Lemon-Pesto Chicken and Pasta

Every once in a while, I decide that what I’m having is good… but it could be better. Take Safeway’s lemon capellini salad. It is tasty. It is one of the few things I will eat containing capers. But sometimes, it needs a little… je ne sais quoi. So, I indulged myself.

As a side note, I would add cut up fresh tomatoes and capers to this, but the husband is no more a fan of them than I am. In fact, he’s not a fan of fresh tomatoes at all, whereas I love them.

DISCLAIMER: All amounts are guesses. Some are more of a guess than others. Most liquids were “a splash or two”, and most seasonings were “mmkay, looks good…”. Just remember that.

You’ll need:

~1.3 lb boneless skinless chicken breast.
~6 oz rotini (or other types of pasta, but rotini holds the flavor well)
lemon juice
olive oil
~1/4 tsp salt
~1/2 tsp pepper
~1 tsp dried oregano
~1/2 tsp dried basil
1 tsp garlic paste (roughly 1 medium clove of garlic, minced)


Cut chicken breast into bitesize pieces and brown in skillet, using olive oil or cooking oil (a couple tablespoons) and around 1/4 cup lemon juice. When cooked, coat with the salt, pepper, oregano, basil, and ~1.5 tablespoons pesto.

Cook and drain pasta such that it is a little softer than al dente. Add roughly 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and 1.5-2 tablespoons pesto. Mix until coated.

Serve chicken over pasta with your choice of cheese (I recommend something like parmesan, romano, etc.). Goes well with steamed veggies of most kinds, as well as white wine.

Let they who cried raise their hands

*raises hand*

Happy tears. So many happy tears.

Why, you might ask? Well, the fiance is now the husband. My husband, to be exact. There are many like him, but this sharply-dressed, ever-surprising, and very loving man is mine.

I was going to go over the day in a little more detail, but I think a list of my favorite moments is better.

First, three of our close (and mutual) friends helped us get our reception area set up, and the gentlemen did so wearing their formal wear! (Our female friend was sensible and brought her dress to change into.) One friend, who I will refer to as the True Scotsman for his Scottish formal wear (yes, including a kilt!), masterminded putting our initials in lights on the stage. He also drove the other two to Safeway for Chinese food (“Chickadoodle, what do you want?” “…An eggroll?”) and some salad for lunch.

In return, I braided the True Scotsman’s hair. Well, actually, I do that anyway. Everytime. (“True Scotsman, where’s your hair tie? I’m braiding your hair.” *hands it over*)

The True Scotsman and our other two friends (Mr. Fancypants and Ms. Marvel-ous for this post) also got in on some of our pictures, including a few Sopranos-esque pictures in our dimly lit waiting studio. (Our photographers were fabulous, by the way, and every once in a while, we got “LIKE YOU LIKE EACH OTHER, GUYS!” during our photos.)

The ceremony is a favorite chunk of moments. From the walking in, to everyone expressing their support, to my now sister-in-law doing the reading, to the saying of the vows (“I think you just made everyone cry” –our officiant), to the kiss… it was wonderful. Seeing so many happy faces as we walked in and out made my day. Friends and family had come from miles away–some across the country, some I hadn’t seen in years–and it was like we’d never been apart.

In the quiet time we stole after signing our certificate, some appetizers were brought in for us, and the husband applied bandages to some blisters I’d gotten at the rehearsal dinner. (Normally, I’d have done it myself, but 15 pounds/several yards of very puffy dress and petticoats did make that a little more difficult.)

I tried to talk to everyone before dinner. I didn’t get to, but there were plenty of precious moments then, too, including a male friend (Very Tall Guy) expressing his desire to have my dress. (Not entirely sure he was kidding…) Another friend (Exuberance Personified) proceeded to rather lovingly hug-strangle the husband while proclaiming his happiness. I got to reconnect with the friends I hadn’t seen in so long. There were family pictures. I got to see two lovely young ladies who I’d watched when we were all younger, as well as their parents, who are amazing and wonderful people in their own right. A cousin’s toddler daughter was fascinated by my dress.

Dinner kind of flew by, though we did get to eat, which was, y’know, good. Unfortunately, my headache had resurfaced by that point, but about ten different people offered medicine of various kinds, and my oldest brother and a family friend double-teamed me with a shoulder and scalp massage, and my mom took my hair out of its pins. (Thankfully, we’d done all the “official” stuff by that point.) Before that, a friend (Blue-Haired Beauty) exclaimed from her table about writing on so many of the little strips left to give advice to us, “Guys, I think I have a problem…”. My dad and Ms. Marvel-ous gave rousing speeches, and I cried. Again.

We had our first dance and cut the cake (which was amazing, let me tell you). Then, the party really got into full swing. By some miracle of luck and a bit of collaboration, after we figured out that dancing on the stage wasn’t great (there were no speakers on the stage, and it was HOT), we were able to pull the tables on the ground aside to create a dance floor, and a lot of great dancing happened. My dad, as expected, totally got into it. Some friends danced with my cousins’ kids, which was adorable. Very Tall Guy and Ms. Marvel-ous pulled off a show-stopping and un-rehearsed “Shut Up and Dance” routine. A bunch of people joined us for the Cupid Shuffle. (And our amazing informal MC/DJ did a great job of rearranging our playlist to make it work. Can’t thank that guy enough…)

For as much fun as we were having, though, we were exhausted (I woke up at 5:30 that morning… and never managed to get back to sleep!), and when the towncar showed up 45 minutes early, the husband and I decided that everyone could enjoy the rest of the party, but we needed corgi pictures and sleep, and I needed a while to brush my hair out and get the pound or so of (quite gorgeous) makeup off my face.

Naturally, we didn’t make our escape unscathed–there were many noisemakers. The loving chorus of dying goose noises filled the night as we sped away, blissfully gazing into each other’s eyes.

And now, we’re honeymooning in Victoria. (This time, we remembered not to bring apples across the border…) It’s been one hell of a journey, but, sitting next to the husband–my husband–I know it’s going to be one heaven of a marriage.

How to think like a program (or a programmer) when you make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich

So, if you’re like me, the first time you look at code, you will cock your head and let out a confused whine. “What is this gibberish?” you will ask. The short answer: definitions and instructions. Programs need two things: definitions and instructions.

On a recent family trip, the fiancé and I were trying to explain to my dad something about programming. He kept on getting stuck on one particular point, until my mom piped up with, “Because computers can’t climb a chain of inference.” (Side note: This is not strictly 100% God’s own truth, but, as with most basic programming courses, we’re going to hand-wave that bit. You just need to be a damn good programmer to make it so. Most of us are mere mortals and cannot whip up a program in 2 hours that will turn your computer into HAL. Be thankful.)

I started to describe it in these terms: think of telling someone how to make a peanut butter sandwich. Now, think of how you’d tell someone to make a peanut butter sandwich if, like Amelia Bedelia, they could only follow instructions literally. (Put jam on the bread? Better hope you told them to get out the bread, uncap the jam, and use a knife, and that you’ve told them how much jam to put on.) Now imagine that not only does this person follow your instructions purely literally, but they do not know what bread, peanut butter, and jelly are. They don’t know that there are things that you spread on bread. They don’t know what a sandwich, a knife, or a jar are. Like Jon Snow, they know nothing.

*sniff* Nobody ever taught me how to make a PB & J... *cries*

*sniff* Nobody ever taught me how to make a PB & J… *cries*

And not only that, but if you give the person something unexpected, the world will end. It might end quietly, or it might end loudly.

For example, imagine going to your favorite deli and ordering a turkey club. The person at the counter brings you a brick. You will probably point out their mistake and ask them politely to bring you the turkey club you asked for. They will promptly go out, club the turkey with the brick (*rimshot*), and make you your sandwich.

On the other hand, a program in the same situation, if it has not been told that, presented with anything other than a turkey club, it should, in fact, ask again for a turkey club, will probably do something at least akin to one of a few things:

a) Try to eat the brick, breaking all its teeth in the process.

b) Stare at the brick quietly. It might eventually leave money there, and return and tell you that lunch was fine, only to pass out later from hunger. Or it might just stay at the deli until you come to get it, by which time, it has also probably passed out from hunger.

c) Glance between the brick and the person at the counter wildly, slowly freaking out more and more until it runs out of the deli screaming.

d) Give a blood-curdling scream, smash the display case with the brick, and collapse, sobbing incomprehensibly.

Now, if the program were presented with something edible, depending on what exactly you told it to expect, it might be able to cope. If you presented it with some other kind of sandwich, you’re probably in much safer territory. So, yeah, computers… aren’t smart. They need telling what to expect, and what to do if it’s not given exactly what it expects (or rather, when it’s not given exactly what it expects. Always assume someone will give you bad input).

Back to our peanut butter and jelly example. If you’re telling someone who at least knows what bread, peanut butter, jelly, sandwiches, bags, jars, and knives are, they can probably infer how what you mean when you tell them to put peanut butter and jelly on the bread, put the peanut butter and jelly sides together, and enjoy. Heck, they might even know how to go to the grocery store for those things!

So, let’s try this thinking like you’re telling a program who knows none of these things what you want and how to get it. First, procurement of the goods. For simplicity’s sake, we’ll assume you don’t have to completely build a house from scratch, order some silverware from Macy’s, or get transportation to the store. However, you already wind up needing to tell the program a lot of things:

1) Where the store is, and how to get there and back.

2) What peanut butter, jelly, and bread are, what kinds you want, and where they are in the store. (You probably also want to tell the program how to ask for help and process that help in case they’ve moved things around, lest your program follow option d of our deli example.)

That doesn’t seem like much, but unpack it—it’s a lot.

Moving on, your program is back, and it has the correct items. The store remains standing and unscathed, so you don’t have to deal with an angry shopkeeper. Now the real fun begins. The instructions will probably be something like the following.

1) Take the twistie off the bread bag. Open the bread bag. Pull out two slices of bread (or, more accurately, while you have less than two pieces out of the bag, pull another piece out–yay, control flow!). Close the bread bag and re-twistie the bag.

2) Find the peanut butter. Unscrew the lid from the jar of peanut butter. Use the knife to extract the desired amount of peanut butter, being careful not to fling it at the ceiling. Use the knife to spread the peanut butter on one side of one of the pieces of bread. Set that piece aside. Screw the lid back on the peanut butter jar.

3) Find the other piece of bread. Repeat the same instructions from two in order and exactly once, replacing every instance of “peanut butter” with “jelly”. (Yay, refactoring code!)

4) Take the two pieces of bread and put the sides with the spreadables (yay, interfaces and/or abstract classes!) together, such that the bread is oriented in the same direction if it has a shape such that this would be a good idea.

Okay, so that’s four steps, but that’s four long steps. Steps full of things you and I don’t have to tell each other when we yell “Make me a sammich!” Aren’t you glad you don’t have to describe literal-word-for-literal-word how your sammich needs to be made each time your robot servant makes it for you?

This is what programming is: breaking down a problem into all the requisite parts, including the ones you know are small and stupid but actually could really botch the entire thing if left out or messed up. It’s problem-solving in a way or on a level most of us just don’t need to think about in our day-to-day lives (well, unless we’re programmers). That doesn’t make programmers smarter or better or more observant, though; it just makes us people who have probably gone to school to more or less re-learn how to do these things with some amount of finesse and elegance, rather like any degree. It’s a specialization, and it’s certainly not for everyone, but it’s a good exercise in learning a certain way of thinking, and understanding why it is that that program is running out of the deli screaming when presented with a brick.

Figuratively speaking, of course.

A Dish for Any Meal: The Versatile Frittata

Okay, so it’s probably not an actual frittata. I have only one good frying pan, and while I’m pretty sure it’s oven safe… I have only one good frying pan.

It all started with the usual: me pondering what a good, quick-pack meal would be for my weekday lunches. Something pre-made, obviously, and something I could eat for other meals if I wound up not eating it for lunch.

I was tired of just veggie/meat dishes, and nothing with legumes was jumping out at me, and then, I remembered that one of my favorite Starbucks breakfasts is the spinach-feta wrap. The one with the egg white.

But I didn’t want any bread.

Heyyyy, frittata!

I went on a grocery run later that evening, and within fifteen minutes, my kitchen smelled like heaven and within an hour, I had an easy meal for the next four days.

The ingredients I used:

  • Open Nature chicken sausage with sun-dried tomatoes and provolone
  • arugula
  • Monterey Jack cheese
  • common white mushrooms (fresh)
  • sun-dried tomatoes (mine were jarred with oil and herbs)
  • diced red, yellow, and green pepper
  • cayenne, black pepper, oregano, basil, and the Spice and Tea Exchange’s “Italian Street Fair” seasoning

The instructions:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Dice the mushrooms and chop the sausage (I used 2 of the 4 sausages in the pack). Sauté the diced pepper, mushrooms, and sausage for seven or so minutes in two or three teaspoons of olive oil with a bit of garlic powder. Let sit. Whisk the eggs in a bowl. Add two handfuls of washed arugula, and a half-handful of your cheese of choice. Add a few sun-dried tomatoes (I used maybe 7 halves). Stir. Pour in the sauté and stir again. Pour into a greased casserole dish–mine was a shallow 9 x 9 square. Sprinkle a little more cheese on top, and add a few shakes of each seasoning/spice/herb. Bake for 30-40 minutes, depending on how done you like your eggs.

I’ll confess, I had a bite while packing my first serving away to grab tomorrow morning. It was delicious. 10/10; would make again.

Meal in a (taco) bowl: Salsa-chicken mix

So… I need quick-pack lunches. Badly.

Salads are normally my go-to, but sometimes, I get bored of tossing lettuce (well, more recently, broccoli slaw) with some or all of the following: bell pepper (roasted or raw), tomato, carrots, celery, avocado, olives, and lunch meat. Oh, and also some manner of dressing, usually vinaigrette.

As much as I can do with it, it just gets boring.

I’d recently bought some Safeway Kitchens fire-roasted salsa, not knowing what I was going to do with it. I’d also picked up 3 bell peppers–one each of red, orange, and yellow.

On the walk back from the bus stop (got off one early to get in some walking on such a nice day!), it hit me: fiesta bowl!

I stopped into the grocery store to grab two grilled chicken breasts and a large avocado.

I chopped up the avocado and peppers, shredded the chicken, and tossed that together with the can of salsa. (Probably a 15-oz can–I’ve recycled it, good Seattleite that I am, and composted the leftover veggie bits. Yeah, I’m good.) I then smeared a bit of that on a tortilla and put some shredded cheese on that and microwaved it. I probably could have actually made a taco bowl (or 6) out of the mix, but I tried it as a burrito first.

The results were 100% delicious. Also messy. Very, very messy. And very, very worth it.

So, for those of you who want an actual recipe-format recipe…

Chickadoodle’s Taco Fiesta Bowl Mix… Stuff

1 red bell pepper
1 orange bell pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
1 large, ripe avocado (firm-ish, just a bit of give to the touch)
2 medium-ish grilled chicken breasts
1 can Safeway Kitchens fire roasted salsa (~15 oz) or similar

Wash, seed, and chop the peppers. Cube the avocado. Chop or shred the chicken. Toss that in an at least 4-cup container with the salsa. Spread as a burrito filling or use as a dip or its own salad. Top with shredded cheese if desired. As always, enjoy. (If you don’t, you’re probably doing it wrong.)

Health for its own sake

If you’ve seen me in person, it’s pretty clear that, like Meghan Trainor, I ain’t no size two.

I don’t want to be, either—not because skinny people are bad, but because with my broad shoulders, ribs, and hips, that would look weird. Like, really weird.

I could, however, definitely stand to drop a few sizes.

Now, I’ve been told that I’m beautiful the way I am. And I’m gonna toot my own horn here, but I really don’t disagree. To further quote “All About That Bass”, I’ve got junk in… well, most of the right places, anyway. I can stand in front of a mirror and have my first thought be “I look good!” in most situations. But there are a few places I have junk that I’d really rather not have it, or as much of it, anyway. From a previous weight loss journey, I can tell you that my body has more or less the same silhouette at most sizes, but a bit bigger or smaller depending on the weight.

(Yeah, I’ve lost weight before. Yes, it came back. That was not a happy time in my life. Or rather, the not-happy time fed pretty handily into gaining back some weight.)

But now, I’m getting married, and there’s all this stuff out there about looking perfect for that day… and to be honest, that’s a part of the reason. I mean, I’ll look amazing anyway, so that’s certainly not the whole reason, or even the majority, but I’m not going to deny that it’d be nice.

I just want to be a little healthier. I mean, I’ve always been healthy as a horse, even (or perhaps especially? Despite?) concerning issues that are primarily weight-related. The most any doctor has ever been able to tell me is that it’s probably a good idea that I lose some weight. Sure, my blood pressure is good now, but it may not be. Sure, I may not have diabetes or heart problems or arthritis now, and yes, I know that losing weight in and of itself may not necessarily spare me any of those issues, but weight can be a factor, and gosh darn it, like any person, I want to make whatever effort I can to keep myself healthy.

I don’t really subscribe to the “Healthy at Any Size” ideology. There are a wide variety of sizes at which humans can be healthy, but one must account for personal variance (again, I would not be healthy at a size two) and admit that, at some point, organs, joints, and muscles start having difficulty operating. However, I also acknowledge that, going with the whole personal variance thing, it truly is more difficult for some people to gain or lose weight. Now, we as people can certainly help or hinder ourselves, but not all metabolisms burn or store equally. Sure, you want calories out to exceed calories in, but I swear there are people who can expend a hundred calories merely by yawning, and people who are lucky to expend one calorie yawning. (No, I am not a nutrition/biology expert. My guesses are probably wrong. It’s called hyperbole, people—you get my point. Anyway…)

Here, I guess I should note that I don’t really look at the scale for “healthy”, despite having talked about weight. I can do a 6:30 minute mile on an elliptical with rolling hills, level 5/10. (Usually, I do between 15 and 30 minutes, still with 6:30 minute miles.) I can do 110 kettle swings, 110 crunches, and still go back for a 45-second plank. I could probably skip rope for a good few minutes without really breaking too much of a sweat or breathing too hard. And when I start finding these things too easy, I up the difficulty. It’s more that I want to be fit, and weight does play a part in that. I want to keep on being able to climb stairs without breathing too hard (in fact, at work, I fast-jog up 4 floors to get a 3-oz cup of frozen yogurt. No jog? No fro-yo.) or running several blocks to catch the bus if need be.

But more than that, I want to be able to travel some with the fiancé and walk around all these awesome places. When we start thinking about kids, I don’t want a doctor to look at me and go “yeah, about that…” When we actually do have kids, I want to be able to keep up with them, and set a good example. And again, I know that, in the end, I might not be able to out-run, out-crunch, or out-lift certain conditions.

I also might not be able to out-healthy-diet them, though I try to keep that up, too–tonight’s dinner was a some of that sausage-veggie bake I love so much, and fire-roasted-tomato sloppy joe stuff on top of baked beans. Freaking delicious. I try to go heavy on the veggies, whole grains, and protein, and lighter on the dairy and starchy stuff as a rule, but I’m also a firm believer in a little indulgence so that I don’t grab a chai latte every morning or generally over-indulge on sugar when offered.

But even if I can’t out-healthy everything, putting in the effort does pay off. I sleep better. I feel happier. I feel more satisfied, confident, and fulfilled. I don’t feel so guilty about spending a little time playing video games. Life is just overall better. As much as I appreciate hearing that I look good, I appreciate knowing that I feel good even more, and most of all, that I’m being responsible and making the effort to stay that way.

I’m open, but I’m not THAT open…

Thrice this past week, I’ve been asked how soon I plan to get pregnant after I get married. (Yup, how soon plan. Me. The fiancé gets no say, apparently.)

One, I’ll admit I kinda walked into. Cooing over photos of my cousin’s children and then admitting a craving for tuna (which I haven’t had in forever) does kind of create a natural segue. It really was a “Wow, you really like kids! Are you planning on being a mom soon?” sort of thing. Okay. I can handle that. (My no was followed by the second question of if I already was pregnant. Pro-tip: DON’T FREAKING DO THIS. Not okay.)

The other happened as I was cooing over other photos. I quote, “Oh, I see where this is going: that’s why you’re getting married!”

Look, I get that it’s teasing. I’m not looking to play the victim or cry injustice here. But the implication that kids will take (or worse, already have taken) precedence over other qualities in a spouse really rankles.

Yes, I unapologetically go to mush over babies, and I like working with kids. I’ve always known that I want to be a mom someday. Honestly, I think the fiancé will make a great dad when we’re (yes, “we”! The fiancé gets a say!) good and ready. But I’m not just biding my time by programming–it’s a passion and I want to keep doing it, even after kids, and I don’t love the fiancé just because he could be (as a friend rather aptly put it) a “baby-enabler”. He is so much more than that. He is my partner in crime, my sounding board; he understands and accepts me. He’s a good cook, has an infectious smile and laugh, and plays a mean game of Scrabble. He gives the best hugs and, being far more aesthetically inclined than I, occasionally helps me pick out what to wear. We first bonded over composting and origami, and only later found out that we were compatible in terms of life and family goals, and while kids are a pretty important part of compatibility (you can’t really have half a kid, or only the good parts of a kid), again, I’m marrying him for everything else, too, and quite possibly everything else, first.

Also again, I get that it’s good-natured teasing. I really do. I’m not about to report either coworker for harassment or anything–in this case, it would be counter-productive. However, I have resolved to speak up next time. Not harshly or anything; just “Hey, I don’t appreciate the implication/you asking me about something this personal”. I know they’re good guys and will take it just fine. We all make mistakes. This is just a reminder to me that some have a deeper effect than they seem.