Friday, November 18, 2016

Around The World In 52 Eats: India



Welcome to Week One of Around the World in 52 Eats! We're so excited about this journey and we can't wait to share our experiences with all of you. 

Our inaugural meal took place right after Caitlin returned from visiting the UK at the end of August. There's a lot of Indian influence in the food there and she was riding that Indian street food high, which is how we came up with this whole idea in the first place. I chose Butter Chicken as my dish and she chose Matar Paneer as hers. We brewed some Chai tea to drink with it and I recommend putting this on in the background as you cook and eat to get the full cultural experience!



The first week we were still figuring out how we wanted to approach the meals, and I chose not to make the sauce from scratch. I wasn't as confident in my skills at that point.

10 weeks in and I don't typically follow a recipe anymore. I like to put my own spin on things and experiment. It's my favourite part about cooking; never the same meal twice! It took a couple of weeks for me to really find that sense of confidence in my abilities and I'm getting better and better with every meal. I love learning which spices compliment each other best, substitutes for certain ingredients. and developing the ability to eyeball it instead of measuring everything out. It makes it interesting for me and I never dreamed I'd love cooking as much as I do. 

Caitlin found her Matar Paneer recipe here and it was absolutely mouthwatering.  You can find the recipe for the butter chicken below. 






Indian Butter Chicken

Recipe by Melissa Suggitt

This recipe doesn't follow the one on the jar completely. I added my own twist on it.

Prep time: 5
Cook time: 15-20
Total time: 20-25
Yield: 4-6 Servings

Ingredients
  • 1 jar Pataks Butter Chicken Sauce
  • 2 medium size, cubed Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast
  • 1 medium, chopped Onion (yellow)
  • 1 clove, finely chopped Garlic
  • 3 tablespoons Olive Oil
  • To taste Salt
  • 1 cup Rice
  • 2 pieces Naan Bread

Instructions

1. Pour the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat and brown the chicken for approx. 3 minutes. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. 

2. Add the onion and garlic to the pan and sautée for 2-3 minutes. You can use 1 tbs of minced garlic if you'd prefer.

3. Pour the jar of butter chicken sauce into the pan and let simmer on low heat for 10 - 15 minutes.

4. While the chicken is cooking, place the naan bread on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Place in the oven for about 2-3 minutes.

5. Add salt to taste. We personally leave it out.

6. Serve over rice. (We have a small 4-cup rice cooker and it is magic.)



I didn't follow the instructions on the jar of sauce completely. I looked up other butter chicken recipes and pulled from those to get the final product. The addition of the garlic and onions added some extra layers that brought the dish to a whole new level.

Also, if you are like me and don't own a garlic press, chopping the garlic by hand is a pain in the ass. There's just something extra about using fresh garlic as opposed to minced garlic in a jar. It took me weeks to realize we owned a mini food processor and I'd been wasting so much time... live and learn!

Let me know in the comments if you decide to give either of these a try. 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Hello?

Are you there blog? It's me, Melissa.

I haven't forgotten about you, I just had nothing to say. Or rather, I didn't have the motivation or desire to say anything...

This year was a challenge, obviously, and I was struggling for a very long time. I lost the will to do a lot of things, writing being at the top of that list.

I couldn't have imagined something so simple, so small, could help me find a purpose. Who knew all it would take would be cooking?  It ignited a passion in me that I didn't even know existed, probably because I've avoided doing it for the majority of my adult life.

It's not that I couldn't cook, it's that I chose not to. Every once in awhile I would hit the kitchen in a flurry and whip up something amazing. However, more often than not, I would eat cereal for dinner or make a grilled cheese and call it a night. My roommate, Caitlin and I, have lived together for over a year and a half. Never eating the same meals, never eating our meals together, and never really sharing groceries.

One night a few months ago, we made plans to have dinner together to change that. The deal was we would each make a dish to share; it was really just an excuse to hang out. The idea snowballed when we began to discuss a theme for the evening (we love a good theme), and we decided on "World Cuisine Night". Caitlin had just returned from the UK where a lot of the menus had Indian influences so we decided we would make Indian cuisine. Cooking the meal turned into a complete cultural experience when we decided to listen to classic Indian music as we cooked and ate. We had so much fun with it, that we started talking about making it a weekly ritual.



And so Around The World in 52 Eats was born. 52 weeks where we would venture outside of our comfort zone. Each week we would swap who made the entree, we would challenge ourselves to make dishes we'd never tried before, and we would try to be as authentic as possible.

We spent that first evening on the couch writing out 51 countries as they popped into our heads on small pieces of paper, or in some cases splitting countries into regions. We put them in an empty box, and now, at the end of every 52 Eats meal, we pick out the next country.

Our family and friends eagerly await our posts and we've had more than one request to document our culinary escapades (looking at you Christopher). So here we are. I can't wait to share this experience with all of you! The first post will be out later this week.

Also, we started a Pinterest board where we save the recipes that inspired us (I don't typically follow recipes), or in Caitlin's case, the ones that she followed closely. Follow along!




In the end, it's more than just cooking for me now. It goes beyond hanging out with my roommate. It's teaching me to try new things, to be brave, and to have confidence in myself. It's the one thing that makes sense to me right now, and I've been holding onto it as tightly as I can. Baby steps, I guess.

So embark on this journey with us and know that our door is always open if you want to join us for dinner. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Life After Death

*Originally posted on The 8.5x11 Project*

When I sat down to write this, I had a different idea in my mind of how this would go. I had every intention of writing something light, and funny, and maybe a little bit strange. As I began to let the words flow, I realized this was something much deeper, much more cathartic; I clearly needed to get this out.
* * *
I never put much stock into the after life. At 25, why would I ever have to face mortality? I don't believe in a higher power, or "God", or that "Jesus" saves. I hold the belief that when you die, that's it. You go back into the ground and help some grass grow. This was the circle of life to me.
When my dad got sick, I found little comfort in anything. Ienvied those who had their faith. I had nothing to fall back on, nothing to make sense of the "why"?
"Why us? Why him? Why Cancer? Why now?"
I found myself screaming at "God": "If you exist let him live! He doesn't deserve this! What kind of God takes away the good people?" Clearly, this did nothing. I didn't feel better screaming at an invisible man in the clouds. I didn't feel better sitting in the chapel in the hospital - waiting for my dad to take his last breath, trying desperately to remember how to pray. After 10 minutes of quiet frustration I stormed out, slamming the chapel door, feeling stupid for trying to force myself to believe in something I felt to my very core didn't exist.
I had to go back to my basic beliefs. I had to try and craft some semblance of comfort from what I know to be true. As I sat by his bedside holding his hand, I felt the warmth transferring from his body to mine, and that's when I had a small revelation of sorts. I was brought back to high school science class where I remember hearing this: "Energy doesn't die, it transfers."
(I'm paraphrasing here, Newtonian physics says that it 'can neither be created nor be destroyed; however it can change from one form to another. But I'm not here to give you a science lesson so let's get back to my story.)
The things that made my dad a human being - subatomic particles, energy, magnetic impulses - they had to go somewhere. The energy had to change, go into the air, the ground, into me, my sister, whatever. And just like that I began to feel like my dad's death was not the end of my world.
Look, my science might not be completely accurate. I don't pretend to understand physics to their fullest extent; I'm not Sheldon Cooper. But this is what finally gave me comfort. Let me have this.
Is it strange to say that when my dad took his last breath, I felt a part of him move into me? Probably. But I don't care about strange. I embrace it. Was my brain playing tricks on me? Perhaps, but let me have this.
Life after his death has not been easy. It's the hardest thing I've ever experienced. There is little comfort to be had when a parent, particularly one that you relied on so heavily, passes. I found myself drawn to anything that would bring me closer to him, to his energy. That's how I found myself at a tarot card reader.
Melissa Quote Block
It was not intentional. I did not seek out a psychic in some desperate plan to get information. I was at The Forks with friends and spur of the moment decided to go in. It was supposed to be silly and fun. I'd had my cards read years ago and found a lot of what was said came true. So I figured why not and convinced my cousin to go with me.
Side note: It should be clearly stated that I am, in fact, into this "garbage". I don't necessarily believe in spirits, ghosts, crystal balls and magic. I believe in patchouli incense, and being attuned to nature and your body, and crystals, and herbs, and karma, and everything happening for a reason. I'm a bit of a hippie whack-job. I get it. 
When I walked into the reader's tent that day, I had no intention of seeking out spiritual guidance or "making contact" with the other side. I just wanted to know if he could get anything about my life right. I wanted to know if I should write that book (I should), if I would fall in love this year (I will?), and if my career was the right choice (it is).
But the moment I stepped foot inside that tent, everything changed. I'm a firm believer that the majority of tarot card readers are full of bullshit. This is not something I've ever done because I thought they would tell me my life. It was fun. It was a cool experience. And if anything, it gave me and my friends something to laugh about.
But not that day. Not this time. The moment I walked in, I knew something would be different. When I sat down at the table he studied me quietly for a minute before stating, "something tragic has happened in your family." I gave no response. I never give visual clues to the reader so they can't latch on to a reaction and run with it. I stared back blankly as he continued. The conversation went as follows:
Him: "I don't normally do this... this is typically an extra charge. But... something... something is urgent here and I feel needs to be said. Both parties need this."
Me: "Okay..."
Him: "Someone wants you to know they are okay. He keeps repeating 'I'm okay, I'm okay, tell her I'm okay'."
Me: *internally screaming* "Excuse me?"
Him: "He wants you to know he is no longer suffering, he's at peace, and he's okay. He says he's not sad but he's not happy but that's okay. He wants you to know that he's here, he has been the whole time, and you can reach out to him when you need. Look for him in your dreams. he says he's going to visit in dreams. He's a goofy guy, was recently sick. Did your dad pass away?"
Me: "Are you fucking kidding me?"
I then proceeded to burst into tears and apologize for my language. I was absolutely dumbfounded. Could this have all been fake? Maybe. Did I care? Not one bit. I needed this. I needed this so bad. The moment I heard the words "I'm okay" I swear a weight was lifted off of my heart. the rest of the reading went fairly normal, aside from him knowing my dog's name was related to the moon (her name is Luna) and that he kept repeating "he wants you to know he is okay".
From that day on, I didn't deny myself the right to talk to him out loud. I didn't deny myself the right to believe that his energy was around me. From that day on, my dad's death became a little more bearable. Will it ever be easy? Never. His death has changed me in ways I will never fully understand. But every day I let him know I'm leading a life I hope he will be proud of. I tell him I love him every morning when I wake up and every night before I go to sleep. I wear him around my neck in a necklace full of his ashes.
And in case you were wondering, he visited my mom in her dreams a couple of days later; before I had told her about my experience. And that dream was him hugging her and saying "Cathy, I'm okay."
Coincidence? I'd like to think not.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Goodbye

On a still, snowy day in February, I lost the only man I've ever truly loved. I lost my mentor. My role model. My rock. My anchor. 

My dad. 

His battle with cancer was short-lived but hard-fought. The entire time he was sick, his main concern was us. That we didn't stop living our lives. That we didn't make cancer the major part of ours. That we didn't let it ruin our lives, since it was already ruining his. The night he went into the hospital for the last time, he practically shoved my mom and I out the door.

"Go out. Enjoy yourselves. HAVE FUN. And don't text me. I'll be fine." My sister stayed with him that evening and kept everything quiet. Because my dad would have killed her if she texted us when he fell the first time. And the second. He was fighting a losing battle, and he knew, but he only cared about us

When we got home, we didn't know just how bad it was. We didn't know that within 24 hours, we would lose the most important man in our lives. He didn't pass 24 hours later, not physically. But he went away that Saturday and never returned. We never got our daddy back. 

On Wednesday, February 3rd, he took his last breath. We stood around him and held his hand. I watched the strongest man I ever knew struggle to take one last breath, slowly, as if saying "thank you and goodbye". 

It's hard to explain the crushing emptiness I felt in the days that followed. Every single morning that week I woke up and had to remember that he was gone. Every single morning I still wake up and am hit by a wave of grief as I realize he's not there.

It's hard not to focus on all the things he will never do. He will never walk me down the aisle. He will never be a grandfather to my children. He won't be at any more birthdays, or Christmas, or big celebrations. I can never call him to help me with a flat tire, or put together my Ikea furniture, or go for a walk with my dog. There will be no more Sunday dinners, no more family trips, no more bear hugs. 

These past few weeks have been surreal. I know it hasn't fully set in yet, and I know the day it does is going to kill me. But every day gets a little bit easier. Every day, I get a little bit stronger. Every day, I move forward just a tiny bit. My dad would haunt the shit out of me if I didn't. I can hear him telling me to move on even now.

Nothing prepares you for your father's death. But I take solace in knowing I got to say goodbye. Not every one gets that lucky. 

There will forever be a hole in my heart; I will never be able to fill it and I don't want to try. 

My dad has not passed, because he will never really be gone. Half of him lives in my sister, half of him in me. He's in every cup of black coffee I drink, every snorting laugh I make, every recipe he wrote down, every song he sang. He's the curl in my sister's hair, the bright blue of our eyes, the kindness in our hearts. As long as we keep him alive in our hearts and our thoughts, he will never leave us. 

Monday, January 25, 2016

Music Monday: #GIRLBOSS

Do you ever need a playlist to pump you up to get shit done ladies? Well look no further. I've been collecting some of my favorite Girl Boss anthems over the weekend and this playlist has boosted my productivity all morning.

Nothing like Queen Bey encouraging you to slay all damn day.




I will be adding to this as the day goes on I'm sure. If you have any song suggestions shoot them my way!

And remember:


Friday, January 15, 2016

Fitspiration



I've talked about my body issues on the blog before and my desire to fix them. I've claimed many a time since packing on the poundage after my diagnosis (and subsequent medication, which caused the weight gain) that I'm going to lose the weight. I'm going to get fit (and have fun! Body Break. Anyone? Bueller?).

How many times have I said this? At the very least 10. How many times have I given up/failed/not even started? At the very least 10.

So what's so different this time? January begs the question: "Is this going to be another failed New Year's resolution?" No. My answer is a hard and firm no. Because this time, I have more of a reason than "I don't want to be fat". This isn't a weight loss. This is a lifestyle change. I'm saying goodbye to the scale. I'm saying goodbye to tracking the pounds. I'm saying goodbye to setting myself up for failure. I'm saying goodbye to an unhealthy lifestyle.

Really, what's different? I have real reasons. Ones that don't revolve around "so I can be thin" or "he won't love me if I'm fat."

1) My dad. After my dad was diagnosed with cancer, it really struck me hard. I quit smoking, I started going for daily walks, I quit eating fast food 4 times a week. Because the biggest thing I took from that is I want to be healthy for him. Because he doesn't need to worry about my health while going through such a shaky period with his. And because I want to reduce my risk for having to go through the same thing. I want to be better for him.

2) Working for a sports organization. I work in a sport building. There's nothing quite like being surrounded by fit and happy people every day. See what I emphasized there? Happy. It's amazing how happy the majority of people in this building are, and I KNOW endorphins have something to do with that. If that's not inspiring I don't know what is.

3) Realistic expectations. At almost 26, I'm finally over comparing my body to everyone else's. Everyone has different genes, different metabolism, different bodies. No two women are the same. I will never not have curves, I will never fit a size 2. AND THAT'S OKAY! I'm more worried about feeling good than looking good. This is about me, not everyone else or their expectations. I want to be fitter so I can be happy, healthy, and around for a long time.

4) Support system. I have people on this journey with me. I'm not going it alone. I have friends who have my back, who go to the gym with me, who support me and remind me that no matter what, I'm beautiful. Also, it's a lot harder to bail on the gym when you have two people harassing you not to quit. I'm also very lucky that my coworkers are also mega supportive. (Again, sports organization, all about being healthy and happy.) Two amazing women I work with are also all about that #fitgirllife. It's great to come in and talk about our struggles, our successes, and our progress. Also knowing I'm not the only person whose muscles are screaming bloody murder at them in the office is nice.

5) I'm doing it for me. There are zero outside influences for once. No shitty boyfriend telling me I'm fat. I'm not doing this for validation from a man. I'm doing this for validation from myself. I'm ready to love myself fully. While I've come along way on my self-love path, and think I'm awesome inside, I want to feel awesome on the outside. I want to feel comfortable in my clothes. I want to feel comfortable in my own skin. It's only been a week since I really began this journey, and I already feel better. It's amazing what proper nutrition, a little exercise, and a good night's sleep can do for your mentality.

So if any of you reading this are on a similar journey, or need a little reminder of how great you are, hit me up. I will support you if you need, I will remind you that you are beautiful, and if I can do this, so can you!

Monday, January 11, 2016

What Would I Tell 16 Year Old Me?




Dear 16-year-old Melissa, 

It's hard to believe that 16 was ten years ago. Ten years since you sat in your room listening to Snow Patrol on repeat for the 100th time. Since you spent hours searching for the perfect lyrics for your MSN status. Since sleepovers with your friends where you fantasized about life at 26. Fantasized about being an adult; romanticized it. "Where do you think we'll be in 10 years?" The conversation that never grew old, because the whole world lay before you. But you were so naive. 

Let me tell you about life ten years later. Let me give you a glimpse of life at (almost) 26. 

You will not be married; not even a little bit close. That college boyfriend you dreamed of? It didn't work out. You didn't graduate high school and go to journalism school. You didn't travel the world telling stories. You didn't find the man of your dreams at 21 and marry him. That big house you thought you'd have? It's an apartment with a roommate. Those 2 kids you wanted before 25? They don't exist. That dog you always dreamed of? Well you have her, so that's one point for you. The bank account you thought would be full of money? Laughable.

But let me tell you about that apartment and that roommate. It's the most fun and frustrating thing in the world, learning to live with someone else. And your roommate doesn't judge you when she sees you in your underwear, eating corn dogs and binging Netflix at 1 a.m., crying over old romantic comedies. Could you do that in front of your husband? Maybe, but he sure as hell wouldn't join in. 

Those two kids you thought you'd have? You didn't have them, but one of your best friends did, and they are the light of your life. Plus you get to do all the cool, fun aunt things with them and give them back when they cry or poop. 

That dog you always wanted? Well you didn't wait for the white picket fence and the husband to find her. You chose to go it alone and it's the best decision you've ever made. Because rescuing and caring for a dog on your own is one of the hardest and most satisfying things you could do. 

The money you thought you'd have? It doesn't exist because you chose a different life path. One that involved a lot less money and a lot more helping people. You're richer in so many other ways. 

That accountant/finance guy you pictured as your husband? You met him. You met two of him actually, and they were pretty big assholes. The idea of the perfect man you had in your head doesn't exist. He never could. You've learned to find imperfections beautiful and it's made you much better, much less likely to settle.  

But life at 26 is not lonely. Single is not bad. You have the most amazing group of humans around you. Your parents become your world, so maybe you should have laid off the attitude at 16; they really didn't deserve that. You don't have 100 friends. But the few that you do have, are the purest, kindest, most wonderful people you could have in your life. You may not have met "the one" just yet, but you certainly found your soulmates. 

Life at 26 isn't anywhere near what you imagined - it's better. You've fallen and picked yourself back up. You had your heart broken (a lot) and survived. Your family was shaken to its very core and you learned just what strength is. You're a better human for not having things work out the way you planned. And what's the fun in planning your life anyway?

These are the moments you'll never forget. You're making the most of your twenties in a way you never thought you would. You've come a long way on your journey to love yourself, and none of it had to do with the value placed on you by a man.

So go back to braiding your hair, go back to your sleepovers, and go back to fantasizing, but just know that life is about to throw you for a loop over the next 10 years, and it's the best damn thing you never asked for. 

Love, 


25-year-old Melissa