Monday, November 30, 2009

November Re-cap

Current Book(s):
Finished - The Help (great book), Pride & Prejudice (great classic, review coming this week), Traveling with Pomegranates (great book, review coming later this month), The Christmas List (good Holiday read)

Currently reading: Outlander

Current Music:
The Script - love this CD!
Ingrid Michaelson's new CD
Buena Vista Social Club - thank you to my aunt Barb for introducing me to this Cuban band!

Current Shame-Inducing Guilty Pleasure:
Um is it bad to say Tylenol PM? I started taking it when I had a cold earlier this month and sort of kept taking it as an insurance policy against tossing and turning. I know I shouldn't be taking it every night like I have lately, but at most, I will get 7 hours of sleep each week night and I don't like to risk missing 1-2 of those hours tossing and turning... eventually I know I need to stop taking it though!

Current Colors:
Red & Green - Christmas is coming! :)

Current Obsessions:
Knitting. I got a few new patterns last month so I have been knitting up a storm. I'll post pictures soon!

Current Drink:
Those dang lattes - I love 'em!

Current Song:
"Haven't Met You Yet" by Michael Buble - great song for a single gal!

Current Movie:
"The Holiday" - the holidays are approaching - I love to prepare for the holidays by watching movies set during Christmas/New Years!

Current TV Shows:
Top Chef! I am kind of in love with Brian, the nicer of the two brothers.

Current Wish-List:
Books, books, and more books!

Current Needs:
My condo to appreciate in value so I can sell it and buy a house. I am sick of sharing walls with people.

Current Triumph:
I'm really proud of myself for still working out despite the fact that I am busier than ever! Usually, when I get super busy like this, I cut out the workouts, but that has not been the case lately!

Current Bane of my Existence:
My grad school loans. They go into repayment on December 14th. Merry Christmas to me. The payment is the size of a mortgage, but I keep reminding myself that it all paid off since I landed an awesome job!

Current Goal:
Get my Christmas cards sent out within the next week!

Current Indulgence:
Chocolate Chip Banana Bread. Mmm...

Current Blessings:
Family, friends, a cozy home, a great job - lots and lots of things!

Current Slang or Saying:
"Holy Cannasta" - still clean, but more interesting than saying "Holy Crap" or something like that!

Current (Fav) Outfit:
A basic v-neck sweater, jeans, and the ruffly scarf I just finished knitting this month!

Current Excitement:
Christmas is coming! I can't wait! All 4 of my siblings will be home, including my sister that lives in AZ! Besides celebrating Christmas, we will also celebrate my parent's 40th Anniversary!! 40 years - isn't that amazing?

Current Mood:
Content & excited for Christmas! I love how this time of year is full of so much joy & happiness!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving Recap

Good morning & Happy Friday! I hope that all of my American readers had a fantastic Thanksgiving - I certainly did!

I bet that as I push publish post, some of you are already out in search of good deals! So I will keep this brief today!

My family has this arrangement where everyone is either home for Thanksgiving or Christmas - they spend one holiday with our family and the other holiday with their in-laws. This year everyone is with their in-laws for Thanksgiving, so my parents decided to visit my brother in Chicago and spend the holiday with them. Since I just started a new job, I don't have vacation time yet so I wasn't able to spend Thanksgiving with any of my immediate family. Thankfully, my aunt & uncle, Barb & Paul, let me crash their Thanksgiving! The best part is that Barb & Paul's daughter, Suzanne, also lives Gluten Free so the entire meal was safe for me to eat! And boy did I eat well!! I am too lazy to post pictures so you'll just have to take my word for it!

Before heading out to Barb & Paul's, I did a 10k race. This is the first Thanksgiving that I have done any exercise! I don't know why - I probably consume more calories on Thanksgiving than any other day of the year! The weather was perfect - in the upper 20s/low 30s with no snow or rain! Pretty fantastic for Thanksgiving in the Midwest.

After showering and relaxing on the couch for a bit, I headed over to my aunt & uncles for an amazing Gluten Free feast! I honestly believe that had people not known it was Gluten Free, they wouldn't have known the difference! Everything was just delicious! After dinner I napped for about the 2nd or 3rd time this year (I am so not a nap person!) and then we capped off the night with a game of trivial pursuit.

Unfortunately I was not able to stay until the end of the game since I had to head out to get home to bed. I hate leaving an unfinished game but knew I'd regret not leaving earlier when my alarm went off at 5:15 this morning.

So that was my day - how was yours? Any exciting plans for the weekend? Did you go shopping today? I don't think you could pay me to hit the stores at 5 am!!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Giving Thanks: Day 10

I am thankful for my amazing family.

It's only fitting that I end my 10 days of giving thanks by talking about my family!

I am thankful for my parents! They have always loved me unconditionally and have always believed in me - even at times when I haven't believed in myself. Their support, love, and friendship mean the world to me.

I am thankful for my grandparents! I lived just down the road from my paternal grandparents, and lived about an hour away from my maternal grandparents, so both sets had an active role in my upbringing. I have many great memories with both sets. My paternal grandma, Grandma Janet, is still living. I wish I lived closer to her so I could spend more time with her. Since we don't see each other all that often, we exchange emails to keep in touch - which I think is pretty cool! I look forward to spending time with her at Christmas when I'll be home.

I am thankful for my siblings! We don't all get together as often as we'd like since we are kind of spread out, but it so much fun when we are all together. When I was younger, I didn't love being part of a big family - mostly because of having to share the bathroom - but now that I am older I absolutely love it!! We are all so different, but there is still a common thread that runs through us and keeps us close.

I am thankful for my sisters- and brothers-in-law! My siblings couldn't have married better people! My siblings' spouses are all the perfect compliment to their personality. I confide in my sisters-in-law like they are my own sisters, and I tease my brothers-in-law like they are my own brothers!

You already know that I am so thankful for my beautiful nephews from my previous post!

Lastly, I am thankful for all of my aunts, uncles, and cousins! I love getting together with my extended family. Every single aunt & uncle was present at Abby's wedding - which is impressive since my mom has 7 siblings and my dad has 3!


It has been so wonderful to reflect on what I am thankful for the last 10 days. The 10 posts are just a tip of the ice burg - I could go on and on. I am so incredibly blessed and I am so glad I spent the last 10 days thinking about what I am thankful for instead of what I don't have. It's important to do this.

So when I sit down to eat a delicious Thanksgiving dinner today, I will definitely think of everything I mentioned in these 10 posts, and much, much more.

I hope everyone has a safe, happy holiday! I'll be back tomorrow with a Thanksgiving recap!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Giving Thanks: Day 9

I am thankful for the amazing friends in my life.

Heidi summed it up well when she described my friendship with her & Brooke over on her blog.

Besides those 2 lovely ladies, I am blessed to have so many other wonderful girlfriends. My girlfriends are indispensable. I honestly do not know what I would do without them. Most of us were single for most of our 20s and I really think this only served to strengthen our bonds. I've laughed more and cried more around these fabulous ladies and have so many great memories to reflect upon! One of my favorite memories was when I went out for wine & aps for my 27th birthday and two older ladies next to us asked us to tone it down because we were laughing too much & too loudly. I considered that a compliment - even though it felt weird getting shushed as an adult!!

In the last year, my circle of friends has grown to include the people I've met through blogging. I was going to do a separate post about my blog friends, but I decided that it didn't make sense to address them separately because I don't think of them differently than my real world friends. Granted, I have not met any of them, face-to-face, but I plan on meeting up with some of them in 2010! I am thankful for all the emails, text messages, comments, and blackberry messages that I receive from them! It makes my day and it interesting how well I've gotten to know them!

I am so blessed to be surrounded by so many wonderful, talented, compassionate women. I do not know what I would do without them!!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Giving Thanks: Day 8

I am thankful for the beautiful weather we've been blessed with this month!

October was freaking cold! But luckily mother nature came through with a month of fantastic weather in November. In fact, I heard on the news this morning that this is the 2nd warmest November since they've measured temperatures!!

And boy have I been loving these mild temps and all of the sunshine we've had. Winter is just weeks away and our winters are horrible here. Like -10 F, maybe even worse depending on how windy it is. It's not pleasant.

So I am trying to take advantage of this wonderful weather and soak it in because it will be gone in the blink of an eye!

Ten on Tuesday

It's a double-post day, people. Here's another installment of Ten on Tuesday, courtesy of the lovely Chelsea.

1. When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I think I wanted to be a lawyer. We did a mock trial when I was in 9th grade and I got to be one of the attorneys and absolutely loved it. But then I found out that being a lawyer was about more than arguing - it would also mean lots of sort of dry reading and lots of brief writing, so I sort of abandoned that career...

2. Name 3 of your irrational fears.
- That I will find a mouse in my apartment - no one is here to help me catch or kill it, and the thought of that almost gives me a heart attack.
- That I will randomly die of something in my apartment alone and no one will find me for DAYS.
- That I will never find my Mr. Right. Being 28 and single in the Midwest = old maid status.

3. If you had a $200 gift card to any store, what would you want it to be? (Nothing responsible allowed. Can’t be used for groceries or anything)
- Tough question!! Probably Anthropology. I'd buy aprons and fun dishes and fun coffee table books, like this one.

4. What is your most (blog-friendly) embarrassing moment?
- Oh sheesh, I could list many here. I'd have to say it was the 4th of July, 2000. I was working as a waitress and apparently my pants were a little worse for the wear. I bent down to pick up a napkin & they completely split open up the back. Like really bad. Luckily I was wearing boy short type of underwear and not a thong. The manager had severely underestimated how busy we would be that night, so we were short staffed - so I wasn't allowed to go home and change. Instead I had to go into the bathroom and staple the freaking pants closed. It was an awful, awful evening. And of course news of this happening spread like wildfire through the restaurant so every bartender, cook, and waiter teased me all night long. Probably the longest waitressing shift of MY LIFE.

5. If you were only allowed to eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would you choose?
Probably pickles. I don't think anyone, besides my parents, understands how much I adore pickles.

6. What was your favorite toy growing up?
Puzzles. I love putting together puzzles and could entertain myself with them for hours! And to this day, I still love putting together puzzles!

7. Do you have a “go to” outfit? What is it?
Sort of. It is probably dark jeans, and a v-neck sweater from Banana Republic, worn over a black camisole, with fun shoes of some sort! The fun shoes is the most important part of the outfit!!

8. Who was the best teacher you ever had?
My high school science teacher, Mrs. Larson. She truly loved science and her love of the subject was contagious. She also let us do cool experiments - like make ice cream!! There was some chemistry involved since it shows how you can lower the freezing point of ice by adding salt. So educational AND delicious!!

9. If you could buy any car right now (something at least SORT OF within the realm of reality…so, you know, a Rolls Royce may not qualify), what would it be?
Um, can I buy a chauffeur? Ok, probably not. I am seriously so not a car person. No matter how wealthy I am, I will never own a fancy schmany car. I'd rather have a pile of books. But if I had to choose, I guess I'd say a 2-door V6 Honda Accord.

10. How do you reckon that Chelsea comes up with 10 of these questions every week? It was hard! What’s your theory on how she’s so creative? Are you going to help her?
I do not know how she comes up with these interesting questions. It just goes to show how bright & creative she is. And yes, I will do my part and come up with 10 questions!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Giving Thanks: Day 7

I am thankful for my new job which completely challenges me.

I used to dread Mondays. Sunday night would roll around and this mini-depression would sort of set in because I knew I was going to have to get up and go to a job that I really didn't love. I didn't love that job for various reasons but the #1 reason is that the job was not challenging. It was challenging when I first started since I transitioned from operations into finance, but once I figured out how to do the various parts of my job, it morphed from being challenging to being do-able, and then was just plain frustrating.

Luckily getting my MBA totally payed off! I networked like no body's business, and landed my current job, which I started on October 5th.

Now, I no longer dread going into work on Mondays. I actually look forward to it and I am one of the first people in on my team each day. It's fabulous to be challenged again.

I won't say that the transition has been a piece of cake. I definitely had many days where I felt like a village idiot and went home wondering if my manager was going to question his decision to hire me. But I got to the point where I realized I had to stop mentally kicking my own butt every day and needed to be more patient with myself.

Now that I have cut myself some slack and am allowing myself to fumble every now and then, I am really enjoying myself and am starting to work on projects that are actually going to have an impact on the company.

We spend so many hours at our jobs so it is so important to have a sense of fulfillment at the end of the day! I am so thankful that I leave the office every day feeling fulfilled!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Giving Thanks: Day 6

I am thankful for schoolwork-free weekends.

I am so glad that I got my MBA, but can I just say how much I love a schoolwork-free and group meeting-free weekend? After 3 years of doing case studies and going to group meetings on Saturday or Sunday afternoons, it actually kind of feels weird when Sunday rolls around and I don't have to pack up my bag and head to a local coffee shop to meet some classmates.

I often wake up on Sunday mornings and my natural reaction is to sort of groan and think - oh gosh, what do I have to do today? I then very quickly remember that I am done with school and have that degree and never have to go to another group meeting again.

That is a fantastic feeling, people. Seriously. Balancing work, school, relationship, working out, and group projects was not fun. And truth be told, I wasn't all that good at it, and I wasn't all that fun to be around!

So I am almost giddy when Sunday rolls around now and I can just go to church and grocery shop and cook dinner and knit and not have to pick up a stupid Harvard Business Review case.

It's bliss. Absolute bliss.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Giving Thanks: Day 5

I am thankful for my health.

This is a big one. I think that sometimes we start to think we are invincible and we forget that our bodies are a gift from God and should be treated very well. I try to remember to be good to my body now because I know I will thank my 20-something self when I am 60+ if I treat myself well now!

Luckily I have been blessed with some pretty darn good genetics. We do have a history of blood pressure and cholesterol issues on my dad's side, but I seem to have gotten the genes from my mom's side which means I kind of have freakishly low blood pressure. I mean, I have been rejected from donating blood because my blood pressure and pulse are too low. Thank you, McDougall side, for these fantastic genes.

But having good genes isn't enough, and I know that. I wasn't all that great about treating my body right when I was in grad school, but I have really turned things around in the last year. I've made 2 adjustments that have made such a huge difference in my life:

  • I said adios to gluten. I can't tell you how much better I feel - it's amazing. Even my parents have commented on how I am different now that I am living gluten free. I don't have the tummy issues I used to have, I no longer have daily headaches, and I don't need ridiculous amounts of sleep! It's fantastic. And yes, it is a tough adjustment and I've had to stop eating alot of things I love - but foregoing those foods is worth it now that I feel oh so much better.
  • I have gotten back into running and consistently run about 20-25 miles per week. I am now 4 pounds away from my weight loss goal and practically back to my pre-grad school weight. I feel so much better and have more energy - I just wish I would have incorporated running back into my schedule a lot sooner. But as they say, better late than never!!
I hope your weekend is off to a start! I'll be starting my Saturday off with a nice long run outdoors. Mother nature has come through with some great weather this month so I plan to take advantage of that today & get in a 7 miler hopefully!!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Giving Thanks: Day 4

I am thankful for casual Fridays!

Happy Friday everyone! I love Fridays for many, many reasons but one that stands out is the fact that I can wear jeans to work! The dress code at my new job is so much more formal than my last job. I pretty much wear a dress, suit, or a jacket/blazer Monday - Thursday. I have really had to invest in my wardrobe in the last couple of months. Here's just some of the suits/jackets I now own:

Might not look like much, but it felt like a lot when I had to swipe my debit card. Ouch. I just kept saying, "it's an investment, Lisa." I have always been a firm believer in dressing for the job you want, not the one you have, and have also thought that when I dress nicely, I feel better, and I then perform better. So, for the most part, I don't mind dressing up every day. It's nice to leave the house feeling polished and put together!

But I love it when Friday rolls around and I can put on some jeans or a casual sweater dress/tights combo. I feel like more of my personality & personal style shines through on Friday.

And I can wear the fun shoes that just don't go with the more formal suits/dresses! I love fun shoes that are a little different! Like these plaid ones below that I plan on wearing with a sweater dress and brown tights tomorrow!

There are so many little things in life, like casual Fridays, that makes me so happy.

Have a fantastic weekend everyone! The 10 days of Thanksgiving posts will continue so check back on Saturday and Sunday!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Giving Thanks: Day 3

I am thankful for the healthy children in my life.

I am the proud aunt of 4 adorable nephews. They are truly the loves of my life! I love spending time with them and hearing them say "I love you" melts my heart. It's been so fun to watch them grow and change and develop their own little personalities. Here are some pictures of them:

James - he's 5 & LOVES Spiderman! Like he wants to BE spiderman and often brings the costume with him when they go places on the weekend!

Andrew - he's 4, this is a photo I took this fall when I took him on a 'date' to a bookstore & an ice cream shop!

This is Kolin, he'll be 3 in January. I had a blast hanging out with him when I went to Chicago in September - he has the most beautiful brown eyes!

This is Matthew, aka Matty. He's 18 months and has taken on the role of entertainer! I think he's going to be the clown of the bunch!

I've always been so thankful for these 4. I know that a healthy child is truly a miracle and a gift from God. This was driven home this summer when I attended funerals for 2 babies - the daughter of a good friend & the niece of another good friend. It was so hard to watch these girls and their families go through such a difficult thing. My heart just hurts for them and I sincerely hope that I never have to watch another friend lose a child.

Watching them lose their precious little babies made me even more thankful for my healthy nephews.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Giving Thanks: Day 2

I am thankful to have grown up with a father that is a great example of a devoted husband and father - he is my measuring stick when dating!

The father/daughter relationship is such an important one and really can influence a girl's future relationships - which is why I am so thankful that I've had such a wonderful example of what a husband and father should be like. We are celebrating my parent's 40th anniversary this December and they have had a very loving, wonderful marriage. I am so lucky to have grown up around this - the older I get, the more I realize how rare it is to have witnessed a love like theirs.

I have always said that I will be a lucky girl if I can find a man like my father. You see, I am a bit really high strung so I kind of need to date and marry someone who is a little bit more laid back, like my dad. While he does have his moments where he will be intense or will get his 'feathers ruffled', in general, he is pretty calm, cool, and collected. And he has the best, quirkiest sense of humor! He's hard-working and has built such a successful business, but he is so modest. I don't think anyone would ever describe my dad as arrogant!

He has such high standards for us girls, but at the same time, he has totally welcomed my sisters' husbands into the family and I think he makes them feel like they are his own sons. I look forward to the day when I get to introduce my Mr. Right to my dad!

Your turn! It was fun reading what you were thankful for yesterday so keep the comments coming!!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Ten Days of Thanksgiving

Yep, it's a double post kind of day! I have a special series that I am kicking off today so you get to hear from me twice!

It's hard to believe it, but Thanksgiving is just 10 days away - where has the time gone. It doesn't seem like long ago that we were bringing in the New Year, and now we are preparing to close out 2009.

Life is busy. We work. We play. We spend time with family. We celebrate with friends. It's easy for the days to fly by sort of unnoticed and unappreciated.

But then Thanksgiving comes along and for that one day, we are kind of look around and remember what we are thankful for (in theory). We spend so much time focusing on what we don't have - I love that Thanksgiving comes along and sort of stops us in our tracks and makes us think about what we truly appreciate in life.

But one day just isn't enough. Last year I prepared for the coming of Thanksgiving by posting about what I was thankful for during those 10 days leading up to Thanksgiving and I would like to do that again this year!

So to start things off, I am going to talk about something very simple that I am thankful for.

My Starbucks Latte. Oh how I love you. When I take the first sip of my latte each morning, it fills me with joy - no kidding. That first sip is amazing, as are all of the successive sips. It's such a comforting drink for me. And I love it even more now that the barrista greets me by name! Yesterday morning I was kind of grumpy since it was Monday, but I walked into my Starbucks and was greeted with an enthusiastic "Good Morning, Lisa!" by Jacob, my favorite barrista. Before you get any ideas - no, I am not interested in him. I am pretty sure he is a college kid. But I love the guy! He's so cheerful - even at 7 am - and appears to genuinely happy to see me. And that starts my day off on the right foot.

I wonder if he knows how much I appreciate him? I feel like I would come off as creepy if I told the kid that he makes my morning when he smiles and greets me by name. Cripes - to him, I probably fall under the 'cougar' category (I hate that stereotype/nickname, by the way). Anyways, so unless I can find a non-creepy way to thank him, I'll probably just continue to smile at him and ask him how his day is going and hopefully he'll get that he's making my day.

It just kind of goes to show that the simplest things mean the world to people sometimes!

(*PS - I promise you I do not work for nor am I affiliated with Starbucks!)

Now I challenge you to play along. Can you come up with just one thing each day that you are thankful for and leave it in my comments?

Ten on Tuesdays

I'm back with another "Ten on Tuesdays" post!!

Sick of finding out random info about me? Then look away - these are a fun/mindless post for me! And you should all play along!

1. What are some of your family traditions?
My favorite tradition is our Christmas Eve tradition - it's just my parents, siblings, brothers- and sisters-in-law, and everyone's kids. I say just but that totals to 15 people. Yah, I have a big family. Every year my mom makes Oyster Stew - which truth be told, I don't like. But I like that she makes it because it wouldn't be Christmas without it. And strangely enough, both my parents ate this on Christmas Eve when they were growing up. I am very thankful for my in-laws for many reasons, but I am especially thankful for them on Christmas Eve because now my mom also makes other options besides Oyster Stew. My parents aren't the 'let's accommodate our meals to our children's beck and call'. I feel like that is pretty much considered child abuse these days but I am glad I was raised in this way because I am the least picky person! But - now that my mom is cooking for people besides her children, she is more accomodating to different tastes/preferences - so now in addition to Oyster Stew, we also have a Seafood feast which usually features shrimp & crab! And she makes lasagna, too, but that won't be an option for me now that I am living gluten free. But there is plenty of gluten free seafood goodness for me to enjoy! Yum!! (oysters are pretty much the only seafood I don't enjoy)

2. Do you know how to change a flat tire?
Um, no. I am not proud of this. But I guess that's why I have AAA?

3. Do you subscribe to any magazines? What are your favorites?
Yes, and I shouldn't because guess what - I haven't really read most of them for the last 3-4 months. I think I currently subscribe to Self, Women's Health, Glamour, and Runner's World. The only one I consistently read is Runner's World - and that's the only subscription I will renew. I do love to read smutty magazines like People & US Magazine when I am traveling, though!

4. What are your top three favorite office supply items? (If you don’t share the love of office supplies with me or if you are male, you may skip this question.)
Oh where do I start! I practically dream of bouquets of newly-sharpened pencils (if you aren't getting this reference, we need to stage an intervention)
1. Post-it notes
2. Bic Medium Blue Pens
3. The tape-style post-its that are great for marking up books!

5. Are you a good public speaker?
I think I am decent. My mom made us kids be in speech when we were in school, and I am glad we did. It took the fear of public speaking out of me. Then I did Toast Masters in college which I absolutely loved. I have been meaning to join the TM chapter at my new job but just haven't been able to find the time to consistently attend meetings.

6. How do you feel about acronyms?
I have a love/hate relationship with them. They are great when you know what they mean, but when you are new to a company they make you feel like a complete foreigner!!

7. What’s the most creative things you’ve ever done? (Bloggers, feel free to include pictures!)
I knit these little miniature sweaters last Christmas. They were sort of time consuming, but the people who received them loved them, so it made it all worth it - and they are pretty adorable!!

8. I’d rather jam a pen in my eye than…
Vote for Obama. Sorry Dems. I'm a republican. I hope we can still be friends.

9. What company has the best advertising?
I've have to say Apple. They also find the best music to play in the background of their ads!

10. When is your birthday?
It's February 6th. I'll turn 29. Yikes. It's going to be the end of an era. Or a decade. Or both.

Alright - play along! At least tell me when your Birthday is!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Sunday Night Dinners: Beef Stew

Good morning & Happy Monday! I hope you all had a great weekend! I am nursing a bit of a cold so was in the mood for some comfort food. So what did I make? Beef stew! Soups & stews are a total comfort food - and so far the recipes have all been gluten free without making any modifications!

My aunt Barb made the recipe last week and blogged about it so I just had to give it a try. Click here for the recipe - here is the recipe in photos!

I took the recommendation of the author of the recipe and bought 3 lbs of boneless beef chuck and cut it up myself. This is a major accomplishment for me because I am extremely squeamish when it comes to touching raw meat, for some reason. But like the recipe said, if you cut it up yourself, you know what you're getting!

So after cutting it up, I browned it in some olive oil in my trust dutch oven (which is becoming my new favorite thing in my kitchen!). You have to brown the meat in two batches so as not to over-crowd the meat (which once again reminded me of the scene in Julie & Julia where Julie Powell exclaims - 'don't crowd the mushrooms'! Can't wait for that movie to come out on DVD).

You then set the meat aside and brown the onions. I made one modification to the recipe and added celery because I love celery in soups & stews!

After browning the onions until they are nice and soft, you add the flour (I used a GF mix and it worked well!)

That cooks for a couple of minutes and then you add the beef broth, garlic, thyme, bay leaves, and the stew meat.

After it comes to a boil, you cover the dutch oven with foil, cover it, and put it in the oven.

It then bakes for an hour at 325 degrees and you then add the carrots & potatoes.

Let it cook for another hour and - voila! Dinner is ready!

Similar to last week's recipe, this yields A LOT. So I now have my meals planned out for the week!

I can't wait to heat this up for supper tonight. It will be a great improvement over the boring baked potatoes I was kind of living on lately. Baked potatoes are great, but I'm not really doing the food pyramid justice by eating them every night. Which is why I've been making more dishes with meat lately.

I love recipes that make great leftovers - do you have any 'go to recipes' that are great as leftovers that you would recommend?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Very Superstitious

First things first - Happy Friday! Another week has come and gone. Are any of you reading Pride & Prejudice for the blogging book club? If so - hop over here and read my guest post! I am about half ways through it and am enjoying it even more than I did the first time I read it!

Today is Friday the 13th (cue scary dun, dun, dun music), so let's talk about superstitions. I have to say I am not at all superstitious. I do have rituals, like laying out my race outfit the night before a race, but I don't link that ritual with my performance the next day. I just do it because I know I am going to be so groggy the morning of the race.

I will tell you what country/culture has a lot of superstitions, though - Russia! Last fall I went out to dinner with a co-worker, and her 2 friends. They were all from Russia. Here are a couple of things I did over the course of the evening that sparked a lot of Russian chatter:

#1 - On the car ride to the restaurant, they were all chatting in Russian, so I started whistling. (Yep, I whistle sometimes, sort of subconsciously. This is what happens when you live alone for 6 years.) I was quickly informed that in Russia (or at least the region where these girls are from) no one whistles because it means you are going to lose all of your money.

#2 - We got to the restaurant and I put my purse down on the floor. Turns out if you put your purse on the floor, you will also lose all of your money.

#3 - We were eating at a Russian restaurant (Moscow on the Hill for any locals that read this) and good Lord their portions were enormous. So I didn't even come close to finishing everything on my plate. Turns out that leaving food on your plate means you are going to also lose your health.

It was kind of funny because I just couldn't seem to do anything right. Every time I'd break one of their traditions/superstitions, the girls would start talking excitedly in Russian, and I'd know right away that I had once again done something wrong!

Anyways, I am intrigued by the practices and traditions of different cultures, so this was an interesting and fun experience to go out to eat with Yulia and her friends! Now let's just hope their superstitions are not true!!

Would you consider yourself a superstitious person? Do you think of Friday the 13th any differently from other Fridays?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

What's my Hang Up

Confession: I am terrible at interior decorating. Especially if it involves hanging something on the wall! I will hem and haw for HOURS on where to place everything. Then I will usually get out a tape measure, and most likely a level. Because everything has to be perfect. Hanging things on the wall is just not one of my strengths.

And they always say know your strengths - so when I have something that needs to be hung, I call up my friend Brooke. She has a knack for interior decorating, and can hang things on the wall in a matter of minutes - not hours!

So what needed to be hung? 3 prints that I purchased from this Etsy seller! She had a print sale last month and I took advantage of it! Here are the 3 prints I purchased - they were all taken in Paris, which is a city that stole my heart after I visited there in 2008!

And here are the prints after they were hung on my bedroom wall, above my head board.

What do you think? She did a great job, didn't she? She's hung quite a few of my paintings/photos/frames in my house - I am so thankful to have her!

And I'll be even more thankful when she comes over and decorates my Christmas tree later this month! I love having a Christmas tree, but I don't love decorating it. Luckily, she does!

Are you good at interior decorating?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Sunday Night Dinners: Vegetable Beef Soup

Even though the weather was much downright summer-like here this weekend, I still had a hankering for soup. I love soup - it is probably one of my favorite meals! Especially if it is home-made! So on Sunday I made Vegetable Beef Soup!

Like all recipes, this one started with a trip to a grocery store... and a phone call to my mom. The recipe called for Parsnips. I had no idea what they were - and the grocery store did a terrible job of clearly marking their produce! So I had to call my mom and ask her what the heck they were. And of course, she knew exactly how to describe them - "a white vegetable that looks like a carrot" - thanks, Mom. What would I do without you!

In case you are like me and don't know what parsnips are, here's a photo!

I started by chopping up the parsnips and my other vegetables. As I've said before, I'm a big fan of the 'mise en place' - it makes for a less stressful cooking process!

After all the slicing and dicing, I browned the round steak,

After setting aside the browned steak, I added the carrots, celery, parsnips, onion, and thyme to the Dutch oven and cooked them until they were slightly softened (about 5 min).

Then I added back the beef as well as the beef broth, tomatoes, salt, and pepper.

After bringing that to a boil, I let it simmer for about 10 minutes and then stirred in the Spinach.

I let the soup simmer for an additional 10 minutes and then added the cooked brown rice (made in my rice cooker which is seriously one of the best cooking gadgets I've ever received!)

And voila!

Here's my 1 1/3 cup serving - it was DELICIOUS!!

And the best part? I have meals for the rest of the week!

I highly recommend this recipe. It was delicious and I am sure it will be even better the 2nd time around!

Here's the recipe!

1 T. olive oil
3/4 lb top round steak, trimmed & cut into 1/2" pieces
4 carrots, thinly sliced
4 celery stalks, sliced
3 parsnips, diced
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 t. dried thyme
5 c. reduced-sodium beef broth
14 1/2 oz can petite diced tomatoes
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. black pepper
2 c. lightly packed baby spinach
1 1/2 c. hot cooked brown rice

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Ten on Tuesday

Alright, time for another installment of Ten on Tuesday. If you play along, don't forget to go and post your link on Chelsea's Blog!

1. What gift are you most proud of giving?
- This wasn't a physical gift, but my best gift was flying to Phoenix to surprise my best friend Heidi on her birthday back in 2006. Her husband (who was her boyfriend at the time) was in on it and helped me pull it off. The look on her face was priceless!!

2. What’s the best gift you ever received?
- My mom kept a journal of my senior year and gave it to me the morning I graduated. In the journal, she kept track of what I was doing each day and shared all the advice she wanted to give but I was too stubborn to listen to. I re-read the journal last winter and it was so emotional to re-live those tumultuous times!

3. In honor of my husband: What’s the worst injury you’ve ever had?
- Um, probably when I got a hairline fracture in my wrist when I was in 3rd grade. A husky boy fell on it. It hurt like crazy!

4. They say everyone gets 15 minutes of fame. Who’s 15 minutes has gone on far too long? (The Gosselins are not acceptable answers, be more creative.)
- Lauren Conrad. Sorry Heids, I know you love her, but I think she thrives on drama. I don't even know if she still is in the spotlight because I stopped watching the Hills awhile ago, but I think she has a book out so she must sort of be in the lime light.

5. You have 20 minutes and $1000. What do you buy?
- $100-worth of books from my to-read list (because a girl can't have too many books) and sadly, some more business professional clothes. Business suits are expensive people. And I kind of have to wear a business suit, dress, or a jacket/blazer of some sort. Every. Single. Day. That means I need a really extensive wardrobe. Hence the reason I'd drop $900 on clothes.

6. Tell me three blogs that I need to read.
- Girl with the Red Hair
- Walking Through the Rain
- Love Everyday Life
- and so many more... so tough to pick only 3!!

7. Would you rather go without pizza or ice cream for the rest of your life?
- Easy! If I never had pizza again, I wouldn't miss it. I don't eat it anyways since I haven't had a good gluten free one. But even in my gluten eating days, I never really liked pizza (gasp! I know!). When we were kids, we would go to Pizza Hut quite a bit and I was always the kid that insisted upon getting the salad bar!

8. Would you rather go to a beach or a snowy mountain?
-Definitely a beach because I know in a day, week, or a month, I could be surrounded by snow!

9. Are you a night owl or a morning person?
- I'm becoming more of a morning person, shockingly. I bet my mom thought I'd never say that! But - if I know I don't have to get up for anything, I can easily stay up until 2 am or later, reading a great book!

10. What word do you always misspell?
- Um, probably 'misspell'! I am always questioning whether there are 1 or 2 s's. I will say I am a pretty decent speller and don't have too many spelling errors - unless I am typing too fast or something!

Monday, November 9, 2009

My weekend in bullet points

How was your weekend? I hope it was fabulous and relaxing, like mine was. Apparently all I had to do was post about crappy cold weather - mother nature must have read the whiny first paragraph of that post and decided I deserved some nice fall weather. She came through big time - it was sunny and gorgeous on Saturday and got up into the 60s! I wanted to do a little happy dance when I woke up to such perfect weather on Saturday!

So here's what I did this weekend, in bullet point form:

  • Went on a lovely 7 mile run around 2 of my favorite local lakes, Calhoun & Harriet. It was really nice to run as far as I dang well pleased - I have been 'on the training grid' for the last 12 weeks so it's nice to do whatever I feel like doing now. I am sure I'll be antsy for another Higdon grid soon, though!
  • Went to my local knitting shop and learned how to 'block' a scarf - which is basically steaming the scarf while it's skewered on wires to help the pattern open up. I love my local knitting shop, Bella Lana. I love wandering around, checking out all the cool patterns and yarns. I picked up a couple of new patterns this weekend and can't wait to get started on them. I think I might actually make something for MYSELF for a change. My last 6-8 projects have been gifts for people.
  • Met up with my aunt, 3 cousins, and my cousin's wife for dinner on Saturday night. It was so fun catching up with them and seeing their kids. I grew up 7 miles from my aunt & cousins so am very close to them. I'm so glad we've stayed close as we've all moved away from our home town, grown up, and started careers and families!
  • Cooked a real meal for the first time in about, oh, 4-5 weeks. I made home-made vegetable beef stew!! Recipe to come later this week!
That's about everything! All in all it was a pretty quiet and largely unscheduled weekend, which was just what I needed.

My days are so scheduled out these days - I tend to have about 4-5 hours of meetings every day at work, and then I schedule in work outs, so by the time the weekend comes, I kind of want to collapse (which I do on Friday night) and then do whatever I dang well please at whatever time I want to do it! This also means I am really not seeing a lot of friends during the week or weekends because I just can't handle scheduling more things into my schedule. I kind of feel guilty about this. But I know I need to take care of myself or I will run myself down and be in a mood where no one in their right mind will want to be around me!

I am sure that once I adjust to my new schedule, I'll be back to scheduling things to the hilt and seeing lots of people on the weekends, but I think for the rest of the year, I'll keep scheduled plans on the weekend to the minimum!

How was your weekend? Do anything exciting? Or were you low key like me?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Four Things Friday

My mind is, once again, mush. By the time Friday rolls around, I am just dog tired. My Friday night schedule usually involves working out and then spending the night on the couch either reading or watching a movie. And that is what I intend to do tonight. Sometimes I wonder where my Mr. Right is and I think - well, he's probably also a homebody, sitting on his couch watching movies. How in the heck are we ever going to find each other!

Anyways, here are 4 things that are on my mind right now:

1. When the Starbucks Barrista greets me by name, I kind of want to jump over the counter and hug him. It's nice to have someone great me with a smile and a coffee at 7:15 am each day.

2. I'm starting to formulate my Christmas present shopping strategy. It takes a lot of thought to come up with the perfect gift for everyone on my list! And given how fast October flew by, Christmas is going to be here before we know it!

3. I'm so excited to see my aunt & cousins this weekend - they are coming to the cities to shop while their husbands hunt. I can't wait to see my cousin who is now almost 20 weeks pregnant (I think?). She sent me the picture from her ultrasound and I instantly thought - it's a girl. I wonder if I will be right!!!

4. Lately I feel like I could completely give up TV. I have pretty much zero interest in it and have been deleting stuff off my DVR right and left. I am getting so much reading done, though, so I kind of hope my disinterest continues!

What's on your mind? Any fun plans for the weekend?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Oh the Weather Outside is Frightful

We've had some nice days in the past week, but it definitely feels as though winter has arrived here in Minnesota. It's snowed a few times in October and the temps have been in the 30-40 range in the a.m. Which is going to feel tropical come December - but right now it feels quite frigid.

There is a silver lining to this cloud, though. Cold weather means warm jackets. And let me tell you - I love jackets. I just bought one last month and I absolutely love it. It's a classic wool jacket from J.Crew that I have been coveting for many years. Here it is!

Oh, check out my new hair do! I finally got in to see my girl -we went back to my darker fall/winter color, which I am loving! Now if only she could come over every morning and recreate this look, that'd be fab.

Anyways, back to jackets. You might have thought I only hoarded books? Nope, I also have a mild obsession with outerwear. But the funny thing is that I had NO idea that I had a disproportionate number of coats until my friend Heidi came to visit last spring. She took one look at my closet and I think she might have gasped when she saw how many coats I own. Have a look for yourself.

Not too bad, right? Right? Ok, maybe I have more coats than a single girl needs. But it's cold here like 300 days of the year, so it's a worthwhile investment. And if you depreciate the costs of these jackets over the number of times they get used each year, well, they are quite 'cheap' from that perspective.

I can't believe i just used the word depreciate when talking about coats. Oh wait I can. I am a finance nerd.

Anyways, since I've already bought a new coat for the year I have forbidden myself from buying anymore. But - if I were to break that rule, here are some coats I would consider purchasing!

Found at Anthropologie

Found at J.Crew

Found at Anthropologie

But window shopping will have to suffice for now.

Is there a certain article of clothing you have a particularly hard time resisting?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Book Review: I See You Everywhere

Pinkflipflops started a bloggers book club last month and our first selection was "I See You Everywhere" by Julia Glass. I must sheepishly say that I was the one who suggested this book. Why am I sheepish about this? Well, because I did not like the book. At all. It has such potential, though. The author also wrote "Three Junes" which was the winner of the National Book Award. Since she hit such a home run with that book, I assumed this one would be a winner as well. Wrongo batman.

I was drawn to this book by the blurb on the back (as usual). According to the blurb, the book was about the parallel lives of two sisters - and their tenuous relationship. I am sort of drawn to books that discuss the relationship between sisters or the mother/daughter relationship. Especially if I get the feeling that the book does not romanticize the relationship. Don't get me wrong - I have great relationships with my mom and sisters, but they are imperfect relationships. So I like books that accurately portray there complex and sometimes complicated relationships.

This book did a pretty good job of it, but I just could not get into the book at all. And don't even get me started on the ending - which I HATED. I can almost hear my mom saying, "Hate is a strong word, Lisa." Yes, yes it is. And it's totally applicable in this situation.

Anyways, even though I didn't care for the book, there were a few good sections that I tagged. Oh, and I got a little bit of teasing for my book tagging at my book club last month. I'm kind of obsessed with those post-it tape-like tags. I am sure I look like a professor when I read on the bus. And I dress like one too most days of the week so I am fairly certain that my fellow bus riders think I work at the University of St Thomas. But whatevs. I'm totally ok with being mistaken for a professor.

So here are some of the sections I tagged:

  • Ever notice how sisters, when they aren't best friends, make particularly vicious enemies? (p. 7) (if you are a girl and you have a sister, this quote should resonate with you. Sister to sister fights can be downright vicious.)
  • My one real boyfriend in college, just before we broke up, told me I'm nostalgic to a fault. (p. 1)
  • I'd rather be pleasantly surprised than fatally disappointed. (p. 90)
  • To him, silence is never a threat. I'm not like that; I want to be asked and told, praised, cajoled, or bellowed at. Where there are words, there are definitions. Definitions help contain the chaos. Ray once said that the way I lean on language makes me fascinating but also makes me uptight, ties me in knots. I take people too literally, he says. (p. 171)
Here's hoping that if my suggested selection wins in the future, it's better than this one.

Next month we are going to read a classic, though. The selection is Pride & Prejudice. I have read this before but plan on re-reading it. Jane Austen is such an amazing writer and I can't wait to re-read this book. Want to join our blogger book club? Go to Pinkflipflop's blog! She posts discussion questions throughout the month.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Ten on Tuesday

Ok this week, I am actually posting my answers to the question on the correct day - Tuesday, not Thursday!
1. What animal should cease to exist? (Not including bugs. That’s too obvious.)
- Skunks. They are the most fowl smelling animals ever.

2. What was your favorite thing about the beach?
- The sound of the water lapping up against the shore. So peaceful and relaxing!

3. If scientists found a way to allow dogs to talk, do you think we should implement it? Or should we just keep them quiet?
- Keep them quiet. It's more fun to imagine what they are saying anyways!

4. How do you order your Starbucks?
- Grande non-fat Vanilla Latte

5. What’s worse? People who don’t know the difference between your and you’re OR people who don’t use smack their food?
- Wow, this is REALLY tough to answer. I am going to have to go with the food smacking people, though. It actually makes me nauseated when I have to listen to people eat loudly. Yuck.

6. What CD can you listen to over and over?
- Right now it's Brandi Carlile's "Give Up the Ghost" album. Her voice is ahh-mazing.

7. What was the most surprising thing about college?
- People actually liked me. Seriously, I was not popular in high school. I was the nerdy salutatorian who was in band, choir, speech, drama, etc. I remember calling my mom the first week and saying - 'mom, it's actually cool to be smart!' All of my best friends (with the exception of my cousin) are girls I met in college, and I so thankful for all of them!

8. What’s the best deal you ever got? (Biggest sale item.)
- Oh geez. This is a bad question for me. I am NOT a bargain shopper. I am too impatient so will pay full price for something because when I want it, I have to have it (although I do NOT charge it, debt is bad people!). Hmmm. (crickets) Hmmm. Oh - I know! I randomly went into my running store this summer and they were having a special 30% off everything day! So I scored some shoes for a great price! Ahem, that was in August, by the way. No good deals have been had since then!

9. Who is your role model? Why?
- Tough question. I have so many, it is hard to choose. But if I had to pick one, I would have to say my mom. She's a devoted wife, mother, and grandmother. She's smart and competent and stands up for what she believes in - even if it's not popular. And she can cook and clean like no other. Oh, and she has replaced the hard drive on our computer before. Which I think is pretty dang cool since that's something I wouldn't even consider tackling!!

10. What movie would you like to see that is in theaters right now? Why?
- Here's how out of time I am with pop culture - I had to look up what movies were in the theaters. Because I had NO idea what is playing. I feel like I live under a rock right now. My answer is Amelia. I think it looks super interesting and even though Richard Gere is like twice my age, I still think he is quite dreamy.

Y'all know the drill. If you post this on your blog, be sure to leave your hyperlink on Chelsea's blog!!

Monday, November 2, 2009

October Re-cap

I can't believe it's already time for another re-cap. How can another month have come and gone!

Current Book(s):
Finished - Firefly Lane (liked this one), The Year of Magical Thinking (loved this one), I See You Everywhere (not a fan of this one), Little Pink Slips (ok chic lit).

Currently reading: The Help

Current Music:
The new Five for Fighting & Mat Kearney CDs rock. Definitely listening to those over and over and over. And I've been really into the Beatles (bought 3 of their albums in October)

Current Shame-Inducing Guilty Pleasure:
Probably blogging & reading other people's blogs. I only have about 2 hours of free time each night and one of those two hours is devoted to blogging/reading blogs and I often feel like I should be doing something else - like cleaning or something like that. But blogging is my release.

Current Colors:
Gray - sort of matches the weather. And my mood.

Current Obsessions:
Trying to get to my weight loss goal - I am 6 pounds away

Current Drink:
Water - trying to stay hydrated!

Current Song:
"Chances" by Five for Fighting

Current Movie:
"Last Chance Harvey" - I totally relate to Emma Thompson's character.

Current TV Shows:
Project Runway. Love that show, although I don't feel connected to many of the contestants that are left like I usually have in other seasons.

Current Wish-List:
- A cleaning lady.
- A GPS for my car.

Current Needs:
- Sleep.
- More suits for work.

Current Triumph:
- Beating my 1/2 marathon time goal!

- I made it through my first month at the new job and am slowly getting more and more competent each day. And feeling less and less like the village idiot.

Current Bane of my Existence:
My 5:15 alarm.

Current Goal:
Maintain, and not gain, during the holiday season.

Current Indulgence:
Ice cream - I let myself have it once a week and tell myself I 'deserve it'.

Current Blessings:
Family, friends, and a job that challenges me.

Current Slang or Saying:
"Onwards & Upwards."

Current (Fav) Outfit:
A sweater dress that looks sort of like this - except it's not a cable knit. I bought it thinking I'd wear it on a date with the guy I was dating last month. I guess it's going to be my Friday work dress instead!

Current Excitement:
It's November, which means Thanksgiving is just around the corner. I won't be spending it with my immediate family since I am working the day after Thanksgiving. But I have invited myself to my aunt & uncle's (classy, I know) so hopefully they'll still have me!

Current Mood:
Kind of pissed that we didn't really get 'fall' here in Minnesota. Fall is one of my favorite seasons in Minnesota, but we got totally robbed this year! I hope this means we have a mild winter!!