Wednesday, September 30, 2009

September Re-Cap

Nory does this over on her blog each month, so with her permission, I'll be doing a similar re-cap every month!

Current Book(s):
Finished - And Sometimes Why (hated it), The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (loved it), Beat the Reaper (meh. Little too vulgar for me), Best Friends Forever (so-so), Olive Kitteridge (loved it).

Currently Reading - Firefly Lane

Current Music:
Tyrone Wells & Brandi Carlile are two artists I'm listening to quite a bit. I kind of want to email Tyrone Wells and ask him to marry to me. Or at least take me on a date. Ha!

Current Shame-Inducing Guilty Pleasure:
Jalapeno Baby Dills. I consume way too many! I've started buying 2 jars at a time since I go through them so fast!! Mmm, I love pickles! And don't be grossed out, but sometimes I drink a little bit of the juice when I finish off a jar!!

Current Colors:
I love that mustard yellow color!

Current Obsessions:
My 1/2 marathon training grid
The library
Cherry Pomegranate Crystal Light

Current Drink:
Cherry Pomegranate Crystal Light - it's awesome and I go through 2 quarts of it every 2-3 days! Which is kind of a lot for a person that lives by herself!

Current Song:
Ok, I hate Chris Brown, but I love running to 'Forever'.

Current Movie:
My fave of the month was Julie & Julia. Meryl Streep rocked!

Current TV Shows:
I love Mad Men and wish: a) that I looked like Betty Draper, and b) that I had her entire wardrobe. I am hoping that one of my friends will host a Mad Men themed party this fall. I would but my condo is way too tiny to host such an event!

Current Wish-List:
Lots and lots of books.

Current Needs:
A paycheck. I'm sort of between paychecks now until I start my new job on the 5th! Thank God for savings! :)

Current Triumph:
I'm starting a new job that I am so excited about in just a few days! Woot woot!

Current Bane of my Existence:
My to do list that I made for this stay-cation. I swear to God, I am the busiest unemployed person. Ever. I have 5 days to get the list done.

Current Goal:
Maintaining a 10 minute/mile pace on Sunday when I do the Twin Cities 10 mile. It's a hilly course so that might be a challenge. Wish me luck!

Current Indulgence:
Those dill pickles I mentioned above! If I ate them in front of my mom, she'd shake her head and warn me about the sodium levels!

Current Blessings:
Family. Friends. A cozy condo. A job I am super excited about.

Current Slang or Saying:
Saying "whatever - I'm on vacay". I am seriously so laid back right now - I am usually high strung, but this whole stay-cation has been so good for me and has resulted in a much more easy going Lisa.

Current (Fav) Outfit:
I'm super excited about this dress that I bought for work. I plan on pairing it with some black tights and a cardigan of some sort.

Current Excitement:
I am taking my nephew Andrew out for a "Lisa and Andrew Afternoon" today. I am picking him up after preschool. We'll get lunch, go to this awesome bookstore called Wild Rumpus where they have real, live animals, and then get ice cream! I took him here last year and he loved it so hopefully it is as big of a hit this time around!

Current Mood:
Relaxed! I'm on vacay, afterall!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

My Chicago Trip - Frank Lloyd Wright

Happy Tuesday! I am back!! I had a fantastic little get away to Chicago, but as always, I am happy to be back at home in Minneapolis. I guess that's a good sign, huh? Must mean I am exactly where I am supposed to be. :)

First things first - I few of you commented and asked where I got my shoes & bag. Here the details!

My flats came from the Gap - I bought them last week and got them on clearance!

My bag came from the Forever 21 accessory store. My friend Katie introduced me to this store last Thursday - everything is so inexpensive there! This bag is the best travel purse - it was big enough to fit my knitting, 2 books, and all the other essential like my wallet and blackberry. And it has lots of pockets. I highly recommend it. And I am totally obsessed with that mustard yellow color!

Anyways, back to the trip. There were many highlights from my trip to Chicago, but one of my favorite parts of the weekend was touring Frank Lloyd Wright's house and studio, and checking out all the homes he designed in the Oak Park neighborhood of Chicago. I highly recommend this and would love to go back someday. I wasn't able to take pictures inside the house/studio, so you'll have to take my word on this - it's amazing! The man was a genius. Oh, and was he ever odd. I have read "Loving Frank" but plan on checking out some other biographies about this interesting man.

I'm going to let my pictures tell the story of this part of my weekend.

To start off, here I am in front of his placard by his studio.

I would love this house! It's not a typical "FLW" house as he favored the "Prairie Style" which I'm actually not totally in love with - I am more of a "Victorian" girl.

Many of his house featured different geometrical shapes - this house has a rectangular foundation with a circle shaped porch, which is very typical for FLW.

This one is a little closer to this "Prairie Style" of architecture.

This one is my favorite! FLW actually did not like the style of this house, but the client requested a Victorian, and FLW really needed the money so he had to listen to the client. FLW had a bit of a spending problem. Apparently he owed the grocer $800 back in the early 1900's. That is quite the tab!

So there you have it - that's the FLW tour portion of my weekend. Aren't the houses amazing? There are probably about 30-40 FLW houses and there are also many, many other cool Victorians around the area. Most of the homes are actually private residences. I can't imagine owning a FLW house - there is one on the market for $900k, which is not too shabby (but certainly out of my budget).

I am definitely a sucker for old homes. I know they often come with a host of problems, but I am willing to overlook that. I currently live in a teeny little condo, but hope to buy a cute little home in this neat area of South Minneapolis. I just love how much character older homes have - like the original wood work, built in book shelves, and the buffets that are often found in the formal dining room.

How about you? Do you prefer newer homes or older homes?

Monday, September 28, 2009

Sunday Night Dinners - Garden-Style Quinoa Pilaf

Greetings! I am in Chicago, most likely doing a boat tour of Chicago - weather permitting! That is something I've always wanted to do so I am super excited for this. The Frank Lloyd Wright tour on Saturday was AWESOME. I would definitely go back. If you have any interest in FLW, I highly recommend checking this out. I'll have a post coming on that next week!

Anyways, moving on. Here's the 2nd installment of "Sunday Night Suppers." I made Garden-Style Quinoa Pilaf; the recipe was in the August edition of the Lunds & Byerly's Organic & Natural magazine. Yep, I am still on a quinoa kick. The stuff rocks, people. So if you haven't tried it, you should. I had a friend coming up to spend the evening with me and thought it would be fun to introduce her to this new, trendy, Gluten Free grain. Plus, this recipes calls for quite a bit of slicing and dicing, so it was a fun one to make with a friend! Unfortunately I do not have any pics of the prep process because I did not want my friend to feel like a member of the paparazzi was in the kitchen! I do have a picture of the finished product when I had it as leftovers a day later!

Here is the recipe:

2 t. canola oil
1 T. minced shallot
1 clove garlic, minced
2 c. low-sodium chicken broth
2/3 c. quinoa
1 small bay leaf
1 spring fresh thyme (or 1/2 t. dried)
Freshly ground black pepper
2 T. butter
1 c. small-dice red bell pepper
1 c. small-dice green bell pepper
1/2 c. small-dice carrot
1/2 c. small-dice celery
3 T. minced jalapeno peppers
2 t. minced ginger root
3 T. minced scallions
2 T. minced parsley
2 T. minced basil
1 T. minced thyme

1. Heat oil in saucepan over medium heat. Add shallot and garlic and saute until aromatic and tender, 2-3 min. Add broth, quinoa, bay leaf, thyme, and 1/4 t. salt. Stir well with fork. Bring broth to a simmer over medium heat.

2. Cover pot and simmer quinoa over low heat until tend and very fluffy, about 15 min.

3. Remove and discard bay leaf and thyme sprig. Fluff grains with fork to break up any clumps. Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside.

4. Heat butter in pot over medium heat until it stops foaming. Add red and green peppers, carrot, celery, jalapeno, and ginger. Saute, stirring frequently, until peppers are tender, about 10 min.

5. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Fold in quinoa, scallions, parsley, basil, and thyme. Serve immediately.

I paired this with a chicken breast, seasoned with salt, pepper, and my favorite spice - cumin. It was delish! My friend really liked the quinoa! I was super nervous because a) it was a new recipe, and b) she had never had the main component of the dish! But it all worked out. I will definitely be making this again. I loved the taste of the ginger and the slight hint of heat from the jalapenos. Also, the flavor kind of reminded me of my mom's stuffing - probably because of the presence of thyme in the recipe. My mom makes the BEST stuffing. And gravy. And all things Thanksgiving!

Anways, back to the recipe. Like I said, this is a great one to make with the help of another person (see all the 'small-diced' veggies the recipe calls for!) Cooking a meal with someone else is one of my favorite things to do. Don't get me wrong - it is fun to eat out, but I actually prefer a meal made at home. In October I am doing a cooking boot camp with my talented Aunt Barb and I am so excited to learn from her! She is a fantastic cook and hopefully under her tutelage, I will not longer be so frightened by recipes! Who knows, maybe by the time 2010 rolls around, I'll be confident enough to roast a chicken!

Ok, after reading about two stellar ways to cook quinoa (this recipe and this recipe), does it make you want to give quinoa a shot? I really don't think you'll be disappointed!!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Chicago Bound

My first week of vacation just flew by! I kind of figured it would since I had alot of get togethers planned. I am hoping next week goes by a little slower because I still have quite a bit of things to tackle on my to-do list!

The Brandi Carlile concert on Wednesday night was AWESOME. She is so talented and her band is amazing. Her guitar players are twins - how random is that! Here's some pics which will show you just how awesome our seats were!

We were on the main floor, 10 rows back, center stage. Those are probably the best seats I've ever had at a concert. Her new album comes out on October 6th - she played some of her new music and it was all awesome so I can't wait to buy her next CD!

Now I am packing for my trip to Chicago. Remember my luggage debacle last time I traveled? I'm definitely NOT checking a bag this time, even though it is free on Southwest Airlines. I am so glad that Southwest opened up a flight between Minneapolis and Chicago. Hopefully now I will go down and visit my brother & his family on a more regular basis.

I am pretty proud of my packing for this trip. I think I used to be a good packer. I remember going to London for a week when I was a sophomore in college and I brought one tiny little carry on... Yah, now I struggle to get everything into a bigger carry-on and I'm only going to be gone for 4 days. I guess I have gotten more high maintenance or something. I won't be bringing a blow dryer or flat iron for this trip, so that really helps. So you'll get to see what my hair looks like when I wear it wavy/curly. Here's the 2 bags I'll be carrying on today - not bad, huh?

I hope you all have a great weekend! I can't wait to spend some quality time with my brother, his wife, and their little boy who will be 3 in January! Sounds like we are going to an apple orchard on Sunday and I am so pumped for that! I'll be back with a trip recap next week!

Do you think you are a good packer? Are you pretty practical when it comes to packing? Or are you like me - bringing 3 pairs of shoes for a 4 day trip?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

I should do this more often

This stay-cation continues to be productive for me. On Tuesday, I finally got around to a chore I've been dreading: cleaning out my fridge. I do not know why I loathe this chore. Once I got started, it wasn't that bad - it was actually kind of fun (yes, I have a warped sense of what is fun).

I think I was not looking forward to it for one reason: when I cleaned my fridge last year (Gasp! Yes, it's an annual event in my house), one of the shelves shattered when I was washing it in the sink. Tempered glass as advertised? I don't think so. The glass went EVERYWHERE. I found pieces in my toaster, so seriously, it was like the glass exploded. So weird.

I decided to tackle it yesterday and truth be told, I actually enjoyed cleaning my fridge. I got these 'love of cleaning' genes from my mom. Her house is immaculate!

Ok, my favorite part of cleaning out the fridge is the random stuff you find that is past its expiration date. Like the bottle of Bailey's that I found at the back of my fridge. I remember looking at it last year when I cleaned my fridge, but I couldn't find the expiration date so I kept it. This time around, I found the expiration date... Um, it expired in 2006. Yikes! Granted, the bottle was never opened, so it might still be fine, but I'm not going to risk that! I figured out that it was a house warming gift from a party I had at my first apartment back in November of 2003!!!

Um yah, people - alcohol is not a good house warming gift for me. I'm just saying. I don't drink very much in the first place, and I certainly NEVER drink alone. So, since I live alone - any alcohol in my house might stay around for, oh, 6 years...

The results of my fridge cleaning aren't dramatic from these pics, but to me, they were.



Can I just say how empty the fridge of a single person is compared to a married couple or people with children? And I had just gone grocery shopping the day before I cleaned my fridge so this is about as full as it gets... But I can that I rarely throw out food.

What is your favorite and least favorite chore to do around the house? I thought my least was cleaning the fridge, but I kind of had fun yesterday so I think my least fave chore is cleaning the bathtub. My favorite chore is ironing!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

It pays to be thifty

On Monday afternoon, I did one of my favorite things - I went to a matinee. By myself. I've talked about this before - I love going to movies by myself! I went to see a chick flick called "Love Happens." Was a decent movie, especially since I only paid $5 to see it! I hate paying full price for movies!

I knew I'd want something to snack on while watching the movie, so I cut up a nectarine and brought it along in a ziplock baggie. It totally satisfied my sweet tooth and was a healthy, delicious afternoon snack.

I didn't see alot of movies when I was a kid - it was definitely a treat to go to the movie with my parents. I have great memories of packing all of us kids into our dorky van and heading to the movie theater. I can't blame my parents for not taking us to a lot of movies, though. After all, there were 5 kids in my family, so it was quite the expense to take us out to a movie. We usually went to Pizza Hut for dinner after going to a movie - which was also a treat since we rarely ate out.

The thing I remember most about going to these movies is the fact that we NEVER went to the concession stand. Ever. My mom was thrifty. She had to be - raising 5 kids is not cheap! So before we went to the theater, my mom would make a big batch of popcorn and split it up into our own little brown paper bags. Then she'd pack the popcorn and some juice boxes in a big purse and we'd head out to the theater.

My mom was thrifty (and practical) like that. You need to find a way to cut corners when you have that many mouths to feed. I look back on my childhood and I can definitely say I never wanted for anything. I realize how incredibly lucky I am to say that, though - I know there are alot of kids out there who went to bed hungry and didn't get nearly as many gifts as I got as a child.

One thing that I notice these days is how spoiled kids seem to be! I don't really know what changed or why, but man oh man - kids have so much 'stuff' these days. I mean, we never had a toy room when we were growing up! But we didn't need one because we were entertained for hours by running through the sprinkler, riding our bikes, or swinging on our swing set. Actually, one of my favorite memories as a child was playing in the ditch. The drainage system between our ditches looked like a little cement stove - so my cousin and I would spend HOURS playing house in that ditch.

But these days it seems like kids have every gadget and game that comes along. It's kind of sad because I think kids aren't forced to be creative like we were when we were little.

Am I alone in this? Or do you agree that kids kind of are a little too spoiled these days?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

My stay-cation so far..

I am calling these 2 weeks off between jobs a stay-cation. This is really the first time I've had time off and have spent it at home! Aside from my 4 day trip to Chicago, I'll be in Minneapolis the whole time. Which is pretty fantastic - there are few things better than sleeping in your own bed! On Sunday I made a to-do list that included things like cleaning my fridge, touching up paint in my bedroom, cleaning out closets, and other chores of that nature. You know, the stuff you tell yourself you should be doing on the weekend, but never seems to get done?

I started on one little chore on Sunday. I have these plastic bins under my bed - it's kind of the equivalent of a person's junk drawer or Monica's closet for all you Friends fans out there! I just throw stuff in them when I don't know what to do with it. So I went through those bins yesterday and tossed a heck of alot of stuff. I really do not consider myself to be a pat rack or hoarder, but there was some stuff in there that really should have been thrown out ages ago!

I did come across my stack of journals. Most of them were from when I studied abroad in Australia, but some of them were from other periods of my life when I have journaled as a release. I don't really do that very often - especially since I started this blog. I started to page through them and read entries, but I had to stop, because I didn't want to 'go there' if you know what I mean. Those journals hold alot of painful thoughts/feelings, and even though I am in a really good place, I didn't feel like walking back down memory lanes and re-visiting those feelings. So I packed them away. I am sure I will read them some day. Just not anytime soon most likely.

Another thing I stumbled across were all the cards I got when I left my last job with my previous employer. I love to keep cards and sentimental things of that nature. It was awesome to read the kind words of my former management team - I'll be having lunch with them next week and can't wait to see them!

I'm not really going to get into it here, but I will say that the manager I've worked for the last 2.5 years was not as supportive as my other managers have been. He's really good at the task side of things, but he just doesn't really have great 'people skills' if you know what I mean.

Well, on Friday I came in for my last day of work, fully expecting to see him. Turns out he took the day off. And didn't say good bye. Or send me a good luck email. Or thank me. Nada. Honestly, it was kind of hurtful. He technically doesn't manage me anymore due to the re-org happening in our department, but we still work pretty closely together. I get that people skills aren't his thing, but I think he could have swung by my cube on Thursday to say good-bye. Nope. Just odd as some managers that I had worked with on a lesser scale made a point to come up and say good-bye.

Oh well. I didn't let that get me down. Or at least I tried not to. I emailed my mom and as usual, she knew the perfect thing to say and said to take this experience and learn from it. And I am going to. If I ever have the opportunity to manage people again, I will make sure I appreciate them! And I will CERTAINLY wish them well when they are embarking on a new opportunity.

Anyways, aside from that, my last day was great. Another guy was also leaving the department and he is also Gluten Free so my friend Yulia ordered a Gluten Free cake for us from a little GF Bakery in South Minneapolis. We had "Death by Chocolate."

It was DELICIOUS. Please excuse the ridiculously terrible picture. I forgot my camera on Friday, so had to take that pic with my Blackberry. It was such a yummy cake and it was so sweet of my friend to get a cake that I could enjoy. And seriously, I don't think anyone missed the gluten when eating this!!

What is one thing, either good or bad, that you've learned from a current or previous manager?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Sunday Night Dinners - Quinoa with Black Beans

So on New Years Eve last year, I did what many people do, and made some resolutions. I've done so-so on them. I've nailed 2 of 4 (quitting Mountain Dew and training for a 1/2), I pushed one out to next year or 2011 (selling my condo). But I have kind of failed on my goal to cook once a week. Cooking a meal once a week doesn't sound like much of a challenge to most people, but for me it is. Mostly because I live alone, so I am not letting anyone down if I opt to eat a baked potato for dinner!

But that kind of needs to change because my taste buds are probably dieing of boredom! So each week I'll be doing a "Sunday Night Dinner" post. It'll probably be on a one week lag as I want to test the initial taste of the food as well as its potential for being a good leftovers/take-to-work option. Hopefully these weekly posts will make me more accountable and more cooking will happen in my kitchen! And hopefully I'll find some recipes you might want to try!

Since I've been on a bit of a quinoa kick lately, I decided to try another quinoa recipe. This recipe arrived in my mailbox last week so I decided to give it a whirl!

Here is the recipe in pictures!

Saute the aromatics

Add the quinoa

and the vegetable broth and spices

Let it simmer until the liquid is absorbed and then add corn - cook for 5 more minutes

Add the black beans and cilantro

This recipe seemed like it had star potential and received a lot of great reviews on I love all the ingredients - especially cumin! Cumin is definitely my favorite spice! But this recipe fell a bit flat for me. It was ok, but not a recipe I'd recommend or make again. Unless I made some modifications - like maybe use chicken brothe instead of vegetable broth, and up the amount used from 1.5 cups to 2 cups. And maybe add some red bell pepper. And maybe sub crushed red pepper for cayenne pepper? That's a lot of modifications, though, so I am guessing I won't do this one again.

The leftovers have been decent but again - not superb.

So strike one for me! Not a stellar dish, but probably better than a baked potato!

Friday, September 18, 2009

My Last Day!

Wow, the last 2 weeks have gone by pretty fast. Today is my last day at my current employer! Yippee! I am really going to miss my co-workers, but I know that I'll still see them on a somewhat regular basis since I'll still be working downtown (most likely, won't know for certain for another week or so!). Tonight I have my happy hour at my favorite British Pub, Brit's. I plan on keeping it pretty low key since, well, I'm 28 years old, and am a little past the age of getting out of control! Oh, and alcohol + training for my half do not mix well...

Some of you have asked what I will be doing during my time off. I certainly won't be bored! Here is what my schedule looks like for the first week:

Monday - Happy hour with co-workers from a former dept - I haven't seen some of them since last October so I am really looking forward to this!

Tuesday - Dinner with a friend that I only see about twice a year. We met when I worked as a waitress in college, circa 2000. He was bartending while getting his Law Degree. I was waitressing while getting my Math degree. We both ended up in the same city & live maybe 15 miles apart but never seem to synch up our schedules! Pathetic, but such is life I guess!

Wednesday - Brandi Carlile concert with Adrianne, my Lyon roommate. Do you listen to her music? If not you should check her out. Especially if you like singer/song writer music. She is incredibly talented! And I have the same vocal range so can pretty much sing along to all of her songs!

Thursday - Facial at noon, shopping trip with my best friend Katie in the evening. I really need to amp up my wardrobe for my new position since they tend to dress up a bit more at my new company. Katie has a great eye for fashion so I am glad she offered to come along and be my personal shopper for an evening.

Friday - I fly out for Chicago around noon. I am going to visit my brother, his wife, and my nephew Kolin! Can't wait! I tend to visit them around holidays, which is fun, but it's nice to visit them on a random September weekend!

My 2nd week off is a little bit less planned out, but it will still be relatively busy. Besides these various get togethers, I'll be doing training runs since my 10 mile race is coming up on 10/4 and my 1/2 marathon is on 10/31.

So yah, I won't be bored. Between running, get togethers, knitting some Christmas gifts, and reading, I will have plenty to keep me busy. As the saying goes, "Idle hands are the devil's workshop." I was raised in a family of busy people. My parents both work very hard and were on various committees in the community and church when we were growing up. I don't really have many memories of my mom just sitting down - unless it was to read a book to us kids. But when you are raising 5 kids, there is always something to do.

I will say I am a bit more of a 'scheduler' than my parents are, though. I love calendars and alerts to remind of commitments. We live in a busy world, though, so I feel like you have to schedule time to see friends/family - otherwise it won't happen. Would I be seeing as many people as I will during my time off if I just tried to set something up a day in advance? I honestly don't think so.

This was a BIG issue when I dated Ryan, my previous boyfriend. He HATED it when I wanted to plan our weekend ahead of time or at least figure out what night he wanted to see me so I could make plans with friends for the other night of the weekend. It wasn't the demise of our relationship, but it was a source of many conflicts. And you know what - since he was 'anti-planning' we never did anything or saw anyone. Seriously. I understand that you can be spontaneous and do interesting things, that just wasn't the case in our relationship.

So next time around, I need to date someone who is a little bit more of a planner, or is at least ok with the fact that I am a planner.

What about you, my dear readers? Are you planners or are you more spontaneous?

Thursday, September 17, 2009


The temps here in Minneapolis have been sort of summer-like, but Starbucks started serving their Pumpkin Spice Latte last week, so fall must be on its way! Some of the leaves of the trees in my neighborhood are starting to change from green to yellow to orange. I love that I live in apart of the country that is so beautiful during the fall!

Here are some of my favorite things about Fall:
  • The drive along my tree-lined road is absolutely stunning. It makes my morning commute so much better and makes me think to myself, "I am so lucky to live in this area!"
  • Pumpkin Spice Lattes from Starbucks. Mmmm.
  • Fantastic running weather.
  • Crockpot meals make their way into my Sunday dinner rotation.
  • Sleeping with the windows open on a cool, crisp fall night.
  • Honey Crisp Apples are in season - they were developed right here in Minnesota! Can you buy them where you live? If so, check them out - they are delish!
  • Wearing a hooded sweatshirt while running weekend errands.
  • Thanksgiving - one of my favorite holidays - is just around the corner!

What does you love most about fall?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Blog Love

Kelly from She Wears a Red Sox Cap graced me with this award last week. Thanks Kelly! Kelly is a kindergarten teacher - I am in awe of all teachers, but especially those that work with kindergarteners. Little kids are cute, but they are a handful! I am thankful for people like Kelly who have this calling to educate our youth!!

So now I get to pass this award onto 15 other blogs that I read. Here goes!

A Little Pink in the Cornfields
Love Everyday Life
Nola Girl
The Many Thoughts of a Reader
The Nastase Bunch
Through Green Eyes
Cherry Blossoms
Learning How to Sail My Ship
Suburban Euphoria
Sassy Molassy
Walking Through the Rain
Girl with the Red Hair
Iowa Girl Eats
Gluten Hates Me
From L.A. to LA

These are just 15 of the many fabulous blogs I read each day. What blogs are you guys reading these days? Any favorites that stand out for you?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Labor Day Weekend in Pictures

I'm finally getting around to posting some photos from my Labor Day weekend at the cabin. It was fantastic. My nephews provided non-stop entertainment. Especially Matthew who is about 17 months. He has become quite the little ham & will say cheese as soon as he spots my camera! Oh, and he is a big fan of that necklace that he's wearing - he likes to have it on at all times. His brother Andrew made it, with the assistance of my sister-in-law.

My nephews just melt my heart. I always thought that if I ever had kids, I'd want girls, but my nephews have definitely changed my mind. I'd be thrilled to have a house full of boys. I just hope they are as cute as my nephews are!

"Hmmm... is anyone noticing that I am drinking my yogurt?"


My mom with Andrew (4) and my Godson James (5)

Mom & Matthew (17 months)

Matthew loved this little kid-sized wheel barrow!

James, Matthew, and Andrew on a wagon ride
Alright, I've inundated you with enough photos. But you have to admit, the boys are pretty adorable. I'm so lucky to live so close to 3 of my 4 nephews. I can't wait to spend some time w/ my nephew Kolin that lives in the Chicago area - I'll be going there at the end of the month during my time off between jobs!
Happy Tuesday to you all!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Running in remembrance

Happy Monday! This is my last week of work with my current employer. Only 5 days left. Not that I'm counting the days... or hours... or minutes. What can I say, I am ready for my new adventure. Oh, and my future employer sponsored a children's book fair at a park close to my house on Saturday. Cool, huh? I hope to volunteer at the event next fall!

On Saturday morning I did a 5k which has become an annual event for me. It's the Twin Cities "Breath of Hope" run. I started doing it last year. Holy batman, can I just say how much more in shape I am this year compared to last year??? What a difference a year makes! At the finish line last year, I was breathing so hard, people probably thought I had some sort of lung disease!! Here's a picture of my shirt from this year. And no, I did not drool during the race - I must have spilled some water on my shirt when I got done running the race. It's in too random of a place to be a sweat mark!

This is a pretty low key race. It's not even technically a 5k - I used my Garmin this year and it was actually only 2.8 miles. I wasn't approaching it as a 'race' - I was approaching it as a way to honor the memory of my Grandma. She died after a valiant fight with Lung Cancer when I was in 5th grade. I was so young when she died, but still have alot of wonderful memories of her. She was really one of those 'larger than life' types. She was so full of life and had such a wonderful, unique laugh. I can still hear it in my mind.

Some of my memories of my Grandma are:
  • She was a super talented cook. Holidays at her house were fabulous. She rarely sat down to eat, though. She was always making sure everyone else had everything they needed. I can remember my mom, aunts, and uncles all telling her to sit down and eat, but she never really seemed to stop moving!

  • She loved to fish. And boy was she intense about fishing. Oddly enough, I don't remember her catching many fish! My Grandpa wasn't as into fishing, but went along anyways. He basically wanted to sit there and enjoy himself, but he was always the one getting bites. When that happened, he'd shake his road to get rid of the fish - sometimes my Grandma would catch him doing that & boy did she not like that!!

  • She was an amazing cake decorator. She made amazing cakes for us Grandkids. My favorite cake is either the Rainbow Brite one she made for my 5th Birthday or this Jack-in-the-box cake that she made when I was maybe 3 or 4? I need to find pics to scan in to show you guys. She was amazing! She also decorated wedding cakes. I remember going to their house and there would be sugar flowers that she had just made laying out on the table. I was so impressed with her abilities!

  • She loved to play cards.

It's been a little over 17 years since she passed (I believe, hopefully I got the year right), but the McDougall side keeps her memory alive. My aunt started putting her recipes online so all of us kids and grandkids can re-create the tasty meals and treats she prepared. My mom seems to have alot of Grandma Valeria traits, too, so I feel like I know my Grandma by knowing my mom.

I hope to continue to do this 5k every September to honor her memory. I would like to get a bit more organized next year and see if some of my McDougall relatives in the area will do the walk with me next year. I meant to do that this year, but this race snuck up on me.

I'm going to leave you with some interesting facts about Lung Cancer that I found on the Breath of Hope foundation website:

  • Over 60% of new cases are never smokers or former smokers, many of whom quit decades ago.

  • 1 in 5 women and 1 in 12 women diagnosed with Lung Cancer have never smoked!

  • Approximately 175,000 people are diagnosed with Lung Cancer in the US each year.

  • Approximately 160,000 people die from Lung Cancer annually - more than breast, colon, and prostate cancers combined!!

Are your grandparents still alive? If so, are you close to them? If they have passed, do you have vivid memories of their lives?

Friday, September 11, 2009

One Word Meme

Happy Friday! Hasn't this short week been fabulous? I would love it if every week was a 4-day work week! Even if that meant working 4 10 hour days. Do your work places give you that kind of flexibility?

Nora did this last week, and I'm not feeling super wordy today (shocking & rare for a wordy person like me!) so I thought I'd play along. I like these one word exercises because it forces you to be very succinct!

The Rules? Use only one word to answer the following questions.

1. Where is your cell phone? purse
2. Your hair? Brown
3. Your mother? Caring
4. Your father? Amusing
5. Your favorite food? Seafood
6. Your dream last night? Missing
7. Your favorite drink? Water
8. Your dream/goal? Family
9. What room are you in? Cubicle
10. Your hobby? Discovering
11. Your fear? Rodents
12. Where do you want to be in 6 years? House
13. Where were you last night? Gym
14. Something that you aren’t? patient
15. Muffins? Blueberry
16. Wish list item? blazer
17. Where did you grow up? Dakota
18. Last thing you did? Emailed
19. What are you wearing? Casual
20. Your TV? Plasma
21. Your pets? Imaginary
22. Friends? Irreplaceable
23. Your life? fulfilling
24. Your mood? annoyed
25. Missing someone? Family
26. Vehicle? Honda
27. Something you’re not wearing? jewelry
28. Your favorite store? Banana
29. Your favorite color? Pink
30. When was the last time you laughed? Morning
31. Last time you cried? Wedding
32. Your best friend? Stylish
33. One place that I go to over and over? Lakes
34. One person who emails me regularly? Heidi
35. Favorite place to eat? Outside

Ok, your turn. Post this on your blog if you have one & don't forget to comment on whether or not your job is flexible! I'm curious!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Full Circle

Good morning and Happy Thursday to you all.

I guess you could say that I am still flying high from my news that I shared last week. I know it is just a job, but starting this job really makes me feel like my life has come 'full circle'. I feel like I am on top of the world. I was just chatting with my dear aunt Betty at my Grandpa's sale last week and I expressed how I happy I am with my life these days. I love the city I live in. I found a job that I am excited about and it's something that I know will challenge me - which is so important. I have a great group of friends and a super supportive family.

Really, what more could a girl ask for?

Well, not long ago, I would have told you that my life was never going to be fulfilling until I found my Mr. Right. I'm not saying I am giving up on that - I still hope he is out there. Sometimes I picture him in my mind. He's wearing horn-rimmed glasses, reading a book penned by Hemingway. He embraces my dorky/nerdy side and likes to wander around bookstores with me on date night. He holds my hand when we are driving and opens my car door for me.

Now I am not silly enough to think that my vision of this future Mister is going to match the reality, but it's fun to think about what he could be like.

But I don't feel like I am 'waiting' for someone anymore. For the longest time I felt like I would never be happy until I found my 'other half'. I thought the kind of happiness I feel now was reserved for those that were part of a couple.

It has taken me awhile to get to this place though, and this journey to a happier me has not been an easy one. I think back on those month after Ryan and I broke up, and the person I was then is virtually unrecognizable compared to the woman I am today. I was completely broken and such a mess. I am so thankful for the friends and family that helped me through those dark months. Especially my mom - she was on the receiving end of a lot of tearful conversations and always reassured me that I would get it through it. And I am so thankful for her patience and positive attitude.

Let me be explicit here, though - I do not in any way blame Ryan for those dark and empty months. I think I would have gone through a period like that in my life regardless of whether or not I dated him. I needed to face down some ghosts and figure out who I am and what makes me tick. That relationship ending was just a catalyst for that process.

Anyways, I share this with you for a couple of reason. First, it is always therapeutic for me to write about these experiences. There is something about putting words to emotions and experiences that make them more real and tangible. Second, I share them because I know we are all at different points along our path to happiness; the journey along this path is not always linear. I know there might be a day where I am feeling a little glum, and on those kind of days, I'll pull this entry up and remind myself that I have so much to be thankful for.

The way I feel is best summed up by the refrain of "More," a Tyrone Wells song (his most recent CD rocks, by the way).

I'm alive,
I don't wanna die,
I don't wanna waste another day,
Or night,
I know there's something more,
Than what we're living for,
I see it in the stars,
I feel it on the shores,
I know there's something,
I know there's something more.

Ok, your turn. Are there any periods of your life, either happy or sad, that stand out as a particularly formative time?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


Oh J. Crew, you tempt me. I love your clothes, but they would deplete my financial resources entirely too quickly if I gave into these temptations. Why, oh why, do your clothes have to be so pricey?

If I wasn't on a budget, I would re-create this look.

(photo courtesy of

This look pretty much epitomizes my style - or the style I would have if I had unlimited resources. A clean, preppy look. I love the effortless look of this outfit - from the hair and make-up to the accessories.

Unfortunately, I will not be re-creating this look because that blazer alone is $250. Ouch.

I tend to do a lot of 'window shopping' at J. Crew and Anthropology - I will usually only purchase things on clearance. Most of my clothing comes from either Banana Republic and Gap. My wardrobe has been likened to that of a librarian - which I am totally ok with! I heart cardigans and blazers, so I am sure my wardrobe would transition well to a library setting!

How would you describe your sense of style? What is your favorite store?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Book Meme

Thanks for all the sweet comments on my job news post. :)

I have been a little light on the book review posts lately - I just haven't read much lately that I would recommend to you all. I am pretty sure I will be highly recommending the book I am currently reading (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), though, so stay tuned for that review.

Anyways, since I haven't done many book-related posts lately, I thought I would do this little book meme that A Little Pink in the Cornfields posted yesterday!

Here goes!

Hardback, trade paperback or mass market paperback?
All of the above, please. If I had unlimited financial resources, I'd buy as many books in Hardback as I could. But since I do not have unlimited resources, I usually opt for paperback or mass market.

Waterstones, Borders or Amazon?
None of the above. I'm a Barnes & Noble gal. I should buy more from Amazon, but when I want a book, I am usually way too impatient to wait for books to be delivered.

Bookmark or dog-ear?
I bookmark to keep my place, but I dog-ear sections that I want to go back and re-read or blog about. I hate to dog-ear books and keep telling myself to buy some little post-its to keep in my purse to mark sections.

Amazon or brick-and-mortar?
I like to look for books online but I prefer to buy them in a brick-and-mortar store. I love wandering around book stores!!

Alphabetize by author, or alphabetize by title, or random?
I used to alphabetize by author, but I got made fun of for doing this by some friends. So when I moved into my condo, I arranged my books by size. I hate it, though. I can never find books, so I am considering going through them and alphabetizing by author during my two week vacation. I have A LOT of books, so this is not going to be a small undertaking!!

Keep, throw away, or sell?
Keep. Even if I hate the book, I keep it. Although now that my bookshelves are overflowing, I am thinking about going through my books and donating the ones I hated to our United Way book sale at work.

Keep dust jacket or toss it?
Um, do people actually toss the dust jacket?? Of course I keep it!

Read with dust jacket or remove it?
Read with it on unless it's a really, really large book.

Short story or novel?
Novels. Never really been a big fan of short stories!

Harry Potter or Lemony Snicket?

Buy or borrow?
Just started to use the library, but in general I usually buy books.

Buying choice: book reviews, recommendations, or browse?
In order... Recommendations, browse, book reviews. I try to keep up on the various best seller lists and then also find a lot of my 'to-reads' by looking through the list of books friends on have read & liked.

Tidy ending or cliffhanger?
Tidy ending

Morning reading, afternoon reading, or nighttime reading?
I get most of my reading done on my bus ride to & from work.

Stand-alone or series?

Favourite series?
Harry Potter

Favorite children’s book?
When I was a kid, I was obsessed with the Babysitter's Club series. I devoured those books and identified most with Mary Anne's character.

Favourite YA book?
Probably "Bridge to Terabithia" and anything else by Katherine Paterson

Favorite book of which nobody else has heard?
Maybe "Es Cuba" by Lea Aschkenas? I am obsessed with Cuba for some odd reason so I loved that book!

Favourite books read last year?
"Love Walked In" by Maria de los Santos

Favorite book to recommend to an 11-year-old?
Something by Katherine Paterson, maybe? I don't know any 11-year-olds right now so this is tough to answer. I am always picking out books for 2-5 year olds these days!!

Favorite book to re-read?
Tuesdays with Morrie

Do you ever smell books?

Do you ever read primary source documents like letters or diaries?
I have read a few diaries.

What are you reading right now?
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It's the October selection for my 'Books & Bars' book club.

What are you reading next?
Probably "Beat the Reaper" since it's on loan from the library. Once I get through my library books, I plan to read "Outlander."

If you have a blog and are interested, post this meme and make sure you let me know that you are doing it. If you don't have a blog or don't feel like doing this, answer as many of these questions as you'd like! I love hearing about people's reading habits/interests!

Friday, September 4, 2009

My Job-related News

Good Morning, my dear readers.

After talking about jobs for the last two posts, I am ready to share my job-related news with you.

I just gave my 2 week notice to my boss. Err, my quasi-boss? Because I don't technically have a boss right now. You see, the company I work for is in the midst of a fairly large acquisition. A merger of equals, according to the corporate communication verbage. But I work for a tiny little business line and we are being sliced and diced and swallowed up by our merger counterpart. So even though I work for the aquiree, I have certainly felt like I work for a company that has been acquired. But it's been an eye-opening learning experience - I wish I had these experiences to reflect upon when I was taking my Mergers & Acquisitions class last spring!

Aside from a brief stint at a law firm, I have pretty much worked for my employer since I graduated from college in 2003. But we are parting ways as of Friday, September 18th, and I couldn't be more excited. I have learned so much over the last 6 years, but I am excited for my new opportunity.

The path to this new job has been long. Nearly 12 months to be specific. I went through multiple rounds of interviews and competed against other MBA grads from other highly respected schools, like Harvard (that was intimidating!) But I must have done something right because I received an offer back in November of 2008. But then things were kind of put on hold at the end of January, due to economic conditions, and I've spent the last 7-8 months fretting quite a bit, biting my fingernails when stressed, talking it over with my parents, siblings, and friends, and wondering if it was ever going to all fall into place. You see, I don't handle uncertainty very well and I've got these fairly sizeable student loans that I will have to start paying off in November. Eeks.

But, alas, it has all worked out. On Monday, October 5th, I'll start a 3 year rotational program in the finance department of a retailer that gets a fair share of my discretionary spending. I don't really like to explicitly mention where I am working, so I will just say that it's a good thing that I like the color red. :) If you live in the US, you can probably figure out what company I am referring to. It's a company that I am thrilled to be joining with a strong brand that I really believe in. They also really focus on giving back, both financially and through volunteering, to the communities they operate within; I am excited to join a company with such a strong sense of volunteerism in their corporate culture.

I'll be taking 2 weeks off between jobs so that I can re-charge my battery. I want to hit the ground running on October 5th and prove that my future employer made the right decision when they selected me.

So even though I'll still be working in the finance field, this is a big move for me. I'll be joining a team that is an integral part of the decision-making process. I'm joining a company that really, truly values an MBA degree and cares about me and my career. This new job made all the stress and anxiety of grad school completely worth it.

I can't hardly wait.

So have a fantastic Labor Day weekend, everyone. I'll be heading up to my parents' cabin for the 3-day weekend. I'll be back next week with a book review and other randomness to reflect upon!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Dream jobs

We talked about our first job yesterday, so today let's focus on our dream jobs.

If you could do anything you wanted to, what would it be?

For me, it's an easy question to answer. I would love to own a cute little bookshop, kind of like Shop Around the Corner in the movie "You've Got Mail." Except hopefully my dear little bookstore wouldn't be eaten alive by a big box retailer...

My shop would have lots of character. I'd have to hire my friend Brooke to do the seasonal decorating because that is just not my forte. Actually, she'd probably help with all of my interior decorating choices - she has such great taste! I can just imagine the window displays she'd come up with around Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas time. I'm picturing fake cobwebs strung across the corners of the store during the month of October; strings of little lights and trees featuring my hand-knit ornaments during the Christmas Season.

If I had enough space, I'd have a little coffee shop and would hire my friend Heidi to supply the cupcakes. Because no bookstore is complete without the whirring of an espresso machine or the sound of coffee beans being ground.

I could apply the business acumen I've acquired through business school and my practical experience to run a very successful little store. But this store would also be an outlet for my creative side (I do have one, and this blog is definitely nurturing it). I could have an adult book club that would meet in the evenings and I'd do a story hour for little kids on a weekday morning. Maybe I would even have a magician's hat that I'd wear for the children's story hour (again, inspired by Meg Ryan's character). I'd be so happy, I might ever start to speak poetically about bouquets of freshly sharpened pencils, like Meg Ryan does in "You've Got Mail."

My evenings and free time would be spent researching the latest and greatest reads so I'd have ample material to suggest to the patrons of my store. Of course, in addition to the best sellers, I would also feature lots of classics and would make sure my adult book club read at least 1-2 classics a year.

Ahh. If only. The one thing holding me back from this dream is this little thing called capital. Something I don't have a lot of. But I refuse to give up on this dream - maybe some day it will be a reality.

So, dear reader, what is your dream?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Let's talk about jobs

I have some job-related news that I will be sharing with you on Friday, so my next couple of posts will be work-centric.

I have been working, in some form, since I was about 16. I probably started babysitting when I was 14, but I don't count those years as 'working years'. My first 'real' job was teaching piano. I taught piano from my sophomore year through my senior year of high school. By the time I was a senior, I had about 10 students, one of which was my younger sister Abby. Boy was that a challenge. I think we spent more time fighting than I spent actually teaching her. I digress.

Anyways, it was a fantastic part time job. My little student were all so cute! The job taught me time management and I had to fill out invoices to give to the parents of my kids. Oh, and what other job requires you to have a hefty supply of stickers to reward for star performances!

I always thought that if I ever got married and had a house full of kids, maybe I would be a stay at home mom and then give piano lessons on the side to make a little extra money. It's becoming less and less likely I will do that now that I have invested so much in my eduction, specifically my masters program, but it's a nice thought. My piano teacher was a SAHM and she had upwards of 60 students! So it was more of a quasi-full time job for her.

It's weird to hear about what my little pupils are up to. They aren't little kids anymore. Which is kind of odd - sometimes I feel like I should be getting older, but everyone else should stay at the age they were in my memories of them. So to hear that some of these kiddos have graduated from college and are getting engaged? Yowza! Makes this retired piano teacher feel a little bit old!

So what was your first job?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Grandpa's Little Girl

You could definitely say that I was "Grandpa's Little Girl." I was fortunate to have grown up with my grandparents just down the road from us. My Grandpa's shop was right next door to our house, so every afternoon, I would run over to the shop and spend the afternoon with my Grandpa and his brothers. I'd entertain them with stories and they'd take me uptown for their coffee break where I'd sit with a bunch of older men, tell more stories, and show off my abilities to count to 10 in Spanish (thanks to Sesame Street!). I have so many fond memories of those afternoons with my Grandpa. He is probably the reason that I am so chatty and love to talk and tell stories.

It's still hard for me to believe that my Grandpa is gone. It just happened so fast. He was truly larger than life. He loved my Grandma so much, and was so proud of his children, his grandchildren, and his great grandchildren. And he was definitely someone that you wanted on your Trivial Pursuit team - the man knew his history! He passed his love of reading onto to me and I loved to shop for books for his Christmas gift.

But he is gone and the time has come to sell the tractors and other machinery that he accumulated over his long and wonderful life. He spent many hours rebuilding the engines of some of these machines. He'd probably be pretty disappointed to find out that his own granddaughter doesn't know how to change the tire on her car!

The auction will be held by my parents' house today and I decided to take the day off from work so I could be there. I feel like it is important for me to be there. After all, I watched my Grandpa re-build so many of these engines. Attention must be paid to the fruits of this great man's labor.

I am sure Grandpa is looking down from above and must be smiling to see all these beloved machines lined up, ready for the sale. Here are a couple of pictures to give you an idea of how much machinery will be sold today. According to my mom, the pictures don't do it justice, but this gives you an idea! There will be 2 different auction rings and the auctioneer is expecting 1,200 people!

So today another chapter of my Grandpa's life will come to close. But I know that his spirit is not contained in his possessions here on earth. His spirit is best summed up by the quote I used when I spoke at his Prayer Service back in February:

"The history of our grandparents is remembered not with rose petals but in the laughter and tears of their children and their children's children. It is into us that the lives of grandparents have gone. It is in us that their history becomes a future."