Catch Up

Hello!

Oh my gosh, it’s been so long!

You *look* fantastic!
*I can’t really see you, but knowing you, I can assume.

What have I been up to?  Oh geez, where do I start?

Well, we’ve been moving.  And that’s seriously hectic.
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Have you ever moved?  I swear things start appearing.  Literally materializing out of thin air!  You think you know how much stuff you have until you try to move from one house to another.  Just as soon as I thought we were close to being done, I’d open a closet or a cupboard and have another carload of stuff.  Plus, if I ever have to scrub walls again, I may die.

And then of course, because moving isn’t epic enough, *my* babies all graduated.
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*In full disclosure, only one of those “babies” are mine. And one of them only graduated kindergarten this year.

*Also, Nick is rolling his eyes. I can feel it. It’s cool. 

And that’s been mixed in with working, rehearsing, performing yadda yadda yadda.

But it’s great.  All of it.  I can’t believe how lucky I am.  How awesome our friends and family are.  I’m never hesitant to say that I’m loving life, but there are times when it’s truer, more real.  This is definitely one of those times.

What about you?  What have you been up to lately?  I’d love to hear from you, and let’s promise to meet like this more often!

See you soon?

14 Things

This post contains an obscene amount of exclamation points.  Read at your own discretion.

1.     I have exciting things to show you!

2.     But not today.

3.     I’m feeling so much better!

4.     Strep is awful.

5.     Antibiotics are amazing!

6.     Which is good, because strep is truly debilitating.

7.     I got back in my kitchen!

8.     The pictures, of course are still hanging out in my camera.

9.     I made something that my husband loves!

10.   I love it too!

11.   I’m pretty sure you’re gonna love it as much as we do!

12.   I feel like a schmuck for not remembering  to upload my photos.

13.   I feel like a schmuck for teasing you with such an exciting title.

14.   As soon as I get my photos uploaded, I’ll have a really exciting recipe to post!

Have a good day!  And in advance preparation, please pick up some course grain sea salt and some half and half.  Extra credit goes to anyone who can guess the recipe based on those clues!

🙂

A Review of Helena

Ok, so not Helena, exactly.  A review of a few places we visited when we were there recently.  Generally, I’m pretty biased against Helena.  Not that there’s anything wrong with it per se, I’m just so in love with Missoula that it’s hard for me to give Helena a fair shot.  I grew up there, and there’s generally better restaurants, more things to do and cooler people in Missoula.  I kid, I kid!  Oh, and hippies!  I love the hippies. (I’d never kid about that)

Anyway, I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised to find a better range of local restaurants and cafes than historically present.  Helena seems very corporate to me, and I think that’s where the turn-off comes from.  Most of the local places I frequented in high school closed down quickly after graduation, and all that was left were chain style restaurants and short-lived coffee shops. Not a ton of healthy eating options, either.

There are a few notable exceptions to my biases:

Riley’s Irish Pub
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Although the menu is not groundbreaking, the food is predictably, consistently good. The strong Irish roots of this menu don’t smother it, and fresh ingredients seem to be a top priority. Not vegetarian friendly, but not many Irish American restaurants are. (Fortunately for me, I’m not actually vegetarian :))

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The atmosphere is friendly and relaxed, and I love the tribute to their Irish heritage.

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And like me, the cooks at Riley’s aren’t as concerned with presentation so much as taste. My “BLAT” sandwich (bacon, lettuce, avocado and tomato) and salad with poppy seed vinaigrette was exactly how I thought a well done pub sandwich should be.

Scenic Brew Coffee
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I absolutely love when baristas draw pretty things in my lattes. It highlights a standard of care in their work and their products.

Bright, airy and welcoming, I felt like this was the kind of place that a person could break out a laptop and work all day, or chat with friends (and sisters) for hours.
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Plus, how cute is this guy?
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A moose after my own heart.

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I’m a sucker for funny food/drink names. And any place that can make my son’s face do this:

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gets an A in my book. The barista was incredibly friendly and polite, and he even let my son watch him make the designs in all of our drinks. We ended up coming here more than once during our visit, and it was excellent every time.

The Bagel Company
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The Bagel Company has been around forever, or at least, as long as I can remember. Freshly made bagels, every day; tons of different kinds of cream cheeses, ranging from savory to sweet.  And I’ve recently discovered how good their coffee is. One of my sisters used to work here, and I’ll never forget the time she introduced me to the cinnamon sugar bagel with cream cheese frosting. To die for!

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Look at those big chunks of sugar! Not the healthiest bagel, but definitely one of the tastiest.

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We were there for lunch, so that’s why the baskets look a little empty. Trust me, if you’re there earlier than noon, that display case is stacked to the brim.

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I got adventurous and tried something new, and I loved it! This was the hummus and salsa sandwich on a sesame seed bagel. The bagels are soft, yet dense and chewy, the hummus was warm and so creamy!  The salsa had enough kick to entertain my tastebuds without burning them off. This is a great place to meet friends for breakfast or lunch.

So there you have it! There are actually a lot more places in Helena that I’d like to tell you about, but I just didn’t have the time on my trip. Helena can’t be all that bad with places like these, right? 😉

If you ever pass through, or you live there, let me know your favorite foodie hangouts in Helena. I’d love to discover some more hidden gems.

I Had Some Time

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Complete recipe written up neatly at the bottom

I had some time yesterday morning.  Because my alarm went off at 5:30 in the morning, and even the thought of going to the gym couldn’t get me out of bed.  I was tiiiiiiiirrrrrred.

But then, at exactly 6:15, I decided I was awake and had better get out of bed.  My workout was scrubbed for an extra 45 minutes of sleep.  Sometimes you just have to give yourself those little indulgences.

So, with all my free time in the morning, I decided to marinate tofu.

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This tofu was pressed to remove the extra moisture for about 10 minutes.

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Then cubed.

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Stuff was thrown in a bag.

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And then smooshed to combine.

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Tofu was added, and then shaken. Not stirred.

And then I threw the bag in the refrigerator and went to work.

When I came home, I turned the broiler on, covered a cookie sheet in foil, and used my new Misto to spray some olive oil on the foil. (Heehee, I rhymed!)
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The tofu had sucked up almost all of the marinade, but I tossed it out onto the cookie sheet and poured the last drops of marinade on top.

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Once that was in the oven for a few minutes, I started some quinoa.
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About ten minutes later, in between stirring the quinoa, I stirred the tofu around a bit,
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It smelled so delicious!

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Chopped some vegetables for a salad,

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And then all that was left was assembly.

This was so fast and easy. From turning the broiler on to sitting down at the table was about 30 minutes.
Although this tofu wasn’t knock your socks off and “call yo’ mama” good, it was delicious and far moister than my typical (10 minutes) marinated tofu.

So if you have some time tomorrow morning, give it a shot.

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Easy tofu marinade:

1 block of extra firm tofu
1/2 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp minced garlic (or one whole clove, pressed)
1/2 tsp grated ginger
1 tsp five spice powder
1/4 tsp cayenne

Wrap tofu in a towel or paper towel and press under a few plates or cook books for about 10 minutes. Dice into desired shape (cubes or slices) and set aside. Combine remaining ingredients in a ziplock bag or bowl, whisk or shake to combine. Add tofu, then refrigerate for half an hour or up to 8 hours.
Preheat broiler and cover a cookie sheet with foil. Spray the foil with olive oil or cooking spray, and then spread tofu into a single layer on the cookie sheet.
Remove tofu from the oven when the corners are crispy and the tofu is a nice dark color.  Serve over quinoa, rice, couscous, or whatever floats your tofu boat!

Turnout

I am a ballerina.  I’ve finally come to terms with the term.

You see, growing up, I was a huge tomboy.  I played in the mud, I rode my bike down giant hills, I loved playground football and anything else that involved shows of speed, strength and general bad-assness.  I hated dresses more than anything else in the world, and if my hair wasn’t pulled back in a ponytail, it was tucked up under a white Nike baseball cap (and then I chopped it all off in sixth grade).

But there was this other side of me.  One I spent a lot of time trying to reconcile with my tomboy.  I wanted more than anything else in the world to dance on stage in a tutu and pointe shoes.  To move gracefully under the lights and be lifted above the stage as if I were lighter than air.  Needless to say, my tomboy wasn’t cool with the uber-feminine term “ballerina.”

I was never shy about telling people that I danced.  I was so happy to finally have the opportunity that I’m amazed I didn’t shout it from the rooftops!  But I would say “ballet dancer” or “I do ballet” instead of “ballerina.”

When I came to college, it was easy to just say “dancer,” because I did or had done a little of everything by that point.  I had a very strong ballet vocabulary, I had done a tiny bit of tap and jazz, and I was learning to love modern dance a little more with every kick-ass class.  I’d even dabbled in flamenco and hip hop!  (Ok, I did flamenco once, but it was awesome)  Dancer fit better, and people wouldn’t chime in with the “B” term, because I wasn’t so focused on one style anymore.

When I was a first-time senior in college, I was approached by one of my very favorite people and asked to teach a pre-ballet (creative movement) class at her studio in town.  I was flattered, floored, terrified and excited.  I knew that this was the start to the rest of my life as a dancer, and I couldn’t wait to start teaching.  Even though I wasn’t just a ballerina anymore, I finally connected with the term, and used it with pride.  That one class turned into two, and pretty soon I was teaching almost every week night.

After my second senior year in college (give me a break!  No one finishes in 4 years anyway) I realized that I was going to have to start paying for my education very soon.  And because I was broke and trying to help support a family, I realized that I had to get a different job.  I say “different job” instead of “real job” for several reasons:  teaching dance is a real, noble job; you can definitely make nice money teaching dance, but you have to teach a lot of classes to make that work; a job is a job is a job–if you’re getting paid to do something, it’s a job.  But alas, teaching didn’t have dental attached, and my baby had cavities.

For a long time, I entertained the idea that I could maintain a full time job, teach dance, find time to keep rehearsing and performing, AND spend quality time with my family.  After all, I had just finished going to school, teaching, working another part time job, rehearsing, performing, studying and spending time with…Nope, there just wasn’t enough time spent with family.  I had neglected–no matter how unintentionally–some amazing, wonderful, incredibly patient people so that I could be a dancer.  Although I loved the work that I was doing, I finally realized that I couldn’t maintain the manic pace and keep sanity for myself and my family.  I’m sure that Wonder Woman could somehow make everything work, but she never did return my calls…

So now I work behind a desk.  I get to interact with lots of great people.  I have amazing insurance.  I count my blessings every day.  But I miss dance.  I miss going to class.  I miss seeing smiles on dancers who finally get the correction I gave them.  I miss the struggle of working on a step or a phrase, and then mastering it and turning it into art.  I even miss the long hours and late night rehearsals sometimes.

So how do I not let myself be sad?  How do I keep my dancer self as fulfilled as my everyday self?  It’s actually a very small thing, but it makes a big difference.

I turnout.  I stand in first position while waiting for my latte.  I do ankle circles behind my desk.  I talk about dance, and watch youtube videos of performances.  Sometimes–and don’t tell anyone I told you this–I do pirouettes in empty public restrooms.  It keeps me sane until I can make it to my weekend rehearsal, or my living room to bust it out.  They’re all small reminders of the ballerina that I always am, no matter if I’m sitting at a desk or dancing in a studio.

Why am I telling you all this?  I’m not sure, actually.  Maybe because I’ve only recently realized that the only thing that can let my dream of dance whither away is me.  Or maybe because I realized that my life isn’t on hold.  Ever!  I’m living my life, all the time.  God didn’t give us a pause button, and there’s no rewind or fast forward.  My life may not look exactly like I imagined it would, but I’m not going to let that stop me from being happy.  And actually, it might even be better.  My family is happier now that I’m home every night, I’m happier now that I get to spend quality time with them, and I’m still dancing as often as possible.  I appreciate everything that much more because I have to plan and work for it.  It’s not always easy, but it’s always worth it.

How do you “turnout”?