an update on my life

As soon as my life gets a little bit hectic, my tiny little blog is the first thing to get ignored. I’m a terrible blogger, I’ve decided. But that won’t stop me from trying! Here’s what I’ve been up to..

1. I started two exciting new jobs! Overall, I’m working about 40-45hrs/week so my schedule is packed.

2. We’ve moved into a new house! Painting and decorating has been fun and the space is a lot bigger so it’s taking some getting used to. But the neighborhood is lovely and it’s still close to both our jobs.

3. I injured my wrist and am recovering from tendonitis (and it’s no fun). So my “training” has been a bit lackluster. But last night I was able to comfortable clean (see movement here) over 100lbs for the first time since I got hurt so progress is being made! [As a side, an old running injury reared its little head last week but it didn’t stick around too long]

Hopefully it won’t be another two months until I update again but until then, I’ll leave you with pictures of this year’s fireworks in Charlottesville!

feed a cold

It’s been a while since I have posted and for that, I apologize. Life has been a little crazy recently – I ended my position at a local restaurant and am now working for a local photographer in hopes of absorbing and learning everything & anything. Needless to say, I’ve been a little stressed.

Stressed to the point where my sleeping habits have been affected and my immune system couldn’t take it anymore. I usually get a solid 8 hours of sleep and have reduced that to less than 6 hours a night, and it finally snowballed on me. [Read about the importance of sleep here.] On Friday night, after working my last shift ever (on Graduation weekend no less) I left the restaurant with a huge headache. Saturday morning came and I felt like I had been hit with a truck. Everything hurt. Still does. I managed to make it to the Charlottesville City Farmer’s Market but crashed shortly thereafter and am still recovering.

In hopes of of lifting my spirits, I’ve been making delicious meals for myself. Nothing makes me feel better than a good yummy meal.

Yesterday, sweet & citric were my cravings so I tossed this beauty up. Spring greens, topped with cherry tomatoes, olives, slivered almonds, sliced oranges with a balsamic vinegar & EVOO dressing, with a side of curried grass-fed beef heart. Totally hit the spot! Sweet, salty, and nutritious!

In order to avoid infecting the public and steering clear of the Graduation crowds, I made brunch at home! A basil and green onion omelet with pasture-raised bacon on the side (duh, you can’t have brunch without bacon). And a side of frozen strawberries, coconut milk, and almonds as my dessert! The frozen berries tamed the fiery sensation from my sore throat.

Finally, dinner tonight — bunless grass-fed burger with roasted kale and an avocado & kimchi side. This was delectable. The burgers were seasoned with green onions, paprika, and curry and cooked in bacon grease (what ISN’T amazing cooked in bacon grease?). The kimchi was a gift from my favorite vendor at the market – Wolf Creek Farm!

I’m still not feeling 100% but I can rest easy knowing that at least I’m feeding myself properly!

Where I got my ingredients

pretty lights & pretty music – The Anatomy of Frank

I’ve gotten to know The Anatomy of Frank quite well. Chris has been a member since 2010 and they’ve become a part of the family. They rehearse in our apartment and I’ll occasionally bring them food from the restaurant (twenty-something year old guys will never say no to free food, I’ve found). Boys will be boys — they’ll make silly jokes and I’ll roll my eyes, but underneath it all they’re a good bunch to be around. I’m continuously impressed with their dedication to their craft and how their passion comes out in their music. The level of talent is incredibly high — these guys are going somewhere, for sure. Take a listen to their music, I promise you’ll be just as impressed.

There’s going to be a change in their line-up, which you can read about in this incredibly heartfelt post. It was a pleasure having a chance to photograph them this weekend at their show. They had a simple but effective set up of glow-sticks and lights which only added to their distinctive performance. Here are my favorites.

moments in the Blue Ridge

It’s been gorgeous in Central Virginia and today was just one of those days where you couldn’t not be in the sunlight . Chris and I decided to visit a spot in the Blue Ridge that we hadn’t been to in about two years and I’m glad we did. We sometimes forget the calming effect that being outdoors and breathing fresh air can have. Even the sensation of walking in cold water or climbing on rocks is relieving. Our society has managed to detach us from nature and it is our responsibility to reconnect. We can’t forget how innately human it is to walk outside, to get dirty, to play around.

my love affair

I must confess. I’ve been having an affair. With my iPhone.

Phew. There, I said it. My poor little DSLR must hate me. But it’s just too bulky for me to take everywhere! My iPhone is sleek and adaptable. It has allowed me to just capture moments and memories without having to fiddle with the ISO, shutter speed, or aperture.

Now, DSLR diehards, please don’t hate me too much — it has allowed me to take more pictures than I would otherwise, and that’s the key to improving your photography: just take more photographs! Here are some of my favorites.

Eataly, NYC. November 2011

Holiday Buddha. December 2011

Hungry for cake. December 2011

Georgia Dome. December 2011

Snowy Charlottesville, VA. February 2012

a girl’s best friend

I didn’t grow up with pets and my first “pets” were beetles (not kidding). I had fish when I was little but the poor things never lasted very long. It wasn’t until high school that my parents finally allowed me to get a cat (and now he’s replaced me in the family tree).

Animals don’t judge, they don’t criticize (although I beg to differ with the aforementioned cat), and all they’re concerned about is now. We could learn a lot from them.

I’ve spent a significant amount of time volunteering and working with animals through local SPCAs, animal hospitals, and the Wildlife Center of Virginia. They hold a very special place in my heart. My hope is that one day I’ll own some land and be surrounded by lots of four-legged friends.

My friend, Jenny, feels similarly about animals and has even started her own dog-training business! In effort to continue my quest of saving the world, I helped out by photographing her and her pretty boxer, Kyla. This is my favorite picture of the bunch!

 

Ps. Check out her business page, Diligent Dogs!

beet & apple faux-slaw

A spark of ingenuity hit me last week while we were cooking up some beef tongue tacos (don’t hate – lengua is delicious). We just started receiving our winter CSA share from Horse and Buggy Produce and in an effort to use up as much as we could, I came up with this concoction!

This beet and apple faux-slaw goes perfectly on top of tacos, as a side to a bigger entree, or as a quick snack!

You’ll need..

  • 2 medium-sized beets, cleaned and trimmed
  • 1/4 green apple – its sour taste lends well to the other ingredients but I’m sure other apples would be fine
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp dried lemon peel
  • 1/2 tsp sumac* optional
  • 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp gluten-free Tamari sauce
  • salt & pepper to taste
*I found this spice at Whole Foods and it’s delicious but it may be hard to find in other stores. If you find it, great! If not, no worries!

Start with a sauce pan on medium-low heat and drizzle the olive oil on top. Julienne the beets and apples in the meantime. I would suggest cutting the apples first — beets tend to get red juice all over the place and make your kitchen look like a murder scene. Lovely.

Once you’ve got your matchstick pieces, place the beets into the pan and stir. Do not add the apples. While the beets are lightly cooking, mix the tamari and lemon juice in a small bowl. Season the beets with dried lemon peel, sumac, and salt & pepper (keeping in mind that tamari is also salty).

Once the beets have softened up a bit turn the heat off, add the liquid mixture, and let cool (if you’re in a hurry, go ahead and pop it into the fridge). Add in the apple pieces and stir away. The apples will absorb the red coloring from the beets and give you a super colorful dish. Devour!

I topped the lettuce-wrapped tacos with slices of avocado, the faux-slaw, and some chopped spicy almonds.

Grass-fed beef tongue from Wolf Creek Farm

it’s a new year!

I hit the big TWO-FOUR last week so I’m officially a big girl. Here’s an update on what I’ve been up to!

  • Food – I really don’t like the word “diet” but the way I eat is mostly paleo. I’m avoiding dairy whenever possible because I’m lactose-intolerant and it gives me acne (and feeling like a 14 year old was bad enough the first time around), eat my heavy carbs post-workout, and indulge in wine, dark chocolate, and homemade treats. Whenever possible we will continue to eat seasonally and locally.
  • Fitness – Just ended a strength cycle at CrossFit Charlottesville and hit several big PRs. I followed my plan to only go to the gym three times a week and it worked brilliantly – I was never overtrained, unhappy at the gym, or restless. I’m going to continue that habit for the time being. CrossFit Total numbers listed below
      • Backsquat: 167lbs
      • Shoulder Press: 67lbs
      • Deadlift: 201lbs
      • Total: 435 (a 50lb PR from March 2011)
  • Photography – had my very first client this past December! I had an exceptional time with the family and it couldn’t have gone any better. The session made me want to jumpstart my photography so I’ve set up my photography website for all to see! Go to www.jennigabriela.com to view my work!

A shot from the family shoot! Tonks is the cutest dog!

local, seasonal, delicious

This past Saturday was the last Charlottesville City Farmers’ Market that I will attend for the year. From April until December, I did not miss a Saturday (aside from the time I was in Guatemala). I experienced an entire season of local, organic produce and meats. This is what I’ve learned in the last 8 months.

  • Fresh seasonal produce tastes amazing – no, this is not an exaggeration. Heirloom tomatoes? DIVINE. Blueberries in July? Sweet, tart, and crisp. Even the kale and greens are tastier!
  • The vendors at the market are some of the most genuine and inspiring people I’ve met. Their ability to get up at ungodly hours, suffer temperamental weather and still have a smile on their face is a testament of their passion. Making friends with and being about to shake the hands of the people who raised/grew our food is an incredible feeling.
  • No, it’s not cheap. But it is worth it. I don’t make a lot of money so I made the decision to stop mindlessly buying things and start investing in my health and well-being.
  • Planning is key. If I had my way, I’d buy everything from everyone at the market. And then it would all go bad in my fridge because I can only eat so much and I’d also be broke. To prevent said catastrophe, I’d set a list of what I’d like to get every Saturday and adjust it according to what was available. The list usually included eggs (duh), meats for protein (bacon was always on this list), some kind of greens, seasonal fruit (berries in the summer, pears and apples in the fall), and at least two kinds of vegetables.
  • Experimenting is fun! Whenever possible, I’d make myself buy something I’ve never cooked before. That’s how I discovered Patty Pan squashes, Russian kale, turnips, purple cauliflower, okra and so on.
  • Early bird gets the worm. Or the eggs. Whatever. Getting to the market early is the best way to ensure that you’ll find what you want. As the colder weather was approaching, farm eggs became more and more scarce and to ensure that I’d get my two dozen eggs, I’d be there right when the market started (7AM during the summer, 8AM during the fall). I regret nothing.

Winter officially starts tomorrow and my produce habits will have to adjust. Between a possible winter CSA and shopping at locally-owned grocery stores, we’ll get our food locally when possible. I can’t wait until next year!

A big THANKS to the folks at: Wolf Creek Farm, Whisper Hill Farm, Double H Farm, Sunset View Farm, Planet Earth Diversified, Babes in the Wood, and Shenandoah Joe’s (because I can only function at 7AM with the help of coffee). 

kale chips, from green to yummy

I love making these on lazy Sunday afternoons. Kale chips are super easy to make and satisfy the need to munch on something in the middle of the day.

My process is a little tedious but it’s well-worth it in the end — I usually have some music or a movie going on in the background.

Rinse the kale leaves and make sure they’re clean. With a paper towel, pat them dry individually to remove all moisture. Wet leaves will burn in the oven. With the tip of a sharp knife, cut the stems from the leaves. To make it easier and more efficient, I cut the leaf in half and remove the stem that way. Place all halves in a large bowl. Drizzle about 2 tablespoons of olive oil over top of the leaves. Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon of salt and a generous amount of fresh-ground black pepper. Add whatever spice combination you like. My favorite has been a blend of cumin, paprika and cayenne. I like it hot.

This is where is gets messy and tedious. Wash hands thoroughly and remove any jewelry. Start mixing the bowl of leaves with the spices and oil. Rub each leaf so that it gets oil over all of it. Depending on your bunch of kale, this could take a while. I usually start preheating the oven right about now. The oven should be set at 325° F. Once you’ve covered every kale leaf, start placing them on your cookie sheets. Don’t overcrowd them and make sure they’re as flat as can be. Time will vary depending on the oven but my golden number has been 9 minutes. In my kitchen 10 minutes will burn them and 8 will leave them chewy.

All the leaves may need to be baked in several batches so use this time to catch up on emails, load up the laundry, wash the dishes, or (if you’re like me) google “cute baby animals” and spend your time ooh’ing and awww’ing.

Eat straight from the oven or refrigerate for later!