Thursday, January 31, 2013

Bedroom sets and chicken cacciatore.



Home decorating is a painful thing. Not only because I'm horrible at it, but because it makes me look at my life in deeper ways than I should when considering the purchase of items like a complete five-piece bedroom set. Imagine, if you will, two Jacquis, one on each shoulder. On the right, we have Pinterest Jacqui; on the left, Reality Jack.

Pinterest Jacqui: This is perfect! There is storage underneath, and you get a free dresser when you buy the whole five-piece set! It's the one you been looking for! You can finally spend time in the bedroom without shuddering at the emptiness, the hand-me-down furniture, the clothes all over the floor!
Reality Jack: There are clothes on the floor because you are lazy. New furniture isn't going to change that. Plus, there's a bathroom situation that needs to be addressed ASAP (hello, 20-year-old vanity and weak, pathetic toilet).
Pinterest Jacqui: But it's on sale! What if this is your only chance?
Reality Jack: It's also the price of a vacation. Do you really want to be one of those people who buys furniture instead of goes on vacation?

God, no. And this is what goes on in my head every time I shop for furniture, or picture frames, or pillows, or useless knick-knacks that will just collect dust on the mantle. I have this idea in my head that everything should have a purpose. It has been my mantra during years of living in small spaces, when the thought of filling a home with "stuff" made me feel suffocated and cluttered. It's why I have never been able to justify wrapping a cute belt around a dress -- if it's not holding anything up, what's the point? (This is also the reason I have little to no sense of style. And probably why I have an addiction to scarves and purses: But they keep me warm! And I need something big enough to hold my wallet and my camera and my Kindle!)

I think it's time to take another, closer look at this idea, though. Not because I'm trying to convince myself to buy more furniture and cute belts (at least, not entirely), but because I don't think I should feel guilty for trying to make my home a pretty, happy place. While I'd like to spend more time vacationing, the reality is that most of my time is spent at home. And I'm OK with that.


My friend Shanna recently wrote, "If it’s true that our perspectives are often shaped by what’s right in front of us, perhaps the key to changing our perspectives is changing what we see." When I first read that sentence, I paused, then read it again. Taking it in the most literal sense, our surroundings have a direct effect on how we feel, act and do. There is no reason why my own home shouldn't be a source of inspiration. I'm constantly trying to capture real, everyday life through words and images, but falling short because what I see in front of me doesn't make me stop and catch my breath but, rather, want to change things. And who's to say I can't, or shouldn't?

It's all a balancing act, really. Between Pinterest Jacqui and Reality Jack. Bedroom sets and vacations. And there's time for it all. I'm making that my new mantra.


Meanwhile, Hungry Jacqui is still all about saving time with her latest slow-cooker kick. This recipe surprised me. I had it penciled into the dinner rotation for weeks, but it kept getting pushed back for meals I knew were sure to please -- tacos, pasta, fried rice. I was afraid this one would disappoint, because it just seemed way too easy. The ingredients: chicken, canned tomatoes, green peppers, garlic. All good things, but there was nothing special to indicate this meal was going to be a keeper as is. There was too much room left for bland, flavorless, boring. I had scary visions of too many leftovers that nobody wanted to eat. I told Murdo it wasn't making the cut. He told me to try it, anyway.

So I followed the instructions, using bone-in thighs as the recipe recommends, and letting the whole thing cook on high, uncovered, for the last hour in order to thicken the sauce. When Murdo turned to me during dinner and said, "You should blog about this one," I actually responded with a fist pump and a "Score!" Adding another easy dinner to the list is a small victory in my book. Especially when the dream home and the dream vacation still seem out of reach, at least I can always count on a good dinner to bring me back to ground level and remember these are the simple things -- making a comforting meal, however easy and hands-off, and feeding my family -- that will make me happy no matter what my surroundings. That I will never question.


Slow Cooker Chicken Cacciatore with Garlicky Potatoes (from Skinny Taste)

For the chicken:
1 to 1 1/2 lbs bone-in, skinless chicken thighs (about 8 pieces)
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
28 oz can diced tomatoes in sauce
1 bell pepper, sliced
1 medium onion, sliced
3 to 4 garlic cloves, smashed and minced
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried oregano
salt and pepper

Season chicken with salt and pepper. Place in the slow cooker with rosemary on top. Pour tomatoes over chicken. Top with onions, peppers, garlic, bay leaf, oregano, and more salt and pepper. Give it a gentle stir, cover and set on low for 8 hours. When finished, uncover and cook on high for another hour, until it reaches a thickness you're happy with. Discard bay leaf and rosemary sprigs. Serve over pasta or garlicky potatoes (recipe below). 

For the potatoes:
6 to 8 red or gold potatoes, halved
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 garlic cloves, smashed and minced
salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat. Cover and simmer 20 minutes, stirring occasionally,  until potatoes are glazed and tender. 

Serves 4-6.

4 comments:

  1. Yes! I so love this idea of making our homes spaces of inspiration, and, as someone who spends allll day at home as well as many nights and weekends, I can tell you it does make a big difference.

    Also, I like all the Jacquis, but Hungry Jacqui might be my favorite. This crockpot meal looks like a winner to me! I love your crockpot love. It inspires me.

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    1. I think Hungry Jacqui is my favorite, too. :)

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  2. I feel exactly the same way about shopping! Sure that something will improve my life, but also aware that it won't. Oh well, a win in the kitchen is a win!

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    1. Amen to that. Thanks for stopping by and dropping a line -- I checked out your blog and it's such a pretty, happy space!

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