Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Happiness Project

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

*What I’ve experienced is that I can’t know the future. I can’t know if anything that I do will change what happens tomorrow. I can’t know with certainty, but what I do know is if I do nothing, nothing will change.*
—James Orbinski

*Often people attempt to live their lives backwards: they try to have more things, or more money, in order to do more of what they want so that they will be happier. The way it actually works is the reverse. You must first be who you really are, then, do what you need to do, in order to have what you want.*
-Margaret Young

Frodo: I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.
Gandalf: So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. There are other forces at work in this world Frodo, besides the will of evil. Bilbo was meant to find the Ring. In which case, you were also meant to have it. And that is an encouraging thought.
-LOTR Fellowship of the Ring

*Let the resurrection joy lift us from loneliness and weakness and despair to strength and beauty and happiness.*
-Floyd W. Tomkins

*The only people we can’t forgive are the ones we are still afraid of.*

*Avoid destructive thinking. Improper negative thoughts sink people. A ship can sail around the world many, many times, but just let enough water get into the ship and it will sink. Just so with the human mind. Let enough negative thoughts or improper thoughts get into the human mind and the person sinks just like a ship.*
-Alfred A Montapert

*The only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary.*

Or, you could go with Homer Simpson's theory: *Son, if you really want something in this life, you have to work for it. Now quiet! They’re about to announce the lottery numbers.*

*Growing old is mandatory; growing up is optional.*
-Chili Davis

And as my brother Bobby says, *You don't stop playing when you grow up, you grow up when you stop playing.*

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Beginner's Garden

I've had these pictures on my computer for a while but I was hesitant to post them until I actually grew something!
Seedling supplies

The first round of cucumber and beet seeds did sprout, but died when we went to Omaha over Easter weekend. I've since replanted those and they're doing better this time- knock on wood! The peppers, like I said, never sprouted and it's too late to re-start those seedlings now. We probably don't get enough sunlight for them anyway (stupid tree in front of our balcony).

The chives are doing great and the basil and cilantro are sprouting as well. We can't wait for those to be ready!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Comfort Cookies

It will come as no surprise to anyone who has ever lived with me when I say that homemade chocolate chip cookie dough is my ultimate comfort food.

I read this on one of the blogs I follow, and I immediately empathized:

The act of combining sugar, flour, eggs and vanilla brought me right home again. I used my favorite recipe ever and they came out perfectly. They always do. That’s why I love these cookies so much. It’s like when nothing seems to be going right and everything is up in the air, you know that if you combine these ingredients and follow the fine print, you will have your cookies.

They will turn out.

And I think that’s why I bake.

Of course, her drug cookie of choice is sugar, but I can forgive her for that.

My baking habit makes so much sense now! It's something predictable. The act of baking and following a recipe is comforting (of course, eating dough along the way doesn't hurt either).

As my last few night shifts drag on. and. on. I have a feeling I'll be baking a batch of my own favorite cookies in the very near future. That is, if Ross hasn't eaten my hidden stash of chocolate chips, which I try to save for this exact reason! (It wouldn't be the first time).

I've even had the Toll House recipe memorized since 8th grade (and made several adjustments along the way).

1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

2 eggs, beating well after each one

In a seperate bowl, mix:
2 1/4 cup unbleached white flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda

Slowly add the dry mix to the wet one, beating well throughout.

Then add 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chunks and mix.

Roll into 1-inch balls and bake at 375*F for 8 minutes.

So predictable.

Anyone wanna come over for cookies this weekend? I think I'm going to have a few to spare.

4/25 addendum: I worked 3 nights in a row and Ross did, indeed, finish the chocolate chips. I need to find a better hiding spot!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Green Thumb

In honor of Earth Day 2010, I present to you my gardening attempts...

My gardening resume is patchy at best (no pun intended)! I remember my parents being really into gardening when I was younger, and I've cut my fair share of chives for salads and picked fresh bell peppers, basil, carrots, tomatoes, and zucchini when the time came. All that time, I never knew how lucky I was to grow up knowing that veggies come from the dirt.

In 2002, the summer after my junior year of high school, I did a 10-day volunteer program with some other students from Sacred Heart schools across the country. We were at Sprout Creek Farm in Poughkeepsie, NY and we did our fair share of volunteering at the inner city soup kitchen and helping out with day camps for inner-city kids (who don't always know where food comes from). However, what I remember most is the farm work. I LOVED it! I didn't know what I wanted to do in college, but I thought it sure would be great to go into AmeriCorps like some of the other volunteers and be back on the farm again. We weeded, cleaned barnyards, milked cows and goats, picked produce, made cheese, drank fresh milk with breakfast and made dinner every night with meat/eggs/cheese/veggies from the farm!

It was there that I first started to become interested in local food. So local that you picked it on your way into the dining room (or, in the case of taco salad night, so local that you met the cow a few days prior... thankfully they didn't tell me until dinner was over). Everything tasted so fresh and green. I loved the fresh air every day and nothing to do in the evenings but sit around and talk or play games on the porch as the sun went down!

At Sprout Creek, I learned that happy cows go out to pasture every day and eat grass, get milked twice a day, and don't get hormones or antibiotics. I learned that fresh milk is WONDERFUL. And I learned to recognize a few other veggies that we had never grown at home, like beets.

(Click here to see more pictures from my trip to Sprout Creek Farm).

Two summers later, after my freshman year of college, I worked on a family farm must outside of Omaha. At Wenninghoff's Farm, I learned what kohlrabi and pattipan squash look like. I learned that you NEVER handle a fresh tomato more than necessary, lest you bruise it. I learned what corn tastes like fresh off the cobb and what beets taste like when you bite into them like a carrot. I learned that most veggies I'd previously only eaten cooked, tasted GREAT right out of the ground! I learned that picking okra is prickly business and it leaves my arms covered in rashes. I learned that baby eggplants are really cute. I learned that family farms are a dying breed and the few that are still out there don't make the money they deserve for their backbreaking work.

I learned to drive a truck and get it out of the mud on my own. I learned that it's always a bad idea to hoe barefoot (my toenail never quite recovered). I learned after picking onions, you lay them right next to the row and let them cure in the sun for a day. I learned that it's really satisfying to smash rotten bell peppers by throwing them on the ground! I learned that picking green beans is a never. ending. job. I watched tough boys cry like babies when they bit into the hot peppers we were picking in a field a mile away from any fresh water.

I (re)learned what I seem to learn every summer- that I LOVE fresh air and being outdoors and being barefoot and getting covered in dirt. I had about 5 different farmers tanlines. I learned what it's like to work HARD 5-6 days a week and how good it feels to shower when you're really dirty and sleep when you're really tired.

And there you have it, my short but intense resume. This spring, I'm learning that picking and eating produce is much more my forte compared to growing it. At least starting from seedlings. It's harder than you'd think to get a seed to grow into a big plant on your first try! I have high hopes, though, and pictures to post once my beet seeds decide to sprout. I'm on my second attempt. The first round of beets and cucumbers sprouted a few weeks ago, only to die while Ross and I were partying it up in Omaha. Alas, the peppers weren't meant to be this summer. It's too late to sprout them now (although I finally got the seedling heating pad in the mail) and they probably wouldn't thrive on our shady balcony.

Happy Earth Day! And if you have any gardening tips, please share!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Garmin Grins

This birthday keeps on giving! My parents gave me birthday money to put toward a Garmin Forerunner 305 and the package arrived today! I tore it open and immediately plugged the thing in. I'm sure I visibly wilted when I read that you had to charge it for 3 hours before using it the first time and Ross verified that the manufacturer knew what he was talking about. Apparently batteries "learn" their lifespan when you charge them fully- erm, something like that. Ask Ross.

ANYWAY, I finally ran with it and I love it. I'm still figuring out all the little details, but it's very easy to press start and stop and scroll through the screens telling you your time, pace, and distance. It can also show heartrate, but I didn't wear the monitor strap today.

I was all excited to plug it into the computer after my run and I trudged up to our apartment to find... a locked door! I never bring my key when I run and Ross is home. He'd left at 6:00 for his 7:00-10:00pm night class in Lawrence and I didn't finish my run until 6:10! MAJOR miscommunication! I ran to the apartment office, which is open until 6pm, but of course it was already closed and locked for the night. So I walked ANOTHER 1.5 miles roundtrip (+ 1 huge hill) to the QuickTrip down the road to use their phone and leave a very angry voicemail for Ross.

By the time I got back to the apartment complex, it was only 7:05pm. Ross' class had just started and he had a presentation tonight, so I knew he wouldn't be able to leave class when he got my message! After standing by my car for a few minutes, the sun started to set and I started to get cold. So I decided to see if I could climb up onto our balcony.

I'd been out there earlier today planting stuff (involving another post and another birthday gift, this time from my mother-in-law), and I was praying the sliding door was still unlocked! Don't worry, the lights were out in the two apartments below ours so no one would think I was breaking in while they were cooking dinner. I got up to the second floor balcony easily enough, but there was a bigger gap between the second and third stories. You probably don't want to know what I did, considering my lack of arm strength, wobbly balcony construction, and distance from the ground. Suffice to say, I'm so glad I'm alive and uninjured writing this post. I must've been delirious! Some spiderman-like moves and sheer willpower launched me onto our balcony after several attempts and (praise God!) the sliding door was still unlocked. I rushed to the kitchen to chug some water and inhale my belated dinner! Too bad I didn't leave the Garmin on for my climb. That would've been some nice vertical elevation!

When I finally plugged my new toy into the computer, it automatically pulled up my workout stats and even made a chart plotting distance and elevation! (It's pretty much a hill any way you run from our apartment). I'm still trying to figure out how to see a breakdown of your pace per mile. Right now, it just shows my average pace and my fastest pace (apparently for one brief, shining moment, I was running at an 8:30 pace- ha! I haven't run a full mile in under 9 minutes since high school).

I love my Garmin! And I will never run without a key again. And please thank God for not letting me injure myself in my studpidity. Amen.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Bread Baking

I feel like I haven't had a night off in a long time! I worked 3 nights in a row, went to Tiffany's wedding, babysat overnight for 3 days, and then worked 5 nights in a row. Ack! I was so happy to have a quiet Sunday at home because my friend and co-worker Johanna had given me 2 dozen farm-fresh eggs from her parents' stash and I wanted to bake!

These eggs are so much better than store bought because these chickens are true free-range birds. They eat grains, corn, and whatever else they can scavage, including worms and bugs. There's no such thing as a true vegeterian free-range chicken like they claim on the brown egg containers in the supermarket.

You know it's a good egg when the yolk is practically orange! True free-range eggs are much higher in beta carotene and omega-3 than their grocery store counterparts.

I trusted Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice with this liquid gold and used his recipes for challa bread and poor-man's brioche. These recipes call for 4 and 5 eggs, respectively. The recipes are more or less the same: flour, yeast, water, and eggs. But brioche is richer due to the addition of butter.

Lynn Electric 5k

Congratulations to Ross! After his first 5k last month, he agreed to sign up for another one in April. I ended up having to work the night before, but he decided to drive out to Lawrence, KS and run the race anyway. I'm so proud of him!

He was aiming for a sub-30 minute time, but Lawrence is HILLY. He thought he came in at around 31 minutes, but the official results clocked him at 20:13. Typo? Or am I just really holding Ross back when he runs with me at my pace?!

The big event of the day was actually the Lynn Electric Marathon and Ross had never seen such a huge running crowd before! He said he'd do the Lynn Electric 1/2 Marathon with me next year. We got awesome technical t-shirts this year (he picked mine up for me. I did register, after all). Next year, we will earn the word "marathon" on our shirts!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Big 2-5

It's my birthday!

When you are very young, you have all the time in the world... And you keep wondering: Dear God, when is life ever going to start? Then you hit the age of 25 and you realize that your days are numbered, so to speak. You begin to understand that time is no longer infinitely elastic. And why did nobody warn you that you would be spending 30 percent of your time on things that are really tedious or difficult, like trying to find a rental apartment you can afford. This is a terrible time of life, the mid-20s, because you still don't know what real adulthood looks like. And since you probably don't have children yet, you can devote entire afternoons to questions like "Who am I?" which rarely lead down a pretty path.
-from an article in the the May 2010 edition of Real Simple
I was all set to write a melancholy post today. I remember panicking before ballet class when I was little because I was turning 6 the next week and I wanted to stay 5! I have anxiety issues. Ever since then, I've looked forward to my birthday with a combination of trepidation (turning one year older) and anticipation (a day to celebrate). Needless to say, my 10th (leaving the single-digits) and 20th (leaving the teens) birthdays also provoked anxiety.

I was expecting the same with the big 2-5. After all, now I'm in my mid-20s. I know I'll look back at this someday and laugh, but man I feel old! High school was just yesterday, right? Time flies way too quickly. (Except during a 12-hour night shift).

But really when you think about it, we get a day older each day. It's not like you suddenly age an entire year on your birthday. I say I'm 25, but it means I've actually just completed my 25th trip around the sun. Luckily, I've been too busy lately to contemplate this thought.

I woke up to a gorgeous sunny day today, which always improves my mood! In 8th grade, there was 100% chance of rain on my birthday and it poured from the moment I woke up to the moment I went to bed. I obviously still haven't recovered.

April 14, 2010 ended up being a good day! Ross and I went to blanc burgers + bottles on the Plaza for lunch. His mom sent us some money to go to a birthday dinner, so it was actually a dual celebration of our April birthdays.

Lunch was awesome and I already want to go back!

After our great lunch, I had to go home and take a nap because I had to work that night.
And speaking of late nights, Ross brought a Baskin Robbins turtle pie to work when he got back from his night class! When I was little, there used to be a Baskin Robbins in Dundee and we'd walk there after dinner every now and then to get a cool treat on a warm summer night. I remember Tommy always getting bubble gum ice cream (gross) and I think it was my dad who started getting turtle pie. One bite and I was hooked! I haven't had it in years and it was just as good as I remembered.

Thanks to everyone who sent birthday wishes! I know I'm bad at keeping touch, but it's nice to know that out of sight isn't out of mind.

Saturday, April 10, 2010


This, along with the initials "WC" inscribed inside oodles of heart doodles covered my spiral notebook covers from 4th-7th grade. (I used to think I wanted to name a child William Scott after my grade school crush but really, "Willie" is not a classy nickname.) But I digress.

Tiffany Tritico (TT) and I (Therese Muelleman) kept in touch after I moved to Omaha, but contact was sporadic and after 8th grade it dwindled down to phone calls on our birthdays (which are 3 weeks apart). When she heard I was moving back to Kansas City, she invited me to be her 6th missing bridesmaid! I was happy to oblige.

Today was her wedding day (and, ironically, WC's birthday). Of course, I was occupied with wedding festivities from 8am until 1am the next morning, but I cheated and post-dated this entry.

Happy Wedding Day, Tiffany!

The wedding was beautiful and the reception was a huge (Italian) party. Congratulations Tiffany and Domenic!

*pictures courtesy of David Remley*