thoughts on saying “no”

coffee with iphone“No is a complete sentence” – this is something I say all the time at work (I think Oprah originally said it and, like everything she says, it stuck with me as a profound life mantra.) This is usually in response to a colleague who was asked to do something way far outside of their scope – a common occurrence in the non-profit world – and they’ve come to me looking for permission to say no. I don’t usually have any problems saying no – to going out, to diets, to buying from your cousin’s Jamberry nails account. No comes pretty easily for me.

Until it didn’t. Until I was presented with an opportunity that I’d thought I wanted until I was laying in bed late at night and had a knot in my stomach about it. My mind wanted it to be a “yes” but as I lay in bed with my grumpy old cat, I realized that I’d have to say no. Once that thought came to me “I  have to say no” – it was settled. It felt good. I realized that what I think I should want and what I actually do want might be different things sometimes and having the faith to say “no” to something that just doesn’t feel right in your gut, even if it looks good on paper, is okay. Better than okay even. The right thing to do – the only thing to do.

So I said “no” and the world didn’t end. Turns out, Oprah was right, that one simple word really is a complete sentence.



homemade pasta bliss


After a crazy couple of weekends of moving, hosting and cleaning, I was really ready to kick back this weekend and try some new skills in the kitchen. Enter, homemade pasta making.

I know, I know. Pasta is so cheap, does it really make sense to make it homemade? In short, yes. Yes, it does. Homemade pasta is silky and delicious in a way that dried pasta could never even imagine. I made 3 batches (like 734 servings of pasta) and I’ve almost eaten it all. I know this says a lot more about my eating habits than the recipe, but trust me when I say, this stuff is legit.

If you’re fancy and rich, a Kitchen Aid mixer makes this process go a million times faster. If you’re a little bit of a cheap, white-trash rat (like myself) you can borrow a manual pasta roller from your unsuspecting friend who asked you to please watch her cats for the weekend, not rifle through her kitchen cabinets for supplies. Your call.

The manual roller has a few benefits – first and most importantly, you can watch Jurassic World on your tablet in our kitchen without the motor of a Kitchen Aid distracting you from Chris Pratt’s thighs. If that’s not reason enough, a manual roller will also make you feel like an Italian grandmother and your arms and back will be a little sore the next day. #functionalfitness

So, here you go – the simplest, most delicious recipe for homemade pasta. Each batch yields about 6 servings of pasta for a normal human being, or 3 servings if your appetite resembles mine. Trust me, just triple it. (pro tip: it freezes super well too!)

Homemade Pasta Recipe

1 cup flour (for the dough)

¼ cup quality olive oil (seriously, just splurge here at the store)

1 egg + 2 egg yolks

1 cup flour reserve (for flouring your rolling pin/counter/obnoxious cat)

Dash of salt

Glass of wine (for drinking, not for the recipe)

Begin by taking one cup of flour and dumping it on the counter. Get comfortable with the fact that this is going to be messy. Create a little bit of a reservoir in the middle of the flour, pretend you’re making a flour volcano. Make sure the hole is big enough to hold all of the liquid we’re going to add shortly. When in doubt, make it a bit bigger. *

In a separate bowl, beat together the egg and 2 egg yolks. Really go for it. Pretend they’re your ex-boyfriend who cheated on you with their coworker.

Back to the “Ring of Flour” – sprinkle a dash of salt on the flour, extra points if you throw a bit behind your left shoulder for good luck. Take a sip of wine, you’ve earned it.

Add the olive oil and eggs t0 the middle of the volcano (picture this liquid as your lava – it helps, I promise!) and begin to mix the liquid and dry ingredients with your finger.

Work your dough until it begins to form a ball. Add flour to the surface as needed so it doesn’t stick.

Now here comes the work. Once you have your dough ball (not your cat, the literal dough ball!) spend the next 5 minutes rage-kneading the hell out of it. Put on some hardcore music and go to town. Use that palm. Picture that ex. Create the pasta this world deserves.

Next, cover the dough with a cloth and go chill with your glass of wine for 5 minutes. Dream of Chris Pratt’s thighs. Wonder when people will figure out that trying to put dinosaurs in an amusement park is a bad idea.

Come back to your dough with a little buzz and get ready to roll! Whether you’re using a Kitchen Aid or a hand roller, the first few steps are the same. Take 1/3 of your dough and flatten it down with your palm so it resembles a thin pancake.

Make sure your pasta roller is on the widest setting (for some rollers that’s a level 9, for others they start at 1 – no need to read instructions, just move the dial until the rollers are at their widest).

Run your dough pancake through the widest setting. Then take the dough and fold it into thirds and run it through again. Do this 3 times on the widest setting. You want to get those delicious doughy layers.

Next take your rolled dough and move the dial down to the next widest setting. Run the dough through 3 times. Repeat this step until you have gotten through all the settings and you can see your hands through the dough when you hold it up to the light. Pat yourself on the back because that was a lot of work.

Next, cut your thin dough strip into a few pieces so it’s not super long (unless you’re going for a Lady and the Tramp vibe where people need to suck their pasta up!) and run it through the cutter attachment to your roller (or your Kitchen Aid if you are a trust fund baby).

Toss your beautiful ribbons in a ton of flour so they don’t stick together. Seriously, so much flour. Otherwise they will melt together and will become a pasta blog which, while still probably delicious, is not the vibe we’re going for here.

Do this one million more times with the rest of your dough to have sufficient pasta for the weekend.

To cook:

Just throw in a pot of boiling water for about a minute (2 minutes if you’ve frozen your pasta like that badass meal planner that you are) and then toss with store bought sauce for a meal that will impress even the most grumpy of mother-in-laws.

*Great life advice in general


MCA Denver Black Sheep Fridays

Girl in Museum

I’ve always loved museums, the feeling of being on sacred ground, the precious things, the food court. And I’m lucky enough to live in Denver, a town whose museum and cultural scene is blowing up. It’s not just stuffy, dark mineral halls either. Lately it’s really cool, thoughtful exhibitions and experiences that are drawing out people who might not immediately associate a Friday night museum visit with outlandish fun.

MCA Denver, our contemporary art museum, continues to crush it with an event they call “Black Sheep Fridays” – it’s a themed (!!!) evening that ranges from “Spam Poetry” where they had local Denver poets read guests’ spam emails (as amazing as it sounds) to an event where you can make a cake with the artist/actor/rapper Drake’s face on it. Magic. Pure, totally weird magic. Plus, this experience comes with a band, a bar, and access to all the museum exhibits for the insanely low price of $5.

I adore everything about this idea – with Black Sheep Fridays, MCA Denver shows a sense of humor about art that gives people an access point. It’s fun and quirky, but it also exposes world class contemporary art to the guy who might have just come to the event because of the bar and live music. Maybe the dude will drink his beer and split, but maybe he’ll take a moment and look at piece and think about how it makes him feel. MCA Denver is meeting people where they are and opening its doors wide to any riff raff (i.e. myself) who are looking for something cheap to do on a Friday night. It’s taking the museum out of the ivory tower and into the weird, crunchy alley for everyone to enjoy.

I love it so much. Stay strange, MCA Denver.

*Just to clarify: I adore the mineral halls at Denver Museum of Nature and Science. I always make the same joke to my beloved that I’m making my Christmas list when we’re going by the gems and we laugh and laugh. **

**No one laughs at that joke but me. And I make it every single time.

the view above ground

WindowI love Denver. I love it more than I love any place I’ve ever visited and, while it might not be my forever home, I’m really happy I made the crazy decision to pick up my life and move here 3 years ago.

Now, I’m moving again. But this time it’s not across the country, it’s across Colfax Avenue and you would think that this would be child’s play for me now. I mean, the last time I moved it included me, my dad, a 1970s truck and my sedated cat spending a memorable night at a Kansas motel called Not the Hilton (true story). My dad is a saint, by the way.

But it’s not easier. In fact, I’m freaking out. This time I’m moving from my slightly slum-lordy, ”charming in its own way if you like holes in walls” basement apartment to a beautiful vintage place above a cake shop. I am excited and it’s going to be such a positive change for me. No more neighbors stealing my Christmas presents (a real thing that happened) no more drunken people filing out of the bar across the street and having loud philosophical discussions right outside my window at 2am. Peace. Quiet. Natural light. It’s going to be glorious, but I’m having hard time with the transition.

I can’t stop thinking that my current place is the apartment where my friends came for a fateful visit that ended with a broken window, a red-eye flight back to Chicago and a missing person’s report (another true story for another day). This is the apartment where I spent my first Christmas away from my family, eating Chinese food and scrapbooking and not feeling as sad as I thought I would feel. These walls have seen me at my happiest and my most inconsolable. I love this place, but I know it’s time to move on.

So, I’m packing up. The cat loves it, all the boxes everywhere. (I, however, do not.) I am stressed, frantically comparing moving company Groupons on my lunch and making lists of IKEA furniture I might buy. There are floor plans sketched on Post-It notes and to-lists piling up in my purse. There are never enough hours in the day to get it all done.

But, I’m grateful. I’m grateful for the 3 years that my little basement nest gave me and I’m excited to start making memories in a place where you don’t need a camera flash at high noon.

I can’t wait to see what the view looks like above ground.

Thump Coffee


Three years ago I was new to Denver and felt very much like a small country mouse who had been plopped down in the middle of city mouse’s super hip neighborhood. Down the block from my beloved, basement, slum-lord apartment was a new coffee shop that seemed like a place where I could meet some friends.

Just kidding, one does not meet friends in a hip coffee shop unless you’re on a 90s sitcom.

That new coffee shop was Thump Coffee (13th and Downing, Denver) and it’s become one of my favorite spots. Not because the coffee is good (It’s really not. There are a lot of “notes of lavender” on their coffee menus which is a giant red flag for a woman who once ran out of coffee filters in college and used paper towels. I do not need lavender, I need caffeine and to be left alone) but because the food is amazing.

Thump has biscuits and gravy. I repeat, Thump Coffee has biscuits and gravy. And it’s become my biggest and most treasured vice. Forget smoking, sex with strangers or heroin. Just give me that gravy.

I feel like it’s my civic duty to tell everyone that staff do call carry out orders of their biscuits and gravy “B&G on Wheels” –  which is especially mortifying when you’re standing there in your pajamas waiting to carry your slightly gross breakfast back to your basement apartment without all the beautiful people on their Mac Books noticing. Please quit yelling “B&G on Wheels” barista. I beg of you. It’s weird, it makes people look up from their computers and it draws attention to the fact that I’m wearing fleece pants with candy canes on them and it’s March.

But besides their weird code names of things and their too cool vibe, Thump Coffee is a pretty amazing neighborhood asset. They are (hilariously) pulling out all of their laptop plugs later in the month, in an effort to keep the crowds cycling through, but an hour of coffee drinking and people watching at Thump Coffee is about as long as you need to be in the space before you realize it might be good to be out in the real world. A world that doesn’t smell like Madewell denim and lavender coffee. A world where biscuits and gravy is not “B&G on wheels” and a world where wearing candy cane pants in March is considered chic and daring*.

Give Thump a go, it’s fabulous. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.

*Sadly, this world does not exist.


woman in boots

When I first moved across the country to take my beloved museum job, I became the last one of my closest girlfriends to throw off the small town we’d grown up in and venture out into the unknown. It was exciting and fun and made me feel like I was on the verge of something BIG.

BIG indeed. Denver felt BIG. And while I was so lucky to find a few kindred spirits in Denver, my heart will always belong to the 4 closest girlfriends I grew up with who are now spread all over: LA, Chicago, Iowa. After a pretty rough end to 2015, I had been craving the closeness of these soulmates and then my friend had the best idea ever.

She started the tradition of a group text where we all send one picture that gives a snapshot of our day. It’s like snapchat, but less seedy and more permanent. It started goofy enough: feet propped up on a kitchen table, a box of cereal, an iced latte in the sunshine. But it’s moved on to show things like moving boxes, boyfriend’s kiddos (captioned with the horror of being forced to watch Dora the Explorer) and other defining moments of our adult lives. It’s a 5 second way to share the most mundane or important moments of our day, and looking back through those messages and seeing the different pictures makes me feel connected to these amazingly brilliant and funny women in a way I didn’t realized I’d missed so much.

It’s also opened my eyes to the idea that the mundane matters. You may say that knowing what someone ate for lunch seems small and insignificant but in a world where swiping left or swiping right on someone without knowing anything about them is the norm, knowing the details about someone’s day is rare and beautiful. And having someone to share the small things with in this life is mighty big indeed.

chicken cashew curry, ftw!

curry ingredients

One of my 2016 intentions has been to cook at home more. This sounds simple, but with a crazy museum schedule and dozens of awesome restaurants within walking distance of my apartment in Denver, it’s hard for cooking to compete.

This past week I decided to pull the trigger and try making something fun at home. Down the internet rabbit hole I went to find inspiration (I’m looking at you, Buzzfeed Food) and I stumbled across The Pioneer Woman’s chickpea curry recipe. Now, besides her magnificent red hair, Ree Drummond (aka The Pioneer Woman) has some credibility as a solid, no-nonsense chef so I thought I’d give it a shot, even though I wasn’t sure how much curry there was to be found on the range during the pioneer days. I was in, I was fully committed, I’d made a shopping list on my phone and I’ll be damned if it didn’t include fish sauce.

Fast forward to Saturday afternoon: I’m back from the grocery store and I am feeling pretty proud of myself. The produce is lined up on the counter, Kacey Musgraves is playing on the radio and I am ready to rock. Except, I’d totally forgotten the chickpeas. Damn it. Literally in the title of the recipe. New plan. I had chicken. I had cashews. I had an absurd amount of sweet potatoes that I’d impulse bought when I knocked some off the display in King Soopers (I was so embarrassed, I just threw a bunch in my cart so I could run away. Adulting like a boss.) I began to cook.

Guys. It was as though I was channeling Julia Child. I grilled chicken while steaming a potato. I chopped onions like Buzzfeed Food taught me to (I swear this is not a paid ad for Buzzfeed Food, I just get all their emails) I tossed garlic like it was a beaded necklace at Mardi Gras and I gross old man who hadn’t seen a topless woman since the war. It was magical.

And then I ate it. And it was so good. And I realized that my 2016 intention of cooking more at home might not be dead in the water after all. It might just be soaked in delicious coconut milk and served over rice.

Chicken Cashew Curry with Sweet Potatoes (makes, like, I don’t know 4 lunches?)

1 grilled chicken breast

1 medium sweet potato, preferably picked up off the floor in shame

handful of cashews*

1/2 tablespoon of chopped garlic

1/2 onion

2 tablespoons of red curry paste

3 shakes of fish sauce*

1 sliced red pepper

handful of broccoli florets*

1 can of coconut milk

red pepper flakes if you like spice

as much rice as you can fit in the cooker

You’re going to fall in love with multi-tasking at the beginning of this recipe. First, put a bit of oil in a saute pan. Add in the chopped onion and the garlic and let it sizzle for a hot minute. The onions will start to turn brown and smell like heaven.

Next start grilling the chicken. Just keep grilling the chicken until it’s done. If you’re like me and are terrified of giving yourself salmonella, this will be when the chicken is totally black and nearly inedible. You do you.

Poke the sweet potato as if it were your ex-lover who left you for their secretary. Stick it in the microwave for a few minutes to steam it. I put mine in for 3 minute increments and just kept poking it to see if it was soft. Something I also like to do to my internet crushes.

Once the onions are soft, toss in the vegetables. I don’t steam them beforehand because I like them crispy, but I’m not about to tell you how to live your life. Give this bitch a stir. Then add in the curry paste, fish sauce, steamed sweet potato and chicken.

Lastly, add in the can of coconut milk. Side note: coconut milk gets a hard shell on top when you first open it. Don’t poke this hard shell because you will cause quite a bit of the milk to squirt out into your face and you will be embarrassed. Even if you are home alone. However, your skin will feel amazing for days, so there’s a little bit of a silver lining somewhere in there. Anyway, add the milk to the pan and put the stove on low. Simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Sneak bites when no one is looking.

Spoon over rice and add all the toppings you can think of. Some recommendations include: more cashews (natch), cilantro, lime, or chili flakes.