Friday, April 30, 2010

The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly... and a guest post

Hello, friends! Happy Friday! It's been a wonderful week in my world. Here is how it all breaks down in terms of the good, the bad, and the ugly!

The Good...

- I have been running 8:30 to 8:45 mile splits this week. Holy Hannah, where did this speed come from? That is quick for me! A year ago I was struggling to run 10 to 10:30 miles. This fall I worked my way up to the 9:15. Now I am sub-9 minute? Can I get a hell ya?

- Last Saturday I got to meet my cousin's beautiful baby boy, Odin Erick. He is a spitting image of his father but has his mom's eyes and lips. Oh he is a beauty. See for yourself!

Holding Odin for the first time! Is there anything more therapeutic than holding a sleeping baby?

Julie, Odin, and I

Baby Odin by his adorable cake

The Bad...

- I forgot to put on my mineral veil layer when putting on my make up Saturday morning. Hence the lovely shiny complexion in the photos above. I am actually not a total grease ball - because I wear mineral make-up, the light reflects back when you use a flash, so I look super greasy. Ish. Had I worn the mineral veil, this wouldn't have happened. Or at least this is what the person who does my facials told me... And I am going to choose to believe that over believing I could possibly look that greasy...

The Ugly...

- The gasps of pain and the accompanying look of torture on my face when I stretch my quads and ITB with my foam roller. Oh. Em. Gee. It hurts. But it's a 'hurts so good' type of hurt and so necessary. I want to go back to my running store and kiss the guy who told me I absolutely had to start using one as it would help my Femoral Patella Syndrome issues. It totally has. Are you wondering what a foam roller is? Go read Kelly's post here - she has photos to show you! If you are a runner and don't own one, go get one. It's the best $12 I've spent in a long time! But I will warm you - you too will be gasping in pain!

And a guest post...

Hop on over to my friend Mandy's blog, Knowing the Difference.

I wrote a post for her "Lasting Impressions" series! It's a wonderful series of posts about friendship. I had a really hard time choosing which friendship to focus on, but in the end, I ended up picking someone who has been a best friend since the early days of my childhood. We met when I was about 11 months old, and she's been with me every step of the way since then. Sometimes we go a month or two without talking, but it doesn't impact our relationship; we pick up right where we left off. I am so thrilled that summer is upon us because my parents' lake cabin is a quick 30 minutes from where her & her husband and my new faux nephew live, so I will get to see her on a monthly or maybe even bi-weekly basis come June!

What was the good, the bad, and the ugly of your week?

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Ten on Thursday

1. Think back a decade, do you remember what your first cellphone was? Was it as cool as Zack Morris’s phone?

Um, I haven't had a phone for a decade. I didn't get my first cell phone until I was 21. GASP. Can you believe it? Someone call social services and report my mom. I mean, that is essentially child abuse because apparently kids need phones at the age of like 8 these days.

* Excuse me as I step off my soap box. *

Ok, back to the phone. Since I was a late adopter of the technology, it was a pretty normal looking phone. My mom, on the other hand, totally had a Zack Morris-esq bag phone!!

2. What is the first children’s book you remember being read to you?

The Sorcerer's Apprentice. I was obsessed with this book, so much so that I memorized it. Gosh I loved that book.

3. What was your first car? Did you love it or hate it?

My first car was a 1987 Toyota Celica. I really, really loved it. When my dad went to pick my car out, he asked if I had any requirements. I asked that he try to find me one that is red and had a working radio. He totally delivered on it! Oy vey I really loved that car and was so proud of it.

4. Who was your hero growing up?

My parents. They still are my heroes!

5. Think back to your first kiss. Was it everything you dreamed of?

*laughs out loud* Um, I don't know. The fact that I am giggling while typing this means it probably wasn't everything I dreamed of! My first kiss was with a boy whose name is Justin. We were acting in a play and played a young couple who got engaged. I guess when you pretend to love someone every night for a couple of months, you start to confuse reality with make believe. My parents were VERY happy when that relationship ended.

6. What was your first BAD hairstyle choice? (Extra points for embarrassing photos)

Maybe the boy-short hair I had for most of my childhood. God I was ugly. I remember being mistaken for a boy a couple of times. The funny thing is that my mom still thinks I look good with short hair. She just can't let it go and I am sure she'd love it if I chopped my long hair off. Don't deny it, Mom - you know you'd be thrilled!

I'd share photos if I had them, but they are all at my parents' house.

7. What was your first realistic dream? (One where you had to think “Oh dang, was that a dream?”)

I vividly remember dreaming that I got an overdraft shortly after I got my first checkbook. I woke up scared sh*tless, wondering how I could have possibly made this irresponsible mistake. And how I was going to explain it to my parents.

Then I realized it was just a bad dream.

Seriously, who dreams about getting overdrafts?

8. What was the first phobia you remember developing?

I had an intense fear of escalators. I was so sure I was going to be sucked up by them... I remember my mom trying really hard to get me over the fear. To this day, I can't say I am crazy about them...

9. Which character on Sesame Street do you most identify with?

Sometimes I can be grouchy and want to shut out the world, which makes me like Oscar.

Sometimes I want to consume an unhealthy amount of peanut butter cups, which makes me sort of like the Cookie Monster.

Sometimes I let my silly/hyper side show which makes me like Elmo.

10. What was the hardest goal you ever accomplished?

Finishing my first marathon. I said a whole lot of Hail Marys. It was painful. The sense of accomplishment as I stepped across the finish line made it all worth it, though. And I'll be doing it all over again this fall! Can't wait!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A guest post, 4.28, and other deal breakers

Happy Wednesday, everyone.

First things first - have you ever wondered why I fell head over heels for Paris? If so, then head over to my friend Amber's blog - I did a guest post about Paris over there today! Amber arrives in Paris today. Oo la la I am so envious! I told her to give my love to the city that captured my heart!

Today is a day on my calendar filled with many celebrations. It's my oldest brother & his wife's 9th Wedding Anniversary! I tried to find some pictures to scan in from their wedding but the photos must be tucked away in storage! Today is also one of my college friend's 30th birthday's. I'll be joining her tonight to raise a drink in celebration! That will be me in just under a year. Yikes! Time to get going on that 30 before 30 list! I'll be posting an update on it around the 3 month mark, which is just over a week away!

Click here for a little refresher on how I feel about the date, April 28th. Long story short - me and men born on April 28th are just not compatible. 2 of my significant ex-boyfriends were born on 4/28/81. What are the chances?

Everyone seems to have a 'deal breaker' list of some sort. Well, having a Birthday on 4/28 is sort of a deal breaker. Ok, maybe I would make an exception if I really, really liked the guy. But most likely, if I find out he was born on 4/28 - syonara, nice to know you. Let's skip all the heart ache and just go our separate ways.

It's a unique date screening strategy, don't you think?

What are/were some of your dating deal breakers? In addition to the 4/28 birthday thing, smoking and treating the wait staff poorly are all on my deal breaker list...

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Music of Your Life

Good Morning and Happy Tuesday, readers! I am interrupting my usual "10 on Tuesdays" post to participate in the Blogger Book Club "Music of Your Life" post. My 10 on Tuesday will become 10 on Thursday this week. Look at how flexible I am! Ha (side note - I am sort of not a very flexible person when it comes to schedules)

Music has always been a big part of my life. I started taking piano lessons at age 6 - although at that point my older brother had already started to sort of teach me. He also taught me how to read. And drive. Maybe he can teach me write html code? He's a computer genius, I am a computer moron. But that's a topic for a whole other post.

Do you remember my "Song Remembers When" post? As I said in that post, hearing a song from my past really triggers memories and brings me back to a certain phase of my life - be it high school, college, a relationship, or a friendship. In Firefly Lane, each section of the book was titled with a popular song in Tully & Kate's life.

If I were to make a "Music of My Life" CD, here is what would be included:

Elementary/Junior High Years:
1. I think We're Alone Now by Tiffany

2. To Be With You by Mr. Big

3. Straight Up by Paula Abdul

* These 3 songs remind me of afternoons spent sitting on the floor of my grade school best friend's bedroom, listening to songs we had recorded on tapes off of the radio. I also remember awkwardly slow dancing to To Be With You at a 4H dance with a boy that I had a crush on from 1st grade through senior year. Yes, I was in 4H.

High School Years:
4. All My Life by K-C and Jo Jo - Prom song, junior year

5. A Long December by Counting Crows

6. Black Balloon by Goo Goo Dolls

7. Great Balls of Fire by Jerry Lee Lewis - my High School boyfriend got up on stage and played the keyboard part of this song the night of our junior prom. There is a great keyboard solo in that song & Brian ROCKED it. He was and still is a very talented musician!

College Years:
8. Like a Prayer by Madonna - This is a Delta Gamma theme song!

9. #41 by Dave Matthew Band

10. Murder on the Dance Floor by Sophie Ellis Bextor - this song was HUGE in Australia when I studied abroad. Never really seemed to take off in the US.

Post-Collegiate Years:
11. Shoot the Moon by Norah Jones - I remember listening to this song while waiting for my plane in the Santiago, DR airport with tears rolling down my face, knowing I was going to be breaking up with my 6-cubicles-away ex-boyfriend (who will now be referred to as The Charioteer) in the next week. 10 days away from him had given me clarity. We broke up 3 days later.

12. Resolution by Nick Lachey - I ran many, many laps around Lake Harriet listening to this song (and the entire album) when I was trying to get over The Charioteer. Nick wrote this post-Jessica so it might be the most depressing music. Ever. Perfect for wallowing. Did you know you can wallow AND run at the same time?

13. Careful by Guster - 2-floors-above-me ex-boyfriend (who will now be referred to as Deux) loved this band. I think Guster was playing every time he came to pick me up for a date. He also could play this song on this guitar.

14. The Luckiest by Ben Folds - I adore this song. If I ever get married, I would possibly have this as my first dance with my husband. You know, if he didn't hate it. But how could you? It's lovely.

I could go on and on, but I'll stop with 14. What songs would you include on the soundtrack of your life?

Monday, April 26, 2010

Book Review: Firefly Lane

The April book club selection for the blogger book club was Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah. I read this book back in October so my memory of the book is a bit foggy. I will sometimes re-read a book if a book I've read gets chosen for a book club, but this book just did not warrant a re-read. I have to really like a book to re-read it, or the story line needs to be complex enough that a re-read will help me understand the story a little better. That was not the case for this book. It was a light, easy read, but not a book I would highly recommend. I think I am kind of in the minority on that. Many people had raved about the book and some of you noticed it on the side bar of my blog and commented that you really loved this book. It fell a bit flat for me.

In Firefly Lane we meet two best friend - Kate and Tully. Kate comes from a loving middle class family, Tully was raised by a mother who was a bit of a train wreck so sort of becomes an extension of Kate's family. The book follows their friendship as the two women grow and mature. The two women choose completely different paths in like; Kate chooses love over her career and Tully chooses her career over love.

I tend to love books that examine the friendship between women, but parts of this book just annoyed me and to be quite honest - pissed me off. I hated how Tully swept onto the scene and drove a wedge between Kate and her teenage daughter by being the 'cool aunt'. If Tully was truly Kate's best friend, she wouldn't have caused even more problems during the tenuous teenage years. I know that none of my best friends would undermine my parenting choices and rules.

If you'd like to hear another person's perspective on this book, click over to Emily's blog. She'll also be posting her review today! Additionally, tomorrow we'll both be posting about the "Music of Your Life". Each section of Firefly Lane was named after a song that Tully & Kate were loving at that time. So tomorrow I'll be sharing a selection of songs that bring me back to certain phases of my life.

Have you read this book? If so, did you like it more than I did? What are you all reading these days?

Friday, April 23, 2010

Friday Confessions

Nora did a Confessions post last Friday. They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so here is my version!

  • I learned how to make scrambled eggs at the age of 27... Embarrassing, I know. I think a 5 year old could master that. I was having a friend over for brunch and decided to make breakfast burritos. Then I panicked and realized that I had never made scrambled eggs. So I called my mom (who couldn't believe I had never made them) because I had no idea how much milk to put in, or if I needed to add milk at all.
  • I have never seen a single episode of American Idol or So You Think You Can Dance.
  • I have also never seen a single Star Wars movie - and probably never will.
  • I have a life-size crush on a fictional character, Adam Braverman. He's a character on Parenthood, a new favorite show of mine. I think he is downright dreamy - and get this, he's a Minnesotan! He grew up in Alexandria which is 30 minutes from my parents' lake cabin! I should totally start a fan club if one doesn't exist!
  • When I walk on sidewalks or tiles, I try not to step on the cracks. It has nothing to do with the "don't step on the crack or you'll break your mother's back" mantra. It's one of many OCD things I do.
  • I have done solo karaoke once in my life. My brother sang a Johnny Cash song at a townie bar in Maple Grove, MN (total suburbia). He dared me to sing a song... I'm not one to turn down a dare. I sang a song by Eminem (I won't admit which one. The lyrics are TERRIBLE). It wasn't one of my finer moments. My brother's song selection was much more appropriate. What can I say, I was a stupid 22 year old who had consumed a few too many vodka crans. It was a really fun night, though.
  • You know how I told you yesterday that I work 6 cubes from my ex-boyfriend? I also work 2 floors below my ex-boyfriend. Yes, I dated 2 co-workers. I dated the one who works 6 cubes away in 2005/06, and dated the one who works 2 floors above in 2007/2008. * hangs head * I didn't technically work with either of them while we dated, but we were employed by the same company. However, in my defense, The Chariot has 300k+ employees and there are plenty of successful Chariot marriages - so it works for some. Just probably not for me.

Anything you'd like to confess on this wonderful Friday?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Ex Files

Earlier this week, I was reading a post written by Rachel of MWF Seeking BFF about finding friendships in the work place. It got me thinking about relationships in the work place.

Here's the thing. I work 6 cubes away from my ex boyfriend.

Yep, 6 cubes. That is close. Really freaking close.

We met when working together back in 2005, started dating when he moved onto a new department, and broke up in the spring of 2006.

Aside from a few Happy Birthday emails, we hadn't spoken for 3 years - until I started my job in his department last week.

Since it had been so long since we'd spoken, I wasn't sure what to expect. But we actually had a really great conversation. We've both grown and changed over the 4 years so I think a friendship of some sort is possible. At a minimum, we'll be mature adults, put our past behind us, and have a proper working relationship.

I've learned my lesson - dating in the work place usually isn't a good idea.

So I have sworn off of it.

But my best friend Brooke thinks otherwise. Last week at book club, she bet me a mani and a pedi that I will marry a fellow Chariot employee.

We'll see who wins! I'm very confident that I will!

Have you ever dated a co-worker? How did it work out for you?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Summer, Here I Come!

As I said earlier this week, we have had absolutely gorgeous weather lately! Springs like this make it a whole lot easier to live in the Midwest. We put up with some not-so-great weather during the winter months, which can stretch into the spring, so it's always a pleasant surprise when the spring weather is warm and sunny!

All this warm and sunny weather has me in 'summer mode'. Here is what I am looking forward to this summer:

  • Weekends at my parents' cabin where I will sip fruity blender drinks that my mom concocts, play cribbage with my dad, and hang out in the water with my nephews.
  • Wearing fun summer dresses and skirts! I wear dresses year round, but I am happy that I can now pack away the tights.
  • Training for the Portland marathon. Training will kick off on June 7th! I am excited but a little nervous since I know how tough some of the training runs will be.
  • Sipping cocktails on outdoor patios of local restaurants.
  • Helping my nephews cast their fishing rods off the end of the dock. Every time I cast for my nephew James he says, "Did you get it in the honey hole, Lisa?" It's something he picked up from his dad! It always makes me laugh when he asked. The answer is no. I cast about as well as the 4 & 5 year olds do! Fishing has never been my forte...
  • A late summer meet-up with some of my favorite bloggers!

What are you looking forward to this summer?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Ten on Tuesday

1. What two cities should be moved closer together?

It's hard to pick just one. There are so many people I love scattered across the world! If I had to choose just one, I'd say Tucson & Minneapolis. My sister Abby lives in Tucson so I don't get to see her very often. If you could smoosh our two cities together, we could get together weekly to grill, run, and window shop (we are both on budgets)

2. What was the first plane ride you took?

I was 19 and flew to Chicago for my brother & sister-in-law's engagement party. I got a late start on flying but made up for that in my 20s!!

3. What continent would you most like to visit?

I'd have to say Europe. Then I could visit my favorite city, Paris, and check out other countries such as Portugal, Spain, Greece, and Turkey.

4. What’s your favorite place to window-shop?
J. Crew. I adore their clothes but wowzers, they are kind of expensive. So I wander through and imagine myself all dolled up in their fabulous dresses, skirts, and blouses. Then I return to reality and realize a $178 blouse is not in the budget... It sure is pretty, though, isn't it?

5. What’s the least fun you’ve ever had at a place specifically tailored for fun?
Probably a bowling alley. I freaking hate bowling. Here's the thing. I don't enjoy doing things that I am terrible at. And I am terrible at bowling.

6. You’re stuck on an island with plenty of food, a companion, and a relatively stress-free lifestyle. What do you say when the rescue ship comes?
Go back where you came from, I am quite content here.

7. Which day of the week do you look forward to most?
Friday. I love Fridays! I always have a bit more of a spring in my step on Friday.
8. What’s your favorite place to enjoy the great outdoors?
It's a toss up between:
- The running path around Lake Harriet
- At the end of the dock at my parents' lake cabin

9. What’s on your “to do” list this summer?
Read a Hemingway book with my aunt Barb! We haven't decided on one yet, but so far I'm leaning towards "The Sun Also Rises" or "A Moveable Feast". Maybe both!
10. Which natural disaster freaks you out the most?
I'm honestly not that afraid of natural disasters. I live in a part of the country where we don't really have natural disasters, besides the occasional tornado. So if I had to choose one, I guess I'd say tornadoes?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Weekend Recap

First off, thanks for participating in Three Things Friday! It was fun learning random facts about all of you!

The weather was absolutely gorgeous!! I don't remember the last time we've had weather this nice in the spring. I usually hate spring since it's kind of cold, wet, and very bleh. This year it has been awesome!!

Here is my weekend recap in bullet point style!

This weekend I...

  • used coupons when grocery shopping for the first time ever! Confession - I never was a price checker or frugal about grocery shopping all all. Now I am paying more attention to how much I am spending. It's an adjustment but it's good for me to be more mindful of how much I am spending.
  • went over to my brother's for a bbq. We had steak, baked potatoes, and asparagus. Yum.
  • was once again amazed by my nephew's intelligence/memory. We were talking about our favorite meals and he said his was pizza. I told him that wasn't my favorite since I can't have it and he says, 'Because you can't have flower, right?' I had quickly mentioned that almost 2 weeks ago when we went out for lunch at Chipotle. I was impressed that he a) remembered, and b) knew that pizza had flour in it. I think that's pretty good for a kid who isn't even 5 yet!!
  • made this beef stew recipe. It's so not stew season but it makes the BEST leftovers and I didn't want to have to cook after work this week! I do so much better when I do all of my cooking on Sunday!
  • went for a lovely 4 mile run around my favorite lake and ran an average pace of 9:08 minute miles which is pretty good for me! My knee is doing better - hopefully it will be back to 100% by the time marathon training kicks off on June 7th.

What was the highlight of your weekend?

Sunday, April 18, 2010


Hey everyone - it looks as though my gmail account got hacked last night... Please ignore any emails you got from me last night!!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Three Things Friday

Hello, friends! Happy Friday! Today caps off my first week back with The Chariot. Ahh, it is good to be back. This first week has kind of felt like an on-going high school reunion... err, in a world were high school reunions are a good thing - they aren't in mine... Anyways, I have seen so many familiar faces. When all these changes started happening in my life, I was really questioning if I had made the right choice when leaving The Psych Experiment; after this week, I feel absolutely confident that I am where I should be!

But today's post isn't about that.

Today, I'd like to get to know you, my readers, a little bit better. I'm fastly approaching my 2 year Blogoversary - which is June 3rd! It's hard to believe I've been at this for nearly 2 years. Over those 2 years, I've really grown as an individual, and as a writer. When I started out, my only faithful commenters were my mom and my aunt Barb!

I've gotten to know most of you pretty well by reading your blogs, but I think it's always fun to learn a little more about each other.

So today, I will share 3 things about you, and then maybe you can share 3 things about yourself in my comments! And yes, I am also talking to the lurkers who don't comment (Wink, wink, Pat, that includes you).

Here are my 3 things:

1. I am a total Francophile. I really became a Francophile when I spent 3 weeks in France during the summer of 2008 (chronicled on my first blog), but I think I was always destined to be a Francophile. When I was in 4th grade, we had to write a report about a composer for our music class. I insisted that the teacher assign me a French composer as I had French Ancestry (Totally not true. I am German/Scottish/Swedish). When it came time to give our reports, I delivered mine in a "French accent" - or at least a 4th grader's interpretation of a French accent. What can I say, I had have a flare for the dramatic. And a healthy imagination.

2. My favorite color is pink. In college, I wore so much pink clothing, I would do an entire load of pink laundry!

3. My first job, besides babysitting, was teaching piano. I taught piano during my Junior and Senior year of high school. I had about 10 students, including my little sister! That was interesting... I always thought that maybe someday my life would mirror my piano teacher's life and that I'd get married, be a stay at home mom, and teach lessons out of my home. That's looking pretty darn unlikely, but we'll see what the future holds!

Alright, your turn! Please make my day by sharing three things about yourself!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Sunday Night Dinners - Carrot Soup

Given my lack of Sunday Night Dinner posts (haven't done one since February 4th), it should come as no surprise that I haven't been doing much cooking. I had been living on a lot of Amy's Organic Gluten microwave meals. They are tasty and good when you are short on time, but certainly not a replacement for home cooked food!

Now that I am back to working more reasonable hours, I am getting back in the habit of cooking every Sunday. This week I have a savory soup recipe to share with you. I know it's not really "soup season" since it's warming up, but I am the kind of person who eats soup year round. It is such a comfort meal for me - and it's usually very healthy and low in calories. Which is a good thing with swimsuit season upon us!

I had this soup when I was at my brother's for Easter. It's so seasonally appropriate! The best part is that the recipe requires very few ingredients and is a one-pot wonder!

Start things off right by preparing your mis en place (a diced shallot, 1.5 lbs of choppped carrots)

Saute the shallot in a dash of olive oil until it is translucent

Add 1 teaspoon of curry powder (or more if you like it with a bit more of a kick like me)

Add 6 cups of Chicken Broth (Progresso brand is Gluten Free! Hooray!)

Bring to a rapid boil

Reduce heat, cover, and simmer over medium-low to medium heat until the carrots are very tender. This took close to an hour on my stove.

Then puree the soup. I do not own a blender (perhaps Santa will bring one next Christmas?) so I used my hand mixer, which worked like a charm!

And voila!! You can add 2 T. of fresh OJ to the blended soup but I skipped this step since I didn't have any oranges on hand (and didn't know about this ingredient when I went grocery shopping earlier this week).

Like most of my recipes, this yields quite a bit. I portioned it out into 1 1/2 cup servings.

You could definitely tailor the seasoning of this soup to your tastes. When I make it next, I wil probably add some celery when I saute the shallot. I bet it would taste great with ginger (if you like ginger, I actually don't!!).

Do you pack a lunch? If so, what do you bring with you? I eat a lot of baked potatoes, salads, and soups - all very healthy and relatively inexpensive. All my old stand bys, like wraps and sandwiches, are off limits since I can't have gluten, so I am always looking for new ideas!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Loving This!

Oh my gosh, I am loving the yarn-inspired wall art (spotted here, how to video found here) ! I am a math major who loves geometric shapes (yes, I am a dork), so this is quite pleasing to my pallet. Plus it brings back memories of playing with a Spirograph as a child. Loved that toy!

I fear the project is just a bit too much for me, though. I am not very good at 'art projects'. Trust me. Even though this one would require lots of precision and no 'free handing' it, I still fear it would be an epic fail.

Believe me when I say I am a terrible artist. Or call my mom. She'll tell you my artwork as a child was very, um, interesting...

Or take a look at these 2 pictures and tell me: which was drawn by 29 year old Lisa and which was drawn by my 5 1/2 year old Godson/Nephew, James?

When I was showing the drawings we had worked on to my co-workers (I am such a proud aunt!) I kept saying - "wait - did I draw this, or did James?" You can probably tell I did the first one since the names were written quite small (difficult for a kindergartener to write that small). But really, I am about at the same artistic level as my nephews (or perhaps below actually).

But hey - it's important to know your strengths! So I won't be taking on that yarn-inspired wall art project. But I do plan to save that how-to video and maybe in my next house, if I have a wide-open wall, I will commission the help my good friends, Amanda and Brooke, to help me out. They are both very talented at all things artsy!

Are you artistic? Do you enjoy drawing or do you view it as a total chore like I do/did?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Ten on Tuesday

1. What book, movie or song has made you want to travel to a particular place? (eg. I went to Prince Edward Island because I was such a Anne of Green Gables fan)

The final episodes of Season Six of Sex and the City made me want to travel to Paris. Yes, Carrie was pretty depressed/down while she was there, but it just really, really strengthened my desire to visit.

2. Aside from your significant other, who would you want to take with you on a dream trip?

I would take my mom to Italy.

3. Where would said dream trip be to?

As I said above, I'd take her to Italy. Being Catholic is a huge part of who we are. I'd love to attend Mass at St. Peter's Basilica - I think it would be such a special experience. Plus my mom enjoys wine and coffee so I think we'd really enjoy this region. :)

4. If you were hosting guests or providing tips, what three things would you show visitors to your hometown? (be it where you live now or where you grew up)

I am choosing where I live now (Minneapolis) because my home town of 500 doesn't have 3 sites worth visiting. Here goes for Minneapolis:

- We'd visit Minnehaha Falls, followed by lunch at Sea Salt.
- We'd go for a nice walk or fun around my favorite lake, Lake Harriet - and possibly two others if they were up for a 10 mile run, but most visitors aren't!
- I'd show them Wild Rumpus. It's actually a children's bookstore, but it's THE coolest children's bookstore ever! Afterwards we'd go out for ice cream at Sebastian Joe's.

5. If you had a long weekend ahead of you, where would you head – beach, city or country/mountains?

I would head to my parents' lake cabin. I spend 1-2 weekends a month there during the summer months. It is my little slice of heaven.

6. Do you have a passport? If so, did you get it for a particular trip or just to have, in case?

Heck yes, and sadly it is expiring on my next Birthday. I am so sad to part with it! It's been on some fabulous trips with me!! I got it when I was a sophomore in college so I could travel to London over spring break to visit a friend that was studying abroad!

7. Are there any travel souvenirs you collect? If not, is there something else you collect?

I try to buy coffee table photography books of the cities I visit.

8. If you could name a paint colour, what colour would it be and what would you call it?

Oh geez. I suck at the creative questions. It would be a shade of pink - not too light, but not too dark. I'd call it Pretty in Pink. Although that is probably already a name of a paint color!

9. If you were heading away for a weekend city break solo, where would you go? (forget about practicality here and flight times, assume you can get to any city in the world for the weekend)

That's Easy Peasy. My answer is Paris. In a heart beat. I'd stay in the Marais area and soak up the sights and sounds of the city. I'd sip wine at an outdoor cafe. I'd wander aimlessly along the Seine. I'd blog from the Troccadero area while gazing at the Eiffel Tower. I'd rent a bicycle and discover new areas of the city.

Le Sigh. Oh how I love Paris.

10. Is there a song or a smell or something that you strongly associate with a particular holiday/place/time, such that it always takes you back?

There are various scents that I associate with Christmas. I actually walked into my sister-in-law's basement over Easter weekend and said, "It smells like Christmas in here!" I think it's the scent of nutmeg. And pine trees. And cranberry. So many different things, actually. Oh how I love Christmas!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Looking Forward

Today is my first day back at my former-but-now-current employer, who I will now refer to as The Chariot. It's too wordy/confusing to continue to refer to them as 'former-but-now-current employer'.

I've spent the last couple of weeks looking through the rear view mirror of my life.

I've been looking back to how excited I was when I got my offer from The Psych Experiment, aka TPE (new nickname for my former employer) back in the fall of 2008. I've looked back to my first week with TPE and am remembering how something just didn't 'feel right'. I've re-played not-so-fun interactions with my former manager and director at TPE.

It's time to stop looking back and start looking forward.

So today I am going to focus on what I am looking forward to this week, this month, and this year!

This week I will get together with my Minneapolis book club and discuss Brooklyn by Colm Toibin at a local Irish Pub. Part of the story is set in Ireland so we thought an Irish Pub would be the perfect location!

This month I will travel to Tucson to visit my sister and her husband and celebrate their college graduations. They have both worked so so so hard, so I am thrilled that I get to be there to help celebrate. They are having a Mexican Fiesta. Mexican food is so Gluten Free friendly so I am really looking forward to partaking in the feast (and being a helpful sous chef)! I fly out exactly one month from today & can't wait!

This year I will travel to Portland and run my 2nd marathon with Amber and Lauren. I know I have a PR in me! I was such a newbie when I ran my first marathon; I am a much smarter runner now than I was 4 years ago when I ran my first marathon. I can't wait to see how it all shakes out!

What are you looking forward to this week, month, and year?

Friday, April 9, 2010

Flashback Friday: Australia

For the last few weeks, Amber has been flashing back over her last four years of college. I have so many fond memories of college. Unfortunately, that was before the dawn of the digital camera - so all of my photos are housed in boxes and scrapbooks. So it's kind of difficult for me to share photos of those years!

I just bought a printer/scanner so I can finally share some photos that I only have hard copies of. I thought I would start by sharing some photos from my time in Australia when I studied abroad.

I studied at the University of Sunshine Coast during the spring semester of my Junior (3rd) year of college. It kind of sounds like a made up school! It's located on the east coast of Australia, just north of Brisbane. I was just a short 10-15 minute drive from the beach! That might have been the #1 reason I went there. After all, I went there in February. So I traded in the frigid subzero winter temps of North Dakota for the beautiful summer temps of Australia!

I studied abroad by myself. It's surprising to some that I wasn't afraid to go to the other side of the world by myself. I can honestly say that studying abroad on my own was one of the best decisions I made. It forced to come out of my shell and become more independent. I would not be who I am today had I not gone to Australia!

The story of my study abroad experience is best told with pictures. Here are a few pictures from my 4 month stay in that fantastic country!!

This is a beach just north of where I lived. As you can see, it was absolutely gorgeous!

Before I left for Australia, many people kept telling me how Australia had some of the world's deadliest snakes and spiders. Luckily, this was one of my few encounters with snakes!

There were literally kangaroos everywhere. They would hop across campus while we were in class (so distracting). They loved to congregate on the Rugby fields in the evenings. Kangaroos are actually extremely dangerous so you can NOT approach them in the wild. Luckily I got to get up close and personal with a tame one at a zoo!

Standing with the Blue Mountains (located just outside of Sydney) in the background. The blueish tint is from the Eucalyptus that covers the mountains.

Sitting in front of the Sydney Opera House. Such a cool building. The guy who designed it found his inspiration when peeling an orange one day!!

It's rare to find me at a sporting event ANYWHERE in the world. I took in a Game of Australia Rules Football at the Melbourne Cricket Grounds, which is a very popular stadium! I had no freaking clue what was going on, but still enjoyed myself!

While visiting Melbourne, my friend & I took a drive along The Great Ocean Road, which was one of my favorite parts of Australia. It was an absolutely gorgeous drive. The Twelve Apostles are in the background behind us.

That's all I have for you as I am too lazy to scan in more photos!

Those 4 months in Australia (and the week I spent in New Zealand) were amazing. It was the trip of a lifetime and worth every penny I spent.

It's weird to think that I was in Australia 8 years ago. It just doesn't seem like 8 years could have passed since then. Plus, I don't really think that I look all that different - at least not when I wear my hair curly (which happens very rarely)!

I still keep in touch with the 3 girls that I did most of my traveling with. We are hoping to eventually go back some day & re-visit all the various sites and cities. Hopefully we can make that dream a reality some day!

Did you study abroad? If so, where did you go? If you didn't study abroad, where would you have gone?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Lessons Learned

While the last couple of weeks have been difficult, I have also learned some valuable lessons. I know that we grow the most when we are challenged - and I have definitely been challenged.

As much as I wanted to summon "Chicken Little," crawl under my covers, and proclaim, "The sky is falling, the sky is falling," - I knew that would not do any good. Plus no one would hear me. I live alone after all!

Instead I got out of bed each morning, put one foot in front of the other, and started working on re-shaping my life into the kind of life that would be more fulfilling. The kind of life that would make me more happy. I called my mom every day for a daily dose of her 'you can do this' medicine, and picked the pieces up and put my life back together.

These are some of the lessons I have learned, which I would like to share with you. Maybe some day you will find yourself in a similar position - although I hope that is not the case. Plus, it will be helpful for me to have them written down so I can come back to this post and read these lessons when I am questioning whether I have made the right decision.

Here is what I have learned over the last few weeks:

1. It's not all about the Benjamins. Puff Daddy, you wrote a clever song, but I do not agree. Life is not all about money. I made a very healthy salary at my previous job, but I had no life. I did not see my friends very often. I did not call my mom and dad very often. I did not even really have time to spend the money I was making. I will be taking a sizable pay cut when I go back to my former employer - but I am regaining my life. And my sanity. And my happiness. And you can not put a price tag on those things!

2. What you do does not define you. Just as it is dangerous to place your worth in your relationship status, it is also dangerous to place your worth in your job. Because jobs can come and go. And while it is important to find a job that challenges you and is satisfying, it's not the only thing or even the main thing that should define you. We are are so much more than the jobs we do. People will not love me more or less based on what I do for a living - and if they do, they are not the kind of people I should have in my life.

3. Never burn bridges. I really learned the value of this lesson. I was able to secure a position at my former employer because of the connections I maintained after leaving the company. I am actually returning to a department that I left 3 years ago. Over the last 3 years, I have maintained the relationships with my managers; now I am reaping the benefits of the relationships I have fostered.

Have you ever gone through something similar - an experience that is very difficult but teaches you so much about yourself? What lessons did you learn?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

An Afternoon Date

I had the perfect afternoon date yesterday.

Don't get too excited - it wasn't with a potential boyfriend. It was with my nephew! I am still waiting for the background check and fingerprints to go through, so I had the day off & decided to spend the afternoon with my nephew. He will be 5 in June and was really the perfect date. He said please and thank you. He made me laugh. He gave me a hug at the end of the date. Now if only all of my dates were this wonderful!

For our afternoon date, we:
  • enjoyed a leisurely lunch at Chipotle.

  • read 10+ books at Barnes & Noble.

  • treated ourselves to some ice cream. Andrew had vanilla with sprinkles. I had a berry yogurt. Mmm.

It was a delectable day. Nothing lifts my spirits like hanging around my nephews. I got to see 3 of 4 of them last weekend when I was in the Chicago area celebrating Easter. Unfortunately, I forgot my camera so don't have any photos to share! :( Total fail. I am usually the family photographer paparazzi.

I once again forgot my camera today but captured this photo on my blackberry. Isn't he j'adorable?

I think he's going to be quite popular with the ladies when he's old enough to date!

But let's get back on the topic of dates. Good Lord, it has been a long time since I've been on a date. Can't imagine why. I mean, it's not like I have been busy or anything. Ahem. Luckily at my new job, I will work much more reasonable hours. So I am actually in the position to meet someone.

I actually would love to repeat my Andrew date with a grown man. What are the chances of me finding a man who is 30-35, loves Chipotle, books, and ice cream? Oh, and he should also say please/thank you, and make me laugh.

I like non-traditional dates like afternoons at a bookstore. Dinner and a movie is just not my style. I think it's a great date once you are in an established relationship. But when you are just getting to know each other, it's not an ideal date in my opinion. Plus, you are bringing on the whole awkwardness of whether or not to hold hands (boy do I have an awkward non-date date hand holding story to tell you some other time!).

If I had the opportunity to plan a date, my suggestion would be to go to this local restaurant called Chatterbox Pub. They stock all these great games - from Trivial Pursuit to Sorry to Operation. And if you really want to take a trip down memory lane, you can even rent an Atari!! Or a more recent gaming system. How cool is that? I think a couple of cocktails and a friendly game of Connect 4 would be a fun, easy going date.

So now I just need a handsome, respectful, book-loving 30 something to come along!

What is your ideal date? If you are married, what did you do on your first date with your significant other?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Ten on Tuesday

1. If you could travel back in time, would you? What decade would you visit?
Hell yes, I would! I would travel back to the 60s and go to a Beatles concert!

2. What was your best Halloween costume? (fun to make? most creative?)
Um, I hate Halloween. I mean, I enjoy watching my nephews get dressed up, and if I lived somewhere that I got trick or treaters, I would enjoy it. But I live in a condo association with a bunch of senior citizens (seriously, not joking), so I get no trick or treaters. So I hate Halloween.
So I can't even really come up with a costume that is memorable. Maybe a clown costume that my mom hand sewed when I was pretty young? That was pretty impressive. She is quite the sewer.

3. Do you like your name? If you weren't called by your name, what would you want to be called?
Sorry Dad, but I don't like my name. I mean, I am obviously not going to change it. Although I reallly tried to convince my parents to let me change it to Stephanie when I was in 3rd grade. They were not on board so Lisa it is.
If I could change my name now, I would probably change it to Lydia. It's sort of similar but way more unique/interesting than Lisa!

4. In the past year, what is the BEST recipe you made. Please share it!
Tough question. I have made some dynamite recipes this year, to be quite honest! My favorite is the Paella I made with my aunt Barb, but I don't have the recipe for that typed out... and I can't take credit for it since my aunt did most of the work! So my runner up is this chicken w/ mushrooms that I made the night before the Twin Cities 10 mile race. I served it on top of some gluten free pasta. It was fantastic and it was actually a weight watchers recipe!!

5. Look around - what is the nearest object or picture hanging on the wall?
A picture of the Charles Bridge & Prague Castles which is hanging on my wall. It's an 8x10 photo that my friend Brooke actually took. None of my pics from that trip turned out because I was so hyped up on cold medicine, I was shaky hands McGee so all of my pics are blurry!

6. What was the last movie you saw in the theater? Would you recommend it?
I went to "She Out of Your League" with a girlfriend and it was awful. So no, I would not recommend it. We thought it was going to be a chick flick but it was a total guys movie. The humor was so crash and disgusting - so not my kind of movie! I am a bit of a prude!

7. Did you go to summer camp? Will you/do you send your kids to camp?
I went to Band Camp three summers in a row. Yes, I was a total nerd. My sister went, too, and loved it as much as I did. And no, I do not start stories by saying, "...and this one time, in band camp..." I bet most of my friends don't even know I ever went!!
If I have kids, I would probably send them to camp - if they were interested in going.

8. What kind of ringtone do you have?
The ringtone that sounds most like a typical phone. I despise songs for ringtones. They drive me bananas.

9. Where is the farthest away from home you have ever been?
I spent 4 months in Australia studying abroad. Deciding to study abroad was the best decision I ever made in college!

10. Has anyone ever written a song or a poem for or about you?
Heck no. I haven't even received a love letter. Or even a love email! Or even a love fax. (Hope someone gets that reference to the SATC movie)
Someday, maybe! A girl can dream!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Starting a New Chapter

"There are chapters in every life which are seldom read and certainly not aloud."
~ Carol Shields, Pulitzer Prize-winning author

Greeting readers. After a two week reprieve from blogging, I am ready to return to the interwebs.

That quote above perfectly sums up how I have felt about the last couple of weeks of my life. It's been a tough two weeks (and will probably continue to be tough for an undefined amount of time).

Truth be told, it's been a tough five to six months. When I started my new job back in October, I slowly morphed from this calm, confident woman to a woman that was virtually unrecognizable. No matter how much I tried, I simply could not find my way back to my old self.

I tried, and I tried, and I tried to succeed in this job, working as many as 80+ hours in a week. Sleeping 3-4 hours a night, due to a combination of working so many hours and being awakened by bad dreams. Or I would awake in the middle of the night, start thinking about a model I was working on and how I could revamp it, and I could not return to sleep.

I was miserable. Simply miserable.

Life is too short to be so miserable. To worry so much about work. To be treated like I was by some of the managers.

A comment made by Nilsa of SoMi Speaks on this post really struck me:

In a lot of ways, jobs are like relationships. Something attracted each of you to each other... and you have to figure out if going through rough patches are worth it in the long run.

I determined that this rough patch I was going through had no end in sight - at least not in the foreseeable future. We simply were not compatible - nor would we ever be.

So I made the decision to leave that company.

Once my background check goes through, I will be returning to my former employer.

Over the last 2 weeks, I have learned about humility. And frugality. And the unconditional love of family and friends. I am blessed with so many cheerleaders - family and friends who have believed in me when I couldn't and didn't believe in myself.

I'm focusing on this quote that one of my best friends sent to me (she finds the best quotes, most inspirational quotes).

It sure feels good to be back, dear readers!