Thursday, March 01, 2018

Financial Fun

During the month of February I did a trial run of two different budgeting apps. One was "Mint" and the other "You Need a Budget". Mint is a free app that is associated with Turbo Tax and uses the same login information. YNAB is a fee based app that costs about $85 a year. I utilized their free trial option. I can see how You Need a Budget might be a little more user friendly in some aspects, however there was not enough of a difference in what it offered us that it justified the cost. So, we are going to continue using Mint. I actually preferred Mint because it synced with out accounts faster and updated faster. It was easier to stay on top of everything as a result. I also really liked the ability to do a much of it on my smart phone, though some aspects could only be modified or done on my laptop application. If you are looking for something to help you budget, give it a month and see what you think.

Satisfying All Around...Another Food Edition.

I'm not going to lie. It's never fun to try a new recipe and have it bomb. Or have someone, ehem... unwilling to even try it. Today I tried a new Pinterest recipe for pork chops and I'm pretty happy with how it turned out and I even had to do some modifications for lack of ingredients.

Baked Pork Chops I modified it by adding a few dashes of Tabasco to the egg mix. I also didn't have any seasoning salt so I rubbed some cajun seasoning in... and it wasn't spicy in the end. Just flavorful. I also tried carmelizing some onions with the pork chops and then adding them to the gravy mix. I doubled the sauce mixture and when I didn't have another can of cream of mushroom, I used this recipe on Pinterest to make a substitute (with garlic, but not the mushrooms). Instead of baking the pork chops as long as it said, I modified that by baking for 45 minutes, adding the sauce and making for another 30-40 minutes.

Last week I tried a recipe for Garlic Herb French Bread and it was so good that I nearly ate the entire loaf myself...  On Tuesday, I made it a second time in a week to go with spaghetti. Not only was it super flavorful... but I tried a method of getting my bread to rise using an oven and also tried braiding my loaf.

To satisfy my sweet tooth I tried this Caramel Crispix recipe using up some rice chex and wheat chex. I had the equivalent of one box so I halved the recipe and it worked just fine. I'm not sure how a person could screw this up. Yum.

The only recipes I tried that weren't quite "wins" were the ones for bok choy. This is something I've never cooked before and I wasn't quite sure what to do. I opted for splitting the bok choy and trying two different sauces to see which flavor and method I prefered. What I learned was that both flavors were great and neither prep method was quite what I wanted it to be. I think I needed baby bok choy and I had the full size stuff. I should have chopped it up I think. Instead I tried an oven method and a frying method and neither yielded a result that resembled the picture... either I didn't cook it long enough or at the right temp or perhaps I'm just not sure what the texture should be when cooked.

The spicy roasted bok choy was indeed quite spicy, but I love spicy so I thought it was pretty awesome.

Baby Bok Choy with Sweet and Tangy Sauce might suit the masses more. It was tangy and  not at all spicy, but quite nice.

Next up... I plan to make Crème Brûlée. I have tried this recipe when a friend made it and served it at our wine club. I'm determined to try it myself. Yum. It was so very dangerously delicious. I'll update one I've actually conquered this one!

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Why I Marched in 2017 and will continue to do so...

Please read this excellent article that captures how I feel... especially in response to those who don't seem to "get it"... regardless of their gender. It begins: 

"Say thank you. Say thank you to the women who gave you a voice. Say thank you to the women who were arrested and imprisoned and beaten and gassed for you to have a voice. Say thank you to the women who refused to back down, to the women who fought tirelessly to give you a voice. Say thank you to the women who put their lives on hold, who –lucky for you — did not have “better things to do” than to march and protest and rally for your voice. So you don’t feel like a “second class citizen.” So you get to feel “equal.”"

--"You are Not Equal. I'm Sorry." by Dina Leygerman

Oh yeah. And a little bit of it is about this dumbass.

Knitting for a Cause -- Women's March 2018

In January, I finally picked up my knitting needles for the first time in a year. I decided to try my hand at knitting a "pussy hat" or as little V calls it, a "kitty hat." I managed to make one kid sized and one mama sized one just in time for the Women's March. I was pretty pleased with the result.

These knit up quickly and I just used the pattern from the PussyHat Project.

I knit mine with pink cotton/elastic yarn I happened to have on hand. Yay.

Monday, February 05, 2018

What's Cooking? A (Pinterest) Recipe Roundup for this Week

I struggle to remember what I used to cook before Pinterest. A lot of homemade macaroni and cheese, perhaps.

Tonight's meal featured a "Tested and Approved" meal option: Stromboli.  I love this one for the ease and deliciousness. It's got a few steps but still pretty easy.

Sunday felt like a day that needed a sort of Super Bowl type food so I opted for my very favorite sliders.  Oh man. Little delicious burgers from heaven. Yum. If you search for Sliders Four Ways on YouTube you can also see a print version of each of the recipes in the description.

Saturday, we ate Swedish Meatballs and mashed potatoes (very rich and creamy... my secret lots of cream, butter, sour cream and some tabasco... all whipped in my KitchenAid Mixer). My mom pointed out that this recipe was nothing like the one she uses, so here's the link. We like this version. Super tasty.

Friday, we had Spicy Sausage Rigatoni with Tomato Cream Sauce. I really like this one, but it is pretty spicy for those who don't like that sort of thing.

Earlier in the week I made Chicken Lazone and served it over angel hair pasta. This one is also a little spicy since I tend to cut up my chicken into bite size pieces and dip in spices before cooking rather than coating a full breast or tender.

Not sure if you've noticed but all our meals seem to have one common ingredient--cream. The only one that didn't was the stromboli from tonight. Sheesh.

In addition to this week's main course menu I tried a new recipe: Scottish Shortbread and am happy to report it was a success.

I also made homemade granola bars today but the jury is still out on those. They don't seem to be holding together very well. I skipped the brown sugar in this recipe and just used butter, honey, and peanut butter for the liquid bits. Didn't add any vanilla. I mixed in oats, peanuts, sunflower seeds, craisins, and sliced almonds. I've really liked crushed pretzels in this recipe but I didn't have any. I also decided to skip the chocolate for this batch so it hardly seems like I even followed the recipe, but I think the idea is that can be altered.  I wonder if I added a bit of Karo Syrup if it would stick together better.

Almost every week we make Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins for the little monster who can't imagine a breakfast without one. This week was no different.

And lastly, I made one more batch of our favorite ranch dressing. This one is a Whole 30 recipe that uses coconut milk and is fabulous. So quick and easy to make if you have the ingredients on hand. And tastes good enough to drink! I typically don't bother adding cilantro or any other spice since the first time I made it without and it tasted so good, I've never tried it another way.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Something to Say

I'm struggling to decide if I have anything to say...

And by that I mean, I always have plenty to say... but is this the forum it once was for me? What is the purpose of bringing it to the blog? I have to laugh that the last post on this blog was one about being productive and it's like I was so productive I stopped blogging once and for all. Now 4.5 years later I am considering resurrecting this somewhat more permanent than Facebook form of documentation of all things that occupy my heart and mind.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Productivity Meter -- off the charts!

Here's my Saturday, and Sunday
Buy and move couch. Check.
Plant grass (prep soil--loosen, weed, fence off to keep Henry out).  Check.
Cut down tree branches touching my roof (find strong, willing man who owns saw). Check.
Clean gutters and install screens. (borrow tall ladder from neighbor and buy screen stuff) Check.
Line the east side of my house with rocks (measure ground,loosen soil, weed, transplant plants, buy a few more and plant, shop for edging, stakes, corners, fabric, install, all of the above and transfer rocks from the random pile under the trees on the north side of my lawn--discover they are hard to move without also moving a lot of dirt so wash rocks first in the wheelbarrow). Check.
Dig up raspberries and strawberries from my friend Leann's place. Transplant them at my house. Check.

Next up this week:
Plant all my flower pots (11 of them).
Plant my two raised beds -- one with lettuce... the other TBD.
Plant my tomatoes, peppers, herbs, and cucumbers in pots.
Remove the rest of the stones from the random pile on the north side of the yard.
Weed the perennial garden under tree
Spray the weeds on my patio and kill the baby trees all over in my backyard.
Mow my grass.
Tear out the compost corner area in my back yard. Plant Snow on the Mountain there.
Rearrange the basement to fit new couch (shop for a new TV and stand for basement)
Clean garage.

On the Weekend Project list: 

Install ten more paving stones to extend the paved area outside my back door (need to borrow a tamper).
Then finish the rest of the rock placement for the east side of my house.
Then line the south side of my house with edging and rocks.
Measure bricks for edging a corner flower bed (prep the soil there, decide on plants).

Monday, February 11, 2013


With that wretched, Hallmark holiday right around the corner--more commercial than Christmas--I think it's appropriate to post this amazing TED talk about connection and vulnerability. My good friend Sara was sharing some insights from it last weekend and I knew I had to watch it and Brown's even more recent TED talk on shame.

Brené Brown is a researcher who's explored these ideas for more than 12 years.

One part that really resonated was when she talked about "wholehearted people," those people who have a strong sense of worth and belonging, as having three commonalities in their stories:

1. courage (This is not the same as bravery --it's being willing to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart-- the courage to be imperfect)

2. compassion (To be kind to themselves first and then to others)

3. connection (This is a result of authenticity-- being willing to let go of who they thought they should be in order to be who they were.)

And when it came to vulnerability... they fully embraced it. What made them vulnerable made them beautiful. The willingness to say I love you first. The willingness to do something where there are no guarantees. To invest in a relationship that may or may not work out.

All of this makes me look at my own life, the decisions I've made and the things I've loved and respected and inversely loathed in others.  The word authentic strikes a chord because I know that is a word I used to draw on... "being real." I'm all about "being real."

Brown talks about leaning into the discomfort and I can summon memories of conversations that have certainly done that. But for me much of that continues to be measured. What I know I can handle. It's all very interesting and I find myself there again in many aspects of my life.

My friend Jes has been exploring her spiritual and emotional journey through her running and I find myself dipping my toe into that same zen space. My friend Emma has done similar things in varying ways. Both of these women write about it in ways that challenge me and encourage me. Now Sara pointed to me and said... you are doing this. This vulnerability thing. And I guess I am. I am trying to be my most authentic self and I know it's not always comfortable and I can be plagued with self doubt, but I am also experiencing a wonderful kind of peace.

Watch the TED talk. See what you think. If you want more. Here's a link to her one on shame.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

This Girl is On Fire

A year ago I ran my first race. Me. The girl who bitched and moaned and was a general pain in the ass to every Phys. Ed. teacher I ever had... Sorry Mr. Krom. Mr. Zinke. I owe you an apology.  While I've always been attracted to fitness, "working out," doing outdoorsy, physical things-- I've never actually been much for competition, perhaps because I know I'm not particularly good at any of those things and I am a little embarrassed. The best thing about getting older is I've started to not care so much and the best thing about running is that while it is a race against other people, most of the time I am running against myself. Trying for a new personal best.

The seed for this was sown when I read the Facebook updates about my friend Richard's first marathon experience. I'd been keeping up with my pal Leah's adventures for years and while I admired it, I never sought to emulate it in any way. Richard should be running marathons. Not only was he a cross country kiddo in high school but now he coaches it.  So, I shouldn't have surprised me that he ran the Minneapolis Marathon in  2:40:29 finishing 56 out of the 4,858 males that ran and 66 of the 8,533 total runners with an average of  6:08 per mile for the 26.2 miles he ran! But it still blew me away. I can't run ONE mile in 6:08 minutes... more like 11 minutes. Still it was inspiring and it made me want to push myself. 

After learning about the four-person relay option for the Fargo Marathon, I did the unthinkable, I recruited three colleagues and we signed up. With that in mind I  knew I needed to actually run one race before the main event in May and thus began this crazy new passion. 

Emily and I ran a 5k the Frozen Feat in Feb. 2012 and in the mildest winter in my recollection we happened to run on a day with subzero temps. Nice. Still I lived to tell the tale and even ran in another race in May. 

 Emily and Me (I look like a ninja, run like a senior citizen)

My training was minimal in all of this and yet even as the big race loomed (I was running 7 miles in my leg) I was still unable to run an entire 5k without having to walk. Most of my prep work went into designing a good tee shirt for our team and working out my playlist. I was getting nervous. Then about a week before the race I did something different. Music? Mood? Time of day? I don't know. But I found my groove. Got my slog on (slooooow jog) and I ran nearly 5 miles without even trying... Then a few days later I ran 8. Suddenly I wasn't worried anymore and the race was pure joy. 

A few days before the race I mentioned it to my mother who seemed wholly unaware that I was doing this big thing. And she asked tentatively... do you think you could win? Umm. No. But I loved that she asked, betraying her innocence and perhaps her overconfidence in my superpowers. I am going to be happy to finish, I told her. But they do give medals for participating. It's no lie. I am motivated by swag.

 My next race was the Bismarck Marathon Relay and it was a five person race with four friends from there. We had a theme. Neon Ninjas. It was fun and while we weren't speedy we had a good time and for three of my team it was a first race ever.

Two weeks later, I ran a 2 person relay for the Grand Forks Wild Hog Half Marathon. It was awesome. Great course. Beautiful day. Beer and good food waiting at the end.  My friend Brandy and I ran that one together and this year I've signed up again for my next bigger and better challenge. I'm going for the whole  half. 13.1.  

Sometime around September I decided I was going to run a race a month like my pal Jes who is also a great inspiration in her passion and drive for running. In September I managed two races, October 2 races, and then in November I did what I called a "treadmill" 5k and in December I did on one the indoor track at the gym. But in January I did a virtual race as a fundraiser for the Sandy Hook tragedy. That one I did outside on a lovely winter day along the bike path. Very satisfying.

Now the Frozen Feat is coming up again and I'm really excited to see what it's like a year later. I have a costume planned though the race doesn't call for them. I figure if you can't be fast, be funny.

I put a fair amount of stock in the mental game and for me the music I run to. I figured out I was starting too fast and burning out and so if I can just find my "happy pace" I can settle in and enjoy the experience. My first song has been "Halo" by Beyonce for the past few races but this time I'm switching it up... "This Girl is on Fire" is the new starting song and I expect it will do just fine.

  Jenn and I running the 10k in the Fargo Mini-Marathon in October 2012

  Jennifer, Jessica and I running the Monster Dash 5k in Bismarck in October 2012

When I was young my dad used to tell us stories about our awesome Uncle Davy. How he used to train during football season and would run from the farm to town. TEN miles. It was amazing to me and that was how my dad intended it. He was amazed by his brother and his drive and I loved to hear about it and to hear the pride in his voice as he talked about those days. Though this has little do with that, I do like to think my dad would be proud of me too and would tell his friends with that same sort of voice about his crazy daughter who was running in marathons. I'm sure he'd neglect the part of it being a 1/2 marathon or a relay and people would be amazed and frankly they should be either way. I mostly just like to watch TV.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Happy New Year!

Welcome to 2013. This year's resolutions? To be more present in the moment. Maybe I've been doing a better job than I thought since I've been such a slacker at the blogging in 2012.

Nah, it's probably my addiction to Facebook that's been getting in the way. I actually have a theory on why I've dropped off the Superpowered blogosphere and it doesn't make me very happy to think about it... but 2013 is going to be filled with positivity, so I'll have to temper that blog post if I decide to write it. 

My desire for positivity in 2013 isn't in an effort to remedy anything that 2012 had to offer, quite the opposite in fact. I've had a terrific year and feel happier and healthier than ever before. Like anyone else I've seen some struggles, sadness, and serious bummers this year, but I've also realized that my life is rich and I'm blessed.

May 2013 be filled with life abundant and may you live it each day, savoring it moment by moment.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Please don't leave a message at the beep.

Much of my childhood was spent "on the phone" with the cord stretched across our dining room and shut in the door to the upstairs as I sought a little privacy to talk to my friends. In a world without call waiting, I find it interesting that my parents allowed this as much as they did. Later we had a cordless phone and that solved some problems in that they didn't KNOW how much I was on it! As a child who lived in the country on a farm with no one but my siblings to play with, the phone and the mailman were my links to the outside world. I loved getting mail, but that's a different post!  Still I used to be pretty devoted to my phone and wanted to caller ID to see my missed calls, had staring matches with my answering machine, and all the other typical Bridget Jones things in college.

I actually fought getting a cell phone pretty hard way back when and now I look back and think that my reasons then were wise. No one should be that available.

I vacillate between using the phone for a good old chat with friends and between using it as a tool that doesn't warrant any unnecessary conversation.  If I'm calling someone local it's because I have a question or want to schedule something or make fairly immediate plans to get together and talk. I have little patience for an extended conversation when I'm not in a position to enjoy the talk. Because with the ease of cell phones one can answer anywhere and I frequently do, but just because I can respond and ask "what's up" doesn't mean I am in a position to hear a long story.

When it comes to leaving messages I frequently don't. Sometimes because the reason I'm calling was a pressing and immediate one and if the person I'm calling isn't available then the opportunity will expire by the time he/she is. Sometimes I'm just calling to chat and I'll leave a message saying as much. Or I will leave a detailed message that can be responded to specifically instead of playing phone tag and never getting down to the issue at hand. Better yet, if someone doesn't answer I will often text them why I was calling so that they can read it and respond when they can.  What I hate more than anything is wasting my minutes to listen to a voicemail that merely identifies the speaker and says "call me back." I can figure that out by my caller ID. In fact, I've started waiting to listen to messages until after 9 pm so I don't use my minutes on them. Yes, I'm that cheap.

I do have friends who almost exclusively text rather than talk on the phone and I tend to only talk to them when I'm driving and cannot text. This can become wearisome too when it means we are having an extended serious conversation and there are things I'd like to say but can't quite word it in that concise texting manner that also conveys my intended meaning. It's a skill and I'm working on it.

Recently I've been plagued with phone calls from a few people who seemingly call for little or no reason and get VERY irritated if I don't answer, saying things like "you are ignoring me," "no one is this busy," "you never answer my calls." It almost feels like bullying. The truth is my family, in particular, has an uncanny ability to call at exactly the wrong time.

I thought this went without saying. If I don't answer my phone it is because one of  six things is happening.
(1) I am entertaining guests or talking to someone face to face.

(2) I am at the cash register at a store (This is USUALLY what is going on)

(3) I am at a meeting or at work. (During the school year, I'm amazed at the number of people who expect me to answer my phone between 8-4 -- I'm working, people!)

(4) I am in a movie.  (I WISH this happened more)

(5) I am sleeping.

(6) It's in a different part of the house and I can't hear it or I'm outside and it's inside.

Better yet... just text me, I can read that even when I'm busy and then I know if you wanted to chat or had something that was time sensitive.  With more technology, it seems like the rules keep getting more and more complicated and that some folks just aren't keeping up and it causes all kinds of hurt feelings and misunderstandings. Perhaps I just need to change my outgoing message to include some more specific explanation of what is going on that day! Until then, please forgive me. There is no (7) on the list. I promise.

(7) I am avoiding you because I don't like you and don't want to talk to you.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Meet Henry.

I picked up my sweet puppy in central Minnesota and drove him home late Friday night. It turns out he enjoys audiobooks and is a good little traveler.

We've been busy this Memorial Day Weekend with potty training, crates, chewing, getting used to a halter and leash, going for short walks, and lots of sniffing and exploring. I think my little guppy is adjusting quite nicely. He's met a few neighbors and is a big fan of my sister. He likes to listen to me read aloud and he's a is soothed by country music and talk radio. Also, by default, this little cubby is a Bears fan.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Would a dog by any other name...

...still bark the same?

Here are a few of the names I've considered. At one point I'd narrowed it to

However, this last week I tried one more time to find a few so I would have the just right name...
I've narrowed to the following:


I'm hoping when I meet my lil guy, I'll just know.


'Til the end of school? Sure.
But even more importantly, 'til I get my dog.
Yep, I decided on a breed. And a breeder. And now I just need to decide on a name.

This is my little guy at 4 weeks. He'll be 13 weeks old when I get to bring him home.

Through this journey I've learned a few things about breeders and breeds, gender, and training. Now, I get to put it all to the test. I've loaded up on puppy gear and yet, I feel like I'm cramming for some test.

I am wanting to read as much puppy training stuff as possible before he comes home. I suspect, in the end, we'll just figure it out together.

Here are the two training books I've spent the most time reading:
The Other End of the Leash by Patricia B. McConnell
The Art of Raising a Puppy by The Monks of New Skete

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Mission Accomplished

 I decided last fall this was something I should do and after some persuading I suckered some of my colleagues into joining me. I figured a marathon wasn't too much if we divided the work by four.
Then I planned to do a lot of training so I'd be ready.

Here we are post race --Our team name "That's What She Said."
I ran the second leg -- 7 miles.  It wasn't a "fast" run, but it was done without stopping to walk which was all I really wanted.

Instead of months of training I will admit we spent most of our time designing these dandy shirts and building our playlists. I did two races before this one -- The Frozen Feat and The Diva Dash. Both were 5ks in which I beat my time here by running faster but walking part of it too. I really want to be able to both run faster and not wear myself out so much that I have to walk. That's for the next race, I think.


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