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Monday, November 28, 2016

Gilmore Girls: A Year In the Life Review!

Basically, I forgot it was Black Friday and just aggressively watched Gilmore Girls all the way through. I did order a pair of workout pants online when I remembered, near midnight, so there’s that!

We had friends over Friday evening, and I watched the first 2 episodes before they got there and then stayed up until 3 am to watch the last 2 episodes after they all left.

Those final four words:
So, Amy Sherman-Palladino has always known what the last four words of the series was supposed to be, and because she wasn’t involved in the oft-lamented 7th season of GG, she didn’t get to use them. Thanks to Netflix and fans around the world, GG has been brought back with the original cast, and we got to see how everything turned out years later.

Personally, I think those last four words were inevitable. It brings the show full circle, and continues the parallel of Lorelei’s life, though Rory is older and has more support than Lorelei had. She will of course, have a little girl who is surrounded by the best women in the world, will be disastrous at relationships, and have a mom-best friend.

Rory Gilmore:
At the end of the original GG, Rory was a Yale graduate ready to take on the world, and heading off to cover the Obama campaign as a journalist. In the revival, we see Rory at 32, working as a freelance journalist and trying to find steady work. She is unsure of her career path, she is unhappy trying to write a book with a crazy person, and she is mostly unemployed and bouncing from couch to couch while she travels and writes.

This feels so quintessentially real. So many of my peers, so many millennials share her crisis of career faith, feel rootless (though maybe not so literally), and struggle with freelancing and working for themselves. Rory feels a bit more relatable in this new iteration, but she also feels somewhat wrong. I was aghast at her on-and-off Huntzberger affair. Rory wouldn’t do that! Not with an engaged man! She is clearly somewhat conflicted about it, and she does eventually end it after a grand adventure with the Life and Death Brigade, which was a very fun tribute, but it felt so wrong.

But what of Rory’s big dreams and go-getter attitude? Why isn't she a successful New York Times writer? I don't know. But we have seen her insecurity before, with quitting Yale and questioning herself, and we’ve seen her make bad choices, like her night with Dean.

So maybe it isn’t that it’s out of character, and more that it’s simply not up to MY expectations of Rory’s behavior, the Rory I believe she is in my head. Either way, it’s impeccably done, very nostalgic, and seems to make sense with Rory’s story and her place in life.

Lorelei Gilmore:
To me, Lorelei is exactly where she should be. Still with Luke, still having a great relationship with her kid, and running the Dragonfly Inn. She questions, she has her own crisis of conscious, and she is attempting to deal with the loss of her father.

In terms of her character, Lorelei seems to be the most true to the original story, with her quick wit, pop culture references, self-deprecating love of coffee and junk food, and her love of life. Her relationship with Luke is strong, and her Wild (the book) adventure somehow still seems in keeping with her character.

And we finally got our Luke & Lorelei happy ending. Which I cannot express enough how much I loved. I think Luke is the early version of Ron Swanson, and I loved his portrayal in this revival. Very true to who he has always been, and watching the way he interacted with Emily made me laugh and felt real.

Lorelei is still snarky, still attempting to navigate a better relationship with her mom, and still worries more about the people around her than herself. She seems to feel things deeply and love her small town, and I can't imagine a Stars Hollow without Lorelei Gilmore.

Emily Gilmore:
Of all of the characters and stories told in this revival, I loved Emily the most. In the original series, she came off as harsh, cold, overly caring of other people’s opinions and expectations (sometimes to her detriment), with only flashes of warmth and emotion for her daughter and granddaughter.

Kelly Bishop’s Emily Gilmore in the revival was at once nostalgic and heartbreaking. Her husband dying has changed the way she looks at the world, and it so clearly changed her relationship with Lorelei and Rory, and even her maid. She is vulnerable, caring, scared, and still somewhat snooty. Her reaction to realizing she is wearing jeans made me laugh, immediately after how she tries to get rid of everything in her house in a wave of change made me tear up.

Emily’s story and her changes are so real and believable. She manipulates Lorelei into going to therapy with her, then refuses to utter a word in front of the therapist - what might she think of them? Then she sits in a DAR meeting, bored out of her mind, suddenly over it all, and jumps in with a rambling rant against the DAR and their ridiculous expectations and protocols, and against the poor hapless trophy wife trying to get into the group. It feels very Mean Girls-esque and you want to cringe and laugh at the same time.  

The most entertaining arc in this revival is Emily’s maid Berta and her entire family moving into Emily’s house and taking over her life, while not being able to communicate with each other. Berta clearly cares about Emily, and Emily grows to care for Berta and her family as well. Much better than the revolving door of those poor maids in the original!

While some might say Emily changed too much from her original character, I think the way it was done was a beautiful progression from being “Richard’s wife” to her own person.

For me, I loved this revival. I don’t need to agree with every decision they make, and I can't rail too much against what may or may not be out of character. I enjoyed watching it, I laughed, cried, cringed, and cheered. I felt incredibly nostalgic and smiled, remembering how my mom and I watched it together every week, loving the Rory-Lorelei relationship.

Is it perfect? No. As much as I love Sutton Foster, that super long scene with the whole darn musical was beating a dead horse, so cringey, and way too long. Paris Gellar seems even more stiff and unyielding than ever, and I would have thought marriage and motherhood would have relaxed her some, and I hate that she and Doyle aren’t together. The Dean run-in felt forced and unnecessary. The Chilton story was weird. Why was she suddenly doing a career day there? Why bother setting up and offering her a position that Rory didn’t even consider? It seemed off base for the story. Laine Kim didn't get to realize her rockstar dreams, and after all her thoughts of adventure and getting away from her mom, she is working in her mom's store for some reason? That didn't make sense to me.

And why isn’t it Jess and Rory? I was never on Team Jess back in the day, but I did love his support and how he is in the new iteration. And I can’t get enough of him on This Is Us, which I’m also currently watching, so that might be shading my view.

This was a fun look into the possible future of Lorelei and Rory, and I think it stayed pretty true to these characters, in a way that moved the story forward and updated it. I would watch more in a heartbeat. I also love that the entire case felt so good about what they did in the original and their characters and castmates, that they came back to do this. It just wouldn’t have been the same without Michel and Gypsy and Doose!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Oodles of zoodles this week! (keto)

I know, I've been posting a lot of food. I can't help it! I don't typically like to preach about diets or lifestyle changes, or whatever. In fact, I've always been a staunch proponent of not dieting, just enjoying things in moderation. I have generally maintained my weight, so I was fine with that.

I'm also a gymgoer. I enjoy going to the gym and typically go about 4 times per week. Usually a bit of weights or resistance and about 2.5 miles on the elliptical. I'm dedicated about going, too! Once, after happy hour with friends, I had my backpack with me and went to the gym on my way home almost without even realizing it, and suddenly found myself drunkenly jogging on an elliptical machine. Hey, at least I go!

But I had some life changes lately. The biggest thing is that I quit smoking cigarettes. After being a smoker almost exactly half my life, I finally quit. And while it felt really good, I immediately and without noticing it, started eating everything in my reach. I munched on snacks at home, I grazed and snacked all day long at work, and I barely noticed myself doing it!

I immediately put on about 10 pounds. I was not happy with this situation. And I definitely could stand to lose more than 10, but I hadn't been focusing on that. With the weight gain and the quitting smoking, something needed to change. I did research, and I found keto. Keto is a low carb-high fat diet, with also a decently high goal of daily protein. It cuts out all pasta and bread, as well as grains and starches. Your diet consists mostly of meat, vegetables, dairy, and eggs. It sounds restrictive, but honestly, it doesn't feel that way most of the time.

Fairly quickly after starting, I had more energy and felt really good. I started losing weight immediately. It's been about a month now and I'm down 13 pounds! I feel great on it, and the weight loss just keeps me motivated to stay on it. And I don't crave the bread and pasta like I thought I would!

On to the food! That's why you're here, I know it.

I did a shrimp scampi recently with Brussels sprouts, and it was really great. The discovery that I like sprouts has opened up my culinary world. Every since I went on the keto diet, I've been trying all sorts of vegetables that I didn't like as kid. I was a pretty picky eater, and with a diet that has cut out carbs - including starches and grains - I really needed to make sure I have options!

Zucchini was one of those vegetables. I have always hated zucchini and yellow squash. I only realized I liked butternut squash a year or so ago, and I tried it after I found out I like sweet potatoes, since the color and texture seemed similar.

About 2 weeks ago, I went ahead and sliced a zucchini thin and sauteed it, and then I ate it. It was ok. I didn't love it, and I didn't hate it. My husband was excited, as I am the one whoo cooks and since I hated it, we just didn't eat that particular veggie.

But guess what, guys?? I BOUGHT A SPIRALIZER!
And then I immediately bought a carrot and three zucchinis. I figured the carrot would work well with zucchini, get a little sweetness.
I spiralized them ALL! Just standing in my kitchen spiralizing the heck out of everything! Also my thumb. I got a little too close and nicked myself, of course.
It turned out a lot more noodles than I expected! But hey, it looked like noodles and was the right size. I made some shrimp in just butter, with salt and pepper, some garlic. Super simple.
After I took the cooked shrimp out, it was in with the zoodles! They got tossed with the butter and garlic leftovers, and then onto a plate. I'd heard prosciutto or bacon would be great with these flavors, so I did throw some on, but the dish was so simple and delicious, it really didn't need the prosciutto at all! I do love prosciutto though, so it's not like it was wasted.

End result was great! The texture of the zoodle was smooth and really good, and it soaked up a lot of the butter and the shrimpy flavors. The carrot was a nice addition, and I'm really excited to have yet another new veggie I enjoy. Still a hard no on mushrooms, though. Hard nope.

Since I discovered my love of zoodles, I decided to change up my meal prep.

On Sunday afternoons, I cook for a couple hours and make breakfasts and lunches for the whole week. The breakfasts are for both my husband and I, and the lunches just for me, as he doesn't like taking lunch to work. For the last 3 weeks or so, I have made the same chicken and broccoli casserole for lunch, and taken that with roasted Brussels sprouts and cauliflower. The casserole is great, and I've made some adaptations, like adding kale and ricotta cheese and using thighs, but I was getting a bit bored of it.

This week, I went with zoodles!! I made two different zoodle recipes, a Lo Mein version which is really only sesame oil, soy sauce, and some spices, and a zoodles in peanut sauce from this recipe!
I followed the recipe and only substituted peanut butter for the almond butter. My husband and I love peanut sauce from Chinese food places, and this was really, really good. He even asked for leftovers to be packed up for a lunch!
Lo mein style zoodles
Peanut sauce smothered zoodles
Lo mein and peanut sauce zoodles with chicken for lunch! How awesome is that! And of course I had enough for us to eat them for dinner tonight, too! The lo mein is ok. It's good but it feels like it's missing something, but I'm not sure what. However, the peanut sauce is fantastic! Just 4 thumbs up from the Schwartzes over here. The sauce is mostly peanut butter, soy sauce, and hoisin sauce, which is a bit carby, but the one serving of it was enough in the one batch of sauce to cover 4 meals' worth of the peanut sauce zoodles, with some left over for munching as I was making and tasting.

The sauce is super thick and then you pour it on the hot zoodles and it's just perfect. The only thing I changed about the recipe was to cook the zoodles in a bit of coconut oil instead of olive oil. It's not a nutty flavor, really, but one that goes well with Asian style peanut sauce.

Go forth and zoodle! I told 2 of my girl friends about how I was getting a spiralizer and BOTH of them have bought one, too. I cannot tell you how many random texts I have gotten with pictures of spiral vegetables.

Besides feeling good and having more energy, the biggest and best thing that being on keto has done for me is re-inspired my love of cooking. I have always enjoyed cooking, but I had to be in the mood for it, and we ordered takeout most nights. About once a week, I would make a healthy dinner, and husband and I would eat it and have usually one more night for leftovers. They were always good, I'm a decent cook with a great imagination and a penchant for experimentation!

Since being on keto, we have ordered takeout MAYBE once a week. I have rediscovered my love of cooking and experimenting, and it has continued my journey of trying new foods. Husband has been loving the homecooked meals and has also lost some weight, as he is low carb by association when we're at home.


Thursday, November 3, 2016

Writer for Hire

I have been a writer since before I knew what that meant.

I made up my own lyrics and songs as a child, I wrote stories about my imaginary friends, I kept a journal starting when I was about 4. I actually still have all those journals. There is a shelf in my house dedicated to the 12 or so journals I've kept since childhood. While I don't update daily like a diary, I always jot down lyrics, poems, a good turn of phrase, and I update the journal on major changes or achievements in my life.

Writing is both a creative outlet and a necessity to me.

I have lists of tasks, things to do, groceries to buy, reminders, etc. I understand things best and will remember it if I wrote it down. When I was in high school and college, I had very poor study habits because I would take very diligent handwritten notes in class. Once I write it down, I pretty much just remember it, so I didn't need to learn the best ways to study. When I did eventually learn good study habits, I was able to learn even more effectively!

I write down dates, and I remember people's birthdays, doctor appointments, and the number of every credit card I've ever owned. I know everyone's phone numbers and never use my contact list to call immediate family members and close friends.

I write for fun, making up silly stories and songs for my nieces and nephews, or writing out a silly comic to make my husband laugh.

I write for myself, like with this blog. This ridiculous, random, variety-filled blog that makes me happy. Everything from rants, fun facts, political essays, comics, to recipes, how to articles, advice, and more.

I write for real. I contribute articles to Huffington Post, Lifehack, Artnoize, and more. I write professional articles and put them on LinkedIn, to grow my network and build a community. I write for exposure, and because I want to entertain, educate, and make people read.

I write.

That's it. I am a writer. I am a weirdo, a cat lover, an optimist, a sister, daughter, wife, and a writer.

I have finally taken the leap of seeing if people want to pay for my words. Awesomely enough, it turns out some do. I am now a paid writer of all different kinds of things. Website content, ad copy, blog posts, press releases, email templates, sales scripts, essays, and more.

It is probably the most exciting and terrifying thing I have ever done in my whole life. I am learning on the fly about invoicing and pricing (lots of research on this one!), 1099s, what to do about taxes, how to incorporate, and more. It is extremely stressful and scary, but at the same time is also satisfying in a way I was genuinely hoping it would be. Pieces of me shall adorn all sorts of businesses!

Day job is awesome, side job is awesome, and I am busy all the time!