Wednesday, November 26, 2014

10 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 10

Today I am thankful for my family.

I feel very blessed to have a happy, healthy family that I genuinely enjoy being around.  My family has always been supportive, but they've been especially supportive over the last couple of years which were filled with ups and downs.

My family has made so many memories over the years, especially at my parents' lake home.  


My dad and Evelyn

Andrew and Matthew

Girls getaway 2013
Abby and I

James and I


My mom and I cheersing with coffees before leaving Charlotte
Kolin & I

Evelyn and I wearing stripes on the 4th of July
 I'm looking forward to seeing my parents, grandma, 2 of my siblings, 4 nephews, and 1 niece tomorrow!  We'll be thinking of the family members that can't be with us!

Happy Thanksgiving to those who will be celebrating tomorrow, and have a wonderful weekend! 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

10 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 9

Today I am thankful for Phil.

I'm saving the best for last as the people I'll be posting about for the last 2 days of this post series top the list when I reflect on what I am thankful for. 

I'm very thankful that Phil is in my life.  He's smart, witty, good looking and he keeps me on my toes. He's all that and more but it's tough to succinctly summarize what he means to me. 

I appreciate the support and encouragement he's given me since I moved back to Minneapolis.  It's been a mostly good transition but there have been some tough parts.  He's gotten good at knowing when I want him to come up with a solution to something and when I just need him to listen (or asking if he's not sure). 

We've made a lot of memories this summer and fall and I look forward to making many more!

Monday, November 24, 2014

TLC Book Tours: Glimpsing Heaven


If you caught a glimpse of heaven, would you choose to come back to life? Investigative journalist Judy Bachrach has collected accounts of those who died and then returned to life with lucid, vivid memories of what occurred while they were dead, and the conclusions are astonishing. Clinical death—the moment when the heart stops beating and brain stem activity ceases—is not necessarily the end of consciousness, as a number of doctors are now beginning to concede. Hundreds of thousands of fascinating post-death experiences have been documented, and for many who have died and returned, life is forever changed. These days, an increasing number of scientific researchers are turning their studies to people who have experienced what the author calls death travels -- putting stock and credence in the sights, encounters, and exciting experiences reported by those who return from the dead. Through interviews with scores of these “death travelers,” and with physicians, nurses, and scientists unraveling the mysteries of the afterlife, Bachrach redefines the meaning of both life and death. Glimpsing Heaven reveals both the uncertainty and the surprising joys of life after death.

My Review:

I think it's only natural to be curious about the experiences of those who have briefly experienced death and have come back to life, and that curiosity is what led me to agree to review Glimpsing Heaven by Judy Bachrach. It ended up being a really quick read as I read it in less than a day.  It was interesting of hear first hand accounts of several people who had vivid memories of dying and then coming back to life.  Their experiences were all unique and different, but one theme that tied most of the experiences together was the sense of peace and calmness that they experienced.  I can't say that I give death and dying all that much thought, but I have lost loved ones so it's comforting to read about the experiences of the people interviewed by the book as, for the most part, they came back feeling less frightened of death.

I do think that the title of the book is a bit misleading as I think the use of the word "Heaven" implies that there is more of a spiritual or religious theme to the book.  However, I did not find that to be the case as the author interviewed individuals with religious affiliations as well as atheists. That's not a critique of the book but just an observation. 

I received a complimentary copy of this book from TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review, and the opinions are my own.

Friday, November 21, 2014

10 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 8

Today I am thankful for the library.

It's no secret that one of my most favorite hobbies is reading.  I spend a ridiculous amount of time reading about books and researching what books I want to read next.  But, I'm also really frugal and totally out of shelf space/room for book cases so as much as I'd love to go on a book buying spree, it's just not happening.  Which is why I am oh so thankful for my county's public library system.  It's a very well-utilized library system so there can be long waits for books, but something I want to read is always available - either in the physical book form or eBook.

I love reading so much so I am very thankful to have access to a library as it makes this by far my cheapest hobby!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

10 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 7

Today I am thankful that Becky and Ben are pregnant.  

So far my thanksgiving posts have been all about me and the experiences I've had and people in my life.  But when I look back on 2014 and think about what I am thankful for, one thing that especially comes to mind which isn't something that directly impacts me is finding out that Becky and Ben were expecting.  I have not personally dealt with infertility but Becky has shared her story and helped others understand what it is like to struggle with infertility.  As a result of her sharing her story, there is this whole community of people who have hoped and prayed that Becky and Ben's prayer of wishing for a child would be answered, so I was so thrilled when Becky shared that she was expecting - so much so that I cried tears of joy.

Becky is almost 19 weeks along so is almost half way through her pregnancy and I hope and pray that the second half is as uneventful (well, aside from all the puking - poor Becky!) as the first half was.  I am so excited for these two and can't wait to meet their baby in 2015!! 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

10 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 6

Today I am thankful that I have a great mentor whom I also consider a good friend.

I feel like the last several years of my career have been a bit tumultuous and stressful.  Between having my former boss, whom I loved working for, leave the company where we worked together, going through the Charlotte relocation, searching for jobs, and securing my new position with a new company, I've been through a lot professionally.  Luckily, through it all, that boss that I loved working for has been there for me every step of the way.

We haven't worked together in over 2 years but I still talk to him on a weekly basis, sometimes more frequently depending on what is going on in our lives.  Besides being a mentor, he's also become a very good friend and confidant.  He's had the role I currently have at my new company and understands the challenges I'm facing so it's nice to talk to him and express concerns and doubts that I am having about my career.  He's a good listener and is good about seeing things very logically, and most importantly, he believes in me which is helpful as lately I've struggled to believe in myself at times.

I'm still trying to figure out what I want to be "when I grow up" so I'm thankful that I have a mentor that knows me well, knows my strengths, but also understands what I value.  I'm not sure what my future holds career-wise but I'm hopeful that I will find myself working with my mentor again as a team as, looking back over the last 4 years, that is when I was most happy and content.  Whether or not that happens, I'm thankful that he's in my corner. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

10 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 5

Today I am thankful that I can walk to work.

Winter has arrived in this part of the country and it's been cold and snowy.  Even though we did not get much snow, the roads have been pretty icy, especially last week.  It's times like this that I really appreciate the fact that I have a walking commute.  I am a nervous driver as is so add in icy roads and ay yi yi.  It makes me quite the nervous Nelly.  My place of work is about a mile from my house so I am able to get there in about 20 minutes (my commute was even shorter when I was able to bike!).

It's definitely cold in the morning as with the windchill, it's felt like it's about negative 5-10 degrees outside (yes negative, I hope this cold front moves on!), but I still opt to walk outdoors instead of walking in the heated skyways.  I guess it sort of makes me feel tough to walk outside and most days that is the only fresh air I get since I am way too much of a wimp to run in this weather.  The walks fly by, especially lately as I've started to listen to podcasts on my walks to/from work. 

Regardless of what is going on with the weather, I love my walks or bike rides to work as they allow me to clear my mind and it's an easy way to fit exercise into every day.

Monday, November 17, 2014

10 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 4

Today I am thankful for my ability to run again.

After being unable to run for most of 2013, I am very thankful that I was able to return to my favorite sport of running in 2014.  When I was dealing with my stress fracture and pain from my RA, there were definitely times when I questioned whether I'd ever be able to describe myself as a runner, so I am so relieved that running is now part of every week.

Coming into the finish line at the trail half we did in Berkeley in September

I always loved running but my absence from the sport definitely taught me to appreciate the ability to be active.  You won't catch me complaining about running much because I recognize that even a bad run is better than no run. 

13ish miles and all smiles
 2014 was my rebuilding year.  I took it easy and didn't set any goals besides finishing the trail half in September with a smile on my face.  I look forward to setting some goals for 2015 and have already registered for my first race which is a road half in late April!

Friday, November 14, 2014

10 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 3

Today I am thankful for the new friends I have made this year.

Phil and I have spent a lot of time with his friends since I moved back and as a result, I have become close to the other couples - especially the girls.  I've always felt really welcome and included in this group, which is a nice feeling.  Us girls will do things on our own without the boys - like start a book club!  I now think of Phil's friends as "our" friends instead of "his" friends. 

I have become particularly close to Phil's friend's fiance, Courtney.  Hearing how much she enjoyed biking is what really pushed me to take the plunge and buy a bike this summer.  We have gone on some really fun rides this fall, ranging anywhere from 20 to 40 miles!  Biking with a buddy is WAY more fun that biking on your own.  Biking season is over, but I can't wait to see what trails we'll check out next summer/fall.

Our fall bike ride on the trails of Minneapolis
3 weeks from today (!!!) Phil and I will travel to Jamaica for Luke & Courtney's wedding and we can't wait!  Traveling with other couples that we get along with so well will make it an especially fun vacation!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

TLC Book Tours: The Vineyard

Synopsis (from  

Dory Delano, Charlotte Harris, and Turner Graham have been drifting through life since their days as roommates at Smith College, ten years ago. Dory is resisting taking the reins of her family’s legacy and fortune even as she relishes the fabulous lifestyle it affords her in the fashionable seaside resort of Martha’s Vineyard. She invites her old friends to join her for a summer on the Vineyard in hopes of rediscovering the innocence of old days and healing new wounds. But hidden in their midst and unknown to all but a few, a reclusive—some say dangerous—fisherman wanders alone, fueling wild speculation about his purpose and his past. None of these women can imagine the events their encounter with the fisherman will set in motion, the shadow he will cast over their destinies, or the transformation that awaits the world they know.

My Review:

The Vineyard by Michael Hurley caught my eye as I tend to enjoy books that focus on the friendship between women.  But early on it seemed like the book was less about their shared past and more about the individual lives of the three women that reunited at the estate of one of the friend's on Martha's Vineyard.  I think it had the makings of a good story but I struggle to connect with the readers or really empathize with them.  Plus, early on there was a negative storyline about the Catholic church and as a practicing Catholic, it's unlikely for me to connect with a book with that kind of storyline. I also struggled with the fact that these women are all in their early 30s, yet they are able to take off and spend several months on Martha's Vineyard?  It seemed like that would be more likely or expected if they were closer to retirement age.  I guess I am just too practical to relate to a storyline that involves women my age who don't have or don't have the desire to work...

The book has an average rating above 4 which is quite high so clearly others had a different reaction to this book.  So, if the description is intriguing to you, don't let my inability to connect with the book deter you from reading it. 

For more information about the book, you can watch a trailer about it here!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review, and the opinions are my own.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

10 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 2

Today I am thankful for the fun girls weekends I've had this year.

Life is busy and each year time seems to become even more of a precious commodity so I am very thankful that I have girlfriends who are willing to take time away from their husbands, kids and busy lives for girls weekends!  I was very lucky this years as I had 3 fun girls weekends.

In February, I met up with some of my closest friends from college for a weekend of fun in Austin.  My friend Heidi hosted us and we had the best time. 

In September, I met up with Amber, Kyria, Lauren and Leigh for a really fun running rendezvous in San Francisco.  

Lastly, in October, Heidi came to visit us girls in Minneapolis and another college friend drove down from northern Minnesota for the weekend. 

Through the years, I hope that we are all able to continue to make time for these girls weekends!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

10 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 1

Today I am kicking off my 10 Days of Thanksgiving post series.  This is my 7th year of doing this and I look forward to it every year as it's good to look around and focus on the things/people in my life that I am thankful for!

Today I am thankful that I once again live in a city I love.

I'm oh so thankful that I once again have a Minneapolis zip code.  Living in Charlotte was so hard on me as it's tough to wake up every day in a place you don't want to be.  I know there are people who believe that you should be able to be happy anywhere, but I think there are places where it's just easier to be happy.  For me, that place is Minneapolis.  I love this city with my whole heart and am so proud to call it home (even more so after reading this list of cool facts about the city!).  Minneapolis is certainly not perfect (um, apparently we will not see above-freezing temperatures for two weeks starting yesterday) but it's perfect for me.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Julia Child Night #6

Another successful and delicious Julia Child Night is in the books!  I'll let the pictures (mostly) do the talking.

We started off with our usual appetizer course of olives, cheese, crackers, and olive tapenade.

I love my aunt and uncle's slate cheese board that you can write on!
 We also had a signature drink to start the night which was called the French Pearl. It was made from gin, Pernod, simple syrup and lime juice.  It was so good!

Since I wasn't able to help out on Friday, my brother stepped up and helped out with the meal preparation and serving.  He looks sharp in his chef's jacket!

The kids were running around most of the night but I did talk Matthew into taking a picture with me.

This year my cousin and her family were able to join us.  Her daughter, Lydia, had the best striped outfit of the night in my opinion.

Before we knew it it was time for the plating process to start.  It's hard to capture action shots, but this is my mom and her two sisters working on the amuse bouche (my mom is in the middle).

We started off with an amuse bouche of gravlax with cucumber and dill.  Gravlax is not a French recipe, it's Scandanavian, but Julia Child has a recipe for it.  It was delicious!
Gravlax for the adults, swedish fish for the kids
 Our next course of the night was a Provencal soup with pistou (i.e. pesto).  I think this might have been my favorite course of the night.  It was so delicious with that dollop of pesto stirred in!

I was responsible for the salad course which was a winter salad with home made buttermilk dressing.  It had sliced beats and apples on top and was delicious!

The main course was Chicken Provencal, which is chicken cooked in a tomato sauce with olives. It was delicious!  Our side dishes were green beans almondine and escoutoun which is a cheesy polenta.  Yum!

We took a pretty long break between dinner and dessert which was necessary after all those courses!  We capped off the night with Chocolate pot de creme, which is a chocolate custard, and coffee with homemade Bailey's liquor, made by my sister-in-law!

And of course it wouldn't be a Julia Child Night without an end of the night apron photo!  The number of people in the photo grows every year!

It was another fun event and we all left with full stomachs and hearts!  It was fun to introduce Phil to this tradition and to more of my family as he got to meet more of my aunts, uncles, and cousins!

Seems like in a blink of an eye, we'll be planning Julia Child Night #7!

What was the best thing you ate this weekend?  

Friday, November 7, 2014

Julia Child Night Through the Years

'Tis the eve of Julia Child Night #6!  This year, more than any year, I feel like Julia Child Night snuck up on me.  The celebration came fast, but we've actually been in the process of planning it since I arrived back in Minnesota in late May, so it has been in the works for many months.  I stayed with my Julia Child aunt and uncle for a couple of weeks before moving into my apartment so in the evenings we would page through recipes books and ponder the right combination of dishes.  I think we've got an excellent menu planned and tomorrow night is sure to be the most delicious night of the year!

I thought it would be fun to share photos from the last 5 Julia Child Nights!

Year 1

We made paella the first year which is obviously not French but it was a Julia Child recipe and it was delicious!
Voila!  You can see that apron-wearing was part of the tradition from year 1.

In the early years, the kids got pizza.  Now they (mostly) eat what the adults eat with the exception of maybe 1 course.  We are raising young foodies!

I can't get over how young my nephews look in these photos!  This is Matthew, who is now 6 but was about 18 months in this photo!

Year 2
Some of my favorite courses through the years have been the salad courses.  The salad from year 2 had roasted butternut squash on top!  Yum!

We made Beef Bourguignon that year.

The kids are cheersing with their milk.  Love it.

Year 3
My aunt and I

The year 3 salad featured a roasted pear.  It was so good!

The end-of-the-night apron photo started to occur during year 3.

Year 4
In year 4, we really elevated the meal by starting with an amuse bouche of ratatouille, which was so delicious!  We'll use these spoons again this year as we are bringing back the amuse bouche!

There is so much attention to detail, down to the garnish on the soup!

And the apron photo grows as now every lady comes in a pretty apron. I'm partial to ones from Anthropologie!
 Year 5
The year 5 entree was pot au feu which was also a pretty labor intensive but delicious.

We are an equal opportunity kitchen and accept help from the men, some of which don aprons!
The Nicoise salad was the perfect, light salad to offset the heavier main dish

The main course all plated up!  No one goes hungry on JC Night.

My nephews aren't so little anymore.  Soon enough Andrew will be taller than me!
Obligatory end-of-the-night apron photo!

It's crazy to think that all of this was born of a comment I made to my aunt about my desire to learn to cook more difficult recipes.  I love this tradition so much and am glad we've kept it going through the years.  The food is amazing but it's the people that really make the event.  I am extremely thankful for my aunt and uncle - they host it each year and do the heavy lifting and lots of behind the scenes work! 

I also have to pause and say how thankful I am that I am once again a local participant in this tradition instead of having to fly in from Charlotte.  The memories of returning to Charlotte last year after a fun and family-filled weekend are vivid as I had the hardest time and cried the entire flight home (all 2.5 hours)...  I'm so thankful that my life is so vastly different this year and that I'm back where I'm meant to be. 

I'll be back next week to share photos from Julia Child Night #6!!  Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!

Also - on an unrelated note, I will be starting my 10 Days of Thanksgiving post series next week.  If you are looking for a structured way to practice more of an attitude of gratitude, I encourage you to play along!  This is my 7th consecutive year of doing this and I can't wait to kick it off next week!