Wednesday, November 23, 2016

10 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 10 - YOU

Today I am thankful for you! 

I'll be forever grateful that blogging has allowed me to connect with people that have similar interests, hobbies, and ways of thinking, regardless of where we are geographically located. When I started this blog back in 2008, I had no idea how much it would enrich my life.  I can't imagine my life without all of you! Thanks to this blog, I have an incredible support system that is far-reaching, I've developed friendships that I know will be life-long, and I've explored regions of the U.S. and Canada that I wouldn't have otherwise.

So thank you, dear reader, where ever you are as you read this final entry of my Thanksgiving post series. And for my American friends, have a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

I fly to Spain the day after Thanksgiving so the lights of this space will be off until I return. I'll see you all on the other side of my next adventure!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

10 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 9 - Family

Today I am thankful for my family. 

As I've gotten older, I've realized that it's not a given that family relationships will stay intact. I've heard stories of families that have drifted apart or have been divided by arguments. This realization makes me even more thankful that my family has remained close. Granted, I don't see my family as often as I'd like as we are spread out across the U.S. and have such busy schedule. But that just makes me appreciate the time we spend together even more.

Playing rummy at the lake!

My younger sister and me (some people think we look like twins!)

At the lake with Evie and Charlie

My adorable parents, who will celebrate 47 years of marriage next month!

My handsome nephew, Matthew, and me.
I am also thankful that I have a large extended family that has remained quite close. Things like Facebook and Instagram have allowed me to stay in touch with family members that live far away. But I'm glad that our annual Julia Child event brings some of my mom's side of the family together!  We had about 30 people in attendance this year!

What are you thankful for today?

Monday, November 21, 2016

10 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 8 - Phil

Today I am thankful for Phil.

"Love is friendship that has caught fire. it is quiet understanding, mutual confidence, sharing and forgiving. It is loyalty through good and bad times. It settles for less than perfection and makes allowances for human weaknesses." ~ Ann Landers

That quote by Ann Landers sums up my relationship with Phil oh so well. We've been through a lot together. We've been through big things like the loss of a parent, dealing with my diagnosis and on-going treatment of RA, and career changes, and we've been through smaller things like my hip surgery and the day-to-day challenges of life.  I'm glad that no matter what life throws our way, I've got a strong partner by my side to help me get through it all. He's my best friend, confidant, and he still gives me butterflies. 

I waited a long time for the right person to come into my life.  Far longer than many of my friends and family members. But Phil was worth the wait. 

What are you thankful for today?

Friday, November 18, 2016

10 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 7 - Performing Arts

Today I am thankful that I live in a city with such a vibrant performing arts community. 

I feel very fortunate to live in a city with so many different performing arts venues.  We have so many theaters, some of which are beautiful, historic buildings. It's been said that Minneapolis is 2nd to New York in terms of theater seats per capita, although this has been challenged by other cities, such as Cleveland.  But it's fair to say that we have many theaters!

When I lived in Charlotte, it made me realize that I was taking Minneapolis's theater scene for granted. That's not to say that there weren't opportunities to take in live theater when I lived in Charlotte; there were just far fewer opportunities and a smaller selection of shows.  So when I moved back to Minneapolis, I vowed to do a better job of going to shows.  I think I've done a pretty good job of doing this as I've gone to a number of plays and concerts since moving back, and I've also gone to speaking events.  Most recently, I saw Colson Whitehead, author of The Underground Railroad, at an event hosted by MPR and our local newspaper.

Tonight, I'm going to Stephen Sondheim's musical, The Company, with 2 girlfriends. In case you haven't heard of this, the synopsis is:  "On the night of his 35th birthday, confirmed bachelor, Robert, contemplated his unmarried state. Over the course of a series of dinners, drinks and even a wedding, his friends explain the pros and cons of taking on a spouse. The habitually single Robert is forced to question his adamant retention of bachelorhood during a hilarious array of interactions."  The girlfriends I'm going with are also in their mid-30s and unmarried so I think we'll be able to relate to the subject-matter pretty well.  ;)

Besides attending this show, I already know that I am going to 2 other events in the first quarter of 2017 - one with Phil, which is his Christmas present, and one with his mom, Joan, which is her Christmas present.  I'm so glad I came up with awesome "experience" type gifts to give them both this year!

What are you thankful for today?

Thursday, November 17, 2016

10 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 6 - Food Blogs

Today I am thankful for food blogs.

How did people meal-plan before the advent of food blogs??  While some of my recipes come from cookbooks I own, the vast majority of the recipes I make come from food blogs. As someone that eats a gluten-free diet, food blogs are especially helpful. That's especially true when it comes to baking because when you bake gluten-free foods, you usually can't just swap out glutenous flour for gluten-free flour. Other modifications are needed and I don't have the patience to go through the trial and error process of figuring out how to make a recipe gluten free.

I make recipes from many different blogs, but my 'go to' ones are:

1. Iowa Girl Eats - Kristen, the author of this blog, has celiac and her son has a dairy intolerance, so this is my #1 source of recipes (besides being gluten free, I tried to limit my dairy intake). Her recipes are easy and straightforward and she has many 20- or 30-minute meals.

2. Minimalist Baker - I love this blog so much that I splurged and bought her cook book. She shares recipes that are vegan (but can easily to modified if you want to use eggs and dairy products) and many are gluten free. I love that her recipes often call for fewer than 10 ingredients and many of the entrees are one-pot meals.

3. Simply Recipes - This isn't a gluten free blog, but she clearly indicates whether it is gluten free.  There is such a wide variety of recipes on this blog so I often check here first if I have an ingredient I want to use but don't know what to do with it (ex: I had some leftover jicama from another recipe so I came to this blog to get some ideas on how to use up the rest of the jicama).

4.  Skinny Taste - Gina, the author of this blog, shares healthy and low/lower-calorie recipes. This blog also has a ton of recipes so I will often come here when I'm looking for inspiration on what to do with an ingredient.  I also really like her recipe index as she has many different ways of categorizing things, like "one pot," "lenten friendly," "whole 30," and "superbowl." She also groups recipes by the number of weight watcher points in each serving, which would be super helpful for anyone on the weight watchers plan.

What are you thankful for today?  What are some of your 'go to' food blogs?

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

10 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 5 - Travel Opportunities

Day 5:  Today I am thankful for the travel opportunities I've had this year and the ones to come.

I've gone on some great trips this year, and for that, I am very thankful. I always appreciate the ability I have to visit other parts of my country and the world.  I've been on some great trips with Phil this year, from our relaxing trip to Mexico in February...

Just looking at this photos slows down my pulse
to our adventures in San Francisco with Kyria (who was a phenomenal guide!) ...

to the exploration we did in the Bend, Oregon area!

And my 2016 travels won't end there as a week from Friday, I leave for a week-long trip to Spain!!

What are you thankful for today?

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

10 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 4 - Stable Job

Day 4:  Today I am thankful that I have a stable job that I enjoy.

I've had what I would describe as quite the wild ride over the past several years in terms of my career. From being sort of forced to move to Charlotte in the spring of 2013 to moving back for a job in Minneapolis in 2014 which turned out to be an awful fit, it's been a rocky road. During those challenging years, I spent a lot of time questioning whether I was in the right career/field of work, a lot of time crying tears of frustration, and I was searching job sights on a daily basis, trying to find a way out of the work situations I was in.

However, last summer, I accepted a position at an asset management company where my mentor/former boss works, and I am happy to say that my career is no longer a source of frustration, unhappiness and anxiety. I really enjoy the work I do, I feel that I am challenged (but not overwhelmed), I like and respect my boss and I really love the people I work with. I think out of all of those things, liking my boss and coworkers is the most important source of my fulfillment at work because I learned through past jobs that the workplace environment has a HUGE impact on your level of enjoyment at work. Of course, my job is not perfect because no job is. But all in all, the days of frustration are few and far between and they are more one-off situations versus patterns that are emblematic of problems in the workplace culture.

There was a long period of time where I felt like all of the time, energy, and money that I had invested in my MBA program and CFA designation were a mistake (and I invested a WHOLE LOT of time into the CFA designation so it felt awful to think it was all for naught). I've worked really hard to get to where I am in my career so it's a huge relief to have found a workplace that has given me back the confidence that I am on the right path.

Everyone's career path is so different, but if you, too, are feeling that way I felt, don't despair. Keep talking to people and researching your options. And if you need to vent to anyone, I'm your girl because I know exactly how it feels to really struggle with finding where you belong, career-wise.

What are you thankful for today?

Monday, November 14, 2016

10 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 3 - Public Transportation

Day 3:  Today I am thankful for public transportation.

Now that I no longer live in downtown Minneapolis, walking to work isn't an option. I hate driving oh so much and parking downtown is costly, so I started to take the bus to work when I moved in with Phil. I know that our public transportation system leaves a bit to be desired compared to other larger areas, but it works really, really well for us. Luckily, there is an express bus to downtown that picks us up on our corner and it drops me off across the street from work. It takes a total of about 15 minutes to get to work in the morning and 20 minutes to get home in the evening.  It doesn't get much simpler than that!  My bus commute is actually pretty close to the amount of time it took to walk to work when I lived downtown, so moving out of the downtown area really hasn't impacted my morning routine.

While I do miss walking to work each day, I love that I can now sneak in some extra reading time on my commutes to and from work, or if I don't have the mental energy to read, it's a good time to catch up on some podcasts.

I know this home isn't our forever home, but I know that no matter where we live next, we'll make sure that commuting via bus is still a convenient option as it's something that Phil and I really value!

What are you thankful for today?

Friday, November 11, 2016

10 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 2 - Gardening Goods

Day 2:  Today I am thankful for the goods I've made with food from my garden.

Salsa on the left, marinara on the right.
I never thought that gardening would be something that I'd get into since I had a track record of killing house plants. But it turns out I have a knack for growing edible things!  I love that we have a cupboard shelf that is full of jars of marinara and salsa, and a freezer with lots of frozen green beans and another kind of marinara.  It's going to be great to enjoy these goods from my garden during the cold winter months!

What are you thankful for today?

Thursday, November 10, 2016

10 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 1 - Oscar

Those of you that have been reading my blog for awhile may recall that each November, I spend 10 days focusing on what I'm grateful for. This is actually my 9th year of doing "10 Days of Thanksgiving."

It feels a little bit weird to post a series of posts about what I am thankful for given the events of this past week.  Our nation feels kind of broken.  But maybe now, more than ever, is the time to focus on what I'm thankful for and the many sources of blessings in my life.  I challenge you to play along by commenting on one thing you are thankful for each day, or doing a Thanksgiving post series on your blog.

Day 1:  Today I am thankful for our adorable cat, Oscar.

This photo from last November is one of my favorites.  It's like she was trying to look like a human! I can almost picture her saying,"hey, pass me the remote."
We've had Oscar for about 1.5 years now and I really cannot imagine our lives without her.  She is a bit temperamental and has to be in the mood to be petted or cuddled, but that just makes me appreciate times when she is affectionate even more.

We really bonded when I was home recovering from surgery.  She spent a lot time comforting me by cuddling.
While she's not always in the mood to cuddle, she is a very friendly and social cat (unless there are kids around - she hides from little people!). She follows Phil and I around like she is our shadow and it's very apparent that she likes to know what's going on.  When I'm in the kitchen doing meal prep, she's usually at my side, observing what I am doing, which I love!

Turns out cats are as entertained by empty boxes as kids are.
Now that the weather has turned colder, she spends a good chunk of the evening cuddled up on my lap. I spend a lot of evenings crocheting these days and I think the allure of the ball of yarn and the heated blanket on my lap are too hard for her to resist!

What are you thankful for today?

Monday, November 7, 2016

Shouldless Days: November

I had my 10th "shouldless" day of the year on Sunday. This shouldless day was SO necessary as I had kind of ran myself ragged in October due to a really packed calendar.  Here's how I spent my day yesterday!

I started off the day by waking up without an alarm, which is the best way to start the day! After having breakfast, I listened to a podcast while preparing the baked apples for the date sweetened apple pie oatmeal I eat for breakfast each day. I highly recommend this recipe to other oatmeal lovers! I always make a triple batch of it each weekend so my breakfasts for the week are all ready to go.

I had some downtime before going to church so I did some reading. I hadn't read To Kill a Mockingbird since I was in 8th grade. I highly recommend re-reading this classic novel!

After church, I hung out with Phil until he had to leave for his noon tee time. The weather has been gorgeous here so I'm glad Phil was able to get out for another round of golf (the season is usually over at this point of the year). After Phil left, I wanted to get out for a walk but I pushed it off for a bit as Oscar was super cuddly.
Our sweet girl loves it when I lay down so she can lay on my chest
After Oscar had her fill on cuddles, I headed out for an hour-long walk. Fall is such a beautiful season for going for walks. I just love the sound of the crunch of the leaves under my feet.

The trees in our neighborhood still have quite a few leaves. It looks more like early October than early November
When I got back from my walk, I had a late lunch:  an egg over-easy served over some green beans from my garden and a leftover baby potato I wanted to use up.  Kind of an odd combination but it was really good.

The rest of the afternoon was spent reading and relaxing. When Phil came home from his round of golf, we caught up on our days. watched some football together, and I finished getting dinner ready. We had slow-cooker chicken tikka masala. I HIGHLY recommend this recipe to those that love Indian food.  It's so easy and delicious.  I recommend doing the extra steps in the recipe (marinating the chicken in yogurt and sauteing the onion, garlic, spices, and tomato paste) as I think it enhances the flavor.
Not the prettiest dish, but it's so delicious!
We spent the rest of the evening watching TV (60 minutes + an episode of the HBO John Adams series on Prime) while I worked on some crochet projects. I started a new blanket that will be made of granny squares like the ones below. I don't like having multiple projects going but I wanted to get some help on how to join the granny squares at my crochet class tonight.

The first of the 100 granny squares that will be made into a blanket
I also worked on my chevron afghan, which is getting quite long!  I still have a ways to go but this project has come together very quickly!

Yesterday was pretty much the perfect shouldless day for me as it included good food, crocheting, reading, time outdoors, cuddles with Oscar and time with Phil!  I'm definitely going to continue to make it a goal to have a shouldless day each month in 2017 as they are so good for me!

How was your weekend?  Did you do anything relaxing?

Friday, November 4, 2016

Show Us Your Life: My First House Project

Shortly after moving into Phil's house this summer, I came up with a list of projects that I wanted to accomplish.  Phil and I have a lot in common but one thing we don't have in common is our desire and motivation to make changes around the house.  Phil is in the "it's fine the way it is" camp whereas I'm in the "but we can make it even better!" camp.  After a lengthy discussion, we settled on a finite list of projects that we'd try to tackle over the next year or so.

In October, I finally got around to crossing the first project off the list:  painting our doors. The previous owner painted them what I considered an obnoxious yellow color.  In fact, she must have loved the color so much that she painted some rocks in the backyard that color (I find this so strange).

I'd say about half the people who have seen them have said they liked the color or at least didn't mind it.  But I had a strong aversion to it from day one.  I just didn't think the yellow coordinated well with the cream color of our house.  And it's just a bit too 'out there' for me.

Picking the color:

Picking paint colors is kind of overwhelming to me as it seems like the color often looks very different once you start painting compared to what you were expecting based on the paint chip. So when I found a color on the door of a house down the block from us, I decided to be a sort of creepy neighbor, and I tracked down the color during National Night Out (a night in the Twin Cities when every block has a gathering).  The couple who owned the house wasn't at the block party, but their neighbors gave me their email address and after sending a couple of emails, I had the brand and name of the paint color.  Score! I ended up going one shade darker as I felt it would coordinate better with the dark brown siding on our house.

The painting process:

I used this 'how to' explanation from the blog, Young House Love, as a resource for how to paint the door. I used a similar technique as I used a 2" angled brush to paint the inset areas of the door. I used a 2" foam roller to paint the flat planks of the door. Our doors required 2 coats of paint + some touch-ups after the 2nd coat dried. It probably took me about 30-40 minutes to paint each door (I had 3 to paint). The most time consuming part was waiting for the first coat to dry.

The finished product!

Here is how it turned out!

I'm really happy with how it turned out.  And the project only cost me about $50 as the paint was 30% off at Sherwin Williams. It feels really good to have the first project crossed off the list, especially since it was one that dealt with the exterior of the house so needed to be done while the weather is mild.

Next up, I'd like to pick out some new furniture for our living room as Phil has some pretty ugly hand-me-down/garage sale pieces that are an eye sore and not very comfortable to sit in.

Are there any projects you'd like to do around your home?

Tuesday, November 1, 2016


Several of my friends have done "no spend" challenges, often in the month of February. With my upcoming trip to Spain and holiday shopping just around the corner, I thought this would be a good time to take on a no spending challenge. I guess I should say it's a No-Spend-ver'ish challenge because I leave for Spain on November 25th so the "no spend" period will end then. But I figure 24 days of not spending money will still be a good challenge.

So what are the rules?  Basically I will only spend money on essentials such a groceries, gas and household items we need.  So no lattes, no dinners or lunches out, no yarn or clothing purchases, and so on and so forth. I will be doing this on my own as I know I couldn't get Phil on board since he buys his lunch every day during the week (but usually spend $7 or less so it's not much). But he pretty much spends less money than any person I know so he really doesn't need to do a no spending challenge since he barely spends any money in the first place!

I will make a couple of exceptions for this challenge, though. I already have lunch and dinner plans with a couple of people so I will follow through on those plans, and I also need to purchase a gift for a friend's wedding shower. But those are the only exceptions I plan to make.

I think I do a good job of managing my finances, but there's always room for improvement. Plus I know I'm a better abstainer than moderator as I seem to do better with strict rules versus telling myself to 'spend less.'  Lastly. I think it's good and healthy to flex the 'saying no to yourself' muscle.

I think it's perfect timing to focus on spending less during the month of November as I try to focus on practicing an attitude of gratitude during the month. So by spending less and using what I already have, my hope is that it will push me to focus on how plentiful my life already is instead of thinking about what I need to add to my life.

Have you ever done a no spending challenge?