Posted in Backwards is Better

Peppers Stuffed With Swiss, Mushrooms, Ground Turkey and Rice

Welcome back to my lazy kitchen!

Tonight’s edition is a variation of a recipe from Dear Crissy found a few nights ago via the culinary treasure trove that is Pinterest. I had leftover ground turkey in the fridge, five peppers, and rice in the cupboard so stuffed peppers seemed like a great idea. To summarize: prep the veggies while the oven preheats to 375 and the rice simmers, then add ground turkey and cheese to the rice. About 30-35 minutes later you’ve got a great meal. Thanks Dear Crissy!

Here’s what I improvised with:

Crissy’s                                           On Hand

Wild Rice                                        Jasmine Rice

Onion                                             White Mushrooms

Crushed Tomatoes                       Used Broth Instead of Water to Cook Rice

Italian Seasoning                         Rosemary, Sage, Thyme

Cheddar Cheese                            Swiss Cheese

You aren’t always going to have the ingredients to follow a recipe exactly as it’s written, but most of the time you can find worthy substitutions without making an extra trip to the store.

Posted in Backwards is Better, Free Time Fun

Stardew Valley: Marriage Candidates Ranked

That’s right, I’m still obsessed with Stardew Valley. I spent a significant amount of time maxing out relationships with the twelve eligible partners before making my decision: CONGRATULATIONS STRAW & ABIGAIL!

The following is my ranking of marriage candidates with my reasoning why. If this is a game you are interested in playing, beware of storyline spoilers!

12. Haley – Her story was such a bore. She fits the stereotypical airhead, but I kept waiting to find out about a different side of her. It wasn’t there.

11. Alex – He plays the jock character who’s always working out and talking about his body. Nothing much changes when you start dating him, though his backstory was a bit sad.

10. Shane – I think his story ends on a positive note, but man, dating this guy was rough. All it involved was finding him drunk at various places around town. While you felt for him, it wasn’t exactly screaming marriage material.

9. Penny –  I felt like she was kind of stuck up. Her home life is pretty rough and there’s a fun scene at the spa, but she just rubbed me the wrong way.

8. Maru – She is a well-developed character. Along with working as a nurse at Harvey’s clinic, she’s a scientist like her Dad, though more of a creator. I found the protective nature of Demetrius to be kind of cute but more off-putting. It kind of emphasized the teenager thing. If that portion were removed, I think that the robot cutaway would have been way cooler. Either way, the robot scene is still one of the best!

7. Sebastian – To be honest I figured based on looks he was who I would end up marrying. The elusive goth thing pulled me in and I thought the Dungeons and Dragon scene was a lot of fun. He’s the bad boy who’s misunderstood and takes you for a ride on his motorcycle. Once the good times fade, he’s kinda whiny and I didn’t think that’d be fun all the time.

6. Leah – I believe she is the only character that gives you a real gift. She gives you one of her sculptures. I thought that was a really sweet move, but the rest of her story was your character encouraging her art career. There isn’t anything wrong with that, but it got a bit dull.

5. Elliot – Ah, the writer. One could expect his story to be a good one, and it is. He invites you to a reading of his new book and at another point takes you out on a romantic boat ride. Beyond the events, I didn’t find his character very interesting.

4. Sam – This was a surprise for me, his character is pretty juvenile and I never thought I would like him so much. He’s a boy in a band and you’re his muse. The short courtship culminates on a bus ride to see his band play. It’s killing me that I can’t remember the band name, according to other sites it depends on which genre you choose.

3. Emily – She is a lot of fun to date. One of her cutscenes is a trippy dream sequence and I think it might have been my favorite of all of them. At another point you witness her save a parrot. How sweet! Overall she’s a good pick, but what can I say, the “spark” wasn’t there.

2. Harvey – He was my pick to marry for a long time. I like the fact that he’s an adult and I found his romance storyline really cute. For the date he takes you up on a hot air balloon despite being terrified, how’s that for romantic?

  1. Abigail – My beloved wife! There are so many reasons why she is my favorite of the villagers. She has witty and gloomy remarks on life that I found poetic. Her cutaways are fun and happen all over town, from playing video games in her room, playing music by the lake, to rescuing her from the mines.  She even plays the drums in Sam’s band! Sure, similarly to my complaint with Maru there is a scene Pierre gets all fatherly in, but it’s while Abigail is wielding a sword in the graveyard…. so it is easy to overlook. We are still pretty early in our marriage, but so far she has been a delight. 🙂

P.S. I feel I have almost peaked with this game so I will need suggestions for a new obsession as there is plenty of summers left. Please and thank you!

Posted in Backwards is Better, Culinary Quests

Boss Budget Naan Pizzas

A few years ago naan was a fancy bread I had never tried. Now I love naan bread but tend to stay away from it because if it isn’t on sale at the supermarket it can be pricey. Recently an Aldi by me was remodeled and reopened. When scoping it out I found and they have a 4 pack of naan bread for less than $5. Needless to say, I was impressed and excited to try new recipes with it.

My love of pizza cannot be understated. I could easily eat pizza for every meal every day and be content if only my stomach would be too! If you use this naan bread you can have 4 meals for around $10 or less depending on what you have in your kitchen.

I had pasta sauce, salsa, and Mexican cheese already in my fridge. In addition to the naan, I got a green pepper, an onion, and some mozzarella cheese. I made two pizzas, one with the salsa and Mexican cheese, and one with the remaining ingredients. It took less than a half hour start to finish.

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Place naan on a baking sheet and sprinkle with a bit of water.
  3. Throw whatever you want on there!
  4. Cook 6-8 minutes or until cheese is melted and it looks bomb

This received rave reviews from my boyfriend and my roommate. She makes hers without the sauce for a tasty cheesy bread. I’m looking forward to making BBQ chicken pizza or classic Hawaiian the next time I pick up a pack of naan. Yum!


Posted in Backwards is Better, Life Lessons

The Balancing Act of Life

Is it possible to find a comfortable balance between all areas in life and maintain it?

I ask myself this question frequently. This June I have been ON IT so far, but at times like these, I am brought back to a few months ago when I was a mad woman constantly overwhelmed. Sure, a part of that is my mania, but could it be more than that? Are we bound to have times where we leisurely add things on and others where we have the same load and are completely overburdened? I wonder.

There are so many areas calling for our attention. I tried to list some and ended up with a giant paragraph going over frequent personal tasks like keeping up with diet and exercise, to home tasks like caring for pets and cleaning, to social tasks like keeping in touch with friends and family, to personal enrichment tasks which for me are things like attending open mics and taking time out to write. No wonder we all tune out the list and binge watch shows on Netflix, just writing that last sentence made me anxious.

Whenever I feel like I get into a good groove in one of these areas, another tends to be neglected. In general, I think this is unavoidable. The dedication to these areas will vary depending on the time of year and how you’re currently feeling, but I think there are some tools we can use to keep ourselves accountable and also ensure that we take some time for ourselves too.

There are endless apps to organize your life, but I find it lacking that there isn’t a place to centralize all the information from all the different apps. Regular planners weren’t working for me because I found their format too rigid. Some sections I would overuse and others would never be touched. My friend Sarah recommended the Bullet Journal to me and she was one of the people who recommended Stardew Valley so we know her intel is good. I got my first Bullet Journal recently and I am in love with it. You are in charge of everything and there are over 200 pages for you to play with. You can put as much or as little effort into it as you want, but take some time out of every day to look at it and update it.

To be honest, I reached a fitness slump. I’m at my heaviest despite working out and was feeling really low and embarrassed about it. I’ve decided to do something about it and signed up for Diet Bet. You bet $35 that you can lose 4% of your body weight over a month and sign up for a bet with a bunch of other users. They recommended the app Zombies, Run! which I am falling in love with.

In a previous post, I mentioned how helpful the meditation app Headspace has been for me, and I think it’s worth mentioning again. Take some time out of the day for you and for your mind. I have also begun taking time out of my day to connect further with my body. I turned to YouTube and quickly found  Yoga With Adriene. She has so many different kinds of videos to choose from! I started with her 30 Days of Yoga. I like that she reminds you throughout to slow down and connect with your body. I’m only on my second day, but I have a feeling I’m going to be following her lead beyond the 30 days.

The hardest to balance are the friends and family categories. I’m already an introvert by nature, so I don’t really plan any socially intensive events more than 3-4 times a month if even that often. I feel like I never see my local family enough and my group of friends has expanded far enough that I can never fit them all in a single month. Yes, we live in a digital age so I can still text and interact with them on social media, but it just isn’t the same as sitting next to someone smiling and catching up. I miss that sometimes.

As hokey as it sounds, I think it really is about being more mindful of our time. I need to own it when I spend a whole week watching TV and playing games instead of keeping in touch with the people I care about. Technology is great, but so are we.

How do you find your balance? Which area do you struggle with the most? Let me know and share any tips you’ve found along the way.

Posted in Backwards is Better, Free Time Fun

Stardew Valley: Best Way to Lose 100 Productive Hours

In my teens, I spent a good amount of time playing RuneScape and getting into Facebook games like FarmVille. As I look back on my twenties gaming has been extremely minimal aside from party games like Mario Kart and a brief torrid affair with Skyrim. Not anymore!

Stardew Valley was recommended by a few friends and I was immediately hooked. I have tried to describe it, but I don’t think I can top the Wikipedia entry that says it is, “an indie farming simulation role-playing video gamed developed solely by Eric Barone and published by Chucklefish Games.”  Yes, the main focus is the farm, but this game has so much more!

I recently grew bored of regular farming and turned focus to relationships with the townspeople and quests. I just unlocked the achievement “popular” so you know I’m a pretty big deal. You build relationships by speaking to characters regularly and giving them gifts. To build a relationship quickly you can look up the character on the game’s Wiki and see what their “best” gift is. As your relationship progresses there are cutscenes where you get to know the characters better. These cuts are unpredictable so they can surprise you as you travel throughout the town and make for a pleasant interruption.

There are twelve romantic partner possibilities in Stardew Valley. My favorite interactions thus far have been with Abigail whose gloomy outlook is hilarious and Emily who is quirky cool. The hardest people to court so far have been Harvey since the clinic hours end at 3PM and Elliot because I can rarely find him, but thanks to the schedule tab on the character’s Wiki page, I am now courting all 12 potential spouses.

When I play RPGs I REALLY play them. There is no quick login play an hour a few days a week, oh no, I am normally in the game space for at least 3 hours minimum once I get started and procrastinate in all other areas to dedicate copious amounts of time to play. Stardew Valley has been exciting for me and I did spend many days with that as my only focus. It is nice to detach from reality and spend time in a place where everything is much more manageable, but it has to end at some point, right?

Maybe not. While the initial excitement I had when I first played the game for hours on end has slightly worn off,  I still look forward to logging in and seeing how stories and quests are going to play out.

Have you played Stardew Valley? Are you into leisurely RPGs? Do you have any recommendations for a casual gamer like me? 🙂



Posted in Backwards is Better, Ecological Endeavors

Ethical Consumption on a Budget?

We are constantly bombarded with tempting advertisements and so familiar with instant gratification that we often do not take the step to consider where the product comes from, how it is made, and what it is made of.

At this point, we know that labor and parts for items that are mass produced are outsourced to other countries leaving those who’ve lost jobs feeling hopeless. Even worse, often those jobs are outsourced to areas where workers are making well below a living wage, working in dangerous conditions, overworked or all three. We know that a lot of the beauty products we use are tested on animals. We know when we pick up meat from the market that factory farming is a reality we now live with.

Trust me, I am equally as guilty as any other American. I will do research on these awful circumstances of consumption and only minimally alter my lifestyle if even that. While we know about these things, we don’t directly see them and it makes it easy for us to move those thoughts to the back of our mind.

A topic of debate between friends and myself is whether or not it is possible to ethically consume in our society. I personally think that there is a possibility for ethical consumption, but almost exclusively for the rich. Most Americans cannot afford to spend $220 on a sustainable dress like the ones that Nikki Reed’s Bayou With Love offers. Organic produce and products are often out of price range, but I’ve found if I were strong enough to give up eating out Aldi and Costco have a wide variety of relatively reasonably priced natural products.

Cosmetics seems to be an area that surprisingly offers a lot of natural ethical products that can fit any budget. A classmate of mine Jocelyn did a presentation for class and it blew my mind that affordable brands like Nyx and Wet & Wild are cruelty-free, but it is still something you need to be mindful of when perusing the cosmetics aisle. Look for the bunnies!

Change is hard and since we’re so used to grabbing and going it is hard to get used to the label lingo. We can make the effort though, if not every time at least on occasion. I am going to challenge myself to be a more mindful consumer and I hope you do the same.

I’ve included some articles if you want to read more into these topics:

  • Click here to check out this great NY Times opinion piece about the World Health Organization’s director general selection this week. It highlights the health and environmental consequences of factory farming.
  • This ABC article goes over the complicating process Australia is going through to ban cosmetics that are tested on animals. A loophole is that while the final product is not tested on animals, ingredients still could be.
  • Read about AT&T outsourcing customer service to the Dominican Republic and the thousands of American workers this would displace.
Posted in Backwards is Better, Life Lessons

Conquering Fear One Win at a Time

Three opportunities this year have challenged me, brought me confidence, and helped me begin walking a path I once feared.

Early this semester we had an assignment to visualize a blog and the content we would curate. I felt like the assignment was mocking me. Years ago I tried starting a blog that left me frustrated enough to give up, but then I started thinking about how excited I was when I worked on it. I met with my Becky Sarwate to go over this idea that I could not get out of my head. She looked at the initial concepts for Backwards is Better and asked why it wasn’t already out there. There was one answer as there usually was: fear.

It was time to face it or give up altogether. I went home, worked the next week to fine tune things, and launched this site. This was a turning point for me and I began asking myself that same question a lot. I had been pursuing an opportunity with a blog our university was starting but was convinced they would go with someone else or that I wouldn’t have enough time for the commitment. I stifled the fear and went through with it. The position is mine and as long as I submit quality work I will soon be a paid writer. A victory in itself.

That brings us to the third opportunity. The English department at my university is full of hope. The faculty at NEIU is passionate about what they do and they host a ceremony honoring exceptional student works written throughout the academic year. I don’t know how I missed the notice before, but this year it caught my eye and I had been writing a lot, so why wasn’t I submitting?

There was an opportunity to submit two pieces. I finished editing my second piece the Sunday that it was due, but I neglected to note the 5:00 PM deadline. Despite that failure, the first piece I submitted won in its category. This was huge for me and it serves as a significant reminder.

Find what fulfills you, work incredibly hard for it, and do not let fear stand in your way.