Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Julia Child Night #9

Another Julia Child Night is in the books! This annual event is so much fun and I love that it gives me an opportunity to see my extended family on my mom's side of the family as we no longer gather with them for holidays.

I'll let the pictures (mostly) do the talking!

My aunt, uncle, parents, and brother gathered on Friday to start the preparations but I had to miss this as I couldn't take another day off of work after missing so much work due to my RA flares in August. They were very understanding, though! We got to work around 11 on Saturday morning and pretty much worked straight through until the guests started to arrive around 4 pm. Asian food requires A LOT of knife work/prep work. 

My aunt and brother prepping the rice noodles. They made 3 different kinds for the various courses!

I think my uncle spent nearly 2 hours cleaning and preparing the Thai basil for the spring rolls and pho
In the mid-afternoon, the youngest participants of Julia Child Night helped me set the tables. They looked so festive thanks to all the decorations my aunt and uncle found on Amazon!


My uncle folded these beautiful paper cranes as centerpieces for the tables!
There was an appetizer course in the basement and a signature cocktail (a lynchee lemongrass cocktail) but I was too busy at this point to remember to take a photo. We had a big family toast where we toasted to the recent birth of my aunt and uncle's grandchild (he was a premie, so my cousin and her husband were unable to attend since the baby can't be around big groups of people), the recent engagement of my aunt and uncle's son to his awesome girlfriend, and the news that Phil and I were expecting!

Then it was time to make the first course: fresh shrimp spring rolls. We had to make 30 of them so we set up 3 stations with 2-3 people at each station.


Plating the spring rolls
The finished product was beautiful and delicious!


The second course was a classic Vietnamese dish: Pho with filet mignon. The broth was made from scratch and had so much flavor.

Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of the 3rd course, which was my Asian vegetable salad. but here's a picture of from the practice night in August. We got a lot of compliments about how light and fresh the salad was.


Next up was the 3rd course: Beef short-rib lettuce wraps and pork and shrimp fried rice. We were cooking for about 30 people, so we had to double the fried rice recipe. My mom and I cooked side by side and my sister read the directions out loud to us. It was kind of intense as fried rice comes together so fast and the wok is so hot so you need to have all your ingredients ready. Abby probably did not love the job of reading to us. We made her repeat so many parts of the directions, sometimes 2-3 times! Sorry, Abby. You were a trooper to deal with us!


The beef short-ribs were served on butter lettuce on top of a layer of homemade kimchi, made by my aunt with the fried rice on the side.


The next course was a signature dish of my brother's: shrimp Thai pasta. This was so delicious!! The pasta was a wide rice noodle. 

I actually forgot to take a picture of the dessert which was a green tea ice cream, made by my sister-in-law, with almond cookies that my mom made. My mom made one of the batches of almond cookies gluten free and sent the extras home with me! Score!

And of course, at the end of the night we had to take our annual apron photo. As you can see, the number of attendees has grown and nearly everyone wears an apron!


It was a wonderful night with family. Everyone was very complimentary of the food, and as usual, went home with a full stomach and full heart!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Shouldless Days of 2017: September

Julia Child Night was so much fun, but it was also exhausting. Plus I got an RA flare on Friday night, this time in my left elbow, and got less than 5 hours of sleep on Friday night since the pain was pretty bad. Luckily the steroids kicked in quickly and I was still able to enjoy Julia Child Night on Saturday.

However, after a poor night of sleep and being on my feet for about 12 hours, I was in need of a shouldless day! Plus the flare moved from my elbow to my left hand so it was clear that my body needed some rest.  Here's how I spent my Sunday!

I was in bed later than usual on Saturday night as it was almost 11 by the time we got home from Julia Child Night, so I slept in a bit and laid in bed until 8:30 which felt glorious! After having breakfast and watching part of Face the Nation with Phil, I got started on making some banana bread with some overly-ripe bananas that I needed to use up. I got to use the Kitchen Aid mixer my parents gave me for my baby shower for the first time!

 The finished product!


After that I had a few errands to run, starting with the library. I love that they make the returns area extra fun. I am sure it's meant to entertain children but it made this adult smile!


I picked up this book which I am excited to check out! I've heard nothing but great things!


After stopping by the grocery store, I came home and had the rest of the leftover Chicken Tikka Masala that my sister and I made last week. I think it might have tasted even better as leftovers!


For dessert, I enjoyed a slice of banana bread. For some reason, the chocolate chips were not evenly distributed, but it still tasted great!

 

After watching a couple of episodes of Suits, I headed outside to do some reading. Phil had set up the hammock for me before he headed to his mom's that morning. It was a beautiful fall day so the perfect day to spend some time in the hammock. It was a bit chilly (for me, I get cold easily) so I brought a blanket to make it extra cozy. I read a little bit of Refugee, which is a middle-grade book that my a good friend recommended to me. It tells the story of 3 different refugees - a young Jewish boy during WWII, a Cuban family trying to get to the US in 1994, and a Syrian family that is trying to get to Germany in 2015. Truth be told, I didn't read for all that long as I kind of dozed off for awhile.


My good friend Courtney stopped by that afternoon to get a couple of books from me and I ended up picking her brain over pregnancy stuff for longer that she probably intended to stay! She has a little boy who will turn 2 in November and is due with another boy in January. We are only 6 weeks apart so our kids will be so close in age. It's nice to have a good friend who has a similar lifestyle to us and has been through all of this so recently and can share advice on things from breast feeding to which cloth diapers to buy to what stroller to get.

After she headed out, I got going on meal prep for my lunches for the week. I decided to make taco salads this week so I browned some ground turkey and sauteed some peppers and onion with salt, pepper and cumin.


By now it was dinner time so I made one of my favorite comfort meals - eggs over easy with GF toast. I stopped eating this when I found out I was pregnant as I read that runny yolks weren't safe to eat during pregnancy. But when I saw my OB a couple of weeks ago, she said that it was actually ok to eat eggs over medium as there isn't a risk to the baby - just a risk of food poisoning, which is so unlikely since I eat fresh eggs. I'm not going to eat these every week, but they sounded good on Sunday night so I gave into the craving.


I pretty much laid on the couch for the rest of the night. I caught up with Phil when he got home. He brought Oscar back with him as she had spent the week out at his mom's - I was so happy to see her! And I will be heading to bed soon!! All in all it was a really wonderful shouldless day and just what my body needed!

Stay tuned for my Julia Child recap which will be coming on Tuesday!

Friday, September 15, 2017

TGIF!

Happy Friday, everyone! We have an exciting weekend ahead as it's our 9th annual Julia Child night! Can't wait to tell you all about it next week! Here's a TGIF-style recap of my week!

The high of my week was reading all of your sweet comments on my pregnancy announcement post! Thanks for being so excited for us! Another high was hitting the 2 week mark since my last RA flare. My fingers are crossed that my RA will behave for the rest of my pregnancy!!

The low of my week was getting a bad headache during my work trip to Chicago. I struggled with headaches during the first trimester but was hoping they had stopped but then I got a bad one that lasted about 24 hours. Traveling + doing lots of meetings while not feeling well is rough!   

A book I am reading is Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips. It's a suspense novel about a woman and her son who are at a zoo when a shooting occurs close to when the zoo is closing. The woman and her son have to hide from the 2 shooters who have not been captured yet. The book spans just over 3 hours but so much happens in those 3 hours! I'm about half way through and am finding this to be a page-turner.

The best money I spent was on some maternity clothes at Gap. I can't say I was terribly excited to buy maternity clothes, but I know I am going to need them in a couple of week. Gap was having a 40% off sale so I figured it was a good time to buy some essentials. I'm still able to wear my normal clothes but I am guessing that they will not fit in a couple of weeks.

My plans this weekend include getting groceries for the dishes I'm responsible for at Julia Child Night (which will require 3 stops!). It's going to be nice tonight so we are going to grill dinner and will likely find a movie to watch. Tomorrow is Julia Child Night so I'll head to my brothers in the late morning to help with the preparations. I think we have 32 people coming this year! I have no plans for Sunday which is good as I imagine I will tired from Saturday!

What book are you reading? What are your plans for this weekend?

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

We've Been Growing Something Else This Summer

There's been a lot of talk lately about all the things that I've been growing in my garden lately, but we've been growing something else that's even more exciting!!

Our 9-week ultrasound in early August!
WE ARE EXPECTING!!

This has been the hardest news for me to keep and the main reason why my posts have been pretty sparse this summer. When something so big and life-changing is happening, it's hard to come up with ideas of what to talk about that don't reveal your news. But we wanted to wait until we were in the 2nd trimester to share our news more broadly.

I want to start by saying that we feel so incredibly lucky to have gotten pregnant the first month of trying. I have so many women in my life who have struggled with infertility so I fully expected it to take a long time for us to get pregnant. My heart goes out to anyone who reads this post and feels a pang of sadness because of their difficulty or inability to get pregnant.

I borrowed some Q and A questions from Anne of Fannetastic Food's first trimester recap and will be answering them below.

But first, a bit of a warning:  some of these answers might go into "TMI" territory. But I wanted to be transparent and honest about what the first trimester has been like for me. I feel like I've read a lot of pregnancy announcement posts and a lot of them focus on the excitement of finding out you are expecting - which makes complete sense because it is an exciting time! But the emotion that stands out in my mind from the first trimester is anxiety, and probably due to some things that were going on with my body. I'm a more anxious person in general so maybe I am a complete outlier in feeling the way I felt. But maybe someone else will read this post and it will resonate with them, or they will think back on it when they find out they are pregnant some day and will know someone that they can reach out to if they feel the way I did.

How far along are you?

I am 15 weeks along today!

What's the official due date?

March 7, 2018!

Are you showing at all?

Not really. I'll tallish (5'7") and I have a long torso so I am really not showing yet. Some days I feel bloated by the end of the day but for the most part I look pretty normal. I'm still wearing my regular work clothes although I did have to pack away pants/skirts that had absolutely no give/lycra in the waist. I need a little bit of stretch since my tummy seems to expand at the end of the day.

How did you tell Phil?

There was no pomp and circumstance to it at all, really, but that is just who we are as a couple.  I had been feeling off that week and told him that if I didn't get my cycle by the weekend, I was going to take a pregnancy test. We had gone to brunch with friends on a Saturday morning and when I got home, I just felt off so I went into the bathroom and decided to take a test (I had purchased one earlier in the week). I didn't tell him I was going to take a pregnancy test as I was so sure it was going to come back negative. I walked out of the bathroom and showed him the positive pregnancy test. He was in complete disbelief and had me get another pregnancy test because he did not believe it! I told him there aren't false positives when it comes to pregnancy tests, but agreed to take another one and sure enough, it showed that I was pregnant.

How did you tell your family?

We went to the lake for a weekend in mid-July around when I was 7 weeks along. I put the picture below in a card and said - "Shhhhh! It's a secret!"



Phil's mom had come down to the lake with us that weekend but Phil wanted to hold off on telling her as she has the hardest time keeping a secret and it was very early in the pregnancy. I wanted to tell my parents early because I wanted their prayers and good thoughts - plus they knew we were going to start trying in June and I figured they were going to guess I was pregnant since I wasn't drinking any wine or coffee.

We told Phil's mom the weekend after our first prenatal appointment, when I was about 9 weeks along. She said she was going to have the hardest time not telling people so Phil was right about waiting a bit to tell her!

Will you find out the sex of the baby?

I feel really strongly about not finding out as I think it will be fun to be surprised. But Phil really wants to find out, so we are kind of at odds on this decision right now. We had genetic testing done around 10 weeks (which came back clear - hooray!) but I did not have them run the test to determine the sex of the baby. I think/hope Phil is going to concede on finding out. As a compromise I said we can find out with our next one if we have a second child. But we still have weekly debates about it and if he still feels strongly about it when the 18 week ultrasound rolls around (I'm having my anatomy scan a bit early), I might have the ultrasound tech or doctor put the sex in an envelop for him and only he will find out. I know it is not optimal for one person to know and the other not to, but he feels such a STRONG desire to know the sex. Plus he is the ultimate secret keeper so I am confident he won't tell me what the sex is. We'll see what happens over the next 3-4 weeks.

How have you been feeling? 

This is where I will get into "TMI" territory. Overall, I have been very lucky as I have only had minor nausea and it comes and goes. I threw up once the week after I found out and it happened at the worst time - I was walking home from the grocery store along a busy street and had to throw up into my bag of groceries!  I am glad that was just a fluke and not a trend for the pregnancy.

There  have been 2 things that have made the first trimester challenging:  having something called a "subchorionic hemorrhage" (SCH) and managing my RA.

An SCH is bleeding that occurs where the placenta develops/attaches. Apparently it happens in 25% of pregnancies, so is very common, but I have yet to personally meet someone that had this. Because of the SCH, I had nearly daily bleeding for about 4 weeks during the first trimester. Having spotting or bleeding when you are pregnant is pretty terrifying because you tend to assume you are going to have a miscarriage. 90% of the time the SCH will go away, but 10% of the time it can prevent the placenta from attaching and you will then miscarry. So I was really anxious for a good part of the first trimester. The bleeding finally stopped around 11 weeks, which was a huge relief. Around this time I started to finally trust that everything was going to be ok and I wouldn't miscarry.

Managing my RA has also been challenging as I had to go off my weekly Enbrel injection and reduce another medication when I found out I was pregnant. For many women, their RA goes into remission when they are pregnant but that has not been the case for me yet. I had 4 flares in late July/early August, which is a lot for me. I've had 4 steroid injections into various joints and have been on steroids for the better part of the last month. Being on steroids when pregnant is not ideal so I have also worried a lot about what the steroids and these flares are doing to the baby. An OBGYN friend of mine said that the baby is probably bopping around, completely unaware of my flares. I hope and pray that is the case. My rheumatologist has told me that it's better to be on steroids, especially at the low dose I am on, than to be flaring. But I still worry about some of the remote risks associated with steroids. I did recently talk to another woman who was on steroids during her first trimester and she had a healthy baby boy so that was a huge relief. I know it's anecdotal evidence but it's just reassuring to know someone who was on a similar treatment and went on to have a healthy pregnancy. At my last prenatal appointment, my OB decided to send me to a perinatal specialist (specialist in high risk pregnancies) around the 18 week mark to discuss the management of my RA. I will also get a level 2 ultrasound to ensure that the steroids haven't impacted the development of the baby. I will feel so much better after this appointment.

How have you been sleeping?

My sleep has been pretty good, aside from the fact that I often get up 3-4 times a night to go to the bathroom. I did not realize this would start SO early! I've heard that it will get better in the second trimester so I am looking forward to that! A lot of women talk about getting 10 or more hours of sleep a night during the first trimester but that has so not been the case for me. I'm lucky to get 8 hours of sleep a night and can only think of one time that I slept for 10 hours. But sleep does not come easily for me so I am not terribly surprised that I'm not sleeping better.

Have you had any aversions or cravings?

I haven't had any cravings. I have had aversions to coffee, chocolate and sweets, though, which isn't the worst thing honestly! The aversion to coffee was one thing that tipped me off to the fact that I might be pregnant as it is NOT like me to be turned off by coffee. I also had a minor aversion to eating salads early in the trimester as salads/veggies just didn't sound good but that went away and I've been eating like I normally would.

What have you been doing for exercise?

Honestly, very little. The doctor told me that vigorous exercise could increase the bleeding from the SCH so she suggested I take it easy and stick to walks. So that is pretty much all I have been doing. I had stopped running before the SCH came on as I was having some cramping (which is apparently very normal in the first trimester) and running while having cramping made me too paranoid. And then with all my RA flares, I've had to take it easy. I did do about 20 miles of hiking on our camping trip, but besides that I've been taking it very easy. I'm hoping to add some strength training back once I'm confident that the RA flare is gone for good. I'm fairly certain that I won't be running during the pregnancy. I know some women are able to do this through most of their pregnancy but I haven't ran since mid-July so I don't know that I'm going to want to get back into running in the midst of being pregnant.

How have you been feeling emotionally?

Honestly, the first trimester has been a really anxious period for me. The RA flares have been really hard on me as they make me worry more about what is going on with the baby. Additionally, my rheumatologist had suggested that I do a pre-conception consultation with a perinatal specialist in June to talk about how my RA will impact my pregnancy. The doctor I saw in June gave me such a stern talking to about the high risk of miscarriages. So when we got our positive pregnancy test, all I could think about was his lecture about not getting excited. In hindsight, I kind of wish I hadn't seen that doctor - or that I had seen one with better bed-side manner. And then when the bleeding started around 7 weeks I felt even more anxious.

However, once the bleeding stopped, we shifted to feeling more excitement and anticipation! We also started to tell more of our close friends and sharing the news has made it more real and exciting and like this is actually going to happen!!

***

Whew - if you've made it through this long post then congratulations!!!

I feel like the tone of this post is not super positive. I don't want anyone to think that we aren't over-the-moon excited about this pregnancy - we really are! It's been hard to have such a terrible time with my RA and to introduce risks to the baby as a result .And I wanted to be honest about what the first trimester was like for me.

That said, I'm happy that we have moved into a period where the chance of a miscarriage is extremely low and we can start to share the news more broadly! And if my RA would behave then I would really have nothing to complain about!  I haven't had a flare in nearly 2 weeks so my fingers are crossed that my RA is going to behave going forward!

Luckily the anxiety I felt for the bulk of the first trimester has mostly dissipated, besides those lurking fears about steroid use, and I'm feeling positive and excited! I've also learned to stay off google and to avoid pregnancy forums. I can see how the pregnancy forums are great for some people but they are not a good fit for me as you are bound to encounter sad stories or misinformation. But it's definitely one of those - "you do you" things as some women love being able to interact with others who are going through the same thing. I still have work to do on managing my anxiety so I plan to get regular prenatal massages as I know those will feel good and be so relaxing.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Sister Weekends Are the Best Kind of Weekend

This past week I got my younger sister all to myself for just under 48 hours. It was blissful! Abby has lived in AZ for the past 8-9 years but she has been back in the Midwest for 6 months while he husband trains at an Air Force base in Fargo, ND. Her and her husband make a couple of trips back each year but it's usually for a holiday and they maximize their time with the whole family. So I don't exactly get her to myself, besides when we sneak away for a run or something like that.

Phil had his post-wedding bachelor party so it was the perfect weekend for Abby to come and visit. Here's how we spent our time!

On Friday Night Abby got to our place around dinner time. She was running a half marathon in the morning, so I made her the white wine chicken pasta dish that I always make the night before a race plus a Greek salad. I was so excited to dig in that I forgot to take a picture! We chatted for a bit after dinner and then headed to bed as we had an early morning ahead of ourselves!

On Saturday morning we left the house around 6 am, grabbed Starbucks to fuel us for the day, and then I dropped her off at the race start. The race was in the West metro area, along Lake Minnetonka. Originally I was supposed to run this race with her, but my body had other plans this summer. So while she ran, I read at a local coffee shop.

My latest read has been a great one!

I caught her at the end of the race, though, about 1/4 of a mile before the finish! She looked great and ran such a strong race!


After the race, we met up for brunch with my college friend, Heidi. She's met Abby multiple times over the years so it was fun for her to see Abby while she was in town. I love that my sister has gotten to know some of my closest friends over the years! Brunch was delicious. The place we went to had gouda hashbrowns and they were seriously the best hashbrowns I've ever had!!

After the race, we went back to my house, showered, and did some prep work for the Indian dishes we'd be making in the evening. On Saturday afternoon we did a little bit of exploring. Our first stop was Minnehaha Falls, which is a place where I take most visitors. It's such a cool area - not something you'd expect in the city!



We needed to go to an Indian grocery store next and it happened to be walking distance from my favorite distillery, Tattersall Distilling. If you like cocktails and happen to be in Minneapolis, you have to check this place out! They make a bunch of liquors, like gin, vodka, and bourbon, on sight and they have delicious, creative drinks! They also have fun n/a options, which is what I went with that day (I had a tamarind, ginger, peach soda drink).


After that we headed back to our house and relaxed for about an hour. Then it was time to make our Indian feast! We picked 2 recipes out of a cook book I had received for our wedding - Chicken Tikka Masala and a coconut chile shrimp dish. The chicken Tikka Masala required us to make the Chicken Tandoori dish, so we actually made 3 recipes.

First up, we made the chicken tandoori. It's made with bone-in chicken thighs. We marinated the chicken for about 5 hours in a yogurt marinade.


Next up, you had to carefully take the bones out of the chicken thighs and then you browned the chicken thighs in melted butter (this is NOT a light recipe!).


Then it was time to make the sauce, which is made from a puree of serrano chiles, garlic, ginger, diced tomatoes, and a bunch of other spices.


After that, you added some whipping cream and garam masala, and the chicken went back in the sauce to simmer away.


Next up we made the coconut chile shrimp. This was a very easy dish to make and it came together very quickly. The recipe calls for fresh or frozen grated coconut, which we were able to find at the Indian grocery store. I was surprised that the dish did not taste like coconut - the grated coconut mostly gave it some texture.

I served both dishes with basmati rice.


Here's my delicious spread!


It was so fun to spend 2.5 hours in the kitchen with Abby. We both love to cook and we love Indian food so it was the perfect way to spend the evening. Plus we both agreed that the dishes we made - especially the Tikka Masala - were as good as what you would get in an Indian restaurant!

After dinner we watched (500) Days of Summer (we both love Zooey Deschanel and are obsessed with this movie) and headed to bed early again!

On Sunday morning we went over to my garden so Abby could help me gather some fresh produce. I sent her home with some tomatillos, green beans, a zucchini, and some cherry tomatoes. I brought home lots of zucchini and tomatillos!


Then we met up with my friend Courtney and her little guy Leo, who is almost 2, and walked to the Farmer's Market and then to my favorite brunch spot - Hola Arepa. This is another place that I tend to take visitors - plus almost the entire menu is GF so I have so many delicious options to choose from!  I had a pork arepa with fried yuca which is pretty much the only thing I get there since it's so delicious! Mmmmm.

After that, Abby hit the road and I spent the afternoon doing some "adulting". I fly to Chicago for a 2-day work trip this morning so it was nice to have the afternoon/evening to do laundry and get things done.

The week ahead is another busy and exciting week as Julia Child Night is on Saturday night! It's usually in October or November but we are having it early this year! And Abby and her husband are coming for it so you'll finally get to see what Julia Child Night is all about. We'll have 32 guests this year so it's bigger than ever!

What was the highlight of your weekend?

Friday, September 8, 2017

TGIF!

Hello Friday! Sometimes short weeks go by slowly but this one flew by as I was so busy at work! Here's how my week shaped up!

The high of my week was getting together with a friend from run club. I haven't been running this summer as my RA has been a beast and she hasn't been running with the club as life has been busy for her. We went on a nice long walk and got all caught up on each others' lives. Plus it was a beautiful fall day and we walked a really pretty path, part of which was along a lake!

The low of my week was not sleeping well. The steroids I am on to make sure my flare stays calm make it hard to sleep. I had a series of bad nights of sleep but then the last couple of nights have been better so hopefully the bad sleep is behind me. I'm tapering off the steroids and will take my last pill on Sunday. Fingers crossed the flare does NOT come back.  

A book I am reading is Standard Deviation by Katherine Heiny. I am really loving this book so far. The dialogue is fast-paced and some passages of dialogue remind me of the Gilmore Girls. It's about a man who is on his 2nd marriage and his wife, who is kind of quirky and very outgoing, wants to forge a friendship with his ex-wife and her new boyfriend. It's been a delightful, fast read so far!

A recipe I made was this beef kebab recipe. I used meat from my meat share and they were SO GOOD. We'll definitely be making this recipe again. I marinated the meat and veggies for almost 24 hours which makes all the difference! The recipe doesn't tell you to marinate the veggies but I've found they cook better if they've been marinated. We enjoyed the kebabs with roasted fingerling potatoes.





The best money I spent was on groceries for this upcoming weekend! I'm hosting my sister which I am so excited about! She's running a half on Saturday morning so I am making my favorite pasta dish tonight! This is the 2nd TGIF post in the last couple of weeks where groceries have been the best money I've spent. I've been spending so little money lately - which feels SOOOO good after planning/paying for a wedding.

My plans this weekend include soaking up time with my sister! Phil has his post-wedding bachelor party golf weekend (he wanted a golf weekend and golfing in April/May is not pleasant in Minnesota so he decided to have it after that wedding - which is a-ok with me) so we will have the house to ourselves. We are staying in tonight and carb-loading. Tomorrow morning she's running a half and I will cheer her on, we'll get brunch afterwards, see a few sights in Minneapolis and then settle in for an evening of Indian cooking. I can't wait! On Sunday we are meeting up with my friend to go to the Farmer's Market and then out to brunch at my favorite restaurant. It's going to be such a fun weekend!! My sister lives in AZ but has been in ND this summer as he husband has been training at an Air Force base in Fargo. They return to AZ in October so I am glad I get to see her a few more times before they head south!

What was the high of your week? Did you make any meals this week?

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Podcast and Books of August

I'm going to do an abbreviated recap this month because I worked out very little (mostly just went for walks) thanks to my stupid RA flares. And I feel very 'meh' about my outfits these days since it's the end of summer and I'm kind of over my summer clothes!

Podcasts:

Friendships on The Simple Show - I really enjoyed Tsh Oxenreider's podcast about friendships. They discussed how to make time for friendships in the midst of being in a busy season of life. Some of their scheduling techniques would not work for me (the guest host doesn't plan anything in advance - I would not see any friends if I did not make plans in advance), but it was interesting to hear how 2 women make time for friendships.


Back to School and Neighborhood Spying on The Girl Next Door - Kelly introduced me to this podcast awhile ago and I have been loving it! Even though I don't have kids, I really enjoyed their "back to school" episode. I always love the back to school season as I loved going back to school at the end of the summer. It brings back all kinds of nostalgia! They each have things they do to make back to school time special for their kids. I'll have to keep this podcast in mind when we have kids of our own.

Books:



In Twenty Years by Allison Winn Scotch - 2 stars - I bought this off an kindle deal email and decided to read it as I needed something lighter. It was a disappointment. It's about a group of college friends that rendezvous when they turn 30. I was disappointed by how immature the characters were and how little self-awareness they had.

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee - 4 stars - This was my favorite book that I read in September. I got it this spring from my Book of the Month Club subscription. It's is a sweeping saga of 4 generations of Koreans that emigrated to Japan. I learned so much about the relationship between Japan and Korea and was saddened to read about how awful Koreans living in Japan were treated. For example, even though 2 of the generations of this family were born in Japan, they were still required to get a Korean passport and were not treated as full members of society. Apparently this is an accurate depiction of how Koreans are treated in Japan. 

No One Can Pronounce My Name by Rakesh Satyal - 3 stars - This is September selection for my local book club. It's about a group of Indian immigrants living in Ohio. The narration shifted from character to character, which I liked. I liked this book, but there was something missing and I didn't exactly love it. I think it will make for a good book club discussion, though.

Miller's Valley by Anna Quindlen - 3 stars - I usually ADORE Quindlen's books. This one was good, but I didn't love it as much as I usually love her books. It's about a family living in an area that consistently floods. The government wants to use eminent domain and purchase the land from the families so they can flood the area. 

Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty - 3 stars - I debated between 2 and 3 stars for this book, but settled on 3 as the final quarter of the book was really good. I usually like Moriarty books more than I liked this one. But in this case I felt that she over used suspense. There was an excessive build up to something that happened at a BBQ and I just wanted to know what it was. It took until about 1/2 way through the book to get a glimpse of what happened and even then it slowly unfolded with flashbacks between the BBQ and the current time. I think suspense is a good tool that can engage a reader but in this case it just annoyed me.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

A Blissful Long Weekend

This 3-day weekend actually turned into a 5-day weekend for me as I was home on Thursday and Friday with yet another RA flare. That's the 4th one in a month and probably my most painful one so far as it involved both shoulder joints. I was in so much pain and had very limited arm mobility so I had to swallow my pride and sense of independence and ask for help to get to the doctor for my steroid injections. Luckily, my mother-in-law was more than happy to help (unfortunately Phil couldn't leave work as they had a big IT update and he had to stay after market close to help with testing). The steroid injection was effective but this last flare really took a tole on my mental health and overall feeling of well-being - I'm just sick to death of this string of painful flares. I'm hoping and praying that September is a much better month.

That said, I really needed a relaxing and restorative long weekend - and that is exactly what I got! We usually go to the lake for Labor Day weekend but even before these flares hit, we had decided to stay home so we could have a quiet weekend together. I love being up at the lake with family but a quiet weekend at home with very little planned was exactly what the doctor ordered!  Here's how we filled it!

On Friday night we each had leftovers for dinner and settled in to watch No Country for Old Men. Phil picked it out. He had seen it before and said he thought I would like it.  WRONG!! Oh my gosh, I did not like this movie at all. I know it's critically acclaimed but it was way too dark and violent for me. And then the ending was so vague. Phil knows my tastes so well so I am surprised he got this movie pick so wrong. Towards the end of the movie I remembered that it was based on a book by Cormac McCarthy, which is an author I do not like at all (again, I know he is critically acclaimed but his books are way too dark for me). Had I remembered that before we watched it, I would have vetoed this choice. Oh well, now Phil owes me a movie of my choice!  :)

On Saturday morning I started off the morning with some reading.


After relaxing for awhile, I was finally feeling well enough to be a bit more active (I'd spent the majority of the last 2 days on the couch). I walked to my garden and came home with lots of zucchini, green peppers and tomatillos and some green beans and cherry tomatoes. When I got back, Phil made brunch (hashbrowns and scrambled eggs topped with a leftover pork tamale from his lunch the previous day - I love this combination!).

On Saturday afternoon, I went to the grocery store and got to work in the kitchen. First I chopped up a watermelon - it's the best one I have bought all summer! Phil doesn't like watermelon (he thinks melons are "filler fruits") so I get this all to myself! And yes, I can eat an entire large watermelon in a week!


After that I got to work on using some of the zucchini I had picked. First I made a chocolate chip zucchini bread. I found the recipe in one of the many cookbooks I own (the recipe came from Peas and Thank You - it wasn't GF but it was easy to modify as I just swapped in GF flour for whole wheat flour and added 1/2 t. of xanthan gum). It turned out really good! I only ended up keeping 3 slices for us - the rest went to Phil's mom and several friends! I love to bake, but don't need to eat A LOAF of chocolatey zucchini bread!! And even though it's GF, I think it's good enough to share with people who can eat gluten.


I also did some prep work for the dinner we would be having later that day.  Then I settled on the couch with another cook book. This cookbook had been recommended by Jolene from Everyday Foodie (this girl and her husband have mad cooking skills - check it out but be prepared to drool over all the amazing meals they whip up each week!), which prompted me to add it to our wedding registry! My younger sister is coming to visit next weekend and we both LOVE Indian food so it seemed like the perfect time to break out this cookbook and find some yummy things to make. My sister and I both love to cook - can't wait to bond with her in the kitchen next weekend!

As you can see, I tagged "just a few" dishes for consideration!!
On Saturday evening, I walked over to church. It was a really good mass. All the songs were played on the piano (I'm much prefer the piano to the organ) and I loved all the songs they played so I came home with a full and happy heart.

When I got home, it was time to start dinner! I had done some of the prep work while the zucchini bread was baking so this dinner came together in about 40 minutes and it was SO DELICIOUS! It was quite the Minnesota Plate as the corn was locally grown, the cheeseburgers were made with locally-raised beef, and the cheesy zucchini rice (highly recommend this recipe!) was made with zucchini from my garden. It was a beautiful summer night so we enjoyed this meal on our deck.


Since it was such a beautiful night, we decided to walk to a local malt shop that is just under a mile away for an indulgent dessert! I kind of paid for this dessert as my stomach does not handle dairy very well, but it was worth it!
Reese's pb cup for her, hot fudge for him - we shared so we could eat get a taste of both malts


On Sunday morning, I started my morning off with some pumpkin spice herbal tea.


When Phil got up, he helped me set up the hammock that we received as wedding present. It was going to be a beautiful day so I am glad he suggested setting it up!


On Sunday afternoon, I headed to the west metro to visit one of best college friends to see the house they moved into back in June (can't believe it took me 2.5 months to get out there!). They made a delicious GF lunch for me and we spent 2 hours catching up on life.

The rest of the afternoon was a lazy one, especially for Oscar. Phil had made a "kitty cup" for her before he left for his mom's (he always makes one before he leaves the house - he's such a good cat dad) and she slept in it for most of the afternoon!


I did some relaxing of my own and spent 3 hours in the hammock, reading and dozing. I finished The God of Small Things. This book was the Man Booker Prize and is critically acclaimed. I thought I would love it but I really struggled through it due to the writing style. I have to say, the books that are award-winning are often total misses for me. Maybe I am not 'literary' enough to enjoy them? Who knows.


On Sunday evening, I watched a couple of episodes of Suits and picked up a crochet project that I hadn't touched since last winter. It's a mustard and gray afghan. My goal is to finish it by Thanksgiving!  When Phil got home we watched Gone Baby Gone together (such a good movie!) and then headed to bed.


On Monday morning, I got up and enjoyed a GF banana chocolate chip muffin that my friend had bought for me at the Farmer's Market on Sunday (not pictured is the cinnamon roll she also bought me which I had as part of my dinner the night before!). 


When Phil got up, I got going on breakfast. He had a mid-day tee time so wanted something filling and delicious to get him through his 18 holes (he always walks instead of renting a cart so does a lot of walking/burns a lot of calories). It's pretty simple - sweet potatoes, green pepper (from my garden!), onion, garlic, and chicken sausage, seasoned with salt, pepper, cumin and cayenne.


Phil and Oscar bonded a bit before he headed out to the links (you know Oscar is super relaxed when she presents her belly and lets him rub it!).


Monday afternoon was low key. I did some closet purging, napped, cuddled with Oscar and read a good chunk of Marlena, which is a debut novel that I got from my Book of the Month membership this spring! It's a bit on the dark side but really, really good so far.

On Monday evening, we had Crockpot White Chicken Chili for dinner. It was really good but next time I will double the recipe as it only yielded about 3 servings.


It was a wonderful, restorative weekend. I hope and pray that all this rest and relaxation will ward off any future RA flares!!

How did you spend your long weekend?