1.27.2016

I'm a Closet Blogger

Blogging is a really odd hobby for someone so private, but I am not any one thing.  I was a tall gymnast, a quiet cheerleader, and a shy model.  I wrote a novel I'm scared to let anyone read, and very few people know I wrote a novel at all.  I am really good at choosing activities I am totally unsuited for

I'm a closet blogger.  And not the kind you might be thinking of, because clearly it has nothing to do with fashion.  I've been blogging for going on seven years (!!) and I am still very much in the closet about it.  Sometimes I feel as if I'm leading a double life because the majority of people in real life have never seen my blog.  The rest of them don't know that I blog at all.  I can count on one hand the number of people who have the link and of those people I think MJ is the only one who reads.  They are MJ, my mom, my two sisters and a good friend who lives out of state and outside my social circle.  They all know I blog on the down low and that it is not something I want people to know about.
Top secret blog post coming right up
So how have I kept it away from almost everyone I know for all these years?  First of all, I am really good at keeping a secret.  I might be tempted to let a little tidbit slip, but mum's the word if I want it to stay that way.  I can't tell anyone my blog name.  I don't share posts on my personal Facebook.  I don't reference our real names on the blog or any social media because I don't want anyone to google me and find my blog. 

No one I know in real life is allowed to follow me on any social media I use that links to my blog.  That's Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.  Keeping my blog name a secret means, that there is little to no chance they'll find me.  I specifically told MJ he isn't allowed to follow me so he knows better, but when my little sister followed me on Instagram I had to block her until she unfollowed me.  Maybe that was a little extreme, but if she follows me, then friends and family that follow her might find my blog and I can't have that. 

I was really nervous about starting a blog Facebook page.  It was just a little too close for comfort and I was afraid that it would show up somewhere on my personal page.  I almost had a heart attack one day when I realized I accidentally shared something under my blog Facebook Page to my personal Facebook profile.  I frantically deleted the share from my news feed, terrified that I had outed myself.  It's been over a year now, and I think I'm safe as long as I don't promote my Facebook posts or use the wrong profile in the wrong place.

For a long time I didn't mention it to friends at all.  I didn't want them to read and I didn't want to feel obligated to share, but I've been doing it for so long that after awhile it felt weird not to.  I have no illusions that friends and family are clamoring to find out more about my super exciting life or blast my posts out on social media, but once that url is out there is no taking it back, and I want to keep blog life separate from real life.  I started mentioning that I blog here and there only recently, because I wanted to avoid that awkward conversation.  

Yes, I have a blog, and no you can't read it. 

I had to get comfortable with saying that it's just something I prefer to keep for myself....and random internet strangers.  Nothing personal.  It turns out that people can respect that, and then it only gets more awkward when they ask what I blog about. Ooohh...anything I want...life.  Most non bloggers think it's weird.

I prefer to keep blogging my secret and yet, it's on the internet that never forgets open to the whole wide world, so it's no secret at all.  Maybe it makes no sense that I am so private about something so public, but people I know in real life and anonymous strangers are two very different audiences.  When anonymous strangers read my blog I still feel somewhat anonymous, but when it comes to people in real life I feel extremely exposed.  And judged.  I would much rather be judged by anonymous strangers than people I know.  I'm not going to say I don't care at all, but I certainly don't care as much about internet strangers because I didn't go to school with them, or work with them. They aren't friends with my husband and I will probably never meet them in real life.  If I ever do it would most likely be a blogger, which would make it okay because being a fellow blogger, they "get it," and we are all in it together. 

My internet presence is definitely me, but it is also kind of not me in the sense that it's the me I present to the internet.  I'm naturally a private person, but keeping the internet me and the real life me separate is what allows me to be as open as I am, which isn't even as open as a lot of other bloggers are.  I don't share deep dark secrets on the blog so it's not like I'm really hiding too much over here.  I try to stick to content I would be okay with anyone reading about, but it's way more than what I share on Facebook and it is comforting to know that people I know aren't likely to see it.  I like my quasi privacy.  There is freedom in that.

I love writing and I really love this space.  When I write a blog post I'm really proud of I am bursting to share, but the majority of the time I'm exceedingly glad that it's still my secret.  The fact that my blood runs cold any time I think I've been outed is enough to tell me that I'm not ready to share.  In a blogging world so intent on increase traffic! and get more followers! this may not be the best strategy, but I don't care.  The internet is vast and my blog isn't big enough or viral enough for someone I know to accidentally stumble upon it.  I figure if there ever comes a day where that happens then so be it, but I'm probably not going to be the one to tell.


1.20.2016

Is Blue Apron Worth The Money?

We found a Groupon deal for Blue Apron a while back so we decided to give it a whirl and see what the fuss is all about.  A giant box appeared on our doorstep on a Wednesday afternoon with everything that we would need to cook dinner for three nights.  We took the silver insulated bag containing everything out of the box and were able to cram the whole thing into our fridge.


For the first meal MJ was so fast that by the time I stepped into the kitchen he'd already prepped half the ingredients.  I surveyed the scene to figure out what was left.  I cut a few things up, babysat a pan simmering over the stove, took a wine break and then started in on the dishes.  That is basically how it went for most of the meals until that one fateful day MJ decided that I should do it all by myself.  Disaster.  I had to go it alone because I didn't want to hear him tell me I'm using the wrong knife or that my cutting technique is off.  I would have made him cut the onion though, had that been an ingredient.  I don't do onions.  It was Friday so I went with the Cheeseburgers and Potatoes.  Sounds easy right?  But for an untrained novice, not so much when the recipe includes things like kale, lemon, garlic and rosemary. Things I would never include if I were making burgers and taters on my own.  I am not a cook! The lemon is what really held me up with talk of pith and zest, but the burgers were so, so, good.  That's the thing about Blue Apron.  They really do know what they are doing with the combination of ingredients they provide. 

The calories per serving for most of them are between 600-700 calories.  The ingredients are plentiful, the portion sizes are very generous and every meal cooked has been delicious and full of flavor. I usually end up stuffed.
*Fresh Linguine & Roasted Fennel  with Lemon Ricotta, Castelvetrano Olives & Breadcrumbs
Southern-Style Chicken Cacciatore with Creamy Grits & Basil
Meals we have enjoyed so far grouped by delivery.  Asterisks indicate favorites.

*Fresh Linguine & Roasted Fennel with Lemon Ricotta, Castelvetrano Olives & Breadcrumbs
  Southern-Style Chicken Cacciatore with Creamy Grits & Basil
*Cumin-Sichuan Beef & Noodles with Sweet Peppers, Cabbage & Garlic Chives

*Pork Meatballs in Butter Lettuce Cups with Soy Dipping Sauce & Sticky Rice
*Jamaican Jerk Chicken & Maduros with Stewed Collard Greens & Charred Lime
  Baked Sicilian-Style Rigatoni with Lacinato Kale & Ricotta Salata

*Trattoria-Style Cheeseburgers with Crispy Rosemary-Garlic Potatoes & Aioli
  Seared Chicken & Roasted Sweet Potato Rounds
  Mushroom Browned Butter Cavatelli with Kale & Soft-Boiled Eggs
Clockwise:*Beef & Noodles//*Jerk Chicken & Maduros//*Pork Meatballs in Butter Lettuce Cups//Sicilian-Style Rigatoni
*Clockwise:  Not a Blue Apron Meal-oops!//Cheeseburgers + Rosemary Garlic Potatoes//Seared Chicken & Roasted Sweet Potato//Butter Cavatelli + Kale + Soft-Boiled Eggs
Now I will turn it over to MJ interview style since he is the brains behind this operation.

What do you think about the efficiency of delivery and packaging?
Pretty efficient.  It shows up the day it's supposed to before dinner time.  Everything is labeled and separated.  All seasonings are bagged and labeled with that meal.   The food is still cold when it shows up.  The ice packs keep it really cold.

How do you feel about the type and variety of meals offered?
Good variety.  You never get the same types of meals.  I wish they had more non seafood options.  If you don't eat seafood and you want to change the menu you end up with 2 vegetarian meals if you want to change the menu. (I don't eat seafood, hence the reason for having to skip those). 

How do the meal choices work? Do you have to get something every week? Do you pick your delivery day?
The two person plan is 3 meals with 2 servings each per week.  They automatically choose 3 for you based on preferences when you select.  No pork, no fish etc.  The set menu is seafood, vegetarian and a meat.  If we want to switch out we have to choose either a seafood or vegetarian meal.   It shows what you will get that Wednesday and you skip it if you don't want it.  You can see the menu four weeks out but you can skip six weeks out.  Delivery day is based on where you live.  You don't get to pick.

What do you think about the quality of the produce and ingredients?
Nothing spoiled.  Everything is fresh.  Vegetables are crispy.  Meat is good.  It's not top of the line meats cuts but pretty good cuts.  They provide everything except salt, pepper and olive oil.

Once delivered do you have to cook the meals right away?
I think they are supposed to last at least up to 10 days.  You can spread it out. 

How about prep time?  How long does it take to make most of the meals?
Depends on who's cooking!!! If you are cooking it will take 2 1/2 hours.  If I'm cooking it is 30-45 minutes.  

How do you like the app and the program itself?
It's pretty good.  The app is kind of slow but good.

What about portion sizes?
It's plenty of food.  Perfect.  Sometimes you feel like you have too much, but it really is the serving size.

Is it worth the money?
Yes.  I think so as long as you don't get it every week.  If you only order stuff that you think you will like.  It's convenient, you try new stuff and you can save the recipes for future use.  And to make my wife cook.  Which has only happened once.  The cost is $59.99 per delivery for 3 meals at 2 servings each.  When you do the math on it that comes out to $10 per person per meal which isn't bad, but if we did that every single week it would be $240 per month which is bad.  Cheaper than it would be to dine out, but this is only dinner three nights a week so there are grocery expenses on top of that.

I agree that it's worth it if you just do it every now and then to change things up.  And this is coming from someone who isn't into cooking.  I would never dream of making half the stuff they sent us just because of the fancy names and ingredients list.  The first week of January he got another delivery which sucked for me because I'm on a diet that does not include 700 calorie meals.  The bites of 3-cheese calzone were to die for and there were three of them.  Three!! I requested a bite of every single one.  It also had burgers and a really simple chicken noodle soup.  I had no business eating a calzone, but the chicken noodle soup fit my macros okay and I had a bite of his burger.  It was so good.  I'm lucky he doesn't mind sharing.  Blue Apron ingredients are high quality and they don't scrimp on anything at all.  They always provide plenty to work with and the food is full of flavor.  Just delicious.  What I'm trying to say is, yes.  It's worth the money.  Definitely give Blue Apron a try if you haven't yet.  You won't regret it.

1.11.2016

New Year, New Scale

I confess.  I have a scale addiction.  I have only weighed myself every single morning for as long as I can remember.  When I'm on vacation I can't, except that one time I found a scale under the sink at the Bellagio in Las Vegas of all places.  So when I was contacted about receiving a Beets BLU Bluetooth smart scale in exchange for review, my answer was YES.  Does this fit my brand or does it fit my brand?  Not that we don't already have two scales at home or anything.

We each came into the relationship with our own scale.  Mine weighs in half pound increments, but his weighs in increments of .2 so mine was relegated to the extra bathroom.  The Beets BLU Bluetooth Scale does that and a whole lot more.  It measures weight, body fat, muscle mass, water level and bone density percentages.  It also tells you how much of your weight is lean body mass and calculates your BMI.  Like everything else, there's an app for that.  I think it will be good for me to have another number besides weight to track progress.  There is much debate over how accurate these things are, but considering the best and truest way to measure body fat is a DEXA machine or underwater weighing that most people don't have access to I think it can be a helpful tool to establish a baseline if nothing else.  My understand is that a harmless electric current passes through your body to measure resistance.  The greater resistance the greater body fat.  The next best thing after this, is body fat calipers.  That being said, based on past testing I do think the number I'm getting is fairly accurate.

I'm finding that the Smart Scale app needs to be open in order for all the information to transmit.  Once you step on the scale, there is one beep to indicate that weight has been recorded and a second beep to indicate the rest.  The weight comes up faster than any scale I've ever stepped on.  No hesitation at all.  Anyone can step on it at any time for weight.  It shows up on the scale, but the app is required to obtain the rest of the information.  I am secretive about my weight, so I make sure the phone is on vibrate because the app recites all of your stats out loud.  It's especially fun when you don't like what you hear.  The app graphs changes daily, weekly and over a 30 day period and is very easy to download and navigate.  Multiple users can download the app and have individualized information sent to their app. 

I like it.  We both do.  He likes almost anything with Bluetooth and I like that it's sleek and nice to look at.  So now I have this cool little syncing circle going on.  My weight records where I want it to without me having to do anything.  I use Lose it! to track calories and weight.  The scale does not sync with Lose it! but it does sync with the Health App on my iPhone which syncs with just about everything.  The Smart Scale app sends my stats to the Health App which sends it to Lose it!  Simple.  Now if only getting and staying in shape were as easy as that.

I am not one of those "I just go by the way my clothes fit," people but I am thinking I may do an experiment where I weight in daily as usual, but don't look at the information for at least a week.  It would probably be really good for me to see what it's like not to be aware of that number day to day.  I do not necessarily advocate daily weigh-ins.  I know there are other ways to track progress, but I think having an accurate scale is helpful if you are working on weight loss goals.   The extra information the scale provides is a bonus.  It sure can creep up on you the older you get, and even if you aren't trying to loose weight it's a good way to make sure that you are staying on track.  If you are in the market for a scale that measures body fat this is a good one.


1.04.2016

Vegas for the Holidays

I look forward to walking, make that running for dear life out of the office on the last day before Christmas Break more than anything else all year.  It's 10 times better than my my Birthday.  It's peace out I'm a free woman for almost two weeks, and it's pretty much the best thing ever.  This year I wasn't at home the whole time doing my normal staycation thing, but when we got back from Las Vegas I still had a week left and it was AWESOME.
take 1

take 9
I didn't even realize people were still getting pictures done at J.C. Penny's until my mom made us an appointment there to get family photos done.  I rolled my eyes a little at that, but if mom wanted us to do family pictures on Christmas Eve at Penny's in holiday color coordinated outfits then that's what we were going to do. Unfortunately, MJ didn't have red or green and the madness that is holiday travel had other plans for us so we never made it to Penny's at all.  Little sis and I were fine.  Our flights were from San Fran and San Diego just a short flight away, but big sis came all the way from North Carolina and if one thing goes wrong with your flight this time of year there is a good chance you will have a much longer layover than you planned.  She missed her connection, couldn't get a flight out until the next day and didn't arrive until late on Christmas Eve more than 24 hours later than she was scheduled to arrive.  We missed our appointment so we improvised.  On Christmas day we drove to a park with a tripod and made it work.  We did a few test shots then popped off our jackets.  MJ ran back and forth between us and the tripod until we got it right.  It was really hard to seven people to look good at the same time with the wind and cold working against us, but I think we pulled it off.  We were freezing do death through those smiles but I think hid it pretty well.

MJ got really creative with one of my gifts
My nephew is just the cutest, with his little voice and sweet face.  He's grown so much since the last time I saw him.  He is a really good listener.  If you ask him to do something he does it, and he is quite the hugger.  He hugs people at the grocery store.  He hugged the flight attendant.  Probably because he was so thrilled that they finally let him get on after sitting for hours at the airport.   Present opening that morning was crazy.  I think I went into a trance or something because I hardly even remember it.  There was trash everywhere.  The lens cap for our camera disappeared.  I think it got thrown away.  One of MJ's present was a riddle so I was engrossed in that and then I was trying to see what everyone else was getting and figure out my new fitbit.  DJ was all over the place.  My sister was setting up his new tablet. I don't know what happened, but it was fun.


Just in case you were wo
MJ helped out a lot at Christmas dinner and it's a good thing because I don't know what went wrong with me and my sisters, but we are not kitchen people.  My mom asked us all to contribute a dish.  Big sis volunteered for chips and guacamole.  Little sis did a spread for bread.  I contributed a husband who volunteered to make brussel sprouts with bacon, and two sweet potato pies.  This is him making some last minute gravy.  Just in case you were wondering pancake mix is a perfect substitute for flour in gravy.  When he went to make cookies later he discovered what he thought was the flour container was full of pancake mix.  I guess it tasted fine, because nobody noticed.

The Rents
Sisters in pea coats at Caesar's Palace
Normally I go to Vegas to party.  Well, party one night and hang out at the pool for the rest because I don't have the energy for much more than that!!  Preferably during the hot summer months when you can walk around at night in a short dress and sit outside at Fat burger shoving fries in your face at 2 am without being cold.  This time was different.  It was my first time visiting my parents since they moved.  Could I go to Vegas and not set foot on the strip at all?  The answer is no.   I have a thing for the lights and the energy of the Las Vegas strip.  It was freezing, and there would definitely be no clubbing but we were there and my older sister doesn't get out much.  We had to.     If it had been summertime I'm pretty sure I would have wanted to party a little bit because I can't help it, but with freezing temps and a pregnant person in tow all we could muster was grabbing dinner on the strip and a stroll through Caesar's Palace.  We did a little bit of shopping and after three hours we were ready to go home. Dad dropped us off and then we took an Uber back.

Our flight left at 6:00am (yikes!!), but we had five nights there and I really enjoyed it.  You realize even more how special it is to be with family for the holiday's when everyone moves away.   We didn't do much.  I think we spent the majority of the time in pajamas watching those cheesy Hallmark holiday movies that were on all day long back to back commercial free.  We also watched the first (and sadly the last) season of the Ballet drama Flesh and Bone on Starz in a single day.  We delivered cookies as a family to the neighbors (much like a Hallmark movie).  On Sunday morning while the guys went to a casino to watch football we went for a walk (minus little sis who couldn't get up).  On our last night we went to my Dad's favorite Chinese restaurant for dinner.  Just good clean family fun.  I didn't want the visit to end, but I knew it had to because otherwise we would be in our 30's living with my parents and no jobs.  We had to go home.  But I didn't want to.

A photo posted by Cece (@mahoganydrive) on



We went to see Star Wars at Cinepolis the day we got back.  I took naps.  I was prepared, but alas a 10:30 pm start time is still too late for me.  It was good, but I fell asleep at the end.  New Year's Eve was really low key.  We picked up the expensive steaks we love for dinner.  We watched a movie and watched the ball drop on TV.  My retired parents were out dancing until 2am and then went to Denny's afterward while all their three kids spent NYE on the couch. 

One of the best things about my time off is that it didn't go by fast at all.  Now that I'm at work, it seems like it did because it's over, but while it was happening every day seemed to go on forever and that's just the way I like it. 


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