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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

SINKing feelings...

On the plus side, my landlady is showing my apartment to someone tomorrow! Hopefully they'll think it is so awesome they want to move in May 1 and I'll be off the hook for May... side note, if you know of anyone in the twin cities area who is looking for a 1BR in Minneapolis starting May 1 have them call me! It's a beautiful apartment, I am really sad to leave it... right on the bus line, 3 blocks from Calhoun Square, a few minutes walk from the lake etc.

Anywho... on the minus side, my right-hand sink drain somehow managed to clog itself. I am really not sure how this happened, since I only use that side of the sink to drain dishes and never even run water down it! I tried Draino, which at first didn't work at all and then my sink was full of water AND Draino, neither of which was going anywhere (gross), and then finally kind of worked and yesterday afternoon it was draining but this morning it's clogged again. Any ideas? Anyone??? Is gunk from the other side of the sink getting pushed over in the pipe? Why isn't Draino working??? I'm stumped. And I really don't want to have to call the "plumber" (aka my landlady's son who tends to fix things with muscle and/or duct tape rather than actual skill)... so any advice on plumbing is greatly appreciated :) Moving on... yesterday I tried Brittany's idea for a brown rice breakfast bowl! I have tons of leftover brown rice from the weekend and am trying to figure out how to use it all up... I froze half of it and have been using the other half to make lunches and dinners, and now breakfast! The mix: 1/2 cup cooked brown rice; 1 T Bob's Red Mill 5 grain cereal; a little less than 1/4 cup plain soy milk; the same ammt of water; 1/2 T vanilla ;1/4 T Cinnamon; 3 cardamom pods (totally optional). Cook everything together in a pot for 7-8 minutes, or until the liquid is pretty much absorbed. Pour into a bowl and remove cardamom pods (you do not want to chomp on these, trust me!). I topped mine with 1/2 a diced apple, honey and some almonds but any toppings would be delicious :) I also broke into the sea-salt chocolate bar from Foodzie last night! YUM! The finish is shiny, the chocolate is rich and creamy and the salty balance is perfect. My only criticism is that I wish there were more goji berries... they are few and far between and really if they're going to be in the name of the bar they should at least have a solid presence! Wedding updates: All of our travel arrangements for Thailand are completely booked (except for the hostel in Bangkok, which won't let us book until closer to when we'll be there), and the invitations are FINALLY ordered... probably a few weeks later than I would have liked, but for some reason I kept procrastinating it. They are supposed to send us a .pdf of the finished product to approve but I haven't gotten it yet...hopefully soon... I really want to be able to send the invites in May! Also, I've decided to ignore the fact that it's 44 degrees and break out the spring jackets and scarves. Hopefully if I'm dressed for the occasion, the weather will take the hint :)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Girls Weekend and Foodzie tasting box!!

Back from the greatest girls weekend ever! I actually got back yesterday but decided I should do homework rather than blogging...and then I somehow ended up reading part of a Salman Rushdie novel, two essays on musicology and an entire issue of Yoga Journal and going to bed instead. Oh well!

First things first - on Friday I received my first Foodzie tasting box! I've only sampled two things from it so far - the Kale Chips and the coconut milk caramels - but they were both delicious. I'd never even tried kale chips before but... they were completely gone within 15 seconds of opening the bag. I even turned it upside-down to dump the crumbs into my mouth, and I'm not even embarassed to say it. Plus, 15 calories per serving and tasting like delicious parmesan cheese...what??!?

Other items include: flavored salts (pepper and sumac)l blue cheese and fig crackers; chocolate with goji berries and himalayan sea salt; hot chocolate on a stick. I think I'll have my hands full for a few days ;)

On to the next - here are a few pictures from a weekend at the cabin with some girlfriends from school. I'll just let the pics speak for themselves - sometimes what happens in Nisswa stays in Nisswa. Not that we got TOO crazy, just that the hilarity is impossible to re-create out of the context of late-night Catch Phrase...

Friday, March 25, 2011

Time constrained!

I really, really wanted to write a longer post today but I ran out of time! I want to get on the road to my friend's cabin before traffic gets too terrible... but here's a funny story from last night.

I was talking to one of my yoga buddies after class, and he said "So... I did a google search the other day for Minneapolis Anusara Immersion and clicked on the first link I saw, and there was this picture of you looking all crazy and holding a knife!"

... so that is how people find me in google searches apparently.

Also, I don't normally look as crazy as I do in that picture...

And with that, I'm off! Have a fun weekend everyone, I'll be back on Monday with updates, recaps and probably recipes since I am running out of food in my fridge...

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Ummm... no.

Well snow, I am no longer amused by your shenanigans. It's all fun and games until you keep getting all up in our business well into late March - furthermore, you lied about the two inches, this looks much more like five or six. You are no longer fun, or cute in that "oh wow it's snowing and I am filled with childlike wonderment" sort of way. I am upset with you, snow.

I really did plan on going to my Anthropology class today. But, when I'd been waiting for the bus for 45 minutes past its scheduled time, I realized that even if it came right that second I would still be at least 30 minutes late for class, so I decided to cut my losses, go home and get some work done. By that point I was also really, really cold - you know that feeling when the cold goes all the way through you and you can't get warm? Pretty awesome. I really did not want to leave the building for as long as humanly possible, and having been out of town for a week my fridge is pretty much cleaned out, so I wrapped myself up in a blanket and pulled up the Pizza Luce website to order some lunch. Unfortunately, Pizza Luce decided they weren't going to deliver today... really? Abandoning your people just when they are most in need of hot, toasty food delivered directly to their doorstep? What kind of nonsense is this??

I decided it was best to go outside again before I'd fully warmed up, so I trekked over to the grocery store to pick up a Kashi frozen meal and a bottle of Guava Kombucha.

Back home with tea, red chicken curry (served in a bowl because I hate eating frozen meals from the plastic containers - feels much more like real food), I watched a couple episodes of Dexter and had a very productive afternoon! I worked on some travel arrangements for the honeymoon, did a couple hours of work on one of my projects and finished my reading for class tomorrow. This whole wedding thing is really sneaking up on me - I know the next three months are going to totally fly by, and I'm not sure I've totally processed the fact that this is going to be a huge adjustment. Don't get me wrong, I am really excited but going from long distance and living on my own to living with someone is going to be a big change.

Off to do some reading and then sleep - happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Homemade nut butter - first attempt!

Yay! Spring is here....? Kind of... maybe... OK maybe not. It was raining this morning but not too cold - and then somehow, while I was having lunch with some friends at Bulldog in Northeast, it went from fairly nice to FREEZING cold and windy just during the time we were in the restaurant. Crazy! Now it is sleeting, and we're supposed to get 2 inches of snow overnight. Chalk up another one for Minnesota weather.

But seriously enough complaining - I'd been thinking about going for a run this afternoon, but with the freezing rain that obviously wasn't happening, so I took tonight as an evening in - finished a paper I was working on, watched a couple episodes of Dexter, and whipped up some homemade almond butter! I've been meaning to try homemade nut butter ever since finally getting a food processor last month, but for some reason I felt too intimidated to actually do it. Then I was inspired by Amie's delicious looking recipe last week and decided to take the plunge.

Those poor nuts have no idea what's in store for them...

Looking good

We had some jar spillage...don't judge.

I hesitate to even call this a recipe - it's just nuts and oil, and possibly magic. But here it is anyways!
- 2 cups roasted, unsalted almonds
- 1/2 T vegetable oil
- 1 tsp honey
That's the base to start with... most recipes I found added wayyy more oil than this but I decided to cut back and I'm glad I did, it turned out plenty smooth without the excess oil. I also added:
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 1/2ish tsp cinnamon (Sorry! Didn't measure this, I just sort of went for it, recklessly like the rebel that I am.)

Process the almonds in the food processor until finely ground/starting to clump, add the oil and any other ingredients that sound good to you at the moment (within reason obviously) - and just let the little choppy blades do their work for a few minutes. Seriously, it's that easy.

I'm sure you could also add salt, or maple syrup, or some other spices, or flaxseed meal... the possibilities are endless, this is just a blank canvas.
Hoping for warmer weather soon! Granted, sleet and wind don't seem quite so awful when you have warm, creamy cinnamony nut butter to ease the pain, but I am looking for an excuse to break out the dresses and sandals :)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Big Shiva, little Shiva. And also, pants.

Have you ever seen someone walking down the street and wanted to yell at them: "Hey! You should put on some pants!" If so, you, like me, are probably of the opinion that one should leave the house without appearing to violate indecent exposure laws. The fact that you happen to be wearing hot yoga booty shorts under what appears to be a Lululemon Savasana Wrap is irrelevant if I cannot see them - if you look like you're not wearing pants, you are, for all intents and purposes, not wearing them. Put on some damn pants.

And in other news, Shiva is cool.

This giant Shiva hangs out at CERN, the European center for particle research in Geneva. Shiva is the symbol for creation and destruction - the metaphor for cosmic dance, which, for modern physicists, is the dance of subatomic matter. Pretty neat. My Shiva is much tinier, but still brings all the benefits of big Shiva:

I just picked this guy up today, from the Metaphyiscal store on Lyndale... kind of a kooky place, but probably one of the only shops I could walk into and ask "do you have those little Shiva Nataraj dudes?" without them looking at me like I was nuts. I will probably pass on their wide selection of tarot cards and voodoo dolls, but they do have some interesting meditation candles and salt lamps that I might look at. One of the things that keeps me feeling not so sad about leaving my apartment, which I love, is thinking about how I'm going to fill the new one...and one of my plans is for a yoga room/sacred space in the second bedroom, so I'm starting to slowly collect things to decorate it with. Tiny Shiva Nataraj is my first addition - welcome to the family little dude.

Right now he's hanging out on my kitchen table next to Ganesh, who came home with us from India. They can be buddies.

Well, back to the daily grind! We have a marketing network event tomorrow morning that I'm really excited for, and some more project work...and my Business Ethics class starts this week! Our professor referenced Harry Potter in the syllabus, likening his class to Defense Against the Dark Arts. Love it already. Have a great start to your week!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Did you forget that yellow bird?

For the last two years, my spring break trip to Bowling Green has coincided with St. Patrick's day - and at BGSU, St. Paddys is no joke. Well, by "no joke" I mostly mean an excuse for 24 straight hours of public drunkenness, starting with "kegs and eggs" at 8am and ending with...well in the case of Ben's next door neighbors, yelling and thumping bass at 1 or 2 am. The stamina of BG's undergrad population is quite impressive actually, but seeing lots of excessive drinking almost always leads me to do some self-reflection.

I wouldn't say that I ever drank excessively, but I definitely used to drink more than I do now. In college and, maybe even more so in the 2 or 3 years following graduation, I drank more for the express purpose of getting drunk than because I actually enjoyed what I was drinking. Jager shots were usually the quickest way to accomplish this (I actually struck fear and respect into the heart of a guy I was dating at the time by asking him to buy me a Jag shot as my first drink on my birthday). I just want to stress that I did not have a problem with alcohol - I'm only bringing this up to illustrate the difference between how I used to drink and how I drink now. My very heaviest nights of drinking usually consisted of about 3 drinks.

Over time, these habits just started to change. I became interested in wine and good beer, and was lucky enough to have groups of friends who enjoyed sitting around playing board games or watching movies and chatting as much as they enjoyed going out to bars, so we always had other options. It was a gradual transition, but now I'm really a one beer or glass of wine kind of girl and I like my life better that way.

I had a converstaion with two fellow yogis at the immersion last weekend who had gone through similar transitions, but have a lot of friends where the culture of drinking is pretty heavy. During one of these conversations, we both reflected that when we were younger we were so self-conscious that we drank to feel more like ourselves in social settings. Now that I'm older and feel much more secure in who I am and what I stand for, having too much to drink actually makes me feel more uncomfortable and less like myself.

I'm not trying to be judgemental of people who drink a lot as part of their social life - whatever makes you happy is fine by me as long as you aren't harming yourself, and like I said, I love beer and wine. What really bugs me though is when the culture of drinking is so strong that people make others feel bad for not drinking, or for not drinking excessively. Yesterday afternoon I went for a run and obviously there were a ton of people outside drinking, several of whom yelled things like "Why are you running on St. Paddy's??" or even sarcastic encouragement like "yeah, you go girl!" it made me feel really weird...until I saw a couple of fellow runners going the other way down the same street. Solidarity. But seriously... drinking all day is not good for you. Why should I feel bad about wanting to go for a run on a beautiful afternoon just because it happens to be St. Patrick's day? Is it REALLY that important to everyone that I drink green beer wearing a green t-shirt?

The more I got into yoga, and became more focused on nutrition and living a balanced, healthy life and listening to my body, the less I found I wanted to drink. I just feel healthier when I keep my drinking to a minimum - I never sleep through the morning, which is my favorite time of day, and I am never too hungover to practice yoga or go for a walk in the morning. I also try not to take in too many empty calories, so I feel like I should treat drinking the same way I do desserts and junk food - have a little, enjoy it, but keep it to a minimum because it doesn't add much nutritionally. Plus, drinking is EXPENSIVE! I didn't realize how much it was costing me until I looked back on my bar/restaurant spending from previous years versus now - and honestly, I would much rather spend that money on a new pair of shoes, a few yoga classes, or some good books instead of a night or two that I barely remember.

Even though these reasons make perfect sense to me, If I happen to not feel like drinking one night or if I only want one glass of wine, I feel like I need to justify my decision with a convincing story or explaination. But, if not having another drink or three doesn't bother me, why should it bother anyone else? I'm honestly not trying to be preachy, this is just something that's been on my mind a lot and it seems to be coming up frequently in conversation. I still enjoy a good tequila shot every once in a while, but it's more about fun with friends than it is about the alcohol, and I would definitely encourage people who pressure others to drink more or to drink excessively to really take a close look at why they feel the need to do this.

OK so that being said... here's what we've been up to in BG!

I found a neat organic foods store called Squeakers that sells all kinds of fun stuff - I'd never had vegan cookies before so I gave these a shot, and I honestly could not tell they were vegan! I also picked up a package of Newman's own licorice (unfortunately they didn't have my favorite flavor, Tangerine), and I tried something new....

...yup, that's right I had never tried Kombucha before! I'd been warned about the weird taste, and I think this is one of the stronger/more vinegary flavors but it was the only one Squeakers had in stock so I decided to just go for it. Honestly, it does taste pretty weird but supposedly they are great for digestion and are definitely full of B-Vitamins so I'll take it. I'll probably stop by Whole Foods or The Wedge for some other flavors when I get back to MN. We've also been doing quite a bit of cooking...

I'm so lucky to have a man who trusts me with a giant knife. We made a sesame-ginger shrimp with cabbage that was delicious. The recipe is from Ellie Krieger's So Easy - which is a pretty great cookbook. Everything in it is healthy, fairly simple to make, and I have yet to find a recipe in it that I don't like.
We enjoyed the shrimp with a glass of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc...

...and somewhere along the way I learned to smile in pictures like a normal human. This morning I went to the campus Starbucks for coffee and ended up trying one of their new desserts - cake on a stick! Cake on a stick is a concept I can definitely get behind. This is the Tiramasu flavor - I really wanted to try Birthday Cake but they were out. All of the new mini-desserts look fantastic, and this little chocolate-covered gem was quite delicious.
... it did kind of look like an eyeball on a stick though. Here's a picture after I took a bite of it ;)

I followed up my dessert-breakfast with a little fruit and yogurt cup - Fage 2% Greek Yogurt, some raspberries, a sprinkle of oats and honey. Made me feel better about starting my day off with cake :)

Also, if you're looking for new music I highly recommend the new album by The Civil Wars - I've been listening to them a lot and made a mix with some of their stuff, some Bright Eyes (new and old), Band of Horses and Bon Iver.

So that's what I've been up to... anyways, feel free to share your thoughts on heavy drinking. I know some people will probably disagree with me, but I know this is what works and feels best for me in my life. Happy Friday!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Accent Video and Road Trip!

First things first - Ben and I signed the lease on our new apartment!... I guess it's really a condo if we're going to get technical about it, but it will be our first home together and I am pretty excited, if maybe a little sad to be saying goodbye to my apartment soon.

In other news, I've been seeing this accent video floating around the blogosphere and thought I'd give it a go. Since my other attempts at making a video have been perfect and totally devoid of awkwardness, I decided to see if I could act halfway normal for five minutes. Turns out not. If you all you've ever wanted in life is to see me rambling incoherently about the weather in Minnesota, yoga, and my strange and brief stint as a Californian look no further:

Here's the list if you want to do this in your own blog:
Words: aunt, route, wash, oil, theater, iron, salmon, carmael, fire, water, sure, data, ruin, crayon, toilet, New Orleans, pecan, both, again, probably, spitting image, Alabama, lawyer, coupon, mayonnaise, pajamas, syrup, caught

What is it called when you throw toilet paper on a house?
What is the bug that curls into a ball when you touch it?
What is the bubbly carbonated drink called?
What are gym shoes called?
What do you say to address a group of people?
What do you call a spider with an oval-shaped body and extremely long legs?
What do you call the wheeled contraption you put your groceries in at the store?
What do you call your grandparents?
What is it called when it rains while the sun is shining?
What do you call the contraption you change the TV channel with?

In OTHER other news, we obviously survived the drive back to Ohio. We left at 6:30AM, which seems horrible but I actually love watching the sunrise while driving.

We were fully armed with a delicous bag of snacks: Lara Bars, Cadbury Mini Eggs, homemade banana bread, apples and other deliciousness....

... which still didn't stop me from grabbing my second cup of crappy gas station coffee after less than two hours of driving. Road trips are the only time I ever drink bad coffee... it just seems appropriate for some reason.

We also packed sandwiches from Lucia's for a mid-day treat. I always feel it's important to have a lunch you look forward to, and you never know what you're going to find at a roadside stop so I like to play it safe.

We are having a great time so far, I'll be back with more updates!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Setting an intention

"Always do what you are afraid to do" ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sorry everyone! I've been so busy with the immersion and road tripping that I haven't had any time to write since Friday, but I'm 99% sure you all managed to survive the weekend sans my shenanigans. Boy do I have a lot to catch up on, though! First, Anusara Immersion... we'll get to the road trip eventually.

On Friday night, Ali mentioned the importance of fueling Iccha (desire) in both the head and the heart - the head gets its juice from knoweldge and certainty, and the heart from mystery and uncertainty. I know I am definitely guilty of taking care of my head more than my heart - I'm one of those people who makes an hourly schedule for my day even when they have nothing planned. Some call it anal - I call it being prepared...? Anyways, in my practice my head has a tendency to get in the way, allowing fear to creep in, and causing me to spend most of the first immersion going "OMG do I totally suck? What if I do totally suck and Ali and Ronna are just too nice to say anything? Should I even be here?? What am I doing??!?" Just lots of unnecessary anxiety. Quite similar to my first year in B-school, actually.

So when our teachers told us to set an intention for the weekend, I knew right away what mine would be. I actually had two - the first was to find a better balance between my head and heart, stop overthinking everything and just let myself be and feel in the moment. The second was no fear.

I really can't describe the weekend, and I think I just need to hold it in my head for a while, but there was really a world of difference, for me, between the first immersion and immersion 2 weekend 1. My mom says that "worrying is just suffering advance" - but I actually think it goes beyond that. Worry and anxiety can also be a self-fulfilling prophecy and often end up making the thing you're worried about even worse.

Sutra 1.2 of the yoga sutras, "yogas chitta vritti nirodaha," is often translated in the classical yoga tradition as "Yoga is the restraint of the modifications/fluctuations of the mind." But in tantra, the word 'nirodaha' is translated not as a barrier or restraint, but instead as the power to make skillful choices. Instead of stopping the vrittis, we learn how to align with the flow through our choices, saying no to the things that are not life-affirming and yes to the things that are. I know this is super cheesy but... say no to fear and judgement, so you can say yes to diving in with your whole heart.

The rythm of the body
the melody of the mind
& the harmony of the soul
create the symphony of life

B.K.S. Iyengar

Friday, March 11, 2011

Politics is like bad Gulab Jamun

Today was the first day of the first weekend of Minneapolis Anusara Immersion 2. This weekend will be focusing a lot on the yoga history and the yoga sutras, so the academic in me is totally geeking out. Tonight we went over the three schools of yoga - in case you aren't familiar, the three schools are:
Advaita Vedantya: Advaita Vedantya is non-dualist, and maintains that only the spirit is real - the body and this world are an illusion, and by practicing yoga we can see the true nature of the world.
Classical Yoga: Classical yoga is based on the dualistic view that both the spirit and body are real but the spirit is superior. By practicing yoga, you can still the fluctuations of the mind in order to overcome your body and mind to see the reflection of the divine.
Tantra: Tantra is also dualistic, but believes that the body is not inferior to the mind - in Tantra, the physical world is a manifestation of the divine, and we practice yoga to remember our true nature, which is divine.

Anusara is a Tantric form of yoga, but one of our teachers said she would encourage everyone to go out and take classes from teachers in different schools to gain a deeper understanding of where Anusara fits into the bigger picture. By experiencing and engaging with other viewpoints, we can more fully understand our own.

This brings me back to last Saturday and my dinner with friends after the Con reunion. We had a really lengthy discussion on the current political situation in Wisconsin, which turned into an even deeper discussion about educational policy and the feasability of public sector unions. All of us were coming from different places, and a pretty wide spectrum of political viewpoints was represented - but because we love and respect each other, we listened without judgement and were even able to see similarities and harmony between the various sides of the argument. And, I think we all came away with a deeper understanding of where those that disagree with us are coming from.

In a way it reminds me of Gulab Jamun.

... this makes sense I promise. Maybe.

Gulab Jamun is an Indian dessert that is basically a squishy ball of dough soaked in sugary syrup. I was totally convinced that I hated Gulab Jamun, even though my friend Amanda kept telling me it was delicious. Today, I went to Bombay Bistro with Ben, and they had Gulab Jamun at the lunch buffet... remembering Amanda's insistence that I "probably just never had good Gulab Jamun," I gave it a shot....and... I liked it! It turned out, Amanda was right - in all my previous experience, Gulab Jamun had been cold and flavorless, but these were warm, just the right amount of squishy with a nice rich flavor. Still not my first choice in a dessert, but at least now I understand the appeal.

In a way, a lot of our political discourse is like bad Gulab Jamun. It's easy to think someone is a total nutjob for liking Gulab Jamun when you've only had terrible ones, or even to think you hate hamburgers if you've only eaten MacDonalds - and often, we only hear the other side of the argument filtered through its worst forms by extremely biased media outlets. "Republicans hate babies and kittens," or "Democrats are just a bunch of crazy communists!"... of COURSE no sane person could agree with the other viewpoint the way it's presented in the media, but people generally don't bother to actually engage, converse with, or attempt to understand people who disagree with them.

So where was I going with this?

Yes. Talk to people you disagree with - you might find you have something in common. And try a food you think you hate...but make sure to ask the experts first so you don't get something terrible :)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

PB-Banana Bread with Chocolate Chips

There are few things better than the smell of baked goods in the morning. To partake in this experience, you could either a) walk through the snow (yep, snow in March... I know...) to Lucia's Bakery and spend $4-5 on a pastry and coffee, OR b) throw together a loaf of banana bread with random ingredients from your pantry and those bananas that are slowly deteriorating in a bowl in your kitchen.
We all know what this means in baking land... BANANA BREAD!! Preferably with peanut butter. And as long as we're abandoning all reason, let's throw some chocolate chips in there too. In full disclosure, I did not have regular PB on hand so I used PB&Co's White Chocolate Wonderful and cut down the sugar.

The resulting bread is moist, substantial and delicious. It is also officially guy-approved (if I weren't already engaged to Ben I think this bread would have done it). Seriously, make this now. NOW. DO IT. Sorry for being so demanding, I just want the best for you.

I couldn't handle waiting for it to cool before cutting it, so some of the slices turned out more like piles. Delicious, toasty piles of banana-chocolate awesomeness, but piles nonetheless. By the way have you seen my Harry Potter mug? I think it's probably the greatest thing ever.

I also apologize for eating half the slice before getting a picture of it, but what can you do?

In other news, I now have a sink full of dishes. In OTHER other news... I won't have to deal with sinks full of dirty dishes much longer because... drumroll... we are moving to a NEW APARTMENT! With a DISHWASHER!!! I honestly can hardly contain my excitement. We won't really officially move until May when Ben gets back, and my current lease isn't up until June but the credit checks are clear and the lease is ready to sign!

I'll put up pics as soon as I can...and get ready for lots of geeking out over new furniture and rugs. Can't wait!!

And I guess you will probably be wanting that Banana Bread recipe.... :)

Adapted slightly from Joy the Baker

Dry Ingredients:
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour (or regular WW flour)
1 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
1/4 cup ground flaxseed meal
3/4 tsp baking soda
scant 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8-1/4 tsp ground allspice

Wet Ingredients:
1-1/2 cups mashed ripe bananas (if you come out slightly less than this amount, as I did, fill the remainder with applesauce or yogurt)
1/3 cup plain yogurt
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
3 tbsp butter, melted
2 large eggs
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla

1/4 cup chopped dry roasted peanuts (unsalted)
1/2 or so bag of chocolate chips

In a large bowl, whisk the dry ingredients together.

In a less-large bowl, mix together the banana, PB, yogurt and melted butter. Whisk in the eggs, vanilla and sugars until no clumps of sugar remain. Then, pour the wet ingredients into the dry and fold together with a rubber spatula.

Add in the chopped nuts and chocolate chips and mix until incorporated (but do not overmix). Pour into a buttered and floured 9x5 inch loaf pan and bake at 350 for about 55 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 20 minutes before running a butter knife along the edges and removing to a wire rack to cool completely**.

This bread will last well-wrapped at room temp for around 4 days, or alternatively if you have leftovers (doubtful) the loaf can be wrapped and stored in the freezer.

** I did not follow this step.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Giving Up

Ben and I decided to start the Lentin season off right: with a giant whoopie pie and four bags of candy.

About 12 years ago today, I walked into the library at my high school to study and sat down next to my friend Paul, who was dilligently studying for a math test. Before I'd even said hi, I noticed a big, black smudge on his forehead. In an effort to be a good friend, I blurted out without thinking: "hey you have a big black smudge on your forehead." You know, the same way you would tell someone they have spinach in their teeth. Instead of thanking me, Paul just looked at me like I was the biggest moron to ever walk the planet. "It's Ash Wednesday."

I'll be honest, the whole concept for giving things up for lent has always confused me a bit. I get that the point is to experience suffering as Christ suffered, but I guess I don't totally see how a bunch of privaleged white college girls nobly declaring that they are giving up chocolate is in any way comparable to fasting in the desert for 40 days. Maybe my lack of understanding is due to the fact that I'm agnostic, which I've been told means that I just can't make up my mind about anything.

I'm also not really a big fan of self-punishment in any form. I feel like if you're going to give something up, why make it something totally meaningless chocolate or potato chips? Why not give up something that actually changes the world for the better? Why not give up gossip, or negativity - equally as difficult to give up as cookies, if not more, but with an actual point besides our own struggles. Anyways, just something to think about.

P.S. The Green Tea and Lemon Whoopie pie is delicious.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

So. Much. Food.

We had our first caterer tasting yesterday! We decided to book Deco Catering based on recommendations from my parents and a couple of other friends without having ever tasted anything they'd made - in retrospect, maybe not the wisest choice but wow did we luck out!

Good thing I didn't eat lunch beforehand, because I had no idea they were basically going to serve us three entire meals. We could have split everything between my mom, Ben and I and probably still had leftovers... the 9x13 box pictured above is about 2/3 of what we ended up going home with. First we tried a salad with strawberries, blue cheese and a vinegarette dressing, followed by an italian vegetable torta for the veg option and salmon fillets with creamy dill sauce.
My mom is sort of in charge of dealing with Deco (like any good MBA I took a project managerment approach to my own wedding and delegated tasks and deadlines to all my loved ones. Wow I am such a nerd). The final course, which I didn't even realize was coming, was a beef tenderloin with roasted carrots and butternut squash. YUM.

When I saw beef tenderloin as one of the options, I'll admit I was a little skeptical. I've had enough lackluster meat entrees at weddings to know that these things are often not as good as they sound, but this was honestly maybe the best beef tenderloin I have ever had anywhere. And we all know I could eat roasted veggies till the cows come home.

Pictured above, Soile (owner of Deco Catering), me and Ben after the tasting. I didn't know this until we met her, but Soile used to own the Taste of Scandinavia Bakery near my parents house - I eat there all the time! She sold off the business a few years ago when she realized she much preferred catering to running restaurants, but still owns the finnish deli attached to the Dunn Bros on Como (which I have ALSO been to not knowing it was hers... crazy). Also she lives in my parents' neighborhood and they have several mutual friends. And just to reiterate how awesome this lady is, here is a picture of her several-page feature spread in Martha Stewart Living:

Wowza! You can view the whole article here:
It is quite awesome, I recommend you check it out. OK now I have to do productive things like laundry and school work... and eat some of that food that's left over from yesterday. I'm pretty sure we will each get about 2 more meals out of that box!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Happiness is a brick, and what should Unicorns invest in?

Yesterday, Ben and I drove down to St. Olaf with two of our good friends, Tessie and Evan for the 30th birthday of the Great Conversation. The Great Con is a two year, discussion-based series of classes on philosophy, history, art and literature from ancient Greece and the Bible through the 20th century, and for me, those four semester and an interim will always hold some of the best memories from my college years.

The theme of the Con's birthday party was "What is Happiness," and the day centered around a lecture by Ed Langerak. Ed has a deep voice full of wisdom, and likes to spout off such gems as "always look inside yourself to find the truth...unless you're a weirdo," and, "we all know that relentlessly chipper people are annoying." He is a philosophy genius in the guise of a bearded, twinkly-eyed grandpa and has always been one of my favorite professors. I took no fewer than four classes from him in college, and always brought my rough drafts to him so he could rip them to shreds before I turned them in. I've gone to a couple of his lectures post-graduation and we're always happy to see each other. For some reason, he's decided that I am OK - beats me.

During the lecture and post-lecture discussions, we tried to answer two questions: 1) what is happiness, and 2) how do se pursue it. The epicurians (contrary to the misrepresentation presented by websites like espoused that tranquility and moderation, not pleasurable experiences, were the source of a happy life. If you had a lot of peak experiences, they belived, the valles would be just as deep and twice as wide. Aristotle, on the other hand, belived that happiness was living the virtuous life (he then proceeds to tell you what these virtues are) - and that ultimate happiness lies in the life of contemplation, aka being a philosopher like Aristotle. Brilliant. We also discussed Jeremy Bentham, who claimed to have discovered an exact algorithm for calculating happiness (it terrifies me to think what this guy could have done with an excel spreadsheet), and the utilitarian John Stuart Mill who belived that happiness was the greatest good for the greatest number of people.

After the lecture, Professor Groton, another of our favorite profs, handed out door prizes - Ben was lucky enough to win one by being the person closest in age to the Great Con. The "prize" as it turned out, was a brick from the old Ytterboe building. During a break in the action Professor Langerak hurried over to proudly tell Ben that he had actually stolen the brick from its prior position of helping to hold up a statue on campus. Actually he told us that he had "liberated" it.

Then we broke out into small discussion groups - technically we were assigned to groups, but Ben, Tessie, Evan and I decided to just stick together and go to whatever room we felt like, so we just followed Professor Groton to join her group even though we were supposed to go to a totally different room. The theme that came up again and again during our conversation was that family, friends and community are a huge part of what makes us happy.

Ed mentioned in his lecture that joining a social group that meets once a month can increase happiness the same amount as if you were to double your income. I think our society seriously overvalues money and undervalues time and people. No amount of money should be worth letting our relationships with friends and family slip - but just think of how often that happens, and how often it is seen as totally justified. Past a certain point - I think it is $77K for a family of four (although some adjustments should probably be made for cost of living), the amount of money we make has no bearing on our happines. Why, then, do people strive for more prestigous jobs with higher paychecks that require them to work 80 hours a week and make them miserable, and give up the things that would make them happy?

This got me thinking about what a fantastic community the Great Con itself is. I met many of my best friends in those classes, including my fiancee, and got to know some of the most amazing professors and mentors I have ever encountered in my life. I also found out that Rick Fairbanks, who led my Con-affiliated study abroad session, passed away two weeks ago from cancer. I hadn't known he was ill, and it was a little rough to learn about his passing during a slideshow commemorating the professors the program had lost. One of the other profs told me she'd tried to contact people by e-mail before the event so we wouldn't find out this way, but hadn't been able to get in touch with everyone. It just made me think even more about how much we need to cherish our time with the people who are important to us.

The friendships, community and common language of the Great Con creates a sort of family that spans generations. I was amazed at how easily my friends and were able to jump into very personal conversation with alums from 1985, and how we knew their thoughts on happiness and the meaning of life before we found out their last name or what they did for a living. Fake bullshit networking sessions can suck it, as far as I'm concerned.

After the event, we all drove to Tessie's house for dinner with her and her husband Mark, also an Ole and a good friend of all of ours. As we made homemade pasta, drank wine, and talked about every subject from Lybia to the protests in Wisconsin to what we would invest in if we were Unicorns (don't ask!), I realized how lucky I am to have such amazing friends, who are smart and thoughtful, and who think that sitting around eating delicious food and talking about politics and unicorns is the best Saturday night ever.

Like any good day at the Con, yesterday's events helped me get a little closer to figuring out the answer - happiness is good friends and great conversation. And a brick from Ed Langerak.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Let the nightmares begin....

It happened on Wednesday night. My first wedding nightmare. I had no idea such things existed until it happened, and then I was reading through the archives of another favorite blog, The Daily Garnish, and author Emily mentioned HER first wedding nightmare so apparently it's like, a thing....
It's understandable that wedding nightmares exist - after all, it's a very stress-inducing situation with a lot of anxiety and expectations around it. Everyone wants their wedding to be perfect, but no wedding ever is and that's what makes them fun. One of my mom's friends recently told her that what you really remember from your wedding day are all of the funny things that went wrong.

For example, the only story that comes to mind when I think of my parents' wedding is how one of my dad's friends got beat up cowboys at this hole-in-the-wall bar in Red Lodge Montana after the reception, and the whole wedding party ended up hiding the hotel as these guys drove around looking for them to...finish settling the disagreement I guess.

Anyways, the basic premise of my nightmare was that my wedding happened this week. Somehow, all these balls got rolling and the next thing I knew we were at the church, my hair and makeup weren't done (but somehow I was wearing my dress and my photographer was there), and the ceremony happened and then it was all over. I told my mom we HAD to get the July 9 date back because this wasn't how I wanted it to happen at ALL, and she was like "well, I don't think it's really realistic to have two weddings." This made me very upset.

I think the most interesting thing about nightmares is that they tell you a lot about what is really important to you. Obviously even in the dream I was happy that Ben and I were married - but to be honest, the thing that I'm excited for with Ben is the relationship and the marriage, which are and will be awesome independently of the wedding. What the wedding really represents, for me, is a chance to share that excitement with all of my friends and family and to celebrate our future with everyone we care about. What upset me in the dream wasn't that we didn't have flowers, or cupcakes, or that my hair and makeup weren't done (I actually remember thinking I looked quite awesome in my dream-pictures) - it was that the whole thing had gone down without any of the people I really wanted to be there, and now that gathering would not happen.

It took me a good 20 minutes after waking up to realize that the dream wasn't real, I was not married, and everything with the wedding would go forward as planned. But still, an interesting insight into my wedding-psyche.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Berries and Cream Breakfast Muffins

When the temperature dips below zero in March.
When your sister is laid up in the hospital post-appendix.
When you are inexplicably awake at 5am and don't have to be anywhere for three hours.
...why not make some muffins?

I promise you won't regret it. These are really, really good - not too sweet, and just a little different from your average muffin. The inspiration comes from Smitten Kitchen's Ricotta Muffins but these are totally different, mostly because I had to make do with what I had in my fridge. Like many great things, such as the wheel, Milk Duds and Post-it Notes, these muffins were born of necessity and small accidents.

Things the recipe required that I did not have:
- Ricotta
- Fennel (which is probably OK because I'm not a huge fennel fan)
- 1.5 cups of yogurt
- pecans

Things I had instead:
- Random mascarpone left over from a party (and seriously, what am I going to do with a tub of mascarpone? Make Cannoli?? Let's get real here. Cannoli is just not practical. It's what one leaves when one takes the guns, or so I've heard)
- Cinnamon and Vanilla
- 1 cup of yogurt and some whole milk
- Several jars of almost-finished jam
- Walnuts
- Sheer willpower

These ended up with some fillings that were quite random... a few had jam, a few had apple butter, and some had a bit of smashed up banana (left over from the half I didn't use in yesterday's oatmeal). The jam ones definitely turned out the best - both the apple butter and then banana got a bit lost (maybe I should have just used more)... and I imagine fresh fruit puree would be even better than jam. The tartness would add a nice touch.

Don't be afraid of the thick batter... these guys get nice and fluffy in the oven. Also do not fear the lack of eggs... it seems really weird to be making a muffin without eggs, but just have some faith and everything will turn out alright. Cross my heart.

Then, before it's even time for breakfast, you'll have a delicious snack to take to your sister in the hospital, and also your parents who are taking care of her. Just try not to eat all of them yourself before you leave the house!
Also, my sis is doing just fine - she went home today, the surgery was totally routine and she seemed great when I saw her this morning. No jumping for two weeks though, and no weights for almost a month which knowing her is going to be tough. With my sister and my dad, we are now 2 for 4 on Gorder family surgeries this year... let's hope it stays that way! OK back to the task at hand:

1/2 cup walnuts or pecans
3 cups unbleached flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda (I may have accidentally used 3/4 Tablespoon... so keep that in mind)
1 tsp cinnamon
1-1/4 cup plain, full-fat yogurt
1/4 cup whole milk
3/4 cup vegetable or canola oil
3/4 cup mascarpone cheese
1 tsp vanilla
Brown sugar to sprinkle over the top
Preheat the oven to 425 and toast the nuts until they are... toasted. Remove the nuts, reduce heat to 325.

In a large bowl, sift the flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder and baking soda together to combine. Make a large well in the center and pour in the yogurt, milk and oil. Whisk the liquids together and gradually draw in the dry ingredients, mixing until imcorporated. The batter gets thick so you might need to switch to a wooden spoon or spatula partway through.

To prepare the filling: place the mascarpone in a small bowl, with the vanilla, stir together to comgine and keep stirring a little to warm it and make it more spreadable.

Line a muffin tin with paper liners, and fill each one about 1/3 full with batter. Deb suggests using a pastry bag or a plastic bag with the corner snipped off. I imagine this would have worked perfectly - however I had neither of these things in my kitchen so I went with the failsafe method of "spoon what you think is probably the right amount of batter into the muffin tin and then squoosh it down with your fingers until it covers the bottom." Worked like a charm.

Spoon a little less than 1 tablespoon of the mascarpone, vanilla mixture over the first layer of batter, and cover that with 1 teaspoon of your filling of choice: jam, fresh fruit puree, fruit butter, nut butter (ooh! just thought of that... that could be delicious). Spoon the remaining batter into the cups to cover the filling, and sprinkle walnuts and brown sugar on the top of each muffin.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the edges are beginning to turn golden brown. Be VERY CAREFUL not to overbake these... the batter is naturally a very light color, so when they start to turn a little golden they are done. Finished. Etc.
Enjoy with coffee. Then bundle up in a thousand layers and head into the freezing cold.... I REALLY hope spring comes soon.
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