Saturday, January 31, 2009

Phoenix Vacation - Part Three

I am finally getting around to my final installment of my trip to AZ! It's nice to reflect back on those warm temps, especially since I am at my wit's end w/ Old Man Winter...

On my 2nd to last night in Phoenix, Heidi and Chris

took me out to dinner at my favorite restaurant in Phoenix - Oregano's. It's this cute little Italian place that has been best pizzas, pastas, salads, and a wonderful signature drink & dessert.

Their signature drink is a "Bellini's" - I am not sure what all is in it besides Champagne, Chambered, and some sort of Peach Liquor, but dang it is good. Plus, it is a blended/slushy sort of drink - I relished the fact that I could drink this frozen drink while sitting outdoors in January. Heaven.

Apparently the drink is quite potent as you are only allowed to drink a maximum of 2!

I finally had my appetite back, so ordered a salad - which was clearly ginormous. I took a small dent out of this. Clearly it's big enough to share amongst 3-4 people!!

Heidi and Chris had pizza and shared a slice with me - it featured Applewood smoked bacon and a few other toppings and was so so delicious! I'm usually not a bacon person but the smokiness of the bacon made the pizza so delish!

Even though we were all pretty full, we had to make room for dessert. I rarely order dessert at a restaurant, but it's not optional when I visit Oregano's - they have this fabulous dessert called a "Pazookie" - it is basically a cookie, baked in a deep dish pan, with ice cream served on top. The best part is that the cookie is not fully cooked, so is still sort of gooey.

The picture doesn't do it justice, so you'll have to take my word for it. And if you go to Phoenix, you MUST try this dessert!

The next day, I was able to meet up with a college friend that had moved down to Phoenix about 5 years ago.

We met at a cute little deli that served croissants which reminded me of my time in France. I hadn't seen Jen in 5-6 years so it was wonderful catching up with her. It was like no time had passed since we had last seen each other. I love friendships like that. We both had obviously grown up and matured over the last 5 years, but we were fundamentally still the same people. It was fun reminiscing about our college days!

All in all, I had a wonderful trip to Phoenix. If I ever needed to move to Phoenix for work, it'd be a very easy city to move to since I have so many friends, and now a sister, that lives in the area!

January Accomplishments

I usually don't do New Years Resolutions. It seems like people usually declare them - and then never really look back. If I am going to declare a goal, I darn well better look back and see how I am doing. I need to mark my progress and learn from any set-backs I might have experienced. I set some goals and put them in writing; so I've decided to look back each month and see how I am progressing. Hopefully by doing this, on December 31, 2009, I'll be able to say - look, I did all these things I set out to do in 2009!

So far, I feel pretty good about my progress. I've got some work to do, but if I could accomplish those resolutions in a 31 day span, they weren't as lofty as they should have been!

Resolution one: Quitting Mt Dew.
Update: I think the habit has been kicked. I haven't had a sip of Mountain Dew this month. The first few weeks were the toughest - I craved it so much, I could almost 'taste' it. I don't crave it anymore. Sure there are moments when I want to cave in & have one. People have asked me if this is a temporary thing or if I will eventually try to go back to drinking it. I honestly don't think I will. For me, it's an all or nothing proposition. I know this sounds insane to someone who doesn't love the stuff, so you'll just have to take my word for it. I don't really 'benefit' from drinking it, so there's really no reason to incorporate back into my diet.

Resolution two: Cooking one meal/week.
Update: Yah, I haven't succeeded at this. I cooked twice in January. I feel I have a valid excuse, though - I was gone 4 weekends this month, then got the stomach flu, and then got a cold which I think has now morphed into a Sinus Infection. Yea for me. So this is definitely something I need to work on. I've decided it's time to apply my planning/organizational skills to my eating habits. So starting in February, every Sunday I am going to attempt to plan my meals for a week. We'll see how this goes. I do plan on cooking something tomorrow so hopefully that will kick February off to a more successful start!

Resolution three: Running more.
Update: See resolution two. Being gone so much and being sick twice did not positively impact my mileage. I have ran the last 2 days though and am most proud of the fact that I ran today even though I now am confident that I have a Sinus Infection and need to get on some meds. I don't feel well, but I certainly don't feel sick enough to skip out on a run. I am trying not to get too frustrated with myself on this resolution. My official training schedule doesn't start until Feb 9th, but I really am not as in shape as I should be at this point. So I will probably have to make some adjustments in the first few weeks. And I don't plan on trying to PR this 1/2. It will be my 3rd 1/2, so I am hoping my time will be somewhere between the other 2 I've ran. So we'll see what happens there.

Resolution four: Selling condo/buying home.
Update: This one is out of my hands. If I had to describe how 2009 has started for me, I'd have to say 'volatile'. I won't go into details but January has been a stressful month for me. Lots of changes on the horizon. 2009 should prove to be an interesting year. I'm no longer looking to purchase in 2009, but I might still try to sell my condo. My realtor is encouraging me to do this now so I have that 'monkey off my back'. I talked about it with my parents (aka my own little board of directors that help me make major decisions of this nature); they agreed that it's probably a good idea to list it and see what happens. I sort of feel like a leaf tossing in the wind when it comes to this resolution. I try not to think about it too much. I need to make a final decision in the next month or so about whether or not to list. We'll see what I end up doing.

So there we have it. 1 resolution off to a great start, 2 off to rough starts, and 1 completely out of my control. Not bad, in my opinion.

*note - I realize this is extremely boring for others to read. It's an exercise I feel I need to do on a monthly basis; I know it is probably only interesting to me. *

Friday, January 30, 2009

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

I am on the Diversity Events committee at work and agreed to check out this book, "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas" by John Boyne, to see if it was something we could do a book review on. Wow. I don't like to rave too much about a book for fear of "over-selling" this, but I honestly think every person should read this book. It is incredibly powerful and moving. It's very easy to read and very easy to get into, so seriously, go to your local library/bookstore/etc and check this book out. (For my co-workers that read this, check it out of the library - I better see you at the book review I'll be hosting in March!)

The book is written from the perspective of Bruno, a nine-year-old boy. It uses the language of a 9-year-old boy, but don't confuse this for a children's book, because it's not. Bruno's father is a high-ranking Nazi officer with direct contact with Hitler. Early in the book, we find out that Bruno's father has just been asked to move their family to "Out-With," as Bruno refers to it. I'm sure anyone with any knowledge of Concentration camps can figure out what "Out-With" stands for.

Soon after moving to Out-With, Bruno gets bored and decides to search around for some potential playmates. He meet Shmuel, a 9 yo boy that lives inside the Concentration Camp. The two become fast friends and meet each day to talk. Bruno doesn't really understand why all those people are living within the walls of the camp and is actually jealous of Shmuel since there are thousands of little boys that are Shmuel's age. At one point, Bruno asks his father why all those people live within the walls of the camp and his father responds by saying something like, 'Oh, Bruno, those aren't people.'

Now that I have read the book, I plan on seeing the movie - probably while all the other Americans are enjoying the Superbowl! If you read it, let me know what you think!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

25 Things

I was tagged on Facebook to do this, so thought I'd do it on my blog instead. I'm unofficially tagging anyone who reads this blog (whoever you are!)! If you do this on your blog, leave a comment & let me know so I can go read it!

Here goes!

1. I am a super jumpy person. Don't try to sneak up on me, I jump like a mile. Especially if I am concentrating on something at work.
2. I hate surprises. I should clarify - I like gifts and can wait to open them, but don't ever, ever throw me a surprise party. I would pretend to like it so the person throwing it wouldn't feel bad, but deep down, I'd hate it.
3. I have a black thumb, meaning I kill most plants I come into contact with. I have a plant at work that is surviving so far, but I feed it whatever it left over in my cup at the end of the day. So some days it gets green tea, some days it gets Crystal Light, and some days it gets just plain water. So far, it's not dead, but it's only a matter of time.
4. I worry entirely too much about what other people think - this is something I am working on.
5. I adore Chipotle. I used to eat there weekly, but have only been there once in 3 months which is quite an accomplishment for me.
6. I am a total home body. I enjoy meeting up with friends but love Saturday Nights spent at home, watching a movie, and knitting. Hmm, kind of hard to meet a guy when are sitting on your couch... not too surprising that I am single, I guess!
7. I am really afraid of mice. One ran across my room one morning when I still lived at home and I screamed so loudly, my parents thought someone was attacking me. The mouse got scared too and peed on the carpet. We couldn't get rid of the smell so they had to replace the carpeting. Gross.
8. I absolutely adore my nephews! I love buying books for them for every holidays from Easter to Halloween to Valentine's Day.
9. I am afraid of heights but have gone bungy jumping! And loved it!
10. I spent countless hours of my childhood with my Grandpa Dotzenrod and his brothers in their shop where they rebuilt engines. I talked non-stop and ate all their lemon drops. And amazed them by the fact that I could count to 10 in Spanish (thanks Sesame Street!)
11. I wish I would have taken gymnastics or ballet as a child. I am not athletic at all but think I might have been good at them.
12. When I fly, I am polite to my seatmates, but not the kind to chat them up at all. I put my iPod on right away in the hopes that they'll get that I'm not the 'make best friends w/ your seatmate' type. I'm normally a really chatty person, but not on planes for some reason! However, I would bend this rule if I actually got seated next to an attractive guy. Which NEVER happens.
13. I was a Delta Gamma in college - sororities are not for everyone but I had an amazing experience and made so many great friends.
14. I dream of some day owning a quaint little bookstore, kind of like the one on "You've Got Mail."
15. I don't dream of having a nice car, I dream of having a driver. This will never happen, but a girl can dream.
16. I usually prefer to do long driving trips alone. Unless I have a best friend with me. I don't like awkward silence and always worry that the person won't like the music I am playing.
17. I am in love with Damien Rice. His music is wonderful and I am a sucker for his Irish Accent. I have been to 2 of his concerts and hope to some day attend one in Ireland.
18. I learned to knit last summer & absolutely love it.
19. Laid-back, patient, and creative are not words I would use to describe myself.
20. Inquisitive, driven, and sentimental are.
21. I am a little OCD about loading my dishwasher. I don't want anyone else to do it, I'd just prefer to do it myself.
22. I never really watched cartoons as a child. Maybe the occasional 'Muppets' but cartoons just never were my thing.
23. Out of the characters on Sex and the City, I identify most with Miranda - we have the same sarcastic (bordering cynical) sense of humor and I think I can be pretty brutally honest with my friends at times (in a good way I hope).
24. On any given day, at least one article of clothing that I am wearing is from Banana Republic. I love that store.
25. I'll finish my MBA in May & say that I will NEVER go back to school. But I could see myself being bored in 5 years & taking random classes. I love school.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Revolutionary Road

I just finished reading Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates. It was very well-written, but extremely depressing. Extremely. I talked to someone who went to the movie and it sounds like the movie stays true to the plot line of the book... so I am thinking I'll know someone who went to the movie and can discuss the plot line with him/her. Because unless you are prepared for the depressing nature of the book, I wouldn't recommend it. But if you went to the movie, let me know so we can discuss...

The book is set in the 1950's and is about a young couple, Frank and April Wheeler, who lives in suburbia. They have been married for around 5 years and are starting to question what they ever saw in each other. They saw their lives playing out so differently than they have. Frank never saw himself working in a dead-end job and April never saw herself living the life of a suburban mom.

Then the couple has an epiphany - they decide they should say to heck with it all and move to Europe. April will get a job and support the family which will give Frank time to figure out what makes him tick.

Then April gets pregnant with their 3rd child. Which changes everything. Having a baby in Europe really isn't practical. So they must stay on in CT.

This is where everything sort of falls apart. The last 1/4 of the book is downright depressing. But it did really make me think about relationships. Towards the end April begins to question if she ever really loved Frank. Did she say "I love you" because she really truly loved him? Or did she say that because she wanted to say those words... because she wanted to make Frank feel loved? Did they fall into a trap of uttering phrases like "whatever you think is best" or "You're the most wonderful and valuable thing in the world" because that is what they really felt?

I would hope I'd never do something like this. But I do think this does occur in relationships. People fall in love with being in love.

I think I will probably see this movie. Katie Winslet didn't get an Oscar nomination for it, but she did win a Golden Globe, so I know her performance is excellent. I will go into the theater, knowing I will leave the theater feeling heavy and unsettled.

If you read the book or see the movie, let me know so we can discuss!!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Coping Strategies...

Um, so much for that self-imposed book-buying hiatus. Today has been a stressful day for reasons that I won't go into. I don't handle stress and uncertainty very well...

So I figured I had earned a little field trip to B&N. Plus I thought I should buy the book for the up-coming "Books & Bars" meeting on Feb 11th. And a few others. I walked out with:

1. Eleanor Rigby by Douglas Coupland
2. Shampoo Planet by Douglas Coupland
3. The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff

I am hoping one of these is lighter than the last few books I've read & the one I'm currently reading! If not, I might need to go out & buy a Calvin Hobbes book or something!

At least I didn't resort to drinking a Mountain Dew, like I would have before when I was stressed! 27 days & no Mountain Dew! This might be a record!!! Although my co-worker is NOT helping and keeps saying things like, "c'mon, you deserve one!" or "just one won't hurt you!" NOT HELPING. But I'm staying strong!

Tuesday's To-Read List

So when I started this blog, it was supposed to be all about reading... But I've enjoyed blogging so much, I've gotten away from the inspiration for this whole blog...

So this post will hopefully make up for the fact that I've posted very few book reviews lately... Here's a few books on my 'to-read' booklist!

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi
I have been meaning to read this book since I worked at Barnes & Noble back during the winter/spring of 2003/2004. The woman in charge of our history & biography department was the sweetest old lady who gushed about this book. The author uses black-and-white comic strip images to tell the story of her life in Tehran from age 6 to age 14. The comic strip image story telling technique is powerful. It probably sounds like an odd medium, but trust me, it is really powerful. I was introduced to this technique when I read Maus I and Maus II by Art Spiegalman (2 must-read books, IMO) during my Freshman Honors English course at UND. I think my parents still have these books on one of their bookshelves at home... So mom, if you haven't read them yet - check them out!!

Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak Did you know that the book's publication was cancelled by Soviet authorities so Pasternak had it smuggled out of the country so it could be published? I own this book but haven't gotten around to reading it yet. I am intimidated by it. I know the subject matter is going to be heavy. I know the reading is going to be intense & it might take awhile for me to get 'hooked' by the book. But I really want to read it so I can talk about it with my Russian friend Yulia. I know she's read it so it will be fun to discuss with her. I also want to see the movie! Given the intense nature of this book, it's probably going to be put on the back burner until I am done with grad school...

The Rest of Her Life by Laura Moriarty I'm drawn to this book since it is about Mother/Daughter relationships... which, in my opinion, is a very complex relationship. In this book, Kara, a high school senior, makes a mistake that ends in tragedy which result in the division of her family and polarization of the community. It sounds like it's set in a small town so I am sure I'll be able to relate to the setting of the book! Another great book about the dynamics of the Mother/Daughter relationship is Amy & Isabelle by Elizabeth Strout which I should go back & re-read since I read it right after getting my tonsils out when I was a freshman in college. I was so doped up on pain medication, so the book is a bit of a blur for me. I do remember enjoying it, though!

That's all for now - happy reading & stay warm for those of you in the Midwest!!!

PS - this is my 100th blog post on this blog! That's alot!!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Resolutionary Road: Mexican Meatloaf

So my posts on my 'healthy cooking' experiences have been sparse. This is only my 2nd post. Which means I have only cooked twice in 2009. I'm really not cooking nearly as much as I'd like to, but am blaming this on being out of town the last 4 weekends and having the flu last week... Excuses, excuses. Here's hoping I can get back on track in February!!

Back in early January, I had Brooke over for a night of knitting. I decided to try another Weight Watcher's menu, since the Mediterranean Burgers turned out great. I was happy with this recipe as well.

Once again, I had to get over my dislike of touching raw meat. The recipe called for a 1/2 lb of ground turkey and a 1/2 lb of ground beef, so mixing these two meats by hand was the only option. I think I'm pretty much over my 'squeamish' feelings about touching meat. It's not something I enjoy doing, but I can do it without feeling too grossed out!!

The recipe was pretty straight forward. Just had to mixed up a bunch of ingredients.

then form it into a oval shape on a broiler pan, and let her cook.

I sort of forgot to take pictures of the finished product when it came out of the oven... but here's what was left at the end of the night...

Brooke and I both had 2 helpings, so you'll have to trust that it tasted good!

Here's the recipe:

Cooking Spray
½ lb raw extra lean ground beef
½ lb lean ground turkey breast
2 large egg whites
2 oz. cornbread stuffing dry mix (about 1 c.)
1 medium onion, chopped
½ tsp. chili powder
¼ tsp. ground cumin
4 oz. canned green chili peppers, diced
8 oz. canned enchilada sauce

Preheat oven to 375F. Coat a broiler pan with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, mix beef, turkey, egg whites, stuffing mix, onion, chili powder, cumin, chilies, and ½ of enchilada sauce together. Shape into an oval with your hands and place on prepared broiler pan.

Cook for 1 hour, top with remaining enchilada sauce and bake for 5 minutes more. Slide into 6 pieces and serve.

* Cooking spray was one of the items that got thrown away during my cleaning spree since it was past it's expiration date. So I had to go without. I wouldn't recommend skipping that agreement. I did double the cumin and chili powder since that is how I roll... next time around I would still double the cumin but probably not the chili powder as it sort of over powered the dish.

I would definitely make this again, though. For those familiar with WW, it's only 3 points/serving. Which is pretty good since your basic bowl of cereal with skim milk runs you 4 points. And this dish is much tastier/fulfilling than cereal and milk, in my opinion...


Sunday, January 25, 2009

A return to the frozen tundra

I am back from the from the "Frozen Tundra" - aka, Grand Forks, ND. Holy. Cannasta. It is cold up there. Minneapolis isn't exactly "tropical" but wow, it is so so so much warmer than GF. It's amazing how much you can feel a -10 difference. Unfortunately our trip to GF coincided with another cold front. The temp in GF when we arrived on Friday was about -10F. That doesn't include the wind chill. I am going to guess that it was at least -20F. Maybe even colder! All weekend, I kept asking myself - "seriously, how did I live here for 4 years?" Actually, all of us non-GF residents kept asking ourselves this same question. I guess we have become less tough since graduating!!

We started out the weekend at Whitey's, a bar & restaurant located across the river in East Grand Forks, MN. I wonder how many hours I spent at this place, waitressing. I worked there from February of my Freshman year through graduation, and probably worked around 25-30 hours a week. It was a great college gig. I am really glad that I waitressed at some point during my life - it definitely gives me an appreciation for wait staff! And I can differentiate between things that are the wait staff's fault, and things that are the fault of the cooks in the kitchen.

Whitey's has changed quite a bit since I stopped working there, circa 2003, though. Which I was reminded of on Friday night. I tried to explain to Katie's fiance that the "Prime Rib Sandwich" really isn't a "sandwich" - it's more like a thin slice of prime rib with some toast. Um, yah. Apparently not anymore. They must have gotten enough complaints for the misleading description on the menu. It IS a sandwich now. I explained to our waiter that I was just trying to help Brett make an informed decision and that 6 years ago, my advice was valid, and something I told everyone who ordered that off the menu. I am pretty sure he thought I fell under the "vintage" category when I said I worked there 6 years ago! I'm not the spring pup I used to be, I guess! But props to Whitey's for adjusting their menu based on customer comments/complaints!

Aside from wondering how the heck I handled the cold, I also wondered how I handled working in a smoky bar. Luckily, Minnesota has a state-wide ban on smoking in restaurants/bars. In ND, it is up to the city. East Grand Forks is smoke-free since it's on the MN side. Grand Forks, which is on the ND side, has opted not to go smoke-free. After this weekend, I almost want to write the GF city council and ask them to re-consider this decision. Or possibly issue a ban for the weekend we are up there each January? Because second hand smoke SUCKS.

At the next establishment, I had an opportunity to pose with Matt, the organizer of this event. He is also known as the "Winter Homecoming King." He loves planning this event, and keeps the participants excited throughout the year by sending email updates with details on the weekend. I love UND, but this guy makes my love for UND seem like a crush. I swear he must bleed white, green, and pink (the official colors of UND. What's with the pink? Good question...).

On Saturday some of us girls went and did a little shopping and then met up with the group for lunch at Bonzer's. Bonzer's was another place that was commonly frequented by our group in college. They give you baskets of peanuts and serve beer in huge glasses known as "Scooners." Luckily it is smoke-free during the day so we didn't have to battle the second hand smoke!

After lunch, the girls started getting ready, which really reminded me of my days in Delta Gamma. All of our rooms were connected, so it was easy to pop in and out as we were all getting ready. My friend Amy did my hair and Katie did my make-up. I try to look presentable on a daily basis, but hair and make-up are not my forte. I told Amy that if I ever make it 'big,' the first thing I will do is hire her to come over and do my hair every morning. She is so good at it. This photo shows the results of my 'make-over'.

We headed to the hockey game at the Ralph Englestad Arena, which is an AMAZING venue. I am pretty sure I read somewhere that it rivals many of the NHL venues. I can't really do the venue justice like our WHC organizer Matt could, so suffice it to say that it is worth braving the sub-zero temps to see a game here.

The Sioux were on a seven game winning streak, so we definitely timed our visit at the peak of their play. The game with Denver ended in a tie. I can't say I watched much of the game, though. I spent most of the time getting caught up with the people in our group - there were 19 of in total, and many of these 19 don't live in Minneapolis so it was fun getting caught up. We never did manage a group photo, but here is a picture of some of the girls that were in attendance.

The weekend was a blast. I don't know if it was the presence of cigarette smoke, or my lack of an immune system, but I came down with a cold on Saturday morning, which got progressively worse throughout the weekend. As a result, I was in bed pretty early on Saturday night. We got up early this a.m. and headed back to Minneapolis. All I could think when we got back was, "Home, sweet, home." It was at least 10 degrees warmer. I didn't feel like I was going to get frost bite when I got into my car. It was my no means "balmy" but still feel dang good compared to the temps in GF!

Now I'm nursing a Gatorade and pounding advil & cold medicine in the hopes that I can kick this cold asap. I just don't have time to be sick this week. My 28th birthday is under 2 weeks away and all that I really want is an immune system. So if someone can arrange for that gift to wind up at my door, I'd be forever grateful!! I know a gift of that nature isn't possible, so for now I am re-ordering some Shaklee immune boosting products that will hopefully keep me from getting sick on a weekly basis!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Traditions & Milestones

I'm not quite done recapping my Phx trip, still have one more post to put out there! I have yet another out-of-town weekend to think about for now - a trip to GF. That's Grand Forks for those of you who didn't have the privilege of going to UND or living in North Dakota.

That's right. I'm going to GF in January. Am I crazy? Perhaps. Yes, it will be freaking cold. But it has become a tradition which has been titled, "Winter Homecoming." Each year, a group of my college friends heads up to GF sometime in January to take in a Hockey game and attempt to re-create the past.

I am a late adapter of this tradition, this is only my 2nd annual trip, but it's the 6th annual Winter Homecoming for the original group. Which means - holy crap - we've been out of undergrad for 6 freaking years!! Where did the time go??

Last night, I had the hardest time falling asleep. All I could think about was January of 2008 and my first Winter Homecoming experience.

Last year, it couldn't have come at a better time. Ryan and I had broken up the week before. I needed this diversion. I needed to be around a group of fun college friends to help mend my broken heart. It really, really helped.

As I was tossing and turning last night, I was asking myself - is tomorrow the one year anniversary of our break up? I could not remember if it was this Friday or last Friday.

After looking at my calendar & old emails I have confirmed that it was last Friday. The one year mark came and went without any discussion of Ryan or the break-up or anything. Which is a pretty big deal for me since I am the kind of person who typically remembers dates like the date of a break-up and has a tendency to re-hash the details.

It's interesting to compare where I am today to where I was last year at this time. I'm not going to lie - I was in a major funk January - June of 2008. My major turning point was my trip to France - and I thank God for that trip.

It really turned things around and made me realize that there are things far worse than being single. Like being in an unfulfilling relationship.

I do miss Ryan at times, but I really don't miss who we were together. Our relationship wasn't bad, it just wasn't great. And certainly not good enough to make a strong marriage. 80% of our relationship was great, but that other 20% that wasn't great, and that 20% would have made for a long and unfulfilling life together. We would have been settling if we had stayed together. And I am proud of us for making the tough decision to break up.

What I miss more than Ryan is all the other stuff that came with being in a relationship with him. I miss his roommates and friends. I miss the occasional email with his dad (who totally got my sarcastic sense of humor). I miss his sisters.

But the relationship in general? No, I don't miss that. I am so thankful that I have made it to a point where I can look at my life and say - if this is all it ever ends up being, I am ok with that. Yes, I am hopeful that I will some day get married and have children of my own.

But if it doesn't happen, I won't consider my life a complete and utter failure... I definitely couldn't have said that last year at this time.

And yes, I sometimes complain about the fact that I am almost 28 and single. It's at times like that when I need to go back and read this post, so I can remember - there are things worse than being single.

Which is why I am writing this heavier blog post. Because that's what blogging is about at times - sometimes you need to put your thoughts/feelings into writing so that 2 weeks or 20 months from now, you can go back and read it and remember how you felt. And look at the progress you've made.

The growing pains of last year weren't fun to go through. But going through them makes me appreciative of the ease of life I am experiencing now.

I'm sure I'll have some good stories and photos to post after this weekend! Have a great weekend & for those in the Midwest - stay warm!!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Phoenix Vacay - Part Two

Ok, so where were we? Oh yah, I was basking in the sun, reading a book, and enjoying the feeling of not having to be any where, or talk to anyone. I am definitely one of those people who relishes her alone time. You'd think I'd have tons and tons of alone time since I live alone, but I feel like I am barely home, and thus, barely alone. So having an entire day to myself was absolutely wonderful!!

Heidi and Chris got home from work so Heidi & I went to run a quick errand before dinner. Chris was handling dinner, so we figured it was best to leave him in his domain.

Ok, a word about Chris. Seriously, the guy can cook. In this picture, he is working our dessert, which was an Italian Souffle - a recipe of Giada's from Food Network (love her, but hate that she' so dang tiny even though she seems to eat everything in site...)

That is a make-shift double boiler on the stove in front of him. Yah, he know what a double boiler is & how to use it. I got a double boiler for Christmas and have had to explain exactly what it is to multiple people. But this guy knows now to use one. He also made home-made whipped cream for the dessert. Seriously! Like I've said, Heidi is one lucky lady!! Oh, and Chris has a new nickname which Brooke came up with: Marty Stewart. He doesn't love it, but I am sure it will grow on him!! ;)

Abby and Ryan drove up from Tucson for the night. I am so glad I got to spend some time with them! Abby moved to Tucson in May so I have only seen her once this year (T-giving weekend), so it was wonderful getting some more quality time with this young couple. Plus, I have the honor of being their maid of honor, so we had wedding stuff to discuss... and I had to do some research for my speech!

Within moments of their arrival, I asked made Abby open her birthday gift. Yah, her birthday isn't until Feb 27th, but I wanted to be there when I opened her present. If you haven't figured it out yet, I SUCK at surprises and presents. I usually have to buy gifts as late as possible. Otherwise I want to tell people what I got them, or give them the gift right away. I pretty much always tell my sister & sister-in-laws what I got their boys for Christmas/Birthdays before the kids open them because I get so excited about the gift. I've been like this since I was a child. My mom used to tell me what 'we' were getting dad for Christmas, but I'd always tell him! So one year she made me promise not to tell dad what I got him. I remember sitting in the living room, practically bursting to tell him. I asked him if he wanted to guess what he got for Christmas & he declined. I said,

"Well, I promised mom I wouldn't tell you what I got you for Christmas... and,
well, it's not a wallet!!"

Yah, it was totally a wallet. I thought reverse psychology was totally going to work. I didn't fool him.

Anyways, back to the present! Abby has become quite the Betty Crocker, so I figured it was time for her to have an apron. I found this adorable (IMO) apron at Patina. I've said it before, I'll say it again. If you live in Minneapolis and are struggling to come up with a gift for someone - go to this store!! They have at least 4 different stores in the MSP area. Check them out!! Oh, but be careful - you might walk away with gifts for yourself!!

Before dinner, we took some pictures together. Here's Abby and I (wish I was tan, not albino!!)

And here's a picture of Abby and Ryan - aren't they the cutest couple?

I am so excited for their wedding on 8/8/09. It'll come so fast! I have 2 other good friends that are getting married on that day - I guess that is a popular day in '09 to get married!

We sat down to a delicious meal of Vodka Cream Pasta, salad, and bread (sorry, no pics). Heidi even had little place cards. She truly is Martha Stewart!

After dinner, we brought out some games. I had Abby & Ryan bring up Apples to Apples, which has become a family favorite. Actually, the first weekend that I met Ryan, we introduced him to this game. Ryan and I have a very similar sense of humor when it comes to this game, so end up picking each other's quite a bit! We also played a great game called "Loaded Question" which is a WONDERFUL way to get to know random facts about people. I won't go into the gist of the game, let me just say - I learned a lot about Abby, Ryan, Heidi, and Chris. Abby & Ryan - don't be surprised if some of these learnings end up in my MOH speech (which I'm already working on, btw!)

The game got pretty interesting at times, so Chris broke out some Patron to sort of loosen things up a bit. Us girls didn't partake, but Chris & Ryan are both fans of high-shelf Tequila, so enjoy a shot together. Aside from both being fans of Tequila, Chris is an electrical engineer, which is the field Ryan is studying, so they got along great!

The next morning we headed out to hike South Mountain, which is a hiking trail close to where Chris & Heidi live. The weather was gorgeous - in the 70's with lots of sun. AZ really is beautiful - it's completely different from the beauty of MN, but I appreciate the rugged geography & love the cacti!

We hiked about a mile to a summit and took some photos

We could have kept going to another summit, but I was pretty winded and was just finally starting to feel better so figured I better not push it. So we headed back down.

Abby and Ryan then headed back to Tucson. It was so much fun seeing them. It's hard having Abby so far away, but I know it is temporary. When she finishes her RN program, she'll have a 3 year commitment to the hospital that is sponsoring (aka paying for her!) program, then they plan on relocating to the MSP area. So I know it won't be long and we'll be in the same city. Abby has decided to come back for my Graduation Party (on May 30th) which I am so excited about! So I will see her in just a few short months!!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Phoenix Vacation - Part One

So I start classes tomorrow. My final semester. You know what I should be doing? Reading the books I just bought today so I am prepared for class tomorrow. What am I doing? Blog post part one of my Phoenix trip...

I arrived in Phoenix on Thursday night. It was 79 degrees. Seriously. It was like -30 when I left Minneapolis that morning. It was so weird to walk to Chris's car in the airport parking garage. Before we went into the parking garage, I instinctively braced myself for the cold. Then I remember that I was in sunny AZ & not frigid MN! Alleluia!!!!

When we got to Heidi & Chris's house, I immediately made Heidi open her birthday gift. Her bday isn't until Feb 1st, but I had sent the gift down ahead of time so I could be there when she opened it. She loved what Brooke & I got her! The high-heel cake server is just SO Heidi! I found it at Patina which is the BEST store ever for gifts!!

Chris got busy making us girls dinner (Heidi is so lucky, btw. A husband that cooks? Seriously?). While he cooked, Heidi and I started getting caught up. We hadn't seen each other since September of 2007 - this is the longest we've gone without seeing each other since we met during my freshman year of college. We talk on the phone a couple of times a week, but it's not the same as seeing each other, face to face.

Heidi and Chris have a beautiful house - Heidi has done such a great job decorating it. I wish that was a strength I had, but I just don't possess those abilities! I love the 'clothes line' picture hanging technique!!

Also love the red kitchen!!

The next day, while Heidi and Chris worked, I relaxed. I slept in and spent the afternoon in their patio furniture reading "Revolutionary Road." Nothing like sitting in 70 degree temps with a good book and an ice cold Diet Coke (by the way, I've now gone 20 days w/out a Mt Dew! I think I kicked the habit for good!!!)

I had a wonderful view of the Lemon Tree in their backyard. You might not be able to tell in this photo, but it is COVERED in lemons.

Lemons are kind of the Pumpkins or Zucchini of AZ. They can't get rid of them fast enough. Heidi and I took a few shopping bags to various people while I was there.

But it barely took a dent out of their crop!! I took some lemons off their hands, but not nearly enough!

Unfortunately, that's all I have time to cover tonight... Stay tuned for the rest of the posts about this wondeful trip!! I'm off to read about implementing Strategy so I am prepared for my first night of class tomorrow night. Tomorrow will be my last first day of school. EVER. Yippee!!!!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Can I get a table for 4 please?

Yah, so I'm not buying a house in 2009. So that means I need to make my condo work for me. I have needs that my condo isn't fulfilling.

Like having a nice dining room table.

Yes, I am limited on space, but I have room for a new table and chairs. The one I have now is something I bought from a friend who was trying to get rid of his old table and chairs. It has done the trick for the last 5 years, but I need something new. Oh, and it doesn't help that it has a huge burn mark in the shape of my flat iron. Yah, kind of forgot that the flat iron heats up to a temp around 180 degrees. And that's probably not something you want to set on a wood table. So it has a lovely V-shaped burn mark. Classy, huh? Plus my mom has told me I really need a new dining set and she is NOT a frivolous spender. So if she says I need one, I really, really need one.

The crappy thing about buying a table now is that the table I want probably doesn't fit in the space I have... but I guess I just have to buy something and then if it doesn't fit in the next space, I can try to sell it on Craig's List or something.

I am having a dinner party the last weekend of February so I am hoping to have something purchased by then.......

A few of the tables I am thinking about are this one

this one

or maybe this one?

I'd have to see these in person. But for now, they are an option....

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Ok, I get it Abby

So, I might have been a bit skeptical of Abby's move down to AZ.

Well, Absters, I get it. 100%. It was 80 degrees this morning. Abby & Ryan spent the night last night so this morning Chris, Heidi, Ryan, Abby, and I headed out and did a little hike. It was probably only about a mile to the summit that we reached but man was I winded. I am blaming it on the fact that I was recently sick (by the way, today is the first day I actually feel normal, stupid bug, stupid lack of an immune system...). But the truth of the matter is that I am just plain out of shape. The gym has been calling my name for awhile and, well, I've been screening his calls.

Tonight I am heading out with Heidi - a co-worker is getting married so we are attending her bachelorette party. Sounds like it will be low key - just dinner and drinks at the bride's sister's Mexican restaurant. I love the Mexican food down here, it is so yummy! Probably more authentic due AZ's proximity to Mexico!!

Can't wait to do a post or 2 with photos when I get back. I am not taking nearly enough, though! It's kind of hard to remember to take out the camera when you are so caught up in getting caught up with a siblings, best friend, and their fiance and husband!

Hope everyone is having a great weekend. I hear it is above zero back in MN! Heat wave!

Adios for now!

Friday, January 16, 2009

A Change of Plans

So, I've alluded to the fact that I am a bit of a planner. Ok, I'm more than a bit of a planner. I'm a serious planner. For instance, when I was going to school at UND, by sophomore year, I basically had my schedule through Senior year planned out. And when I started my MBA at Carlson, one of the first things I did was plan out my 3 years in the program. Certain classes are only offered in the spring/fall, and I had to figure out what to take in the summer, etc. I even had it color coded, and knew what days the classes were going to fall on.

I personally think my planning abilities are one of my better traits. It's a strength of mine. It's something I use is my Finance job. So it's a good thing that I am like this.

But it also kind of sucks. Because life isn't something you plug into an Excel spreadsheet. And while I am very good at planning, I am still working on being flexible. It's something that I honestly can say I struggle with.

Well, today I learned that certain events I had 'forecasted' in this spreadsheet need to be re-forecasted. Changes I saw happening in May or June? Well, those are going to be happening in October. I think. I hope. I don't know for certain, but I have to trust. Everything happens for a reason, and God has a plan. I just wish he could email me that plan so I could have a heads up! ;) Ha.

So for now, things I had planned on happening are sort of on hold... I won't be listing my condo on Feb 1st. I probably won't be buying a house in 2009. I won't be taking that vacation to Peru. Instead, I am just going to hold tight. I am going to employ the 'wait and see' approach. I never do this. It's going to be a stretch assignment for me. But it's good to challenge ourselves.

I'm a bit bummed about this. But there are some upsides:

- I won't have to move while in grad school
- When I return from AZ, I won't have to work like a mad woman to finish the organizational projects I was working on
- I won't have to leave my house in 'showing condition' every morning starting Feb 1st. Instead I can leave it looking 'lived in'.

I have a tendency to sort of rush into things head first. Yes, I analyze the heck out of things, but I sort of have a 'bull in a China closet' approach at times. So hopefully taking a step back and putting the spreadsheets on hold will have a positive effect on 2009. I guess I have no choice to but to 'wait and see' if that is the case...

Loving Frank

Loving Frank, by Nancy Horan, is a historical fiction novel based on the life of Frank Lloyd Wright, and his mistress, Mamah (pronounced May-mah, not mama, by the way). My friend Adrianne was reading this book when we were roommate in France last summer and lent it to me over Christmas break. I just finished it yesterday while waiting to board my flight to Phoenix. Let me just say - you might want to read the last part of the book alone... Err, not around a bunch of strangers at an airport. Because if you are like me, you are going to cry. And, well, that is just awkward! While I am super duper sensitive, very few books actually make me cry. This book is definitely one of them. So consider yourself warned!

The book was really interesting and quite disturbing for me to read. It's a pretty scandalous tale. Frank and Mamah are both married and have children of their home. Then Mamah and her husband hire Frank to design a home for them in the Oak Park suburb of Chicago. Mamah and Frank fall in love during the process, and end up leaving their spouses and families in order to be together. I believe Frank had 6 children and Mamah had 2. At one point, Mamah went two years without seeing her children. She basically put her happiness and well-being ahead of the happiness and well-being of her children. In this day and age, I think that is unacceptable, and can't imagine the scandal it must have been back in the early 1900's.

It's hard to keep in mind that the book is only based on history; I love historical fiction but often have trouble separating the facts from the truth. How much of Frank & Mamah's story is correct and how much was embellished by the author? According to the author interview at the end of the book, very little is known about this relationship. Frank Lloyd Wright does not reveal much about their relationship in his autobiography. We do know that it was a significant relationship that lasted around 15 years, during which they lived together, away from their spouses and children.

My curiosity has definitely been sparked by this book. Next time I visit my brother in Chicago, I am hoping to do a Frank Lloyd Wright tour of his homes in the Oak Park area of Chicago. My sister-in-law has already said she'll come with me! There are actually some FLW-inspired homes on the lake where my parents' cabin is located. Every summer, at some point we take a slow little boat tour along the shore to check out some of the homes. I know that my parents have pointed out those FLW-inspired homes, but in the past, I've had my nose stuck in a book or a gossip mag and haven't paid attention. Next summer, however, I plan to pay attention!!

Oh, and this is completely off the topic, but you know that Widower's blog that I follow? The one where he lost his wife the day after their daughter Madeline was born? Well, his story is being covered in People magazine this week! So check it out if you get a chance. I believe it's on news stands starting today & I plan on buying a copy. He also just set up a non-profit that will benefit widows/widowers who are raising their children on their own. He has quite the powerful story.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

2 hours, 40 minutes, and 100 degrees

I arrived in Phoenix this evening!! The flight was about 2 hours and 40 minutes. I walked off the plane and it was 78 degrees!! Seriously, that is over 100 degrees warmer than it was in Minnesota when I left this afternoon! Alleluiah!!

Heidi's husband Chris picked me up at the airport and grilled a wonderful dinner of chicken & asparagus. Ahh. Food made on the grill, without having to don a parka. Amazing.

Heidi and Chris work tomorrow - Heidi was concerned that I wouldn't stay busy and might be bored. Hmm... a whole day with nothing that I have to do... and I might have broken my 'no buying books until you read the ones you have' rule today in the airport. I bought 2. Whoops. I started the first one on the flight (Revolutionary Road). So I think I will definitely stay entertained!!!

Alright, time to play some games. Heidi's husband made fun of Heidi and I for putting our pj's on at 7:30 pm. Yes, I know that is early. Heidi and I are both Grandma's when it comes to bedtimes!

I'll be sure to post some pictures when I get back... and probably a book review (just finished "Loving Frank")

Au Revoir for now!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Maybe I should have gotten that flu shot...

I am home sick today. I had been doing so well this winter - I usually am sort of on the sickly side. I swear my immune system didn't develop properly or something...

Nonetheless, I'm home sick. Terrible timing since I have to help facilitate a 2 hour presentation tomorrow afternoon & we were doing a dry run this a.m. Luckily there are 5 others facilitating, but still... I feel terribly guilty.

And now is the one time (err one of the times) I wish I had a boyfriend to bring me some Gatorade or something. :(

Alright, even of a pity party... here's hoping this flu bug is gone very, very soon...

Monday, January 12, 2009

Birthday Party... and break lights

I am back from Chicago Land. Hallelujah. A drive that should have taken 7-8 hours took 12. I am so over snow. Seriously. My vacation to AZ could not have come at a better time - I fly out on Thursday and can not wait to get away from the cold & snow. I'll be visiting my best friend Heidi & her husband Chris and my sister Abby & her fiance Ryan. I miss these 4 people so much, but they sure had the right idea moving south...

Anyways, back to the Chi-town trip. Aside from the long, LONG drives, I had a great trip. I wish I saw more of Kolin, Chad, and Emily. They were excellent hosts! We arrived on Saturday and mom got to work on the cake.

The theme of Kolin's party was "Trains" so my brother Chad made a home-made Chocolate cake for the base and a home-made Pound Cake for the train part. The finished product was awesome! My Grandma McDougall was an AMAZING cake decorator so I guess my mom got some of her talent!

Dad and Chad went shopping at the Bass Pro Shop, so us girls & Kolin decided to hang back. Kolin made his own little Hammock between the couch and the chair which entertained him for quite awhile. He is such a little monkey!

That night, we had dinner and Kolin continued to entertain us. Dad showed us the importance of work-site safety by donning a Bob the Builder hat (which surprisingly fit him quite well!)

Kolin had to look just like Grandpa so tried it on as well!

Then Kolin got sick of clothes so spent the rest of the evening playing in just a diaper.

Sunday was the big party. Kolin had a blast playing with his cousins and opening presents.

Then it was time for cake - Kolin loved it when everyone sang Happy Birthday to him!

He couldn't wait to start eating his cake. He tried eating it with a fork...

But quickly realized it was way more efficient to just pick it up with his hands.

2 of Kolin's friends, Molly and Amanda (twin girls that were adopted from China), were at his party. They are just a few months younger than Kolin. Those 3 got along great!

The party was a hit - I am so glad I was able to attend! Southwest will start flying between Minneapolis & Chicago in March. Hopefully their entrance into our market will lower flight prices so I can go visit more often!!!

Oh, and here's a little video of our little monkey in his home-made Hammock!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Dress Envy...

I'm sitting in Chicago at my brother's, watching The Golden Globes. I love watching award shows - especially the red carpet portion. It's the one time that I allow myself to be shamelessly catty.

I have major dress envy.

I think Eva Mendes looks awesome. I am all about the ruffles, so love this Dior gown.

I also love Kate Winslet.

She's always so classy, looks amazing, and I adore her accent. Ahh, to be able to talk like that - what a dream. Sure beats my Minnesota accent!

I'm not loving these looks...

Drew's dress is pretty, but what's with the hair?

I usually love Renee Zellwegger's dresses, but this one falls flat for me. And the updo??? Yikes. She usually wears such timeless gowns, but this year's? It's a don't, in my opinion.

Not a fan of Maggie Gyllenhaal's dress either... but that's nothing new. Our styles are not compatible.

That's it for tonight's cattyness. I got it out of my system for another year... or until the Oscars!

Tomorrow, I am driving back to Minneapolis with my parents. Or should I say, I'll be in the back seat, praying that I don't die. My father insists on driving. And it. is. scary. Seriously. He insists on tailgating people. Even when the roads are terrible and we are driving in a near-blizzard. Seriously. I tried to suggest that he implement the '3 second rule' but he is not receptive to his 27 year-old daughter's driving advice. I am hoping he'll allow me to drive tomorrow. Cross your fingers. If I am not allowed to drive, I am going to put my sleep mask on, turn up the iPod, and pray that I make it to see my 28th birthday.

Oh, and it's supposed to blizzard across MN & ND tomorrow... but I am hoping the weatherman is wrong!!