Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Smitten with chocolate and cherries

I'm on a quest to make a yummy, healthy, homemade granola bar. There are lots of recipes out there. Some require baking, some are no-bake bars. Some are easy, some are complicated. Some are healthy, some are not. Some are super-healthy but turn crumble into granola when you try to cut them into bars. So. Given the wide range of recipes, ingredients, and techniques (who knew granola bars caused so much controversy?!), I thought I'd try an easy recipe from a reputable source. The ingredients reminded me of a cookie recipe, so it's not the healthiest. But I knew they'd be easy to make in bar form.

Without further ado, I present Chocolate, Walnut, Cherry Granola Bars. I adapted this recipe from the author of Smitten Kitchen. She adapted her recipe from King Arthur flour.

(makes 16 bars)

1 2/3 cups quick rolled oats
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup walnut pieces
1/3 cup peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 tablespoons melted butter
1/4 cup honey
1 tablespoon water

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease an 8″ x 12″ x 2″ pan.

Stir together all the dry ingredients, including the fruit and nuts. In a separate bowl, whisk together the vanilla, melted butter, peanut butter, liquid sweeteners and water. Toss the wet ingredients with the dry until the mixture is evenly crumbly. Spread in the prepared pan, pressing them in firmly to ensure they are molded to the shape of the pan.

Bake the bars for 30 to 35 minutes, until they’re brown around the edges — don’t be afraid to get a little color on the tops too. They’ll still seem soft when you press into the center of the pan but do not worry, they’ll set completely once completely cool.

1. Dry ingredients

2. Wet ingredients

3. Kitchen Aid stand mixer!

4. Letting the mixer do the work

5. Plop

6. Press

7. Cut and eat!

These are yummy- even Ross agrees! However, they're very cookie-like. 6 Tbs. is a lot of butter! And do you really need honey AND sugar? But I didn't want to mess with proportions too much lest I end up with the aforementioned granola instead of bars. But you can count on hearing about these again in a month or so when I try to make this recipe a little healthier. (Well, you'll hear about it if it's successful and edible). For now, enjoy! And let me know if you have a good granola bar recipe of your own. I'll be making granola bars a lot in the next few months until I find the perfect recipe... bar fight!

Monday, March 29, 2010

I'm back!?

When you're little and you fall down, your parents tell you to "get back in the saddle" and keep going. I had to tell myself that's what today was in my running journey. There comes a point when you need to suck it up and get back on track.

I was starting to get pretty down on myself for not running in almost 3 WEEKS! Granted, my back was killing me the first week and I went on two slow, easy runs in Amarillo and then worked WAY too much the rest of the second week, but still. I went to Bikram Wednesday and Saturday and it has helped my back a lot. It's still very tight, but I need to remember to keep going to yoga once a week to stay loose and injury-free.

Today was a slow, short run. I can tell I've lost some strength and endurance since my last good run, which is a bit discouraging. However, I worked up a sweat and defintitely got my heart rate up. I need to keep focusing on the positive. I do notice that I feel happier after working out. Like Lance Armstrong says, "What am I on? I'm on my bike 6 hours a day. What are you on?" (Speaking of biking, now that it's warm, Ross and I need to find some good routes around here!)

As I was sitting here moping about how much I've fallen behind in my training, I read through some blogs I follow and found this timely post on No Meat Athelte. (Click the underlined words to go to the link). The basic premise is, like Hal Higdon says, "Putting miles in your training log is like putting money in the bank. You begin to draw interest on it immediately." I don't know about drawing interest, but I am keeping tally of my total mileage on dailymile.com now to encourage me and prove to myself that I am (or will be, eventually) improving and building endurance. Every step I take is literally a step toward that goal.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Imaginary Distresses

I go through phases of feeling really sorry for myself on night shift. In fact, you're probably sick of hearing about it! However, I recently picked Screwtape Letters off my bookshelf again. It's been a long time since I read it and it's the type of book that will speak differently to you depending on where you are in life.

Among some night shifters (the ones who can't return to a "normal" schedule on their days off, no matter how hard they try), there's a phenomenon called "shift work disorder." This applies to the people who suffer insomnia and excessive sleepiness from working nights.
The CDC did a study a few years ago and found that, obviously, most of the risks associated with night work are related to a simple lack of sleep and not being able to keep up steady, healthy behaviors- such as eating right and getting exercise. This, of course, leads to higher rates of cardiac disease and metabolic syndromes in night-shift workers. Digestive problems are also common, either because of poor eating habits or because the digestive system isn't used to working hard in the middle of the night.
I frequently complain of one or more of the above issues, including not being awake do to normal things with normal people at normal times of the day (or run errands during normal business hours). Poor me, right? Well, C.S. Lewis managed to kick me in the butt this week!
In Screwtape Letters, two demons are writing letters back and forth about the soul of an unfortunate man they always refer to as "the patient". The demons are trying to win the man's soul despite his conversion to Christianity and God's love for him (they refer to God as the Enemy). Quotes can be confusing out of context, but bear with me. Or even better, read the book! It's amazingly thought-provoking, but not in a way that makes it a chore to read. It's very much a story we can all learn from and not just some Christian living manual.
But I digress. Here I am, feeling sorry for myself, and I read about "the patient" taking a walk and renewing his faith in God. The senior demon writes to the younger one, saying:

...you allowed (the patient) two real positive pleasures. Were you so ignorant as not to see the danger of this? The characteristic of Pains or Pleasures is that they are unmistakably real and therefore give the man who feels them a touchstone of reality. Thus if you had been trying to damn your man by the Romantic method- by making him a kind of Childe Harold submerged in self-pity for imaginary distresses- you would try to protect him at all costs from any real pain; because, of course, five minutes' genuine toothache would reveal the romantic sorrows for the nonsense they were and unmask your whole stratagem.
I realized at that moment that I am certainly a victim of my own imaginary distresses. I had to stop and take stock of reality. Life's not perfect, but I certainly don't have it too bad! Sure, I hate my schedule, but I have a steady job! Yes, I took a paycut to move up here and I'm not used to income taxes, but I get regular paychecks every 2 weeks! I may not see my husband a lot right now, but he works so hard and I know I married a man with a wonderful heart. Yes, my back hurts and I'm struggling to live a healthy lifestyle without a healthy sleep pattern, but overall, I am still young and healthy! Most importantly, no, I cannot control my life or those around me, but God knit my inner being and He knows when I sit and when I stand. I was raised by amazing parents who taught me to turn to God in all circumstances.

I saw a homeless man on the corner today with crutches, a bad leg, and rags for clothes. Call me a sucker, but it always hurts my heart to see that depth of pain and vulnerability! (Homeless discussion aside, please. Yes, there are 1,000 reasons people are begging for change on the corner and not all of them are honorable or necessary. But it still hurts my heart.) I'm sitting here in my heated, (partially) furnished apartment with the knowledge that next Friday is payday and I have to admit that my life is pretty cushy.

The demons want to detach their "patient" from REAL pleasures and pains and I very much recognize that sin in my life. Time goes by faster if I walk around in a general haze, always blaming others for my problems, and feeling sorry for myself. God watch to detach us from ourselves, but in a different ways. The demon tells his apprentice,

(God) sets an absurd value on the distinctness of every human. When He talks of their losing their selves, He only means abandoning the clamour of self-will; once they have done that, He really gives them back all their personality, and boasts that when they are wholly His they will be more themselves than ever. Hence, while He is delighted to see them sacrificing even their innocent will to His, He hates to see them drifting away from their own nature for any other reason.
Boy am I guilty of drifting away from my own nature in a bad way! I don't feel like myself when I'm tired, cranky, self-centered, and selfish, but it's become such a habit I suppose that's what others see when they look at me. I'm not myself, and I'm not His either! What a scary place to be, and I know I no longer want to be here. I'm sure it hurts God's heart to see one of his children trying to make time pass quickly when time is such a gift, a luxury, and not something to fritter away. I need to live in the present, not yesterday or tomorrow.
In fact, C.S. Lewis says, "the Present is the point at which time touches eternity. Of the present moment, and of it only, humans have an experience analogous to the experience which (God) has of reality as a whole; in it alone freedom and actuality are offered them." God would rather have us continually concerned with eternity or with the Present. Not the past or earthly future. Living in the present, Lewis notes, means "obeying the present voice of conscience, bearing the present cross, receiving the present grace, and giving thanks for present pleasure." Quite a task!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Night Shift "Hangover"

I've never had so many drinks that I'm hungover the next day, but after working 4 shifts in a row, traveling to Amarillo, and launching another 4-in-a-row stretch with only some restless sleeping in the car beforehand, I feel that I can empathize: screaming headache, red eyes, general puffiness, and and overwhelming desire to crawl back into bed at any given time. I finished the latest string of shifts on Tuesday morning and then slept for 10 hours! I don't know how well I slept, though, because I woke up feeling even worse. Only after taking a bath, exfoliating every inch of skin, and moisturizing excessively (hospital air is so dry!) did I feel like I could partially rejoin the land of the living.

Then I went back to bed and slept from 11pm to 6am, only waking a few times to turn over and go back to sleep. Again, not sure how well I slept. I'm learning not all sleep is equal. However, I did feel well enough this morning to go to Bikram yoga.
I was definitely scared that class was going to kick my butt! I haven't worked out in two weeks, except for two SLOW jogs in Amarillo. I've also been eating a lot of junk and processed foods in the last 2 weeks and I'm starting to notice that something about it gives me a stomachache. My last semester of nursing school, I started getting nauseous and dyspeptic when I was really stressed-- to the point that I now throw up at the peak of stressful times. Lovely, I know. But I've also noticed that I eat more crap when I'm stressed. Maybe the stress isn't causing my stomachaches as directly as I thought... Coincidence? I think not.

*You're never too old, never too bad, never too late and never too sick to start from the scratch once again.* -Bikram Choudhury

Yoga note to self: lotion + sweat = slime. Slathering up felt great last night after a bath, but it made hot yoga a lot more slippery! Besides that, it was a great class, though. I skipped the two poses that tend to make my back cramp up the most, but I also mixed a cup of coconut water and pinch of salt into my Nalgene bottle full of water. (I "bonked" toward the end of the last few classes, if it's possible to apply that term to yoga). I don't know if it was skipping the hardest poses, the electrolytes in my water, of the fact that the room was not as hot as it had been, but class went well!
I plan to spend the rest of the day with my garden books and planting seeds. I knew it wasn't going to be as easy as "poke seed into hole in dirt and water as needed," but I never realized plants were so complicated! My cucumber seeds are currently hopefully pre-sprouting, wrapped in damp paper towels in a Ziploc bag. I soaked the beet seeds in water for two hours and I'm going to plant them this afternoon. I ordered a heat pad for the peppers (apparently, they grow best with bottom-heat around 80 degrees) and it should arrive in two days. I'm really hoping my garden isn't one gigantic failure! I'll be nocturnal most of the summer, I'm sure, but at least my plants can benefit from the sunlight, and I can benefit by eating them!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

First day of spring?

Happy first day of spring! Here's what Kansas City woke up to:

Good thing I didn't try to plant anything outside yet! I'm interested to see what the farmers say about their crops at the CSA meeting tomorrow. I got two blueberry plants, two strawberry plants, chives, and onions from a nursery in Amarillo last week. I'm hoping to keep them alive this summer in addition to the seeds I'm planting Tuesday.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Crazy spring breakers?

My back is getting better; a week off definitely helped. Now I just need to get back into running gently and avoid anything that makes my back hurt. (I'm still not sure exactly how I hurt it. I suspect I did something wrong when I was doing an arm workout last week.) Of course, heat and this yoga stretch help the most:


I work 4 nights in a row starting Friday but next week, I think I'm going to go to Bikram yoga three or 4 times and then get back into running after that. NO INJURIES ALLOWED! I am GOING TO run the Cowtown next February!

In slightly more interesting news, here are some pictures from Amarillo. My camera died, but I managed to steal a few pictures from Ross' mom's camera. Emily, my sister-in-law, found this awesome recipe for German Chocolate Cupcakes and suggested we make them over spring break. I make muffins from scratch all the time, but I'd never attempted cupcakes. The batter was very mousse-like and the finished product was amazing with a glass of ice cold milk! Emily took the awesome cupcake photos:


After... yum!

Ross spent Thursday afternoon and evening playing with Legos working on a grad school project. I had to take pictures!

Check out the color-sorted bins. Apparently he sorted them like that even when he was a kid!

I guess he's going to make a stop-motion animated Lego film for his Visual Storytelling class

All in all, we had a fun and relaxing break. Back to the grind-- and cold-- tomorrow. Snow is in the forecast again!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Springing Forward

March 20 is the first day of spring this year and everyone is ready for it! Most people do hate losing the hour of sleep that "springing forward" brought this weekend, but I worked that night and losing the hour from 2-3 AM made a huge difference! An 11-hour shift is so much better than a 12-hour shift.

We got to Amarillo safely yesterday and today it's sunny and 58 degrees. Ross and I went for a 30 minute walk around his parent's neighborhood and my back is still very tight, but not as painful. I think I'll stretch tonight and hopefully try running again tomorrow. I love a good run in this weather!

I was reading my favorite springtime book (Animal, Vegetable, Miracle-- a must-read if you haven't yet) and I had to share this:

...springtime makes people crazy. We expect too much, the world burgeons with promises it can't keep, all passion is really a setup, and we're doomed to get our heats broken yet again. I agree, and would further add: Who cares? Every spring I go there anyway, around the bend, unconditionally. I'm a soul on ice flung out on a rock in the sun, where the needles that pierced me begin to melt all as one.

On the new edge of springtime when I stand on the front porch shadowing my eyes from the weak morning light, sniffing out a tinge of green on the hill and the scent of yawning earthworms, oh, boy, then! I roll like a bear out of hibernation.

The maple buds glow pink, the forsythia breaks into its yellow aria. These are the days we can't keep ourselves indoors around here, any more than we believe what out eyes keep telling us about the surrouding land (i.e. that it is still a giant mud puddle, now lacking its protective covering of ice).

So it comes to pass that one pair of boots after another run outdoors and come back mud-caked-- more shoes than we even knew we had in the house, proliferating like wild portobellos in a composty heap by the front door. So what? Noah's kids would have felt like this when the flood had almost dried up: muddy boots be hanged. Come the end of the dark days, I am more than joyful. I'm nuts.

-Barbara Kingsolver

Well-put Ms. Kingsolver; I couldn't have said it better myself. I am more than joyful when sunny days arrive again!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Amarillo by Mornin'...

I get off work in about 30 minutes and Ross is picking me up so we can get on the road! We're headed to Amrillo for Ross' spring break. ("Spring break- Wohoo!") I'm excited for 60 (maybe even 70) degree weather!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Week's End

The last few days have been a discouraging end to the week. My legs were sore after the 5k last weekend, but I ran okay Monday. I woke up Wednesday with a sore lower back but thought running would stretch it out a little. It didn't hurt more when I ran, but it was a bit of a tough workout because I'm breaking in new shoes. Thursday during the day at then at work that night, my back was so painful! Even though I hadn't slept in 22 hours when I went to bed Friday morning after work, I didn't sleep well because of the pain. I wanted to run, but when my alarm went off at 4pm, my back was still just as sore and I knew working out was probably a bad idea.

I hate this! The whole reason I've been slow and steady with increasing running endurance is to avoid injury. I don't even know how I got this one, but it's keeping me from running! However, I CANNOT let it STOP me. I need the patience to rest until my back heals, and then I want to start running again! Let's hope it doesn't take more than a week. I get paid next Friday and need to find a good massage therapist (or physical therapist?) in the area.

The exercise guilt is bad right now. Click here to see how one of my peers sees it (scroll past the obsessive food pictures). It makes sense it my head, but it's still frustrating. Prayers would help! And patience, if I'm grumpy. And muscle relaxants, if you have any ;-)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


First off, let me just say this: I love spring! A month ago, it was hard to imagine that warmer weather existed. But today I can *almost* go outside without a coat. And definitely without my big winter coat!
Even though the weather's nice, I'm struggling with my workouts. My legs are still so sore! Maybe the 5k wasn't the greatest idea when I've only been training on the treadmill. I need to get outside more before the next race, which should be do-able with this nice weather!
Now I know the whole 3 people who read my blog ;-) are just dying to hear more about local food. Well, I'm going to get on my soapbox anyway! But not without a little humility first: I'm no pro at eating locally. Especially during winter in the Midwest! I know it can be done, but I'm not at that point yet. I'm aiming for little steps. Of course in the summer and fall when farmer's markets are open, I plan to frequent them much more than the grocery store. This winter pretty much the only local product I have been enjoying is actually from Hy-Vee: Shatto milk. And when I say local, I mean it! The Shatto farm is in Osborn, Missouri- 67 miles away from Mission, Kansas where we live. Shatto milk comes only from the cows on this one farm and sometimes goes from cow to store in as little as 12 hours.
We're spoiled with strawberries during the winter, shipped over from Chile. Oftentimes, your food travels more than you do! But produce that has traveled a long way often loses taste and nutrients in the process. Really, we're cheating ourselves by buying these "treats." Even organic doesn't do you much better when your food has traveled 1200 miles to your plate. Barbara Kingsolver says, "Value is not made of money, but a tender balance of expectation and longing." How can you put a price on your first bite of fresh, local produce in season?
I didn't plan well for this winter and had to get everything from the supermarket. And since we moved from Ft. Worth to Kansas City, I could hardly travel with frozen seasonal produce. In October, we actually had to give away our last bag of frozen blueberries that we'd gotten fresh that August from Ham Orchards just east of Dallas. Best blueberries ever! Luckily, I'd used all the frozen peaches (even better than the blueberries) and the fresh strawberry ice cream didn't last long at all :o)
I digress. What I meant to say is that throughout this summer and fall, I hope to freeze extra fruit, shredded zucchini, possibly fresh broccoli, and more. I am also going to attempt to make and freeze tomato sauce and pesto to add to pasta next winter. Thank goodness for modern conveniences! I think picked-when-ripe local, frozen produce tastes better than well-traveled produce anyway. This way, we can eat local next winter even when the ground is covered in a foot of snow! This will also help me avoid BPA in canned foods. I love canned green beans and I add canned diced tomatoes to a lot of recipes.
Local winter staples around here consist of things like onions, potatoes, and garlic, which stay fresh longer than other produce. Of course, the other local foods I hope to rely on more next winter are bread, meat, and eggs.
Says Barbara Kingsolver of her family's year of local eating:

In the winter we tended more toward carnivory, probably in answer to the body's metabolic craving for warm stews with more fats and oils. Our local meat is always frozen, except in the rare weeks when we're just harvested poultry, so the season doesn't dictate what's available. A meat farmer has to plan in spring for the entire year, starting the Thanksgiving turkeys in April, so that's when the customer needs to order one...
People who inhabit the world's colder, darker places have long relied on lots of cold-water ocean fish in their diets... Several cross-cultural studies have shown lower rates of depression and bipolar disorder in populations consuming more seafood; neurological studies reveal that it's the omega-3 fatty acids in ocean fish that specifically combat the blues. These compounds (also important to cardiovascular health) accumulate in the bodies of predators whose foo chains are founded on plankton or grass- like tuna and salmon... Joseph Hibbeln, MD, of the National Institutes of Health, points out that in most modern Western diets "we eat grossly fewer omega-3 fatty acids now. We also know that rates of depression have radically increased."
Granted, diets low in omega-3 fatty acids are certainly not the only cause of increasing rates of depression, but it certainly factors in. And every little bit can help when facing another dark, dreary month of winter. Flax and chia seeds can go into a bowl of oatmeal or baked goods, but many people don't realize that local meat and eggs have an edge here as well. Not only do you know where the animal came from, how it lived, and how it died, but grass-fed cattle (pasture-FINISHED, not just allowed to roam for an hour) have omega-3 levels up to 3 times higher than feedlot beef, according to Kingsolver. Furthermore, eggs from TRUE free-range hens have 4-6 times more vitamin D, 1/3 less cholesterol, 1/4 less saturated fat, 2/3 more Vitamin A, 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids, 3 times more Vitamin E, and 7 times more beta carotene than conventional eggs.
I think that's more than enough info for tonight. I'm sure I'll have more to cover tomorrow. Writing is a good way for me to sort and measure my own thoughts; sorry if it sometimes overwhelms the few wonderful people who read it!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


The birds are chirping, we're getting rain instead of snow... spring is in the air! Ross and I finally made it to Family Tree Nursery in Overland Park today. It's one of only a few retailers in the state with a Seed Saver's Exchange seed rack.

Why Seed Saver's seeds? Seed Savers Exchange is the largest non-governmental seed bank in the United States. They permanently maintain more than 25,000 endangered vegetable varieties, most having been brought to North America by members' ancestors who immigrated from Europe, the Middle East, Asia. All Seed Saver's seeds, heirloom or not, are open-pollinated, which means you could save the seeds for re-planting and get a predictable result (if you’ve followed instructions for isolation distances). This is in opposition to Monsanto seeds, which are genetically modified and patented to the extent that you need to buy a new supply every year. Not a huge deal to a backyard gardener, but think of all the mid-scale farmers who are trying to do the right thing, but have to buy an entirely new crop every year!

In addition to being unable to replant GMOs ("genetically modified organisms"- yum!?), no one really knows what long-term effects these foods have on the human body. It's a sad day when fruits and vegetables cannot be assumed safe and healthy! Click here to see what some studies are starting to find about GMOs and organ damage. I'm not one for world politics, but I think the E.U. has the right idea to ban GM crops due to lack of sufficient research.

In Good News for a Change: How Everyday People are Helping the Planet, David Suzuki and Holly Dressel state:

We have been told that genetically engineered (GE) material just disperses in nature, but in fact, it is remarkably permanent. Biologically engineered genes and DNA have been found to persist in soil organisms, in insects, pollen, and especially water, and have been found in agricultural ditches as much as a kilometer from the original site. The antibiotic-resistant marker genes used in the process have survived digestion by cattle and even bees, and therefore post a threat of increased antibiotic resistance up and down the food chain. This is one reason why the technology is under a de facto ban in Europe. The genes themselves are not confined to the original, patented plant, but can be spread by wind or pollen to other varieties of the same crop, and even to wild relatives.

Canada is already having tremendous problems with genetically engineered canola, which has not only spread its herbicide-resistant trait to other canola, but is now affecting its many wild relatives, creating what are being termed "super weeds." The situation is so serious that one reason the Canadian Wheat Board is actively fighting the introduction of herbicide-resistant GE wheat, apart from market considerations, is that the species has many wild relatives that could forever become contaminated with herbicide resistance.

This means the seeds used in many gardens and on almost all farms are unsustainable. I want my home garden to be SUSTAINABLE. Hence, the heirloom seeds. Heirlooms also tend to be cultivated over the years to be naturally hardy and resistant to certain ailments (instead of modified to be "RoundUp ready"). Finally, heirloom varieties are prized for their taste!

This year, I'm trying Longfellow Cucumbers, Five-Color Silverbeet, America Spinach, Chioggia Beets, Italian Genovese Basil, and Slow-Bolting Cilantro. This is, of course, in addition to Ross' Cyklon and Mustard Habanero Peppers! I'll share more on these choices as the seedlings (hopefully) grow.

I have all my seedling equipment!

I start the pepper seedlings at the end of March and I will probably start seedling for the others as well, even though you can plant beet, spinach, chard, cucumber, basil, and cilantro seeds directly in the soil after the danger of frost is past. If Ross can help me figure out how to post a PDF page as a picture, I'll show you the cool Seed Saver's chart that tells you when and how to plant the seedlings and seeds. I also have a great library going.

It goes without saying that a home garden is as local as you can get your food. I'm no champion of the 100-mile diet, but I hope to move more and more in that direction each year. I'll post more on locavores tomorrow (or get on my soapbox again, and Ross would say).

For now, I'll leave you with these 6 reasons to grow your own food:

1. The 2009 Edibles Gardening Trends Research Report conducted by the Garden Writer’s Association (GWA) Foundation found that one-third of experienced gardeners grew more edibles in 2009 than in the previous year and 7% of new gardeners planted edibles. The main reason was to "supplement household food supply." Thus, saving on grocery bills. (Don't forget to support your farmer's markets and CSA groups during growing season, too!)

2. Again, nothing is more local than your backyard!

3. Growing your own fruits and vegetables means that you know exactly what does and does not go into your food and exactly where it comes from.

4. Gardeners eat more produce, lead more active lifestyles, and have lower stress levels. (Yes, please!)

5. You can grow your favorite varieties in-season. You can also try new produce that you won't find on the grocery shelves.

6. Having a home garden enables you to teach your peers (and children and grandchildren) where food really comes from.

Don't worry, we have our CSA to fall back on in case my garden is a huge flop not as productive as I'm hoping. I'm starting small this year, just in case.

[Side note: Via American Seeds Inc, Monsanto now supplies Johnny's, Territorial, Nichols, Stokes, and dozens of other home seed catalogs! 5,000 non-hybrid vegetable varieties were available from catalogs in 1981. In 1998, this number was already down to 600. In 2005, Monsanto acquired Seminis, a company that already controlled 40% of the US vegetable market. I wonder how many non-hybrid varieties are available now?!]

*Sometimes I wonder if this world is being run by smart people who are putting us on, or by imbeciles who really mean it.* -Mark Twain

Monday, March 8, 2010

Truffle Shuffle 5k

Ross and I ran the Truffle Shuffle 5k this past Saturday and no, I still don't know why it's called the truffle shuffle! The t-shirts had a mushroom truffle on them, but our goodie bag had a chocolate truffle, so who knows?!

Getting ready to run, hoping for no rain

The weather forecast was low-40s with 60% chance of precipitation. We woke up to overcast skies, but the rain never did come! The temperature was hard to start out in, but it was perfect by the time we were warmed up and done with the race.

Waiting in the warm car

Before the race

The run started at 8:30am and we ran our first mile in exactly 10 minutes! The second mile was about 10 minutes and 10 seconds. The last 1.1 mile took us 11 minutes and 50 seconds, but we walked for a minute around mile 2.5 to stretch our muscles after bunch of rolling hills, twists, and turns.

Starting out


I promise I am actually having fun!

Cute spectator

We finished 3.1 miles in exactly 32 minutes! I know it's not crazy-fast, but it's a perfectly respectable time and I'm quite proud of it. Ross came in 9th place among men in his age group and I came in 18th place among women in my age group. That put us both in the middle of the pack, which we're perfectly happy with!

Great post-race snack!

This was Ross' first 5k and now he has the bug. Next on tap: Lynn Electric Kansas 5k in Lawrence on April 18.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Good things come in small packages

Sometimes nothing beats getting something fun in the mail! Last week, we got a care package from the Hartfields in Texas with the INFAMOUS chocolate-cherry bread from Central Market, a Freebirds t-shirt for Ross (sometimes Chipotle just doesn't cut it), and a Burts Bees hands and feet care kit for me! It made a bad day much better, and started my week off on the right foot.

Winter + being a nurse = DRY SKIN

Yesterday, Ross got his Adobe Creative Suite 4 in the mail. Now this was not a gift. No, this was $400 software that we had to save up to buy. But that didn't stop Ross from celebrating like a kid on Christmas morning when it showed up on the doorstep! All through undergrad, students used "borrowed" versions of this software. But now Ross has his own software on his own desktop!

"It does feel nice to be legit!"

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


Night shift makes makes me feel like I got run over by a truck. Day. After. Day. Furthermore, I treat myself terribly when I'm working nights: diet sodas, vending machine runs at 5am to stay awake, meals at all hours whether I'm at work or not... I'm beginning to realize (4 months into it) that I'm not moving to day shift any time soon. Therefore, if I keep treating myself like crap on night shift, things are going to go downhill pretty quickly. I can't put my life on hold because I'm on night shift! I'm giving it too much credit and too much control over my life.
So I thought I'd point out the positives in my life right now. I know I don't do that enough. I've started studying for my RNC exam to be certified in Neonatal Critical Care nursing. If I take it and pass in the next year or so, I'd be by far the youngest nurse in our unit to do so! I've also been talking to our manager about starting a Developmental Care committee and we have our first meeting this Thursday! Finally, I worked out 3-4 times a week during the months of January and February and (shocker, I know) it really does make you feel better! And eating nutrient-rich foods every week makes my workouts better. Funny how that works ;-)
*The important thing is this: To be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we could become.* C. DuBois

Monday, March 1, 2010



"Your living is determined not so much by what life brings to you as by the attitude you bring to life; not so much by what happens to you as by the way your mind looks at what happens." -Kahlil Gibran

"Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense." -Ralph Waldo Emerson

"A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort." -Herm Albrig

“The thing that is really hard, and is really amazing is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself!” – Anna Quindlen

“Promise me you’ll always remember: you’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” –Christopher Robin to Winnie the Pooh

“As we know from life, decisions are far more difficult to make than actions are to take. We often put off doing something for as long as possible, then as we finally make the decision and step into the action, we’re surprised by its relative ease. We’re left to wonder why we dreaded doing it until we realize that most of life’s actions are within our reach, but decisions take willpower.” -Robert McKee

“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put foundations under them.” -Henry David Thoreau

“The difference between great people and everyone else is that great people create their lives actively, while everyone else is created by their lives, passively waiting to see where life takes them next. The difference between the two is the difference between living fully and just existing.” -Michael E. Gerber

"To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better...to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded." -Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Flatter me, and I may not believe you. Criticize me, and I may not like you. Ignore me, and I may not forgive you. Encourage me, and I may not forget you." -William Arthur

"A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty." -Sir Winston Churchill

“I have been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.” -Mark Twain
“Growth and self-transformation cannot be delegated.” -Lewis Mumford

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or touched, but are felt in the heart” -Helen Keller

“Watch your thoughts; they become words.
Watch your words; they become actions.
Watch your actions; they become habits.
Watch your habits; they become character.
Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.” -Lao-Tze

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” -Albert Einstein

"Could I have endured that time without the drugs, if I'd just held out a little longer? Could I have survived myself, by myself? I don't know. That's the thing about a human life-- there's no control group, no way to ever know how any of us would have turned out if any variables had been changed." -Elizabeth Gilbert in her book Eat, Pray, Love 

"Promise yourself:
To be strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind.
To talk health, happiness, and prosperity to every person you meet.
To make all your friends feel that there is something in them.
To look at the sunny side of everything and make your optimism come true.
To think only of the best, to work only for the best, and expect only the best.
To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own.
To forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future.
To wear cheerful countenance at all times and give every living creature you meet a smile.
To give so much time to the improvement of yourself that you have no time to criticize others.
To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit the presence of trouble."
-Christian D. Larson


"Thirsty hearts are those whose longings have been wakened by the touch of God within them." A.W. Tozer

"The danger is that the soul should persuade itself that it is not hungry." -Simone Weil

"Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket-- safe, dark, motionless, airless-- it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk or tragedy, is damnation." -C.S. Lewis


"One advantage of marriage is that, when you fall out of love with him or he falls out of love with you, it keeps you together until you fall in again." -Judith Viorst

"Marriage halves our griefs, doubles our joys, and quadruples our expenses." -English Proverb

"To keep your marriage brimming,
With love in the loving cup,
Whenever you're wrong, admit it;
Whenever you're right, shut up."
- Ogden Nash

"What greater thing is there for two human souls than to feel that they are joined for life - to strengthen each other in all labor, to rest on each other in all sorrow, to minister to each other in all pain, to be one with each other in silent, unspeakable memories." -George Eliot

"The question of love is one that cannot be evaded. Whether or not you claim to be interested in it, from the moment you are alive you are bound to be concerned with love, because love is not just something that happens to you. It is a certain special way of being alive. Love is, in fact, an intensification of life, a completeness, a fullness, a wholeness of life." -Thomas Merton


"Shyness has a strange element of narcissism, a belief that how we look, how we perform, is truly important to other people." -André Dubus

“The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.” -John Bingham

"Confidence comes not from always being right but from not fearing to be wrong." -Peter T. Mcintyre

"Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent." -Eleanor Roosevelt

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." -Anaïs Nin

"What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us." -Ralph Waldo Emerson

"You cannot find peace by avoiding life." -Virginia Woolf

“You can do anything, but not everything.” -David Allen

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” -Ambrose Redmoon

"Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I'll try again tomorrow." -Mary Anne Radmacher

“If anything is worth trying at all, it’s worth trying at least 10 times.” -Art Linkletter

TV and Movie Quotes:

"Have I pointed out that I'm extremely uncomfortable with dancing, loud music, and most other forms of alcohol-induced frivolity?" -Sheldon Cooper, Big Bang Theory

"You hypocrite! Little Miss 'Grownups-Don't-Play-With-Toys.' If I went into that apartment right now, would I not find Beanie Babies? Are you not an accumulator of Care Bears and My Little Ponies? And who is that japanese feline I see frolicking on your shorts? Hello, Hello Kitty!" -Sheldon Cooper, Big Bang Theory

"'Disappointed' is anger for wimps" -House

"Well I'm sorry, Sammy. But I am not about to spend the next fifty years of my life with someone I'm not gonna run into in the hereafter." -Annelle in Steel Magnolias

"It's not our abilities that show who we truly are, it's our choices" -Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

"Of course it’s hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great!" -from the movie A League of Their Own


"It is a curious fact that of all the illusions that beset mankind none is quite so curious as the tendency to suppose that we are mentally and morally superior to those that differ from us in opinion." -Elbert Hubbard

"Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools talk because they have to say something." -Plato

"Black holes are where God divided by zero." -Stephen Wright

"The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' but 'That's funny...'" -Isaac Asimov

"Omaha lacks the cynicism of the East Coast and for that reason will never be all that hip, despite the rock scene and the Old Market and the new skyscrapers. But that's fine. Omaha has its own identity, and in a distinctly Midwestern way, an unfaltering belief in the future. I don't stay for long. But it's good to go home again." -The Washington Post

"How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live." -Henry David Thoreau

“We learn something every day, and lots of times it’s that what we learned the day before was wrong.“ -Bill Vaughan

“If we wait for the moment when everything, absolutely everything is ready, we shall never begin.” -Ivan Turgenev

"People throw away what they could have by insisting on perfection, which they cannot have, and looking for it where they will never find it." -Edith Schaeffer

“Try a thing you haven’t done three times. Once, to get over the fear of doing it. Twice, to learn how to do it. And a third time, to figure out whether you like it or not.“ -Virgil Garnett Thomson

"Obsessed is just a word the lazy use to describe the dedicated." -Russell Warren

“What we think, or what we know, or what we believe is, in the end, of little consequence. The only consequence is what we do.“ -John Ruskin

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass on a summer day listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is hardly a waste of time.” -John Lubbock

"Cooking is 80% confidence, a skill best acquired starting from when the apron strings wrap around you twice." -Barbara Kingsolver, in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

"My apartment is infested with koala bears. Its the cutest infestation ever. Much better than cockroaches. I turn the lights on and a bunch of koala bears scatter. I'm like, come back! I want to hold one of you, and feed you a leaf." - Mitch Hedburg  

"It is always the simple things that change our lives. And these things never happen when you are looking for them to happen. Life will reveal answers at the pace life wishes to do so. You feel like running, but life is on a stroll." -Donald Miller


There are so many wonderful truths in this prayer. I fell in love with it the very first time I read it when one of my parents hung it in the tiny farm house on "the property" which is now my dad's vineyard in Union, Nebraska.

Also, happy 25th birthday to my dear friend Brittnye Hartfield! The best friend and pen pal a girl could ask for.

Go placidly amid the noise and the haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible, without surrender,
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,

even to the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons;
they are vexatious to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain or bitter,

for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs,
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals,
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love,
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment,
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life,
keep peace in your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.