Friday Musings: On Friendship

Happy Friday, everyone! I read an article from The Atlantic this week that really struck a chord with me. It’s about the changing nature of friendship over time, a topic that has been on my mind as I’ve transitioned into my new role as a mother, when every relationship aside from the one with your child seemingly takes a backseat.

“The voluntary nature of friendship makes it subject to life’s whims in a way more formal relationships aren’t. In adulthood, as people grow up and go away, friendships are the relationships most likely to take a hit.” 

Isn’t that the truth? In adulthood, and most of all, in motherhood. Even though I am the one who has likely become less available to my friends post-motherhood, I have still been holding on to a little bit of angst and resentment in regard to drifting friendships. I pride myself on being incredibly loyal and committed in friendships, especially the ones nurtured in that vulnerable state of young adulthood. I spent so much of my childhood moving countries and having to leave friends, that when I found lifelong ones in my early 20s, I clung to them. And naturally felt confused and perhaps even abandoned when regular communication became a challenge once we surged ahead with our respective careers but in different cities.

But reading this article, and especially this closing paragraph, was an ‘aha’ moment that helped reframe these friendships in a more positive, realistic light:

“Perhaps friends are more willing to forgive long lapses in communication because they’re feeling life’s velocity acutely too. It’s sad, sure, that we stop relying on our friends as much when we grow up, but it allows for a different kind of relationship, based on a mutual understanding of each other’s human limitations. It’s not ideal, but it’s real, as Rawlins might say. Friendship is a relationship with no strings attached except the ones you choose to tie, one that’s just about being there, as best as you can.”

I LOVE this perspective. It’s such a liberating thought for someone like myself who has always held my friends to high standards and expectations when it comes to communication. I’ve caught up recently with a few different friends from college after years, and the reunions all proved to me that even though we don’t need each other on a daily basis, those friendships are still intensely real and deep. And I was able to pour my heart out to them in a way that I simply cannot with just anyone in my life. It doesn’t matter that they weren’t there for recent life milestones, what matters is the connection and the understanding that we once chose each other for a reason. To borrow a line from my favorite movie The Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind, constantly talking isn’t necessarily communicating…and if I can have a few golden moments of true communication and friendship interspersed throughout our busy lives, then I consider myself lucky.

What are your thoughts on the changing nature of friendship? Did you catch this article, and do you agree that letting go of certain expectations can allow for more meaningful relationships in adulthood?

Park City From the Eyes of a Non-Skier

Hello, world. I’m back from my non-blogging slumber, though I can assure you I’ve been very busy in the real world, mostly chasing around my baby girl TODDLER, setting up our new home which we finally moved into in December, and navigating the world of suburbia, which is a brand new adventure for me. It’s been a busy, stressful, confusing, transitional time, but at the end of the day, I feel a sense of peace and gratitude that I haven’t felt in my life in a very long time. It’s truly wonderful.

Of course it’s not always rainbows and butterflies. Life as the mama to a very active toddler is chaotic and exhausting on many levels, which is why my husband and I try to prioritize some solo time when we can. We just got back from a lovely little couples getaway to Park City sans-baby (thank you, supergrandparents!), and I feel so refreshed and rejuvenated to be back home to my usual routine after four days of pure R&R. My hubby has been BEGGING me to go on a ski trip the last several years and I finally obliged, though frankly I’m terrified of skiing. Luckily one of our couple friends were in the same boat (he skis, she does not), so we booked the trip, seeking comfort in the fact that I would have someone to socialize with while the boys were on the slopes all day.

Park City did not disappoint. The skiing is phenomenal of course, but there are plenty of other things you can do in case you get tired on the bunny hill after thirty minutes (I’ve heard this is possible if you a) have zero experience and b) are a total chicken and have a deathly fear of heights). Here are a few non-ski related activities you can enjoy:

1. GO SNOWMOBILING! On the last day of our trip, we decided to book a guided snowmobiling tour with Summit Meadows, a company operated out of Garff Ranch. The company handled pickup, drop-off, helmet rentals, and offered a two-hour guided tour through beautiful snowy meadows with spectacular views of the Wasatch Mountains. Since I didn’t get past the bunny hills when attempting to ski, this was a great way to take in the views that I had missed out on. Perfect snow adventure if you’re not able to ski!

2. PAMPER YOURSELF WITH A SPA DAY. This one is a given. If you’re going on a ski trip, you simply have to treat yourself to a massage and escape from the snowy terrains for a bit. We loved the services at Aura Spa located right on Main Street–much more affordable than the fancy resorts, so we were able to squeeze in a two-hour massage and a facial. PURE bliss. Our Airbnb also had a private hot tub in it which added to our heavenly relaxation experience 🙂

3. BLOODY MARYS & APRES SKI AT THE ST. REGIS. We’ve all seen those drool-worthy Instas of fabulous skiers enjoying shot skis, poppin’ champagne bottles, and chugging beer after a tough day on the slopes. Apres-ski is simply the best, and doing it at the St. Regis Deer Valley just feels so luxurious (and less fratty). Sit outside by the fire and order one of their signature Bloody Marys. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.

 

4. EXPLORE MAIN STREET. The heart of Park City is as cute and charming as you would expect a ski town to be. You can spend hours just walking around Main Street exploring art galleries, breweries, gift shops, and taking a hot cocoa break whenever you please. The nightlife on Main Street is also fantastic – we went to The Spur for a spontaneous night of dancing on a Friday night and O.P. Rockwell for some AMAZING live funk/90s hip hop music on Saturday night. We weren’t really expecting to party in Park City, so the nightlife was a pleasant surprise. The chic speakeasy O.P. Rockwell (pictured below) was especially great!

5. EAT! Park City is home to some really great (although pricey) cuisine. Whether it’s the resort turkey chili or gourmet Italian food, there’s a little something for everyone. Plan ahead and make reservations, especially for some of the more popular restaurants on Main Street.

Duck Enchiladas at Chimayo – such a unique and delicious dish

Turkey Chili at Deer Valley – so cozy and perfect for apres-ski

Amazing Italian fare at Grappa – my favorite meal!

Grub Steak Restaurant – casual vibes, live music, and your standard steak

Mushroom, Avocado and Ricotta Toast at Harvest, an adorable little Aussie-owned brunch spot

 

No-Bake Cacao Date Energy Bites

Hellooo everyone! It’s been a while since I’ve made an appearance on the blog, though I continue to be active on my Instagram. I try my best to be more regular here, but alas real life (aka PARENTHOOD) gets in the way. Most recently, my little one has been struggling with some food allergies. I won’t get into all the details here, but long story short, her allergist suggested cutting out dairy from my diet since she’s still nursing. It’s been tough, but of course I will do whatever it takes to help my babe. And to be honest, it’s been kinda fun exploring the world of dairy-free recipes, a world which I NEVER thought I’d be a part of before!

And that’s how I came across these delicious energy bites. I’ve been seeing these no-bake healthy energy bites/balls all over the ‘gram and vegan websites lately and was determined to try them out to help curb my serious sugar craving. There’s a plethora of variations all over the Internet, but here’s a quick recipe that I tried out based on ingredients that I had readily available in my kitchen. The key ingredients here are Medjool dates (richer than regular dates and with a slight caramel flavor), high-quality cacao powder (I got mine from good ol’ Trader Joe’s), and some sort of nut butter. Apart from that, you can really customize this recipe however you want. These are the PERFECT afternoon snack for a quick pick me up, though I can’t promise you won’t finish them all in one go…try to be more disciplined than my hubby and I are 😉

Ingredients (makes 6-8 bites) 

3/4 cup rolled oats
1.5 cups Medjool dates, pitted
1/2 cup cacao powder + 1 tsp for coating
1 tbsp smooth peanut butter
Pinch of sea salt
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp coconut oil

Directions

Throw all the ingredients in a food blender and blend, blend, blend. Add more coconut oil if needed to make more smooth. Take bite-sized pieces of the mixture and form into small balls with your hands. Place a teaspoon of cacao powder on a flat surface and roll the balls to coat them. Refrigerate and enjoy for a week! THAT’S IT.

Spaghetti al Nero di Seppia {Squid Ink Shrimp Spaghetti with Tomato Basil Saffron Cream}

Squid ink pasta has a special place in my heart, and I have a hilarious picture from my bachelorette party years ago to prove it (pro-tip: don’t try squid ink when you’re all dolled up for a night out). It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I just love the rich texture and earthy/sea-infused flavor of squid ink pasta. It’s something I always order at restaurants if I see it on the menu, because I imagine it’s incredibly complicated to make at home. Until I walked in my local Trader Joe’s and found Casa Milo’s Squid Ink Spaghetti on the “new products” shelves, that is. I immediately snagged it and decided to pair it with shrimp and a creamy, garlicky, tomato basil saffron sauce. Sooo delicious and luxurious. The spaghetti was simple to prepare (just followed the directions and boiled for ten minutes till al dente) and had a lovely, subtle flavor to it. Not super overpowering, and perfect for squid ink virgins. RUN, don’t walk to your nearest Trader Joe’s to give this a try! Immediately ups the ante of any pasta dish and makes it tres gourmet 🙂 Perfect for hosting, date night, or just a regular weekend meal if you’re feeling fabulous.

Ingredients (serves 3-4) 

1/2 an onion, minced
4 cloves of garlic, smashed and then minced
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
Two tomatoes, crushed
2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
1 tsp freshly-squeezed lemon juice
Salt & pepper, to taste
Crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
Oregano or Italian spices, to taste
1 lb frozen shrimp, deveined
Pinch of saffron (optional, I had some lying around)
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
12 oz (1 pack) Casa Milo Spaghetti al Nero di Seppia, cooked according to directions
1/2 cup pasta water
1/2 cup parmesan or parmigiano-reggiano

Recipe

Heat the butter and olive oil in a large saucepan on medium-high heat. Add the garlic and let brown slightly, then add the onions and then stir till soft and translucent. Add: the tomatoes, fresh basil, crushed red pepper flakes (a generous amount if you can handle some heat), lemon juice, salt & pepper, Italian spices. Stir and let this mixture simmer into a sauce on medium-high heat for several minutes. In the meantime, prepare the pasta according to direction and cook till al dente. Add shrimp to the tomato mixture and stir until fully cooked.

Lower the heat and stir in a pinch of saffron, heavy whipping cream, and pasta water fresh from the cooked spaghetti. Stir everything together and until the mixture has a nice yellow hue from the saffron. Add in more salt & pepper and spices as necessary. Simmer for a few more minutes until the sauce is thick and bubbly. Stir in the spaghetti and serve with freshly-grated parmesan/parmigiano-reggiano and fresh basil.

Guilt-Free Chicken Pasta with Sun-Dried Tomato Cream Sauce

I just got back from a wonderful trip to my parent’s house in Calgary, Alberta and feel so refreshed and energized for the fall! There’s a crispness in the air back home in Chicago that just makes me so excited for cooler temperatures and fall recipes. I used to SO not be a fall person (I grew up in deserts and the tropics and never had to wear a sweater), but now that I’m a legit Midwesterner, I really appreciate the beauty of seasons. And it’s much easier taking my baby out for walks now that it’s not ridiculously humid and in the high 90s. 🙂

ANYWAYS, I recently shared this pasta on my Insta Stories and decided it was too good not to share on the blog! I LOVE using sun-dried tomatoes with olive oil for pasta and chicken recipes. It’s such a good hack for easy-to-prepare sauces that immediately lends a ton of flavor to any dish. You can also check out my recipe for Chicken & Sun-Dried Tomatoes in a Garlic Cream Sauce.

For this particular recipe, I used Trader Joe’s Organic Brown Rice & Quinoa Fusilli Pasta, which makes this dish healthy, gluten-free, and guilt-free. The pasta is a new find for me; it’s so good and so filling that I seriously cannot believe it’s not real pasta! Love the texture too. Hope you enjoy the recipe, and leave a comment if you plan to try it! It’s GREAT for meal-planning for the week. Just skip the chicken if you want to go veggie 🙂

Ingredients (serves 4) 

1/2 an onion, minced
2 cloves of garlic, grated or smashed
1 box of baby bellas, sliced
6 oz spinach
6 chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
8.5 oz sun-dried tomatoes with olive oil (I used the Trader Joe’s brand)
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup heavy cream
Trader Joe’s Organic Brown Rice & Quinoa Fusilli Pasta, cooked according to packet directions
1/2 cup pasta water
1 cup parmigiano reggiano
Oregano, red chili flakes, and s&p

Recipe

Heat the butter and olive oil in a large saucepan on medium-high heat. Add the garlic and let brown slightly, then add the onions and stir till golden. Add the chicken thighs and fry each side for a few minutes until almost fully cooked. Then add the mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes with olive oil. Stir everything together until the chicken pieces are fully cooked and nicely coated with the sun-dried tomatoes and olive oil. Lower the heat and add heavy cream, pasta water, and salt and pepper. Simmer on low heat for five minutes or so until the sauce is nice and thick. Finally, add the spinach, cooked pasta, 1/2 cup of parmigiano reggiano, and seasonings (oregano and lots of red chili flakes for extra spice!). Serve with freshly grated parmigiano reggiano and enjoy for dayzzz!

Six Lessons from Six Months of Parenthood

Today, our daughter Nainika turns six months old. The days have been long, but the weeks and the months have simply flown by, and I can’t believe we’re already here celebrating this momentous milestone. I’ve always looked forward to motherhood, but the actual experience of raising a baby has been even more incredible than I ever imagined. There’s literally nothing more I’d rather do than spend my every waking moment with our child.

To be honest, it hasn’t always been this way–the newborn days were hard. Really, really hard. You spend nine months obsessed with this thing inside your belly, but once it comes out, you feel guilty for not feeling that immediate connection or unconditional love right away. I was constantly exhausted, my body was recovering, and the little peanut that needed me every two hours for nourishment didn’t feel or look like a real human being.

But then, she slowly began to break out of her little newborn shell and develop this incredible little personality. She began to smile. To giggle. To laugh uncontrollably whenever her Dada made faces at her. To give me shy sideway glances and naughty little kicks. Her eyes now light up every time she notices her Mama or Dada in a crowded room, and her face breaks out into an enormous grin every time a stranger smiles at her. It’s crazy how much you can already tell what sort of personality your baby will have at such a young age. I’m so ridiculously proud of how fearless, spunky, funny, and loving this little person already is. They say it’s supposed to get even better than this, but I really don’t know how we could possibly love her anymore than we already do.

It’s been six amazing, rewarding months, and I wanted to document some of the key lessons I’ve learned over this important period of time:

  1. DON’T BE SHY ABOUT SEEKING HELP. It’s true what they say–it takes a village to raise a child, and sometimes you just have to be recognize your limitations and give in to all the help that’s being offered your way. My parents moved into a temporary apartment across the street for the first six weeks of Nainika’s life, and I can’t imagine surviving those early days without them. My mom was at my place every single morning with fresh, homemade Indian food, and basically took over baby-rearing duties while I caught up on sleep and let my body heal. When I temporarily went back to work full-time (and ultimately decided I needed more time), we moved into my in-laws’ place so they could watch her while I was away. Not everyone is as lucky to have the sort of amazing support we do, but there are people out there who want to help you in small, but significant ways. SAY YES!
  2. TUNE OUT THE NOISE, AND FOLLOW YOUR OWN PARENTAL INSTINCTS. There are also plenty of people out there who want to offer their unsolicited advice and words of wisdom. While this is all well-intentioned, it’s okay to tune out the external noise sometimes and follow your own parental instincts. Sure, you’ll make mistakes, and sometimes other parents DO know better than you, but these are your mistakes to make. You’ll learn from them, move on, and ultimately become a better parent because of the errors you have made. It’s all part of this journey 🙂
  3. IT’S OKAY TO BE SELFISH SOMETIMES, SO YOU CAN BE SELFLESS WHEN IT MATTERS THE MOST. During those early newborn days, my husband and I would take advantage of grandparents and go on almost weekly date nights. I have no qualms about spending time away from my baby every now and then for time with my girlfriends, exercise, or just self-care. That time away from your baby is absolutely critical to feel refreshed and re-energized so that you can give your baby your all when they need you the most.
  4. BE PRESENT, AND SOAK UP EVERY MOMENT. This one can be challenging when I’m obsessed with trying to document every moment and let’s face it, the addiction to technology is very real. There are times where I just have to force myself to put my phone or laptop in a different room and spend time with Nainika sans-distraction. Those uninterrupted moments I have interacting with her are pure magic, and no amount of pictures and videos can quite capture them.
  5. CONTINUE TO LIVE YOUR LIFE. Yes, my baby is the most important thing in the world to me, but my husband and I also value our lives and independence. We continue to travel and eat out, and have found creative ways to make it work with the baby. Our travel itineraries may have slowed down and changed, but we took Nainika to Paris and had the best time of our lives. We have lunches and dinners at odd hours to suit her nap schedule, but we continue to enjoy exploring new restaurants. You CAN continue to enjoy your life with a baby, but with a new buddy in tow 🙂
  6. EMBRACE EVERY MOMENT WITH A SENSE OF HUMOR! I think this is the most important lesson of all, and the one that’s enabled my husband and I to survive the first six months. I owe this one entirely to my husband, who is simply having a blast with every moment of parenting. We’ve had to deal with countless poop explosions at the most inopportune moments (new outfit during a family wedding, in a brand new rental car, you name it…), and the best way to deal with it is just by having a sense of humor and laughing about it. Babies are hilarious little things and while some of the things parents have to deal with are hard and exhausting, they are MUCH easier to deal when you have a sense of humor about it.

So there you have it. Six lessons in parenting from these early months, though I can probably think of a zilliion more. We’re learning every minute, and having a blast while doing so. Would love to hear if any of these resonated with you (for those of you who actually got through my novel!). Cheers to the next six months. I can’t wait to experience them with our little darling.

Spicy Basil Shrimp & Turkey Rice Bowls

Of late, cooking has been a very calming force in my life. The past several months have been personally full of change and immense transition–I had a baby (the biggest change of all), I made the difficult decision to take a break from a wonderful job to focus on my daughter, my husband and I moved to the suburbs to be closer to his new job, and we bought a townhouse that is currently in construction. I view all these changes as positive and happy developments, but they are changes nonetheless. And change can cause momentary havoc and feelings of unsettledness.

It may sound trivial and silly, but being able to focus some of my energy on exploring new recipes and taking care of and feeding my family grounds me and gives me a sense of purpose during this period of transition. I’m no gourmet chef (not even close), but I’ve always enjoyed cooking, and I really love having more time to be able to think about the food I’m putting in our mouths. It’s a luxury I didn’t really have before, and I’m so grateful to have it now.

Our Friday nights in the city after a busy work week always used to be about ordering in greasy food and pigging out in front of the TV with Netflix. Now, I’m way more inclined to cook dinner even on a Friday night. Part of that might be because we’re in the suburbs and have fewer DoorDash/UberEats/Postmates options, but I also just feel so much better when we eat a good meal at home. And I don’t have to compromise on my cravings! This past Friday, I had some leftover shrimp, ground turkey, and tons of basil that I threw together for an Asian-inspired meal. Sometimes, these spontaneous dinners don’t quite work out, but the end result was surprisingly delicious and more importantly, SO quick and easy to make. Thirty minutes max. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve ordered Thai or Chinese takeout on a Friday night and just felt bloated, sick, and disgusting after devouring way too much food. Cooking at home give me the chance to enjoy the cuisines I LOVE in a much healthier way.

Anyways, not sure what the point of my little introduction to today’s recipe was–guess I just wanted to acknowledge the role that food & cooking currently play in my life 🙂 Hope you enjoy today’s quick and delicious recipe!

Ingredients (serves 2-3) 

1 lb ground turkey
1/2 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined (you can also make this recipe with just 1 lb shrimp and nix the turkey – the sweetness of shrimp pairs perfectly with all the garlic and basil!)
1 tbsp sesame oil
3 tbsp soy sauce (just 2 if you’re cooking with just shrimp)
1 tsp honey
2 tbsp Canola oil
Red chilli flakes, to taste
6 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
1 tsp freshly grated ginger
Handful of fresh basil leaves (with the stems removed)

Recipe

Combine the sesame oil, soy sauce, and honey in a small bowl and set aside.

Heat 1 tbsp of Canola oil in a large frying pan or wok. Add the garlic and ginger paste to the pan and let heat for a few minutes. Once golden, add in the shrimp and pour half the soy glaze mixture over the shrimp. Stir well so that the shrimp is fully coated in the glaze and garlic ginger paste. Once the shrimp is fully cooked and slightly charred (a few minutes on each side), remove and set aside.

In the same pan (there should still be some of the leftover garlic, ginger, and soy glaze), add the remaining Canola oil. Add the ground turkey. Pour the remaining soy glaze mixture and mix well together. Continue stirring and frying the ground turkey for several minutes until fully cooked. Add the cooked shrimp back into the pan and stir everything together. Add red chilli flakes and additional soy sauce, depending on your taste. Remove from heat and immediately add the fresh basil leaves and stir until wilted.

Serve with brown rice and you’re all set! Enjoy your Spicy Basil Shrimp & Turkey Rice Bowl 🙂

PS. If you follow me on Instagram (@mrsgcg), you can view this recipe in my Story Highlights!