story is more of a courtroom drama than the fast-paced detective stories I love, but it was certainly still enjoyable. The excitement acts as book-ends at the front and back ends of the story, and it does seem to drag on a bit in the middle (which is also pretty true of Austen). I thought this book was a delightful mash up of my two biggest literary interests- Jane Austen and murder mysteries! And how sweet of Nathan to remember me commenting on the NPR story and then getting me the book for Christmas.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Kitchen Tricks

Everyone knows I'm a super enthusiastic organizer, which is a trait I'm not ashamed of. But it has been sort of difficult in our kitchen because of the lack of counter space. It's a very spacious room, but one of the walls is completely blank where there could be a whole length of counterspace. What a shame.

We've had to get a little bit creative, and I think it's worked okay. And I got some great new gadgets & cookbooks for Christmas!
Hanging drying herbs from the wall with string. Takes up no space and looks elegant.
Little plastic basket to hold odd gadgets & accessories. This is where I put my KitchenAid attachments, mill blades, food processor attachments, and miscellaneous extras. It's a good size to slip in the cabinets, and its plastic surface is easily cleaned.
I put a few nails in to hang the measuring cups. They didn't fit well in the shallow drawers, plus I think they look cute here above the dry good jars. It makes sense, and I'm all about logical, utilitarian organization.
We ran out of space in our cabinets to put all 10 of the coffee mugs from our dining set, so I put up some removable 3M hooks above the microwave, where there was previously wasted space. And now the mugs are right by the coffee maker!
This might be my proudest organizational tool. Nathan used to use this shelving unit with his desk, and he had the genius idea to move it into the kitchen for extra storage. It now houses our recycling bins, cat food bin, cook books, KitchenAid (next to an outlet, so I can actually use it there), pretty big wooden cutting board, hanging fruit/veggie basket, all our pots & pans, and gadget storage on the top shelf. So many uses!
Our awesome new cookbooks. So exciting.
We love our quaint little kitchen and really enjoy spending time together in there. It might be my favorite room in the house, which is largely because it's where the food is. :-)

Oh and the cats seem to think that the kitchen is their personal playground.
I don't understand how he got up there. I had to help him down. Silly boy.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Family Photos

My dad took some photos of our family during the holidays this year. Here's a taste-

Sarah, mom, me, & Carl the chihuahua.

Mom giving grandma the album she made of old family photos. My mom is kind of superwoman- she gets sh** done while somehow still having energy to be incredibly thoughtful and kind.

Nathan opening his Christmas present. My parents gave him the family guitar that none of us have ever learned how to play. I love being able to listen to my husband play music.

Nathan & myself getting ready for the present-opening chaos at my nana's house in Chattanooga on Christmas day. He was brave.

Uncle Bobby and Aunt Lacie. They're totally awesome. Lacie was happy to no longer be the newcomer, and she filled Nathan in on our family antics so he wouldn't be totally in the dark.

My mom's side of the family- her two brothers & their families. Missing a few cousins who couldn't be there, but grandma was happy to see her kids. And of course we continued the tradition of the yearly Christmas photo, but it wasn't quite as fun without grandma using the self-timer and running.

We had a nice time seeing our families through the holidays. I wish we had more excuses to take off work to visit. These few days in Ohio have been wonderful. Sadly I won't have pictures to share because my camera battery died the first day here. :-( we always love our trips to Findlay though, and will be sad to leave here tomorrow (but happy to return home to the cats).