Nicci Morris

Archive for August, 2009|Monthly archive page

Picture it…

In Lifestyle, Love/Relationships, Travel on August 31, 2009 at 7:27 pm

My mother has told me since I was a child, “Thoughts are things.” So, I guess you could say I was fortunate enough to know “The Secret” before I knew it was a secret.

Now, at 31, I’m at a point in my life where I am on the edge of greatness. You might not know that, considering all that I am enduring right now. A sometimes-debilitating illness, job loss due to economic woes and the death of the newspaper business (I was the food and home editor at a major metro daily), etc…

But my blessings are here. My fingertips are on them. I can feel the sweet breath of greatness on my cheek… And knowing this can be maddening, frustrating, exciting and frightening, all at once. It is imperative that I channel my thoughts and my energy, leading myself to live the life I envision for myself.

And, to that end, I have created two new vision boards.

This collage technique is, quite simply, the Law of Attraction. It is a visual representation of whatever you want to be, have or do. I recommend this exercise to everyone because it is just that powerful. Thoughts are real, and creating these boards makes a tangible reminder of that and literally keeps your eyes on the prize. The result? Those things will be manifested in your life.

Here is my personal board, outlining the goals I have for my life with regard to my home, love, travel:

Visualization Board - Personal

And here is my professional board, with the goals I have for my career:

Visualization Board - Professional

Do you have a vision board? I’d love to know and celebrate the greatness you see in your future!

Salty. Sweet. Yay.

In Food on August 30, 2009 at 8:11 pm

What is it about the combination of salty and sweet flavors that captivates so many of us? There are, ahem, certain times of the month when I simply must have salty-sweet snacks. But I can always go for something salty with a dash of sweet or vice versa.

A few of my favorite ways to feed that craving include:

  • Hot, buttery, salty popcorn with Reese’s Pieces – The peanut butter in the candy shell gets warm and melty. Mmm…
  • Hot, crispy and well-salted fries dunked in a chocolate shake – So good…
  • Feta cheese with watermelon – The salty, tangy finish of the cheese is the perfect foil for sweet, juicy melon on a hot day.
  • Ripe strawberries with balsamic vinaigrette.

And I NEED to try this ice cream. STAT!

What satisfies your salty-sweet tooth?

Frugal foodie-ing

In Food, Lifestyle, Recipes on August 30, 2009 at 1:10 pm

I’m frugal and unapologetic about it. I’ve never been one to buy expensive clothes, I shed a tear when Value City closed, and I don’t eat out much. Dining in is actually my favorite way to save money. I get frustrated when I go out to eat and end up paying way too much for food that I can make at home. And, more often than not, my version would taste better. Pennies in a jar

When it comes to food, I’ve become particularly penny-wise. You don’t have to spend half your paycheck at the grocery store to eat well. I buy store brands at the higher-end grocery stores and supplement that with fresh produce from discount grocery stores. I find that sticking with whole foods and avoiding processed, refined foods slashes your food bill. It’s a more healthful way to eat, too.

My motto? Keep it simple and delicious.

You do this by keeping the focus on big, bold flavors and fresh ingredients. Lemons, fresh garlic, fresh and dried herbs, good olive oil, salt and pepper are some key elements to great cooking. And when I do shell out a bit of money for an ingredient, that flavor is the star of the show. Quality cheese, for example, is absolutely worth the expense when I make Parmesan-crusted tofu (recipe follows) or my grown-up macaroni and cheese, tender pasta snuggled in Parmesan, Gruyère, fontina and white cheddar. (Look for that recipe when the weather turns cool in a few weeks…)

 

Parmesan-Crusted Tofu

¼ cup Parmesan cheese

4 Tablespoons butter, softened

2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

¼ cup onion, minced

2 garlic cloves, minced

¼ teaspoon dried basil

¼ teaspoon lemon zest

¼ teaspoon Kosher salt

Fresh ground black pepper, to taste

1 ½ pounds tofu (frozen, thawed and drained)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line pan with aluminum foil.

In a small bowl, mix together the Parmesan cheese, butter, lemon juice, onion, garlic, basil and lemon zest. Mix well and set aside. Slice tofu into 1/4 inch thick slices, to make “fillets.” Season both sides with salt and pepper.

Arrange fillets in a single layer on the prepared pan. Spread Parmesan cheese mixture on top of each fillet. Bake for 15-18 minutes. To finish, broil the fillets for 5 minutes or until the Parmesan topping is browned.

Delicious…

Photo by Simon Howden

It’s better with beer…

In Food on August 30, 2009 at 4:36 am
Like many men I know, my dad throws a huge dollop of improvisation into just about everything he cooks.pint of beer Especially when he makes barbecue sauce.

He gets a twinkle in his eye and a little extra pep in his step as he bounces about the kitchen, grabbing honey from the pantry, an orange from the fruit bowl, vanilla extract and peppercorns from the spice cabinet, etc… If the spirit moves him and the season is right, he’ll run out to his well-tended garden to grab a handful of jalapeno peppers to heat things up. It’s obvious that he loves the ritual of it all: Add a dash of something. Stir. Taste (while staring at the ceiling as if the recipe is up there). Repeat. Who needs measuring cups/spoons?
And, to “balance it out,” a fair amount of beer always ends up in the pot. And even though it’s always a little different each time, the result is always fabulous, and better than the last batch he made.

I know some guys who would put beer in a cheesecake if they thought they could get away with it. (And, apparently, you can.) I would think brand managers would have been huddled around conference room tables, planning to launch a line of beer-flavored foods long before now. The stuff wouldn’t even have to taste like beer. I have a hunch that, for many beer lovers, just knowing it’s in there is comfort enough.

What do you love to cook/eat that just doesn’t taste right without a splash or a pint (or more) of beer stirred into it?

Photo courtesy of http://www.freefoto.com

Wonton imagination…

In Entertaining, Food on August 30, 2009 at 3:34 am

The best kind of party is of the impromptu variety. Friends show up and you rummage through the pantry and the refrigerator and create a veritable smorgasbord of otherwise mismatched offerings. The wine is flowing and all is well in your little corner of the world. But I also enjoy planning a party and that’s just what I’m going to do.


I think I’ll make it a game party. I’ll put Monopoly, Scattergories, Taboo and the Wii out (I dare anyone to challenge me to a round of anything…). A little music for background noise… But the most important and memorable thing will always be the menu. To encourage frivolity and mingling, I’ll stick with finger foods. I think small bites should be beautiful and have big flavors, leaving a lasting impression. “Remember the >insert amazing dish here< we had at Nicci’s? Man, was that incredible. Good times. Goooood times….,” they’ll say.

Planning a menu is also a good opportunity to create recipes. I’m going to make it an Iron Chef-esque challenge for myself… The main ingredient? Wonton wrappers. I already know what we’re having for dessert: Chocolate-Hazelnut Ravioli. I saw Giada make them a while back and I’ve been looking for an excuse to fry up such decadence. And I think a tart lemon-berry reduction as a dipping sauce would be a nice touch.

So I’ll need to have a bunch of savory wonton-wrapped bites as well. Steamed, fried, baked or boiled… I’ve been thinking miniature vegetable lasagnas, featuring layers of sauce and ricotta, would be fun. Or kimchi with a spicy sesame sauce. I’ve filled wonton wrappers with roasted butternut squash, cardamom and cinnamon and they were fabulous (the sage-butter sauce I put over them didn’t hurt). There are a million variations.

Do you have any filling ideas?

 

The ubiquitous 25 things

In Lifestyle on August 30, 2009 at 2:05 am

I’m sure you’re familiar with the ubiquitous “25 things about me” lists that people keep sending out… Well, here’s one more for you to read. Like it or not.

1. I am a fervent foodie. I cook, read, write and breathe good food. From fine dining to fair fare. I am in love with food and people and the way the two are inextricably linked.

2. I wear glasses and have since I was 6. Yes, SIX. The first pair of glasses I had were pink and I despised them, even trying on several occasions to break them, to no avail. The first day I wore them to school, one of my classmates, Joey Molnar, made fun of me and my “four eyes.” He teased me for 3 days straight. And on the third day, I’d had enough of his teasing. I punched him in the face and knocked his glasses off. Yeah, he wore glasses, too. I was able to break his specs, but not my own. Such is life, I learned.

3. I don’t believe in paying more than $30 for a pair of jeans. I just don’t. As long as they are long enough (down to the middle of the heel of my boots/shoes), the right color (darker is better) and my butt looks cute in them, I’m sold. I enjoy and I’ve been blessed with nice things, but whenever possible, I prefer to live frugally, simply and, eventually, leave a legacy.

4. I love scary movies. Love them. But when I watch them, I’m afraid for days afterward. Meaning I’ll have to jump into the bed (or else a monster could grab my ankle!) and sleep with the light on. But I’ll still watch…

5. My two favorite songs (as of the typing of this sentence) are “In a Sentimental Mood,” written by Duke Ellington and performed by John Coltrane and “Visions” by Stevie Wonder. Something about them make me want to love, dance, sigh and weep all at once.

6. I always forget to buy beverages when I go to the grocery store. I don’t think about it until someone comes over and I realize that all I have is almond milk, herbal tea bags and tap water. I need to get better about that…

7. Sometimes I wish I had superhuman strength. I once saw this group of guys kick over the cup a homeless man was using to collect change. I helped him pick up his change and wanted to cry when I saw tears well up in his eyes. But beyond that, I wanted to go smack those guys around. That’s where the superhuman strength would have come in handy.

8. The only thing more flattering than someone loving the things I cook is for someone to laugh/cry at the things I write.

9. I used to have to think about my answer when someone asked me, “If you could meet anyone, living or not, who would it be?” Now, I know the answer, without hesitation: My children.

10. About No. 9: I can’t wait to see their faces and hear how they laugh.

11. I have a sixth sense about people. I have dreams that come to pass. And I sometimes know what ails a person before even they know. Call it psychic. Call it observant. I often call it weird.

12. Sometimes, if the arrangement is just right, the symphony makes me cry. And good music — no matter the genre– gives me goosebumps.

13. One of my favorite ways to spend a Saturday morning is at the farmers’ market. It’s something about that buzz, the smells, the technicolor produce and the sheer heterogeneousness of them that feels like humanity, if you could touch such a thing.

14. I like chocolate chip cookies without the chips. And, before you ask, no, that is not the same thing as a sugar cookie.

15. I think marijuana should be legalized. And not because I want to smoke it without having to serve jailtime. I just think it is even sillier than the prohibition of alcohol in the 1920s. I believe we would de-escalate marijuana-related violence and crime if we did…

16. I love BBC programming and have since I fell for Benny Hill when I was all of 4-5. I would sneak to watch it… My poor mum mom.

17. I have a green thumb. I adore my plants and fresh flowers make me smile. Totally worth $3-$4 every couple weeks at the farmer’s market.

18. I would rather live for 60 amazing, love- and fun-filled years than 120 so-so ones.

19. I enjoy urban settings. The suburbs can be a bit sterile. I like the reminder that we are all connected, no matter how far and fast we might try to run to the suburbs and how high we build the privacy fences.

20. I think there is something about pets that soothes your soul. Especially if it’s an insanely sweet pet like my baby, Bella.

21. This year, I removed “try” from my vocabulary. It is too limiting. I don’t “try.” I “do.”

22. I have a major affinity for the Atlantic Ocean and eventually want to reside in a country in the Caribbean if my soul mate agrees with it.

23. If I do move to the Caribbean, I want to open an eatery of some sort. The last time my sister and I went to St. Martin, we saw a bubble tea shop. “Sweet,” we thought. We stopped in for bubble tea only to be told that they had forgotten to make the tapioca pearls and, thusly, had no bubbles for the bubble tea. I could, at the very least, take all of the customers from that shop.

24. I chew on my bottom lip when I am stressed out. Thank goodness for yoga and for Carmex.

25. I really want to learn how to play cello and Stevie Wonder’s “Too High” makes me want to learn the drums.

It’s just a little rain…

In Lifestyle on August 29, 2009 at 8:02 pm

Keep things in perspective... It's just rain.

I was out and about today when I drove by a “laser wash.” (Whatever happened to plain ol’ car washes?) I’m a big-time frugalista, so I decided that if they had a wash that cost $5 or less, I would get it. When I saw that the least expensive wash was $9, I drove straight through, deciding to have a dirty car for one more day… Besides, it looked like it was about to rain anyway.

As I drove out of the parking lot, I heard what might have been the loudest, most guttural utterance of “f*ck” I’ve ever heard in my life. And I’ve heard “f*ck” plenty of times in my 31 years. I looked to see what was going on and I saw a thirtysomething man standing outside of his car near the vacuum machine station, his brow furrowed as he stomped his feet a few times and stared up at the gray sky. Apparently, it had started to rain as he dried off his freshly-washed car… I then noticed an adorable little old lady in the passenger seat of his car. She was looking at him as if he were crazy for carrying on the way he was. You would have thought someone had totaled his car.

I laughed my ass off. It’s not that I took pleasure in his bad luck, but watching his reaction made me think of all the times I, too, have made a big deal out of something that, in the grand scheme of things, didn’t matter. I’ve worked on not letting little things get to me, and seeing that man today gave me another thing to consider the next time I want to give into over-reaction.

The next time something gets to us, we could all stand to do a bit of introspection to figure out of we’re taking it to the extreme. My guess is, more often than not, it’s just a little rain…

A few things I won’t live without…

In Lifestyle on August 29, 2009 at 7:24 pm

My family and friends.

Good food.

Carmex.

Panko breadcrumbs.

Belly laughs.

Debates.

Science Fiction and thrillers.

Cheap Inexpensive makeup.

The library.

Is it bad that many of those are in my purse at any given moment? I carry giant purses…

What in the world is “zaftig” anyway?

In Lifestyle, Zaftig-Approved on August 29, 2009 at 4:40 am

Scale

Zaftig (according to Webster)Pronunciation: ‘zäf-tig, ‘zof-

Function: adjective
Etymology: Yiddish zaftik juicy, succulent, from zaft juice, sap, from Middle High German saf, saft, from Old High German saf
of a woman : having a full rounded figure : pleasingly plump

So, there you have it… A Zaftig woman is neither obese nor skinny. She’s neither mushy nor sinewy… She is, in my opinion and in the opinion of many, just right.

At 5’9″, 165 lbs, and a size 12, I am a Zaftig woman. And I am madly in love with my curves. I should be. I’ve been curvy for as long as I can remember. I can recall being in 7th grade gym class and hearing the boys talk about my voluptuous derriere. In the locker room, the girls compared their mosquito bites with my then B (now a DD) cup. Awkward…

Through my teenage years and mid-20’s, I battled self-esteem issues, losing weight (I was down to a 6-8 through starvation) and gaining weight (I was up to about a 16… maybe higher. I can’t be sure because I refused to buy anything higher than the 14’s I could no longer zip up), creating an outward expression of my inner turmoil. But in my late 20’s, after much heartache and meditation, I had an epiphany…

This. Is. Me.

I’m not a size 2 and I’m never going to be one. I’m not even a size 8. But I’m not meant to be a size 16 or 18 either. I’m a size 12, and a damn sexy one at that. It is at that size that I am the most comfortable, the most fit and the most balanced. When I was a 6-8, I was eating next to nothing. When I was heavier, I was overeating. In both cases, I was using food as a diversion from what was (no pun intended) eating me. It was only when I acknowledged this and made a conscious decision to address my feelings rather than avoiding them that my weight balanced out. And it was during that time that I realized just how important balance is. I have seen, firsthand, just how unhealthful and unsettling extremes can be.

So… I began applying a very simply rule to my life: “Everything in moderation… even moderation.”

When I wanted to lose the weight after I ballooned to nearly 200 lbs in my late 20’s, I didn’t diet. I made better and balanced choices, about food and everything else in my life. And that leads me to the point of this blog and the book I am preparing to release…

You don’t have to be obese or skinny. With a balanced approach to life, you can enjoy everything in moderation and discover how to feel incredible in the skin you’re in. There is a Zaftig Zen waiting for you.

And it feels just right.