Category Archives: Personal

2013

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I spent quite a few minutes trying to come up with an appropriately awesome title for this blog post and what do I come up with? “2013”. Lame.

I’m not one for New Year’s Resolutions. I think they sound too black and white. Either you keep them, or you don’t. I sometimes, but not always, like to make goals for the new year. Turns out, I’ve got a lot in store for 2013. I wanted to publish my goals somewhere for a few reasons: 1) I’ll always be able to find the list, and 2) I do better with accountability, so the fact that this list is public (albeit, not very public, since not many people read my blog, which is ok) will help me work toward these goals. So without further ado, I give you my goals for 2013:

  • Use my passport at least once – I’ve got a shiny new passport with no stamps! I must remedy that this year.
  • Travel somewhere within the U.S. that I’ve never been to before – There are tons of places in the U.S. I’d love to visit. This is a good reason to pick one and go!
  • Learn to bake bread – I want to learn new skills and baking bread is one that is elusive to me (and frankly, is a little scary).
  • Read at least 12 books I’ve never read, but already own – I did this in 2012 and did a good job, but I still have books on my shelves that I own, but have never read. Need to see what they’re about it!
  • Occasional digital cleanses – Every once-in-awhile, take a step back from the technology and social media to slow down, unwind and reconnect with the “real world”

This list can be added to and subtracted from throughout the year. That’s what I like about it. Very few of these things are the type of things where you can’t recover if you fall off the horse (like weight loss and resolutions to work out more). I can bake bread once in January and if it’s not right – hell, even if it’s downright wrong – I can still learn to bake bread sometime in the next 11 months.

I decided to do a digital cleanse 3 years ago when John Mayer tweeted that he was doing one. He explained it all and at the time, I was unemployed and on my computer a LOT. Some of the time, I was applying for jobs (a lot of the time, actually), but a good deal of time was also just randomly surfing the internet out of boredom. I saw John’s idea and thought it was a good one. I stepped back from my computer and cell phone for 7 days. No Twitter, no Facebook, no other “entertainment” websites (BuzzFeed, Redit, Tumblr…). I also used my cell phone for making and receiving phone calls. That’s it! No email on my phone, no texting, no internet.

I found that I had SO much time on my hands! I started to go to the fitness center at our apartment complex. I ran and biked and lifted weights for 45 minutes every morning. I cooked myself breakfast. I read books. I was able to really focus on my job search because I wasn’t constantly (read: obsessively) checking Facebook and Twitter. I reconnected with music. I used to just have it on in the background of whatever I was doing, but I began to play music and just lie on the floor and listen to it.

I’ve decided to do another digital cleanse to start the new year, and to sprinkle them in throughout the year as well, especially when I find myself getting too attached. So starting today, January 1, 2013, and lasting one week, I will abstain from Facebook and Twitter (except where they are required for my job). I will not be on Pinterest, which will be the really hard one for me, as I’m obsessed with it. I will use my phone for phone calls only. It’s really hard, but I’m hoping to find myself with more time on my hands and I’m hoping to enjoy that time more as I won’t be worried about missing out on something on social media. Feel free to join me! I can’t promise you anything, but I know I’ve benefited a great deal in the past.

I hope the coming year brings you all everything you hope for and more. I know I’m looking forward to what she has in store for me!

So here’s what you missed

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Autumn is rapidly approaching, if not already upon us. I’m totally okay with that. I was getting really sick of the hot weather. This summer has been brutal and frankly, I finally feel like I can go out and do stuff. All I’ve been wanting to do all summer is sit inside where it’s cold because it’s been so completely miserable outside. That brings me to my next (and only) topic for this post: Out and About!

So last weekend was the first weekend it was pleasant enough to emerge from the cold cave-like atmosphere of our house and venture into the outside world. Mom and I were busy with Quilt Expo Wednesday though Saturday, but Sunday we were free and it was gorgeous out. It was in the low 70s and I don’t think there was a cloud in the sky. Evan had heard about an apple orchard on the news, so we decided to go!

I lied. There are clearly some big, poofy clouds in this photo.

This is Eplegaarden in Fitchburg. They’re all about the Norwegian experience and we had such a blast. We bought 2 20-lb bags (I’m not entirely sure why…) and grabbed a wagon then headed up the hill to the trees to start plukkin!

Mommy!

Mom and I got to the apple trees first (apparently getting an 18-month-old up a big hill is a bit of an ordeal), so we got to picking! We decided to load up 1 of the bags and half of the other bag with Haralson apples so we could make pies. When we got home, my mom started peeling and slicing the apples. Then she put them in gallon ziplock bags with sugar and cinnamon and now we have pre-made pie filling for the winter just waiting in the freezer!

Oskar did nothing to help us pick the apples.

Oskar apples about 15 apples that day (not really). He wasn’t so much interested in picking them from the tree. And why should he be when it was so much easier to just pick them out of the bag in the wagon and eat them?

 

This weekend is the Cheese Days Festival in Monroe. It’s every other year and it celebrates the cheesemakers and dairy farmers of Green County, Wisconsin. I want to say we have the highest concentration of master cheesemakers in the country, but I’m not positive. My point is this: don’t mess with Green County when it comes to cheese. We will beat you senseless with wheels of our glorious, award-winning cheeses.

Taste of Green County cheese tasting! YAY!

Julie and I ventured down to the festival today and we took a barn quilt tour (AWESOME!), took a tour of a dairy farm and got to talk to the farmers (AWESOME!), I pet a cow (AWESOME!), ate fried cheese curds (UHH… AWESOME!!!), and then came home ’cause it was time. But we’re going back tomorrow for the parade and more cheesy fun!

…Oh yeah, and beer, too 😉

Running to Catch Up

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So I know I said this in my last post, but it’s worth repeating:

I’ve been really bad about blogging regularly.

There’s been so much going on lately and I’ve been spending much of my free time looking and applying for jobs in the Chicago area. I really want to move back there, but I simply cannot do it without definite employment. It’s just very time-consuming and a bit frustrating because I’m one of those people who actually takes the time to research the organizations to whom I’m sending my resume and I craft cover letters specifically suited to them. It takes forever, but I refuse to put my name on something I’m not proud of. I stand behind my cover letters and while the job search can be very frustrating (especially when employers don’t even take the time to send a mass email to all the losers like me who don’t get the job), I can at least feel comfortable knowing I’m putting my best foot forward 🙂

In other news, we’ve been crazy busy at the store. Wisconsin Quilt Expo is coming up in about two weeks and for those of you who don’t know, it’s kind of a big deal. Quilting related retailers from all over the country gather in Madison for a 3-day show and there are about 8 billion people who come (not really, obviously, but it’s something like 20,000, which is still a lot of people). We’re vending again this year and we are hoping to really feature my mom’s quilt designs and pattern line. She’s very talented (though she’d never admit it) and her patterns are quite popular with our clients, so we want to see how they go over with the larger Expo crowd. Anyway, it just means we’ve been busy finishing samples, packaging patterns, packing merchandise, and getting ready for the show. Oh, we also have a store to run. Oy vey.

In the middle of all that, I’ve also had one of my awesome, relentless sinus infections for… oh, 6+ months now. I’ve tried different antibiotics (found out I’m allergic to another one!), my neti pot, loading up on vitamins (Emergen-C makes me feel like I have super powers, but when it wears off I’m still sick), inhalers (nope), and antihistamines. I’ve also tried a gluten-free diet (TWICE! WORST THING EVER! (not really, but I just really, really, REALLY love my carb-y delicious bread and pasta)) to see if an allergy was causing the issues. I’ve done dairy-free before (also twice) and have come to the conclusion that it’s not a food allergy. I hate that nobody believes me because I’m just the patient and I don’t know anything (except my own health history and how I currently feel…). I did finally convince my doctor to refer me to an ENT and she did. I also convinced her to order the CT scan before my appointment with the ENT.

Let me back-track to explain something: I have already had 2 separate sinus surgeries: one the day before Thanksgiving 2004 (that was a fun holiday…) and one in August 2008 (please notice the 4-year gap between each of my previous episodes and my current one). The pattern has been the same each time: I start getting daily sinus headaches and I get a sinus infection that doesn’t go away with antibiotics. The doctors continue to prescribe antibiotics, trying different ones to find one that works (none of them work). Then they recommend allergy testing. Someone at some point will recommend a food allergy test so I go on some stupid diet that doesn’t change anything except to make my mood worse because I want my favorite foods, but I can’t have them. I eventually stop going to the doctor and just cope with the sinus infection and feel miserable for awhile. At some point, I convince someone to refer me to an ENT (or in the case of my first sinus surgery, I was just referred after they exhausted all other options). I have scans done and find out that surprise, surprise, my sinuses are effed up.

This time, I have to see a surgeon who specializes in revision septoplasties because I’ve already had 2, as well as a cyst removal from my left maxillary sinus cavity and widening of the opening to that cavity. The surgeon I’m going to see had his first available appointment on September 27. I scheduled my appointment on August 10. That’s 7 more weeks of living with this miserable sinus crap. Oh well, can’t do anything to change. Ah-ha, but I can do something to speed the process along! I knew that on September 27 I’d see the ENT, he’d feel my face and look in my nose and say that I should have a CT scan done. I’d get the scan and have a follow-up appointment some weeks after that (probably another 7). All-in-all, it would probably be 3-4 months (honestly, not exaggerating) before I got an answer. I just decided to skip ahead so I can have the scan in my hands when I see him next month, so I got my primary care doctor to order the scan. I had it done this morning and I asked them for a copy of it.

I got a call from my doctor late this afternoon telling me she received the results of my scan. She mumbles a lot and talks really fast, so I didn’t really catch everything she said, but I did hear “mucosal thickening” and I think something about narrowing of the airway. She said something else, too, but as I said… I didn’t hear everything.

Unfortunately, these things sound familiar to me from the last operation I had. Of course, I need to wait to see what the ENT says and I plan to ask him if I have any other options because frankly, I don’t feel like having sinus surgery every 4 years. I don’t want to another sinus surgery at all even if he has some magical fairy dust he can sprinkle while he’s in there. It’s expensive and PAINFUL and it blows (except your nose, ’cause you’re not allowed to blow it for like 2 weeks after the surgery). It’s seriously the most painful thing I’ve ever endured. The first night after my first surgery, I was sleeping in a chair because I was supposed to be sitting up and I woke up in the middle of the night, screaming because I was in so much pain. My face hurt so bad I couldn’t walk. Yeah. How are those two things related? I ended up crawling up the stairs, bawling for my mom (I was 17, gimme a break), who came running out of her room to try to console me. I had already maxed out the puny pain meds they’d given me (I think it was something insulting like Tylox). Eventually my mom dragged out the narcotics my dad had and she gave me half of one. I slept for like 12 hours. Anyway, my point is that it effing hurts. A LOT. And I don’t want to have another one.

Again, I may be jumping the gun, but I’m pretty nervous that I’m going to be needing another operation :-\ Good vibes for me?

Alrighty, well this has really turned into me complaining about my current health problem. Didn’t mean for it to turn into that, but there ya go. We have been enjoying our CSA box each week. We’ve gotten some sweet corn that, considering the extreme drought we’re in, we didn’t think we’d get this year. I’m not a corn-on-the-cob fan (not really a corn fan at all), but this sweet corn is SO GOOD. We’re also drowning in heirloom tomatoes from our own garden. So. Many. Tomatoes. They’re delicious, but I think my brother’s insane when he says he wants to double the crop for next year.

Alright, I’ll leave it there. Hope everyone’s doing well and… uh, yeah.

🙂

Drinking for the 30th Summer Olympiad in London

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I graduated from college in 2009, which, let me tell ya, was the best time to graduate. Screw all those other times to graduate, May 2009 was the best, what with all that recession and unemployment and banking crisis and whatever…

I had a 3-month temporary contracted position from August – November 2009 and I was thrilled. It was a good job and I learned a lot, but they couldn’t afford to keep me after my 3 months was up. So I moved back to Chicago and began my FUNemployment. Eexcept that I wasn’t eligible to collect unemployment, so it wasn’t really all that fun. Not that I think it’s fun for anyone to collect unemployment. That’s another topic for another day… I applied for so many jobs. People think unemployed people sit around all day? Not true. I got up at 7 or 8, worked out for 45 minutes to an hour, had breakfast, took a shower, then sat at my desk and scoured various online resources for job postings. I applied for quite a few jobs. And I didn’t just throw my resume and cover letter at each job posting. I’m one of those people who actually takes a lot of time researching the organization or company and writes a thoughtful cover letter, unique to each posting. It takes forever to do that stuff.

So I did that from November until mid-February before I nearly became homicidal. I had a few interviews, but jobs weren’t really easy to come by, and I didn’t get any offers. So in February, when the Olympics in Vancouver began, I cut back on the applications. I still looked every day and still applied for jobs every day, but I didn’t do as many. I needed a break.

There were quite a few days I’d sit with a glass of wine or beer and turn on the TV to watch/listen to the Olympics as I wrote cover letters. There was SO. MUCH. CURLING. I literally watched curling for probably 4 or 5 hours each day. To this day, I don’t know what the rules are or how to play…

A few days into the games, I had the great idea to make a drinking game. So I did. Erin, my roommate at the time, is an elementary music teacher. She’d get home around 4 or 5 most days and we’d make dinner, watch the games, and drink, following the rules that we came up with. We also played over the phone and Skype with people or just texted friends when we saw something happen on TV that prompted a drink.

Due to the popularity of the drinking game for the 21st Winter Olympiad in Vancouver in 2010, I thought it might be fun to put together some new rules for London 2012!

Be sure to keep these “rules” handy for any time you find yourself watching the Olympics between July 25 & August 12 (I know they don’t officially start until the 27th, but there are events before that and we can’t let those events feel left out, can we? The US Women’s Soccer team plays against France on the 25th at 12 pm ET!)

Take 1 drink:

  • Every time you see a royal.
  • Every time the Olympic theme is played, sing along with “Bah”, “La”, or something similar, then take one drink.
  • Whenever Hope Solo is shown or talked about, shout “May the force be with you!” and take one drink.
  • Every time an American “takes the stage” (competes), take one drink and chant “U-S-A!”.
  • Whenever an athlete “is a superstar in his/her homeland”, take one drink.
  • When the camera pans to an athlete’s family, take one drink.
  • Whenever the announcer says a name that you can’t spell, take a drink.
  • Every time the commentator speaks of an athlete’s “determination” or “drive” to overcome some obstacle (an injury, personal hardship, etc) in order to participate in the Olympics.
  • Every time there’s a shot of something super English (Buckingham Palace, the London Eye, Big Ben, a double-decker bus, etc)

Take 1 shot:

  • Whenever you see a female athlete from Brunei (there is 1), Saudi Arabia (there are 2), or Qatar (there are 4). This is the first Olympics ever in which females from these 3 countries will compete!

Finish your drink:

  • When a track & field athlete breaks a world record.

 

*NOTE – these rules are subject to revision. If you have any ideas, please feel free to contribute!

*NOTE ALSO – let me know if/when you are playing this game and we can play together – over text, Google+, phone, or some other means of communication.

CSA – Week #7

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So I took a bit of a break…

I missed the last 2 weeks of CSA posts because 1) Our CSA is picked up on Wednesdays and the 4th of July was on Wednesday, so our pickup was pushed back to Thursday, which just threw my whole schedule off and 2) Last week was really crazy at work so when I got home, all I wanted to do was sit on my butt in front of the TV. So that’s what I did.

But I’m back now! And we’ve got some goodies this week! In the box:

  • Yukon gold potatoes
  • Pickling cucumbers (that are gigantic)
  • Tomatoes
  • Assorted peppers (1 green bell, 2 jalapeno and 1 Thai chili)
  • Onions
  • Cabbage
  • Romaine Lettuce
  • Eggplant
  • Dill
  • Cilantro
  • Basil
  • Carrots
  • Garlic
  • Eggs (as always!)

Whew! I think I got it all. I’m pretty impressed with our CSA and the variety we continue to get. Southern Wisconsin is officially in an “extreme” drought (there’s only one more category of drought “badness” and I think it’s called something like “Catastrophic” (not kidding), so it’s pretty bad around here. Our CSA newsletter has been talking about the 1,200 gallons of water they’ve been bringing up from their creek every week to water the crops. Our personal tomatoes and peppers are doing pretty well, all things considered. We’ve been watering every once in awhile, but it’s becoming more often now that things are ripening and needing more water.

Which leads me to my next point, WE PICKED OUR FIRST TOMATOES! We’ve got 4 big, plump, juicy, delicious, heirloom tomatoes sitting on the counter, waiting to be eaten! The first to ripen were the Mortgage Lifters and Tigerellas. There are also a handful of cherry tomatoes that are yellow and should be ready pretty soon. All this tomato talk leads me to this week’s menu:

  • Thursday (today!) – BLTs using CSA tomato and lettuce (cheese sandwich for me with a bonus slice of CSA onion!)
  • Friday – Heirloom tomato sandwiches using our tomatoes & CSA basil. We started making tomato sandwiches constantly last summer after I stumbled across this recipe. They’re. So. Good.
  • Saturday – TBA. It’s the last weekend my mom’s sister is in town, so we may go out…
  • Sunday – Grilled chicken legs with grilled potatoes & onions (using CSA potatoes & onions)
  • Monday – Thai basil curry using basil, Thai chili pepper, onion,
  • Tuesday – Loaded nachos w/ shredded chicken, black beans, onion (CSA), cheese, sour cream, sliced jalapenos (CSA), cilantro (CSA), homemade salsa (!!!)(CSA & homegrown tomatoes, onions, cilantro, garlic, peppers…)
  • Wednesday – Leftovers?

The following are bonus snacks/other things we’re doing with CSA items:

  • Pickles! My mom LOVES pickles (I hate ’em), so she sliced up all the cukes, green pepper, and some onions last night and pickled them.
  • Sauerkraut using the cabbage (my brother and sister-in-law really like sauerkraut… I do not)
  • Creamy dill veggie dip using the CSA dill with carrots (CSA) and other veggies for dipping

My brother and sister-in-law will probably come up with something to do with the eggplant. I’m not a fan of it, so… we’ll see what happens there.

My gosh that’s a lot of food… but yay, CSA!

Bladders can apparently hold a lot of water

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So I had my ultrasound this morning to check out my ovaries since there’s the new-found family history of ovarian cancer and I have this weird pain on my lower right side (though I now know that it’s not in the area of my ovary). We’ve recently found out that not only did my grandmother die at age 50 from ovarian cancer, but my great great grandmother died at age 50, though we don’t know the cause of death. There’s also another female relative somewhere a few generations back who died in her 40’s. I’m glad we found my mom’s biological family!

Luckily, they told me this morning that everything looks good and there are no abnormalities, so that’s good! My mom just had her physical and got a referral to genetics so we can get tested for the BRCA gene mutation. Let me take a moment to brag about my mom. She’s lost about 40 lbs over the last 2 years. She’s done it without fad-dieting, she’s just eaten less and been eating better. She was taken off one medication and had another medication cut in half at her appointment because her bloodwork is so good and she’s so much healthier now! Yay, Mom!

Okay, enough bragging…

We received a special package in the mail yesterday. My mom ordered a DNA paternity test. We think we can get my grandmother’s ex-husband (1 of 2 men who may be my mom’s father). She still hasn’t met him and won’t until we get the results.

We have some of Mom’s family coming over tomorrow to cook out and enjoy Monticello’s fireworks. I’m enjoying building relationships with them, though it is a little weird, because we’ve missed out on so much time. Oh well, we’ll just have to make good use of the time we have now! 🙂

Weekend of Excellence

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So we’ve been eating a lot of salad lately. At least I have been. I actually had a really delicious salad today for lunch. I made a Thai peanut dressing and put it on some Romaine (CSA), shredded carrots and edamame. It tasted a lot like the Thai Chopped Chicken salad from Panera. I plan to make it again… maybe for dinner tomorrow since we STILL have most of a head of Romaine left from the CSA 🙂

In less successful news, I used this recipe from Whole Foods to make a Mediterranean salad the other day. Not good. Won’t be making it again. I’m not sure what happened, but it just was. not. good.

Mediterranean Crunch Salad of ickiness. I added feta to it and it was still awful. And we all know that feta can fix anything.

In (hopefully) more successful news, I just jarred this Red Currant Rhubarb Jam (both CSA items) and it’s sitting on the counter cooling. I’m VERY excited for this and I really hope it turns out. Not going to lie, I was a bit depressed last week when my mom made my grandmother’s famous rhubarb jam last week using our CSA rhubarb. I grew up eating and LOVING the stuff, but it uses jell-o (which has gelatin) and I’m vegetarian now. Most people probably wouldn’t think about jell-o and vegetarianism, but guess what! Jell-o is not vegetarian. Gelatin is made up of the collagen found in pig and cow skin and bones. No bueno por son vegetarianos. SO no delicious, delicious rhubarb jam for Hilary 😦

BUT! I was looking online for a recipe to use both our rhubarb and red currants and stumbled upon the recipe I linked above. It’s 4 ingredients (I’m all about knowing how to pronounce my ingredients!): red currants, rhubarb, water, and sugar. That’s it! I’m not exactly sure how it will be jam-y, but I’m hoping there’s enough fruit pectin in the currants and rhubarb to make it work. It’s still a bit liquid-y, but I need to let it rest for another 22 hours or so, so I’m hoping it sets over that time and I’m left with delicious, fresh, vegetarian red currant rhubarb jam 🙂

Red currant rhubarb jam just chillin’ on the counter (ha!)

So those are the updates on the food front here at our house. We’re just about out of our CSA produce for this week, which is good! In unrelated news, Mom and I wanted to do something normal that’s not related to the shop, so we went to see Brave last night. Guys, it’s pretty fantastic. You should all see it. I totally wish I had Merida’s hair. Pretty jealous.

And today was the last day of the shop hop meaning we can go back to having my mom only work 6 days a week instead of 7! Yay! Mom might call her sister (!!) tomorrow to see if she and her daughter (that’d be my cousin, whom I haven’t met yet) want to get lunch with us next Sunday since we finally have a day we’re both not working. We’ll see what we can arrange.

Hope everyone had a lovely weekend! We sure could use some rain around here, so if you’ve got any to spare, send it our way!