one down, one up

2015-01-29 One Down, One Up

my bedroom in a moderately clean state, who knew?

one down
My one down this week was Wednesday. That’s not really fair to blame Wednesday, it did nothing to me. I did, however, only get 4.5 hours of sleep between Tuesday and Wednesday, which put things a little out of whack for Wednesday. Around 3:00pm I started telling my co-workers that I should discuss things tomorrow when I’m more awake. And by 6:00pm I was falling asleep in a hair stylist’s chair (pictures to come later). It was a very very cranky day and I apologize to all who encountered me.

one up
My up this week was that I successfully cooked a meal for four people on Monday night. I made pulled bbq chicken in the crock pot, baked beans from a can that were doctored up (& baked for an additional hour) – so so delicious, broccoli, homemade kale chips, and my mom’s chocolate chip cookies. This was by far the most delicious meal I’ve ever cooked and it was all almost even done at the same time.

one random
Did you know that last year Vermont decided to change the grades they use to distinguish types of maple syrup as part of a larger effort by the International Maple Syrup Institute (IMSI) to create a standardized international grading system. I learned this last night, I thought it was fascinating.

$500 spent in January
Guys. I blew the budget this week. I didn’t mean to. In a lot of ways this was a success because my credit card bill was cut down pretty substantially this month, but I really failed at this $500 thing. Also, there are 31 days in January and I have both brunch plans and coffee plans tomorrow. There will be a bigger blog post about this. Anyway, here’s where we stand –
previous spent: $416.10 + $190
spent this week: $95 at the salon (which included the $50 off gift certificate I had), $8.50 at the pharmacy, $40 on lunch, $73 at the grocery store (which included the $14 return that I made because I knew I spent too much), $21 on brunch, $6 at starbucks, a $20 donation to Mott Hall Bridges Academy (because if you’ve been following this story at all your heart pretty much tells you you have to donate), & $48 on restaurant week. This does not include the $65 that I put towards a birthday gift this week.
total: $311.50 + $65
total to date: $727.60 + 255

Did anything fun happen to you this week? I’d love to hear about it below.

my current favorite brunch in philadelphia

2015-01-29 Favorite Philadelphia Brunch

Hello everyone, happy Thursday! You know what that means, right? It’s almost the weekend. And you want to know what the weekend means? Brunch.

I have written numerous posts about brunch, but for those of you who are new to Chrystina Noel (welcome!), I love brunch. I love that it can be either sweet or savory, light or heavy, and greasy or healthy. The versatility is probably what keeps me coming back.

As I’ve moved around Philadelphia my default brunch locations have changed. In University City, I loved to visit the creperie on the University of Pennsylvania campus – and it was definitely a great treat to head to White Dog Café. Once I moved to Chinatown, my standard breakfast was to hit KC’s pastries and get a bubble tea and delicious pastries (mostly under $1) – and I was close enough to Reading Terminal to take advantage of all the variety.

Now that I’ve been here a bit longer I’ve added even more places to the list, both close and a bit farther from home. Here are my top 5 brunch places of the moment, I highly recommend trying any of them you haven’t.

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Café La Maude
Neighborhood: Northern Liberties
(website/menu)

We discovered this place after realizing that we didn’t feel like waiting in line for Honey’s (which is delicious, but the line is always crazy). It’s half Lebanese and half French, which means you can get both macaroons and baklava for dessert. Everything is full of flavor, and out of the 6 dishes I’ve tried bites of they’ve all been incredible. My favorite part is that any time you think to yourself, “oh, this would be really great if it had ____ on it”, it’s already on it. Usually that blank is filled in with avocado for me. Try it. You won’t be disappointed.

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Sam’s Morning Glory Diner
Neighborhood: Bella Vista
(website/menu)

This has become my default breakfast location if I’m looking for a full plate of food. It’s a hefty portion and it’s delicious. The biscuits are oversized and the perfect texture. The ketchup is homemade. There is ginger lemonade in the summer and delicious homemade hot chocolate in the winter. My default is the focaccia breakfast sandwich, and I don’t know anybody who has ever been disappointed with the breakfast burrito.

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Café Lift
Neighborhood: Loft District
(website/menu)

This is where I had my 25th birthday party. It’s simple, it’s cheap, and it’s BYOB. Everyone I have ever taken here has been astounded by how yummy everything is. I also love that it’s possible to get something light here. The lemon ricotta pancakes are a great default for that.

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Chhaya
Neighborhood: East Passyunk
(website/menu)

Confession, I’ve only been here twice because it’s a little bit further away from me (down on Passyunk Avenue), but I fell in love with the mug of chai that they gave me. There’s something about great coffee and tea options that can really suck me into a place. It’s also very cozy, and has the perfect-sized menu.

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Good Karma
Neighborhood: Many
(website/menu)

This is my default café. The spicy ginger chai is incredible. And since breakfast sandwiches are one of my favorite foods, this is kind of a no brainer for me. There are about 10 options and I switch back and forth between the Popeye (with mozzarella cheese & spinach) and the Apple of my eye (with apples, cream cheese, and honey) depending on if I’m having a sweet or savory day. This place also kicks my creativity into overdrive. I love going there to blog or brainstorm, after all, it’s good karma. (I had to.)

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Well this was silly, now I want to go to brunch instead of go to work. What are some of your favorite brunch places in the city? I’m always looking for new places to try.

things I learned about cats

2015-01-27 Things I Learned About Cats 01

Before my current roommate moved into the house I didn’t know too much about her. I knew her name was Shannon, she was a friend of a friend, seemed both nice & motivated, and she had a cat. I’ve never had a cat before, but something inside of me said “come on, Chrystina, give it a whirl, maybe you will like cats.” So I gave it a try. I’ve got to tell you, it was nothing like what I expected, especially at first.

2015-01-27 Things I Learned About Cats 02

At first Scout, the cat… kitten actually, reminded me of living with my younger sister again. She was always getting in my stuff, she was waiting to get in the bathroom when I got out, and she would attack me for what seemed like no reason. (My sister and I eventually grew out of that phase.)

2015-01-27 Things I Learned About Cats 03

Once I started to learn more about cats, things definitely got easier for me. For all of you cat lovers out there, please enjoy this time to chuckle at my ignorance. And for all you people who have never had a cat, here’s what you’re missing.*

  1. Cats shed
    Even if the cat doesn’t shed a lot, she will still shed. I specifically figured this out after I put on my black stockings. Scout had taken to sitting in my closet and I could use the hair on those stockings to build another Scout.
  2. When you come inside you need to make sure you don’t let the cat out
    This probably seems obvious. I’ve never had to do this before though. I eventually figured out that you should use whatever you’re carrying as a block so that the cat can’t run out when you open the door.
  3. If you leave anything near the edge of the counter, the kitten will probably push it off
    I’m pretty sure she just thinks it’s funny. This one I was kind of okay with though because it forced me to be cleaner. No more leaving piles of glasses in my bedroom and no more leaving stuff on the edge of the counter. I think I did lose a wine glass this way though.
  4. Cats really like to play with headphones
    Headphones could entertain this cat all day. If I had known that I probably would have kept a few broken pairs around.
  5. Purring is a whole body experience
    The first time Scout ever started purring in front of me I was worried she was having a heart attack. Her entire body was vibrating. This is approximately the time when my blog post starts to sound like a raunchy romance novel. (Sorry, Mom.)
  6. Kittens like to attack fingers
    I don’t know if this is just a Scout thing or not, but this cat loves to attack fingers. LOVES. If you have your hands in your lap, they’re not safe. If you’re holding onto a railing as you go up and down the stairs, they’re not safe. It was especially entertaining when boys would keep their hands in their laps. Tee hee hee.
  7. Scout takes cuddling to a whole new level
    I had no idea cats were even capable of cuddling like this. Shannon tried explaining it to me, but before it happened, I literally had no idea. While I’m laying down in bed Scout will walk up to me, wrap her arms around my neck, nuzzle as far into my neck as possible, and then both lick and nibble on my ear. This is starting to sound like a raunchy romance novel again. Oops. Here‘s a picture of what that looks like.
  8. Cats can be super protective of their owners
    It makes me smile when I hear stories of Scout staring down a date that Shannon has brought home. Instead of a guard dog, we have a guard cat. She’s pretty awesome.
  9. The only thing to keep a cat out is a door
    Fun fact: I don’t have a door to my bedroom. At first I was hoping that I could keep Scout out with a gate, but that had literally no effect. I would have had to by two gates and made a baracade, which would have looked a heck of a lot like a door, and I have no idea how I would have feasibly set that up without dying on the stairs.
  10. There needs to be space for a litter box
    This one’s probably really obvious. Cats need liter boxes. Shocker. Well, I didn’t think about this before Scout moved in. There’s pretty much no good place for a litter box in my entire house. With only 850 square feet spread across 4 floors, there’s just no way to make it happen.

2015-01-27 Things I Learned About Cats 04

There you have it, everything I now know about cats in one place. At the end of the day, I’ve really grown to like her though. She keeps me company – especially while washing dishes. There’s someone to talk to when I’m home alone. And as she grew up a little bit she calmed down a little bit too. Shannon’s moving out next month, and Scout’s going with her – and at this point I can honestly say I’m going to miss them both when they go. (This wasn’t always the case for Scout; Shannon, however, has always been awesome.)

2015-01-27 Things I Learned About Cats 05

So now, here’s my question for you. The first person who emailed me back about potentially living in my apartment has a dog. Think I should chance it?

*I have no idea if these things apply to all cats or all kittens or all cats and kittens or just Scout, nobody should be taking me as a subject expert by any means though because I didn’t realize cats need litter boxes.

kitchen basics: january

2015-01-26 Kitchen Basics

As you may have picked up over the past few months I am trying to both (a) save a little bit of money and (b) learn to cook. I’ve been doing pretty good – with b, not so much a – one step at a time.

Everytime time I try to cook I end up with these ridiculous questions. Questions that I would never think to ask somebody at the time I ask for the recipe. I’ve decided to start writing these questions down and I’m going to ask them to my good friend JC from Sweet Love & Ginger once a month.

JC is the reason I started to become comfortable cooking. As a female engineer I liked trying simple recipes from another simple engineer. If you sign up for her mailing list you get a free recipe book of her best recipes from 2012-2013.

Without further ado, here are the January questions and answers.

How long can I use the meat that I stored in the freezer after I put it back in the freezer?

That depends on what you mean by put it back. Typically once meat is defrosted you don’t want to re-freeze it, unless you cook it first. In that case it will last 3 to 4 months easily. Uncooked meat will last in the freezer for more than 6 months if it is stored in a sealed container. Try to avoid freezer burn though that changes the texture and it’s no where near as good.

If I’m freezing soup should I freeze the stuff inside the soup separately from the soup itself?

You should be able to freeze the soup all together, but be forewarned that pasta does not freeze well.

Does peanut butter really go bad?

Honestly I hope not. My fiance likes to buy things in bulk because it “saves us money”. We have a jar of peanut butter that has been sitting around for a year, it’s still fine, at least it seems that way. I guess it could possibly go rancid it it’s left open to the air, but we keep ours sealed. I’m not responsible if you eat bad peanut butter though, I just want to mention that.

Can I use the green parts inside of the onion? What about the ones inside the garlic?

Onions that have sprouted will be less sweet, however the green parts are totally edible. I use them as you would scallions. As for garlic if the sprouts are short, say less than a quarter of an inch) you can slice the garlic length wise and pull out the green parts. Since they are typically very bitter you probably don’t want to use them. If they are bigger than a quarter of an inch you should probably just chuck the bulb, it’s not worth it.

Is there anything I can use to make a packet (for fish) if I don’t have parchment paper?

I know you can use tin foil for many types of fish, I’m not sure about all fish, but tilapia, trout, perch, and salmon are fine cooked that way. I don’t however know if it will affect the cooking time of the fish if the recipe calls for parchment paper. I’d check on the fish after 3/4ths of the cooking time to make sure.


JC from Sweet Love and GingerJC is from Upstate NY and is the blogger behind Sweet Love & Ginger. She believes in celebrating a healthy lifestyle and can be found enjoying the great outdoors, crafting, cooking and entertaining.