Ooof. After the endless parade of holiday snacks, I needed a hit of veggies, fiber, and all-around healthy stuff. So I made some soup last night with a bunch of ingredients I had on hand. What I love about soups is you can change the innards based on what you have or what you’re in the mood for. Or if you get sick of eating so much soup, you can freeze it and have some a month later!

Broth: chicken broth, tomato paste, garlic, parsley, bay leaves, and a splash of soy sauce

Veggies: Fresh carrots, frozen corn, frozen green beans, diced tomatoes, cannellini beans

Whole grains: quinoa/brown rice mix

Protein: chopped chicken

I just remembered I have some lentils I should’ve thrown in! Next time. One thing I did differently was use pre-packaged “carving board” cooked chicken breast, which you can find in the pre-packaged deli meats section at the deli store. Per ounce I’m sure it’s more expensive than cooking your own or getting a rotisserie chicken and carving that up yourself, but it was a fast and easy way to add chicken without the hassle. I recommend! This kind of meal is the perfect meal after the gym because it comes together pretty quickly, especially if you use frozen vegetables (no chopping) and pre-cooked chicken and/or grains.

Speaking of working out in general, I bought a jump rope yesterday as a cardio alternative to running outside (because let’s face it, though I’ve been a northwesterner for years, I still dislike running in the rain). So while Mark worked on the motorcycle in the garage, I jumped rope next to him with NPR as background noise. :) I remember being able to jump rope pretty well as a kid but that coordination seems to have left me! And my calves are now killing me. But I sure enjoyed it!

On my bookshelf

“Blackberry Winter” by Sarah Jio

This is the second book I’ve read by Jio, a Seattle author. I previously read The Violets of March, her first novel, but enjoyed Blackberry Winter more (her third). She tells the story of a boy gone missing in the 1930s, and how his tale spurs to action a Seattle reporter today. A story about a newspaper reporter IN Seattle? I’m sold. Maybe we’ll run into each other in a bookstore sometime! Check out her website: she’s super cute.

“In The Woods” by Tana French

Not to be confused with the Stephen Sondheim musical “Into The Woods,” this book chronicles a murder investigation in Ireland. The main character is a cop who has his own dark secrets, and discovers that this case may be connected to his past. I couldn’t put this down. It was like an expanded Law and Order episode with lots of twists and turns, and better writing. It’s pretty long (464 pages) but I flew through it thanks to French’s gifted prose.

Anyone have any recommendations of books they’ve read lately?

A week of firsts

Last week was a week of firsts for me!

First first: I saw “Christmas Vacation” for the first time. I know, how have I gone 27 years and never seen it? On second thought, how have I gone 27 years, period?? Though, to be completely honest, I did see about half an hour of it on a plane one time. But I was watching it on someone else’s screen because I got trapped in the back of the plane by the drink cart, which had already passed my seat. Of course, since it was on someone else’s screen, I had no way to hear the sound. Which made it even funnier!

Second first: We got the 1979 film “Alien” so I could watch it for the first time. It’s such a classic and referenced everywhere that even though I knew it would be scary, I wanted to see it. It wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be but I was still freaked out! Great sci-fi movie if you’re in the market for one and haven’t already seen it.

Third first: I put air in my tires for the first time. Usually when the tire pressure light comes on I head to Les Schwab so they can figure it out for me, but since I have a tire pressure gauge in the car now I figured I could do it myself. Yes… I’m a big girl now. Go me. All four tires are now back up to 32 PSI.

Anyone else have any firsts?

A Christmas hunt

Don’t you hate it when you turn the house upside down looking for something and just can’t find it? And then someone else finds it on the first try? A box of our Christmas items went missing (meaning I somehow didn’t put it with the rest of the Christmas decorations) but I was sure it was in the garage. But when I went to the garage, the box wasn’t there. This was no ordinary box: it had our stockings, stocking holders, and ALL the Christmas lights I’d amassed for the tree. So when we got our beautiful noble fir home and I found I had no lights to decorate with, I was upset.

Mark came in later and asked if I’d looked in the utility room. Of course I had, I said. So he went downstairs and came up a few minutes later. WITH THE MISSING BAG. Yes, it turned out to be a bag, not a box. I’d apparently laid it flat inside a shallow clear plastic bin, and it was the bottom bin in a stack of three in the utility room. I couldn’t see in part of the bin because another box was blocking it but from what I could see, it didn’t look like it had my Christmas stuff. But I was wrong. So I gave Mark a hug and put the bag with the rest of the Christmas decorations but didn’t start on the tree because by now it was late and searching had worn me out.

So tonight I’ll get on that. In the meantime, I was relieved to see our tree made it through the night without tipping. We had quite the tipsy tree last year!

New food discoveries

I was in Costco yesterday and sampled the most delicious sweet potato chips! If you like sweet potatoes and potato chips, you would LOVE these. I’ve been on a huge sweet potato kick lately (I ate one every day last week) so these were right up my alley. I didn’t buy any because I’m not a big snacker, but these would be great to have around for a football game or just because.

One item I did try was this red pepper chili spread. Our church had a Christmas party last night and we needed to bring a snack, so I decided to bring crackers topped with cream cheese and this spread. Costco wasn’t sampling it so I bought it blindly and hoped for the best and wasn’t disappointed. It’s more of a jelly, and went very well with the cream cheese.

I love new food discoveries!

On my bookshelf

“The Violets of March” by Sarah Jio
This novel is set in Bainbridge Island and Seattle, making it a fun and local choice for my book club. The story was intriguing enough, involving a young divorcee delving into a family secret while stringing along a couple of beaux. Our book club met at The Fat Hen this time, a breakfast/lunch cafĂ© in north Ballard. I completely recommend it – I had an egg bake over ham and mozzarella and it was absolutely perfect.The bake came served in a little cast-iron skillet that came straight from the oven. I’ve decided I must have a mini cast-iron skillet just like it! What an easy way to keep your meal contained. Back to Sarah Jio, I went to the library after book club to pick up a book that I’d placed on hold ages ago. I had gotten an e-mail from the library informing me a book was ready for pick-up but I didn’t pay attention to what book it was. It turned out to be Sarah Jio’s next novel, a book I don’t even remember placing on hold! So now I get to read two of hers.

“The Paris Wife” by Paula McLain
I cannot put this down. I’m about two-thirds through and will probably finish it by Wednesday! This novel is set in the 1920s and follows Ernest Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley, through their passionate yet tumultuous marriage. It’s quite fascinating and I love all the literary references – the couple lived in Paris at the time and were surrounded by the likes of Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Plus the writing is fantastic, the best I’ve read of late. Since the readers all know that Hadley is Hemingway’s first wife (the book cover tells you as much), you know how the book will end. So right now I’m waiting for the train to wreck. But I can’t avert my eyes.