Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Shouldless Days: August

I didn't do a "shouldless day" post for July because my time at the lake was basically a stretch of shouldless days as I only did whatever I felt like doing. But in August, I knew I needed to be intentional about carving out a shouldless day since it has been such an exhausting and downright unhealthy month for me! So I made this past Sunday a shouldless day and it was fantastic.

I started off the day by meeting up with a friend for breakfast. We went to Birchwood Cafe, which is a place I've been wanting to check out for a long time. They are masters of the farm-to-table style of dining and have a menu that changes with the season. They also have lots of gluten free options. I had an incredibly indulgent breakfast - the savory waffle. I rarely encounter GF waffles at restaurants so I had to have one.  It was a cornmeal waffle that included sweet corn, tomato jam, spicy honey butter, bacon lardoons, over-easy egg, maple syrup, and powdered sugar. I know that sounds like a lot, and it was, but it was delicious. I could only eat half of it.

Clearly this is WAY more than a person can eat in one sitting! Especially a person that can't work out right now thanks to my nagging cough! 
My friend and I sat there for about 2 hours, gabbing away about lots of topics from relationships to career stuff to the evolution of friendships to hiking and travel. I met her through book club in the last year but you wouldn't have guessed that if you listened in on our conversation because we converse like we have been life-long friends. As Anne of Green Gables would say, we are such kindred spirits! After breakfast we headed over to a local farmer's market where I picked up some organic eggs and rainbow-colored carrots.

After that I headed home. Phil had an afternoon tee time so he headed out shortly after I got home so I was on my own for the rest of the afternoon. I decided to walk to a local lake to sit on a park bench and read. When I able to run, I remember seeing people doing that when I ran around the lakes. So I made the time to do it on Sunday.  The 1 mile walk to the lake is along a beautiful running/walking path that follows a creek. We've had a lot of rain lately so it was so lush!

I sat on a park bench for about an hour, reading "The Orphan Master's Son" and taking in the peaceful view of the lake.

I took a different route back home so I could stop off at my garden. I picked a bag of green beans and 4 cucumbers. It was nice to play in the dirt for a bit and it's always so fulfilling to pick food that I have grown!

It was mid-afternoon at this point so I had finally worked up an appetite. So for lunch I made a tomato sandwich on toasted GF bread and had some sliced tomatoes and homemade pickles that Phil's mom made for us recently.

The rest of the afternoon was spent reading and watching "New Girl," which is a show I've gotten into recently. I have to watch it when Phil isn't around, though, as he doesn't care for Zooey Deschanel (GASP!).

When Phil got home from his round of golf, I made tacos from the leftover chicken and vegetable kabobs I had made for my book club girls earlier in the week. I just seasoned them with cumin and sauteed them. They were so good!! We enjoyed them with tortilla chips and some of my homemade salsa that I had canned the weekend before.

After watching an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm with Phil, it was bedtime for me!

Have you had any relaxing days lately? What would you do if you gave yourself a "shouldless day"?

Monday, August 29, 2016

Bright Spots of August

I've got to say that I am looking forward to closing out the month of August. It has metaphorically kicked my *ss. But last week at my uncle Keith's funeral, I was touched and inspired by the stories that many shared about my uncle Keith. He had this amazing zest for life, an infectious smile, and the ability to look on the bright side of things, no matter how difficult life was. The pastor encouraged us to carry on Keith's legacy by approaching life the way he did. So, I am doing that today by pushing myself to look back on the positive moments in August, because there were a lot of them!

In August I...

...had an awesome girls weekend with some college friends. One of my favorite parts of the weekend was working on a puzzle together. It's nice to be around a group of people who have the same definition of fun as you do. #puzzlesrule

...spent time with my favorite guy. In this picture we are in front of Lake Harriet. It had just rained so the sky is gloomy, but I think the overcast sky is beautiful. 

... hosted this wonderful couple, showed them the best sights (in my opinion) of Minneapolis, ate delicious food, and reveled in being able to have so many long talks with them.

... soaked up some kitty cuddles with Oscar. I know I look awful in this photo because I had done a bunch of cleaning/gardening/errands and hadn't showered. But when Oscar willingly jumps up on me, I try to document the moment because it doesn't happen all that often! There are few things more comforting than a purring kitty on my chest.

... got a good laugh out when Phil gave Oscar a "Trump-esq toupee".  She wears it better than Trump, in my opinion. I don't know how we got her to sit still long enough for this photo, though! #oscarforpresident.

... watched these two bond together. Phil is certainly her favorite so he gets way more cuddles than I do!

... celebrated Phil's birthday with friends two Fridays ago (and again last week with another group of friends).

... shared several caprese salads with friends that were made with my home-grown basil and tomatoes.

... felt a tremendous sense of pride and accomplishment when I took on canning by myself and preserved 45 pounds worth of tomatoes from my garden!

Yes, August had a lot of rough moments. But there was a lot of beauty, joy, and satisfaction, too. And that's what I am going to try to focus on when I think back on this month.

What were some of the bright spots of August for you?

Friday, August 26, 2016

5 Things Friday

TGIF. That is all. Here's a "5 Things Friday" wrap-up of my week, which was an intense one.

1. I'm STILL coughing. I went back to the doctor earlier this week for the THIRD time this month as I started to feel worse last weekend. This time around I got a stronger/longer dose of steroids, a nasal spray and an inhaler for my cough. I'm still taking the codeine cough syrup, too. I'm approaching the 4 week mark of struggling with this nasty case of bronchitis and I can't even tell you how tired I am of being sick.

2. My uncle was laid to rest yesterday. The prayer service and funeral were both very nice and there was a lot of laughter mixed in with the tears, but it was an emotionally exhausting couple of days. My uncle was far too young to die and my heart just aches for his wife, kids and 2 young grand kids, as well as his siblings. That said, it was really wonderful to see so much extended family. I hope our next gathering is prompted by something fun and happy.

3.  On a positive note, my hip is doing better. When I saw my PT last week, she did an assessment to see how strong my left hip is compared to my right and I was in the 80-90% range for most of the exercises she had me do which is right where she said I should be. I was supposed to see the surgeon yesterday to get cleared to return to running but had to reschedule the appointment since I was out of town at my uncle's funeral. The soonest I could get in is September 26th. They put me on the list of people to call if someone cancels so I am hoping and praying to get in sooner as I'm so anxious to get cleared to return to running (you know, once I'm over this nasty case of bronchitis). It will be SUPER gradual but I will take what I can get at this point!

4. This week sort of exhausted me, which isn't surprising since I am not feeling great and had a sad funeral to attend, but some of the bright spots were hosting my book club girls for a potluck meeting on Tuesday and hosting some of Phil's high school friends for a belated birthday celebration. I arrived back just in time for the guests to arrive so Phil handled the prep work for that event. Luckily it was also potluck so he didn't have to do too much prep work (cooking isn't his thing...). 

5. This weekend is a quiet one for us which I am SO HAPPY ABOUT. I actually took today off because I'm just so exhausted and I am hoping that 3 quiet days will help me turn the corner and start to feel better. My only plans include going to the Farmer's Market and to brunch with a friend on Sunday. I'm going to make Sunday a shouldless day because I have really earned one! Tonight Phil and I are going out for dinner so he can redeem a free birthday burger at a place that everyone raves about (Red Cow for any local readers) that we've been meaning to check out for quite awhile. After dinner we are going to try to figure out how to play Backgammon, which is the game I got Phil as part of his birthday gift.

What's on your mind on this fine Friday?

Monday, August 22, 2016

Adventures in Gardening: Canning Tomatoes

Happy Monday, everyone. I hope everyone had a great weekend! In a word, mine was productive as I spent most of Saturday in the kitchen canning about 45 pounds of tomatoes! I appreciated being as busy as I was on Saturday because on Friday night I got the tragic news that my uncle had a heart attack and died. He was only 60 and appeared to be in good health so it was a total shock to our family. My heart just breaks for our family. Make sure you hug your loved ones every chance you get - this weekend was a reminder that life can change in the blink of an eye.

But back to the post topic at hand. My tomato plants have been producing like crazy and a girl can only eat so many tomatoes. So I decided to do some canning so we can enjoy the fruits of my garden in the cold winter months. Going into this canning project, I was pretty intimidated. I had helped my mom can when I was young but it's one thing to be the helper and a whole other thing to do the entire process by yourself! Phil was there for moral support and he helped move the heavy water bath pot on and off the stove but besides that, this was a solo project.

First up, I used 10 pounds of tomatoes to make a double batch of tomato salsa, using this recipe. I opted to broil the tomatoes as the recipe said that would enhance their flavor.

One of several piles of broiled tomatoes, waiting to be peeled.
I was nervous about the hot water bath canning process but it all worked out and all 8 jars sealed! Success!

8 1.5 pint jars of salsa. Yum!
Next up was the biggest project of the day - turning 25 pounds of tomatoes into this spaghetti sauce recipe
This is what 25 pounds of heirloom tomatoes looks like!
This was definitely the most time consuming recipe as it tok quite awhile to peel all of those tomatoes! For this recipe, I used the blanching method to peel them. After peeling all those tomatoes, I added all the other ingredients and let it simmer away on the stove for about 5 hours.
Lots and lots of marinara, simmering away.
 While that was simmering, I turned 10 pounds of tomato into roasted tomato marinara sauce using this recipe. This was definitely the easiest thing I made that day as the recipe did not require you to skin the tomatoes. Besides using my tomatoes for this recipe, I also got to use up some of my fresh oregano which has been growing like crazy!

1 of 2 pans of roasted goodness!
I decided to freeze this recipe to save some time. 
8 pints of marinara, ready to be frozen.
The other marinara was still simmering away on the stove at this point so I took a break, read for a bit and then we made this delicious dinner! We grilled the potatoes and halibut and I boiled the green beans. The green beans are from my garden and the halibut was caught by my friend's dad on a fishing trip to Alaska. It was such a healthy, delicious meal!

After dinner, it was time to process the marinara. I had to do it in 2 batches so it was a bit time consuming. But in the end, all 12 quarts sealed so it was another success!

I feel really proud of myself for taking on this project. It helped that I could call and text my mom with any canning questions as she is a canning pro! Canning certainly is a lot of work but it will be so worth to be able to enjoy homemade goods throughout the year.

Have you ever tried canning? Would you be willing to try it?

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Currently: August Edition

Happy Wednesday! I'm enjoying this quieter week and trying to take it as easy as I can so I can get back to full health. Here's what's currently happening in my world.

Reading: Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner. I chose this book for the book club I'll be hosting next Tuesday. I originally heard about it when I read The End of Your Life Book Club. It started off a tad bit slow/confusing but now I am really liking it.

Loving: all the fresh produce I've been eating! Between the green beans, beets, red peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes my garden is producing and the zucchini my coworker has been giving me, I'm eating really well for free! I'm thinking that I'm past break even on what I spent to plant my garden considering I've yielded over 50 pounds of tomatoes plus lots of other stuff! Ahem, that's if you don't consider all the money I've spent this week on supplies for canning!

Thinking: about how I can get better at not over-planning my schedule. I have lots of fun things to look forward to, but it's all felt like a bit too much lately. I'm debating between setting aside a plan free week each month or setting a limit of only making plans 1 night a week in addition to my 1 night of volunteering. It doesn't work for me to say I am going to 'plan less' - I think I need a strict rule to adhere to. I also need to work on not feeling bad about saying no to things... 

Feeling: like I'm never going to stop coughing! I went back to the doctor on Monday and got some steroids and a day and nighttime cough syrup and while they are helping, I'm still coughing so much. I'm approaching the 3 week mark of being sick so it's gotten beyond old! I left a message with my doctor this morning, though, to see what she suggests as I feel like I'm regressing again. Le sigh.

Anticipating: attending a wedding at a lake resort in Minnesota over Labor Day weekend. We will know several other couples so it should be a really fun! It boggles my mind that Labor Day is just a matter of weeks away, though! 

Watching: Season 2 of Veep on Amazon Prime now that it's available for free. We can't wait for more seasons to be available!

Working: on putting together grocery lists and task lists in preparation for the canning I am going to do this weekend. I'm planning to can spaghetti sauce and salsa and I will also make some marinara to freeze. 

Grateful: to live where I do. I appreciate living here every day, but when I host visitors, I especially appreciate it. There's something about seeing the city through others' eyes that gives me a whole new sense of appreciation. 

Listening:  to a new podcast called Science Vs. The host picks a topic and reviews the scientific research around the topic. My favorite episode thus far was the one on Attachment Parenting. I obviously don't have kids but it will still interesting to listen to. The host is from Australia and I just love her accent and personality!

Wishing: that I could teleport my mom here for the weekend so she could help me can! She has done so much canning so is a total pro. I helped her can when I was young so I have vague memories of how it works and have done some research on google, but there's nothing like having an expert at the helm to help out! I'm sure I'll be calling her LOTS.

What are you reading, anticipating, and loving these days? 

Monday, August 15, 2016

It Was the Best of Times, It Was the Worst of Times

Charles Dickens' epic first line from the book, A Tale of Two Cities, sums up how August has gone for me so far. I feel like I've packed about a month's worth of activities into the first two weeks of the month and am definitely ready for life to slow down a bit. Here's what falls under the best/worst category for the month!

The Best of Times...
- My month started out great with a girls weekend getaway to a cabin up north with 5 of my college friends. We did some shopping, ate great food, put together a 1,000 piece puzzle, caught up on each others lives, soaked up the sun, and laughed a lot. We had so much fun and are committed to getting together on an annual basis going forward!

Posing by Babe the Blue Ox, who is the side kick of the American Fok Hero, Paul Bunyan.
- We spent the second weekend hosting Alli and Chris and showing them the sights of Minneapolis. Neither one of them had been to Minneapolis so we did our best to show them the best that our city has to offer. We were gifted with absolutely beautiful weather! I did a terrible job of taking photos of all the things we saw and did, but some of the highlights were walking through the Rose Gardens by Lake Harriet, checking out Minnehaha Falls, walking through my old neighborhood, and eating dinner at one of the best restaurants in Minneapolis.

Alli & Chris by Minnehaha Falls
 - My garden has been producing a ton of fresh produce! I came home from a business trip and picked everything in the picture below, plus a bag of green beans. I already had quite a few tomatoes that I had picked the week before, so I need to figure out how to can stat! My goal is to try to make salsa and spaghetti sauce next weekend.

The Worst of Times...
- I have been so sick. Like the sickest I have been in a very, very long time. After hacking away all weekend during my girls weekend getaway, I ended up going to urgent care last Monday as I'd been sick for a week and hadn't made any improvement. It turns out I had a nasty case of bronchitis. I went to urgent care the morning before leaving for a 3-day business trip to northern California, so the timing was terrible.
Starting off my Monday with an urgent care patient bracelet.
- Being sick while traveling for work is HORRID. I coughed through presentations. I was constantly hot/clammy as my body couldn't regulate its temperature and it was so hot in the Central Valley of California where I spent most of my time. The low point of the trip was when I made the mistake of taking my antibiotics on an empty stomach and ended up throwing up one morning. I had to quickly rally as I had 4 different client meetings that day. I was on my own for the first two days and on the final day, the sales rep I was traveling with said I sounded so awful and said he would have understood if I wanted to stay in the car while he went in and did the client meetings. I opted to go into the client meetings with him as I figured I might as well contribute to the conversation since I was already there.

- To top things off, earlier in the month I found out that there was a water issue in the building where the condo I own is and because the connection between the dishwasher and kitchen sink in my unit wasn't properly installed, water backed up in to the kitchen. The laminate tile got wet and warped, so the flooring has to be replaced and I had to get that connection between the sink and the dishwasher fixed. And the oven element stopped working, too, so that is getting replaced.  When it rains, it pours I guess. Anytime I have to shell out money for that condo, it annoys me because I would LOVE to sell it, but it's STILL worth less than the balance of my mortgage. Le sigh. Luckily I have a property manager that deals with stuff like this because clearly I would not have had time to deal with it this month.

So there you have it. It's been a month of insanity. There have been good times, but there have been some tough times. I'm hoping that calmer waters are ahead because I feel like life is totally and completely kicking my *ss right now. Luckily, I have a mostly plan-free week. Thank God. I feel like I've barely seen Phil for the last 2 weeks so we really need some quiet time to just be together. And, his birthday falls this week so I'm glad I'll be around this week so I can help him celebrate it!

What's going on in your world these days?

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Virtual Coffee Date

Hi, happy almost Friday! It's been awhile since I've done a "Virtual Coffee Date" catch-up session, so here goes!

If we were having coffee today...

- I'd probably start off by apologizing for the hoarse man voice I'm rocking right now thanks to a nasty chest cold I came down with last weekend. This nasty cold forced me to stay home from work yesterday as I just felt so crappy and didn't want to subject my co-workers to the awful sound of me hacking away. Here's hoping the day of rest did it's trick and that I'm back to full health soon - ideally by tomorrow when I leave for my girls' weekend lake cabin getaway!

- I'd tell you how much I am loving gardening. I never expected to like it as much as I do! I also never expected it to be as easy as it's been. Sure, some thing have been a bit disappointing (like my radishes which didn't grow great as I didn't thin them - lesson learned), but all in all it's been so much fun. I got to pick my first batch of tomatoes last weekend. I heart tomatoes so much so am excited to have a steady supply of home grown tomatoes to enjoy over the coming weeks. Phil doesn't eat tomatoes (his loss!) so I think I am going to try canning salsa or tomato sauce as I'll probably have more tomatoes than I can eat on my own. I've never canned anything before but hopefully it's pretty easy to figure out.

I grew an heirloom breed of tomatoes that turns bright pink instead of dark red. They are delicious!

- I'd tell you that I feel blessed to have a full life but also overwhelmed by my busy schedule at times. Free week night evenings are difficult to come by these days and I've been traveling more for work lately so life feels a bit hectic. August is shaping up to be a busy month so I've decided that I can't say yes to anything else this month, outside of work travel.

- I'd tell you that despite the busy schedule, I have some really fun things to look forward to, like my girls weekend getaway this weekend, hosting our friends from New York next weekend, celebrating Phil's birthday later this month, a book club meeting I'm hosting later this month, and a Labor Day Weekend wedding that is at a lake resort in Minnesota.

- I'd also probably tell you that I managed to track down the email addresses of the couple that lives in the house with the door colors I like. I figured it'd be easier to try to ask them what color they used to paint their door versus trying to find a similarly colored paint chip. Plus it just seems like paint chips are never completely accurate and I'd rather not deal with the trial and error process of finding a color we like. They responded back and said they'll send me the paint color when they get back from the vacation they are on. My goal is to get our doors painted in September. I know it won't happen in August given my busy schedule!

- I'd also tell you that I feel kind of 'meh' about the summer Olympics this year. Maybe it's all the drama around the health risks associated with the location that has resulted in some athletes opting not to go or maybe it's knowing that I won't be able to DVR things since we don't have cable or a DVR. Whatever the case, I just don't feel as excited as I was in the past. Hopefully I'll find my Olympic spirit once they start to broadcast events.

- I'd end on a positive note and tell you that Phil and I bought our tickets for our Bend vacation this week! We got really lucky and got a great deal on our tickets! The price randomly went down $150 the day we bought them and we used a free companion fare I get each year through my Delta credit card, so we only had to buy one ticket. We are going in mid-October and will spend 3 nights in Bend and 1 night in Portland. I'm so excited for this getaway! Bend has lots of great hiking in the area and we'll do a day trip to Crater Lake National Park. It should be an awesome trip!

If we were having coffee today, what would you tell me?

Monday, August 1, 2016

Podcast and Books of July

July really came in like a lamb and out like a lion for me in terms of the pace of life. I eased into the month with a week long vacation and then sort of 'paid for' that week of ease and relaxation with a couple of super busy weeks of work and evening commitments. The first half of August is going to be equally busy but hopefully things will slow down in the second half! Luckily I have a girls weekend getaway this coming weekend which will be good for my soul!

This month I'm only sharing podcasts and books because July was another month of lame workouts. I am really, really struggling with how long it's taking me to get back to a normal level of activity. My physical therapist keeps reminding me this is normal but I'm just so impatient to get back out there and do more. However, I do know that surgery was the right decision as before I had surgery, it hurt to walk, and I can walk pain-free. So long term, I know surgery was the way to go. I also didn't take any outfit pictures this month because I wore a lot of my tried and true outfits and nothing all that exciting or photo worthy!


I actually had a bit of a hard time selecting which podcasts to share as I listened to so many great ones this month! There are my top 4!

The Problem with the Solution by Invisibilia - This was an interesting examination of a different approach to treating those with mental illnesses. The hosts visit a town in Belgium where families take in people with mental illness that would have otherwise been institutionalized. It's a thought-provoking episode.

Flip the Script by Invisibilia - Yes, I'm sharing a 2nd Invisibilia episode because this one was SO good. It looks at what happens when we do the opposite of what our instincts are telling us to do. The segment of the podcast that was most interesting to me was the part about how Denmark police officers are attempting to combat Islamic radicalization with love and compassion.

Taking the Lead by Note to Self - I don't consistently listen to Note to Self but their "Taking the Lead" series totally caught my eye (or should I say ear?). It's a 4-part podcast about two Brooklyn women who have a tech idea to help harried working mothers who still want to rise up in their professional ranks. It was really interesting!

What are Gender Barriers Made of? by Freakonomics -  This is a very thought-provoking podcast about why women are still subtlety penalized in the work arena by societal conventions. One of the most interesting parts of the podcast is when they talk about a case study that is used in grad school. The class gets the exact same case study, except for half the class, the main character's name is Heidi, and for the other half of the class, the main character's name is Howard. The only difference between the two versions of the case study is the name, but the students tend to come to entirely different conclusions. Both halves of the class find the protagonist of the case study to be competent, but those who think she is a woman think she is 'unlikable'. Even women who read the case study tend to find her unlikable.


July was a decent reading month for me as I read 5 books. My favorite was the Steve Jobs biography that I read at the beginning of the month. This is an example of why I like doing the Read Harder Challenge as this is a book that I probably wouldn't have picked up if not for the challenge (I read it for the biography category). Jobs is a fascinating man and a total and complete a-hole. My least favorite read was The Plague of Doves which I read for my local book club. I read and disliked another Erdrich novel years ago and after disliking this, I'm done giving that author a chance. She's very critically acclaimed but her books just don't work for me!

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson* - 5 stars
Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella - 4 stars
Remember Mia by Alexandra Burt - 3 stars
The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood - 4 stars
The Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich - 2 stars