Thursday, January 31, 2013

Scenes From The Homestead.

First, today was supposed to be my big debut as a student teacher. Instead, I enjoyed a nice peaceful snow day that happened to be free of snow. Whomp, whomp.

Second, this is what the scene of my living room looks like ninety percent of the time.

It's like a landmine field of paws, tails and ears just begging to be stepped on.

Third, as of last night this is what was left of the chocolate chip banana bread that I made on Sunday. Sunday, people! It only survived until Tuesday night because I gave TC a death stare and silently growled at him to get some self control. And, for God's sake, save a siser at least one slice.

Wish me luck tomorrow!

That is all. Over and out.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Wedded Bliss.

On this day, thirty five years ago, it was snowing something awful. Chicago was being punished by one of the worst storms of the winter. That's just the forecast that every bride hopes to hear on her wedding day, right?

My poor mom, that couldn't have been easy to wake up to on the morning of her nuptials. She's swears she didn't care and that she just wanted to get married, but I'm not convinced.

The wedding went on despite the weather and the snowed-in/missing groomsman. Nothing was going to stop the long sleeve white polyester wedding gown, the fantastic 70's tuxedos with diagonal striped wide ties, and the $35 emerald green polyester bridesmaid dresses from coming down that church isle.

How do I not have a photo of their wedding glory? It's priceless.

It was also my dad's 24th birthday. He had promised himself that he wouldn't get married until his twenty third year was over. By the ripe ole age of 24 he had already backpacked Europe, graduated from business school, landed his first real job and popped the question. He was ready to get married on his birthday.

Fast forward to right now. Just a few years older and many years wiser, they're off enjoying a quick trip to San Francisco in celebration of the occasion.

And, they'd like to point out, the weather is perfect.

Also, no one is wearing polyester.

Happy Anniversary! and Happy, Happy Birthday!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

School of Cooking.

I'm not even sure what happened last week. I disappeared for the week, thanks for noticing. First of all, the ice on my window shows that it was minus eight million degrees so I almost went into hibernation.  I suppose I was just tired. Unmotivated, perhaps. For the first time in my adult life I went to bed before 10pm. Just like that, I stood up, crawled in bed, closed my eyes and actually fell asleep. It must have been the return to BodyPump class that got me.

I'm going back for another class tomorrow so let's hope I don't fall asleep while driving home. This is a big week for me and I need to burn off some steam.

Back in Florida I used to teach middle school. When I moved to the frozen tundra the powers that be decided my teaching certificate didn't meet their standards. For the past year and a half I've been taking classes and now that I'm done I will spend the semester as a student teacher. I've spent the last few weeks getting lessons and experiments ready. Starting Wednesday I'll have just over 100 high school kiddos in my science classes. Big day, people. Big day. I already picked out which dress I'm going to wear.

I like to spend Sunday evenings getting my house, life and closet ready for the week. Call me crazy, but I like to start the week in a clean and organized manner. Fill the refrigerator, iron any necessary clothes, pick up around the house, and pack my lunch.

Since my time for eating lunch has been slashed to a few precious seconds while sitting over my computer I'm taking a new approach this week. Beef stew.

I have this wonderful friend. Her name is Dagni and she's technically my boss. Mentor is probably a better word. Although, friend is actually the most accurate description.

We used to have weekly wine dates in my tiny Florida kitchen. Among other things that she and I discussed, Dagni would constantly try to convince me that cooking was not only easy, but actually enjoyable. Remember, at this point I had just learned how to heat up black beans and had not yet mastered the art of baking a chicken breast or boiling a pot of pasta.

Dagni swore that the secret to cooking was learning to enjoy it. She explained that to do that you need a glass of wine, a few candles and some music.

So that's what I do now. It's how I made my beef stew tonight. And it's how I made banana bread this afternoon. It even makes washing the dishes a little nicer.

Hi. My name is Kate and I subscribe to the Dagni School of Cooking now. I'm never looking back.

Happy Monday! Cook something delicious tonight.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Weekend Highlights.

I think it's safe to say that I was successful in my search for fun this weekend.

I had a friend in college who was a nursing student. We'd taken a biology course together and got to know each other in lab. Nursing students notoriously get their little butts kicked and since I required 20 hours of studying a day, we both spent lots of time in the library. One day we were just outside of the library's Starbucks. I remember I had a delightfully warm caramel macchiato in one hand and a bag of banana chips in the other. Misty and I were chatting and catching up. You know, comparing classes and professors, discussing which apartment complex was the best and discussing the latest gossip. I asked her what her plans were for the weekend and her answer blew me away. I remember it clear as day. In her very sweet and very Southern drawl, Misty said, "You know, I'm not really sure. But I want to do something fun. I'm trying really hard to do at least one fun thing a week."

Well, this was a new concept for me. Despite the insane amount of hours I logged in that library and despite the insane amount of stress I put myself under, I never once lacked fun in my life. I know nursing school is intense, but this was a whole new level. All I could think was that was the saddest goal I'd ever heard. She was lucky that I didn't dump her books on the floor and drag her to the nearest bar for a night on the town.

Misty's comment has always stuck with me. It's funny the random comments that you remember. 

While I would never say that TC and I lack fun in our lives, we have been a bit lazy lately. School and work and sickness and winter were starting to take their toll.  But we fought back last weekend and we did it again this weekend.

TC went skiing, I made a chocolate pie, the dogs knocked my pound cake off the counter and ate the whole thing, we had a winter BBQ with our friends, we went out for Indian, we went out for breakfast, I went to the gym (holla!), I made jalapeno cornbread, TC threw snowballs at me and we finished with a walk in the woods. And then a u-bake pizza exploded in the oven.

Not bad for a winter weekend. I'm ready for the week now - it's going to be a good one.

Friday, January 18, 2013


After our little adventure in the woods last weekend we made plans for an impromptu mini-dinner party at Carla and Tyler's house that evening.

Carla got a raclette for Christmas and it seemed like the perfect night to take it for a test run. The beauty of raclette is how little preparation that goes into it. While we stood at our cars, in our snowsuits, we went back in forth with what food we had in our refrigerators. Carla had salmon. I had nothing. Carla had mushrooms, peppers and cheese. I had, well, nothing. In my defense I do grocery shopping on Sundays and since it was Saturday afternoon, my fridge was at its most pathetic point.

Anyway, a baguette, scallops and pre-sliced stir fry steak later, we were in business. For some reason I consider raclette as something we reserve for special occasions but I have decided that is silly. When something is so fun and so easy, why would we not take full advantage and have it all the time?

While we were playing cards afterward Carla mentioned that we need to make sure to stay social on the weekends and not let winter send us into hibernation. It's so easy to do. It's still getting dark at 5:00 and it's snowed for the past few days. The forecast is a cool -30 tomorrow, plus a storm rolling in early next week. Do you see why hibernation is so appealing? Come home from work, put on your favorite sweats, pour a glass of wine and cuddle on the couch all weekend - it's easy to do.

There is no point to this. I'm clearly delirious and rambling at this point. Maybe I do have a point. Let's do something fun this weekend. We work too hard during the week to not enjoy the weekend.

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

2013 Themes.

Now that we're a little over two weeks into 2013, I'm finally done thinking about my resolutions and pondering how to handle a new chapter in the book of life.

Typically a new year is just that, a new year. Not much actually changes besides the number you write. That is, unless you decide to make changes. However, the turn of this year marked a change in my job. Mainly, because I don't have one anymore. So there's that whole lack of paycheck thing for a while... But, it was my decision and part of the process. Sometimes you have to spend money to make money. Ie, tuition payments for un-payed student teaching will ideally lead to a bigger paycheck in the fall. God willing.

So, the resolutions. Well, I'd really like to clean out and reorganize my coffee cup cabinet. And of course the living room needs painting. Again. Oh yeah, I'd also like the extra 15 20 pounds I've picked up to go back to 2012 where they came from. But those aren't really resolutions - more of a few items to add on the to-do list.

In looking forward to the next year, I had to stop and look back over the past year. An ongoing theme I've noticed over the past few months has been my lack of confidence. I've never been much of a go-getter, if you will. Sure, I work hard. And, yes, I usually have some sort of general plan in mind. But mostly, I just let things come to me and hope that hard work pays off. What I'm trying to say here is that I don't put myself out there. Risk taking is not my forte.

For example, I love photography. It's a great hobby and I have fun playing around and photographing every person, place and thing that crosses my path. Really, we're at the point now where TC has to ask me to put the camera down and live my life. Not to mention that the best way to get me to partake in a new activity is by reminding me that it'll make for great photos. Like snowshoeing last weekend. You think I went because I like trekking through the woods? I guess I kind of do. I definitely like hanging out with my friends. But what I really like is the idea of getting some fun photos. That's the only benefit of going into the woods instead of hanging out with the same people while we, say, sip mimosas on the couch.

So if I love it so much, than why am I scared to try and develop my passion and make something more of it?

My friend Annie is an amazing person. She's so much fun to be with and she has a heart of gold. Annie's gorgeous, smart, creative and talented. She's recently picked up photography and is doing an awesome job. Photography takes a ton of practice and even though she's still learning (albeit very quickly!) she's set up a Facebook page of her work and openly asks to do photo sessions of friends and acquaintances so she can get some practice and start a small business. How brilliant of her! That's exactly what I want to do.

So why can't I? Because I'm a giant WEENIE. The thought terrifies me. I would like it to just fall in my lap without me ever having to put myself out there.

Moral of the story: I need to stop being scared of failure. I need to magically become confident.

Enough about confidence and goals and that nonsense. That's all lovely, but you know what is better? The return of my motto from last year. I was doing well for a while, but then I fell off the wagon. Lately though, I've hopped back on and it feels good. Here it is:

Kind thoughts, kind words.

Here's where I struggle with this one. For example, I'm in line for the self-checkout at the grocery store. The woman in front of me is moving at a snail's pace. In fact, I'm sure she is moving this slow on purpose, just to spite me. From there, my thoughts deteriorate. I'm too ashamed to tell you what I really think but let's just say that I quickly start judging her entire outfit down to her shoelaces. All because she isn't scanning her groceries at warp speed when I'm in a hurry.


I've found with practice I can actually bury my unkind thoughts about this poor woman, who has done absolutely nothing wrong and is in fact probably the nicest lady ever, and instead think kind thoughts about something else entirely. Silently judging her choice in shoes is not going to speed up her grocery scanning abilities. In reality, all I'm doing is letting letting negativity into my own brain and raise my own blood pressure. In the end, the joke's on me.

I probably shouldn't have admitted all of that. Can you relate or am I the only unkind thinker out there?  If you are, trust me when I tell you that's it fixable. Kind thoughts and kind words will do wonders for your stress levels and make you a better person. BAM! A two for one deal. Just keep repeating it to yourself until it becomes habit.

So there you have it. My themes for 2013:

Confidence and Kindness.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Snowshoeing with the Little One.

Winter can be tough here in Canada. It's often cold, snowy and overcast. So when a gloriously sunny and mild day comes along you take advantage of it. You have to, otherwise you may insult Mother Nature and she'll never give you another one.

Saturday was the perfect day. There was plenty of snow on the ground, no wind and the temperature a mild 43F. The snowshoes were calling our name.

TC and I called our good friends, Carla and Tyler, to see if they were up for a walk in the woods. We've done this plenty of times before, but this was going to be the first snowshoeing expedition with their one year old daughter, Gwen. 

It sounded easy enough. Suit Gwen up in her bright pink snowsuit, sit her in the sled and pull her along flat terrain. No problem.

Tiiiiiimber. No less than five steps in, she toppled to the side and took a face full of snow. She was a trooper. No crying, no flailing. 

She patiently waited for Carla too set her back up and wipe the snow from her face. So, we set off again.

This time we thought it best to have a big strong man behind her, just in case she toppled again.

And sure enough we made it another five steps before TC had to catch her fall.

Before you start thinking that this is child abuse, please envision me yelling "Man down!" and all of us getting a good laugh. It wasn't tragic at all, just hilarious because Gwen was completely unfazed by her repeated tumbles into the snow.

The quick thinking poppa that he is, Tyler decided that we needed ropes on the back of the sled to help with the balance. We didn't have any spare rope, but I did happen to have two dog leashes in my backpack. They would do the trick, we thought.

This way, someone could pull the sled in front and Tyler could adjust from the back when she hit a bump, almost like a dog sled or horse reigns.

We cruised along quite well once we had the sled under control.  Gwen seemed quite content while she rode in style and the four dogs were happily leaping through the snow and thoroughly wearing themselves out.

We came to a clearing and stopped for a rest. Maple found a stick, while Hobie and I dug into the thermos of coffee and Baileys.

Past her snack and nap time, Gwen was ready for a cookie. But those silly snowsuits bundle you up so tight you can barely move. Just like TC has to help me into my snowshoes, Carla had to help Gwen with her snack. Arms just don't bend well in pretty, fluffy snowsuits. 

Thank goodness for mommies that love their babies.

After a little more leaping in the snow, we decided to head back.

This time, with an empty sled.

Someone has her dad wrapped around her little finger already.

Rocking the Uggs and swindling her dad, she's a girl after my own heart.

The trick to surviving winter in the tundra is to embrace it. Now, that's easier said than done, but this weekend was a good start for the season. Right now the forecast is looking good for next weekend too so hopefully we'll find more outdoor adventures and keep checking things off my bucket list. 

Two down, seven to go. It shouldn't be a problem, seeing as I've got the greatest and most adventurous group of friends ever.

Friday, January 11, 2013

I Need More Sleep and Magic In My Life.

Almost three hours. That is how long I slept after school today. I thought working in kindergarten was exhausting. As it turns out, high school is no better.

For the past year and a half I've been working on a degree in education. My classes have finally come to an end and all that is left is a few months of student teaching. Because I have a degree in microbiology and because I kinda sorta requested it, I've landed myself an internship teaching AP Biology to a whole bunch of brainiac 18 year olds. These kids are awesome and dedicated and smart. Oh, so smart. They're making me wish I had paid just a little more attention back in college. If I could remember exactly how that whole DNA replication thing worked right now the world would be a much better place.

Did you have that teacher in high school that everyone absolutely adored? They were so great that you still remember their name? And when the high school reminiscing starts up at a party, you have a whole list of great stories you can choose to tell, because they were that memorable and that awesome? Well, that's the teacher I'm working with right now. He's brilliant and creative, laid back but structured. He's got an arsenal of forensic lab equipment that would impress the police department. And he makes it look so easy. It's like he just wakes up in the morning and and conjures up a life changing lesson plan while he sips his coffee. When I question how his mind works and where he comes up with these ideas, he swears that its because he researches and studies and puts in long hours. But I don't believe him. I think he's magic. It's the only logical and scientific explanation.

Now that its midnight I should probably go make my lunch for tomorrow. Let's hope that I too have an magical coffee-induced epiphany tomorrow morning. And the morning after that. And then the next day. And the next.

Ah, and remember. Kind thoughts, kind words.

Have we not talked about that yet? We'll get there next week.

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Mini Land Rover.

Every year it's a struggle to find the perfect present for TC. I scour the internet, I rack my brain and I even make notes throughout the year of ideas as I stumble upon them. He's a man of many hobbies but none of them are very shoppable. And of course, TC is absolutely no help. I, on the other hand, make it easy for him. Here honey, this is a link to exactly what I would like under the tree. Oh, I don't do that every time, because that wouldn't be fun, but I help him out every now and then.

Last year for his birthday I tried to find a local woodworker to build a mini toy Land Rover for him. Several years ago we had seen toy Jeeps at the market and TC had mentioned how cool it would be to have a Land Rover like it. The idea seemed simple enough so I went back to that booth at the market where the nice little man promptly told me, "Sorry, I don't have a Land Rover plan."

The man did suggest a few other local guys to ask. A few phone calls later, I gave up and ordered TC a new pair of sunglasses for his birthday.

As the holidays were gearing up, I was staring at yet another gift guide online. It was mid November and I had no Earthly idea what I could possibly get him. But then, out of the clear blue, it came to me. I could try to make the Land Rover thing happen again - but this time I was going through Etsy. I swear I could hear angels singing.

A simple search for 'woodwork' on Etsy turned up a long list of artists. I scrolled through shops and photos looking for someone who specialized in cars, airplanes, boats, or anything else that was detailed and intricate. I jotted down a list of 7 artists and emailed the first three. I explained that I was interested in a custom built mini Land Rover based on photos of my husband's beloved truck. Within a day all three of them wrote me back and politely declined. Too hard, too time consuming, too bad they all said.  I emailed the next three artists on my list the next day. Same response. So I emailed my 7th choice. His shop mostly featured wooden pens, with the exception of a beautiful river boat that was intricate enough that I was hopeful.

It took a day or two, but my new friend Woodworker Jim wrote me back. He sounded positive but wanted to play around in his shop before he made me any promises. He also needed a few more photos of the Land Rover to look at...and sent me a list of different angles to get.

Well, that was just the beginning. Jim spent the weekend researching the specs of a 1971 Land Rover Series IIa and fiddling with dimensions, proportions, materials and tires. The man logged as many hours in the decision process as I expected him to for the whole thing. He sent me a list of the details he wanted to do and wanted to know if it sounded satisfactory. Yes, Jim, yes it does. I told him he was the creative genius and that I trusted his judgement completely.

The way his emails were worded made it obvious that Jim is the nicest and kindest man of all time. Throughout the six week building process we sent countless emails and photos. I stalked TC's truck while it was parked at his work, while it was parked outside of his friend's houses, even when it was midnight and I was armed with a tape measure and flashlight. Countless photos and dimensions later, the truck started taking shape.

Jim poured his heart, soul and every woodworking skill he had into it. His emails said things like, "The truck is like my child - it brings me so much joy and frustration." In the end I think it pained him to work so hard and then ship it off to a complete stranger. Although, he did say that he was glad to know that it was going to a good home. He even typed up miniature notes for each of us that he attached to the seats. Oh! And his wife created mini cookies as snacks that he stashed in the compartments underneath the back seats. He truly went above and beyond.

The truck is unbelievable. It is a perfect miniature replica, down to the license plate. And as wonderful as it is, the best part was the experience of working with Jim. He was patient and kind with me. He didn't stop just because we had blown the budget out of the water. He did the work because he was passionate, he cared and he loved it. Especially during the holidays when everyone is so frantic, Jim was the picture of calm and kindness. I think that's really what makes the gift so special.

Anyway, long story short, if you're looking for a custom built wooden something, or even just a pen, puzzle or helicopter, then my friend Jim is your man. You can check out his shop here.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

I Wrote This On Friday But Was Too Sick To Hit "Publish."

It's Friday. And it's snowing again. For days now I've been hunkered down on the couch. Multiple boxes of Kleenex surround me as well as my iPad, laptop and a never-ending glass of orange juice. I'm thinking about spiking the o.j. That might wake up my taste buds.

I'd like to say that I have a touch of the winter blues. If that was the case then I would at least be able to beat this with my mental prowess. But its just a plain ole cold. Mixed with a touch of sinusitis, its like all my bad karma is finally catching up with me.

The miserable cold weather isn't helping either. Typically I would just pretend that I feel good and go about my business. But the's working against me.

Twenty minutes ago I decided that hot chocolate sounded good. My mother-in-law gave me a case of delicious flavored Swiss Miss for Christmas and the mint chocolate was calling my name. But I was out of milk and watery hot chocolate just wasn't going to cut it. I only needed to make it to the corner store to buy milk, which is just two blocks away. I could drive, but my engine gets angry when it has to warm up for such a short trip. Instead I decided a quick walk might do me some good and get my blood  flowing a bit. I bundled up in my boots, parka, scarf and mitts before heading out.

When I stepped outside the temperature actually wasn't too bad. But when I turned the corner the wind whipped me in the face causing my eyes to immediately water. After about a block my nose was running profusely, tears from the wind were running down my face, the cold was seeping through my Uggs and I was seriously questioning my sanity.

Based on the way I looked, the girl behind the counter must have thought that either my dog just died or I was going through a major breakup. I tried to explain that I just have a cold, and she just said, "Bless your heart." What? Are we in the South? God help me, I'd love to be back there where it's not snowing.

I picked out some skim milk, popcorn and a reece's just because I felt like I deserved an extra treat for braving the snow. When I went to pay I realized I had no credit card. I instantly knew that it was sitting on the counter at home. Well, this trip wasn't going to be for nothing so I trudged back home to get it. I took photos along the way just so you could feel my pain and see how enormous the snowbanks are. They come up to my chest. Almost to my shoulders, actually. I measured.

At home I grabbed my credit card and my car keys. Cold and angry engine or not, I was not walking back to that store. When I got back I added yet another jug of Tropicana to my purchase. You know what I'm going to do with it, don't you. I'm gonna spike the whole damn thing and sleep off this cold. It's 2013 now - go big or go home, right?

Now, if you'll excuse me I have to go blow my nose again. And possibly drink some more orange juice.

UPDATE: It's still snowing. However, I've turned a corner and feel almost human again. And you can stop filling out my AA application. I didn't spike the carton of orange juice. Just a glass of it.