Currently is a monthly post to check in and chat about all the things I’m into right now.
Well, well, well, here we are. The new year! The new decade. 2020. I can’t stop saying it in Barbara Walter’s voice.
I had originally planned on getting this out to you before Christmas, but lol, who are we kidding? I hadn’t realized Thanksgiving was so late this year and losing that extra week between the holidays really threw me. As much as I love the cookies and cocktails and lights and festivities, I’m so happy they’re over.
It’s nearly impossible to find balance during the holidays, so it’s important for me to follow the chaos with a sharp contrast of stillness and routine in January. I have big plans to jump back into recipe developing, but I also have an itching desire to purge my closets and deep clean my house. I bought grout cleaner at the grocery store this week, so that pretty much sums up where my head is at.
I can’t remember the last time I woke up on New Year’s Day without a hangover, but I did this year and it was glorious. I had to work at QVC that day, so my NYE was kept pretty tame with a low-key dinner out with friends. I got home just in time to ring-in the new year with my dog, Phoebe… or rather, console her as the neighbors set off fireworks for the next hour. Rude.
The next morning, Chaser and I laid in bed and talked about everything we did over the last decade. What a cool thing to reflect on! I got such a kick out of it, in fact, that I’d like to share it with you now. Keep reading if you’re interested, or jump down to the next heading to find the usual Currently content.
My Decade In Review:
2010 was a big year. We got married! It was also the year I quit my desk job and went to culinary school, cracking open the door to where I am today. I started my personal chef business that summer, called The Dinner Belle, and catered my very first party. We honeymooned in northern California in September, both of our first times seeing the Pacific ocean. I walked the runway at Philadelphia Fashion Week that fall, essentially ending my very short-lived, very underwhelming modeling career.
At the start of 2011, we lost my maternal grandfather, Anthony, who had a strong influence on my love of cooking. I kept busy with my first steady personal chef clients and started filling up my calendar with catering gigs. I met the producers of the Chef’s Kitchen at a Food Festival and signed on to start hosting the show – it was a very big deal to me at the time. In October, we moved from Atlantic City to Brigantine and bought the fixer-upper we currently live in.
In January of 2012, we had to put down our crazy, 120-lb Rottweiler / Border Collie mix, Po’ Boy, after he bit one person too many. My business was beginning to thrive, while the architecture firm Chaser had been working at since we met was facing layoffs, pay-cuts and furloughs in the midst of an economic downturn. Later that year, Hurricane Sandy hit and had a lasting impact on our lives and the lives of everyone around us. President Obama choppered into our tiny little beach town and his motorcade drove past our house.
In the spring of 2013, Chaser quit his job at the firm and joined the Atlantic City Fire Department. I kept busy cooking for clients, catering, doing cooking demos at local festivals, teaching cooking classes at the Brigantine community center and was named one of the top 40 Under 40 for Atlantic City. That fall, we took a trip to Rincon, PR with a few good friends and it still goes down as one of our favorite vacations of all time. I submitted a video application to be a contestant on Food Network Star and then right before Christmas, they told me I was on the show and had 2 weeks to tie up loose ends and get ready to be sequestered for at least a month.
On January 2nd, 2014, I flew out to LA to start filming Food Network Star, which would dominate my life for the next 8+ months. I made it through the first round and went on to compete in Vegas, then finally in NYC. Chaser passed his final architectural exam and became a licensed architect in the state of NJ after years of school, apprenticeship and soooo much studying. He opened Chaser Gaffney Architecture and worked around the clock on his days off from the Fire Department. I came in 3rd place on the show and then immediately following the finale in August, we ripped out our old, tattered kitchen and transformed it into the beautiful workspace it is today. In September I turned 30 and slipped into a deep, dark depression. We went to New Orleans for Halloween and I dressed up as Stevie Nicks. No one knew who I was. It was a bad wig.
By February 2015, I pulled myself out of my funk and launched Coley Cooks. Prior to that I had blogged as a hobby and called it Too Full For School. I stopped personal cheffing and devoted all of my time to creating recipes, editing videos and teaching myself the art of food photography. We went to Miami for the South Beach Food and Wine Festival where we danced until 3am at a nightclub with Bobby Flay, sparking a friendship that continues today. In the spring, I was honored by the culinary school I attended at their annual Gala. In September, we went to Italy for my 31st birthday. It was my first ever trip to Europe, a trip I’d been dreaming about for as long as I can remember. It exceeded all expectations and I’ll never forget it for as long as I live.
Over the winter of 2016, I flew to several locations around the country to film an infomercial for the Philip’s Smokeless Indoor Grill. As part of it, I got to attend Mardi Gras in New Orleans for the first time since I moved out of Louisiana. I kept busy creating content for my brand partnerships with Australis and Finlandia, and became a regular guest on QVC. In April, I got to cook an old family recipe on The Today Show with Matt Lauer, which goes down as one of my favorite moments of my career. That fall, we took a trip to Spain and ate our weight in tapas.
2017 kicked off with a trip to Chile that I won in a blogging contest. It was one of those things I never, in a million years, thought I would actually win, but then I did, and it was incredible. That spring, we opened Soulberri, which was one of the most challenging and frustrating ventures I’ve ever been involved with. Chaser quit the Fire Department and officially became a full time architect. That August, we brought home our sweet chocolate labradoodle, Phoebe, who brings us an immeasurable amount of comfort and joy.
2018 began with an awesome winter trip to Tulum, Mexico. We ate one of my favorite meals of all time at the famed restaurant, Hartwood. When we got back, I started writing a cookbook about smoothie bowls. At the same time, my depression and anxiety reached an all-time high as I grappled with mid-life changes and growing pains. That fall, we took our second trip to Italy, which was lovely, but dampened by a bad head cold.
2019 was a big year of growth for me. I crawled out of my depression, managed my anxiety, confronted some hard truths, set boundaries and took responsibility for my own happiness. I settled into a healthy work-life balance, changed my diet, got control of my skin issues, started exercising more consistently and stopped being so mean to myself all the time. I released my cookbook, The Art of the Smoothie Bowl, and also released the stress and negative emotions that came along with it. Chaser got his contractors license and expanded his business so now he not only design homes, but builds them too. In July, we took a Gaffney family trip to Greece to see Chaser’s brother marry a woman I’m thrilled to now call my sister. Simultaneously, we sadly said goodbye to Chaser’s upstanding and influential Grandpa Jim. I turned 35 in September, then went sober for the month of October. I ran 5 consecutive miles for the first time in my life, and I did it more than once.
The second week of December, we closed on a bay-front plot of land and are now making plans for what will arguably be the coolest things we’ve done yet as a couple – build a custom home on the water! – something that was a far-away dream 10 years ago when we began our life together. Excitement is an understatement.
It’s easy to feel stagnant in a world that’s constantly moving faster than you can keep up with, but when you take the time to look back at where you were 5-10-20 years ago, it’s amazing to see how far you’ve come. It’s a wild feeling, so if you haven’t done so already, I highly recommend taking time to reflect today.
I hope this January gives you the opportunity to hibernate, catch up on remedial tasks, reorganize your life and enjoy some peace and quiet. Embrace the stillness and know that if you find yourself in a dark place, this too, shall pass.
Happy New Year! And thanks for reading my much-longer-than-usual intro. Here’s what I’m offering this month:
Currently Buzzing About…
- I love looking back at the food trends that evolved over a decade and this roundup was pretty spot-on, even from a British perspective: From Avocados to Instagram: The Decade in Food. (The Guardian)
- I also love predicting the future trends in food: 2020 Food Predictions. (The Kitchn)
- You probably already know this and don’t want to hear it, but cutting out booze for even just a few weeks is one of the best things you can do for your body: How A Month Without Alcohol Really Affected My Skin. (Refinery 29)
- Don’t want to quit drinking? Me either. This “protein exfoliator” is the single best product I’ve used on my skin in maybe forever? And I want everyone to know about it: Real Chemistry Deluxe Luminous 3 Minute Peel. (Amazon Affiliate Link)
- Armchair Expert is one of my favorite podcasts because I love how Dax is able to make each of his guests feel comfortable by speaking so candidly about his own struggles and difficulty being human: Dax Shepard is Listening. (The New York Times)
- I’ve admittedly gotten too attached to some of the dogs I follow on Instagram, and this year I honestly wept when a few of them passed away. Why is cancer always the culprit? There’s hope for the future: Good News for Dogs with Cancer. (Scientific American)
- Speaking of Instagram, I’ve been obsessing over vintage-themed accounts lately. If you’re looking for a new way to waste your precious time, look no further: @90sanxiety | @historycoolkids | @oldskoolairway | @velvetcoke | @yourdadsamerica (Instagram)
Currently Listening To…
For the new year, I thought it would be fun to compile a playlist of my top 55 songs from the last decade. Mostly indie stuff because that’s my jam. Also, I nerded out pretty hard and only allowed myself one song per artist. 🤓 So, enjoy that if you’re a music nerd too.
- I really liked the first season of this very dark, very British, very unique, very funny, but also very dramatic show, and the second season is even better: The End of the F***ing World. (Netflix)
- I want to take a minute to rant about the last season of Survivor because it was the first time in the show’s very long history that I felt like it finally jumped the shark. This season felt so contrived and desperate, other than a few cool players, it was more frustrating than enjoyable to watch. Did you tune in? What did you think? I’m not gonna lie though, the next season premiering in February looks pretty epic #nerdalert: Survivor Season 40 – Everything we Know So Far. (Parade)
- It’s officially soup season, so you’ll find a pot of something brothy bubbling away on my stove at least once a week in the foreseeable future, like this super quick 20 Minute Spicy Carrot Soup with Yogurt and Sesame, this slow cooked Tuscan Bean + Kale Soup called Ribollita, classic Chicken Tortilla Soup or this easy Black Bean Soup with Bacon and Beer that’s perfect for dishing up during football games. (Coley Cooks)
- This looks like the perfect French-inspired winter weeknight sheet pan dinner: Double the Mustard Chicken and Potatoes with Greens. (Epicurious)
- Looking for a winter baking project? Try your hand at bread! Jessie makes it simple and approachable with her Easy Crusty French Bread. (Life As A Strawberry)
- If you’ve made a resolution to eat more plant based meals this year (high five!), Michael Solomonov is here with endless inspiration in the form of cauliflower: Spicy Roasted Cauliflower with Tahini. (Saveur)
Thank you for your patience, your comments and for always coming back. I’m so grateful to share my world with you!
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