The “Wedding Workout”: Stay in Shape, Stay True to Yourself

Soapboxes aren’t my thing. I don’t feel the need to rant and rave and scream and type furiously about my thoughts on an issue that I find upsetting. That’s what husbands are for. Hah.

However, for this Wedding Wednesday, I feel the need to have a quick pep talk with my fellow brides in this world of pushy social media and magazines designed to sell people remedies to their distressed feelings. Too often do I see “wedding gown specific” workouts, geared towards worried and stressed brides that find comfort in pictures of already-fit women in bridal tank tops doing sit-ups. This image and trend needs a bit of clean-up: there are way too many reasons for you and your significant other to get in and stay in shape, at your own level of comfort and pace.

If you want the best “wedding workout”, make some lifestyle changes. Eat healthier, more fruits and veggies and lean meats, cut out soda, reduce flour-stuff. Workout together, lift some weights, run around the block, be active! But do it for yourselves, not so you can look magazine-good for seven hours. Feel like a bride, but don’t kill yourself to temporarily look like one.

That’s all I have for this blowing-off-steam moment. Stay lovely, brides! Whip that confidence into shape!

“Journey” Within: One of the Greatest Video Games of all Time

Recently, I replayed an indie video game that took the gaming world by storm back in 2012, called Journey, and once again, it brought tears to my eyes by the end. It’s a quick run, maybe four or five hours of continuous enjoyment, but that small chunk of video game change, compared to 100+ hours of Skyrim or Twilight Princess, is enough to fulfill even the strongest artistic cravings.

 

courtesy of theartofjourney.com

courtesy of theartofjourney.com

Developed by ThatGameCompany, this masterpiece of video games features a lack of many elements that typical games  posses, such as menu screens, pause menus, commands beyond movement and the signature “song”, and in-depth character bios. I call these absences “features” because they’re disappearance gives this game its beauty: no distractions to make you remember that you are indeed playing a “game,” no mini games or quests besides the ultimate end-game. There is only one objective in Journey: make it to the top of the glowing mountain. Sounds simple and childish, but it actually accomplishes something greater than what I’ve ever seen in a video game: the urge, the drive of a single, maddeningly important goal. No currency or treasures to collect, no enemies to defeat, just you as your nameless traveler against the breathtaking, immersive landscape.

courtesy of forbes.com

courtesy of forbes.com

The game developers’ sense of style was as aesthetically immaculate as their motion technology. Journey was smooth, intelligent, and hiccup-free; the soundtrack added to the surroundings by plunging me directly into the traveler’s mythology with almost tribally orchestral tunes, culminating in a wild score to push me to the harsh end. This is a game whose ending I can’t spoil, not because it is a massive twist, but because it is literally a journey you have to undertake to understand. For some reason, playing this short spurt of a game changes me just a bit inside, as if I’ve lived the struggles of these people and of this weary traveler. Sounds dumb, sounds far-fetched? Eyebrows raised in skepticism? Play Journey for yourself.

courtesy of 16bitkings.com

courtesy of 16bitkings.com

Sunny Sundays and Sunburst Lemon-Almond Bars

So these last few days have been an absolute whirlwind. What points in life are not? Don’t ask me, because I’ve been caught up in life’s monsoon season for the last four years, forget this last week. Hah.

Well, to catch up, start a new chapter, and reboot my systems, I decided to make a childhood favorite of mine this Saturday. It’s a recipe adapted from The Pillsbury Complete Book of Baking that I spent most of my younger years helping my dad bring to life, and it’s for the best lemon bars I’ll ever eat in this lifetime or the next. Of that I’m certain. I put my own twist on this nostalgic batch by adding almond extract to the batter to give the bars a sunny spring blast of sweet flavor.

lemon bar lemon bars

 

Oh, can I not wait for the day we move to an apartment that doesn’t have viciously yellow kitchen lighting. Of course, that’s no excuse for the paper plates, but don’t start on me today. Soft, butter-crumbed crust, velvety tart lemon-curd-like filling, and a ridiculously sweet and simple glaze makes this integral part of my childhood shine with the light of oncoming summer, and will make a perfect addition to any summer or spring table.

Sunburst Lemon-Almond Bars

Ingredients:

Crust:

2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

Filling:

4 eggs

1/4 cup all purpose flour

2 cups white granulated sugar

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 teaspoon almond extract

Glaze:

1 to 1 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar

2 to 3 tablespoons lemon juice

Method:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Mix con. sugar and flour together for crust, then slowly cut in butter either with hands or mixer until just crumbly and barely mixed. Don’t over mix or you’ll be sad. Press crust mixture into 9×13 metal or glass pan until firmly packed and bake for about 23 minutes until golden brown.

While the crust is baking, beat eggs, sugar, flour, and baking powder in for about two minutes, until light and smooth. Add the lemon juice and almond and combine quickly. Pour filling over hot crust right out of the oven, then bake for about 27 to 28 more minutes. I did mine at 26 mins. because hungry mouths were grumping about, but if you can be patient, that extra minute will be worth it.

Let those sunny babies cool for about an hour or so, half an hour if placed in fridge (providing there is room). Right when they are almost cooled, make the glaze by stirring the lemon juice and confectioner’s sugar together in a small bowl. Pour over cooled bars and let spread evenly; cool in fridge for a few minutes and they will be ready to cut. Enjoy your sunny baking day this spring with these deliciously tangy delights!

Tulips and Spring: From Persia to Holland

I’m not required by my tags to keep my geek to Harry Potter or the Hobbit. I can get excited about any little thing, and occasionally, that means–flowers! Not just any old flower, but today, I got giggly over tulips. Why this random bloom? Well, I received a stellar pot of orange blossoms for my birthday, much sweeter than a cut bouquet that would die in a couple of days.

tulips drroppu tulips

Aren’t they just stunning? Taken a day apart, these pictures show how hardy the tulip can be, only shuddering a little at the harsh cold brought on by last night’s winter-heavy breath. It’s not a surprising trait, however; considering the tulip’s origin, a spurt of Alabama weather should be a blip on their ecological radar in comparison.

Tulips most likely came from Persia and the winter-rain parts of the Middle East and Mediterranean. From there, they have spread to Ukraine, Iberia, and North Africa, dominating the spring blooms of the steppe. They are prominently featured in Turkish and Persian art, and they have been cultivated by the rich and wealthy as a sign of abundance and paradisaical beauty, frequently mentioned in artwork and literature concerning ethereal gardens. This is what must have sparked the tulip’s human-assisted migration to Western Europe, where the bloom has been fervently adopted by many countries, the most famous of which being The Netherlands. Keukenhof, the world’s largest permanent display of the tulip, is an astronomical example of the spring blossom’s personality.

 

keukenhof

courtesy of wikipedia.org

Armed with all of this new knowledge of a popular springtime flower, I can’t wait to take care of mine with sun, water, and love. Enjoy the tulips where you live!

Spring Is Here: Floral Oxfords and Looking Fab

Not every pair of shoes in my closet has to be flipflops, boots, or heels, I tell myself. I am allowed to experiment, I am allowed to experiment, I am allowed to experiment…

I just do not know how to combat the feeling that all other kinds of shoes look strange on my feet. Tennis shoes are easy, but wedges? Flats? They turn my heels and ankles into caricatures! I’m not a dainty little Tumblr fashionista that can pull off thigh-high stockings and studded booties, but I will work with what I have. Since spring is here, I decided to whip out one of my favorite pairs of floral patterned oxfords, lovely lace-ups by Giani Bini, a favorite designer of mine. I bought them in one size bigger than normal and lo and behold, they fit like a charm.

floral shoes

Because they have a black base, they literally go with every solid color I can imagine, especially coupled with the fuchsia-and-pink based flowers that give it a navy inclination. Being a size bigger, I can slip Dr. Scholl’s into them so they are all-day wearable, and look the best with tights or thin, cute socks. They are quickly becoming one of my favorite spring-time staples.

DIY Artist’s Chalkboard: Turn Any Surface Into a Masterpiece

One of the things I hate about being an artist/idea generator is the fact that every time I have an idea, I’ve got to scramble around for paper and pencil just so the stuff I come up with doesn’t leak out of my head. Well, one day I came home and my fiance had fixed that glaring problem for me by painting the front of the kitchen bar that was facing the living room with an awesome medium–black chalkboard paint!

chalk

courtesy of hbslp.wordpress.com

 

chalkboard-paint-wall-via-feaststl

courtesy of thedecorologist.com

Now obviously, these aren’t pictures of my bar surface, because well, we’ve moved from that apartment and left it far behind. But it did turn out like these, and the results were fabulously helpful, and a funky, artistic decor addition to boot! Just a few hours of painting and priming can transform a boring surface into a quirky, interactive artist’s playground. It requires very little maintenance and turned out (for me) to be a great opportunity to play around with other home painting projects before I tackle anything bigger, like an entire living room wall. Check out this useful medium for baby steps into the realm of home interiors, and have fun making your place pop!

Escargot Sans The Shells

My birthday came and went this past weekend, and I normally don’t ever want gifts–just to get to choose a special meal to homemake with my family all by ourselves. I was having so much fun doing this project that I forgot my camera to snap photos, but I’ll let the description speak for itself: I chose escargots in garlic-cabernet butter sauce with bleu cheese asparagus and let me tell you, for how strange a birthday meal that sounds, it was a delectable gourmet treat.

I’m not close to any fresh snail farms or anything, unfortunately, so I had to pop out a can of snails from the pantry, alongside a plastic jar of empty snail shells for the decorative vision of the meal. Mom and I cleaned the snails and the shells, then dried them and laid them to rest in a glass casserole dish. While she stuffed ten or so shells full of gastropod goodness, I made the butter base: a pound of extremely soft unsalted butter, half a cup of chopped green onions, a healthy splash of cabernet sauvignon, and a goo teaspoon or two of garlic salt. I blended this delicious mixture and poured it all over the snails in the dish and the few in the shells, letting the buttery blanket cover their sweet, salty little heads. We popped them in the oven at 400 degrees and let them bathe in the heat until the butter was bubbling.

In the meantime, I got the huge skillet out and cut the woody ends off of a gorgeous handful of asparagus. God, I love asparagus. This side dish was easy: throw in a generous scoop of butter, some onions, and a half a cup or so of crumbled bleu cheese, and let those greenies sit on the stove at about medium or above until the escargot are done. Take the lid off the skillet every now and then to make sure that each stalk gets tossed with savory butter and cheese–this is an important tip!

I must say that this birthday meal wasn’t the best I’ve ever had, but certainly the most interesting. Truly a lovely French delicacy to try at least once at home, if I do say so myself!