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Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

I can't believe it's been 20 years since the infamous Halloween Blizzard of 1991. I was 8 years old and dressed up as a vending machine (yep - weirdo), which actually turned out to be perfect because if I tucked my arms inside the black-painted cardboard box of my costume, I was completely protected from the elements.

I've never been one to go all-out with the Halloween decorations (Christmas is another story though...) but that doesn't mean we haven't been preparing for this spookiest of days.

Halloween Decor
Dining Room table, spookified

Halloween REading
Reading some scary stories...

Even Sid and Mini are getting into the Halloween spirit. They've been practicing their sneak attacks, although I think both of them could work on subtlety. I think Mini truly believes that letting you know exactly where she's hiding is a great scare tactic, and Sid just doesn't get it at all. But hey, at least they're trying.

I will eat your FACE
Hee hee

I'm gun get you
Vampire kitteh will eat your face


We've also been enjoying lots of Halloween parties and fun times with family - to be recapped later, but for now it's time to get to work so I can get home in time to prep for trick or treaters! Stop by our place - we'll be the ones handing out freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies :) Or, if you have some crazy fear of your children accepting homemade goods from total strangers, we also have Snickers.

(That was my best attempt at ghost noises. Deal.)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Looking into the future

Having pets is giving me a terrifying preview of how I will behave as a mother.

Pets are basically like small children in that they can't tell you what they need using words, they keep you awake by jumping into your bed, crawling all over you and chewing your hair (ok maybe that's just Mini... a human child probably wouldn't do that), and sometimes your wee morning hours are spent cleaning up their messes.


He may look innocent...but...

Shockingly, the grossest mess came not from Sid, but from Mini - little angel-faced kittens can be quite disgusting. I'll skip the gory details, but let's just say that this story ended with me in the bathroom at 2am cleaning cat poo off of Mini's foot and praying that Sid was not about to start barfing all over the bed.

I have a vague recollection of saying something like "Alright kitty, you're coming with me. We've got problems." And Ben's eloquent response of "Hurmmmsnarfhsmmm?" before he rolled over and went back to sleep (honestly, I would have done the same thing if it had been the other way around. Plus he got up at 5:45 to walk the dog).

The things we do for the love of our pets. But how could you not? I mean... LOOK.

Passed out

It just... I... GAHHHH cuteness. I think Mini understood what she had put me through, though, because she snuggled with me for the rest of the night and did not chew on my hair once. Yay.

And now, after that disgusting story about animal poop, I bet you really want to see pictures of some delicious food! Ben and I went out for a dinner date on Tuesday - we both had stressful days at work and just needed something to break the normal routine of "come home, crash on the couch with DVDs of Community and How I Met Your Mother while eating a PB&J." Yes this is my life. Such excitement.

Anyways, we hit up Blackbird Cafe for dinner - one of my favorite spots and the kickoff point for my bachelorette party! They've recently started focusing on small plates so I ordered two to sample: a squash-filled pasta with swiss chard and the "tender vegetables" (roasted broccoli and brussels sprouts with basil and parmasean). Both were out of this world. Ben had the shaved apple salad and walleye potstickers - I tried both, and the potstickers were good but the salad was AMAZING. Just goes to show that the best things in life are usually the simplest.

Walleye Potstickers
Walleye Potstickers

Squash Pasta
Buttercup Squash Pasta

Tender Veggies
There are probably veggies under all that cheese


After we returned home, my friend Amanda stopped by bearing cupcakes - halloween ghost cupcakes, no less! Hurray. The three of us chatted over dessert before hitting the hay at the ripe hour of 9:30pm. Remember how I said my life was thrilling? Still true.

Ghost Cupcake
Is it just me or does it look like something unfortunate happened to this ghost?

Oh and last weekend - was fantastic! It was the first weekend in a looong time that neither of us had any major committments, and we took full advantage. My friend Tessa came over on Friday night and the three of us had dinner at Crema, where we made the fun discovery that if you order 2 entrees you get 1/2 off a bottle of wine plus two free scoops of ice cream. I can get behind that. I can also get behind discreetly stashing the remainder of the bottle in my purse and sneaking it home. What?

I also destroyed this giant spider on the walk home

Ben had to finish some grading, so Tessa and I had a girls night at the movies! We went to see this at the Uptown theater - if you haven't seen this film I highly, highly recommend it. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time... this movie did such an amazing job of building a constant sense of foreboding - definitely a mindf**k. One of the best movies I've seen in a while - you know it's good if you are still thinking about it a week later.

So that's basically what I've been up to! Tonight I'm heading to a hot yoga class and prepping for a weekend's worth of Halloween festivities. It's almost heeeere....!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Risotto, anyone?

Last week I accidentally parked in the executive parking lot at work.

I was on my way back from lunch, running late for a meeting and the only lot I could get into(without driving back down the road and going a mile out of my way to get into a building I was sitting right next to) was a super tiny lot about 20 feet from the side entrance.

As soon as I pulled into the lot I felt that something was amiss. For one thing, this lot is wayyyy more convenient to the building than the larger lot. For another, every car was either a BMW, an Audi or an unnecessarily large SUV. I sensed that I did not belong...but I was running late for a meeting so I just parked and walked into the building like yes, of course my 11-year-old VW is supposed to be parked next to all these shiny cars.

It should also be noted that the first time I met our CEO in person was in the bathroom. And my sweater was buttoned incorrectly. I am a shining example for my workplace, truly.

Anyways, later that day after guiltily sneaking out of the VIP lot, I attempted to make dinner for my parents while Ben was at parent-teacher conferences. It was a near-disaster on several levels. First, I decided for some reason to make risotto with brown rice, which evidently takes about a gajillion hours.


I had trouble getting a photo that really does this plate justice - just trust me. It tastes amazing.

Second, instructing my parents to "relax on the couch while I cook" was a futile endeavor. Instead of just kicking back on the couch with my dad, my mom engaged in the following activities:
- going through my mail and demanding to know why I hadn't opened/mailed certain things
- repeadedly instructing me to put a lid on the rice while it cooked ("No mom...that's not how you cook Risotto)
- putting the lid on herself when I did not do so
- watching Sidney like a hawk to make sure he didn't suddenly become a rabid zombie wolf beast (at least, I assume that's why she was watching him...I can think of no other reason to observe an animal that closely and with that much trepidation)

I love my mom... and I know moms never stop mothering, especially when they are bored and in their child's home and dinner is taking forever because their daughter foolishly decided to experiment with new rice varieties. So if there's one lesson I learned from this it is: always use Arborio rice for Risotto when your parents are over. Always. (But even if you use brown rice it will still be delicious, and you will still garner rave reviews from the parentals).

Luckily, my other family members are very good at entertaining themselves...


Mini & Sidney

- Approx 3 lb Butternut Squash
- 1/2 cup white wine
- About 6 cups chicken or veg broth
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 1 T Olive Oil
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1.5 cups arborio rice
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmasean cheese
- 2 tsp chopped fresh sage
- 2 c fresh baby spinach or mixed greens

Preheat your oven to 450. Cut the squash into several large sections and de-seed. Place sections face-down on a baking pan or sheet and roast until cooked through (about 40 minutes), flipping each section halfway through cooking. Wait until the squash is cool enough to touch without burning yourself, then remove the flesh (patience!) and cut into 1" cubes.

Cook the onion in a heavy pot over medium heat, stirring frequently, until soft and semi-translucent. Add rice, garlic and cumin and cook, stirring for 2-3 minutes.

Stir in the white wine and cook until absorbed and evaporated. Continue simmering and adding broth 1/3-1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly. Wait until each addition is absorbed before adding the next. Continue cooking until the risotto is creamy but not mushy (you may have leftover broth).

Stir in the squash pieces, sage and parmasean and stir until cheese is melted. Serve. Eat. Delicious.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Another new addition...

Our little family just keeps growing - from just the two of us, to a cozy little group of three, and now a family of four! I mentioned a few weeks ago when we brought Mini home that my friend Emily has been fostering a rescue dog, and that we were considering adopting him... well, we did! Meet Sidney!


I kind of goes without saying that Ben and I are both prone to worry and anxiety, so we thought long and hard about the decision to get a dog. We knew it would have to be a small dog, since we live in an 1100 square foot condo, and we eventually decided that there was no way we were getting a puppy. For one thing, we do not have time to train one - and for another, there are so many adult dogs who need homes, and while shelters and rescues have no problem finding homes for puppies and kittens, adult animals are often overlooked.

We decided to "borrow" Sid for a few days to see how it went - and especially whether he and Mini could handle each other. Obviously it went well! They were totally wary of each other at first... but Mini quickly warmed up to the idea of Sid as a new playmate to chase around and pull her Kato moves on. Poor Sid. He's such a good sport.

She also tries to rope him into her random acts of mischief such climbing in the diswasher and walking the back of the couch like a tightrope. Sid's tightrope act is quite impressive.But now that he's settled in and feels more comfortable in our home, he's actually playing with her, too!

Moving on - this past Sunday thru Tuesday I was in Chicago attending a conference: the World Congress on Creating a Culture of Health in the Workplace!

Business travel is fun?

Hotel room - actually quite nice! Not quite enough space for yoga podcasts, but I managed anyways :)

I really, really enjoyed this conference - I have only ever been to huge, MBA-oriented conferences that are basically glorified job-fairs, so it was a great change of pace to attend a smaller, more intimate conference focused solely on education. The conference was fantastic and I learned a ton - but today I am exhausted... partly due to speaker/information overload, and partly due to fun nights out with friends - Katie and Kristin :)

On Sunday night, I met my friend Katie for dinner at her new place in Andersonville. Initially, we planned on making vegan, gluten-free cupcakes from this cookbook:

The best laid plans of mice and men...

...but then Katie realized she was out of a couple of the ingredients, and we were too lazy to hunt them down so instead we made regular chocolate chip cookies full of butter, eggs and flour. To add insult to injury, we then threw in some chopped-up Snickers bars. Because that's what Haloween candy is for...?

Monday night after a long (but very energizing and thought-provoking) day of speakers, I met up with Kristin for dinner. Ben and I have been listening to Anthony Bourdain during our car trips, and his remembrances of Japan have had me craving sushi for days - luckily Kristin has several sushi restaurants within walking distance of her place, so we hiked over to Wakamono.


The sushi was very good - I especially liked the Snow White roll - and the cocktails were amazzzing. After dinner we walked back to Kristin's place for tea and some more chatting and catching up. It was so great seeing both of these lovely ladies - makes me sad when so many of my good friends live so far away :(

But, I was glad to get home to Ben and our little family. He kept texting me cute pictures which killed me... I miss him so much even after 2.5 days of being away, I can't imagine how we made it through 2 years of long-distance. Thank god those days are behind us!

Sleeping pup!

Example of cute photo sent by husband...

Alright - back to work for me. I will write more about the conference when I get a chance - and I'm still planning on posting that risotto recipe! Happy Tuesday!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Look! Kittens!

I am boring. I am a boring old corporate-working lady person.

I have come to this conclusion after not posting a blog since Monday because I've been working all the time, thinking back and considering what I could have blogged about and realized that each daily recap would have gone like so:
- Wake up
- Go to yoga (or attempt to practice yoga at home while enduring constant kitty sneak-attacks)
- Go to work
- Attempt to get all work done. Fail to do so due to onslaught of meetings.
- Fall asleep in meetings (kidding!)
- Attempt to leave work
- Get caught in another meeting that runs late
- Leave work
- Get caught in ridiculous traffic
- Crash on couch with Amy's Country Cheddar Bowl (because when you've had a hectic day all you really want is something with carbs and melty cheese)
- Watch How I Met Your Mother/Modern Family/Gossip Girl/Baseball
- Sleep
- Repeat

We did have a fun but low-key night on Monday though. My friend Amanda came to meet Mini, bearing Thai takeout and my sister stopped by to pick up her phone charger and share a much-deserved beer after finishing the GRE! Congrats lady. I'm pretty sure that was the most attention Mini has ever gotten in her life. She was freaking out from excitement.

Now, in order to make up for my boringness I will attempt to distract you with cute kitten pictures:


... passed out
Passed out

ferocious hunting beast
Ferocious Hunter

showing that piece of ribbon what's up
Wild Hunter with ribbon

...and then there's this:

Not sure which is the best part: the hair pulling, the fact that Julianna has a cat in one hand and a beer in the other, or the fabulous screen-printed shirt that ties it all together.

...or the fact that she tried to put my cat in her purse and walk out the door.

Purse Kitty

Purse Kitten

Anyways, tonight I am making butternut squash risotto. So there's that. And I will post the recipe, so that will be probably more useful than kitten pictures. In other news it is almost Friday! Hooray!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Getting Out of Dodge

... or Minneapolis

I love road trips - hitting the highway with sandwiches packed, watching the sun set (or rise) as we drive, stopping now and then for water and junk's the life.


As you're probably aware if you know me or have been reading this blog for any length of time, Ben and I were long distance for almost two years while he and I were in grad school in Ohio and Minnesota, respectively. As a result, road trips were a pretty consistent part of both of our lives. At least a couple of times each year, we met up in Lake Mills Wisconsin, which was relatively equidistant for both of us, and kind of fell in love with the town. We got to know people, settled into our favorite haunts... Lake Mills really became "our place."

So, it was only a matter of time before we made our way back. Once again, we stayed at the Sweet Autumn Inn - Teri, who owns the inn, is almost like another mom at this point. We even called her from the road to let her know we'd be late, and as soon as we arrived she filled us in on all the gossip from the microbrewery.

Even though we were only in town for one day, we managed to pack in all of our favorite activities, and even left time for shoe shopping!... not something we normally do, but in our hurry to beat the worst of rush-hour traffic, I ran out the door in my boots with 3-inch heels and completely forgot to pack comfy shoes. One pair of grey flannel moccasins later, my feet were in heaven.


fall table settings...


....and Pumpkin-Stuffed French Toast


beautiful autumn colors



Water House Foods - One of my favorite lunch spots anywhere. Local, organic, artisan and delicious.


... the best lemon bars on the planet


catching up on all the important news...


After getting a bit of work done at Water House (and mentally congratulating former Twin Carlos Gomez for scoring the winning run in the ALCS!), we headed out on the town ... or at least as much as you can get "out on the town" in a small town in Wisconsin :) First we hit up a wine tasting:

Our favorite of the evening - the Meiomi Pinot Noir


...good grief. Need to do something about these eyebrows...


...Wine tasting was followed by dinner at the Blue Moon, a great creole and pizza restaurant decorated with all kinds of random chotsky


...and a trip to the microbrewery



enjoying a pint of my favorite pumpkin spice beer: Tyranena Painted Ladies


return of the Pumpkin Heads!!


Sadly (thankfully?), this visit to Tyranena was devoid of drunk ladies declaring their undying bosom friendship and smooching me while squashing my face. Despite a jam-packed evening we made it out swimmingly on the other side, if maybe a little squinty from the bright sunlight...


...and then, just as the weekend began, it was time to hit the road back to Minneapolis. Cruel, cruel Monday morning...why do you arrive so quickly??


Welcome home!!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Teaching is hard, dudes...

...but first, cupcakes. You see what I have to deal with at work every day? These shenaningans. My desk is right by the unofficial "treats" table, and this has been a week of plenty - special K bars, halloween candy, and now homemade Caramel Apple Cupcakes. Help.


Moving on. Teaching is hard.

One of the most terrifying moments of my life to date is standing in front of my first class of students at Theatre e3 in 2002. I'm not sure I walked into that room with any sort of plan or agenda other than: "I know things! About music!! Now I will teach all the little children and IT WILL BE AMAZING!!!"

And then, my first class of students walked in. They were six and seven-year-olds - and I was scared to death of them. I stood paralyzed in front of them as they sat cross-legged on the floor, staring up at me with wide saucer eyes, waiting expectantly for me to fill their little brains with knowledge.

I had to teach them things. I had to fill the next 45 minutes of time with teaching them things. The room suddenly seemed quiet. Time slowed to a crawl.


I took a deep breath. Smiled. "OK kids let's do some warmups!" And we were off.

Some of my amazingly talented kiddos in 2005

Teaching is tough for me because, as an introvert, my default position is sort of to retreat back into my own head. It's not that I'm antisocial or don't like people - far from it - but I'm much more comfortable being an observer than being the center of everyone's attention. As a teacher, your goal is to be the center of your students' attention - and you have to work damn hard to make that happen. Being that outwardly-focused and "on" for such a long time is draining.

When I started my first corporate job, before I went back to school, I assumed that because I was making more money, my job would be proportiantely harder.


Leading a meeting of corporate executives (and I literally mean was a smaller company and I ended up reporting directly to a VP) is not nearly as hard as teaching a class of six and seven-year-olds. For one thing, corporate executives tend not to spin around inexplicably in circles when they don't feel like participating or paying attention. The also tend not to scream, hit each other with wooden planks or make you to pretend a stick is some delicious Harry Potter food.

I'd forgotten how difficult teaching was. As a teacher, you are juggling a thousand different things in your brain, but have to assimilate all of these constantly changing inputs into a steady, easy to understand string of words or instructions that make logical sense. And you probably should also sound like an engaging human being and not a robot. I understand now why teachers like using powerpoint - giving a presentation is much easier than actually engaging with your students. I'm pretty sure it is also less effective (MBA professors, I'm looking at you!)

So enough of my rambling - even though Wednesday night's yoga class was made up of grown adults instead of kids, it brought back a lot of memories - some of them painful, some of them amazing. See, while teaching was by far one of the most difficult things I've done, it was also one of the most rewarding. Hopefully it's something I'll be able to continue doing in the future, but for now I'm just loving the practice and the journey.

As I already mentioned, my husband and I are headed to southern Wisconsin for the weekend, to get away and relax for a bit. Julianna was kind enough to agree to watch Mini for us, so that for the next two days we can enjoy drinking microbrew, eating delicious home-cooked breakfasts, and hopefully recharing our batteries a bit. Peace out.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Going Where I Have to Go has been a busy couple of weeks. I don't think I realized just how crazy things were going to get when Ben and I both started working 45+ hours a week, but that's just how life goes I guess. Between trying to get to yoga as much as possible, taking care of the kitty, and those weeknight social events taht keep popping up, we've had our hands full. Luckily, we're getting away for the weekend and heading to our favorite B&B in Lake Mills, Wisconsin. Friday afternoon can't get here fast enough!

My biggest regret in being so busy is that I haven't made it up to my parents house since the leaves started to change. My parents live near a lake in the woods, and they always have the most gorgeous fall colors... I love hanging out there in the fall, chatting with my mom and watching post-season baseball with my dad. Hopefully some night next week, or next weekend I'll make this happen...

Taken in my parents neighborhood, photo from

I'm also teaching my first yoga class tonight! I'm a little nervous about this because (ssshh) I haven't taken a teacher training yet... but I have taken the 100-hour Anusara Immersion and have studied the teacher-training manual quite thoroughly.

Obviously I'm not going to start teaching willy-nilly without getting some sort of certification, and honestly I'm not even sure I want to be a yoga teacher, but my friend Laura who normally teachers our small pre-choir yoga class is traveling this week and asked if I would be willing to sub. Of course I said yes! The students are all friends from choir, so I'm sure they will be forgiving if my sequencing is not perfect :) Over lunch I'm going to work on putting together the ultimate yoga playlist.

For some reason I just haven't felt like myself these last couple of days - maybe it's because I haven't been sleeping well. Who knows. I think what I'm realizing (not that I didn't know this before) is that we never have all the answers in life. Even when outwardly it might look like we have it all together and are on the right path, something inside us will always be questioning what our real purpose in the world is. Or maybe it's just where I am right now.

Back when I was teaching music to little kids, I remember saying to my boss: "I can't believe you're seriously paying me to do this." I was having so much fun, I honestly felt guilty depositing my paycheck. I don't feel that way now - and I'm making about three times what I was making as a teacher at a non-profit.

Don't get me wrong - I am so greatful for all of the blessings I have in my life. If I could have any corporate job, I would want it to be this one. I am thankful to have an employer that cares so much about its employees, and a job where I genuinely feel like the work I do makes a meaningful, positive impact in people's lives.

I am thankful that I don't need a second job to make ends meet; that I can afford the yoga classes and workshops I love so much; that I don't need to stress about the cost of ordering a glass of wine with dinner; that I can travel to amazing places with my husband. I love my life and am so, so blessed. But there are some things I miss from my pre-MBA days.

So, what is the answer? I don't really know. What I do know is that my path will continue to evolve and take shape, and that where I am right now is exactly where I am supposed to be.

I learn by going where I have to go ~ Theodore Roethke

Sometimes, the obstacles on the path, are the path.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Minerva McGonagall

Everyone say hello to the newest member of our family.... :)


If you're wondering how on earth this happened, I can explain.

Ben and I have been thinking about getting a little fuzzy friend for quite a while (in our discussions it was always a dog), but I think we were both a little apprehensive about taking on such a big responsibility with both of us starting new jobs and working a LOT.

Well, that all changed when Maggie came to visit us for two weeks. It was so much fun having her around, and when my dad came to pick her up on Friday I was honestly a bit distraught. I love that little booger.

So on Saturday, we met up with a few friends for brunch at Butter to celebrate Katie being in town for the weekend. My friend Emily mentioned that she was taking her foster-dog Sidney to an adoption fair in Minnetonka, and Ben and I decided to join her, still thinking we wanted to find a dog.

Going to a pet adoption fair less than 24 hours after having a neurotic yet adorable kitty cruelly taken from you is sort of like going grocery shopping when you're starving. The situation is made even more vulnerable when you are immediately greeted by of whom snuggles up to you and loves you right away, and who also seems to be the perfect combination of fluffy, snuggly, and kind of a weirdo. Rare qualities.

I was a goner.

Long story short, we drove to Minnetonka really not planning on making any decisions - and somehow came home with a three-month-old rescue kitten named Minerva McGonagall (Mini for short, or Mini McG... we named her obviously).


If she looks slightly perturbed here it is only because I was trying to hold her back from chewing on my scarf so Ben could take a picture. Told you she was a weirdo.

For dog lovers out there - don't worry! That's still on the table...more to come later. Let's just say Mini wasn't the only animal we fell in love with at the adoption fair, but nothing is final yet so we don't want to say too much until we make a decision. Long story short, we got a little nervous about the reality of taking care of a dog while we are both so busy - and we want to make sure we can handle it before we commit.

On Sunday, Ben, Julianna and I drove to Northfield for apple picking at Fireside Orchard! Just another day behaving like mature adults in public:

Pumpkin Butt


Pumpkin Heads


Approaching Normalcy


Now that I have all these apples, I need to figure out what to do with them... such a chore :)

Stay tuned for some apple-related recipes....and LOTS of kitten pictures...

I hope you all had great weekends!
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