Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Food for Thought...

Before I get started, I just wanted to share something exciting. Last night, I submitted my final assignment for the Social Media Certificate program I'm in. Provided I didn't fail the final presentation miserably, I will soon be certified! I must admit, I'm pretty excited. :) I've only been doing the courses since October, but it was a bit shocking to me how much time that took out of my life. Every night, I'd come home from work, and I'd feel guilty if I did anything but homework. It was always on my mind. So happy that it's over. And that got me thinking...

Thinking about a lot of different things. These days, my head seems like it's always filled with a million different thoughts. Sometimes homework. Sometimes money. Sometimes work. Sometimes health. Sometimes the desire for something more... More money, more time, more adventure, more happiness. The list goes on and on. Out of that list, I'd have to say that time and money are the things I think about the most. Hell, I'm already looking forward to this weekend because I have no plans and I can do nothing and feel completely okay with it since I'm no longer chained down with homework. Makes me sad that wishing away time is what gets me through the week at times. Then there's money. It's always on the mind, because I'm trying to save money, and I'm trying to put more away for retirement, and I'm trying to still enjoy my life without feeling guilty for spending a little here and there. I feel like it runs my thoughts more often than not over the past few weeks. I find myself wondering how I don't feel any further ahead money-wise, even though I make more than I did in my last job, even though I saved $150/month by moving out of my old apartment, even though I've cut costs in a number of ways. Then this makes me think that I will have to work, work, work forever to just live even remotely comfortably. Does anyone else have these thoughts?! I feel like a freak sometimes.

Anyway, it was like someone out there was just reading my mind, because one of my friends posted an article on Facebook last night called, "Your Life Style Has Already Been Designed," and I just about fell out of my chair when I read it. It made total sense to me. The American mentality and lifestyle is kind of a twisted and unhealthy one. We work so we can play. We spend more when we make more (which I have clearly done, because otherwise money probably wouldn't be on my mind so much). We save our fun for the weekends because we're too busy otherwise. Things like that. Please read this article. It really gives you insight into what all of us have been conditioned to do and think in our lives. Beyond that, the article makes me want to travel because life seems so much simpler somewhere else. :)

Sorry that I'm rambling... I just have been thinking about life a lot, and sometimes I wonder what it's all about. And then I read something like this and it's no wonder I think that way. I try very hard to stay positive, to make good changes in my life, and to focus on the little things that this "normal" lifestyle we live makes it so easy to forget. It's time to read. It's time to go for a walk. It's time to go out and explore. It's time to just be. I feel like I forget that far too often, and this article helped remind me of that a bit. I hope you are all content and that you don't drive yourself crazy with these thoughts quite as much as I do. ;) But if you do, then maybe it's time for some changes. Not sure what those changes are, but I'm going to try to live more simply and happily. I think it will do me wonders. :)

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Christmas, Birthday, and New Year's, Oh My!

I don't want to freak out all of you by how much I've been posting lately, but I guess I'm just on a roll or something! ;) As I mentioned in my last post about the holidays, I wanted to break the posts up a bit since I'm so far behind! This post will cover a little bit of everything - time in Colby for Christmas, and lots of time spent in Madison over the holidays as well.

I was lucky enough to get off of work from December 21-January 3. Pretty much rocked my world. That being said, the beginning of my vacay didn't go quite as planned. I was slated to go to Madison that Thursday night (12/20) after work, and then L and I would head up to Colby on Friday morning. Unfortunately, Madison got hit with A LOT of snow (somewhere around 18-20") on Thursday, so I wasn't able to go that night. For most people, not a big deal, but it had been a couple weeks since I'd seen L, and I was just ready to get there and forget about the real world for awhile. I just hung out in Milwaukee that night, and then I got a relatively early start to Madison the next day. The roads weren't ideal, but definitely better than they would have been had I tried to brave the blizzard conditions the night before. L and I made some lunch when I got to his place, and then we had to run to UW Provision to get some prime rib for Smith Bros. because they had quite a run on them for the holidays. That took a bit because it's out in the middle of nowhere and the roads were bad, but eventually we hit the road for Colby. Since we got home after my mom went to work, we ended up going up to eat at Allison's with my dad. Just hung out for awhile, then went to the VFW for a bit. Pretty decent night. On Saturday and Sunday, the shop had to cater for the high school's madrigal dinner, so L and I volunteered to help with that. Nothing too extensive. During the days, we just kinda hung out and bummed around, so that was nice.

Sunday, we had our family Christmas. It was the day before Christmas Eve. We have always done it on Christmas Eve, but my brothers and their wives have a big gathering for the girls' side of the family on the same evening, so it always involved rushing on their part. In an effort to switch it up a bit, we decided that moving it up a night would allow us all to just relax and enjoy a bit more. At L's request, we ended up having prime rib, along with lots of other fixins. It was awesome! The twice baked potatoes were the size of my head. Perfect! We all got to just hang out, have a few drinks, eat, open presents, etc. I'd have to say it was pretty enjoyable! We all got lots of goodies as usual (thanks mom and dad!). It was really wonderful to have L there celebrating with us too. Aside from way back in the day, I haven't really been 'with' someone that I would want to bring home. Makes me happy to have that now. :):) I took very random pictures that night, so here are a few, and then you can read on for other happenings!
Mom surprised me with a small tree in my room that was decorated for me and L! :)
Pausing for a pic while L made bloody mary's. Love this pic! :)

 Homer just chillin' while everyone was doing their thing during Christmas!
Sisters. :)
Bear sporting Grandpa's glasses!
What's Christmas without a pic in front of the tree? ;)
 The kids seemed to really like L! :)
L's studying sign language, so he was practicing with Homer. :)
 A little time out in the Mud Bar! (Love this one too!:)
Mama and Papa!
Such jokesters they are in the back. ;)
All the kiddos!
 A few more tree pics! (Thanks to Casey/Court for the above pic!)

Lots of pics! Thanks for bearing with me! :) And now onto some other stuff. L and I had considered driving separately to Colby in the event that I wanted to stay longer (I had more time off than he did), but we ended up coming together. That means we ended up leaving Colby on Christmas Eve day. Kinda sad. I'm weirdly into tradition, and it felt odd to not spend Christmas Eve or Christmas Day with my fam. That being said, we already had our celebration, and that is basically all we do together anyway. Christmas Day typically involves church and sitting around. Awesome? Of course. But it was fun to have a few days with L as well. We drove back to Madison and got to just relax. His family did a Christmas Eve thing. It was different than usual because his mom was in town (his parents live in Arkansas), so they did their thing. L and I had our own little Christmas, which was really nice. One of my favorite things about Christmas morning was the picture below:
L was adorable enough to make me heart-shaped eggs, along with hot chocolate (my favorite!). Seriously, how cute is that?! My idea of a perfect morning. We spent much of the day together just relaxing, exchanging gifts, etc. I really enjoyed that we were able to do something with just us. I could get used to that as a little tradition. :) 

Beyond that, because I had so much time off, I spent the next week+ at his place. He worked the two days after Christmas, so I just spent a lot of time relaxing on his couch. ;) It was really nice to just be mindless for those few days, although, of course I would've loved if he had off work too! Oh well. Sadly, on Thursday night, I started to get kinda sick. I didn't do much of anything, aside from spend far too much time in the bathroom. :-/ That Friday, I was still feeling a bit icky, but we ran a bunch of errands and went shopping. He wanted to get me a suit for my birthday. I have one business suit, and it works, but I've been on the hunt for another one for quite some time. Sadly, because I'm itty bitty, I have a very hard time finding one. If I do, it's in the juniors section, but for whatever unknown STUPID reason, they pretty much always have tops and bottoms, but not ones that match. WHY would you do that?! Every time I got remotely close to finding something that worked, we'd realize there were no bottoms to go along with the top. So frustrating! So, between not feeling the best and not having any luck, we ended up leaving the mall relatively empty handed. He did buy me a couple of scarves, so that was fun! After shopping, we went to Longhorn Steakhouse, where I got the below meal:
Parmesan Crusted Chicken with a Loaded Baked Potato

Can you say YUM?! It was so friggin' good. I love cheese, and I love saltiness, and this had it all. It was so flavorful! I just wish I had felt better to truly enjoy it all. It was two pieces of chicken, so I was able to take one home for leftovers, and it was still awesome. L had a gift card for there, so that's why we went. Well, it's one of those cards that's good at multiple chains - Olive Garden, Red Lobser, etc. - but we chose to go there because neither of us had been there before and the menu looked awesome. We were both very satisfied!

The next day, we did some more bumming around town, and we did lunch at Cheeseburger in Paradise, one of Jimmy Buffet's restaurants. It was pretty fun! I'll admit, the name made me a bit skeptical since it sounded kinda cheesy, but L had a $10 off coupon, so it was worth a shot. Turns out, it was a neat atmosphere and the food was really good! We hung out there for a bit, and then we went to a place called Club Tavern. It's a local pub that L has frequented, and it's pretty cool. I have since found out that they make a killer bloody mary, so you best believe I will be going back for that! I still wasn't feeling well at that time, so it's probably good that I didn't go that route. I was sporting one of my new scarves and new coat in the below pic. Can't see it that well, but I also got this awesome blue coat pea coat at Kohl's that was majorly on sale, so that was exciting! I wish you could see it better. The color combo was pretty cool. :)
 He'd probably be mad at me for posting, but L got an awesome fruity drink at Cheeseburger in Paradise. SO good!
My meal - also delicious!

Last topic of importance to mention is my birthday!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ;) I turned 27 on New Year's Eve. Didn't have too big of a freakout moment, although 27 seems old! I fortunately had a break from the sickness that day, which was perfect. I got up, and L made us birthday bloody mary's (see below). After that, we had brunch at Perkins, and then we spent a few hours at an Irish Pub in the area. That was a lot of fun. I love, Love, LOVE Irish pubs for some reason! Then we decided to give shopping another go, and I came much closer in my suit pursuit, but still nothing. Sad day! We ended up meeting L's sister T back at the Irish pub for a couple more hours. She had dinner reservations downtown, so we were just hanging out until she left. We had a few drinks, rang in the Irish new year at 6:00 pm (midnight their time), and just chatted. It was perfect! All along, the plan was for L to make me a nice birthday dinner, and while it was getting late, I wasn't giving up on it! We left the pub and headed back to L's. He made chicken, stuffing, and rice with gravy (one of my faves)! The chicken took a bit, which was okay because we'd gotten appetizers at the pub. We didn't end up eating until almost 10:00 that night, but that worked out well. We then topped it off with ice cream cake from DQ right before the new year hit. He even bought me candles for the cake! :) Overall, it was a legitimately perfect day. I felt good, I was with wonderful people, and I couldn't have asked for a better time. Very thankful and blessed! On New Year's Day, we packed up some food and went over to T's apartment to hang with her and L's other siblings for the Rose Bowl. Sadly, the Badgers kinda forgot to show up and lost the game, but at least we got AWESOME food! T is a fabulous host, and L is a grillmaster, so he braved the cold and made awesome chicken and ribs! (See ribs below). I got to hang out in Madison until Jan. 3rd, and I couldn't be happier about that. I felt truly lucky to spend that much time with L. Was wonderful and can't wait to go back. :) A few more pics below, and thanks for reading along!
Birthday bloody! :)
Me and L at the Irish pub!
Me, L, and T!
Birthday dinner, made by L. Yum! :)
 Happy 27th birthday to me! :)
 L's ribs about to go on the grill. Awesome!


Friday, January 11, 2013


Prior to jumping into another holiday post, I wanted to just talk to you about this new little thing I'm doing these days. Given the timing, I suppose one could consider it a New Year's resolution, but it really came about through some recent conversations with L about food, exercise, health, etc. Over the holidays, in the few days leading up to my birthday, I got pretty sick. Not puking sick, but the other end sick (sorry, a little too much info). Unfortunately, it lasted for like 3 days, I had a break on my birthday (fortunately!), and then it started again on New Year's Day night. This prompted some general conversations about our wellbeing from a physical standpoint. L has always been far better than me at exercising, eating healthy, etc. He also drinks a ton of water, which is something I know I should do, but it's something I don't do, at least not nearly enough.

Anyway, long story short, we were watching TV one of those mornings, and we caught a random infomercial about a product called the NutriBullet. Perhaps you've heard of the Magic Bullet or Baby Bullet, things like that. It's by the same people. Well, the basic concept is to get more fruits, veggies, and healthy things into your diet by using it. In their words, it essentially "pulverizes" (I've always loved that word) the food you put in it to turn it into liquid form. It's different than a juicer, in that you actually get everything, not just the juice. And it's different than a blender, in that it grinds through pretty much everything. I was skeptical when I watched the infomercial through their website that's linked above. I am very much a texture person, and when you talk about grinding/blending fruits, veggies, nuts, etc., so much so that they take on a liquid form, I am pretty much turned off from that point on. Food is meant to be eaten, not drank, in my opinion. So, we just kinda talked about how we could understand why it would be beneficial, especially for people like me who really don't eat much at all in the realm of fruits and veggies. Didn't really go any further with it, but thought it was kinda neat.

A few days later, when L was back in the office and I was hanging out on his couch since I was on vacation, we were chatting online and I wasn't feeling the best. We got on the health kick again and just talked about it. As a side note, he has a compulsive habit of buying things on Amazon, and that plays in here, because that day, he confessed to me that he went ahead and purchased a NutriBullet online. At first, I was like, "What?!", but quickly after my initial surprise, it didn't seem that outlandish. He didn't think of it when HE bought it, but as I was thinking about purchasing it too, he goes, "They probably have it at Target or something." And they do! Not to mention, for a decent amount cheaper, and I could go pick it up right away. So, off to Target I went! Mom and dad got me a $50 gift card to Target for Christmas, so that helped put a good dent in the price. After that purchase, I also got a variety of fruits and veggies, and L and I had our first NutriBlasts that evening! Again, I was nervous and skeptical, but it was surprisingly pretty good! To be honest, I don't even remember what we all put in mine that first time, but it was a good combo. The 'regimen' recommends 50% fruit, 50% veggies, and then filling it up to the fill line with water. Easy peasy! Best part is, if you use an apple or something, all you have to do is remove the core, and the rest can go in, peel and all! Broccoli? You can use the stem and everything, which is actually very nutritious, and everyone throws it away otherwise. Neat!

Anyway, as some of you know, and some of you don't (because I was going to post about it and never did), I had some semi-recent health issues, and it turned out that my potassium levels were very low. This NutriBullet allows me to add in a whole banana with each one I make (and most days, I have two per day), so that's great for the potassium!  It also allows me to blend in some veggies that I don't eat on a regular basis that are very good for me. Perfect! I've talked with some people about this who were curious about my particular concoction(s), and really, I've just been using one main mixture: 1) A couple decent handfuls of spinach; 2) Half of a carrot (the big sized carrots that you have to peel yourself - yes, mom, I even bought a vegetable peeler!); 3) About a quarter or so of a tomato; 4) A banana, cut up into 4-5 pieces; 5) occasionally a frozen strawberry or two; 6) Two large spoonfuls of flax seed; and 7) 1/2-3/4 of the amount of liquid as orange juice, with the rest being water. They recommend you 'avoid the temptation' of adding fruit juice, but here's my thought: It is no different than me having a glass of orange juice with breakfast, and since it makes it taste much better for me, I figure it's better to add OJ than it is to not add it and not drink these things at all. Am I right?! I think so. I have slowly tried to decrease the amount of OJ and add more water, and it seems to be going okay. I will probably always have at least a little juice, and I'm perfectly okay with that. L, on the other hand, goes with a much heavier veggie route. For instance, last night, he told me he made one with collards, broccoli, carrot, tomato, green apple, lime, flax seed, and water. His combinations don't appeal to me as much, as they tend to be a little on the thicker side. And they're not as sweet But they work! And they ARE drinkable. So even those are do-able. Mine can get a little thick if let sit too long because of the banana in there, but overall, not too bad! I have also used kale as my 'green,' which I would have gotten when I got back to MKE, but the grocery store happened to have the worst possible veggie selection that day and they were out. I will be going back to get more veggies this weekend. Excited!

For most of you who know me, this is  BIG.DEAL. In the past week and a half, I have probably consumed more fruits and veggies than I did in the last 3 months, no joke. Maybe even longer. That alone makes me feel like this is worthwhile! I had never had flax seed before this either, and since it's good for those omega 3's and fiber, this is great, because I would never use flax otherwise! Also, I don't know if it's just mental or if it's actually making a difference (which I'm sure it is), but I feel like I've noticed a difference in a couple of ways. First, I feel much more 'ready' to get up in the morning. I am still not a morning person, and could probably sleep all day if someone let me, but nonetheless, I have actually been getting up even earlier than usual, and I feel ready to attack the day, which has been awesome! Since I often have one after work too, that seems to keep me in productive mode longer in the evening as well. In addition, another too much information thing here, but I have never been the most "regular" when it comes to the digestive system if you get my drift, and this seems to be significantly helping in that arena! One thing that has surprised me, however, is how often I think about food now. It's subsiding a bit, but I think my brain was just like, "You're hungry, you're hungry, you're hungry!" all the time at first. I never used to eat breakfast, so I'm basically adding it in, but by like 10:30, I'm usually like, "Dang, I am hungry!" I think there's a reason behind that, something about my metabolism kicking into high gear or whatever. Anyway, that has been a bit of a hard adjustment, because I always used to snack on unhealthy junk. I've done some research on healthy snacks, and I've been trying to incorporate those in every so often (i.e., pumpkin seeds; guacamole, etc.). Oh! That reminds me, they have a guacamole recipe that you actually make in the Nutribullet, and it is awesome! L and I made it last weekend, and it was a little thick based on their recipe, but the flavor was awesome. I will make it again this weekend and can't wait! I can share that recipe if anyone is interested. Also, if you want a few of the Nutriblast recipes, go here! The book that comes with it gives several more, so if you purchase it or want me to post a few more, I can. Obviously I am not a spokesperson for this, but so far, I am beyond happy with my purchase! I've included two pictures, one pre-"blasted" and one after. Don't be freaked by the green color of the finished product. If you use my recipe, I guarantee you it's tasty! :)
Pre-blended (you would add water and/or juice to this before blending)

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Halloween + Turkey Day! (Yep, I'm Behind.)

Okay, okay. This is almost a joke nowadays. I am so far behind that I am going to combine Halloween and Thanksgiving into one post. I could add Christmas and New Year's too, but it might get a little long, so I'll do a combined one on that soon! I find myself wondering... "Do people even have interest in seeing this stuff so long after it happened?!" And then I figure I might as well still do it as a way for me to remember, and as a way to keep you updated, even if I'm behind! :)

Let's start with Halloween. Last year, I was welcomed into an 'exclusive' group of friends who celebrate Halloween in a BIG way. I came into that group because of my connection to L, and I couldn't be happier about it. You may or may not recall my AWESOME costume last year (the theme was "80's Icons"), and this year, the theme was "Board Game Characters." I'm going to go ahead and throw it out there that I wasn't overly thrilled with my costume this year. Wasn't quite as creative. But it was still fun! I went as Mrs. White from Clue. Most depictions show her as a frumpy 'ol lady, but I just went with a typical maid costume and made it a little sexier. ;) L went was the guy from Monopoly, and boy did he get into it! Almost too into it, ha! Overall, it was a great weekend! We took Friday off, so we drove up to La Crosse really early (that's where the annual celebration is held, and this was L's first weekend at the event as a non-La Crosse resident). We basically drank all day and just enjoyed everyone's company. Ha! Enjoy some pics of the weekend!

Leaving Madison for La Crosse!

 First of the crew to arrive in La Crosse!
Some of the ladies! :)
(I like the pic above, and L likes the pic below.:)
 Ladies get down! :)
 A visit to La Crosse wouldn't be complete without a trip to Del's!
Me and Kayleigh! :)
 Let the Halloween celebration commence! (Monopoly Man and Mrs. White)
 The cast of Clue minus Professor Plum!
 Makes me smile. :)
 See?! Isn't that costume creepishly good?! He's even got a little "Community Chest!"
 The crew that lasted the longest!
We stopped at a pumpkin patch on our way back from La Crosse. Fun!

And then there was Thanksgiving. I was able to get home for a few days, which of course is always fantastic! Being in Milwaukee and always on the go makes it hard to get home as often as I'd like, so I welcome any chance I get. Thanksgiving food always makes me pretty pumped too! Anyway, I unfortunately didn't take too many pictures over the weekend, but here are a few random ones I got! I did also have some on my old phone, but it'd be a lot of work to get them onto my computer, so you'll just have to live without them. ;) Hope you all have lots of things to be thankful for! Every so often, on days like today when I have a particularly rough day, I have to be sure to take the time to remember how many good things I have. Anyway, enjoy a few more pics!
 What's a Thanksgiving reunion without a little high school-esque drinking?! ;)
 Above: Me and Bean; Below: Me and Becca
Me and Erin!
 Me and Mama on Thanksgiving Day! Just getting ready to cook!
Holding sweet baby Meg! :)
Dancing with my papa at Allison's!
 Me and Subs!
 Me and Gerdie!

If you're still reading my blog after all my monthly breaks in posts, I thank you dearly! It means a lot to me! :)