Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Recipe: Roasted Red Pepper Pasta

My love (is there a stronger word for love that applies in the case of noodles?) for pasta is no secret, but this recipe is one that gets made and eaten again and again in our house. It's simple enough to make after a long day at work and the need to shovel food in your face NOW, while looking and tasting quite decadent.

I've realized that I've come to add ingredients to this recipe intuitively versus measuring things out, so these measurements are fairly accurate but there's really no wrong answer -- it's all up to personal taste. If you like a little more broccoli or peppers, or find yourself munching on things while you're cooking, throw some more in there!

(I found this recipe somewhere a while ago, but can't remember where for the life of me. It's been tweaked a bit since, but if I find the original out there, credit will be given!)
16 oz. farfalle pasta
2-3 cups broccoli florets
5 Tbsp. KRAFT Roasted Red Pepper Italian with Parmesan Dressing
3 small boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 roasted red peppers, chopped
2 cups tomato sauce
4 oz. Neufchatel cheese, cubed
1/4 cup Grated Parmesan Cheese, plus extra for serving
  1. Roast your red peppers at 400F for 20 minutes or so, until nice and black at the edges.
  2. While the peppers are roasting, cook the pasta and steam your broccoli.
  3. In a separate pan, heat 3 tbsp. dressing in pan and add chicken, turning, until cooked through. Once the chicken is cooked, add the sliced red peppers, garlic and broccoli, along with 2 tbsp dressing. Cook until heated through.
  4. Combine pasta, and chicken-vegetable mixture.
  5. In the meantime, heat the cream cheese and tomato sauce in the pan until cheese melts and sauce is creamy. Toss pasta to coat. 
Top with a little extra parmesan and serve! 

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Team Peeta or Team Gale? No thanks, I'm Team Katniss

If you follow me on Twitter, I'm sure it comes to no surprise that I'm constantly reading and rereading The Hunger Games series (or at least it feels that way to me) and for a good reason too - the books are fantastic! I have a penchant for dystopian literature, and after being recommended the series by a trustworthy friend of mine, I was hooked on the captivating and very palpable story and eagerly awaiting to see what would happen once the final book was released. Would Katniss choose Peeta or Gale? A ruse turned true out of mutual understanding? Or a prohibited and never quite reciprocal love? Oh, the tension.

The romance in the novels take a back seat for me - the struggles of not only a dystopian world but of the hardships, decisions, and losses that Katniss has to face are all so tangible that I almost forget that there is a love-triangle going on, but I'm constantly reminded by friends - most of which are fans of the Boy with the Bread - that the tension exists. But I still don't know whose side I'm on!

Honestly, I wasn't on either team the first time I read through the books, though I supposed I leaned more towards the Gale side of things. But the most recent reread left me saying, "No, Peeta!", which is quite a change from my previous ambivalence. Is it the additional rereads that has me picking up little additional details to make my decision? Am I too clouded by other people's readings? I don't even know at this point. But without giving away too much of the ending for those of you still reading, I'm glad the end choice is what it is. I couldn't imagine it any other way, not with everything the characters have been through (my thoughts on the ending are another post altogether!).

Part of it is my empathy kicking in; it's impossible for me to not see both sides, even of a fictional situation, and feel for both. There are certain reads I side with Peeta more than Gale, or vice versa, but I stand by my feelings during my first read: I don't think I'm on any team. I'm on Team Katniss.

With whom does your allegiance lie?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Things I Love Thursday

 ♥ Earlier this week I got a letter in the mail...my acceptance letter to Pitt, that is! While I'm still waiting to here from one other place, it just feels amazing to know that I've gotten in somewhere. And such a huge weight off of my shoulders too. One less thing to worry about, one more thing to be excited about!

 ♥ On Tuesday I was able to read on the bus for a good 60 pages without getting sick. It doesn't seem like much, but woah does it feel great to be able to do that (at least a little bit) again. It's the little things :D

 ♥ Speaking of good news, JLPT results also came in the mail this week, and despite how utterly unsure I was of how I did (this just reaffirmed my loathing for standardized testing; it's hard to judge one's level of Japanese when so many components - speaking, listening, reading - are involved) - I PASSED! Not the level N4 is much, but I at least know what to expect as I try and climb my way up to N2. Whew!

little loves
 ♥ this adorable washi tape printer ♥ moscato ♥ Dozen vanilla cupcakes ♥ having a Firefly marathon (what I don't like Thursday: being done with said marathon) ♥ blueberries ♥ getting in touch with HIF friends -- it's been too long! ♥ a good cuppa chai ♥ Nathan Fillion ♥ interpretations of Middle English plays with a modern vernacular and connotations ♥ finding (what I hope will be) the perfect flowy skirt

How was your week?

Japan Travels on The Bazinga Girls

An almost perfect picture
Erica and me!

I know I mention my stay in Japan quite a bit on here, but as much of a profound experience as it was, I don't find myself going into depth about my stay that often. I started blogging as a way to commemorate my living in Hakodate for the summer, so it's got a special place because of that for sure! And while me feelings then, immediately after, and now have changed quite a bit, I find myself looking through old photos and looking back on those times fondly. 

Erica is a fellow HIF alum, and runs The Bazinga Girls with her good friend Cora. While we weren't in the same class, we did do a bit of traveling and plain old hanging around together outside of school and I'm excited to share some of our adventures over on Erica's and Cora's blog today!

Crab bread!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Meal Planning

These past few months I've done well, sticking to my goals of packing my lunch regularly and limiting my eating out despite my hectic schedule. But I have a not-so-secret confession: I love to cook. I love to cook decadent things, things that usually leave my pantry stocked with half-used items that will never get used again unless I cook the same extravagant meal for 6 days in a row.

As you can imagine, this is a little bit of a problem.

Just planning our meals in advance for the next few weeks helps tremendously. It's an easy way to make sure that I'm giving myself enough time to cook and that I'm budgeting extra leftovers to pack for lunch on days that I'm on the go. I'm able to take inventory of what I have and what needs used up and planning things out has definitely reduced the amount of food that spoils due to being forgotten about, lurking in the back of the refrigerator. I've even learned to substitute certain ingredients in recipes for things that I do have, versus having to run out for a one-size-too-big specialty item (buttermilk, I'm looking at you!) and getting creative with my leftover bits and pieces (which works extremely well as a taco-type throw together at the end of the week!)

But despite whittling away my grocery list to nearly half of its original size I still feel like I spend more on groceries that I'd like to, or than I need to. I still can't manage to make fresh spinach last for a week of meals without getting bored or starting to rot. And often times things that we do cook with fairly regularly never seems to get used up perfectly, resulting in needing to buy a whole other container of broth when we only need 1/4 c. to finish off the recipe.

I guess I'd just like to feel like I'm getting more out of my groceries by not wasting as much and just making our meals go further. We already do a great job making enough for leftovers for both Dan and my lunches, and I've even begun venturing into freezing soups which has been a life-saver.

I'd love to tackle coupons (just enough to get some use out of things, without turning into the crazy coupon lady because I really just don't have the time for that sort of dedication; while not having to go to 8 different stores; or buy too much in bulk because the physical room is just not there), start freezing more meals or prepping certain things ahead of time. I need to start being more creative about incorporating ingredients into those creative clean-out-the-fridge meals at the end of the week, which would be a perfect opportunity to use up some of those easy-to-spoil fresh foods. And I think that learning a few basic recipes by heart will help me be a little more creative with using up ingredients we already have on hand.

Overall, I'm proud of how much better we've become at managing our food, but I really want to grab ahold of the situation and make grocery shopping one awesome efficient machine. Meals would be easier, tastier, more seasonal, conscious, and little less costly. I'm determined to make this work!

How do you plan meals for the week? Any tips for cutting back on wasted food or grocery bills in general?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

link love

I'm going to pat myself on the back here a little bit and revel in what cool stuff I've found on the Internet lately. Sometimes it feels like there's nothing really thrilling out there, and then other days you feel like you just hit the jackpot of awesome-and-pointless Internet entertainment. And while some of my favorite links here are thoughtful pieces of advice from fellow bloggers, some of the ones that give me great joy are nerdy videos about childhood snacks. And there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. Enjoy!

♥ These illustrated grocery lists are adorable!
♥ What happens when cats infiltrate classic works of art? This. And it is awesome.
♥ Some of the (very awesome looking) business cards of Alt Summit 2012
Princess Leia as a re-imagined Tank Girl
♥ Twelve things your weren't taught in school about creative thinking
♥ Who knew that one of the best lunch box snacks ever could be so mathematical -- a Fruit-by-the-Foot mobius strip lesson
♥ Kam of Campfire Chic shares 6 Ways to Survive Your Day Job
♥ Thin Mints are my favorite Girl Scout cookies (I currently am awaiting my boxes from my sister right now!) and make up 25% of total Girl Scout cookie sales -- woah! What's your favorite cookie?
♥ The 10 Best Songs to Sing at Karaoke - oh, how I miss those nights of belting out Lady Gaga (and 80's-90's music does seem to be the best to sing, doesn't it?)
♥ Kyla Roma shares 5 Things About Setting and Accomplishing Goals and Ways to Make and Keep Expansive Goals
♥ Haunted by the Handmaid's Tale
♥ Finally a neat use for QR codes that I've seen outside of Japan - Sign in to your Google account on a public computer without typing anything
♥ Kendra of Like a Bird takes some of the most gorgeous photos I've ever seen, and in the same city as well!
♥ I love Danielle of Sometimes Sweet's rebuttal to an opinion piece on tattooed women: Why Yes, I Will Put a Bumper Sticker on This Ferarri: An Open Letter to Lisa Khoury
♥ Life as a hula hoop

What fun links have you found lately?

Saturday, February 18, 2012

LUSH Skincare Routine

Angels on Bare Skin 
After constantly hearing fantastic things about LUSH Cosmetics, from their fun-inducing bath bombs to basic cleansers, last year I caved and switched over to their Angels on Bare Skin cleanser and Imperialis moisturizer. And then I fell head over heels in love -- my skin has never felt so fresh, rejuvenated, and plain old happy!

I'm cursed with pretty temperamental skin to start with - my t-zone is oily more often than not, I get dry cheeks in the winter (red spots and all), my skin is fairly sensitive, and my forehead sweats like crazy in the summer. I've never had a "bad" face wash routine per say, but none of the products I've previously used seemed to make my skin any better. After the switch to Angels on Bare Skin, my skin is super soft after washing, and topping it of with even the tiniest gob of Imperialis banishes every speck of dry skin into oblivion. And aside from a few stupid breakouts (I say stupid because for a month I had a recurring zit - same place, same size, same everything; I wasn't aware they could be so resilient) I've barely had a zit since switching over. Not only does it make my skin behave, but the lavender in the cleanser is worth it alone - it smells absolutely divine!

Every now and then I'll splurge on the Volcano foot mask which really isn't as messy or smelly as the online reviews say. I run around barefoot for 3/4 of the year and this foot mask works wonders when it comes to keeping feet super soft and feeling brand new (what do brand new feet feel like, I wonder...)

I've been waiting to add some more products to my arsenal; I'm not one for changing too much at a single time and LUSH is a tad bit pricier than most pharmacy-bought cleansers, but I'm easily willing to pay more for something that works so amazingly. With such good results already, I'm itching to get down to the LUSH store downtown sometime soon and splurge on some more goodies!

Do you have a skincare routine? What's your favorite LUSH product?

Friday, February 17, 2012

Book Review: Embassytown

I fell in love with China Miéville from the very moment that I read Perdido Street Station and The Scar, but coming off of Iron Council (which I wasn't impressed with) I was a bit apprehensive. I'm used to his intricately crafted worlds and even enjoy his own created vocabulary (despite it being frustrating at times) - its hard to work out at first, but the context he provides is helpful and after a short time the words fit seamlessly into your own reading. And then Iron Council came and had nothing of the compelling and rich characters that I had come to love. It was devoid of his typical enchantment. So I was nervous.

And yet Embassytown definitely satisfies. Miéville's use of language and linguistics shines through as always, crafting a truly unique story that is captivating and stimulating all the same. The beginning is a bit slow-going, though I admit a bit expected, due to its necessity in setting up such a detailed world. Again, Miéville is able to drop you right into the middle of an alien planet with its own customs, technologies, and vocabulary while making you feel like you've been there all along.

My only complaint is the lack of characterization. Compared to Bellis of The Scar and Issac of Perdido... Avice just isn't as consumingly captivating. But (spoilery? Perhaps...) what's not to love about linguists saving their post planet town from the threat of a coup from Language?

Overall, I quite enjoyed Embassytown, and have my confidence back in Miéville once again.

Are you on Goodreads? Let's be friends!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Origami Hearts

 I'm terrible at origami usually, but hearts are the one thing I can make. My friend Yuuka taught me how after she snuck some in my Valentine in high school.

Here's a how to on making these little guys, perfect for sending an envelope-full to your Valentines!

One sheet of origami paper will make two hearts!











Friday, February 10, 2012

Handwriting Meme

Something about seeing other people's handwriting fascinates me, so I usually jump at the opportunity to put my best (or, well, normal) penmanship forward and take part in handwriting-based memes. When I saw Alycia of The Curious Pug's post it was no different!

Handwriting Meme

Here are the questions if you want to play along as well!
1. What is your name
2. Blog URL
3. Write: The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.
4. Favorite quote
5. Favorite song (at the moment)
6. Favorite band/singers (at the moment)
7. Say anything you want
8. Tag 3-5 bloggers

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

30 Days of Lists: March Edition

30 Days of Lists

I was asked to participate in an affiliate program with 30 Days of Lists where I receive a small commission when products are purchased through links on my blog. I only link to products I use, genuinely like, and would recommend to others. This is my third year participating and second year sponsoring #30Lists, so believe me when I say it's absolutely worth it! 

If you haven't heard of 30 Days of Lists, well, you don't know what you're missing!

Amy of Lemon and Raspberry and Kam of Campfire Chic are putting together the third installment of what happens to be one of my favorite projects of all-time. Each day in March, a new list prompt will be posted from the serious to the silly, and each day you're encouraged to complete the prompt and share it with other participants! 

I've done 30 Days of Lists all three times and I must say, all of their communities - the blog forum, #30Lists hashtag, and flickr are all very involved. The best part about it is the creativity going not only into the content of the lists themselves, but of the design of the prompt journals - everything from unique digital lists to handmade albums that really shine - they're all so inspiring! I had such a great time crafting my own journal last September, and you can even see my completed #30Lists project if you're still on the fence :D

List 24

I couldn't be more excited to not only participate in, but sponsor 30 Days of Lists again, and I hope you'll join us too! Pre-registration is going on now, until February 15th and the lovely ladies in charge have put together a smashing packet of pre-registration goodies for you all. What does this fabulous packet include?
  • Instructions on how to access the private blog
  • Printable pages to use in your list journal/album
  • Tutorials on how to create your own #30Lists album
  • Coupon codes from the sponsors
And if you pre-register, you're automatically entered to win a INSTAX Mini camera + film and If (IF) #30Lists can get 300 people to register before the end of March, will be giving away a 1 year subscription to Uppercase Magazine!

So what are you waiting for!
Have you done #30Lists before?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Recipe: Nutella Croissants

Nutella Croissants

Sometimes I'm in the mood for something sweet without all the hassle of baking from scratch. And sometimes I'm just looking for an excuse to eat Nutella without dirtying a spoon. Making these easy Nutella croissants solves both of these dilemmas!

Nutella Croissants

This is it. Two ingredients, just how I like it. 

I prefer to stick to the original rather than the 'flakey and buttery' crescent rolls. I'm sure they'd work just as well, but for some reason "buttery Nutella" just doesn't sound quite as appetizing.

Nutella Croissants

Bake according to the directions on the package, adjusting the heat or time if you have a finicky oven like me.


Eat the Nutella... ...I mean, put a teaspoonful of Nutella on the thick end of each crescent. Be careful not to over stuff or all the Nutella will ooze out!

Nutella Croissants

Nutella Croissants


Let cool just a few moments, then serve warm - it's like a still-warm chocolate chip cookie if the chocolate were actually Nutella!

Nutella Crescents

Nutella Croissants

Or my favorite is with fresh berries in the summertime!

Nutella Crescents & Berries

Are you a Nutella addict too? What's your favorite way to eat it?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Things I Love Thursday

One of my best friends from high school was back in town this past week! She moved to California after graduation, so it's not often that I get to see her. Pair Vicki back in the area with the local IHOP finally opening and her, Kallie, Julia and I were out and about, catching up, and just having a fantastic time. Not to mention an embarrassingly old mix cd found in the car. Ah, nostalgia!

China Miéville's Embassytown was one of my Christmas gifts this year and I'm finally getting around to reading it. The first two books I had ever read of his - Perdido Street Station and The Scar - were absolutely magical, making him one of my all-time favorite authors, but then Iron Council was a bit of a let down; he just didn't make me care. I've been hesitant since, but Embassytown sounded so promising. I'm not too far into it now, and while I should be used to his eclectic vocabulary, I'm starting to get a feeling for the story (if you've read Miéville before, you know what I mean) and while it's still a little slow-going, I'm excited to see where it takes me!

♥ Even though I'm just an undergraduate TA, seeing "my" students take an idea and run with it is so immensely gratifying, I can't begin to explain. There are certain people I'm always glad to hear speak up, but both my classes are incredibly clever, even if getting them to talk somedays is painful. Especially so are the times when normally quiet students pipe up - it's so rewarding to hear the dialogue that happens once they get going!

little loves
 ♥ Nutella crepes (who knew!?) ♥ 60 degree days in the middle of winter ♥ new glasses! ♥ having a talkative second recitation (they're normally the quiet ones!) ♥ Ninja Turtle hats ♥ the Instagram community ♥ clementine oranges ♥ snacks in class! (what's not to love?) ♥ feeling like I finally have a grasp on the library, after four years ♥ planning mini-vacations ♥ furniture shopping ♥ mail - the kind in envelopes!