Turning Twenty-Six… with Tacos

In case you were suspicious that my blog was going to turn into an all-out sentimentality-fest with lots of uncomfortable monologues about unconditional love and babies and crap, never fear! I’m back on solid ground with a post about food. Birthday food! By which I mean, tacos. Naturally. I’ll get to them in a second, I promise.

Last Friday, I turned 26. I feel surprisingly neutral about this birthday, even though I’m officially closer to 30 than 20 now. Or maybe I just haven’t had time to stop and think about it – my excitement over Teddy’s birth kinda eclipsed my own mopey musings on aging. But I think I’m okay with 26. It’s a solid number, respectable, even. I feel good about where I am in my life and the people I share it with. And that’s what really matters, right?

Happily, I shared an early birthday celebration with most of my immediate family when I was back in RI. Mom made a batch of these yummy blondies (and gleefully crowed about the secret ingredient when certain family members couldn’t guess what it was), the adults all sang “Happy Birthday,” and Teddy snoozed away. I received gifts from my parents that night and gifts from some other relatives at various points during my visit. It was low-key and lovely – just the way I like it.

On my actual birthday, the 15th, S and I kept it equally low-key. We decided to have dinner at Tex Tubb’s Taco Palace, a taco-centric establishment that we’ve been meaning to visit for a while. We were seated after a short wait, and we promptly ordered drinks – a Shiner for S and a blue agave margarita for me – while perusing the vegan menu. We wanted to order their vegan nachos as a starter, but the waitress abashedly informed us that they were out of vegan queso. Boo! Instead, we got chips and a cute tub of guac.

Squat cast-iron bowl of guacamole topped with diced tomatoes.

Bowl o’ guac.

Yum! This guac was perfect – creamy, simple, and fresh. The diced tomatoes and onions on top (not mixed in!) were a nice touch, and the portion size was perfect for the both of us. Actually, it might’ve been a little large for me – I couldn’t quite finish the two tacos I ended up ordering! I went with the two-taco plate and chose the Avocado Frito (fried avocado, mushrooms, black beans, tomatoes, and red onions on corn tortillas) and the Black Bean Something or Other (no list because it’s not on the online menu, but it was pretty similar to the other one). The platter came with a side of beans (I chose refried) and rice.

Green plate with two fully loaded tacos, a pile of rice, and a scoop of refried beans.

Two-taco plate.

The tacos come sans salsa and mostly sans spice (except for one burning bite in my bean taco – weird!), which lets the eater customize the level of spiciness. This is made easy by Tex Tubb’s salsa bar, which features four different salsas. The spiciest one wasn’t too exciting, the next-spiciest chipotle-ish one was flavorful and yummy, the tomatillo salsa was good, and the mild red salsa was just fine. The tacos themselves were decent, although I’m pretty sure my avocado was not frito and was instead raw. Not that I’m complaining! I prefer the fresher flavors. The beans and rice were simple but tasty. S also got the avocado taco, along with some sort of Roasted Veggie Tostada (yeah, no list here either, but there was lots of corn!)

Magenta plate with an avocado-filled taco and a tostada piled high with veggies.

Pink platter!

S and I both saved one of our tacos for later, and I saved some of my rice and beans, too. They made great leftovers!

Tex Tubb’s is oh-so-conveniently located down the street from The Green Owl, so we swung by there after dinner to pick up desserts for later – a berry-lemon cheesecake for me and a passionfruit cheesecake for S (his was superior). We enjoyed them at home while watching Rise of the Planet of the Apes. All in all, a really great birthday. S gave me some sweet gifts, and I’ll probably blog about a couple of them soon. :)

Now, you might remember that last year, when I turned 25, I gave myself a list of 25 things to accomplish before I turned 26. Full disclosure: I totally failed on a lot of them. But I’m okay with that. Many of the things I didn’t do were the more self-indulgent goals, like making things for myself or getting a tattoo. That stuff will happen eventually, but it’s not as important as the more meaningful goals I did accomplish, like volunteering more often and keeping in better touch with friends. So with that ringing endorsement of my success, here’s my final list:

  1. Pay off a loan. Completed! (I actually paid off two or three smaller ones!)
  2. Sew myself a dress. FAIL.
  3. Blog at least five times a month. Completed! (Or, I’ll complete it at the end of this month.)
  4. Drive in a big city. FAIL.
  5. Send people birthday cards and gifts on time. Completed!
  6. Work out weekly. Completed! (Very proud of myself for this one. I know it’s not much, but it’s consistent, and I’ve never been good at keeping up a consistent workout schedule. I intend to amp it up in the next year!
  7. Learn how to use InDesign. Um… I used InDesign to make the invitations to my sister’s baby shower, but I’m no expert. Not quite completed!
  8. Knit myself a sweater. FAIL.
  9. Do more creative writing. Completed! Nobody will ever read it, but whatever!
  10. Start making Christmas gifts during the summer. Completed!
  11. Make a pie with a lattice crust. Completed!
  12. Re-learn how to crochet. FAIL.
  13. Get another tattoo. FAIL. (Cry!)
  14. Read more poetry. Completed(ish)! I read more than I usually do, so… it counts. ;)
  15. Take the GRE. FAIL. (And I probably won’t.)
  16. Try hot yoga. FAIL. (Stupidly. Would’ve been so easy.)
  17. Start and maintain an Etsy shop. FAIL. (But I’m working on it)
  18. Consistently make some of Moria’s food. Completed! (I had to stop for a while when she had a bladder stone and needed a special diet, but for the most part I’ve augmented her dry food with veggies and/or rice.)
  19. Knit a pair of socks. FAIL.
  20. Call (or write to) far-away family and friends more frequently. Completed!
  21. Visit a new country. Completed!
  22. Do more hands-on volunteering. Completed!
  23. Super-secret private goal! Completed!
  24. Super-secret private goal! This is an ongoing goal. But I made progress!
  25. Super-secret private goal! Errr… nope.

Not great, but not bad. I’m happy with what I accomplished this year. I’ve got some thoughts in mind for how to approach this next year of my life, but I’m keeping quiet on that front for a while. ;)

A Post About Pie

Saturday was an odd day. It was unseasonably warm, but that didn’t stop S and I from going through with our Saturday-morning plans – seeing a matinee of Skyfall (solid Bond movie – I really enjoyed it). Afterwards, we went home and had a late, snacky lunch, then headed out to a local park with Moria to enjoy the warmth and read our books. Shortly after we arrived, however, the clouds came out, the sun hid, and we got a bit chilly. We packed up and started heading back just as it started to drizzle.

After we got home, S left to get a haircut while I started a baking project. Just a few moments later he returned; the barbershop was closing soon and wasn’t taking anyone else. Things started to go downhill at that point – I got cranky because the kitchen was a mess and there were dishes to put away, S didn’t like my crankiness, I got even crankier… it was Not Good. S left again, this time to pick up some panko for dinner, and I continued my baking project. He returned. He apologized. I ignored him. (Yes, sometimes I’m a child.) I continued my baking project. S disappeared into the other room to put away laundry. As I worked, enjoying the thrill of trying a new-to-me technique, my crankiness slowly dissipated. I apologized, and then I showed off my creation:

Top-down view of an apple pie with a lattice-work crust. It's sitting on a plaid tablecloth.

Pie!

Yes, that is my first-ever lattice-crust pie! I know the edges need work; I didn’t leave enough overhang. But! The lattice isn’t half-bad, right? I was so proud as I eagerly checked the oven during baking and saw the pastry crust getting all flaky and puffy and beautiful! The funny thing is, though, that I actually don’t care much for pie crust in general – it doesn’t taste very good to me, and I just find it overwhelmingly rich. As a kid, the uber-fat-laden crust gave me a stomachache, so I often left large crust portions uneaten. Nowadays I can handle it a little better, but not by much – I still sometimes leave bits uneaten. For this particular crust, I followed Vegan Dad’s recipe, and as far as crusts go, it tasted just fine. ;)

In keeping with the season (nominally, if not actual-weatherly), I made an apple pie. Why not start the Thanksgiving season a little early, right? I used a mish-mash recipe for the filling, but next time I’ll be sure to cut my apples much, much thinner; I got a bit lazy with this batch and some of them were a little large. I was pleased that the pie wasn’t gooey or liquidy at all – there’s nothing quite as disappointing as a runny pie, y’know? I even had a little extra crust after applying the lattice – enough to make a mini-pie in my super adorable mini casserole dish:

Small oval-shaped casserole dish with apple filling and messy lattice crust.

Baby pie.

Both pies baked up beautifully (and I got to cross off one of my 25 for 25 goals!). As I topped S’s piece with some Soyatoo I’d picked up a few weeks back, I felt a little less guilty for snapping at him earlier – nothing like making dessert to prove your love and sincere regret for bad behavior, right? ;) Not that S needed it – he is insanely patient with me. Even while I was being mean to him, he’d been putting away my laundry for me. What a guy.

And what a pie.

Top-down view of a single piece of pie on a while plate. The tip is eaten and a fork is stuck into the top.

Ah, the wonders of natural light.

What’s your pie crust style of choice?

25 for 25: Half-Birthday Update!

Today is my half birthday, which means I have now completed twenty-five years and six months on this here planet (I won’t count the nine months I spent hanging out in my mama’s womb). I’m not particularly sentimental about half birthdays, but because I spent some time ruminating on my twenty-fifth birthday and setting a list of things to accomplish back in March, I figured I ought to report back on my progress. After all, I shared my list in the interest of accountability, so I owe it to all my oh-so-interested readers to share what I’ve done so far. ;) So – let’s take a look!

 

  • Pay off a loan. Completed 3/15!
  • Sew myself a dress.
  • Blog at least five times a month. On track as of September 15th!
  • Drive in a big city.
  • Send people birthday cards and gifts on time. On track as of September 15th!
  • Work out weekly. On track as of September 15th!
  • Learn how to use InDesign. Sorta-kinda in progress…
  • Knit myself a sweater.
  • Do more creative writing. On track as of September 15th!
  • Start making Christmas gifts during the summer. Completed as of September!
  • Make a pie with a lattice crust.
  • Re-learn how to crochet.
  • Get another tattoo.
  • Read more poetry. On track as of September 15th!
  • Take the GRE.
  • Try hot yoga.
  • Start and maintain an Etsy shop.
  • Consistently make some of Moria’s food. On track as of September 15th!
  • Knit a pair of socks.
  • Call (or write to) far-away family and friends more frequently. On track as of September 15th!
  • Visit a new country. Completed 8/13!
  • Do more hands-on volunteering. Completed! (And I’ll continue to do more.)
  • Super-secret private goal! Completed 4/12!
  • Super-secret private goal! Workin’ on this one…
  • Super-secret private goal!

I’ve fully completed five goals and am on track with eight others. Silly me for making a bunch of long-term goals that can really only be evaluated at the end of the year! I do have a fair number of discrete ones though, and I’ve gotta get started on those. Looks like I’ve got a lot of crafting to do in the next six months… and a tattoo to get. If only I weren’t so terrible at making decisions. I have lots of nebulous tattoo ideas, but nothing concrete yet. Yeesh.

I’m pretty happy with my progress. I’ll definitely accomplish a majority of my goals by the time I hit 26, and if I don’t make some of them, they won’t be the really important ones. So that’s something!

Anyway – that’s enough self-indulgence for a Saturday. I promise I’ll return with more Edinburgh yumminess soon. I meant to post earlier, but’s be a busy, busy week. I had to wear actual business clothes this week, and wearing heels always tires me out. Just kidding. Sorta. :)

To thank you for reading this, have a picture of Moria enjoying her (vegan!) adoptiversary cake!

Small dog licking a muffin-like cake topped with peanut butter and puffed millet.

Carrot-peanut butter cake with peanut butter frosting and puffed millet “sprinkles”!

Yeah, my pup’s a little spoiled. ;)

In Which I Share Some Self-Indulgent Musings on Turning Twenty-Five

What’s strange about the way we measure age is that by the time you “turn” a given age, you’ve actually already completed that many years of life. So when I turn 25 tomorrow, I’ll have already been kickin’ around this ol’ planet for a quarter of a century. It’s a little unsettling to think about. I’m sure that all you, ahem, mature readers are shaking your heads and calling me a whippersnapper, but you’ve all been there. You’ve celebrated (or maybe tried to deny) a birthday that seemed monumental in some way, that made you step back and say, Wow.

For me, it was my last birthday. Turning 24 signaled the undeniable end of my early twenties, and the fact that I was in my mid-twenties seemed impossible and laughable and terrifying. When I was younger, I naively decided that 24 was the age when I’d have it figured out, it being things like A Job and Marriage and Life in General. I know, I know – laugh away. It’s silly to think we’ll ever have it all figured out, right? When it became clear that my grasp on it would be as tenuous at 24 as it had been at 23, turning 24 became something I couldn’t help but dread. I felt unsettled and, well, old.

I didn’t want to give up my early twenties. I associated those years with a sort of post-college, pre-adulthood time of fun and freedom before I’d settle in for the long ride of adulthood, for it. Not that my early twenties were all frivolity and fun; I got a real job and starting paying back my loans and bought a car and did all those big-girl things that, let’s face it, mark an unceremonious and undeniable entrance into adulthood. But I still felt young, fresh out of college and ready to take on the world. 24 meant moving into the years when I should start settling down and being responsible… or something.

But then I turned 24 and nothing changed and I realized that 24 is just like 23 and 22, except I more often forget how old I am and more of my acquaintances are starting to get hitched or pop out kids. So I decided to stop fretting about my age. And I shed the idea of setting what are inevitably arbitrary deadlines for myself, because life has an infuriating way of laughing at your deadlines, and those deadlines have a way of passing by while you chase something else. I haven’t figured it out yet, and I’m not settled yet (whatever that means for me), and I’m fine with that. I still have so many countries to visit and things to try and people to meet before I put down roots and stay put. And that’s okay.

With my new, refreshed, and realistic outlook, turning 25 is kind of exciting. While I’m a little shocked that it’s happening already and a little weirded out by the number itself, I’m also looking at it as an opportunity. I have a better sense of who I am now than I ever have before, in a large part thanks to S, whose candid, clear perspective helps me think about myself from a slightly less self-effacing point of view than I usually do. And I’m ready to try new things and accomplish so much.

With that in mind, I’ve spent the past few months compiling a list of 25 things I will do when I’m 25. Making it public is nerve-wracking for me, but I want to be accountable for it. I want to talk about things I accomplish, and I want to cross them off my list. And even if I try something and it’s a big, giant failure, that’s okay. I’ll still have tried it.

So here’s my list of goals, full of silly things and serious things and everything in between. And yes, I know that there aren’t actually 25 items on here – some of them just aren’t things I want to share with the whole wide world. :)

  1. Pay off a loan.
  2. Sew myself a dress.
  3. Blog at least five times a month.
  4. Drive in a big city.
  5. Send people birthday cards and gifts on time.
  6. Work out weekly.
  7. Learn how to use InDesign.
  8. Knit myself a sweater.
  9. Do more creative writing.
  10. Start making Christmas gifts during the summer.
  11. Make a pie with a lattice crust.
  12. Re-learn how to crochet.
  13. Get another tattoo.
  14. Read more poetry.
  15. Take the GRE.
  16. Try hot yoga.
  17. Start and maintain an Etsy shop.
  18. Consistently make some of Moria’s food.
  19. Knit a pair of socks.
  20. Call (or write to) far-away family and friends more frequently.
  21. Visit a new country.
  22. Do more hands-on volunteering.

There it is. Maybe this seems like an odd post for a mostly-food blog, but I think it’s relevant. There’s the accountability thing I already mentioned, for one. But I also just feel like sharing more personal things about myself here, not just meals I eat or desserts I make. My favorite blogs are the ones that seamlessly blend personal anecdotes with food-related musings and chatter, and I’d like to incorporate more of that on here. Plus, one of my goals is to post more often, as you can see. :) I’m excited to get started with my list, and I’ll check in when I accomplish a particularly meaningful or memorable goal!

If you’ve read all this, thank you! As a token of my appreciation, here’s a picture of Moria after her most recent (and most drastic!) haircut:

I swear she’s not really grimacing. She just has a snaggletooth.