Look, Ma, I Can Cook!

It’s no secret that I am not a good cook. Or maybe it’s a secret to people who I haven’t tried to cook for (such as all of you), but trust me, to the people I’ve cooked for, it’s no secret.

What was I saying?

That’s right. Cooking. I’m not good at it and – probably relatedly – I don’t enjoy it all that much either. This could be partly due to the fact that I’ve lived in San Francisco, land of the impractical galley kitchen, for the past dozen years.

Our kitchen: perfect...for a toddler.

Our kitchen: perfect!…For a toddler.

It could be partly due to the fact that I have no dishwasher and when I think of cooking, I think of dishes piled up, waiting for me to wash them.

It could be because the grocery store overwhelms and confuses me, and because why would I spend time laboring over an elaborate dinner when I can magic food THAT I DON’T HAVE TO MAKE straight to my door?

I mean, really.

But that gets expensive and shockingly enough, it also gets old. You can only eat delicious artisan hipster pizza so many times a week before it starts to get…well, old. Unless you are a 3-year-old and then pizza NEVER gets old.

So, we needed a solution and we needed it quick, because this chick gets hangry. We needed something easy. Something quick. Something convenient and not expensive and, above all else, delicious.

Enter Blue Apron.

For those who don’t know, Blue Apron is a food delivery service, one of many that have become all the rage around here in the past couple of years. I’d heard about it here and there and had wanted to try it, but even that seemed like a lot of work (yes, I have reached peak laziness at 33 years old. Sue me). But Mister Jess wanted to give it a try and for $10 per meal per person, it seemed like a helluva lot better than what we were currently doing.

And you know what? I love Blue Apron.

I. LOVE. BLUE. APROOOOOOOOON (I hope you read that in Oprah’s voice, because I typed it in Oprah’s voice).

Let me count the ways:

  • We get to pick our three weekly meals online. And they’re delicious-sounding meals, things like seared cod and ribeye steak and juicy lamb and beef burgers.
  • The ingredients are fresh. Like freshy fresh, from their farm-sourced produce to high quality meats to sustainable seafood. They say all of this on their website, but from what I can see it’s not just lip service. It’s all true!
  • They only give you what you need. This is one thing that’s HUGE for us. As you can see above, our kitchen is puny. I don’t have room for a huge sack of potatoes or tons of spices. I need what I need just when I need it, and with Blue Apron I don’t even have to think about it.
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  • It’s easy. Seriously. It’s, like, really easy. There’s a one-sheeter with the ingredients needed (see above) and directions and you just follow them and BOOM. Yummy meal. In my mouth. In my tummy. Happy Jess.
  • It’s kind of zen. I chop and I mince and I bake and I stir and I dance along to my Spotify playlists and Mister Jess and Bug dance along with me, or they laugh and play in the living room, and it’s chill. It’s a surprisingly awesome, mindless way to wind down after a long day at work.
  • It’s effing delicious. And at the end of the day, that’s the most important part.

Look at these meals. That *I* cooked. Me. Jessica, the girl who ruined the recipe for Santa’s chocolate chip cookies, which I got from the back of a chocolate chip bag. So fine, baking is still not my thing.

But cooking? Cooking is officially my thing.

Fried catfish over dirty rice. Hi.

Fried catfish over dirty rice. Hi.

 

Grilled pork chops with poblano salsa and sweet potato mash. 'Sup.

Grilled pork chops with poblano salsa and sweet potato mash. ‘Sup.

 

Chicken and udon noodle soup. Stealth delicious.

Chicken and udon noodle soup. Hey, you. You were stealth delicious.

So, how about all of you? Do you love to cook? Hate it? Subscribe to a food delivery service like Blue Apron? Let’s chat in the comments! 

Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?

Imagine that, in this scenario, Carmen Sandiego is me. Because, well, she is. I mean, I am. We are the same person.

Okay, maybe I haven’t been quite as around the world as this stylish 80s icon, but I have been traveling pretty extensively these past few months.

I have to pause because that sentence isn’t something I thought I’d ever write. If you’d have told me a year ago that I’d be making multiple international trips, I would have laughed in your face. And then I probably would have had a panic attack just thinking about being on a plane for that long.

A fortune I got a week before my first trip. How did it know?!

A fortune I got a week before my first trip. How did it know?!

I’ve been afraid of flying for a long time. It didn’t bother me when I was little, but by my teen years I developed a pretty fierce phobia. I’d dwell on any impending flight for weeks, be physically sick the day of, and basically be panicky throughout the entire flight. My heart would race. My breath would shorten. My hands would shake, tingle, go numb. I’d feel like I was out of my body. I talked my way out of all non-essential flights, and some essential ones, too.

But when I started my new job last February, I knew I’d have to travel occasionally. It made me pause before I accepted the position. I thought, can I do this? And then I thought, can I pass this up? The “no” was stronger with the second question than the first, so I went with it.

Now that I’m on the other side of three opportunities to visit different countries, I realize how crazy I would have been to pass it up. How much I would have regretted it later. My fear of flying stems largely from a lack of control – I don’t have any power over what happens once I step on that plane – but the same can be said for every moment of my life. Maybe an airplane is just a really big, really loud, really high symbol of the lack of control we have over everything.

I’m not completely over my fear of flying. I still get the racing heart and the shakies, and turbulence still sucks, but I’ve made 6 flights across oceans – Pacific and Atlantic – and have dealt with that fear. I’m sure I’ll still get the racing heart and the shakies, but hey, at least I get to see the world in the process, right?

At any rate, I took some pretty awesome pictures (because of the scenery, not because of my skill) that I want to share with you all! I’ve taken two trips to France, which is the country of my heart I swear, and just got back from Seoul, which was amazing and so special since Mister Jess is Korean and our little Bug is half. It was so incredible to be there and see the heritage that is so inextricably part of him.

First, Korea!

One of the fantastic neighborhoods in Seoul we visited. For shopping purposes, of course.

One of the fantastic neighborhoods in Seoul we visited. For shopping purposes, of course.

Down we go...

Down we go…

Delicious tofu from a street vendor. SO. Good.

Delicious tofu from a street vendor. SO. Good.

Samwon Garden, an amazingly delicious Korean BBQ restaurant. We ate a lot.

Samwon Garden, an amazingly delicious Korean BBQ restaurant. We ate a lot.

These small plates, called banchan, came with every meal we had.

These small plates, called banchan, came with every meal we had.

More Korean BBQ. Seriously, we ate a lot.

More Korean BBQ. Seriously, we ate a lot.

You guessed it...more food. Shaved ice with mango and with strawberries. Incredible.

You guessed it…more food. Shaved ice with mango and with strawberries. Incredible.

The duty free floor in Lotte Department store (there is also a Lotte Hotel, a Lotte amusement park, etc. Lotte everything). This. Place. Was. Packed. I lasted less than 5 minutes.

The duty free floor in Lotte Department store (there is also a Lotte Hotel, a Lotte amusement park, etc. Lotte everything). This. Place. Was. Packed. I lasted less than 5 minutes.

Snail masks. Korean beauty is pretty incredible, if not a little...exotic. It was amazing to see all of the local brands. So much innovation coming out of this small country!

Snail masks. Korean beauty is pretty incredible, if not a little…exotic. It was amazing to see all of the local brands. So much innovation coming out of this small country!

Oops. Too much shopping. Next time I'll need to see more of the actual, you know, sights.

Oops. Too much shopping. Next time I’ll need to see more of the actual, you know, sights.

 

And now, Paris. Sigh. I wish I could rewind to being 20 so I could have lived here for a year. Truly the most magical city.

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The view from my hotel in St-Germain-Des-Pres. It was my favorite neighborhood. So quintessentially Parisian!

The pastries? Insane.

The pastries? Insane.

The famous Cafe de Flore.

The famous Cafe de Flore.

All the buildings were beautiful like this!

All the buildings were beautiful like this!

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"We are all Charlie."

“We are all Charlie.”

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A lovely winter day.

A lovely winter day near the Eiffel Tower.

Thar she blows! It was bigger than I thought it'd be (twss?).

Thar she blows! It was bigger than I thought it’d be (twss?).

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The Musee d’Orsay. Just spectacular.

The Musee d'Orsay. Just spectacular.

 

Hello!

Hello!

Just trying to blend in as one of those impossibly chic Parisian women (it didn't work).

Just trying to blend in as one of those impossibly chic Parisian women (it didn’t work).

Love locks on the Ponts des Arts.

Love locks on the Ponts des Arts.

Le Marais, my other favorite neighborhood. Such a beautiful place - cobblestone walkways, alleys filled with people, sidewalk cafes...and the shopping is AMAZING.

Le Marais, my other favorite neighborhood. Such a beautiful place – cobblestone walkways, alleys filled with people, sidewalk cafes…and the shopping is AMAZING.

There was lots of graffiti in the city as well, in certain areas.

There was lots of graffiti in the city as well, in certain areas.

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Sigh.

Sigh.

 

But at the end of the day (or 12, as was the case with my February France trip), there’s no place like home.

 

 

What is your favorite place to visit? Been anywhere fun lately? Talk to me in the comments! 

 

I’M SO EXCITED…AGAIN

YOU GUYS. I’m excited again. Or still? Probably still. A few months ago, I wrote a post about the things I I was obsessing over at the moment, and welp. I have new things. Things I want to talk about. Share. KANYE CAPSLOCK ABOUT.

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My hope is always that when I discover something new – a song, a book, a person (I know that sounds creepy, but just go with it) – and I tell my friends or Mister Jess about it, they’ll be sucked in with me and then we can talk about it ad nauseam. Sometimes they are. Sometimes they just stare at me. But that doesn’t stop me then, and it won’t stop me now. At the very least, people, you’ll know what I’m texting about with a slightly deranged smile on my face. At the very MOST, you will walk away from this post with some new things to like.

So? Let’s do this.

1. Montevallo. This album, by Sam Hunt, is one I’ve been obsessively listening to since it came out a few months ago. Now, about me: I love music. Like, any kind of music basically. If it speaks to me, I’m all in regardless of genre. I’m typically not super into contemporary country artists, but there’s something about this album and his voice and his lyrics that made me immediately obsessed.

Plus, this dude is like 6’4″. That’s tall. He looks like a hipster but he’s not. He sings songs about pick-up trucks and something called “summer feet.” It intrigues me.

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2. Beyoncé. She’s on the list forever. Her new music – “7/11”, “Flawless Remix”, “Feeling Myself” (she is featured on this Nicki Minaj track) – and her style and her fierceness and just her everything. Let’s hang out, B.

She's just laughing at a joke I told, nbd.

She’s just laughing at a joke I told, nbd.

3. Bar Method. My friend dragged me to a class the other day and I fully expected to hate it, because I’ve heard all about it and, to be honest, it sounded like my own personal hell. But while it was SUPER hard, and while I let out audible noises when the instructor would call out “20 more reps!” (are you KIDDING me, lady?), and while my body had the consistency of an overcooked noodle when class was over, I felt surprisingly awesome afterward. Really, really awesome. And then I went and had a kale salad because WHO AM I? I’m the girl who’s going to another class today, that’s who.

4. This quote: “And I said to my body. Softly. ‘I want to be your friend.’ It took a long breath. And replied, ‘I have been waiting my whole life for this.’” – Nayyirah Waheed

5. And this one:

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Things are hard sometimes. And when they’re hard, that means they’re teaching you something. The older I get, the more I prefer to look at challenges this way; it makes getting through it a helluva lot easier.

6. Life’s random delights. The other day I was standing on the corner of Market Street, waiting to cross. I looked over and saw this:

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For those of you who don’t know, these are lyrics to “Ignition (Remix)”, aka one of my favorite songs ever and a song that Mister Jess and I dance around the house to often. It was so random and unexpected and just…great. It put a smile on my face for no reason, except that I love that song and clearly someone else out there does too, enough that they pasted the lyrics to it on a light pole on Market Street.

7. My kid. Granted, I’ve always been obsessed with him, but he’s turning into such a human being and it’s getting even more fun to watch him grow up. It gets better every day, I’m telling you. I gobble up morsels of information about him as he reveals himself to me: that he loves Taylor Swift songs and when Daddy makes weird animal noises while he eats. That if a kid falls on the playground, he is the first person there to make sure he or she is okay. He is so sweet and full of goodness that my heart aches with it. Aches, I tell you.

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8. Humans of New York. This website represents the best, the most mundane, the hidden and most intimate of humanity. Brandon Stanton, who runs HONY, helps us remember that at the end of the day, we’re all just trying to make our way through the world, and that we all have baggage we’re carrying while we do it. And he’s doing some really incredible things right now. Really incredible.

So there you have it. My current obsessions. And while I am silly about my ardent love tendency to geek out, I also think being emphatic (to the point of evangelical) about things is important. It reminds us that even when the world feels kind of shitty and terrible, there are small joys to find every day.

What are you currently obsessed with or loving? Anything on my list? Anything NOT on my list? Let’s talk about it in the comments! 

 

My Mission, Should I Choose to Write One

Sometimes you hear exactly what you need to hear exactly when you need to hear it. Sometimes, even when you don’t know you need to hear it.

Today, I was sitting at my desk at work – you know, working, as you do – when my co-worker sent me a link to an article. We typically send each other things back and forth during the day. In the interest of being completely transparent with you, it’s usually Buzzfeed articles or celeb gossip.

But today, it was an article called “Creating a New Mission Statement”. Not our typical fare, to say the least. But I opened it and started to read it, and as I read it, I thought, “huh. This is exactly what I needed to read today.”

And not just today, but lately. For the last year or so. I’ve been pretty open about struggling with my body image on this blog. About how, after I stopped nursing Bug, I quickly gained the ten pounds that basically refuse to evacuate my body no matter what I do to it.

And, you know, continuing in the vein of being transparent, I haven’t been that nice to it. I’ve derided it. I’ve called it names. I’ve scoffed at its reflection in the mirror and called myself fat and stared at myself in windows as I walk down the street, thinking “you have really let yourself go, man.”

This is something I think about all the time.

Anyway, this article. This article is about the power of creating a personal mission statement. The article states that “in creating a mission statement, coaches say it is important to identify the underlying values that may motivate change rather than focusing on a single behavior.” When you tap into these values – the why and the what of your goal – you begin to understand intrinsically why it’s so important to you. “I want to be skinny again” isn’t digging deep, and that’s what I’ve been telling myself. That’s it. “I want to be skinny again.”

Well, that’s great. But why? Why am I so desperate to get back to this girl?


Ironically enough, this was the day I found out I was pregnant!

Ironically enough, this was the day I found out I was pregnant!

I don’t know. She is essentially the same girl I am now, except maybe a little happier.

So, I’ve decided to work on my mission statement. To dig deep and try to understand why I want to get “skinny” again. And maybe once I uncover all of it (which, to be honest, probably has to do with my looks tying in with self worth and people telling me I was beautiful when I was young and abunch of other self-esteem things that are way too crazy to get into here), it won’t even have anything to do with getting skinny again. Maybe it’ll have more to do with eating food that makes my body feel good. Or getting back into yoga because it calms my mind. Or doing bar method, because while I am in perma-FML mode while I’m doing it, I love it as soon as it’s over.

Maybe because it’s over.

Anyway.

As if that weren’t enough, the universe nudged me again today. I went on Tumblr earlier (kind of addicted, not even sorry) and was hit in the face with this:

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Working on it. We’ll see what happens. Hopefully I’ll be bringing my mission statement to you next post.

In the meantime, tell me what your mission statement is, or would be, or let’s just sing Bootylicious by Destiny’s Child. 

The Joy Hangover

Here’s me being honest: this time of year is a little depressing for me. I’m not sure why. Is it the Christmas decorations still hung up despite the fact that presents have been long-opened and people are crowding into airports, on their way back home after some quality cozy (or maybe crazy) time with extended family? There’s all of this anticipation, this celebration and glitter and family and presents and gratefulness and sometimes a lot of alcohol, and then it’s just done. I mean, yes, it happens every year and it’s wonderful every year, but I think this is what a joy hangover feels like.

Bye, Christmas trees, you are no longer needed.

Bye, Christmas trees, you are no longer needed. (source)

And then, of course, there’s New Year’s. Let me just be honest (I’m making a habit of it) and say that nostalgia is my kryptonite. If I read a book where nostalgia is involved, or watch a movie where nostalgia is involved, or think about my own instances of nostalgia, I’m a goner. So a holiday where the entire point is to think about what the last year has brought you, how you’re leaving it behind, and planning for future greener pastures? Dunzo. I can’t listen to Auld Lang Syne without getting extremely weepy.

Maybe that’s why I’m feeling a little melancholy right now, on top of my joy hangover. The week that stretches between Christmas and New Year’s sometimes feels like a bated breath, or a pause in my life’s movie. Where I’m still living, of course (because, hello, 2-year-olds wait for no man) but at the same time stuck between the year I just lived and the year I’m about to dive headlong into.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what 2015 will bring me, with this weird mix of optimistic expectation and trepidation. 2014 was filled with a lot of new things: new job, new friends, and new places visited, which was a particularly big milestone for me. I never, ever thought I’d get to see Paris, because that required a 12-hour flight over the freakin’ ocean, and no thanks. Except…actually, yes please. It was amazing. Eye-opening. Weirdly liberating, to cast off a preconceived notion about myself (no, Jess, you could never travel internationally. You couldn’t handle it, etc. and so forth).

Yep, I was totally here. At the Eiffel Tower.

Actually in Paris.

I am ACTUALLY. IN. PARIS in this picture.

In this week of suspension and with this tentative new bravery, with all of this change still looming in my rear view mirror, I wonder what 2015 will bring me. Good things, I hope. Probably some flip-side-of-the-coin things, because that’s life, after all.

So, as much as I hate goodbyes – man, I really hate goodbyes – I’m saying it to 2014: You were great, 2014. Nice knowing you. See you never again, unless time travel becomes a thing. And when January 1st comes, I’ll wake up in this new year, press the play button, and go.

How was your holiday season? Big plans for New Year’s? Do you get the Christmas week ennui too? Talk to me in the comments! 

See Jess Run: Volume 4

Sometimes when I run or walk, or do whatever it is that I do for exercise, I like to slow it down a bit. And I don’t mean actually slow it down – although, yes, sometimes that as well. I mean, I like to scroll to the playlist that has the slow stuff. The stuff that makes me breathe a little deeper and be a little more present in whatever I’m doing.

Since I haven’t shared a playlist in a while, and because I need a little inspiration to get back out there on the road, I put together this playlist of songs that, while not your traditional workout music, is actually a really awesome companion to whatever your workout routine is. It just digs a little bit deeper than Britney (who I love!).

Hey, we all need a little reminder to slow it down every once in a while, right?

[8tracks width=”300″ height=”250″ playops=”” url=”http://8tracks.com/mixes/5079416″]

Do you prefer to run to fast music or slow? Any recommendations for tracks to add to my playlist? Talk to me in the comments! 

Putting Up a Fight…And Winning!

Well, so far.

A few weeks ago I blogged about how I was going on a diet. And the next day I went on said diet. And that same day I asked myself, “Self? Why did you go on this diet?” The day after that I seriously pondered the link between lack of carbs and homicide. But I kept going. And going. And going on phase 1 of the South Beach diet, which lets you have yummy things like lean protein and veggies and dairy (THANK GOD) and nuts and beans and blah blah blah no carbs blah no sugar blah blah what the hell am I going to eat blah blah etcetera.

At any rate, I kept chugging along. And what do you know?

It’s working! I’m down 6 pounds. I’ve actually been down 6 pounds for a couple weeks and have basically plateaued, but you know what? That’s okay, because I’ve lost 6 POUNDS!

Other interesting things to note: when I sneak a bite of something that’s not-so-healthy, I immediately feel it. As in, “wow that was good in my mouth but no me gusta in my stomach.” It seems that my body likes the good stuff I’m feeding it, and now that I’m feeding it 90% good stuff, the bad stuff sticks out even more. I’m surprised by this revelation because I felt like I was always going to have to battle against wanting to eat the crapola foods.

Of course, I say this having just snuck a piece of brownie. But I snuck JUST a piece. That was enough, and yeah, my body’s kind of eh about it. But my mouth? Looooved it.

The best part of all of this is that I’m starting to feel good about my body again. The second best part of all of this is that my co-workers are telling me how great I look. I’m still the same size I was before. I don’t think my body looks insanely different. But my clothes fit better and I’m definitely slimmer and the scale and I are really starting to mend our relationship.

So there it is, people. I’m winning the fight so far. You were all so lovely with your words of commiseration and encouragement that I had to update you.

And, may I submit into evidence this before (left) and after (right)? Both taken in work restrooms, I’m sorry to say. I wish I had a more beautiful backdrop but alas.

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I’m going to keep at it and fight the good fight. If any of you out there are dealing with the same thing (and I know you are!) I hope this encourages YOU, since you were all so wonderful about encouraging me.