New Blog Host!

This past weekend pink-briefcase.com transferred to a new host.  There is absolutely no difference for you as a reader, and honestly I don’t think you should even see this page if everything moved over properly.  If you did end up here somehow, you’ll probably need to update your blog reader and/or type the blog address into your address bar:  http://www.pink-briefcase.com.

Long-term, I think this will be a huge win for this space and help us to have more flexibility and better quality pages and posts.  For a few weeks, however, there may be glitches here and there.  If you have any trouble, if photos are misplaced or links do not work, be sure to leave a comment or reach out by email, twitter message, facebook message, etc. so I can find and fix any bugs in the transfer.

Thanks for growing and changing with me.

Much love,

PB

 

 

 

It’s Already/Only Thursday?

This week has been much too slow and much too fast. I thought that yesterday (Wednesday) was Friday, and was none too pleased to discover the truth. But somehow minutes are also flying by so quickly! I can barely keep up.

This weekend I did some of the things that make my weeks awesome — I put together a rockin’ meal plan (blog post coming soon!) did laundry and cleaned my room. I didn’t pick outfits, so I’m basically wearing different colored versions of dress-cardigan-tights-boots every day, but that’s okay. We can’t win every battle.

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(This is today’s lunch. I wasn’t kidding about our food being awesome this week. Curry chicken on quinoa with broccoli.)

My family is driving up today for a last-minute weekend in the city, and while surprises are typically not my jam I’m really excited! The weather is looking great for mid-March (although it did snow for one hour this morning), and since I’m starting to really love this city I’m happy to have them see it too.

So, I’m putting together a new Choose-Your-Own-Adventure plan for the weekend. It’s one of my favorite things to make! I had already put fajitas on the menu, but today Deb at the Smitten Kitchen has a recipe up too. Clearly this weekend is made for fajitas. We’ll try to get seated at Little Goat and might stop by a jazz club.

Any big plans for you this weekend? I’ll still have a Five Things post tomorrow, but I’m excited to take a little break from the usual.

Date Night: Cooking Class

As part of our three-day Valentine’s Day extravaganza, H reserved us two spots in a weekend cooking class.  [Don't make too many assumptions here.  We don't really do that lovey-dovey holiday stuff, but it was a great excuse to try a few new places and do something fun.]

We headed over to The Wooden Spoon in Uptown Chicago for a class called Cook and Eat Like a Francophile.  I was expecting bistro sandwiches, things to pair with brie on a cheese platter,  or some kind of pastry since it was a lunch-time class, but I was really wowed by the menu.  We “made” shrimp bisque, fancy chicken with sauce, french-style bitter lentils, the most delicious green beans ever, and a weird pudding-berry-custard dessert.  Or, as the French would call it,

  • Shrimp Bisque;
  • French Lentils with Honey Cashews;
  • Green Bean Salad with Basil and Tomatoes;
  • Poulet Sauté Chasseur; and
  • Mixed Berries Gratin (not pictured).

Wooden Spoon Meal

Cooking classes are, overall, kind of weird but really fun.  We didn’t fully cook any one single thing, because about a dozen people were helping with different stages of preparation.  Everyday cooking would be so much easier if I had a half-dozen sous chefs to do all of my prep-work and measuring for me!  We were tasked with chopping a few things, stirring a few things, and draining the lentils — but, most importantly, we got to eat everything.  I would have perhaps liked a little more hands-on time than this class size provided, but we made some new friends and had a lovely time.

Sharing our love of food with strangers was comfortable and warm.  A few other couples, a few friend groups, and two adult sons with their dad on his 68th birthday chopped and sautéed and ate this beautiful meal with us.  (I remembered again how lucky I am to have such an awesome mom while watching a young woman search for help when asked to stir the pot, but not so often that the veggies wouldn’t brown.)  Even the vegetarian we were partnered with loved learning about each of the recipes and promised to cook the bisque again for her fiance if he would handle the shrimp-y parts.

It may sound unimpressive, but our favorite dish of the day was the green bean salad.  The green beans were blanched (well, more like double-blanched because they were almost done when they came out of the boiling water), chilled, and then tossed in a freshly made Dijon vinaigrette and served alongside sliced, salted tomatoes.  It was perfect spring/early summer picnic food, and all-in-all a pretty healthy dish.

The Wooden Spoon has a cooking tools shop (and provides knife sharpening for their customers for only $3) so we purchased a little salad dressing bottle to take home with us for storing our own homemade vinaigrettes in the future.  H has been mixing up balsamic and olive oil for our salads for the last few weeks and I’ve been food-dreaming about the vinaigrette recipe in Shauna Niequist’s book Bread and Wine, which is pretty close to what we made in class that day.  This weekend we’ll be purchasing some red wine vinegar and eating this dressing on everything in sight.

Would you ever go to a cooking class?  Have any favorite salad dressing recipes? 

Love Toes

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Here’s a quick piece of trivia for you all — did you know that when you get a pedicure in the winter, you stuff your soft, polished feet into sandwich baggies to protect your nails before putting on your socks and boots? Well, if you didn’t, now you do. This is just one of many lessons I’ve learned while surviving my first winter in the Great White Midwest.

In other news, I attended my first non-couples social engagement of the winter, and it was lovely. It is so nice getting out on your own! I met a handful of women in the city and reconnected with someone I haven’t seen in literally years. Like, since 2006. Sometimes I forget just how long it has been since college. Tonight, I remembered it has been quite a long time!

This week’s toe nail color is Too Too Hot by Essie, which will be perfect for Valentine’s day. I’m seeing tons of great V-day beauty and fashion posts and am SO READY for some warmer, spring-ish weather. I’ll probably mix a little pink or red into my work wardrobe Friday, but I’m typically not really a V-day celebrater. Are you doing anything special to celebrate?

A decorating confession…

I had a lot planned for this past weekend and this work week. A serious cough and another polar vortex shut all of that down. I haven’t been outside my apartment since this past Friday, and I’ve been drinking orange juice, ginger ale, and water like nobody’s business.

Regular blog posts will resume shortly, but the schedule may be a little off for the rest of this week. I’m planning to go into the office for at least half a day tomorrow, and I may be too wiped out to keep up with the editorial calendar.

But then again, maybe tomorrow will be awesome. Let’s plan for that, and trust that it will come.

This afternoon I felt well enough to take down the Christmas tree. I wanted to leave it up until Epiphany, and then got busy and never took it down. I know, I know: it’s almost February. But, it’s not February yet.

Leo was very disappointed that the holiday jungle gym went back into the closet.

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The lights on our balcony railings are still up, but we haven’t turned them on in weeks. It’s way too cold for me to take them down! They may just stay out there until Spring. No one can really see them, right?

So, tell me this and don’t sugar coat it: what’s the longest you’ve ever left up the holiday decorations?

Five [Awesome] Things I Read This Week, 1.17.2014

Five 2

A guest post by Hilary Murdoch at The Gift of Writing, telling her own experience with journaling.  Journaling is something I’d like to do a little more, and this really reinforced why — so many of these sentences could have been written by my own heart.

But for me there is another barrier to this vulnerability, in addition to the fear of what people think of me. In order to share how I truly feel, I first need to know how I truly feel.

And often I don’t.

Often I am blissfully unaware of my own emotions. People ask me how I am and I answer that ‘I’m fine’, or even that ‘I’m really well’. And I’m not lying. I genuinely think I am.

Sometimes I’m aware of some discomfort under the surface but I’m not sure what it is. It’s in my journal writing that I am able to access that disquiet; see it, explore it and hopefully face it and deal with it.

The Ploughshares Round-Down: “The Wolf of Wall Street” and Its Backlash, by Tasha Golden.

As writers, we could choose to write only moralistic narratives, or to hold our readers’ hands into ethical resolutions. But by doing so, we would strip readers of the opportunity to exercise their own ability to respond imaginatively. And we may also strip the public of the productive (if contentious) discourse stimulated by questionable material.

Indeed, criticisms of The Wolf of Wall Street both devalue viewers—by assuming they can handle only moralistic tales—and esteem them, by providing immediate evidence of their astonishing critical thinking skills. The film’s critics affirm the necessity of moral-ethical conversations while simultaneously proving we’re capable of having them. This irony is ridiculous.

Abby Norman’s Swimming in the Deep End.  Abby has been killing it on her blog lately.  I identify with her on so many levels.

I have heard the calls of more real, more vulnerable, less safe. I have heard them from the women in my community. I have heard them from my own heart. I am doing this crazy thing in less than a month, where I invite all the people in my life who are usually carefully separated, to come and commune on my couch, at my table, in my backyard.

And if I am totally honest I am scared that by the end of the weekend, if my online people and my real life people and my I signed up for this on a whim and now I am here people all hang out, that no one will leave liking me.

Jenny Lawson [The Bloggess] with Strange and Beautiful.

If you’re sad or lonely or feeling like you’re one of the misfit toys, know that you are part of us.  And remember that those misfit toys always were always far more interesting than the normal ones.

Tell someone that you love them, or that they’re important.  And tell yourself.  Because it’s true.

And to wrap us up this week, a recipe that I really want to make:  Classic Lemon Bars from Joy the Baker.

Super tart fresh lemon juice adds all of the kick to these lemon bars.  Fresh lemon zest is the very hard-working backup.  These bars feature a wonderfully buttery crust, and a sweet and tart lemon custard.  Topped with a generous amount of powdered sugar, these bars are exactly as they should be.  Classic.

no more waiting

A few years back I was speaking with someone I care about, and he was telling me about his ongoing job search.  He said he wasn’t really going out of his way to find a better job, but he’d be very happy if something good fell in his lap.  He just wasn’t the go-getter type, and was waiting for the right thing to come his way.

And I thought: “THAT IS CRAZY.  HOW CAN YOU EXPECT THE RIGHT THING TO JUST FALL INTO YOUR LAP? YOU HAVE TO TRY TO FIND A JOB, YOU HAVE TO NETWORK AND GO ON INFORMATIONAL INTERVIEWS AND VOLUNTEER STRATEGICALLY AND, oh here’s an important thing, ACTUALLY APPLY FOR A JOB in order to get a job offer.”

But I probably said something more like “Oh, well, I guess that could work too” and then changed the subject.  It’s hard to disagree with the people you love sometimes.

 * * *

These past few months I’ve been waiting for Chicago to feel like home and waiting for inspiration in my writing and waiting for some kind of clarity to appear in my career path, doing exactly what I very clearly believe (see above) is not going to get me where I want to be:  stalling my life until something good happens, without making much of an effort to find what I wanted.  And while the rest has been beneficial for me in so many ways, it’s time to stop letting the seconds tick by without action.  You can only let so many seconds slip through your fingers before years have passed, and I want every single one of my years to count.

So, I’ve chosen a word for 2014 that is going to shake things up.  People do this “choose-one-word” thing all over the internet, but I’ve never done it before.  Until now.  Because right now I really need focus, and energy, and drive, and I think that one big word to rule them all [all the resolutions, that is] will give me a head start on making this year awesome.

So here it is, y’all.  My word for 2014.

OneWordBig

I’m going to try a little harder, do a little more, and do those things more enthusiastically.  And when I see something I want to do, or somewhere I want to be, or some skill I want to develop I will think about it a little less and DO IT a little more.

So, what about you?  Are you setting resolutions for the year, or choosing one word, or both?  I’m probably doing both, but this is where I am right now.  If you’d like, share your resolutions/words in the comments here. 

A Christmas Wish

MerryChristmasPB

“There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say,” returned the nephew. “Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round — apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that — as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.”

– Scrooge’s nephew addressing Scrooge, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol

Let us remember, this Christmas and every day, that we are all fellow-passengers in this life and treat each other kindly, with generosity and respect.

A very Merry Christmas to you and yours.

Creating a Warm Apartment

a warm apartment

We started talking about how to prepare yourself for a successful workweek last Sunday.  In my life, it’s so easy for things to spiral out of control during the week as you grow steadily more exhausted each day until you can collapse on Friday evening with a glass of wine or a mug of cocoa.  And when things start to spiral, my preparations can maintain my dressing and eating habits for a few days, but my apartment starts to show wear almost immediately.

It’s harder than it sounds to maintain a welcoming home.   And it’s hard to welcome anyone into your home while the shame and embarrassment you feel that someone can SEE your apartment like THIS echoes through your brain.  To stay happy and reduce stress, I know I need to keep my apartment a little straighter than I consistently do, and I need to spend some time on the weekends to make sure it is ready for the onslaught that the work week will bring.   The problem with this post is that while I know I need to do better in this area, and I really want to do better in this area, I haven’t really mastered this yet.  So, I’ll mention a few things that work for me thus far, but on this issue in particular I really covet your own success stories.

Over the weekend, I know that I need to focus on:

  • Actually putting my laundry away.  I am TERRIBLE at putting laundry away.  I don’t always take the time to put clean laundry in the proper drawers.  My biggest problem, however, is multiple wear items.  When I come home from work and take off my dry-clean-only pants, they should go into the closet to be worn again.  But I just can’t seem to do it.  Even now, as I am writing this post and as guests have just departed our apartment, my dresser is covered with half-clean, partially rumpled clothes that should be put away.  On the weekends I put it all away so I can start with a clean slate.
  • Putting books, mail, movies, laptop chargers, and all of those odds and ends that pile up out of sight.  I just use a basket but really, anything that will keep those things from cluttering up counters and sofas will be great. When my flat surfaces are clear, I feel calm.  When they are cluttered, I want to hide under the covers and never talk to anyone.
  • Vacuuming, sweeping the kitchen, windexing the bathroom mirrors, all that kind of stuff.  Dust accumulates even in rooms you don’t use.

The big kicker for me to make my apartment nice is doing a little something every day.  I’m lucky that H and I can tag team these tasks, with one of us making dinner and another doing the dishes or taking out the trash.  Each day, it is best if either H or I do the following:

  • Take 20 minutes each evening to do the dishes and wipe the kitchen counters.  It’s amazing how easy everything else is if you do only this.
  • Keep the dirty socks out of the living room.  We all do it, I think — take our socks off at weird times and just throw them down wherever.  I hate the way socks end up everywhere.  I try to find them and toss them into the hamper as often as I can.
  • Scoop the kitty litter.
  • De-clutter the coffee table and entryway table.

So, that’s where I am.  Still struggling to keep messiness at bay as my weeks get busier and days fly by.  Do you have any tips for maintaining a calm home in the midst of a busy life?  If so, please include them in the comments.

 

Full hearts

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We spent our last night with family in one of Chicago’s top-three deep dish pizza chains. Lou Malnati’s is not my favorite of the three, but it is our guest’s favorite so that is where we went. And I’m not complaining–it was delicious.

These past few days have been so full. I’ve loved every minute but I am also pretty tired. All of the things I do to prepare for my workweeks, including those things I’ve been writing about this past week, have been set aside to make room for fun in our lives. And that’s the thing about successful weeks: you prepare for what’s coming so that you can enjoy what actually happens.

Tomorrow we’ll wrap up our series on successful weeks. Wednesday I’ll post my meal plan and cooking schedule from Fake Thanksgiving, just in case you need last-minute inspiration. Thursday through Sunday we’ll be with family and friends in Tennessee. I’ll try to meet you here each day as I finish National Blog Posting Month.

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