First off, I should warn you that I have been scrawling many assorted thoughts on Post-it notes for the past several days and have not elaborated in text on any of them. I have several ideas of equally inconsequential things to ramble on about, and I can't predict where this post will go and which ones I will share, nor can I promise your life will be changed for the better by knowing about any of them.
Secondly, I should tell you that I have had wine. An inordinate amount of wine for a Monday night, actually. But I consumed this wine in a classroom-type setting (well, banquet room of an area restaurant/bar/bowling alley setting, anyway), with pen and photocopied handout in hand, all in the name of culture and learning! And that makes it entirely OK, does it not? Plus, red wine wards off scurvy. Or so I keep telling myself, anyway. Our instructor in tonight's Introduction to Wine class sponsored by Surdyk's didn't actually say that was a valid reason to consume wine, but I'm going to keep believing it anyway.
Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly (and definitely most timely), I have to say that The Naughty Monkey rocks like the proverbial hurricane (if in fact, the Scorpions can be considered penners of any actual and recognized proverbs). I didn't really know what to expect when I responded "Prize me!" to her "Pay it Forward" post last week. Monkey promised a prize that would not suck, but I didn't know exactly just what that might mean. Well, in my case, what it meant was a box with the ever-exciting word "Sephora" on it waiting for me on my doorstep when I got home tonight.
I'm not necessarily an enthused member of the Sephora camp. Other people may have sold me on its intrigue, but for me, a trip to Sephora means a trip to a place I would rather poke myself in the eyeball than visit regularly, so I'm actually more of an Ulta and Target girl, I guess. Easy in, easy out. That's what it's all about. (Yes, -R-, I am still going with you to that awful place for Crazy Aunt Purl's reading later this week. Yes, the rest of you, I do realize I should stop linking like mad and move along already by now.)
Anyway, Monkey knows me better than I thought she did, because (A. she went to the magical wonderland of Sephora for me (well, "virtually," anyway), and (B. she sent me four (four!) brand-new lip balms! Apparently she read somewhere that I'm a bit of an addict. Not only did she send me lip balm, however, but she actually sent me two lip balms that I've been meaning to buy anyway. Several months ago, my pal Metalia emailed me with the express purpose of telling me about this lip balm that she insisted I simply must try, and were it not for the arduous journey in getting to my aforementioned evil closest Sephora, I'm sure I would have purchased it long ago. (Thank you, Monkey, most sincerely, for saving me the trouble.) Also, she sent me the Buzz Latte stick that the Bare Escentuals cult masters have prompted me pick up (and then put back reluctantly because hello, do I really need to spend eight dollars on yet another lip product??) at least four times in the past several months. How did Monkey know that I wanted that? I don't know, but I'm simultaneously thrilled and a little creeped out that she did. And finally, she sent me two other lip balms that I know nothing about but I'm sure are delightful anyway: Sephora's lip butter in Bananas Foster and Coconut Nectar. Yay!
In return for these lovely gifts, I need to pay it forward in some way. I don't think it needs to have anything to do with Sephora (or with Kevin Spacey or Haley Joel Osment, either), but I need to do something nice for someone in my life. I'm not sure that letting someone cut in front of me in the parking ramp last week counts, nor does spontaneously reattaching the wayward-hanging for-sale sign that I saw flapping in the wind outside a condo on my walk the other day, so I'll have to think on this and get back to you, I guess. Need a favor? Let me know. Asking me for it betrays the point, perhaps, but I thought I'd put it out there anyway.
This is not the first time I've gotten presents in the mail from a near-stranger from the Internet, and it still sort of blows my mind a little bit. I started a blog to get myself to write non-technically more often. I had no idea new friends and impromptu gifts might come along with the territory as well. And yet, I've gotten all sorts of unexpected benefits from living part of my life online in this weird yet warm little realm.
What I'm trying to segue over to (slowly and unsuccessfully, I might add... wine, remember? Blame it all on the wine, I say!) is recipes. Like I said, I started a blog to get myself to write; I didn't expect to get myself to cook. My culinary ineptitude is well known and well documented, and I wasn't particularly looking to change it in any way. And yet, I post a little resolution, put out a little call for easy recipes, and suddenly I've got people emailing me easy dinner suggestions they think I should try. And since I hate for anyone to go through any trouble for no good reason, I feel compelled to try at least a few of them.
So I'm revising that New Year's resolution. Forget about that damn Pillsbury Fast and Healthy Cookbook. I've got the Blog-friends of Stefanie Domestification Project Cookbook to get through instead. My goal was five recipes out of the Pillsbury book this year... I think I've made at least five from the former impromptu cookbook in recent months. Let's count, shall we? I've made...
1. Metalia's Pesto Chicken Rollup
2. Metalia's Honey Mustard and French's Onion Rings coated chicken
3. Giada's Chicken Cacciatore (passed along from Nabbalicious and Darren)
4. Scalped Pumpkin and Spinach Casserole (lifted from Cooking Light by Noelle)
5. Penne-Wise Pumpkin Pasta (passed along by BeingMcCrary)
Look at that! That's five already! And all thumbs-ups, no less! And yet, most recently, I also made...
6. Poppy's vegetarian chili (with potatoes... because damn-near everything's better with potatoes, I say)
7. Paisley's contribution from the Five-Ingredient Cookbook--a simple yet unexpectedly tasty combination of avocado, tomato, pinto beans, cilantro, and Italian dressing in a tortilla. Seriously, so easy (aside from the chopping), but you must make this.
Note: Recipes for any of those to which I haven't provided a link above are in the comments to this post, where you'll find several other inevitably tasty recipes as well.
I still sort of can't believe I made chili. Yes, yes, I know people make chili all the time, but you can buy chili in stores and fast food restaurants. I don't generally spend the time making something that is easily available in ready-to-eat form. Spend four hours making dinner? An hour of chopping and mixing and then three hours of a stir-and-wait routine? I want to eat before 11:00 p.m., thank you, so this is not the norm for me. It was pretty tasty, though, and as it made far more chili than I could ever eat in a week, over half of it went directly to the freezer, so I can enjoy it on future cold winter nights.
As for Paisley's recipe, what struck me about that one is that it's simple enough that certain people I know would have instinctively just thrown it together with no instruction or guidance whatsoever. I'm always marveling at the salads my friends Carrie, Aaron, and Angela spontaneously concoct seemingly effortlessly. I'm determined to get an Iron Chef: Minneapolis competition organized to pit their skills against each other. They bring lovely and tasty things to gatherings, and I say, "But how did you know to put fig with cous cous and pine nuts??" They act like it's innate knowledge. I keep assuring them it is not.
Incidentally, in case you don't know just how far my culinary skills have come, perhaps I should remind you that it was only about five years ago that I finally bought salt and pepper to have in my home. Before that, I either felt no need for extra seasoning (most things that come from a box aren't intended to be doctored in any way, after all), or I'd just use a little Mrs. Dash. In order to make Poppy's chili the other night, though, I had to buy a couple things to add to my growing spice collection. And when I added the newly acquired chili powder and cumin to the spice shelf above my stove, I actually counted the bottles quickly and said, in the Marge Simpson voice inside my head, "Eight spices?! Some of them must be doubles."
Check it out:
In the interest of full disclosure, I actually have more than eight bottles of flavorings and such, but I'm not sure if salt, pepper, garlic salt, and the aforementioned Mrs. Dash count, and they're on the other side of the stove anyway. And I actually do have one double--an extra bottle of what Marge called Or-e-GAH-no that I must have purchased when I assumed I couldn't possibly have owned some already.
So I've come a long way, I guess, is all I'm trying to say. Well, I'm trying to say that, as well as thanks for the lip balm, as well as Hi, did I mention I went to a wine class tonight? I'd best sign off before I start telling you about my adventures in yard work this weekend. Maybe I should sign on for NaBloPoMo after all. Clearly profuse rambling isn't near as daunting as I sometimes think.