Reflections on an Okay, Terrible Month

So if you remember towards the end of January, I wrote about how February is the bane of my existence each year. Maybe that was the opposite of a self-fulfilling prophecy — a jinx, if you will. Because this February has flown by, so quickly the usual misery didn’t have time to latch onto me.

I have several theories for why. Firstly, not exactly a jinx, but writing about it, being honest rather than hiding my fears, liberated me to face February in a way I haven’t been able to before. In a way, the demons were warned: I’ve sounded the alarm, and others are watching for the attack.

Partially, in an attempt to reaffirm to readers that I am okay, I’ve been better about writing and posting this month. It’s kept me distracted with a creative outlet to reenergize me every few days. Also, little things like my style challenge increased the distractions — keeping me focused on little, life things so the dull, boring February days couldn’t leave room for despair to fester.

I’ve been taking a bit better care of myself this year. Things like going for walks, hikes, and doing yoga with both more regularity and less rigidity than I would have in the past. And, without going into *too* much detail, this month for medical reasons I was taken off the oral contraceptives I’ve been on for the past thirteen years, and I think the lack of synthetic hormones has helped mellow out at least some of my more temperamental moods. Also, eating more vegetarian meals (and a lot less red meat especially) all probably helps in a healthy-body, healthy-mind kind of way. You know, because science.

And of course, I have to give credit to my current situation. My husband warns we’re still in the honeymoon phase of living in this new city, but after seven months I am still so in love with Saint Louis. More than the physical city, the feeling I have here — like I belong in a way I never felt in the DC area — is beyond comforting. Gone is the tension and stress of a life measured against every designer handbag and luxury vehicle rolling down the street. There are lovely, wonderful people in DC, but the people of the midwest have been so welcoming, I truly believe it’s a little bit magical. It’s soothed my soul in a way that has certainly helped me approach this season with a calmer spirit.

The struggle continues, but it’s becoming easier to cling to the edge of the precipice rather than give up and tumble into darkness.


Stealing Song Lyrics

Do you ever notice a particular line in a song that describes you exactly? Or you’re mindlessly listening to music when a lyric slaps you across the face with its poetry?

It happens to me all the time. I know I’ve written before about songs capturing the essence of “me” perfectly, but this post is about what I’ve started to do with those lines. It started at work — meaningless doodles scattered with jotted down song lyrics. Next thing I knew, a storm had erupted across the page, snippets caught in a hurricane.

I noticed a trend on Pinterest — or maybe it just seems like a trend because I’ve been pinning more and more about it — of hand-lettering. I love the idea of turning words into visual art, especially when the words themselves already provoke a visceral, art-like-response in me.

When I had a writing corner, I’d tack these up around me for encouragement or commiseration.

Sometimes I’d dedicate whole projects to a story, the playlist for inspiration bleeding across a page.

img_3429-1 Spotify: Writing – Beast playlist

Now that we’ve moved and my student-husband has taken over the desk, I keep the scraps of paper tucked into my planner or a favorite book, waiting to surprise me when I open to the right page.

Magic of Home

So as I was driving home the other day, I was trying to think of the right words to explain the love I feel for where I am. Every time I try to simply say “I love Saint Louis,” it doesn’t capture what I mean. My husband is able to make it smaller, explain away the magic with rationalities like the convenience of city living or the newness of this environment for us.

And he’s right, but he’s also so very wrong. When I say how much I love it here, I mean so much more than the architecture or stores or restaurants or people. They’re all fantastic, sure. But there’s something…more. Deeper. More pure. It’s a knowledge in my bones that I belong in the world. It’s magical. It’s home.

And as I reached my exit, I glanced up at the bridge that spans the highway like I always do — there’s often someone standing up there, just watching the cars pass, and for whatever reason, it makes me smile. Today, though, was more magic.

Someone had written a marriage proposal in painted cups wedged into the chain link barricade. Whoever Jonna (Ionna? Tonna?) is, I hope they say yes.

And for all the other people dating other Jonnas who take 44E home, tonight may get a little awkward.


Meatless Mondays (Everyday) 

We’ve been on a fairly meatless kick lately. Mostly because plant-based proteins are more easily accessible (we always have a stock of canned chickpeas, black beans, mushrooms, plus tons of frozen veggies), but we’ve also found we’re less lethargic and generally feel healthier on meatless meal nights.

My chili mac with mushrooms instead of ground beef.

It’s also fun finding new recipes and cooking with ingredients I never have before. Like jackfruit. This magical fruit can replace pork or chicken in so many recipes. We find it in the canned veggies section of the grocery store. The first time I cooked it, I made barbecue sandwiches which turned out pretty good, though I’ll admit, the texture was a little too soft for my preference (kind of like an especially fatty portion of pulled pork).

This week, my husband had the idea to try jackfruit enchiladas. I’d already found a recipe for jackfruit “crab” cakes (which I do still want to try) but enchiladas are one of my favorite dishes ever, so obviously that’s what we made.

I really need to be better at plating and photographing BEFORE we dig in and demolish these dishes.

The recipe I based my enchiladas on came from Well Vegan, but since we aren’t actually vegan, I included a few heaping handfuls of real cheese and topped those babies off with a dollop of sour cream. We also used what we had on hand rather than running to the store for specific ingredients, but it still turned out really well.

It really looks like it could be pulled chicken

This meal is pretty fantastic for any time you’re trying to incorporate a meatless dinner into your routine. It’s easy and delicious, and reheats pretty well the next day, too!

Enchilada stuffing

Jackfruit Enchiladas

  • 1 can jackfruit, drained and rinsed
  • 3 medium-large cremini mushrooms, diced
  • 1/2 cup salsa
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbs minced onion
  • 1/2 Tbs garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder
  • 1 can red enchilada sauce
  • 6-7 flour tortillas
  • 1 cup shredded cheese
  • sour cream and diced avocado, for serving
  1. Prep the jackfruit: cut off the hard core and shred the stringy flesh into a bowl, removing the seeds. Blot with several layers of paper towel to remove excess moisture.
  2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. In separate bowl, combine the mushrooms through 1/2 tsp chili powder. Set aside.
  4. Heat oil in large skillet over Medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute ~1 min.
  5. Stir in the jackfruit and remaining spices. Cook, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes.
  6. Spread 1/2 the enchilada sauce along the bottom of a glass baking dish.
  7. Spoon the salsa mixture into the middle of a tortilla and top with a scoop of jackfruit. Roll up and place seam-side down in the baking dish. Repeat until salsa and jackfruit mixtures are used up.
  8. Spread remaining enchilada sauce over tops of tortillas. Cover with shredded cheese.
  9. Bake 20-25 minutes, until sauce is bubbling and edges are crisped.
  10. Enjoy with avocado garnish (and sour cream, if desired).

Now, because we used flour tortillas instead of corn (and possibly because I really smothered them in cheese), our enchiladas were pretty soft — more like a smothered burrito. Still delicious, just not the texture I’m used to with enchiladas. They were still amazing!

Lou Brew Reviews: Heavy Riff and 4 Hands

Since these two are tied for 2nd place in my book, I decided to do a post about both of them together.

We just sort of stumbled upon Heavy Riff the other day, after the most delicious burgers at Hi-Pointe Drive-In. Their Squeeze Box Lemon Wheat is pretty good, and I was surprised how much I liked the Eat a Peach IPA and their American Pale Ale Left Coast Envy, since I’m not a huge fan of hops (I know, how reliable can my craft brews reviews be if I don’t like IPAs?).

The space is a good size, with a few booths, some pub tables as well as actual dining tables. They have a shelf full of board games — so lingering over drinks is encouraged.

The theme of the name carries throughout, from guitar draft handles to posters of rock legends and concerts along the walls.


Four Hands is a bit more “commercial” than most of the other breweries, which my husband didn’t like as much. They have a nice lounge area with couches and low tables, as well as the main bar area with the long tables and plenty of seats at the bar. Then there’s an upstairs, with it’s own bar, booths and tables, and old-school arcade games like skee-ball.

We tried a handful of samples, and my husband really liked the (seasonal) Snake Oil Red IPA, and my favorite was the (also seasonal) Tangerine Slam/City Museum (for some reason, it had different names depending on the drinks menu you looked at). The Single Speed is year-round and pretty good, blonde ale.

We met up with a few friends here before the Army-Navy game, so it was a fairly brief visit. I’d love to go back now that the seasonal beers have changed over (and maybe this time snap a few pics!).

Homemade Ramen Noodles

If you’ll remember, I had a bugger of a cold around the beginning of the month. My husband made it a full week before succumbing himself.

If you have a man in your life, you know what big babies they become at the first sniffle. (Okay, okay, this time around my throat hurt so badly I was a whiny mess myself). Regardless, a loved one with man flu requires some extra pampering.

I’ve written before about the soups I whip up to fight illness, but you can never have enough easy soup recipes, especially in the middle of cold and flu season. This one has the added bonus of being a childhood throwback made healthier.

Who doesn’t love ramen noodles? Salty, savory, noodley perfection. This recipe is almost as easy as the pre-packaged junk and even tastier — if I do say so myself.


  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 Tbs minced onion
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas and carrots
  • 1/2 cup frozen broccoli
  • 1/2 Tbs garlic powder
  • 1/2 Tbs turmeric
  • 1/2 Tbs ginger
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 Tbs chives
  • 1/2 Tbs soy sauce (optional)
  • 1 tsp sriracha (optional)
  • 1 sheet Chinese noodles
  1. Heat oil in stockpot over Medium. Add onions and red pepper flakes and cook about 1 min.
  2. Add veggies and spices through pepper. Cook, stirring often, about 3-5 min.
  3. Stir in chives and chicken stock. Bring to boil.
  4. Add soy sauce and sriracha. Boil about 8-10 min, stirring occasionally.  (Side note: all the seasoning measurements are approximate so taste/adjust as needed throughout.)
  5. Break noodles in chunks and add to pot. Cook about 3-4 minutes, breaking noodles apart with spoon as they soften (you can also add 1 cup water to keep soup brothier).
  6. Enjoy!