Hello October

Forget Christmas; Right Now it’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

There are four seasons to a year, and generally we experience them all dramatically in New England. Summer’s too humid, Winter’s too treacherous, and Spring’s too allergenic. Fall doesn’t have an underlying irritant, therefore Fall reigns in my seasonal hierarchy.

From the beautifully changing colors, to that cozy “in-between” sweater weather, to flavors and scents that intoxicate us with warmth — Fall is a force to be reckoned with by the other sorry 9 months of our calendar year.

To celebrate truly the most wonderful time of the year, here is my fall bucket list (some of which I’ve already completed):

  1. Go apple picking.
  2. Hoard apple cider and cider donuts in the home. 
  3. Bake a bunch of yummy treats with said apples.
  4. Drink pumpkin spice lattes and coffee repeatedly.
  5. Watch Hocus Pocus. More than once.
  6. Take a few scenic drives around New England.
  7. Have a Croc Pot cooking marathon all month.
  8. Make warm, boozy concoctions for nights in.
  9. Dress up the cats for Halloween.
  10. Eat lots of squash in varying forms.
  11. Embrace fall fashion; plaid, boots, hoodies, deep colors.
  12. Enjoy walks during lunch and after work in the most perfect temperature.
  13. Watch 5 horror movies I’ve never seen and a bunch of classics.
  14. Hoard fall-scented candles and revel in their perfect aromas.
  15. Start reintroducing beanies and knit hats to the wardrobe.
  16. Go to a haunt even though I am the most petrified.
  17. Have a Walking Dead premiere viewing event.
  18. Pair scarves with every outfit possible.
  19. Carve pumpkins (and give to someone who has an actual yard).
  20. Roast the pumpkin seeds and become instantly happy.
  21. Relish in the fact that fall “witch” makeup is so in right now. Give me all the crimson and black.
  22. Wear fuzzy socks and squish my toes in them because SO SOFT.
  23. Visit many of the Salem Haunted Happenings attractions.
  24. Go to a Rocky Horror live audience showing (even though I am a live show virgin and will probably get hazed).
  25. Go to Topsfield Fair for the first time in many years.
  26. Eat a turkey leg because, fair foods.
  27. Read a book under my new cable knit blanket.
  28. Sit outside by the fire with a beer and friends.
  29. Celebrate Dan’s Halloween birthday however his heart desires.
  30. Top my fall-inspired birthday desserts from year’s past.
  31. Photograph everything and look back when Fall is over.

To help keep me on track, I’ve found this awesome photo-a-day challenge for October that I’ll participate in on my Instagram page.
October photo challenge

I look forward to enjoying my favorite season with family and friends. A gallery of all my memories is sure to follow. ☪

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Live from my Living Room: The History of #JillWineCovers

One thing a lot of people don’t know about me is that I love to play music. I’ve been playing and singing for about half of my life, yet only a handful of people have seen me “perform”. This is due primarily to my stage fright, anxiety, and lack of confidence. Somehow, a room with sleeping cats is far less intimidating than a place full of people. This year I have been branching out with my music using social media to gain feedback from complete strangers in hopes that I can try out an open mic, record a full song, and feel like the musician I am on the inside to the rest of the world.

It started when I was a 14-year-old girl admiring the many pop punk stars that were plastered on my bedroom walls. What I would have given to hop on stage and sing with the Madden brothers in Good Charlotte, or whip a mic rope around with Adam Lazzara. I begged my parents to let me get a guitar and learn to play. A hand-me-down acoustic from a friend  kicked off my dream. When my mother saw me holed up in my room one day self-teaching posture and technique (and  Christmas jingles), she realized I was serious. She scored a guitar lesson package at my school’s auction and off I went into pseudo-rock stardom. I ended up falling in love at each lesson with not only the music, but learning new styles and skill sets along the way. The studio eventually hired me to teach younger children how to play, as I advanced in my own lessons with the studio manager. Sadly, I took off to college out of state so I had to leave the Music Box, but I continued my lessons in Jersey at school. I was learning to fingerpick and read sheet music that resembled drunk hieroglyphics. I was really becoming a talented musician, stylistically and technically. The one thing I was too shy to do was test out my voice against my guitar playing.

Fast forward a few years and I found myself back in Boston to finish out college, moving into a Brighton apartment and living on my own for the first time at age 22. My roommate was not moving in for a few months, so I had the whole one-bed split to myself during the winter of 2009. In between school, making new friends, trying my hand at online dating, and surviving on ramen, I decided to lay down a few tracks of cover songs I enjoyed. I slapped some vocals and guitar together in GarageBand as best as I knew how (not very well) and threw the tracks up on MySpace (here I go showing my age). Coincidentally after, I started dating a musician and he revealed that he listened to my Cobra Starship cover every night before bed because he loved it so much. Creepy? Hell no. That was the gateway to me believing that I actually didn’t sound like a fork in a garbage disposal (an Uncle Jesse reference I have always loved).

Fast forward a few more years and I found myself living in a huge, 2-floor apartment outside the city with too many rooms and not enough furniture. The dining room we didn’t even know existed when we checked out the place remained unfinished, considering we ate most meals on the couch like true 20-somethings. The best part about this was the incredible acoustics this room created, as well as a space to set up my PA and really jam out the way I’ve always wanted to. In order to loosen up, I would bring a glass wine with me while I practiced my favorite songs. This ended up turning into a habitual thing, eventually finding myself comfortable enough to record a video, eventually ending up on Instagram and Facebook.

#JillWineCovers was born. I use the hashtag to categorize all my videos on Instagram so people can find them easily, and also because I’m so edgy in the year 2014 (no.). At this point, I’ve received a lot of feedback from friends, family, and complete strangers about how they’ve enjoyed my covers. It feels even more awesome when those comments come to you in real life (from other musicians who you admire). It feels even more surreal when your best friend sends you a video of your godson eating lunch, then hearing your cover on Facebook and smiling and dancing happily to your voice (yes, I cried). So here I am now, looking to branch past 15 seconds of song and lay down a full version on YouTube, SoundCloud, and somewhere IRL that serves alcohol so I can avoid fainting upon arrival. I hope you’ll support me in endeavors, as this has been one of the hardest confidence barriers to overcome. Here’s a taste, and you can tell me what you think. Hope to see you soon jamming out somewhere!

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Thought I'd bring a little flair to my selfies. Plus, I'm so fancy. #jillwinecovers — Fancy x Iggy Azalea 💋

A post shared by Jill Jankowski (@icanhazjill) on

Chez Jill: Mushrooms, Mexican, MMMM

One thing I have been excited to dabble in again is my “love” for cooking. I use the term loosely only because the conditions in which I cook are specific: prep and cook time must either fall under 1 hour of work, or be split among two days. I have found if cooking exceeds these limits, I no longer have the desire to eat what I produce.

Cooking for me has to be a creative process; one that takes a dish to new levels of flavor and ingredients. Also, the emphasis on being health-conscious is important – taking a comfort dish that lacks nutritional value, and turning it into one using alternative fixings. I do most of my shopping at Trader Joe’s and came to discover that their website has a library of recipes, all of which sound mouth-watering.

I bookmarked ten and decided on 3 dishes for last week’s dinner:

Portabella Mushroom Pizzas

Portobello Pizza Recipe

I love pizza. If pizza were a man, he would be my soul mate, ‘til indigestion do us part. Let’s face it though; pizza is not the reigning champ in diet dishes. This recipe cans most of the carbs by subbing in Portobello caps for crust. I added a dollop of tomato sauce to each before sprinkling with sundried tomatoes and freshly diced mozzarella. Pop in the oven for ten minutes, add some fresh arugula to the top, and let cook for another 8-10 minutes (once your mozz is melted). A meal that takes 5 minutes to prep, 20 minutes to cook, and represents my favorite junk food is a triple win. But how do they taste? Flavorful, juicy, pizza-y. Sold!

Crock Pot Chicken Chile Verde

Chile Chicken Verde Recipe

Sometimes I forget that even though it’s summertime, I can still utilize my crock-pot. This recipe inspired me to dust it off and make a meal of epic proportions (literally, I had leftovers for days). This meal was a 2-day prep process, but required very little effort. I diced the veggies the night before and defrosted the chicken thighs. Before work, I combined all ingredients in the pot to cook on low for 8 hours. Once I got home, my house smelled fantastic and all I had left to do was boil the jasmine rice and simmer the black beans. The meal in pieces looked great, but assembled looked phenomenal. A scoop of rice, the shredded chile chicken mix over the top, black beans on the side, and a dollop of sour cream. Garnish with cilantro and a spritz of lime juice. It may sit pretty on a plate, but how did it taste? Savory, a bit spicy, just enough salt, and the right amount of sour. All the flavors you expect in a fulfilling Mexican dish. Eating leftovers for 3 days wasn’t even a chore this time around.

Carne Asada Tacos

Carne Asada Tacos Recipe

I adapted this recipe a bit to tacos rather than salad, considering I had corn tortillas to use. The magic behind this recipe is the carne asada you can get prepared at Trader Joe’s. It’s undeniably delicious and you don’t have to do the legwork to get those spices just right. The other secret to success is to make homemade guac to add as filler, rather than just avocado slices. Dice some onion, tomato, and cilantro, toss in a bowl with sliced avocado, a dash of salt and pepper, and spritz with lime juice. Then MUSH. Once you’ve seared your steak and gooped your guac, add to a corn tortilla. Top with some diced tomato, onion, cilantro, shredded cheese, and a dash of green Tabasco sauce. Make two tacos, and pair with chips and salsa for a light meal, heavy on the flavor.

I still have coconut chicken and pork belly tacos to try out next week. 🙂

What are some recipes you have tried lately? Always looking to source new ideas in the kitchen!