Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Month in Review: November

Where did November go? What a busy month! I got a lot of schoolwork done but fell off the exercise wagon, thanks to a combination of non-running frustrations (running is just so convenient, time efficient, and inexpensive) and this terrible sinus infection.

I also had good days and bad days with my monthly goal. I think it's more bad habit than anything now. I do the best on days when I can turn my computer off at night and don't have a real reason to turn it on again first thing in the morning!

Here's a short review of November 2011:

I applied for a bajillion part-time and PRN positions. I got interviewed for 3. I got one job offer, but it's not the one I wanted so I'm going to sit on it for a few more days before making a decision.

I tied with my friend Rachel for the weekend premium position-- then I got it via coin toss and felt guilty. As of December 11, I will be working every weekend for the next 6 months and I'm praying that God helps us use the extra money wisely so that I only have to sacrifice my weekends for 6 months instead of more.

I am no longer the head of the Developmental Care Committee. It was my own choice to step back, but it's still kind of sad.

Ross and I went to a gala for the Missouri Ear Institute. We had so much fun with my aunt and her friends!

I tried Crossfit. I still have 9 visits left on my Groupon, but it sounds miserable until this headache goes away.

I won a SPIN Pizza gift card :o)

I survived a hit-and-run and I'm so thankful that Ross and his mom have been able to help me with the ridiculous amounts of paperwork that came with it.

I found 30 very good reasons to be thankful.

I made my TV debut (ha)!

Ross and I celebrated a fun Thanksgiving with close to everyone in my family. It was so much fun!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Curried Sweet Potato Soup

This soup was inspired by a pretty basic Epicurious recipe. I've been making a lot of soup lately because it's easy to freeze and then thaw and re-heat at a later date. I love coming home after a long shift knowing that I can have a hot meal ready in 5 minutes. It keeps me from making poor decisions around granola temptations ;-)

Curried Sweet Potato Soup

3 1/2 cups organic vegetable broth
2 lbs sweet potatoes peeled and cut into cubes
1-2 cloves of garlic
1/2 small onion
2 tsp curry powder
1 cup SoDelicious coconut milk
1 Tbs. coconut oil
(optional: use 1 cup of canned coconut milk instead, and omit the oil)

Pour broth into a large saucepan and add sweet potatoes, garlic, onion, and curry powder. Bring to a boil and then cover and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the vegetables to a food processor (in batches, if necessary). Puree until smooth. Add 1 cup broth and process again until well blended. Return the mixture to the saucepan with remaining broth. Add milk and whisk until smooth.  Garnish with a drizzle of coconut milk or plan yogurt, and red pepper flakes.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Random Thoughts (Rants?)

It's been BUSY up in here! I've been itching to vent write but haven't been able to find the time.

1.) Last week my car got hit by a hit-and-run driver while I was in it. I was waiting to turn left and the truck behind me was stopped, but then he decided to try to pass between me and the parked cars on my right. Of course he didn't make it (of course he didn't-- there was no lane there to do so) so he smashed into my bumper instead. IDIOT. Thankfully, I'm okay. And thankfully we have insurance. But insted of writing my final paper for class, I had to spend my days off last week running around town and making police reports. I feel that if it had been a run-down car with a single mom and some crying kids, I would be able to let this slide. But it was a tall guy around 30 with a nice, shiny pickup truck. Trade your truck in for a fuel-efficient car and maybe you can afford insurance, @#$%*!

2.) Today we had our old dining room table in the back of Ross' truck to take to Omaha and hand-down to my brother, but someone stole it in broad daylight right out of the bed of his truck. IDIOT (trying not to use expletives here). Where are people's boundaries these days?!

3.) Now that those two things are off my chest, I have to say it's been a while since I had a teeny tiny baby at work and even though I work with babies all the time, sometimes I still forget how small they can be. I've been taking care of one the past few days and there's nothing more precious than those itsy bitsy fingers wrapped around yours when their palm is barely the size of your thumbnail.

4.) I'm SO excited for Thanksgiving food. Like, really excited. Twice-baked potatoes and sweet potato casserole, here I come! I'm doubly excited that since I have a cousin on each side of the family with a gluten intolerance, my extended family is very open to gluten-free options (although most of my favorites are naturally GF... the only thing I'll really miss is the stuffing).

5.) I miss running. A lot. It was such a time-efficient and convenient workout.

6.) I have had a relentless sinus headache for a month now. Did you know sinus headaches can also = throbbing pain? Neither did I. But it's woken me up several times this week and nothing makes it go away. When my car got hit last week, I was on my way to the allergy doctor seeking relief, but she put me on an antibiotic. I said, "are you sure it's a sinus infection? I only have clear drainage, no fever, no body aches. I feel like it's just really bad allergies with all the wind lately." She said, "nope it's a sinus infection. Take these twice a day for 2 weeks." A week later, my headache is worse than ever so I quit my antibiotics. They say to finish the whole bottle even if you start to feel better, but if I don't start to feel better 15 doses in, I really doubt it's bacterial in nature. I'm pretty much ecstatic for the accupuncture appointment I scheduled for tomorrow. I went a few times this summer and it really does make my headaches better!

7.) I signed my weekend premium position contract today. There are some huge pros and some huge cons to being tied down to every weekend between Dec. 11 and June 11. Fortunately, I don't go out much in the winter now that it gets dark before 5pm and it's going to start getting colder and colder. The nights I do want to go out, I will just have to pull up my big girl panties, enjoy the time I do spend with friends, and leave early enough to get coffee on the way to work the next morning. And I will be watching a broadcast of our church's Sunday sermons every Monday morning. Not the same, but I can do it for 6 months. Thank goodness for our small group on Thursdays. They will make me feel much more 'plugged in' to church while I'm missing it.

8.) Meal planning is awesome. The last few weeks, Ross and I have agreed upon 2 meals to make each week and we actually stick to a list when grocery shopping. It's so much easier to stay near-budget when sticking to the list!

9.) There has been an uprising at work regarding staffing and cancelations due to our low census. Apparently I'm compulsive about saving my PTO and I have a lot saved up, so I've been trying to let it ride when I get forced off a shift. However, other people are starting to get to the point where they are running low on PTO. What happens when you get canceled then? You don't get paid, that's what. Having 'job security' doesn't do much good when it doesn't come with a paycheck. I was at work during the off-campus staff meeting last week but everyone in the unit called in on speaker phone and we were huddled around the phone, listening to the manager talk with our end on Mute. I kept trying not to laugh when people let out exasperated moans and groans or said, "oh, who's that talking?" or "yeah, you tell then so-and-so!" The way we were gathered around the speaker, I felt like a family in wartime huddled around the radio to hear the latest news.

10.) I think that's all, but I'm sure it's not. I'm so forgetful :-)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Pumpkin Peanut Butter Granola Bars

I mentioned Averie's pumpkin bars a few weeks ago, but I found myself wanting a fresh batch today so I thought it was worth sharing the recipe. I obviously used Averie's original recipe, but I reduced the sugar and a few of the spices, added a pinch of salt, and replaced peanut butter chips with dark chocolate chunks.

Pumpkin Peanut Butter Granola Bars

1/2 cup peanut butter
1 cup pumpkin puree
2 cups old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup dark chocolate chunks

Preheat oven to 350. Combine all ingredients except the oats and chocolate in a bowl and blend well until smooth. Add oatmeal and chocolate chunks and mix until incorporated. Spread batter into a sprayed 8x8 or 9x9 pan and bake for 20-25 minutes. Makes 12 servings.

Friday, November 18, 2011

No Need to be Afraid of November

Every year, I dread September and October because they mean November is coming and November = winter. I don't know if it's global warming or some other weather trend, but the last few Novembers have been pleasantly surprising. Pleasingly fall-like. This one is no exception thus far! We've had a few below-30 days, but it always warms back up into the 50s or 60s. Lately we've had lots of wind, but also lots of sunshine so I can't complain.

These are some pictures from last Sunday when Ross and I took a walk before church. I found out this Wednesday that I got the weekend premium position that was being offered at work, so this will be the last Sunday like this for 6 months. Looking forward to their return already!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Fall Spice Granola

Here's a quick recipe to utilize those last few bits of pureed pumpkin left over after making your Thanksgiving baked goods. (Seriously, so many recipes call for 1 cup and not 1 can). This is such a low-maintenance recipe. It's easy to tweak: add some almonds, some extra cinnamon, some flax seeds, or whatever suits your fancy.

Fall Spice Granola

2 cups old fashioned oats
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
pinch of salt
3 Tbs. pumpkin puree
3 Tbs. pumpkin butter
3 Tbs. maple syrup
2 Tbs. canola or grapeseed oil

homemade granola + homemade yogurt = crunchy blogger
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Combine spice, salt, pumpkin puree, pumpkin butter, syrup, and oil and whisk until smooth. Add oats and stir until evenly coated. Spread granola out onto a large cookie pan lined with foil or a Silpat. Bake for 18-20 minutes, tossing the mixture halfway through baking. When granola is golden, remove from oven and allow to cool. It won't be cruncy right out of the oven, but it will harden as it cools.

This recipe makes eight 1/4 cup servings (or, let's be honest, four 1/2 cup servings). It would make a great hostess gift for Thanksgiving if you can hold onto it for that long!

Saturday, November 12, 2011


If you're not familiar with Twitter, it's a social media site on which people update their status, post opinions, and share news. If someone wants to discuss a trending or popular topic, they will use hashtags. If someone uses a #hashtag, it becomes a link and if you click on it, you can see what everyone on Twitter is saying about that subject. I am rarely on Twitter, mostly because it confuses me and it seems even more pointless than Facebook (which I'm obsessed with. Don't judge!)

Anyway, there's a hashtag going around in which people say things like:

I had to walk 15 minutes to get to my car today #firstworldproblems

This salad doesn't have nearly enough tomatoes in it #firstworldproblems

My stomach hurts from eating too much Halloween candy #firstworldproblems

I'm ashamed to say that I find a lot of these complaints coming out of my mouth these days. So lets play Cognitive Behavioral Therapy!

I was force canceled from work again because we have too many nurses and not enough sick babies.
Yes, it's stressful, but fewer sick babies is a good problem to have. And I'm blessed to have the PTO to pay for these unplanned days off. Sure, I'd rather use it on a long-overdue vacation, but all my co-workers who did go on nice vacations this summer and didn't hoard their PTO are having to go un-paid these days. Times like these do make me question a career choice where my livelihood depends on having sick babies in the world, though.

I can't get a good night's sleep these days even though I'm so tired.
But I have a nice bed and a warm apartment and a full stomach. Sometimes you can't win them all.

Running is such a convenient workout but now that I've been banned for the winter, getting a workout in is a huge, time-consuming ordeal.
Duh, at least I'm healthy enough to be able to work out and I have insurance that affords me a great physical therapist. And really, I'd be frustrated with running right now anyway thanks to fall asthma.

There's a weekend bonus position open at work. In exchange for working every Saturday and Sunday and forgoing a social life and Sunday church for the next 6 months, I'd be making a lot more money. Given the phone call we got Thursday night, more money sure would be nice. I. Just. Can't. Decide.
There's a point at which talking things over ad nauseam isn't going to change anything. I told my manager to put my name in. May she with the most seniority win. What happens, happens. In the meantime, I'm applying for lots of PRN nursing jobs. Job security feels a lot more fragile these days.

On the other hand, last week's sermon at church mentioned that people who wrote down what they were thankful for every night were significantly happier than those who wrote down what went wrong that day, or even just what happened that day. So you better believe that the Month of Thanksgiving has been extended.

Friday, November 11, 2011

One of Those Elusive Posts

11/11/11 hasn't necessarily been a lucky day for us.

Isn't that just like life? Our prayers the last few weeks have morphed from, "we're so happy, we don't deserve all these blessings" to me saying, "I'm a little nervous about being canceled from work so often and I'm not sure what God is trying to tell me between grad school, PRN job applications, and the weekend bonus option." But then we got a phone call on Thursday night that left us reeling (no, it's not a life or death matter, yes I'm sure I'll share eventually). And last nights prayers sounded a little something like this: "We're not sure why we're finding ourselves in the same place before the holidays this year as we did last year. What are you trying to tell us? What are we missing?" And we can only cling to the fact that God did some amazing things in the past year and we can only hope that closing some doors right now is just his way of preparing us to see another one that's open.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Peace is Every Step

Sometimes I lack the words to express what's going through my head, but this really hit home the other day so I thought I'd share:
We can smile, breathe, walk, and eat our meals in a way that allows us to be in touch with the abundance of happiness that is available. We are very good at preparing to live, but not very good at living. We know how to sacrifice ten years for a diploma, and we are willing to work very hard to get a job, a car, a house, and so on. But we have difficulty remembering that we are alive in the present moment, the only moment there is for us to be alive. Every breath we take, every step we make, can be filled with peace, joy, and serenity. We need only to be awake, alive in the present moment.

{from Peace is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh}

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Gluten-Free Apple Cider Muffins

Around this time of year, apple orchards beckon with their numerous apple varieties, apple pie, carmel apples, apple cider and... apple donuts. I do want to try my hand at apple donuts but today I settled for muffins. These would be great with strudel topping, too!

1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/4 cup quinoa flakes (or rolled oats)
1/4 cup almond meal
1 Tbs. coconut flour
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or use cinnamon with a tiny pinch of nutmeg and cloves)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda

4 Tbs. vegetable oil
2 eggs
2 Tbs. shredded apple with juices squeezed out (could use applesauce as well)
1/2 c apple cider (I used Knudsen's Cider and Spice with no sugar added)
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350. Mix dry ingredients well. Blend we ingredients in a small bowl and then add wet to dry, mixing just until moistened. Pour evenly into 12 prepared muffin liners and bake for 16-20 minutes.

Totally a worthwhile study break!

Friday, November 4, 2011

First, you take the graham

I know it's not campfire season anymore, but I finally succumbed to this treat on the grocery store shelves:

The picture on the front looks really fake, but Kinnikinnick does gluten-free ingredients right. And I was shocked that these tasted so good. In fact, I like them better than original grahams! If Honey Maid and Biscoff had a gluten-free bun in the oven, this would be it. It's more cookie than cracker but that's fine with me. I've been eating them straight from the box, or crumpled on top of pumpkin oatmeal in the morning. It's like eating dessert for breakfast!

 I may have to try them in graham cracker crust for a holiday pie this year. Yum!

*The fine print: I'm in no way associated with this company and I bought the product with my own money. Gluten-free goods tend to be pricey so I like to share what I buy when it's worth the money every now and then!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

No-nonsense November

I think my days of boredom are long-gone. I am now over-scheduled to the max (for me, at least). I have had a lot of lofty goals in the last few months and at the end of the month I look back and either think, "yeah that crashed and burned pretty early on" or, "oh I forgot about that one."

So I have one goal for November: only check Facebook and Google Reader once a day. I'm hoping that I find oodles of either productive or relaxing time when I'm suddenly not sitting in front of my computer for no important reason (too many double-negatives there?)

This means turning my computer off overnight so I'm not tempted to check in first thing in the morning. This also means not checking it last thing at night (hopefully I'll sleep better that way). Lunch break is a good goal, but I don't care about "when" as much as I care about "once a day."

Wish me luck!

Do you have a goal for this month?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Pizza, Please

Remember when Ross and I celebrated our anniversary at SPIN! Pizza in September? We loved it. In fact, I believe we found an excuse to eat there 2 more times in the 3 weeks following that dinner. It only made sense to join their free rewards club and get discounts and accumulate points. So I started getting e-mails from them and a few weeks ago, I opened one said something to the extent of: "October is National Pizza Month! Share your pizza story and win a gift card." Free pizza? Don't mind if I do.

Ross and I do have somewhat of a unique "pizza story" so I jotted it down and sent it in. And we won! Twenty-five whole dollars to spend on pizza. I'm sure we'll pay SPIN! a visit the day the gift card comes in the mail. Just in case you're interested, here's the story:

Before my husband was my husband, we met at a wedding (I was a bridesmaid, he was a groomsman). When our friends got back from their honeymoon, I decided I needed an excuse to hang out with that cute groomsman again so several of us went to my friend’s house for pizza night. Every couple designed their own pizza and Ross and I were the odd ones out so we conveniently got paired together. I vetoed Italian Sausage, he vetoed veggie overload, but we eventually made a cute pizza and a great first date memory. 

June 2007 before we were "us"
When it came time to plan our own wedding, we wanted to serve a reception dinner that went beyond saucy chicken and buttered green beans. When the venue suggested flatbread pizza, we thought it would be a fun option reminiscent of our first date.

A year later, we were in Florida celebrating our one-year wedding anniversary and we made big plans to go to a fancy dinner. But we had rental car malfunctions and ended up ordering Pizza Hut and eating on the beach. Since that ended up being so fun, we decided we’d already had pizza 2 years in a row on September 19 so we might as well make it an anniversary tradition!

September 2009
 Last year we were new to Kansas City and ordered Pizza 51, which was good, but nothing to write home about. This past year, I was diagnosed with a gluten intolerance and I was afraid our pizza tradition was out the window. But a co-worker told me about SPIN! Pizza and we celebrated our third wedding anniversary there on September 19 of this year. We have been back 3 times since then, so I think it’s safe to say we loved it! We look forward to celebrating our anniversary (and any other occasion we can think of) with SPIN! Pizza for years to come.

September 2011

 Hmmm after writing all that, I'm hungry for pizza again!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Month of Thanksgiving

Two years ago, I blogged a week of Thanksgiving leading up to the holiday. This year, I would like to extend it to a month-long celebration of thankfulness. Every day of November, I'm going to update this post with another thing I'm thankful for. Feel free to join along in the comments!

This November, I'm thankful for...

1.) Appliances. Let's get this out of the way now because I could spend all month listing them off if I dragged it out. I am so blessed to be able to afford a washing machine and dryer, a dishwasher, and my little space heater. They make my life so much more comfortable.

2.) I'm thankful that I have such a good job. I'm in a rough spot because we have a lot of nurses and not a lot of babies right now. I was force-canceled today and while it was kind of like a snow-day for grownups, we can't afford for it to be a regular occurance. Since it's crazy to pray for sick babies (and stupid... not a fan when co-workers say things to that extent on Facebook), I will pray that our manager will stop hiring new people!!! We have the second-highest staffing numbers in the hospital and 14 patients. For real. So I'm thankful for my job, and I hope that I can keep it this winter when our numbers naturally dip anyway.

3.) That today, at least, I didn't wake up to snow on the ground. The cold, cold rain that started last night and is still dripping down is less than pleasant, but it's mentally easier to accept than snow this early in November.

4.) I'm so thankful I got a day off today to catch up on stats homework, even if it was only 2 of the 5 lessons I was hoping to complete. It's going to be a homework-filled weekend around here!

5.) The StayFocusd app on Google Chrome.

6.) The fun dinner plans we had with friends and family this weekend.

7.) I really wan't a fan of the 5pm sunset yesterday, but this morning I was thankful that it was somewhat light outside when I left for work at 6:20am.

8.) I'm so thankful for my Physical Therapist. She is stellar-- she listens to me, takes me seriously, and always finds a legitimate reason for my pain so I feel less crazy. And then most of the time she can get the pain to go away!

9.) I'm thankful that my Global Health class isn't overwhelmingly difficult (since my stats class is). I love my Global Health teacher (a Midwife who's stories make me question my choice to leave Midwifery school... until she mentions 24-hour on-call).

10.) I'm thankful for all the opportunities in my life, even if I'm not quite sure where they're taking me.

11.) For my friend Amanda-- we're so similar and I still forget sometimes that she lives in Kansas City now instead of 12 hours away!

12.) I'm thankful that even after Ross' stressful day, he was able to pray with me before bed and thank God for today. I love him!

13.) For our church and their morning services. Amen!
      *I'm also thankful for and so proud of my brother Tommy, who turns 25 today!*

14.) I'm thankful that I got my homework done more than 12 hours before it was due :-)

15.) I'm thankful that I got to see my mom and my brother Tommy for a few hours this afternoon. I'm also glad that the hit-and-run accident I was in this morning wasn't worse (to clarify: I was hit, the driver behind me was at fault and ran).

16.) I'm thankful for my weekend premium position, and I'm hoping that I didn't trade out a friendship for 6 months of bigger paychecks.

17.) For my Global Health class. I really really like it. It definitely keeps me busy, and I'm learning a lot, but it's not necessarily a hard class. I love my teacher!

18.) For a heater and a warm apartment.

19.) I'm thankful for coffee.

20.) For a good assignment at work. I feel like real NICU nurse again.

21.) That Ross offered to drive me to and from work and even brought pizza home after I worked 3 shifts in a row!

22.) I'm thankful for accupuncture when antibiotics don't help my sinus headache.

23.) I'm also thankful for antibiotics ;-) I don't love taking them, but I'm ready to feel better!

24.) For my family's healthy Thanksgiving meal. Complete with a gluten-free rice dish that to ally satisfied my stuffing craving!

25.) So thankful for family to visit and celebrate with.

26.) I'm thankful for a husband who doesn't mind driving while I sleep.

27.) If I have to wait until the last minute to write a big paper, I'm thankful that there's at least a masochistic thrill I get from finishing after hours upon hours of work all at once ;-)

28.) I'm thankful for a good float day at work because I was so tired after staying up late to finish the aforementioned paper. I'm also thankful that I work with snuggly babies!

29.) A day off, and sunshine :o)

30.) For my brother Daniel, who turns 23 today. I'm so proud of him!

Month in Review: October

Finally, a month that didn't speed by! I can't believe I wrote my Indian Summer post 3 1/2 weeks ago. And the beginning of October seems like a long time ago. So much has happened between then and now! This month has been long and busy, in a good way for the most part. Did I meet the goals I set at the beginning of the month? Not quite. But it was still a good month in which I got outside to enjoy the changing of the seasons, started a grad school program I enjoy, and actually went out with friends more than once. Here are some more highlights I never got around to sharing:

Lots and lots of squash were consumed this month.
I started allergy drops, which are sublingual and approximately 1,000 times less painful and more convenient than the shots I'd been getting.
My friend Rachel celebrated her birthday at the Cashew. My coworkers are hilarious!
Baby basil leaf from our successful basil "harvest."
I got new running shoes, hoping they'd help my knee pain.
They did not.
I bought a $3 bag of kettle corn at the Ak-Sar-Ben Farmer's Market in Omaha with my mom. Such a good purchase!
Our Hungarian hot peppers seem to be thriving in the sunny, dry fall air. Weird.
Our friend Andy rocked the Cyclo-cross race we went to.
Early October color change

Sunset on a walk one night.
 Here are a few recipes I tried for the first time this month and loved:

These brussels sprouts with bacon grease instead of olive oil and 6 strips of bacon instead of pecans. SO good.

These pumpkin peanut butter bars, with an added 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips and 1/4 tsp salt mixed in.

We didn't have any Halloween plans, and I worked the day of, but I wore my spider earrings and my current primary patient's mom dressed her up as the sweetest Hershey's Kiss, which made my day.

Such a fun, productive, sunny month!