The Bachelor: A Taste of Mexico Through Our Stomach

Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at 10.02.50 PM.pngIt’s trip time! Man, this season is flying by, and I can’t believe we’re already at the part of the season where they’re visiting whichever country’s tourism board paid them the most money to have one of its most populous cities temporarily ruined by the presence of this show. Mexico City seems…random, and as the ladies cruise through the city in what looks like a mini presidential motorcade, Olivia, Queen of the Secret Bunny Boiler Society, begins gabbing away about her connection with Boring Ben, and how their love language is secret.

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The Bachelor: Ride Along, Too

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Welcome this week’s edition of Full House: Valtrex Manor Edition. We begin the episode with Ben staring out of a window while drinking from a mug of what I will assume is straight vodka,  his eyebrows knitted together, deep in thought, his eyes screaming, “what have I signed myself up for?”

Group.Me
Well, honey child, you’ve signed up to date women like Lace, in groups of 4 or more, on national television. It’s as clear as the Monarch vodka in Boring Ben’s mug that Lace is some sort of plant by the producers. A deliciously terrible human embodiment of non-violent borderline personality disorder. The women claim to be “excited” about the prospect of a group date, as though they are unfamiliar with this mainstream re-enactment of “Sister Wives” and how wildly uncomfortable it will be to compete with other women for the affection of a relative stranger.

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Medill Remembers: James Foley

Tripoli, Libya - 08/11. Photo by Jonathan Pedneault. High resolution version available on http://www.freejamesfoley.org/
Tripoli, Libya – 08/11. Photo by Jonathan Pedneault. High resolution version available on http://www.freejamesfoley.org/

By the time my 4th  and final quarter at Medill rolled around, I was almost fully out of steam. The capstone project for my magazine emphasis was zapping what little energy I had left, and I was completely burnt out on the idea of being a journalist, let alone being a writer. I had my eyes set firmly on the prize of post-grad school employment here in Seattle, and coasted along in any class not related to my capstone project.  One day, in my global journalism class, our instructor announced we’d be receiving a visit from James Foley, a Medill graduate and freelance international journalist who’d recently been released from 44 days in captivity, held by supporters of Gaddafi with three other Western journalists.

Right after James was kidnapped, there’d been quite a bit of chatter about him in class and a handful of vigils outside the main Medill building. Everyone had positive things to say about him. Still, I’d read “My War Gone By, I Miss It So,” and was fully expecting to meet some wizened, gimlet-eyed, adrenaline junkie who would be unimpressed by the prospect of meeting a room full of would-be journalists (and me). And that is absolutely not who wandered into our classroom, that late spring evening. James arrived with no fanfare, just sort of appeared in the doorway (a friend and I also remarked at how good looking he was, especially in spite of the ordeal he’d been through). Our instructor practically had to strong arm James into sitting in the place of honor at the head of our communal table. For the next hour and change, James told us stories of his work before Medill, at Medill, and after Medill. He detailed his time in captivity in Libya, showing us the diary he’d kept by writing on the insides of discarded cigarettes boxes. He answered all of our silly questions, and was patient and kind. He talked to us about his friend and colleague Anton Hammerl, who was killed during a gunfight when the group was captured in Libya, and the foundation that had been set up to honor his slain friend’s memory.

James handed out t-shirts that his family and friends had made during his capture—white, with a blue graffiti design and the words “Free Foley” scrawled across the front and “freefoley.org” printed on the back. The website had been transformed into a portal in memory of Anton Hammerl, including fundraising efforts to support Hammerl’s family, and he encouraged us to wear the shirts and spread awareness. After class, we all headed to a restaurant in Evanston and had dinner, and I was struck at his easy manner given what he had endured less than a month before. A couple days after he visited our class, James wrote an email to our class to say thank you–which was remarkable in and of itself. His generosity of spirit and passion for his profession—not as an adrenaline junkie as so many war correspondents are said to be, but as someone who believed what he was doing was a service that society needed was evident, and he was everything you’d hope to find in a journalist who specialized in conflict reporting. I lack the mettle and fortitude necessary to be a war correspondent, but his talk reminded me of the power of the written word, and though it took a different route than either of my newswriting instructors would have liked (sorry, Steve, Melissa, and Susan), I’m still writing.

After graduation, I moved back to Seattle, and somehow, amongst all the Northwestern gear I’d collected, I still had the Free Foley shirt. Last summer, while packing for a trip to California, I’d been reminded that James had been captured again, and decided to bring the Free Foley shirt with me to wear on long walks around the cities I was visiting, my own one woman vigil. So, when the news of his brutal murder at the hands of ISIS appeared in my Twitter feed, the shirt was with me, serving as a devastating totem of what was lost at the hands of vicious terrorists. Because I never, ever delete email from my gmail account, I immediately searched through my mail to find the thank you note James wrote after he visited our class. His words were directed at us, but they apply to him as well.

“Your generosity and inquisitiveness and of course passion, were inspiring beyond a typical sharing experience for me. It’s exciting just to think of what truths you can share with the world. It’s yours to tell.”

Rest in Peace, James. And thank you for helping to tell the stories and truths that needed to be told.

To learn more about James Foley’s life and legacy, visit the James W. Foley Foundation.

The Bachelorette: We Have Such a Great Connection…

The episode begins with Nick entering the dudepartment and enduring some actually sane, logical questions about Nick’s motivations for being on the show—including the fact that he was hanging out with Andi a couple weeks before the season began filming, and that all his antics make him seem like a fame/Bachelorette-seeking d-bag. Farmer Josh, bless him, says “is she just a cool chick or an amazing woman to you?” And my heart grew 10 sizes. He will eventually get kicked off the show, but somewhere in America’s heartland is an amazing woman waiting to be swept away by his awesomeness. Nick holds up to their questioning pretty well, and the dudes remain skeptical.

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The Bachelor: “It’s Just So Much Smaller Than I Thought It Would Be”

IMG_3005I have to admit that I got super excited when I found out there would be three hours of Chris, the Hamster King of Iowa on Sunday night. After yet another Valentine’s Day alone, I was ready to revel in the glory of a troupe of women competing with each other for the attention of a man whose only real accomplishment seems to be falling asleep with his eyes open. But then I remembered that it was DOWNTON AND GRANTCHESTER NIGHT and I chose to give in to my inner Anglophile, and watched PBS instead. So, today’s post is a Bachelor omnibus. A hideous compilation of two nights of content, reduced to bullet form and pithy remarks. It is long. Really long.

Let’s dig in!

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The Bachelor: When You Cut Them, You Peel Them Back

1417726783_chris-bachelor-560I never, ever agree with the fan favorite contestant for the next bachelor/ette, but my faith in the collective ability of American women to successfully choose a man who would at some point say “I love you” to them has been restored with the selection of Farmer Chris as this season’s Bachelor. I must confess that I find Chris to be boring and maybe a little bit dim. I mean, he seems sweet, successful, close to his family, and likely charms little children and old ladies with a bashful flash of his pearly whites. Adorable bluebirds probably help him put on his Carharts every morning. But not a single one of those characteristics provides for good television, and it makes me wonder how someone like him could still be single. Though I’m all in for a wonderful fairy tale love story, complete with trips to far flung destinations and dates that seem like they are crafted by throwing romantic words against a whiteboard, I am not in for three months of schmoop fest.

Because Chris is aggressively boring, it is clear to me that the producers of the show will distract us with an army of women culled from psychiatric wards across the country, and we will watch as they guzzle wine and test the limits of their liver vs. the anti-psychotic meds they are obviously taking and/or in need of. Then, the producers will edit out the real connection between the genuinely good dude Chris and some super sweet girl (a la Sean Lowe and Catherine Giudici) until the very end.

In any case, let’s dig in!

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Recipe for Inspiration: Get Packing

I took my first airplane trip when I was six years old. At the time, my mom and I were living in the Bay Area, and my dad lived in Seattle. After a couple years of my dad traipsing up and down the West Coast to pick me up for our summers together, it was decided that I’d start flying, solo, to Seattle for visits. Even at six, I felt a slight sense of exhiliration as I walked onto the plane alone (well, not alone, guided by a kindly flight attendant), and I felt like a grown up as I buckled myself into my seat.

Since then, I’ve taken countless trips alone–in fact, most of the trips I take involve me flying solo. And because I travel alone, I make special preparations in how and what I pack–I don’t like carrying a lot of extra bags because more often than not, I take public transportation to and from airports. I’m also unable to rely on someone else to help out in case I forget something, and so I have become a lean, mean packing machine with a mini personal pharmacy in tow. I’m always fascinated by sites like What’s In Your Bag, so I decided to chronicle a few of the things I’m packing for my upcoming trip to London. Click through for photos and descriptions. And let me know how you pack in the comments!

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Recipe for Inspiration: The Lazy Girl’s Peanut Butter Chicken

There are a couple of things about me that generally shock people once they truly get to know me:

1. I am an insanely picky eater. It’s shocking because when you look at me, it’s pretty obvious that I haven’t missed many meals. Though I can generally find things to eat on most menus without asking for special additions or removals (this is a pet peeve of mine), I don’t eat most dairy products (this includes cheese*, sour cream, eggs, cream cheese, etc.), deli meat, non-homemade noodles, hamburger meat that I haven’t watched the preparation of…this list goes on (I will eat any vegetable you put in front of me, though). My refrigerator is essentially a collection of tomato-based condiments.

2. Once I’m home, I am basically the laziest person on Earth. I once tried to order takeout from a Thai restaurant two blocks away. There’s a pizza place (okay, I like some cheese*. Only the kind that doesn’t smell like feet, though. So basically, mozzarella.) I really like–about six blocks from my apartment, and when I call, the dispatcher will repeat my address back to me and say “Is this for carryout, then?” and I’ll say “NOPE. DELIVERY.”  If it’s a weekend, and I don’t have plans to booze with friends, I generally only leave my apartment so that I can walk Mr. Nigel Barker.

This means that I occasionally have to get pretty creative with the limited selection of food that makes its way onto the vaunted shelves of my refrigerator, and that’s where my Peanut Butter Chicken was born. One weekend afternoon, many years ago, I was left with a bottle of Sriracha, some soy sauce packets, a half a jar of peanut butter, a half carton of rice, and some leftover grilled chicken. Out of a combination of sheer desperation and laziness, I mixed the PB with some Sriracha and Soy Sauce and discovered that it is the Holy Grail of Lazy Girl eating. I won’t lie, I’ve had times where I just heated up the mixture in a sauce pan and poured the PB sauce over some cooked rice and called it good (and it really, really was).

In the years since the culinary discovery of my lifetime, I’ve fancied the recipe up a little–adding a dash of sesame seed oil, and even advance prep time/marinating. I always have PB, soy sauce, and Sriracha, and even on days when I feel like I need someone to carry me from the bus stop to my front door after work, I can be prevailed upon to stop at the grocery store on my way home from work and pick up some chicken. This is an easy recipe and something you can make in advance or whip up after work.

You will need:

SRIRACHA
These are a few of my favorite things.

3 tbsp of your favorite peanut utter (I prefer Justin’s, or, if you’re feeling really fancy, the PB you make yourself at stores like Whole Foods–but nothing too sweet)
1 tbsp of low sodium soy sauce
2 tsp of Sriracha)
1 tsp of sesame seed oil

1/4 Cup of Water

Salt
Pepper
A clove of garlic, minced
Uncooked chicken of some sort (I usually use drumettes/party wings)

Optional:
Green Onions

Directions:

Wash/pat dry your chicken wings, place in a freezer bag, season with salt, pepper, and minced garlic clove. Set aside.

Mixture, without water
Mixture, without water

In a small bowl, combine PB, soy sauce, Sriracha, sesame seed oil. Mix until well combined.

Then slowly add water–depending on the type of PB you use, you

might not need the whole 1/4 cup, but I like to thin out the PB mixture to the consistency of a thick soup. Taste the marinade–it generally will not need more salt, but I almost always add more magic sauce, AKA Sriracha. Pour the marinade over your seasoned chicken wings, and smoosh (very scientific term) the bag around so that the marinade coats the

Mixture, with water
Mixture, with water

chicken. Seal the bag and let sit in the refrigerator for at least 20-30 minutes, but the chicken will taste best after an over night soak in the PB mixture.

When you’re ready to cook: Preheat your oven to 400, arrange chicken wings on a baking sheet, bake for 40 minutes. They will be crispy and delicious. If I’m feeling fancy (which generally, I am not, but sometimes I invite other humans to my home to consume food with me and this will require me to attempt to make my food both delicious AND have visually appealing plating, which more often than not are mutually exclusive in my home), I garnish the wings with chopped green onions. Serve with rice and your favorite vegetable.

Bon Lazy Girl Appetit!

Peanut-y goodness.
Peanut-y goodness.

Get Up & Go: Music

As I mentioned before, I studied abroad in Paris during my junior year in college. I didn’t go with a huge, organized group and instead sorted out my own housing. I lived in a large, run down house (that may or may not have been illegal) about 11 miles south of Paris in a blue collar suburb called Savigny-sur-Orge. My room was tiny and I slept underneath a very itchy French Army blanket. The washing machine took three hours to do a single load of laundry, but it also took quarters (why I had extra quarters lying around during my study abroad is a mystery). The house itself was populated by a mish mash of young people from all over the world–later, I’d realize I was living in my very own version of L’Auberge Espagnole.

One of my housemates was a tall Scottish dude named Jamie. I’d never met an actual Scottish person in real life before and his Glaswegian accent was a constant source of amusement and confusion for me. One day as I was leaving my room, Jamie started singing to me–not like, in a romantic way. But in my general direction as a kind of means of getting my attention. At first I thought he was mocking me, “Oh yeah, alright, take it easy baby, make it last all night…she was an American girl.” I smiled sheepishly and scuttled off to the kitchen. For the next week, each time he’d walk past my door, he’d sing more lyrics from the song, always ending with “…she was an American girl.”

Finally, I took it upon myself to look up the song. I was reared on Stevie Wonder and Earth, Wind, and Fire. The only thing remotely rock-ish that we listened to was Sting, so any rock music that pre-dated my ability to buy music for myself was totally foreign to me. I downloaded the song and listened to it whenever I was feeling a little bit homesick. Now, eight years later,  whenever I hear the song it instantly transports me back to Paris 2005.

There are other songs–Minus the Bear’s “Absinthe Party at the Fly Honey Warehouse” a song recommended to me by a friend before I took of for my study abroad. The lyrics were spot on for my time in Pa-ris, “Sitting on a park bench that’s older than my country,” and I listened to the song on repeat any time I went for a long, wandering walk through St. Germain des Pres. Towards the end of my time in Paris, I happened to see “Before Sunset.” The movie ends with Nina Simone’s rendition of “Just In Time,” and I get misty listening to the song. If I ever get married, that will be the first song I dance to with my husband.

So, when I realized my Eurotrip was just around the corner, I decided to put together an epic playlist–one to serve as a soundtrack for new memories, and one that reminds me of my previous kind of life changing trips to Europe.

Do you have a travel playlist? If so, what’s on it?