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29 Before 29: Make Jambalaya

8 Dec

In my 29th year of life, I’m attempting to do 29 new things. Full List Here. All Bucket List Adventures Here.

This year for Thanksgiving, I got to go back to Reno and spend the week with my parents. It was a rare treat as traveling to Reno from New York is a full-day affair. I hadn’t been back in two years, and I was shocked by how much I enjoyed my respite in the desert. Shopping with mom, watching football on their beautiful new entertainment unit, cuddling with their new dog Holly, karaoke at 2am in downtown Reno with my ladylove Danguole, and of course lots of eating.

One of the nights I was home, my mom and I collaborated on producing a beautiful Jambalaya recipe.

My adorable mom and your little sous-chef Holly.

My adorable mom and our little sous-chef Holly.

I adore a good jambalaya. It’s a perfect comfort food. All that starch from the rice, good flavorful protein in the shrimp and sausage, healthy vegetables, a kick of spice. We used this recipe from Barefoot Contessa, and my mom and I spent a lot of time debating whether Ina Garner is creepy or not. She’s a great cook, don’t get me wrong, but there’s just something insidious about her.

Before adding the rice. So colorful!

Before adding the rice. So colorful!

Cooking at my parent’s house is such a treat. So many beautiful bowls and gadgets. Everything is so clean and organized. My mother’s kitchen is a Type A heaven. There’s also something so nostalgic about cooking with my mom. One of the million things I’m grateful for in my upbringing is how much effort my mother always put into having a healthy home cooked meal for us almost every night. I always wanted to help, and she would give me an innocuous task that she knew I couldn’t mess up, like spinning the water out of the lettuce or rinsing the vegetables. But I’m an adult now, and she lets me chop! She lets me stir! We consult and confer! It’s that amazing transition from your mother being your guardian to your mother being one of your best friends.

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Look at this beautiful spice drawer. The organization and cleanliness makes me weak in the knees.

It turned out pretty good. The shrimp lacked as much flavor as the rest of the dish but overall it was everything I wanted jambalaya to be. And leftovers! Being young and poor, it’s important to me to make foods that heat up well the next day, so I can get the most bang for my buck. I think the jambalaya would reheat well. Of course, I never got to test that theory as we were soon swept away in the binge eating of Thanksgiving. I gained almost 5lbs while I was home. A successful trip indeed.

Finished product.

Finished product.

 

29 Before 29: Paint Nite

23 Oct

In my 29th year of life, I’m attempting to do 29 new things. Full List Here. All Bucket List Adventures Here.

It has become a yearly tradition to celebrate the birthday of our office manager by surprising her with an activity. This woman drives us insane at work sometimes, but we love her. She’s there when you need her, plain and simple. She’s the first one to offer to buy you a beer at the end of a rough day, and she has gone out of her way to help each and every one of us during difficult times. Last year, we took her to a drag show. This year, Paint Nite.

Despite my love of art, I don’t have much ability in that area. I could never draw or sculpt or paint. This does not mean that I don’t love doing it. However, I’m also a bit of a perfectionist. So not doing well at it has often kept me from trying. What a shame! Paint Nite is perfect for people like me. It’s simple, guided painting…at a bar! I sat down in front of my easel and felt dread, anxiety, nerves. “Mine won’t turn out well,” that negative voice inside me said. But after a couple of beers, I didn’t care. It was relaxing and fun and who cares what it turns out like.

"Fallicious!"

“Fallicious!”

It doesn’t look too bad, right? While I was painting I felt so self conscious about the tree, the colors, the brushstrokes. But at some point, I listened to my friends laughing around me, and I let myself have fun with it. Once all was said and done, I’m quite proud of it!

Junie, Me and Mei.

Junie, Me and Mei.

One of the most intriguing things about the whole experience was just how different everyone’s turned out. Yes, we all have a curvy tree with fall colors, but everyone’s painting was uniquely their own. Maybe it’s a credit to the leader of the class that each of our individual styles were able to come out. Look how fiery and bold Junie’s is. Just like her! Look how smooth and delicate Mei’s is. Totally her personality. I enjoyed that mine (not on purpose) looks to have desert mountains and cacti growing, a reflection of my Nevada roots. I’m addicted! I want to go every week. Although I’m not exactly sure what I would do with all those canvases.

The only negative thing I will say about the drinking is that it led me to believe that I was capable of painting an owl. Where I got this idea, I’m not sure. But it came out more looking like a gummi bear.

Owl? Cat? Gummi bear?

Owl? Cat? Gummi bear?

 

 

29 Before 29

15 Sep
Birthday girls

Birthday girls

I happen to share my birth date with one of my closest friends in New York, Quincey. A while back the two of us were talking about possible ideas for our birthday. We laughed and said we should do a week-long celebration dedicated to the amazingness that is us. But the more we talked about it, the more it made complete sense.

Our birth date happens to be marred by a national tragedy which over time has affected celebrations negatively. In addition to that, we both moved a lot as kids and spent many childhood birthdays in a new town without friends. So this was the year to make up for it. Cabaret, Karaoke, Softball, $1 beers, Ice Cream Cake, Cupcakes, Shake Shack, Happy Hour, Czech Beer Garden, Dancing. This was a week-long celebration for the ages, and my liver, stomach, legs, vocal chords are still recovering.

Now that life is slipping into normalcy, it’s time to embrace the new year’s list. I dropped some things that just weren’t happening. I brought back some recurring standards. And as far as new items go, I went big and small. Some overly ambitious and some devastatingly simple.

THE STANDARDS

1. Visit a new state- 13 down, 37 to go!

2. Visit a new country- Due to my supposed risk averse nature, I was unable to travel last year. But this year my goal is somewhere in Central America. I have to break in that new passport.

3. Visit a new baseball stadium- I’m so close to so many stadiums, it’s a crying shame that my number is so low. 7/30.

4. Read Catch-22– Every year I dedicate myself to reading one classic that I’m embarrassed about not having read.

5. Make Jambalaya- My new recipe challenge for the year.

6. Eat Ox Tail- My new adventurous food choice of the year.

7. Eat Ethiopian- You really can’t have too many adventurous food options. I’d be happy with doing an entire list of food.

LEFTOVERS FROM LISTS OF YESTERYEAR

8. Be an extra in a TV show or movie***

9. Go Scuba Diving***

10. Go Sailing***

11. Go to a Gun Range***

12. Do a Juice Cleanse**

13. Go to a Dog Show**

14. Visit a Whiskey Distillery**

15. Go to a Live Taping*- My new goal for this is to see “Last Week Tonight” with John Oliver. I have such a nerd crush on him.

16. Ride a Mechanical Bull*

17. Take a Trapeze Class*

18. Eat at Serendipity*

19. Go to a Monster Truck Show*

THE NEW LIST

20. Sing at Live Band Karaoke- I love singing karaoke. Some might even call it a passion. A week ago, I delivered a drunken, impassioned performance of “All That Jazz.” I’m ready to step up my karaoke game.

Duet with Quincey

Duet with Quincey

21. Paint Nite- I know this is suburban and faux-creative, but I want to do it. I want to somehow paint a pretty picture and pretend I’m an artiste.

22. Go sky diving- I hesitated putting this on the list. I’ve hesitated putting it on for years. I’m concerned I might pee myself or have a similar humiliating experience.

23. Fencing Lesson- I took an archery lesson a couple of months ago. If the place wasn’t so far from me, I would have considered going back. Something so fun about medieval weaponry.

24. Learn to play the ukelele- I learned that my paternal grandfather used to play the ukelele. It’s a family tradition I’d like to carry on.

25. Go whale watching- I didn’t realize how much I wanted to do this until I missed an opportunity last week. I want to experience the majesty of those mammals.

26. Do a knitting donation project- I took down my “Pay for someone’s meal” item, because I’m just too shy. But I wanted to replace it with something charitable.

27. Go white water rafting- I fear this will go the way of my go scuba diving item. It’ll never happen.

28. Visit a horse ranch- I’ve recently started working with horses, and I forgot how deep my love for them runs.

29. Visit the United Nations- I had to add one New York touristy option.