Goodbye Life of a Spinster Aunt

I never imagined my wedding as a little girl.

My sister and I had bunkbeds as kids and it wasn’t rare that I’d fall asleep listening to her describe in painstaking detail every minute aspect of her shockingly purple wedding-to-be.

But that’s just it, I fell asleep. I wasn’t into wedding planning as an eight year old, even then I think they may have been some doubt because I don’t think I ever really thought I would get married. I just kind of assumed I’d grow too old and become a cat lady with no cats (cause I’m allergic) and just be a spinster aunt. I wasn’t even really disturbed by this reality, it just seemed like it was bound to be reality, it seemed natural.

I never really got particularly lonely as a child, I liked to read and play alone, and I was a little odd. We all know looking back we were a little odd but some people grow out of that. I don’t think I ever did, in fact I think I grew into it. I just kind of assumed that no one would want to put up with my weird and drama and pickiness and silly and I was okay with that, I didn’t think anyone had to. I’m a rather logical person; it seemed a rather logical conclusion.

And yet here I am, wedding planning. I’m still a little shocked sometimes that Ryan loves me, goodness, even likes me! I don’t even like me very much of the time! But then I wake up to a text, “Good morning beautiful” and I go to sleep to “I love you” and it’s this happy little surprise every time because somewhere inside I feel I can never expect it. I never expect to be loved and am often surprised to find that I’m liked. I am still not very good at being in touch with my emotions but I’m trying and the fact that someone could be so in touch with theirs as to consciously choose to spend some liking me, am I really worth it?

And please don’t think I say this so people can assure me that I am (in fact assurance has yet to have much affect and I’m 23) I simply say it because what I never expected, and assumed would never happen, has, and I picked out “The” white dress today and we’re picking venues and choosing colours and building up our wedding party squad and sometimes it’s like I’m in someone else’s dream because how could it possibly actually be mine? Where are the cats? Where is the spinster life? What is this love and acceptance and friendship and future?

It’s mine.

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Failure, the Monster of Fear

I want to design things.

I keep seeing videos or projects or posters or fonts that make me want to make stuff. I listen to songs that make me want to make things and everything is just beautiful and so well done and I want to be able to do that too, but I can’t.

I hate the learning process. Let me unpack that a bit… I like learning new things, but I like to learn them and be able to be good at them right away. Maybe I like to discover things. Discovering things usually means they’re ready to go, like discovering a talent for something! Learning things means having to not be very good at them at first. It means being able to see something I want to be able to make so perfectly in my minds eye, and not being able to recreate it.

Learning is frustrating, it’s hard, it’s discouraging, it’s frightening. What if what I desire to create is something I will never achieve? What if no matter how hard I work and study and learn, I’ll never develop the ability to truly do to the extent I desire?

This week I feel like I’ve seen so many things that spark that desire to create, but I haven’t created a thing because I’m scared to try and sure I’ll fail. People tell me otherwise and they say I’ll be great, or they say, that’s part of learning! but that doesn’t actually lessen the sting of failure. I’ve built up failure as a monster of a fear in my mind’s eye, I might only be looking at the shadow, failure could be a mouse in front of a candle’s flame, but that shadow on the wall is big and scary and I’m not sure I can face it just yet. I begin to wonder if I’ll ever be ready to face it.

 

These are some things that I loved the look and sound and feel of lately:

Tessa’s music video for her song “Dream”

Dodie’s song “Sick of Losing Soulmates” (heads up, contains swear words)

Episode 1 of Emily’s webseries “Cold” (everything Emily touches is so beautifully made, her Letters to July series are amazing)

 

I turn 23 at the end of this week. It sounds too grown up.

-B

A Beginner is Cooking: E is for Easy

Yesterday was not my favourite work day so today when I woke up I decided I needed comfort food. Typically that means soup and sandwiches, or perogies, one of my easy fix meals, but today I had to adapt it to involve cooking. I found a recipe for Chicken Caesar Pasta salad and chicken caesar salad is basically one of my favourite foods so adding in pasta just seemed destined to make it better!

Now I realize there’s minimal cooking involve in this recipe, I cook up some pasta which I then don’t even have to try to keep warm while I time the rest of the recipe, cook the chicken, which again doesn’t have to be cooked in time with the rest of the food as it too can cool, and make a salad. Now I may be speaking too soon but this seems like it should be a cake walk.

(This leads me to wonder where the phrase “cake walk” comes from? A google search has informed me that, “the American English term “cakewalk” was used as early as 1863 to indicate something that is very easy or effortless, although this metaphor may refer to the carnival game of the same name in referring to the fact that the latter’s winners obtain their prize by doing no more than walking around in a circle.” x)

This time when making a recipe involving parmesan cheese I checked to make sure we had it first, which we did, phew! In fact we had all the ingredients except baby tomatoes and I don’t even like tomatoes (I’m a picky eater about strange things, okay) so it worked out perfectly!

Once more I bravely strayed from the recipe (this is becoming a habit, my goodness!) I remembered that one of the commenters on the original recipe of last weeks Lemon Herb Chicken said that they liked to use leftovers on salad, a good idea! So I threw in some lemon juice while cooking the chicken like the recipe called for last time. Caesar salad is often served with a lemon slice on the side, it must be a thing!

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They say pride cometh before a fall (“they” originally being the Bible) and due to the clear simplicity of this recipe, I was bound to make a mistake. I didn’t read the recipe carefully enough and began sautéing the chicken, like was needed last week. Now I’m sure in the long run this wouldn’t have been a big deal, cooked is cooked, doesn’t really matter how, but the recipe said to grill and grilled chicken is definitely better looking on a salad! So I saved the chicken from the pan and threw together a grilling set up for it in the oven. This, however, meant I hadn’t preheated the oven, so it was a good thing that timing is all higgledy-piggledy for this recipe!

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In the meantime, I couldn’t screw up cutting lettuce and getting salad stuff ready so I did that, yo, at last, a task I can handle!

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The chicken survived, I discovered that I don’t know how to make grill/char lines using an oven and was too hungry to bother figuring it out, and made mah salad. Comfort food to the max. I love this salad. This, this is a good salad.

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A Beginner is Cooking: D is for Definitely mostly Defrosted…

Today I decided to be bold. I am not making a one serve meal, there will be leftovers (intentional ones that is, as opposed to last time when I just got too full!). There could be waste. THERE IS MORE PRESSURE! No one but me has to eat these leftovers though so at least theres that. I don’t have to disappoint people!

No cooking happened last week, apologies, situation at work, had to pick up a shift on my day off, ran out of time etc, we move on!

There was meat in the house today, a good start! And I planned ahead enough to defrost said meat, so far things are going very well! I even found a recipe with the word simple in the name which bodes quite well for me overall. Today the mission is Simple Lemon Herb Chicken with couscous and some kind of frozen vegetable that I will choose at a later time… There! I’m incorporating vegetables even if I’m not reaaaaaaaally cooking them!

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So cooking! Mostly this involved putting herbs and lemon juice on the chicken (based on a similar, yet different recipe, I also put minced garlic in the pan with the oil at the beginning and added in rosemary along with the oregano. I am adding things in that are not on the recipe?! Whaaaaat? Getting bold…)

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At this point the amount of sizzling happening was starting to freak me out a little. I mean I know that means its actually cooking but in my mind it sets off sirens screaming BURNING! SPLATTERING OIL! NEAR EXPLOSIONS! etc, so it’s really a thrilling process allowing myself to nibble nervously on my nails and not interfere long enough for things to actually cook through! I flipped the chicken and we hit the time when ideally they should have been cooked through…

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Some of you seasoned chefs (bumdumtss) may have noticed I used the words “ideally” and “should have been” there… That’s right. I do thankfully know enough to cut the chicken through at its thickest point to see if its cooked through before serving up so when I did that this time round I was a little bummed to find that they were noooooooooooot cooked through. Thus I was faced with a conundrum. I didn’t know how long they’d take to cook through or if the outside would burn if I just continued to cook them as they were, so I took the other idea that presented itself and cut ’em in half (and then mauled ’em a bit more to make sure as much pink as possible was touching the pan).

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I had forgotten that in a review of the meal the cook mentioned pounding the meat to even the width or something, which is something I love doing! and I forgot it! So sad… I also maaay not have been patient enough to let it all fuuuuuully defrost (but I think it was definitely mostly defrosted). Anyway, at this point I had made couscous and green beans so they were ready to go and after being fully confident that the chicken was thoroughly cooked (don’t worry, it may have ultimately been overcooked but I was taking no chances!) I plated up a full meal for mahself.

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It looked good, it smelt good, and dang it, it tasted good! It was quite lemony but the couscous balanced it out nicely or something and I was one happy camper! What with this and tuna casserole I can now provide meals for two days in succession, I’m basically building up a repertoire! (Warning: high levels of sarcasm have been found in this use of the word “repertoire”)

So there we go, I am no longer a useless college-aged student living for free in my parents’ basement. Now, I can cook two decent tasting meals.

A Beginner is Cooking: C is for Casserole

I may have to start buying my own meat. Relying on what is in the house is proving to be a severe handicap in learning to cook unless I want to go vegetarian in which case we need some tofu or squashes or avocado (I greatly dislike avocado by the way, why is it in every recipe these days?) The issue this provides is that I’m not really sure that I’m willing to invest money into this hobby that I’m not particularly enjoying. I mean I understand that eating isn’t a hobby, but cooking my own menu of things is when I could just eat soup of sandwiches. Once living away from home I do the shopping and choose the ingredients, I don’t really have that freedom at home for the most part unless I want to super clearly label all my stuff and hide it in the fridge.

After struggling to find a recipe that we had ingredients for I managed to dig up a recipe for a tuna casserole for one. Now I rather like “for one” recipes because it means less math for me! Some things are surprisingly difficult to half or quarter! Ingredients present, I cook. Today we shall use both the stove top and the oven, I venture further into the world of the kitchen…

They say the third time is the charm. Now maybe it was getting more comfortable in the kitchen, maybe it’s because at last I found a beginner recipe that actually even had seasonings as a part of the recipe, or maybe it was sheer dumb luck, but folks, this tasted good. My only critique is that it was actually quite large for a single serving but that’s part of what this cooking experience is about, learning to eat proper amounts, still wasn’t able to finish it though, but eh! Leftovers are also a part of cooking right?

When they say "lightly golden" I take it very seriously. Browning is not golden...

When they say “lightly golden” I take it very seriously. Browning is not golden…

This was surprisingly easy to make, I even chopped and cooked onions without crying! (thank you to who ever taught me the mint gum trick!) It had multiple parts to be combined at the end but unlike the last recipe they weren’t all being made at the same time, they happened one at a time and sat and waited once they were finished until the others were done, it was just the way a recipe should be. Next time (and there will be a next time for this one) I would mix up more bread crumbs, in my opinion there weren’t enough but that’s probably more of a personal thing that a recipe critique 😛

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I have discovered however that most of the food I’ve made has been rather monochrome, perhaps its time to venture to multi part dishes, to sides, to, dare I say it? Vegetables…

A Beginner is Cooking: A is for Alfredo

Meat is the bane of my existence.

Okay that may be a slight exaggeration, I should clarify. What I mean to say is, I dislike cooking meat.

I have no issues eating it, definitely not a vegetarian! Not a super fan of fish and refuse to eat veal and lamb because cute baby animals but everything else is usually pretty safe! It’s the cooking… the raw slimy floppy I’ll move on, I’m grossing myself out.

So not a fan of raw meat, yet I’ve made the decision to cook. Huzzah. This should go well.

I tried to cop out today, I really did. I looked through a bunch of vegetarian meals but they all had weird ingredients that I didn’t recognize. I think the health-fanatic vegetarians and vegans have scared me off. Also a lot of the things I don’t just have lying around – is goat cheese substitutable with just, like, normal cheese…? I don’t know these things!

I kind of a fan of those thirty second “Tasty” videos on Facebook that make cooking look so fun and easy with their cheery music and fastness and I had saved one of a one-pot chicken alfredo thing. Now I quite like chicken alfredo so this seemed like it could be a nice lunch.

First speed bump. I discovered the recipe calls for heavy cream. (Again, do people normally have these things lying around or are they actually smart enough to plan ahead? People I admire you.) My good friend Google told me that I could make a heavy cream substitute with milk and butter though so here we go, we’re gonna start straying from the recipe before we even start. Rebel. Yes. That’s right.

But it got worse. Oh friends, the gong show has yet to begin.

So I made the mistake of assuming we would have something as common as say, parmesan cheese. Apparently not. Thankfully before starting to cook the chicken (which I discovered it much easier and less gross to cook with gloves on, very glad mum bought those!) Our parmesan seemed had been forgotten at a relative’s house after Easter and no one had yet noticed. I was the one who got to discover the glaring lack. Alfredo is simply not alfredo without parmesan cheese thus I grabbed my ever-suffering sister to chauffeur me to the grocery store. (Mental note, get driver’s license faster.) Actually having to pay money for this learning experiment was unexpected and cooking is stressful and I was starting to get cranky. It was at this point that I dramatically texted my boyfriend, “It’s official, I hate cooking.”

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Having obtained the rogue cheese (and a chocolate bar) I began cooking. It was after adding the chicken broth and “cream”, as I was stirring that suddenly the smell wafted up to me. It smelt good. People, at this moment it came to me, this could actually work.

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After painstakingly waiting for it to simmer 15-20 minutes, (you know the plus side to sandwiches is you get hungry and within two minutes you’re eating) it was time. I stirred in the parmesan cheese and tasted it.

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Folks it was pretty decent. The cheese didn’t fully melt and not as much of the brothy stuff had evaporated as I thought but it doesn’t have to look pretty to taste decent right? The next few hours will finalize if I live or not… It wasn’t super flavourful, kinda salty from the broth I think. But it was food and I made it and I have officially cooked a meal on my own, no help, huzzah!

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I’m gonna go eat my chocolate bar now.

Overall time from start to eating: hour and a half.

Should have taken: maybe 30 minutes? (quite possibly less)

Stress level: One med-large chocolate bar

In the end: Might make again, but almost too cheesy and salty. Maybe with less broth and less cheese?

 

(Feel free to follow me on snapchat @rlpdean for real-time annoying updates when I’m “cooking”!)

The ABCs: A Beginner is Cooking

I am twenty-two years old, five foot six inches and weigh 110lbs.

Now why did I tell you that? Because I should not weigh 110lbs. For my height I shouldn’t be less than 120lbs and I am clearly quite a bit smaller than that.

So do I choose to eat as little as I can manage to get away with? Do I exercise too much and too hard? Do I make myself throw up after I eat? No, no, none of the above. I eat as much as I can get away with (often junk), exercise as little as I can, and throwing up reminds me of panic attacks and really bad flus so in no universe would I do it on purpose. Then why am I ten pounds underweight? Well, I have a high metabolism (genetics were a blessing, thanks mum), am a bit lazy while being able to get overly one-track minded, and greatly dislike, to the point of being afraid of, cooking.

High metabolism, I can’t fix, just gotta eat more, however, therein lies my issue. I’ve gotten used to not eating a lot and, in a way that is sort of comparable to people recovering from serious eating disorders, now find that I am not able to eat as much as I should. I’ve allowed my stomach to shrink and my body to learn to function on too little and it hurts to reverse that, it now hurts to eat the right amount of food.

I am also a bit lazy when it comes to food. I can make a small number of dishes to perfection, quick dishes with minimal ingredients such as toast of many varieties, for example, peanut butter toast, baked beans on toast, poached egg on toast, or cheese on toast, garlic toast (some might argue having achieved perfection here…), etc, etc. I can boil and scramble eggs. I can make grilled cheese wonderfully (yes, that is different than cheese on toast), as well as make various sandwiches and salads and frozen pizzas. Oh, and soup from a can. I am very good at making soup from a can. So yes, I’m sure you see the patterns – ready-made, minimal ingredients, and little to no cooking. Also, few of these things are very healthy. They’re food, yes, but they can’t really sustain you if they’re all you’re eating.

I also forget to eat sometimes. It’s not that I chose not to eat, I actually forget to. I just look up and realize that I haven’t eaten in six hours or so and didn’t notice. I don’t know quite how I manage this because as soon as I see the time I’m suddenly very hungry, but before that I wasn’t. It’s weird. Bodies are weird. Maybe I need to set alarms for certain times each day to make sure I remember to eat.

However, I don’t like cooking. I do like baking! Baking is very precise with exact measurements and times and sweet treats as a reward for efforts. Cooking is a lot of “brown”, or cook “until done”, and add “to taste” etc and I do not appreciate that. My bad habit of being a control freak perfectionist kicks in and rather than risk failing I chose not to try. This has unfortunately been a pattern in other areas of my life too but I’m working at facing it in some of those areas and now it’s time to face eating habits and health. I may fail, I may burn things, but I am going to attempt to learn to cook edible food.

How I fear this may go…

That’s right. I’m going to try to learn how to cook. In an effort to get into better eating habits I’m going to try cooking a new dish at least once a week, either a single serving dish pour moi, or (if I’m feeling over-confident) perhaps even a meal for the fam! We’ll see. Getting to that point may take a while… But I’m going to blog my attempts because I have a feeling that will help me get over the failures (I’m sure there will be some failures) because then at least you and I can laugh over them together instead of me moping around a kitchen faintly filled with black smoke and smelling of burnt *insert your choice of food name here* all alone.

I want to stress, this is not going to become a foodie blog. I am not a foodie. This is going to be a let’s-laugh-at-how-bad-Becky-is-at-cooking blog. It’s going to be stories, not recipes or reviews; it may not even be interesting, but if it gets me attempting to cook then so be it!

I have ten pounds to gain healthily and cooking to learn. Let’s do this. You are cordially invited to join me in experiencing ABCs, A Beginner is Cooking.

 

Do you have any good beginner recipes that you like to make? Please comment them below and give me some ideas!