Wednesday, June 29, 2016

What Should You Read Next?

In my world, there's no such thing as a season for reading, because I read voraciously throughout the year. However, I recognize that the concept of "summer reading" is very real for others. Maybe it's the longer hours of daylight, the fact that many people take vacations in the summer, or the time spent by water, but it seems like a time of year that begs us to set aside our work and chores and spend some time with our nose in a book!

A co-worker recently asked me for some book recommendations for an upcoming vacation to Europe. I thought I'd share the recommendations I made in case some of you are looking for your next great read! These are all back-list recommendations so should be available at the library immediately!

Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda - I read this book over 4 years ago, but it's still one that comes to the top of my list when people ask for a book recommendation. It's about a mixed-race couple that adopts a child from India. The author does a wonderful job of expressing the intricacies of adoption, especially an international adoption. Read this is you want a thought-provoking, engaging novel with excellent character development.

The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson - I usually avoid the thriller genre as I'm kind of a chicken when it comes to scary or intense story lines. But when a former co-worker with great taste in reading recommended this book, I had to check it out.  It's a gripping, creepy thriller that captivated me from the first page to the final sentence of the book. Read this if you are looking for a psychological page turner that will keep you up past your bedtime.

The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez - This is a sad and moving story about a Mexican family that emigrates to the U.S. to seek better medical help for their daughter who suffers from a traumatic brain injury. The point-of-view changes from chapter to chapter which makes it especially engaging. It will make you think about chains of events and all the somewhat insignificant decisions we make every day that form the path our lives take. Read this if you want to attempt to gain some understanding of what it is like to come to the U.S. as an immigrant.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart - This is technically a young adult book, but don't let that characterization hold you back from reading it if YA isn't your thing. This is a fast-paced intriguing read about a family that gathers at a sea-side home every summer. Read this if you want to be completely swept away by a story.  

What are some books you commonly recommend to others? 

P.S. If you are looking for more book recommendations, I recommend checking out the podcast, "What Should I Read Next." There is a different guest each week and the host makes recommendations based upon 3 books they loved and 1 book they hated. I would love to be a guest on the show someday! 

Monday, June 27, 2016

Currently: June

Whew, it's the last week of June! The year is nearly half over - say what? Here's what's currently going on in my life these days!

Reading:  Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson to fulfill the biography category of the Read Harder Challenge. I've heard that this books is very well-written and will make you see what a genius but total a-hole Steve Jobs was. It's a long one as it is 576 pages!

Loving: having a gas grill. We have already grilled multiple meals since we assembled the grill just over a week ago. I love how easy it is to grill proteins for my weekly salads and the minimal clean-up is a huge bonus!

Thinking: about where we should go for our next trip. I'm hoping we can get away for a long weekend in September, possibly to the Bend, Oregon area. We love hiking and being outdoors so it seems like the perfect area to visit.

Feeling:  more settled at Phil's now that the upstairs bedrooms are set up and photos are hung on the walls! 

Anticipating: the long holiday weekend ahead of us! I'm heading up to the lake July 6-10th when all my siblings will be there, so we are staying home for the 4th of July weekend. We are hosting a small group of close friends for a BBQ on Sunday which I'm really looking forward to!

Watching: my garden grow. I am just amazed at how much it changes from day to day! Look at how it changed over the course of a week!

Saturday, June 18th
Wednesday, June 22nd

Saturday, June 25th

Working: out in more interesting ways than I was able to in the early post-op weeks. There's more variety to what I can do, which really helps. It's been great to bike outdoors instead of using the stationary bike and I've also been enjoying using the elliptical machine. Pre-surgery, I kind of hated the elliptical machine as I preferred to just run outdoors, but now that it's my only running'ish workout options, I'm loving it!

Grateful:  that all of my siblings will be together in July. We are a bit scattered so it is difficult to get everyone in the same place at the same time. I can't wait to see everyone!

Listening:  to the latest Adele album. She kicks off her North American tour in St. Paul next Tuesday and I'm going to the concert with a friend. I can't wait!!

Wishing: for beautiful, warm weather for our BBQ on Sunday and more warm weather for the days when I will be at the lake! I hope mother nature comes through for me!

What are you reading, anticipating, and grateful for these days?

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Breaking in Our Grill

Last Saturday, we had a "date night in" and broke in our new grill! We debated what we should make for our first meal on the grill and decided to go with chicken as I needed a protein for my lunch salads.

I often think that grilled chicken can be a bit dry, so I did some research and discovered that the trick to perfectly grilled chicken is to pound it to an even thickness beforehand so it will cook evenly. I think that made a huge difference! I had some fresh oregano that I wanted to use up, so I looked around for a Greek marinade and found this one. It was so good!

Besides the chicken, we also grilled some potatoes and asparagus (not pictured below). We usually grill potatoes in a foil packet but tried a different technique which worked pretty well. I don't think they are necessarily better than foil packet potatoes, but they cook much quicker!

The grill master

Grilled goodness!
It was a beautiful evening so we ate our meal outdoors. Phil had a beer with his dinner, and I had my new favorite mocktail, made with this concentrate that I picked up at the farmer's market:

I love that the brand is "Phil the Shrubber."
I mixed it with 8 ounces of tonic water. You obviously have to like beets to enjoy this drink, but as a beet lover, a drink like this is right up my alley. It was nice to have a fun drink to enjoy so I didn't feel like I was missing out when Phil was having a beer. For any local readers, they have a couple other flavors besides this one. It's made locally (less than a mile from our house!). I purchased it at the Kingfield Farmer's Market.

I'm looking forward to lots of grilled meals this summer and fall! Next up, we'll be grilling brats when my nephew comes to stay with us on Saturday night!

What is your favorite food to grill? I pretty much love all food from the grill, but my favorite thing is probably brats! I also love grilled veggies. I'd like to experiment with grilling an entire chicken this summer. Phil and I are total novices when it comes to grilling but it will be fun to try some new things this summer.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Shouldless Days: June

I had my 5th shouldless day of the year this past Sunday. Similar to my other shouldless days, it was wonderful! Here's how I spent my day.

I started off my day with a pre-gym breakfast of GF cheerios, almond milk, and banana while catching up on emails and such. I don't eat much cereal as I try to avoid processed foods, but now that Cheerios are GF, I've been eating them occasionally for breakfast.

After breakfast, I headed to the gym to do some of my PT exercises that I can't do at home (bosu ball squats, leg press, step-ups) and used the elliptical and the stationary bike. I'm starting to feel like I'm getting more of a workout at the gym these days.  Woo hoo!

My bike workouts still feel lame but at least I can do some moderate hill workouts.
On my way home from the gym, I stopped by a local coffee shop that sells baked goods made by my favorite local GF bakery, Sift. I tried something new this morning - a rhubarb, lemon and thyme muffin. That may sound like an odd combination, but it was great. I enjoyed it on our deck with a cup of coffee and some reading materials.

Next up, I did some prep work for the dinner I hosted on Monday night for my college friends. I know slicing and dicing vegetables and herbs is a chore to some people, but for me it's so relaxing and enjoyable!

It's been really hot here lately (80-90+ degrees) so my garden has needed lots of water. It's only ~8 blocks away, so I walked down there to give my plants a drink. It's so fun to see how much everything has grown! 

After enjoying some leftovers for lunch, I headed outside to read and soak up some more vitamin D. The book I am reading was recommended on one of the Bookriot podcasts this spring. It's quirky but good, so far.

After being outside for awhile, I needed a break so headed indoors to finish the first episode of Chef's Table. It was really good so I'm looking forward to watching more episodes. After that, I finished watching the last 45 minutes of the movie, J. Edgar Hoover on Netflix. Phil and I watched this on Friday night but I fell asleep towards the end so decided to give the ending another try. Full disclosure - it sort of put me to sleep again. The subject-matter was interesting, but the voices just put me to sleep for some reason!

Oscar kept me company while I was watching TV. Phil was at his mom's for the day so she was especially cuddly, which is often the case when Phil's not around! Sunday marked one year since we brought her home - it's amazing how much she has changed in the past year!

I had more leftovers for dinner and enjoyed some fresh fruit for dessert. I've been eating so much fresh fruit lately. It's funny how the body tends to crave different snacks when it's hot outside (at least that is the case for me!).

I spent the rest of the evening reading. Phil got home from his mom's around 8. We caught up on each other's days, reviewed our after-work plans for the week, and went to bed!

This was probably one of my best shouldless days this year because I was able to spend so much time outdoors! I just love this hot weather we've been having! I'm just such a summer person!

Do you consider yourself a summer person or do you prefer cooler seasons?

Monday, June 20, 2016

My New Home: the Exterior

I've been living in Phil's house for about 6 weeks now and am finally ready to share some photos. It may be a "new home" to me, but it's far from being a new home as his house is 101 years old! One of his neighbors told us that it was the first house in the area and was originally a farm house as the area where we live was a farm back in the early 1900s. A lot of work has been done to the house over the years, though, so it does not look or feel like a 100+ year old home. A lot of changes have been made, but we think that part of the living room has the original wood flooring, which I love!

I'm always curious about what others' homes look like, so I thought I'd share some photos of ours. We still have some projects to do on the interior so I am holding off on sharing any photos of the inside until those are done, but I thought I'd share some photos of what it looks like from the outside.

Here is our house from the front. Truth be told, I do NOT like the bright yellow doors (the back door is yellow, too) but I don't know if I dislike them enough to do something about it! Phil doesn't mind the color and thinks we should just leave them as they are. We'll see what we decide to do.

This is the back of the house. We live on a small city lot, so our yard is small, but I really like the space we have, especially the deck. I have already spent a lot of time out there reading and we eat a lot of meals out there in the summer and fall.

We also have a small paved area in the back yard, which is where our newest purchase resides! I'm so excited to finally have a gas grill! We also have a charcoal grill (not pictured). I'm looking forward to eating lots of grilled meals this summer!

The house is small as we have about 1,150 square feet, but it's big enough for us at this stage of our life. We also have a detached 2-car garage behind the house. A lot of homes in the area only have 1-car garages so I am so glad that ours has 2, especially since our winters are pretty brutal!

Hopefully I'll be able to share some interior photos later this summer. I'm crossing one project off the list tonight as 3 of my college girlfriends are coming over to hang photos in exchange for a meal made by me. This has become an annual event as this is the 3rd year in a row that I have moved, but hopefully we'll be in this house for several years!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Hip Update: 6 weeks post-op

I feel like a broken record saying this, but it's hard to believe that it's been almost 6 weeks since my hip surgery on May 9th! I would say that the first 3 post-op weeks craaaaaawled by as I despised being on crutches. But the past 3 weeks have gone by really fast and have been way more enjoyable since I can walk and have very little pain.

This may bore some of you, but I thought I'd share some of the progress I've made and things I've learned since my surgery.

- My activity level has slowly progressed. In week 4 I was able to add resistance while biking. Last week I got cleared to do some pool work and swim laps. When I swim laps I have to alternate using a pool buoy between my legs so that I don't overuse the muscles around my hips. This week I got to start to use the elliptical for short periods of time (10-15 minutes). Next week I get to start to bike outdoors,which I am SUPER excited about! I've also been able to add more challenging PT exercises like shallow squats on a bosu ball, planks, and step-ups (only on a 4" step, but I've got to start somewhere!).

- My incisions have healed remarkably well. I had no issues with my incisions which I'm so thankful for. I actually had more trouble with my skin's reaction to the adhesive from the bandaids/steri-strip tape as that area is more red than my incisions. I still have some pain around my incision when I lay on that side or bump up against something but all in all, it hasn't been bad.

- The biggest struggle has been realizing my limits. A couple of weeks ago, I biked at the gym, cleaned most of the house, did laundry, ironed, installed my garden fence, and then went to a BBQ in the evening. In the past I could have done all of that and been fine. Post-surgery, I can't do that much in a day. I paid for it as I was in quite a bit of pain and had to ice my hip and take tylenol. It's hard for me to look around at all the things I could or should be doing, but I am realizing that I can't be on my feet as much as I used to, especially if things like squatting down or crouching are involved, as was the case between cleaning and installing the garden fence. Now I know that cleaning is the equivalent of a workout for me. It's sad, but true.

- Dang, surgery is expensive. All of my surgery bills came through as of last week and the grand total for my procedure was about $27,000!!! Luckily I have a PPO insurance plan instead of a high deductible plan, so my out of pocket is only around $1,000. Thanks goodness for insurance.

- It's hard to be in a prolonged state of recovery. I'm getting stronger every week, but I have a long ways to go before I will be cleared to run. I get really frustrated with how 'lame' my workouts feel. Logically, I know I can't compare my current workouts to my pre-surgery workouts as I'm still in a state of recovery, but emotionally, it's easy to get down about how weak I feel and how long it's taking to fully heal and get back to running.

All in all, things are going well and I'm right where I'm supposed to be in terms of the recovery process. I'm constantly being reminded that patience is a virtue that I really need to work on, but this experience is giving me lots of opportunity to do just that.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Things I'm Loving Lately

Happy Tuesday! I hope everyone had a great weekend! This week is shaping up to be a busy one but I thought I'd drop in and share some things I am loving lately!

- Our new compost bin. Minneapolis recently launched an organics recycling program. I'm really excited about this new program! Now we generate even less trash as most of what we get rid of is recyclable or organic. When we visited Kyria, I noticed she had a compost bin that did not smell at all, thanks to a charcoal filter, so I purchased something similar on Amazon. It's really convenient to have something right on the counter top. You know you are an adult when you get excited about a compost bin.  ;)

- Cuddles with Oscar. No surprise here!  It doesn't happen all that often, especially when Phil is around, but Oscar will occasionally sit on my lap or lay on me when I'm laying on the couch reading.

- Summer reading lists. I love lists and I love books, so summer reading lists are totally my jam! A couple that have caught my eye this year are my local paper's list and Modern Mrs. Darcy's list. I love how each list is broken down by category so you can hone in on what you are interested in! Lists like these make my TBR list grow and grow. So many books to read, so little time!

- Our backyard. While I absolutely loved the view of the river from the condo I lived in before, I've really fallen in love with having a backyard. I have already spent lots of time out there reading on the deck or on a reclining lawn chair in the yard. We recently ordered a grill and it will arrive today! I think we'll be eating lots of al fresco grilled meals on our deck this summer.

- Longer hours of daylight. There are many reason why I love this time of year, but towards the top of the list is the longer hours of daylight! It's so much easier to get up in the morning when it's bright out and I love that it's still light out at 8 pm at night!

- Fresh flowers. Phil's mom has lots of flower beds and right now her peonies are in bloom. For the past 2 weeks she's been making a bouquet for me, which is so sweet of her! There's nothing like having fresh flowers in the house, and it's even better when they are free!

- Relaxing with Phil. The last couple of months of our lives have been fairly hectic and stressful with travel, the move, my surgery, and recovering from surgery. So I've been relishing opportunities to relax and unplug! We had an opportunity to do that last weekend when we attended his coworker's wedding in Wisconsin. A weekend of fresh air and outdoor fun was just what the doctor ordered!

What are you loving lately?

Wednesday, June 8, 2016


I fully believe that all the quirks and eccentricities that we have makes us more interesting. I love hearing about the little personalty quirks, traits, and preferences we all have, so today I thought I'd share some of mine!

- I love dill pickles but I don't really like dill in other dishes, like in fish dishes for example.

- Speaking of dill pickles, I drink the pickle juice out of the jar. I realize this is disgusting to most people.

- One of my favorite fast meals is gluten free macaroni with ketchup on it. Phil just learned that this is a meal I love the day after I moved in and he was kind of disgusted by it. It's a family tradition.

- You'll never heard me utter the phrase "I have to pee." When others say it, it sort of makes me cringe. I prefer to say something along the lines of, "I have to use the bathroom."

- I don't paint my nails.  I am terrible at painting them as I don't have a steady hand and even if I was good at painting them, it's just too much up-keep for me.

- I love dresses and skirts, but I strongly dislike running dresses and skirts.  I guess that when I am active, I don't feel the need to look cute or girly.

- I am a very fast typer - I think I probably type close to 90-100 words per minute.  I type fast because I used to practice typing with an old typing book that my junior high teacher gave me when she upgraded her teaching materials.  Yes, the fact that I spent free time at home practicing typing drills makes me a very big dork but it sure is nice to be able to type fast as an adult. My coworkers at a previous job nicknamed me AK-47 because they said my typing sounded like rapid fire from a run as I'm also a LOUD typer!

- I do not like to shop.  At all.  I like having new things but I do not enjoy the process. Going to the mall is not my idea of fun at all so I try to go to the mall as few times per year as possible or ideally - NEVER.  This dislike for shopping has been part of my personality since I was a young child.  My mom could tell you about the epic tantrums I would throw when we had to go shopping when I was young.  Sorry about that, mom.

- I could never do a mud run because the thought of being covered in mud makes me physically cringe.  Even seeing pictures of others doing it or hearing about their mud runs makes me cringe.  Plus it seems like you'd ruin your shoes during a mud run and running shoes are expensive!

- I love peanut butter but hate the smell of peanut butter when someone around me is eating it.

- I need to end all of my runs on the quarter mile.  Seeing something like 7.66 on my garmin drives me nuts so I will run around the bock until I hit 7.75 miles.

- I think I've shared this before, but I do not like to step on the cracks of side walks and if I am walking on a tiled floor, I prefer to walk on every other tile. I know this makes me sound like the character in Rain Man.

What are some of your quirks?

Monday, June 6, 2016

Adventures in Gardening Part 1

Greetings and happy Monday, everyone! I hope everyone had a great weekend. The weather was gorgeous yesterday as it was in the 80s and sunny so it was the perfect day to work in my garden. I'm new to this gardening thing so thought I'd share how it goes and the lessons I have learned along the way. I'm a total novice so am open to any and all advice!

I My friend planted my garden about 2 weeks ago so things are starting to pop out of the ground. I grew everything from seed with the exception of tomatoes and peppers. It's really fun to see things growing! So far my beets, cucumbers, and beans are pushing through the soil. My carrots haven't yet but I think they take a while longer. I ended up planting some green lettuce and radishes towards the end of the garden as I felt like I had enough room for them. We'll see what grows well and what doesn't!

We have a very healthy rabbit population in Minneapolis so I was advised early on that I needed to put up a fence if I wanted to enjoy the fruits of my labor. Otherwise, the rabbits would. I did a lot of googling around and asked friends with gardens and a couple of experienced gardening friends recommended that I get a plastic fence as it's easier to work with and less hard on the hands. So I went to the local Ace Hardware store last week and asked them what all I should buy. They set me up with 2 rolls of plastic fencing and some plastic fence polls.

After Phil finished his round of golf on Saturday afternoon, we headed over to the garden to put up the fence. It did not go so great. We quickly learned that it's impossible to pound the plastic posts into the ground. My fence looked SO AWFUL. Phil kind of shrugged his shoulders but I was perplexed. I did not want to have the ugliest fence in the community garden!

At the I do BBQ on Saturday, I met the bride-to-be's brother-in-law-to-be and the topic of gardening came up. He said the project could be salvaged if I bought 4 metal posts for the corner and buried the fence 6" deep.

Phil had to go to his mom's on Sunday, so I decided to tackle the project by myself. It's probably not ideal to do that ~4 weeks post-op, but I wanted to get it done. 2 hours later, I had a fence I was a bit more satisfied with/less ashamed of. I should have taken a before photo so you could see the drastic improvement!

Lesson learned:  you need to use metal poles, not plastic, when putting up a fence. Also, it would have been easier to dig the trench for the fence before putting it up. If I have a community garden plot again next year, the fence process will go much more smoothly!

Now here's hoping it keeps Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail and all their friends out!

Do you have any experience gardening?

Friday, June 3, 2016


Woo hoo, it's Friday! While I enjoy my job, I'm always ready to greet Friday with open arms!!  Here's how my week shaped up! 

The high of my week was getting together with a friend for happy hour last night. We went to a cute spot in my old neighborhood. The weather was nice so we sat outside on the patio. I pretty much had no social plans for the 2 weeks when I was non-weight bearing on crutches so it feels REALLY good to be back to being more social!  

The low of my week was nothing really. I feel like a different person now that I can walk without crutches so I don't have much to complain about!

A book I am reading is The Distant Hours by Kate Morton. This is the second book I have read by this author. It took awhile for me to get into it but now I'm really liking it.  It's a long one, though, as it's almost 600 pages! 

A recipe I made this week is Mini Muffuletta Meatloaves. I left out the cheese since I'm limiting my dairy intake these days and substituted turkey for ground beef to reduce the calories a bit but it was still great with these modifications. In hindsight I should have made some potatoes or rice to go along with it but I tend to focus on the protein and vegetable and forget about the carbs!

For my workouts I did my PT exercises every day and biked on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, and I plan to get some time in on the bike on Saturday and Sunday. My list of PT exercises grows each week and I got to add some more challenging things this week like leg presses and side planks (from my elbows/knees as I'm still building strength). I also got to add resistance while biking this week so I feel like I am getting a bit more of a workout. I can't wait until I am cleared to bike outdoors in week 7! I really miss being active outside.

The best money I spent was on wire cages for my tomato plants and materials to build a fence around my garden to keep the pesky rabbits out!

My plans this weekend include going out for dinner with another couple tonight and followed by playing our favorite card game (hand and foot) with them afterwards. On Saturday we are going to a friend's "I do BBQ" to celebrate their recent engagement. On Sunday I'll go to church in the morning and then meet up with a friend and go to a farmer's market. On Sunday afternoon I want to do a deep clean of our house + grocery shop + do laundry! It feels so good to be able to help out with the "adulting" tasks again. This is an ideal kind of weekend for me as it will have a good balance of social plans and time spent being productive!

What was the high of your week? 

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Podcasts and Books of May (+ an interesting article)

May was quite the month. I traveled to New Jersey for work (and fit in a dinner with my friend Alli and her husband which was the highlight of that trip!), moved in with Phil, and had surgery on my hip within the first 9 days of the month. I wouldn't recommend jamming that much in a 9 day span. The rest of the month was a haze of recovering and going to PT.

My May recap is really short this month. I'm skipping workouts this month because obviously there are no true workouts happening, unless you count the time I spent on a stationary bike or arm bike or my PT exercises. #lame I also didn't capture any outfit photos. It's tough to look or feel cute when you are hobbling around on crutches. So instead I added an interesting article that a friend shared with me this week.


Are PayDay Loans Really as Evil as People Say? by Freakonomics - I thought this was a really fascinating examination of the PayDay Loan industry, which gets a bad rap for charging exorbitant fees for the loans they offer. I thought it was interesting how they calculated the implicit interest rate of renting a car and compared it to PayDay Loans. The comparison makes PayDay loans seem like they aren't so unjust.


I read 5 books in May. My favorite book was the second book of Ken Follett's century series, Winter of the World (which was 900+ pages!!).  I wish I had read it closer to when I read the first book in that series but it was still enjoyable. I highly recommend that series to anyone who enjoys historical fiction. I'm planning to read the final book in the series this summer.

Winter of the World by Ken Follett - 5 stars
The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan - 4 stars
Plainsong by Kent Haruf - 4 stars
The Story of Land and Sea by Katy Simpson Smith - 2 stars
Trail of Crumbs by Kim Sunee - 2 stars


Stuff it:  Millennials nix their parents' treasures - This is an interesting article that talks about the generational shift that is happening regarding the accumulation of possessions. This article resonates with me as I've been in such a purging mode and want to continue to purge and limit the amount of goods I accumulate.