Friday, January 28, 2011

The Best Chicken Salad Ever


 I never really liked chicken salad until my friend Lexi made a similar version of this recipe one summer for lunch, and then I was hooked. I combined her recipe with my love of Greek yogurt and my irrational dislike of celery (the dislike is a new thing--it ebbs and flows) and came up with this slightly altered recipe. I served it at my sister's bachelorette party a year or so ago, and it was a huge hit. I'm telling you, this stuff is good. And it's really easy to make.

You need:

1 rotisserie chicken, skin removed, shredded (about 3 cups ... I don't  use the whole chicken because we like to make sandwiches and things with the leftovers)

3 Tbsp. non-fat, plain Greek yogurt (I suggest Fage or Dannon, because some brands can be too regular creamy and Kroger brand even tastes sweet, which is odd.)

2 Tbsp. light mayonnaise 

1 1/2 cup sliced green grapes

½ cup shaved or crushed almonds

3/4 cup Craisins

Combine shredded chicken, grapes, almonds and Craisins in a large  bowl and mix well. Toss with Greek yogurt and mayonnaise (enough to cover but not saturate). Refrigerate for at least an hour. (It's best if refrigerated overnight.) Feel free to increase or decrease amount of grapes, almonds and Craisins depending on personal tastes. And I'm not gonna lie, the last time I made this I put in three tablespoons of mayo and only two of Greek yogurt. Basically, do everything to taste. Serve with whole wheat Ritz crackers, on a sandwich or over lettuce.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Winter Lovin'

It's the end of January, almost February. The time of year when my thoughts turn to the candy colored nail polish of spring, azaleas, pastel Easter eggs, and, most of all, warmth. What would it be like to go running at the park in shorts and a tank top, with people lounging on blankets near the lake?

Since I can't change the weather, now is the time to appreciate the things I love about winter. What's on the top of my list?

Snow, of course! I love snow, no matter how meager the flurries. We were supposed to get our third (light) snowfall last night, but all seems clear today.

Uggs. I didn't really get the trend until I put my foot into the fluffy, furry, warmth of an Ugg boot.  I will certainly miss them when flip-flop weather rolls around.
I definitely see a splurge for these chocolate brown Uggs in my future ... Image via

Slippers and bright socks. I like warm feet, ok?

Target has the best socks, hands down.

Nurse A in a scarf. He got a new one in Highlands and I love it! For some reason I don't have a great picture of it, but at least you can see it here. It's all red and plaid.

Warm blankets. Being able to sleep under tons of blankets comfortably is one thing I definitely miss during spring and summer. Blankets are just so comfortable, as evidenced by Sawyer.

He loves our new pillows!
And, of course, Valentine's Day! Our six month wedding anniversary falls on Valentine's Day, and I'm looking forward to it. Not sure what we're going to do, but it will certainly involve flowers!

Last year's set-up
Oh, I almost forgot King Cake! Growing up we always got Mardi Gras holidays off of school (my town is sandwiched between New Orleans and Mobile, so Mardi Gras is a pretty big deal there) but North Mississippi doesn't really have any celebrations. Still, I'm excited about attempting to bake King Cake for the first time. I'll let you know how it goes!

Image via

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

5 things I've learned

While being unemployed.
(ahem, excuse me: self-employed)

I wish my workspace looked like this! If only typewriters had Gmail chat. Image via

Hey, does anyone remember many months ago when I started my "5 Things I've Learned" series? The series that I only posted to twice, so it was in no way a series? Yeah, I forgot about it too. I liked it, so I'm bringing it back, with a topic I've been thinking about a lot lately for obvious reasons.

I've officially been out of a traditional nine-to-five job for three months, and while nothing would make me happier than a phone call offering me a position I've applied and interviewed for (except maybe a surprise pug puppy!), I feel it's important to focus on positive things. And oddly enough, many positive things have resulted from leaving my job without any other prospects in an uncertain economy, as crazy as that might sound.

1. I have control. Resigning from a job without another one is scary stuff. I learned that I can take control of my life and make big decisions like this. I value the skills I gained and relationships I made at my previous (and first "grown up") job immensely, and I know these  will benefit me professionally for the rest of my life. But it was time to go. It's a powerful feeling, to realize you can make choices and take control of your future like that.

Homemade ravioli!
2. I have hobbies! For months, the question, "What do you do besides write?" really bothered me, because I didn't really do anything. I always answered meekly that I write fiction for fun (which is true, but I don't do this that often) and that I like to read. They were weak answers, anyway, since reading and writing go hand-in-hand. When I left my job, everything changed. Nurse A and I couldn't afford to eat out every meal of every day, so we started cooking from the Williams-Sonoma Bride and Groom Cookbook, and we realized that one of the best part of our day was coming home and spending time in the kitchen together while Sawyer managed to steal butter and get flour all over his nose.

We also incorporated jogging into our daily routine (to counteract the cooking hobby and because it's free), and have a goal this year to run a 10k (a goal I didn't accomplish last year) as well as a 10-miler. I can't believe we didn't realize how great cooking and running were before! No wonder all you crazy kids do it. And I don't know how we managed Sawyer before we forced him to run at least 10 miles a week. 

3. I have a great support network of friends, family and, of course, Andrew. My family supports and encourages me. My lovely friends send me freelancing opportunities my way when they can, encouraging e-mails and kind words and I really appreciate those things. My in-laws have also been great as well. I'm thankful that everyone has been so supportive and non-judgemental.

4. I take pride in my work.  I had felt for awhile that I was emphasizing quantity, not quality of work.  I missed the thrill of reading one of my articles and being proud of it. I'm lucky that journalism is a field in which you can always practice. I've taken on lots of freelancing clients and I've begun producing work that I'm proud to send to my editor. It's a really good feeling.

5. We're ok. It's been three months. My little family hasn't starved, we haven't lost our house. In fact, I've traveled to New Orleans, the Mississippi Coast, Mobile,North Carolina and Charleston, South Carolina in those three months. Sawyer needs shots in February, and Sawyer will get his shots. We have a warm house, Netflix, great friends and family (even though they're all spread out across the country!), books, wine, a Labrahound, blackberry Izze, etc. I have steady work (if not always steady paycheck) and my client load is growing all the time. Turns out we don't need much to be happy.

Also on a random note, I've learned that I really like coffee shops, taking walks and watching weather reports. What about you? Has anyone else out there made a big decision recently that taught you a lot about yourself?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Baby Shower Inspiration

Don't worry, there's no baby shower for me anytime in the near future--the shower I'm referring to is for my sister! She's due in late July. My mom and I want to host a shower at my mom's house on the Coast in mid-to-late spring, and I've already started looking for inspiration because now that wedding and bachelorette party planning are over, there is a party planning void in my life. And with my mom taking care of the food and things, I can be in charge of all the cute decorations. Instead of bookmarking my ideas, I'll blog them.

First, I was thinking we could reuse some of the items left over from my wedding, like these Martha Stewart eyelet paper lanterns.

Image via
I was cleaning out our storage space (aka, a giant hole in the wall in the back of my closet) this weekend, and we still have all six in great condition. If we find out the baby is a boy I would love to reuse the blue chalkboard we wrote the menu on for the wedding, but we'll just have to wait and see! (Speaking of reusing party decorations, I just looked at a leftover bag of peni confetti for our Charleston bachelorette bash and tainted my sweet baby shower mind, so I shall taint yours too. But I digress.)

Second, the shower must have favor bags that are related to these, made by Kelsey at Minted Life. They're just little blue bags, stickers, tiny clothes pins and a thank-you stamp.

Image via

Her inspiration came from these cute favor bags, so it's obvious they can be easily personalized. They seem easy enough for me to make too, which is a huge plus.

Image via
The other baby shower idea my mom and I both love is asking guests to bring a favorite childhood book in lieu of a card, and write a note on the inside. That way the baby gets a nice little library full of sweet notes and is sure to grow up to be a genius. I would bring Wynken, Blynken and Nod or Goodnight Moon, off the top of my head. I also remember  liking Pinky in Persia but it was really creepy.

Nurse A says his favorite children's book was about a boy who invented a bubble machine, but Google can't seem to do much with that. Do you have any idea what it is? What book would you bring? And have you been to any awesome baby showers lately?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Bachelorettin' in Charleston

I've missed you, blog world! I've been driving all over the South (four states, to be exact) on a whirlwind trip to Charleston for my friend's bachelorette party, and I finally got back Monday afternoon. Exhausting, but so much fun. It was my first time in Charleston so it was fun to explore a new city, hang out with my favorite friends and go out dancing. But let's rewind about 1,300 + miles.

Wednesday afternoon my friend Rachel and I packed up the car (full of suitcases, snacks, a penis pinata—the usual) and drove four hours to Nashville, where we spent the night with bachelorette Lexi, her fiance Jamie and their fur babies, George (also known as the Great White Fluff) and Jennifer (Princess Shark). We woke up early Thursday morning to snow flurries and worried phone calls from moms, but the snow pretty much stopped falling by the time we left Nashville, and we had good travel weather and road conditions for the whole drive. The whole 10 hour drive. We seemed to be stuck in the Bermuda Triangle on the trip to Charleston—the GPS told us we had four hours left, and then two hours later we still had four hours left, or at least that's how it seemed. We also stopped a lot and went through a tiny mountain town with tiny mountain roads that I had to navigate very slowly. But we finally made it to our pink rental house in Folly Beach (about 15 minutes from downtown Charleston) just in time to unpack, reunite with our friend Stephanie who made it three hours sooner than us, and get back in the car, half of us going to the grocery store and the other half heading to the airport to pick up our fifth, Willow. I was very happy to find that our house was nice, clean and had sheets (it didn't have towels, but I brought some and had secretly been afraid it wouldn't have sheets) because I booked it over the Internet. (I highly recommend HomeAway Vacation Rentals, btw.)

Our house in Folly Beach.
Living room.
Sitting room area that opened out onto a big screened-in porch.
Outdoor area. It was too cold to go out there.
One of the three bedrooms. There was also a loft.
On the first day we walked to the beach, explored a little bit of Folly Beach (lots of it was closed for the off-season) and then drove into Charleston for delicious sushi and shopping on King Street.

There were fried oysters in that sushi!

A sake toast to Lexi, Jamie and puppies!

Rachel and Willow on King Street.
That night we played some card games in the house and walked to downtown Folly Beach for dinner at the Crab Shack. Rachel's steamed shrimp knocked my socks off. I think it's the best shrimp I've ever had, but maybe that's because I don't live on the coast anymore. I got oysters, of course. They were better than the ones we had in Savannah, but not very flavorful.Willow scored big with her oysters and found what we believe to be a little pearl.

My pearl-less oysters.

On day two we headed toward the market area in Charleston and had lunch and Bloody Marys at a rooftop bar there. I'm not sure what it was called, but the fried green tomato wraps with goat cheese were so good. Please ignore what appears to be my massive tangle of hair. Willow looks cute, though!

Stephanie with the bride-to-be
We walked around the market a bit to pass the time before our carriage tour of the city, and sampled Hyman's hushpuppies that some waitresses were handing out on the street. My kind of city, for sure.

Street puppies.
Carriage ride mule.

Rachel and Willow on the Charleston tour.

This girl was really good and had cool hair.

After the tour we stopped in a few more stores and then headed back to the house to get ready for that night. In the picture below, Willow is trying to bump up Lexi's hair. It didn't end up working because you can see the Hollywood Bump It through thin hair, but it looked really good on Willow. For some reason I don' t have a picture of it. Based on my scientific research, the Hollywood Bump It looks good on one out of four people, myself not being one of them.

Before the taxi came we did a small lingerie shower with lots of joke gifts like silver underwear, edible body paint pens and the like.

We went out for dinner at Coast and then walked a little ways to Trio, where we stayed all night dancing. There were two rival bachelorette parties there, but they were lame,as they did not have a pink wenis sticking out of their purses.

The next morning we got up, cleaned the house and hit the road! Where's your favorite place to road trip it? Have you ever been to Charleston?

Monday, January 10, 2011

OMG Snow!

Yesterday Nurse A and I got up early to run some errands all over North Mississippi. We had to pick up my car in a town a couple hours away. (I left it at a friend's house when I rode down with her for Christmas.) Then we stopped at the mall on the way back (fun fact: Oxford doesn't have a mall) for some party supplies for an upcoming bachelorette bash, and lingerie for said bachelorette's shower. We were in a rush to get home before 2 p.m. when the snow that was predicted for our area was rumored to begin falling and we made it home pretty much on the dot. The snowfall didn't start right at 2 p.m., but fall it did. All night long.

This morning we woke up to an estimated eight-to-10 inches of snow--right in our front yard! I've never seen anything like it in Mississippi. Normally we have to travel to, say, Highlands to see this kind of snowfall.

We took a walk and watched bulldozers try to clear the roads. It didn't seem to be working very well.

Sawyer felt very sophisticated because he had already experienced snow, unlike many Mississippi pups.

For reference, this is the "snow" we usually get in North Mississippi. At home on the coast, even this little dusting only happens once every few years and lasts for a couple hours.

So after a failed sledding attempt and a cup of coffee, I've got some work to do before playing in the snow again. Gloves would be nice. Happy Monday, everyone! Stay warm!