Blogmas Day 18: Why We Blog Through Stories

Why do people come and read blogs, day after day? Why read about someone’s life, someone you will probably never meet, someone who’s life has no bearing on your own?

Last year, I discussed the value of stories a little bit, but I want to expand on that today.

We read blogs about strangers’ lives day after day, because as human beings, we are drawn to stories.


We love reading about other people’s lives, and seeing how others live, because everyone’s life is a story. Blogs are truly a unique medium that offer a glimpse into a person’s life. We can know what someone’s day to day life is like for people on the other side of the country, or the other side of the world. It’s a connection that was impossible before the age of the internet. We’re curious about how other people live, and reading what their stories are. It’s so interesting to see another person’s life, and see the similarities and sometimes subtle differences between theirs and your own.


We can learn so much through others. And blogger offers a unique cultural analysis: we can see the differences and values through the way people approach life and the way they speak about it. It’s not so much what someone blogs but the way in which they do it.

So what is the point? Every blogger has a message, whether explicit or unconscious, or they wouldn’t blog. Even those with a blog purely as an online diary have a message, they might just not realize. That message is in how they tell about their lives, the word choices and reflections on life. Simply writing a series of events is a reflection, although sometimes inadvertent. What I mean is this: when recounting events, the way the events are described are inherently a reflection. Why choose this word over that? There clearly is a reason, although it may not be a conscious choice.


So, we’ve established that everyone has a message. But why use stories as a medium? There are plenty of websites that have dry, informational content. Let’s use health, fitness, and healthy living blogs as an example. There are plenty of articles out there about what to eat to be healthy, what exercises to do, how to approach food.


But those websites don’t have the same loyal following. They don’t get people coming back day after day in the same way. And that’s because when we present information through stories, people care more. It’s more interesting. It’s more memorable. Sometimes I’ll do a purely informative post, but that doesn’t stick in the same way. I think it’s also beneficial to share a message through action, through application. I could do nothing but share nutrition knowledge on this blog, but I don’t think that’s what people want to see. It’s hard to relate to a list of bullet points. It’s hard to see how a list of bullet points works in everyday life. It’s much easier to see the full picture. When those bullet points are applied day after day, it’s easier to understand what and how.


And how many times have you remembered a story you heard, compared to an article you read? Even with school, if there was a story behind a piece of information, I remembered and understood it far better.

One of my hopes with this blog is that it will help a few people here and there better understand and approach health. And I hope that by sharing my own thoughts and approaches in my daily life, I can achieve this.

Blogmas Day 17: Legit Italian Cooking

I’ve mentioned it before, but my sister spent 2 months living in Florence, Italy this past fall. While there, she took a really legit Italian cooking class, where she spent all day learning how to cook Italian food.

Naturally, I enlisted her help to make a Blogmas post out of it.

She’s unwilling to try GF pasta (because the texture wouldn’t be the same!) but she offered me something equally delicious: eggplant parmigiana. Apparently, the real Italian version of this dish isn’t breaded! I actually don’t generally like eggplant because it’s usually served so tough, but I had confidence that my sister would be able to transform it into something I would enjoy.

This dish is an all day affair. Legit Italian cooking takes forever. I actually spent the first part of the day at the library and when I got home, she had already been working for 2 hours.


2 hours chopping. For the sauce, the vegetables need to be chopped into the tiniest, most adorable cubes, to properly break down when cooking.


My contribution here was providing a fresh batch of eggnog. I almost didn’t screw it up this time but cooked it literally seconds too long. Blender to the rescue again.


Once the vegetables are chopped finely, they go in the pot with quality olive oil, sage, bay leaves, oregano, salt, pepper, and other spices.


And then they cook.


While they were cooking, she started prepping the eggplant. The key is to cook the eggplant twice: once before it goes in with the sauce. She sliced it up and roasted it with some olive oil.


Our little helper:


Then, diced tomatoes were added to the sauce.


After everything was thoroughly cooked (with necessary taste testing cooking on as well), it was time to assemble.

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It has Buffalo mozzarella and parmesan. Apparently Buffalo mozzarella is made with Buffalo milk! I actually didn’t know that! It’s a lot more flavorful.


Beautiful, and ready to eat!

We served it with a salad and some quality red wine.


We ate this fancy meal in the dining room (we normally eat in the kitchen), and I went to pull out my chair, but it felt surprisingly heavy.


Well hey there Lilly.

This was absolutely delicious. The homemade sauce was out of this world, and the eggplant was perfectly tender. Apparently 2 months in Italy is worth something!

I think next up for her to make us is gelato though…

Blogmas Day 15: Homemade Eggnog, Cranberry Bread, CSA Box

10 days my friends!

Before we get into the meat of this post, I’m trying my best to get festive up around here! I finally broke out my Bath and Body Works peppermint twist spray (I think I’ve actually had this since freshman year of high school…), and I got my first red cup!


I’ve been using festive plates for my avocado toast.


And bundled up in giant scarves.


We had to take her to the vet due to some eye stuff (minor infection), and this is how she rides in the car…

Check out this picture from the St. Louis Zoo that my coworker sent me. It’s crazy, and really hard for me to imagine it like that!


I wish I could say my workouts have been particularly festive, but going to spin classes and Crossfit here does make me feel like it is the holidays, since when I was in college I would only go to these places when I was home for the holidays.

In Crossfit, we’re still going strong with our 20 rep sets. Tuesday, we did Fran, and it was my first time Rxing it. (21-15-9 thrusters at 65# and pull ups). Then, that evening, I went to a spin class because it was one of my favorite teachers. I woke up Wednesday morning with my legs feeling rough. I still went to Crossfit (lots of back squats), but spent the rest of the day taking it easy on my legs, and refueling with lots of festive food.

You see, we recently started getting a CSA box. I mentioned this before, but we got talked into it when I was getting my Turkey Trot bib. It’s awesome because it comes right to your door, and you get to customize what you want in it. Since we have 100000 persimmons right now, I figured we would want mostly veggies. However, I did decide to keep the cranberries. Because Christmas. There’s really only one thing to do with them, right?

Make my favorite Cranberry Orange Bread. I made this recipe numerous times last year, all the way through February, or whenever cranberries become hard to find. It’s healthy, but the texture is still soft. I love that it only calls for 1/2 cup of sugar. Until you add chocolate chips, of course.

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Sadly, they all sunk to the bottom. Which creates a very interesting pure chocolate crust. There are worse things in life.


I actually froze most of the loaf. My current favorite dessert is eating quick breads with Halo Top.


(A different cranberry orange bread from the other night.)

But of course I had to do a taste test.

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On the topic of our CSA box…what else have we been making? The other night we made smashed potatoes from the purple potatoes. Roasted in the oven, then smashed and brushed with garlic and olive oil, salt and pepper, and sprinkled with parmesan, and then put back in the oven. (We had them with chicken cooked in meyer lemon artichoke simmer sauce over spinach.)


We based Wednesday night’s dinner around our new box finds as well. We made kale chips out of the kale—massaged in olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder, baked for a little over 10 minutes at 400.

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For the main course, we had eggs and a butternut squash dish. The recipe for this honey garlic roasted butternut squash came with our CSA box. It had some balsamic in there too, and was topped with feta. Plus a baby avocado toast on the side.


I ate a festive dessert while making a festive dessert. I nibbled on peppermint bark before trying my hand at some eggnog.


I used this recipe for low fat eggnog. I wanted to try and make a healthier eggnog, and my family generally likes light eggnog better anyway (the regular stuff is too thick.) I reduced the sugar in the recipe to only 1/4 cup, down from 1/3. I also added a dash of cinnamon.

Cooking on the stove:


This has cornstarch to give it a little thickness.

I’m not really sure what happened when cooking. The recipe said once the egg was in, cook for about 8 minutes, or until it starts to thicken. It started to thicken after less than 5 minutes, and was a little chunky. It was basically separated custard. Ugh. But it tasted good.

My mom suggested we put it in the blender, and that did wonders! Despite the rocky start, it actually came out well.

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And hey, it tasted good! Delicious warm as well!

And on that note, enjoy my babes:

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Are you an eggnog person?


Blogmas Day 13: The Best Bread Pudding Ever

Christmas is in less than 2 weeks. How the heck did that happen??

I have to say, I haven’t felt nearly as festive as of late (well, maybe just after spending all day in the library with Microbiology), but I’m still trying to pack in the holiday activities. And pack in the microbiology. It’s all balance, right?

Saturday I dragged my parents to the mall to do some Christmas shopping/hit all the free chocolate samples.

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See’s Scotchamallow, William and Sonoma peppermint park (the best peppermint bark out there), cider, and hot chocolate, and Harry and David dark chocolate truffle.

Still working on the festive lipstick though…it’s…different.

After the mall my family and I went out to see a sort of Christmas movie (Office Christmas Party), and grabbed paninis and salad afterwards.

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Sunday morning began with a run by the bay. And a walk for the crazy pup. Turns out, she doesn’t love it when I run away from her while she is walking. I didn’t have lofty pace goals when I set out, but 8:35 felt very comfortable. I picked it up for the last mile. Getting faster, and I’ll take it!

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We went to Ike’s, a Northern California famous sandwich spot, afterwards to pick up sandwiches. I split a turkey and avocado on GF bread with my mom. Turns out they use Mariposa bread (the place in the Ferry building) which is insanely good. I think I need to go more often!


But on to the recipe. I actually didn’t want to post back to back Blogmas recipes, but it needs to be this way to work out with other Blogmas scheduling and logistics.

This recipe is an old family recipe. I don’t have a ton of family recipes, but this one more than makes up for that. My Grandpa used to own a restaurant, and he served this family bread pudding there.

My dad and I are both bread pudding snobs now, and turn our noses up at the dry stuff you see at most places. This is REAL bread pudding. Hot, custardy, and drenched in rum sauce. I suppose it would be pretty healthy if you made it with whole wheat bread and skipped the rum sauce, but what’s the point? DO NOT skip the rum sauce.

The Best Bread Pudding Ever 


Serves 6

Bread Pudding Ingredients

2c 1/2″ day old bread cubes (8 slices with crust)

2c milk

3T butter

1/4c sugar

1/2t cinnamon

2 eggs, lightly beaten

dash of salt

1/2t vanilla

Rum Sauce Ingredients

1c light brown sugar

1T cornstarch

1/4t salt

1c boiling water

2T cold butter

1t vanilla

4T rum

Bread Pudding Instructions

1.Preheat oven to 350.

2. Place cubed bread in greased baking dish.


3. Scald milk, butter, sugar, and cinnamon.

4. Beat eggs, add a dash of salt, in a medium bowl.

5. Stir in warm milk and vanilla slowly into the eggs so that the eggs won’t curdle.

6. When blended, pour over cubed bread.


7. Place baking dish in pan containing warm water.

8. Bake at 350, about 1 hours, or until knife comes out almost clean.


Rum Sauce Instructions

  1. Comine brown sugar, cornstarch, and salt into a saucepan and stir well.
  2. Add 1 cup of boiling water to the mixture, stir well, and bring to a boil.
  3. Stir constantly for 5 minutes, or until mixture starts to thicken.
  4. Add cold butter, vanilla, and rum. If you don’t want to burn off any of the rum—you’re done! However, I highly suggest cooking the mixture another few minutes, until some of the alcohol burns off.

Top a serving of bread pudding with rum sauce, whipped cream, and a sprinkle of cinnamon!

Blogmas Day 12: Avocado Smash

Over the summer a year ago, I visited one of my best friends in New York. She took me to Bluestone Lane, home of one of the best avocado smashes in the city. And thus, a love was born.

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What is an avocado smash? Basically hopped-up avocado toast. It has way more avocado than just a simple toast, and the avocado is “smashed” such that it maintains a good deal of chunkiness. I recruited the same friend to come help me out with this one.


We got super lucky in that the avocados we found happened to be the most beautiful avocados. Ever.

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Avocado Smash


*Serves 4*


2 avocados

4 pieces of toast

4 poached eggs

feta cheese


olive oil

cherry tomatoes




*please look elsewhere for egg poaching instructions—this is not my forte!

Start by lightly mashing the avocados together with a dash of cumin, and salt and pepper to taste.

Put about 1/2 of an avocado on each piece of toast.


Lightly drizzle tahini on top.


Place a coupled of halved cherry tomatoes on top. Then, drizzle with olive oil, and a little more salt and pepper.

Carefully, place the poached egg on top (it likes to slide off!). Add another sprinkle of salt and pepper, and crumble some feta on top.




Have you ever had an avocado smash?