Thursday, September 18, 2014

It's not really about the cupcakes

Song of the Day: Taylor Swift - Shake It Off

I'm three weeks into grad school, and on a day to day basis I'm doing pretty good.  It's when I look at the big picture that I start to freak out a little.  And not even the big picture of what's all due this week or this semester, but the big picture of where is my practicum going to be next year, and should we send Elliot to Stoughton schools or Whitewater schools, because I really like that Whitewater loops, but we won't be here for two years, so maybe stick with Stoughton, and which elementary should we pick, and what about wrap around care, oh wait, am I not going to be able to be there for his first day of kindergarten?  And what about Caroline, is there anyway we could keep her at their current school because it's amazing, and don't I want what's best for both of their educations?  But what about my education, where am I going to end up being next year, and what about the year after?  Is my internship site going to end up being my full time job?  I hope so, but what if it's not, or what if it's in Verona, do both Kyle and I need to commute, should we move, do we want to move back to West Salem at some time?  Do we want to have another baby at that point, what if we don't move, do we still want one then, when would be the right time, do we really want 5-7 years between Caroline and #3..... and on and on and on.

This inner dialogue happens multiple times a day.  While I'm trying to read articles, print materials, work on papers... all the time, because any school topic gets me on a mental tangent about the next three years. 

Right now I'm in this semi-denial about my stress/anxiety level.  I think I'm fine, but when I take stock I realize that my shoulders are always tense and practically touching my ears, my stomach always feels like it's in knots, my hands always feel cold, and the cafe lady in the library asked me if I was tired today, because I looked like I was tired.  Now, I have no problem falling asleep or staying asleep, but that's because I'm so tired from the underlying anxiety that's part of my day.  And it's not tired she's seeing on my face, it's stress.  

What finally made me realize that I am definitely being affected by the stress of grad school, was a conversation I had with Kyle last night.  He had two customer dinners to go to and wouldn't be home until late.  I requested dessert and figured I would just eat it the next day since I would probably be sleeping when he got home.  I wanted some sort of cake.  Not ice cream or pie, cake.  Kyle called at 8:30 ish to let me know that the first dinner went late, so he was just going to come home.  He didn't get dessert, but would pick something up from the Target bakery when he stopped their to get diapers.  He asked what I wanted, I said some sort of cake.  He wanted me to pick a kind, and I said I don't know, chocolate or something, but not mouse, but not just cake either (of course I could picture exactly what I wanted in my head, just didn't know how to describe it, or if they even had it).  I finally said, oh, just get me a piece of their red velvet cake because they almost always have it.

At 9:15 he calls and says he's on his way home.  He got the diapers, and a package of the red velvet cupcakes.  This is where I kind of freaked out.  How dare he get me FOUR cupcakes when I just wanted ONE piece of cake! Now I am going to have to eat four cupcakes, and I just wanted to have one piece of cheat cake!  Why is he sabotaging my weight loss?!!  Did he even care about what I wanted?!  I just wanted him to do one thing, bring me one piece of cake, and he made ME CHOOSE the kind that I wanted, and then didn't even bring me exactly what I wanted!  Did he even look around to see if there were any other types of cake, or did he just pick the first red velvet thing he saw??  Because I didn't want red velvet cake, I just wanted CAKE and he made me pick red velvet!  COME ON!!  

Obviously, this was not about the cake, or the cupcakes, and thankfully I am married to a wonderful man who knows when I'm going through something before I even do, and doesn't hold it against me when I freak out.  The cupcakes?  I ate one, and it was delicious.  But Cake v. Cupcake wasn't about Kyle not listening or caring about my specific bakery needs, it was about me wanting to be able to predict what is going to happen, and actually have it happen.  I wanted to predict that I would have cake based on the evidence that I told Kyle to bring me cake, and actually have cake.  I want predictability over what might happen in the next three years, to have a glimpse of the means that will get me to the end. 

But that's not really how life works.  So for now, I'll take it one day at a time, and focus on reading articles and writing a paper... and find comfort in the fact that at least I have three cupcakes waiting for me at home ;)

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

You know what would make this better?

Song of the Day: Meghan Trainor - All About That Bass

Last Thursday, I was on a total home improvement high.  Our 40+ year old thermostat had been on the fritz for quite a while, so I went online, ordered a new one, and it arrived on Thursday.  I watched a YouTube video done by Home Depot on how to change the thermostat, and it was definitely a good resource!  Seriously, there is a YouTube video for everything!  I'm currently watching reviews on different school backpacks.  Anyways, I successfully installed the new thermostat, and the only down moment was the old thermostat took up a lot more room than the new one.

It doesn't look pretty, but it works!  Riding this home DIY high, I decided to finally hang the rods and curtains for our room that we purchased when we moved in two years ago.  Side note: the walls in our house are terrible.  We're not exactly sure what type of plaster they are, or if they're even finished, but we stripped the wallpaper and haven't touched them since.  Kyle successfully hung my mirrored jewelry box, but even that was with a little luck.  I used the little cut outs to make sure the holes for the rod were in the right place, made sure everything was level, put in the correct piece to make the holes, and drilled.  The wall started crumbling around the hole I made.  I thought about putting the holes in the window trim, since that's where the holes are for the rods in the kid's rooms.  No luck.  I'm partially blaming this on my drill starting to die and losing juice, so I have yet to retry since I've charged it.  

The real story, is what was going on downstairs while I was fighting with the walls upstairs.

I didn't want to do the curtains while the kids were napping because they would have woken up.  Once they were both awake, I put on a movie, filled their glasses with milk, set out some cheddar bunnies, and told them I'd be upstairs.  Within seconds Caroline was upstairs wanting to help, shortly followed by Elliot.  I had them help me get the stool from the bathroom, but other than that, there wasn't much for them to do, and they went back downstairs.  A few minutes later, they were back up saying they needed more milk.  At this point I was in the thick of it with the holes in the wall, and I told them to go back downstairs and I'd be right there.  They whined the whole way down the stairs, but I was set on getting these curtains hung.  I realized that I had lost to the wall and the trim, and was contemplating what to do next, when I heard laughter from downstairs.  

Just as parents of new borns know what eat type of cry means, there are different types of laughter.  There's laughter when you hear a joke, when you're watching a movie, when you're being tickled, and when you're doing something that you shouldn't be doing, but it is just so cool.  The laughter I heard was without a doubt, the "doing something that you shouldn't be doing, but it's just so cool."  I turned the corner down the steps and saw the very full gallon of milk on the kids table in the kitchen, both kids hovered around it, cap off.  I say, "Hey guys what are you doing?"  and Caroline says excitedly, "We're putting the cheddar bunnies in the milk!"  Oh no.  I looked in the jug and about 30 cheddar bunnies are floating around in it like a new way to eat a very cheddar cereal.

I had just bought this gallon of milk.  There was about 1 cup used, so it was very very full.  Not wanting to waste it (and really, only the kids drink milk), I decided I could just strain out the cheddar bunnies.  I've been washing out all of our glass containers to re-use/re-purpose them somehow (Hello Pinterest!) and I could finally use them!  I took an empty apple sauce jar, an empty spaghetti sauce jar, and my 4-cup measuring cup.  Using the strainer I typically use to rinse quinoa, I started separating the bunnies from the milk.  At the end, there was a loud clump that wouldn't come out.  I expected to see a mush of cheddar bunnies that had sat in the milk too long and lodged together.  I'd have to rinse out the container.  I looked in the container and saw this:

A large carrot we had picked up from the farmer's market the past weekend.  

If it wasn't for the fact that this was kind of a teachable moment (and not something I want to reenforce as funny), and they are my children, I would have laughed out loud.  Instead I just starred in disbelief, mouth wide open to try and hide my smile.  What were they thinking?  What was going on in their heads?  The cheddar bunnies make a little sense because they were readily accessible, sitting in the bowl on the table, right next to the milk.  But who thought, hey, you know what would make this better?  One of those carrots from the fridge.  

Kids are so weird.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Adventures as Hippie Betty Crocker*

Song of the Day:  The Lego Movie - Everything Is AWESOME

Yesterday was my wonderful husband's birthday.  Birthdays equal cake.  But we didn't have any cake mix in the house.  I didn't want to go to the store because we are trying to use up everything in the house.... so I decided to make one from scratch... Perfect!  Because we have all of those ingredients!  ....  Except milk.  ....  No big deal.  I'll just make my own almond milk (because we have a ton of almonds).

So, I made my own almond milk.  I went with just straight almonds with no sweetener since it was going in a cake anyway.  Since I needed the milk right away, I only soaked the almonds for 2 hours instead of overnight.  Maybe that is where this all went wrong....

The milk was super easy to make, and at the end of the recipe it tells you how to make almond meal/flour.  Perfect!  I could even use the almond bits for part of the cake!  So, I dehydrated the pieces for 2 hrs on low, then put them in the food processor and ground them up into tiny tiny pieces.

- at this point, I'm feeling pretty impressed with myself.  I have avoided the grocery store, am making a cake from such a level of scratch, that I'm making my own milk and flour!  Come on!  Who is this woman?!  I could totally survive in some "live off the land" type show!  Pioneer woman, here me roar!  I am AWESOME?!  Right?!!   

The almond flour gave me about 3/4 cup and I needed 1.5 cup flour, so I used regular all-purpose flour to get me to the 1.5 cups.  The cake recipe makes 1 9x9, so I decided to use my 6" round pan and do a double layer circle cake....  grease the pan, put the cake batter in, bake for 30 min....

Not done.  Add 3 more minutes.... done.  Let cool.......   ......  ...... try to take it out of the pan.  Sticking everywhere.  It comes out in chunks and those chunks are barely sticking together.  That's okay, I tell myself.  I'll just pipe some frosting and stick it all together.  It will work.  This will just be the bottom layer.  Maybe I just need to spray the pan more so it comes out easier.

Try 2.  Nope.  In fact, this layer may have stuck worse.  I had already piped a layer of frosting onto the bottom layer, and was now taking chunks out of the pan for the top layer and mushing it onto the frosting.  Maybe I could mold these chunks into a cake!  Forget pioneer woman, I'm an artist!  I piped some more frosting onto the "top," tried to smooth it a little, then threw on a crap ton of sprinkles to mask the destruction.

Take a step back to examine the cake filled with so much love that it is bursting, and ....

HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!  I. Could. Not. Stop. Laughing. 

Kyle walked in about 30 seconds later and I tried to stop him before he saw the cake, so I could explain about the love, but it was too late.  His words - "What happened to that cake?  Did the kids get into it?"

This was one of those times where I am glad I have learned to laugh at myself.  I could have been upset, sad, pissed... instead, I just laughed.  The cake looked like a disaster, but still tasted wonderful.  

Happy Birthday Kyle <3 p="">

*Hippie Betty Crocker is coined by Alyson, Trademark pending ;)

Friday, May 16, 2014

Closure (Let it Go)

Song of the Day: Demi Lovato - Let It Go  ...yes, this song is everywhere, but it's so fitting :)

It's been quite a while since I've written a post!  I have been so busy with this semester that it just got away from me!  So time for a little update!

1.  I got into grad school!  Yay!!  I also stress ate my way through the entire process (which I'll probably start writing about again soon!), but I'm in!  I'm really excited about this next step in my education, and I'm excited to get to know the rest of my cohort!

2.  I don't know if I wrote about it on here, but as part of my graduation requirements I had to do a independent study/capstone that involved a literature review paper and presentation.  Yesterday I gave my presentation, and it went great!  I was so nervous (of course), but I realized just how far I've come in my presenting and writing abilities, and how much I've learned!  I've learned so much these past few years and it was great to present in front of professors that I've really gotten to know, and show them what I'm capable of.  I had an advisor for the independent study, and she helped me a lot with sorting through my ideas, and polishing my paper, but I really did it by myself.  There were many days when my lack of motivation lead me to spending the day on Netflix, but I still finished strong.  The Nelson Mandela quote "It always seems impossible until it's done" is a very fitting way to describe this experience :)

3.  I graduate tomorrow!!!  I can't believe it's finally here!  10 years ago I graduated from high school - went to college - left college - and was never really sure when I'd be back.  I knew I wanted to finish my degree, but I didn't really have a plan of when that would happen.  I have seen a lot of Facebook status' about "last day of undergrad ______ (classes, exams, etc)" and I wanted to post one, but I just have so many emotions tied to this past week, that I didn't know how to express what it really means to me in a Facebook update.  And that almost seemed to cheapen my experience to write it that way.  So, here's the longer version.

Dropping out of college back in 2006 was definitely the right decision for me.  I went through a super rough patch in my life, and thankfully made it through to the other side with little damage.  If I hadn't dropped out, I would have never moved back to La Crosse, gotten in touch with old friends, and met Kyle.  We would have never gotten married, or had our two wonderful kids.  Who knows where I'd be right now.  I know it was the right thing, and I love my life, but that doesn't mean that I look back on me dropping out as a pleasant thing.  I've spent the last 8 years thinking of myself as, for lack of a better term, a fuck-up.  In the past few years I've accomplished things that have lessened the degree to which I think that - because really, I'm a pretty well adjusted functioning adult - but I've always held not finishing college over my head, like an example of my shortcomings; my failure to live up to my potential.  So back in the summer of 2011, I went back to finish what I had started, and I'm finally done.

When people congratulate me for finishing, I tend to brush it off and say, "Thanks!  Finally!" or "Thanks! I'm excited, but I'm starting grad school, so I'm far from done!"  I mean, yes finally, and yes I'm starting grad school, but really, I just don't want to start crying if I really tell them, "Thank you, this really means so much to me, and I'm really proud of myself for going back to school and finishing my degree."  I'm crying now just writing this, and I'm not even saying it out loud.  Finishing my undergrad is not about how great it was that I decided to go back to school even though I have kids, a husband, and responsibilities.  Yes, that made things more complicated, but there are always other things in your life, and I learned to prioritize and really be present whether with my family or in class.  Finishing my undergrad means so much more to me than a stepping stone in my education/career.  It's proving to myself that those two years were a fluke, that's not who I am, and it doesn't define me.  It's finally quieting the internal voice that reminds me of my shortcomings, and makes me feel like I need to justify my intelligence and worth, because I didn't finish college "the right way," whatever that even means.  Most of all, it's closure.  Closure on all of the feelings I have about the poor decisions I made.  It's finally putting the last piece in the puzzle to complete this part of my life.  With time and hard work, everything really did turn out all right, and I couldn't be happier with where I am in my life right now.  I feel like I am right where I'm supposed to be, even if this peace only lasts until everyone else wakes up :)

I'm excited to see where these next few years of grad school take me, not only in my education, but also as a person.  Having closure on these old emotional wounds is empowering, and I feel ready to take on the next task!  Which right now, is finding a dress for the commencement ceremony. :)

Friday, February 7, 2014

Cooking Up Something New: Red Lentils

Song of the Day: One Republic - Counting Stars

Have you ever bought some new food thing to try, and then have no idea what to do with it?  Well, I have been in that boat many many times, and finally found a solution.  Look on the package.  Seriously.  Most packaging contains not only directions for basic cooking, but a new recipe to try.  My new product was Bob's Red Mill Red Lentils. 

They were on the top shelf in the area full of other dried stuff in bags that I'm intimidated by.  I made them following the directions, and realized that I have no idea if they turned out correctly or not.  But they were good as a side to my salad for lunch.  Plain was okay, but I kept feeling like I should do something more with them.  Of course, I could have made this simple with a google search, but instead they sat in the cupboard.  About a week has gone by and I decided to take a look at them again.  I took a look at the recipe on the bag and realized that I had most of the ingredients.  I considered half-ing the recipe, just in case it didn't turn out, or I didn't like it, but instead decided to just go for it.  I wasn't going to go to the store, so I had to make a few changes:

I didn't have any celery, so I just added more carrots.  I had baby carrots, and I wish that I would have cut them length wise before dicing them (I just did a carrot coin type cut) so they would have cooked more. 

I definitely used more garlic than needed.  I almost always use more garlic than recipes call for.

I also only have chopped bay leaves for some reason, so I used a small amount of that instead of a whole bay leaf.

I used diced tomatoes instead of crushed tomatoes.

I used about a cup of spinach, because I love spinach.

I only had seasoned rice vinegar, so that's what                            I used.

It was delicious!!  Caroline loved it too, and Elliot didn't want to try it, which is pretty normal since he hasn't been feeling too well.  It made a ton of soup so I am able to freeze some for later.

I was kind of weirded out about adding the vinegar, so I tried the soup before the vinegar and added one tablespoon at a time.  I did end up adding 2 tablespoons, and it definitely gave the soup a more dynamic flavor!  In the future I would maybe add more spinach, because as stated before, I love spinach.  

I still have a ton of red lentils left, so I'll be looking for more recipes to make and share! 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

So Great, So Terrible: Kale Fail

Song of the Day: The 1975 - Chocolate

On Tuesday I was home with Caroline because she had a terrible cough, watery eyes, and runny nose - all around, she just wasn't feeling good.  We took Elliot to school so she could actually be lazy at home, otherwise she just wants to play with him.

I took this extra time at home to try something new with my breakfast smoothie - also my bananas were still green, so I had to do something else.  I bought two bunches of kale last week and have been making kale chips with it using coconut oil and cayenne pepper, YUM, but I've heard of putting it in smoothies so I thought I'd give it a try.  Now, from the little I know about kale, I know that there are different kinds of kale, and some are more fibrous than others, and the curly kale that I had was very fibrous.  This is great for making kale chips, not so great for putting it in a smoothie.

                Different Kinds of Kale
Curly Kale - Use for a smoothie at your own risk

My smoothie fail included: 1 cup kale, 1 cup baby spinach, 1 cups almond milk, 4 tsp chia seeds (this may seem like a lot, but a recipe that I saw called for 1/4 cup (12 tsp) of chia seeds, and that made 2 servings, so I assumed a third of the 1/4 cup would be a good start).

Now, between the chia seeds and the kale not "liquifying" as I directed on the blender, this was a, um... chunky smoothie.  I added a little bit of coconut water to break it up, then tried liquifying again to no avail.  It was just, ugh, so terrible.  Such a let down.  I tried to choke it down as much as I could, but no.  I ended up tossing half of it and making the rest of the kale I had into kale chips for breakfast.  The kale chips were actually pretty delicious.  And I think from here on out, I'll be going back to spinach for my smoothies.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Warning: don't buy a new scale.

Song of the Day: American Authors - Best Day of My Life

Awhile ago we bought an inexpensive scale, not the cheapest, but by far not the most expensive.  It was made out of "bamboo" and looked cool.  It sat next to our sink and Elliot stood/jumped on it while he brushed his teeth.  This weekend I got a 9 lb difference keeping it in the same place and just changing how I stood.  Super annoying.  So we bought a new, nicer scale.  We got The Biggest Loser one, really just because it was glass, so there's not any give in how you stand on it.  Aaannnnndd, I gained 5 lbs.  I mean not really, but now the scale reads 5 lbs more than it used to.  It kind of makes me feel better that it's the same way for Kyle, lol.  

                  Old "Bamboo" Scale
New Biggest Loser Scale

About a week and a half ago I had a massage, I thought it was going to be just relaxation because I felt fine and relaxed.  I was very very wrong.  Everywhere she touched hurt.  She worked out a ton of knots all over my body.  I spent the massage thinking about how I didn't even know what was happening in my own body anymore.  I was completely out of touch with how I actually felt.  That was a huge wake up call for me, something had to change.  On Sunday we went grocery shopping, and I decided I needed to change what I was putting in my body.   

I've started to become much more aware of what I'm eating and how it makes me feel.  I've cut out pretty much all dairy (my general idea is if Kyle can't eat it - he's deathly allergic - I won't eat it), and I severely cut down on processed foods.  Lots and lots of vegetables, fruits, nuts, and whole grains.  And I feel so much better.  I am still keeping track of my calories, because I do want to lose weight, but I also just want to feel better.  

After the massage, the scale "gifting" me 5 lbs,  and reading this awesome blog written by Katie Lowe, an inspirational woman who is looking more to just improve her life than change her number on the scale, I realized that it doesn't really matter what the scale says, because it's not a reflection about how I feel.  The entry I linked above is about her weight loss progress, but she writes a lot about changing your whole life loving your body no matter what it looks like, and having a positive outlook.  I just love it, and it's helped me not focus so much on what the scale reads, and instead how I'm feeling from day to day.

My old breakfast was a Jimmy Dean Delite sandwich or a Kashi granola bar - pretty healthy (relatively), but pretty processed, and coffee.  Now I've switched it to a smoothie.  My base is spinach and a cup of coconut water, and I add either a banana, apple slices, blueberries, pineapple - whatever piece of fruit I want.  Liquify and yum!  My favorite so far is using a banana and the Coco Cafe - Mocha coconut water (which does have some milk in it, but whatever) with the spinach.  It's delicious!  I still drink coffee somedays, but I don't feel so sluggish without it.  The rest of my day is pretty much the same.  Eating veggies and drinking lots of water or tea.  Physically I feel better, but mentally I feel even better.  It's only been about 12 days, and I let myself eat what I wanted last weekend, but I feel more aware or mindful of myself.  I feel like I have more patience with the kids, and a more positive outlook on the day.  And more energy, definitely more energy.  

Maybe it's all in my head, but whatever, if it keeps me eating healthy, that's okay :)