Game Changing Snacks: Smokehouse Almond Chicken Bites with Blue Diamond Almonds

Disclaimer: Blue Diamond sent me complimentary almonds in exchange for a recipe and post.  I was not compensated in any other way.  As always, all opinions are my own.

Happy Thursday!  With life whizzing by me at every opportunity, I am super excited this weekend to chill out and watch some football with friends!  My beloved Packers aren’t playing, but I’m ready for one more dose of football until its gone for spring and summer.

Whenever I host a get-together for the big game, I think the food is just as important as the football!  It’s easiest to have finger-foods, but finding healthy and quality finger foods can be a challenge.  So I created these almond-coated chicken bites in a pinch, which would be perfect with any dipping sauce for the big game!  Quick preparation, easy to eat, minimal clean up, and lots of time left to focus on the football.   The smokehouse almond adds a nice little kick of flavor to the bites, definitely a game changer from your typical frozen chicken nuggets (that have added preservatives, etc).

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So without further ado, here is the easy recipe!

Smokehouse Almond Chicken Bites

Ingredients:

2 chicken breasts, cut into 2 inch pieces.

1 egg

1 small container of Blue Diamond Smokehouse Almonds

 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Place almonds in a food processor (I used a smaller 2 cup food processor) and process for 2-3 min, until almonds are a little thicker than bread crumbs.  Be careful not to blend too long, or you’ll have almond butter!

Dip chicken bites into egg (so the almonds stick) and then coat in almonds.

Place onto a baking sheet w/ foil (much easier clean up).  No need to grease the foil, as that leads to soggy chicken bites!  Bake bites for 15 minutes, then flip over with tongs/spatula, and bake for 10 more minutes or until crispy.  Let cool for 4-5 minutes and enjoy!

Thanks again to Blue Diamond for opportunity to try out their products for the big game!

What Germ? Kretschmer Wheat Germ! Enhancing Your Overnight Oats

Disclaimer: Kretschmer provided me with a free jar of their wheat germ in exchange for a review and recipe creation.  I received no other compensation and all opinions are my own.

I’ve said it before on here, but I’ll say it again. Bloggers get a lot of cool opportunities to review products.  Due to my posting schedule and career, I don’t get to seek out as many opportunities as I would like, but when the right one comes along, I love taking part.  I also am very selective in what I choose, to stay true to what I believe in nutrition and food-wise.    Kretschmer offered to send me a free sample of their wheat germ to review and incorporate into a recipe a couple months ago and to be honest, I had heard of wheat germ but wasn’t exactly sure why it was becoming popular.  So being the good nutritionist I try to be, I researched it, said yes, and was excited to try it!

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First of all…germ? and wheat?  what the heck am I even talking about?  Here’s  some background info.

What is it? Wheat germ is the small seedling on the inside of a grain of wheat that can then grow into another wheat plant.  You can extract the wheat germ during milling

What nutrients does wheat germ have?  It’s especially high in folate, thiamin, vitamin E, and zinc.   Basically its a concentrated source of many vitamins and minerals.

What the heck do I do with it?  Wheat germ can be added to several food items: smoothies, casseroles, grain products (breads, muffins, etc.,) to enhance the nutrient density of the food.

I took the opportunity to also try another new recipe with my wheat germ: overnight oats! 

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Here is what I added:

1 cup quick oats

3/4/ cup milk

1/2 small container of greek yogurt (single serving size)

1/2 tsp. wheat germ

2 tbsp. peanut butter

1/2 banana, sliced

I mixed it all together, left it overnight in the fridge, and then enjoyed grabbing it to go and having breakfast at my desk the next day.

I was instantly a fan!  And as for the wheat germ?  I honestly couldn’t taste the difference, which I think is a good thing!  Knowing that I was getting more vitamins and minerals was definitely a plus.

So what about you– Did you know what wheat germ was before reading this?  And…best combo’s for overnight oats?  :)

Thanks to Kretschmer for allowing me to test out your products!

 

 

2015: The Year of Balance

Confession (that most of you probably already know):  I am bad at embracing change.  The new year is exciting, but also scary because it brings changes.  BUT, one of my favorite things about the new year is reading about how others are embracing the change of a new year and learning from them.  Following suit I’ve finally gathered my thoughts on how I look at this coming year.

The ringing in of a new year this year was especially mind-boggling for me, coming off the best year of my life.  I asked myself many questions:

So how do you follow up the best year of your life?  How do I find things that top getting my PhD and traveling Europe?   How do I learn to embrace change of being in the real-world and leaving the place I became the person I wanted to be? And most importantly, how the hell do I make friends in my new place and convince them I’m not a total wierdo?

I asked myself these questions, realizing that they ultimately lead to one bigger question.

How can I choose happiness in 2015?

I owned 2014 because I made decisions that led me to choose happiness.   My world is completely different in 2015, and happiness looks a little different.

That is how my word for 2015 came about.

Balance.

To be happy in my current state, I need to choose balance.

Last year, when I did something, I went all in and have no regrets.

2014. Best damn year of my life.

A photo posted by Emily (@emhi10s) on

  3 months of my life I spent dissertation writing…and my life revolved around that and nothing else.  I then prepared for my defense…and little else.   I focused on 1-2 things at a time, letting other things slip by the way side.  The summer I focused on travel.  All year long I stayed occupied with concentrating and thinking about my family. I went all-in with the moment I was in.   I have no complaints, because 2014 was awesome…but it was also exhausting.  With big goals accomplished and big life changes behind me, it’s time to create some balance.  This is especially crucial for a healthy lifestyle.  During my first semester professoring in the fall, I basically devoted my time to not drowning in schoolwork and fostering new and meaningful relationships with co-workers and friends I was meeting in the area.  To me, both were very important. But I had no balance, I missed out on some key aspects of my life that I love.  Working out went to the wayside, and now my jeans don’t fit.  I rarely ever cooked, which is so surprising because I love cooking and creating new recipes!  My hobbies were falling to the side and I felt as a piece of my happiness was missing. Balance is my mantra for this year.  Balance will help me continue on the path of consciously choosing happiness.

I’m learning to embrace change. I’m learning to embrace new possibilities. I’m learning to embrace what choices I must make to have balance.

And this, I’m learning this too.

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By embracing a lifestyle with balance, I’m choosing to remember that even alone, I am enough.

The year of balance. It’s a work in progress, but we’ll get there.

Did You Know? Friday — What exactly is egg substitute?

Hello hello!  Hope you all are staying warm out there…the highs have been in the negative temps here lately!  Last week, the Did You Know? Friday crew was thoroughly celebrating the new year…so much that the first friday snuck up on us!  So we’re back in action this week bringing you our monthly linkup of nutrition knowledge to feed your brains during these cold winter days!

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Today’s Did You Know? Friday actually comes from a question I got from a student last semester.  We were talking about protein and how to compare the quality of protein among foods.  There is a scale, called the PDCAA scale that scores and compares protein quality.  The best source and highest score, belongs to the egg.  One of my students grew up on egg beaters, and asked the following question and topic of todays Did You Know?

What is egg substitute made of and how does it compare to a whole egg?

Egg Substitute (commonly sold as Egg Beaters in grocery stores) are primarily egg whites with some thickening agents and possibly other nutrients added in.  Egg beaters tend to have much less cholesterol and fat than whole eggs because they do not contain egg yolk.  Egg beaters also have less calories, due to containing less fat.

In terms of whole eggs, both the egg yolk and egg white have nutritional value…I feel like I could write an entire blog on eggs, there is so much information and controversy out there!  In addition to cholesterol, egg yolks contain high amounts of vitamin D, vitamin A, choline, and protein.  Egg whites contain biotin, protein, and choline.  Many studies provide evidence on whether you should or should not consume the yolks of eggs…honestly, I have read a lot of scientific journal articles on this topic, as I worked with vitamin A in eggs in grad school.  There is a lot of research both ways, but I honestly think that there is no one “bad” food that can link directly to a disease…chronic diseases such as obesity, heart disease, and even cancer arise from several dietary and lifestyle factors.

But back to egg substitute…while it is a “substitute” for a whole egg, it does contain parts of an egg!

So what about you…do you prefer egg substitute or egg yolk? Did you know egg substitute still contained mostly egg?

Make sure if you have been talking nutrition lately to link up! We would love to learn from you!

 

Sources:

Egg and Egg Products- USDA Database

Egg Beater Nutrition Information and Ingredients

Blesso CN, Andersen CJ, Barona J, Volek JS, Fernandez ML. 2013.  Whole egg consumption improves lipoprotein profiles and insulin sensitivity to a greater extent than yolk-free egg substitute in individuals with metabolic syndrome. 62(3): 400-10.

Emily and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day of Travel

We interrupt the original blog post I had planned for today to bring you a little special something.  I’ve been on blog and real life hiatus the past couple weeks celebrating the holidays with my family in South Padre Island, TX!  Yesterday I flew back and encountered many hilarious obstacles.  In 2015, I want to write more about real things, instead of just goals, so here goes.  If you like slightly hilarious and pathetic travel disaster stories, keep reading….and then say nice things to me.  Please know the point of this post is not to be constantly complaining, its just my real life thoughts during a difficult day of travel.  I know many people have had WAY worse travel obstacles (like my friend, Anna, who is way funnier than me) and I know y’all can relate and laugh about it with me because we’ve all been there!

Two things you should know prior to this story:

1. I consider myself an experienced traveler.  I’ve done long roadtrips, traveled abroad, and I fly at least 2-3 times per year.  I’ve dealt with delays, cancelled flights, and being stranded in cities, so I feel like most things don’t phase me when traveling, I almost expect them.  My mom, on the other hand, would probably disagree with that statement though because while I remain calm on the outside in the wake of travel disasters, I am painfully impatient and she is secretly getting all of my ranting and sarcastic texts when I travel.  Love ya mom.

2. I never EVER check my bags.  I always carry-on…

…Except for this trip of course, because I wanted to bring board games to play with my family and those plus clothes for a 2 week vacation do not fit in a carry-on.

A Day in the Life of Travel Disaster and My Accompanying Thoughts

4 am- I wake up, groan, and remember that I have to take my parents to the airport because they are flying American home to Iowa and their flight leaves at 6:15 am.  This part goes well. I go home, sleep for an hour, eat a fabulous breakfast with some good family friends, and then finishing cleaning our condo until I head to the airport for my flight later in the morning.

9:30 am- I arrive at the South Padre (Brownsville) airport.  My flight is supposed to leave at 10:51 am and then I have a 45 min. layover in Houston (IAH) before heading on another flight to Minneapolis (MSP).  Driving there I’m a little leary BECAUSE on my way TO south padre 2 weeks prior, I had a 45 minute layover in Houston which I missed because my flight from MSP–> IAH was delayed….for no apparent reason.  No reason given at all by any United employee.  I ended up missing my flight from IAH–> South Padre/Brownsville and ended up staying in a hotel in Houston for the night til I could catch the earliest flight the next day.  A hotel room for which I paid for because United would not reimburse me, and I’m pretty sure I overheard multiple drug deals going on in the room next to me and my door didn’t lock.  No biggie, it happens, I get it.  But this was all definitely fresh in my mind.

ANYWAY. I get to the airport and return the rental car to see that my flight is delayed til 11:07.  So now I have a 30 min layover in IAH if all goes well.  I have flashbacks to two weeks ago and am glad I wore my TOMS, because I can sprint faster in those than sandals.

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I go up to the counter to check my bag and check-in….to find that its 51 lbs.  The limit is 50 lb.  The man tells me I must take out 1 lb of stuff from my suitcase, which is stuffed full of things like bathroom rugs that I bought because we had coupons and I am one of those people who loves coupons and buys things on sale, without thinking of how to get them back in a suitcase.  I plead with the worker that it is just one pound overweight, but he is adamant.  I get that rules are rules and they need to apply to everyone.  But I’m not gonna lie, I’m a little miffed just because I’m not sure how I’ll get my suitcase to shut again.  I pull out ONE chaco sandal while praying none of my underwear falls out, put my bag on the scale, and say 50 is 50! nicely to the worker.  Don’t worry mom, I smiled when I said it.

When I go to sit down, I get a text from United that says my flight supposedly leaving at 11:07 am is now leaving at 12 pm.  I do the math and realize that there is no way I’ll make my 1 pm flight in Houston if we leave at noon.  I start laughing and am thankful I brought two good books to read, because this is going to be a long-ass day.

I go back up to the ticket counter and another man helps me.  His name is Robert and I will be writing to United about him because he is the most wonderful ticket agent I have ever encountered.  No sarcasm, all truth.  He is the one bright shining star of the day, other than the spotted cow mentioned later in the story.  I explain my situation and he tells me that things are backed up in Houston so I may still be able to make my 1 pm flight there,  he will put me on the standby list for a 3:45 pm flight from IAH–MSP which is full and he will monitor it and if a seat pops up, he’ll snatch it for me.  I say thanks, you’re so helpful!  He says, don’t worry Emily, I got you.  I almost buy him a plane ticket to come back to MSP with me because I don’t think I’ve ever had a man say that to me and could use some more of that in my life.  Don’t worry mom, I decided against it.

At this point, it’s 10 am-ish.  Over the next 30 minutes, I get four, yes FOUR, texts from United with different flight changes for my first flight to IAH from South Padre that I’m waiting on…one minute we’re leaving at 11:18 (which means I could make the first flight easy), the next it’s back to noon.  There are only 2 gates at the small Brownsville airport, so I see that our plane hasn’t arrived, which makes this very unbelievable.  But seriously United, make up your damn mind or don’t text me a million times to make me thing I’m going to make my flight.  That’s teasing and no one likes that.

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Sometime during the 10 o clock hour I hear over the loud speaker that they have oversold our flight and are looking for one volunteer to take a later flight in the day and receive a $350 voucher.  I quick do the math– the later flight leaves at 1 and our flight is now leaving at noon, and if I take that later flight I would still be able to catch the 3:45 flight out of MSP.  WIN. I race up to the counter and and yell “I VOLUNTEER AS TRIBUTE”.  Ha, I wish I was that bold.  I do race up there, but inquire with my elementary school 6 inch voice.  My BFF Robert then tells me he got me a seat on the 3:45 outta Houston just in case i miss the 1 pm flight…so I could take the 1 pm outta South Padre to free up the oversold flight and make that no matter what…. but the computer system won’t let him enter it and now the flight is full again.    He then tells me that if I take the 1 pm and a seat doesn’t open up on the 3:45 flight, he has to reroute me from Houston to Denver and then Denver to Minneapolis.  I tell him if he sends me to Denver, I’m spending the night there because I could use a Saturday night in one of my favorite cities.  He laughs.  While we are figuring this out, another girl goes to the other ticket guy and he gives her the voucher.  Robert then vouches for me (HA, GET IT) that I was first and we were figuring it out but then Mr. “you need to take 1 lb out of your suitcase” says it’s already a done deal.  Robert and I are heartbroken, but we live.  Normally I console my broken heart’s with salads from Chipotle, but in an airport the size of my house, there is no Chipotle.  I settle for a hershey kiss I find in my purse.

Our plane finally arrives. As I’m getting ready to board, I see the girl who snatched the voucher from me.  She then tells me that they actually never oversold the flight and she now has to take the original flight.  I don’t know how they can misnumber that, because this is a tiny ass plane that holds maybe 30 people and a tiny ass airport with two gates.  I chalk it up to karma.

As I’m getting on the plane around noon, my mom texts me to tell me they are already back in Iowa.  Funny things happen when you don’t fly united airlines.  You fly through the same bad weather that’s all over Texas and STILL make it home on time!

We touch down in Houston at 12:55, I’m in row 2 so I have a good shot of making the 1:04 flight if it’s in the same terminal.  As I’m bolting off the plane, I multitask and look at my phone to see that the flight is delayed til 1:30 due to crew availability. HOLLA!

The IAH “B” terminal for “united express” AKA small planes going to small towns is structured differently than others.  You would think a plane going to MSP would be big, but no, it’s a regional jet. I don’t discriminate against plane size (unless were coming back from Europe, still eating my words on that one), so I don’t mind taking a small plane back to MSP but it’s just wierd.  Anyway, instead of sitting at the gates in this terminal, you sit in this big waiting area and wait to be called to pass through this space-age looking sliding doors where there are multiple gates yonder for you to board your plane.  The problem with this is that they call you over a loud speaker…that is not that loud.  They repeatedly tell us to not look at the board of flights because it isn’t correct and that we need to just wait in the area and listen to them.  I am starving and am afraid to get food for fear of missing the damn flight, I begin to get a little hangry.

Another text from united, flight delayed til 2 pm.  They still can’t find us a crew.  I decide to call my college roommate, Joy, to catch up. The conversation is half us catching up and half me saying “wait, wait, sorry they’re announcing another flight”.  I see a family with Minnesota gear on, so I decide I’ll just watch for them to head to the magic gates and that will be fool-proof.   I start to get a headache and it’s one of those that you know is the start of a migraine.  I realize my excedrin migraine (AKA elixir of life) is in my checked bag.  Shiiiiit. I settle on some almonds I remember I have in my bag.

Another text, delayed til 2:30.  I’m starting to now curse this delay.  I have to pee, but I’m scared because based on my luck they will call the damn flight.  I chance it because God gave me a tiny bladder and I have a history of peeing my pants on moving vehicles (story for another day…or never).  I come back and the Minnesota family is gone. Crap!  I take my boarding pass to the magic gate lady, and she tells me they haven’t called my flight yet.  Phew.

They finally call our flight! YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS.  I get on the tiny plane.

We get to MSP at about 4:50 pm.  An hour late than normal, which isn’t that bad, however it seems like an eternity with all of the flight changes.  I wait at baggage claim for my bag while watching the Carolina football game.  Shoutout to MSP airport for that channel choice.  I wait 20 minutes and realize that everyone from my flight is gone and the people waiting for bags are…not my people.  I go to the United help counter and the woman tells me my bag was put on a later flight and will not be in until 7 pm.

Me: But I was on this flight, ma’am.

United Lady (calmly, like this was routine): Well, your bag was put on another flight. 

I wanted to ask her if they always put bags on flights their passengers weren’t on, but then I remembered that in 2015 I’m trying to have more compassion (spoiler alert to another blog post).  It’s working out SO WELL (spoiler alert, I’m working on my sarcasm too).   She then tells me she can have it delivered to me.  I live an hour from the cities.  She can’t tell me what time it will be delivered the next day, so I decide that I’ll come back and pick it up later that night.  I have flashbacks to when one of my good friends got married a couple years ago and one of the fellow bridesmaids flew United with the bridesmaid dress in her checked bag…she arrived two days before the wedding…the bag did not.  It took two full days of numerous phone calls and prodding for United to get the dress there AN HOUR BEFORE THE WEDDING.  Hilarious to look back on after it all worked out.   I digress though.

My friend Mellissa picks me up at 5:30ish.  She is a saint and sweetheart, she and her husband let me keep my car at their house in the NE suburbs so I didn’t have to pay for parking AND they did drop off and pick up duty.  All afternoon I had been texting her with all of the updates and delays and she was so flexible, I was so thankful!  I don’t mind getting in later and being delayed, but I would have felt awful screwing up others schedules due to my flights!  We have a hilarious chat about my travels and life back to her house to grab my car.  When I get there, we realize my headlight is out.  WELCOME HOME!

I head back to the airport, praying that a cop doesn’t pull me over with my pa diddle (is that a midwest only term?!).  Despite what my mother or anyone who ever rode in a car with me while I was driving in high school will tell you, I am a great driver and very knowledgeable about getting around in cities/new places.  GPS? No need once I’ve been there, I have a memory map like a steel trap.  Anyway, the next part of the story is not one of my finer moments.  On the way back to the airport, I get on the interstate going the wrong way (east instead of west).  I don’t realize this though until I’ve been driving about 15 minutes and see the beautiful sign that says “Welcome to Wisconsin” or “Welcome to Heaven”, as I would call it..  I immediately realize the mistake and consider keeping on the interstate and driving the 4 hours to Madison because I’ve been getting emails ALL DAY in a group email about my friends going to EssenHaus for the night and it has been making me experience severe FOMO (Fear of missing out).   I could use a dose of them and approximately two boots of beer all to myself after this day of travel.  In a split second, I remember all my clothes are in my checked bag at the airport and decide against it. I turn around in Hudson, the 1st exit after the border.  While turning around, I see a gas station and realize that this situation can be redeemed.  I walk in and grab a 6-pack of spotted cow.  See? God’s always looking out for me.  The cashier looks at me and says, rough day?  I say, if you knew what my day has been like, you would give me this for free.  Unfortunately that does not get you free spotted cow.

I pay the man and then get the heck out of there.  I consider chugging one before heading back the correct direction on the interstate, but then remember that I am already probably going to get pulled over for a headlight.

I make it to the airport 45 min after the flight is supposed to get in.  I park in “short term parking”, which cost me $5 for the whole 10 minutes I was there.  Party foul, MSP.

I get to the baggage claim and my bag is there.  I consider hugging it, but that’s almost as overkill as taking a picture of it for a blogpost.

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I then tell the same United lady that I’m taking it.  She then tells me, “oh sorry for the trouble, this darn weather has just screwed everything up today!  I smile at her and calmly say, “Funny thing, weather is.  My family flew from the same place I did this morning to the midwest through the same “weather” on an airline that was not United and they made it home with no delays AND their bags were on their flights.”

She has no response.  Don’t worry mom, I used my nice voice.

I walk back to short term parking.  My car is not where I think it is.  I lug my exactly 50 lb suitcase around the entire 1st floor of the ramp looking for it and am thoroughly confused.  I walk back into the airport and realize there are actually two short term parking lots, Green and Gold.  I was in Gold and apparently my car is in Green.  I then walk across to the other lot and low and behold, my one-headlighted beauty is there.

I find it very interesting that MSP, land of Viking purple and gold, would have Packer green and yellow color coded parking lots, but that is beside the point.

I breathe a sigh of relief, turn up some T swift, and head on my journey home.  It’s snowing and blowing like crazy, but I need to stop at Trader Joe’s for hummus, carrots, and crackers (my staples).  I get in there and they are completely out of every kind of hummus except the cilantro kind. WHO THE HECK EVEN LIKES THAT KIND?  Apparently no one, because that is the only one left.  Out of all the obstacles, this is the one where I almost start to cry, mainly just because I am exhausted.  I walk out hummusless and drive home with no problem, YAY.  I chug a spotted cow paired with peanut butter straight from the jar and it is damn delicious. I crawl into my own bed for the first time in 2 weeks and IT IS FABULOUS!

Morals of the story.

Never again on United.

Robert, the United worker in the Brownsville Airport, is da real MVP and should be running the place.

Always carry-on luggage. ALWAYSSSSSSSSSS.

Spotted Cow cures all.

Traveling builds patience and maturity.   I clearly still have a lot of traveling to do to be where I want to be with those qualities  :)

Happy Sunday, lovers!

2014: This is what the best year of my life looked like

For the first time in a long time, I don’t want this year to end.  Why?

Because this year was the best damn year of my life.

I just can’t believe all of the goodness and answered prayers that unfolded in 2014.  However, in order to understand why I was able to love 2014 so much, you have to understand just how hard the previous years were.

If you’ve been following my blog for awhile now, you know that the previous couple years prior to 2014 were not easy on my family or myself.  Watching someone you love (in my case, my dad) suffer significantly in health for a long period of time is draining and downright scary.  Watching someone else you love (my mom) try to care for them while they keep a full-time job and try to care for you and others is just as heart wrenching.   That was basically 2012 and 2013 for our family…and I didn’t even play that big a role because I lived far away (which left me feeling incredibly guilty, believe me).  Looking back, I basically was passing time those years, waiting for some kind of normalcy to set in.  You start to lose hope with the medical world after two years of bad news…and this past year wasn’t perfect, but improvements finally started to come.  In 2014, my dad spent less than 1 month in the hospital, compared to 2013 where he probably only spent 2 months total out of the hospital.  He is definitely not “normal” and definitely not the spitting image of “healthy” like before his medical saga, but he’s here, he’s functional, and our family has created a new kind of normal.  We now know what kinds of rental cars fit wheelchairs well and what major league baseball stadiums are more easily handicap accessible than others.  The fact is we do have major obstacles, but in 2014 we were able to do things together, in a different way, and even still laugh about it every once and awhile.  Bad years give you a lot of perspective and a whole lotta gratitude for the good ones.

The goal of this post isn’t to talk about that completely though.  I just have been doing a lot of thinking lately and looking back on this year, I can’t believe how many things I got to do and accomplish!  The progress my dad has made has played such a huge role in my gratitude in 2014, but there are so many other components that made this the best year of my life, so I thought I would share them with you here.  Enjoy!

January

I interviewed for two jobs this month, one in industry and one in academia.  These were my first real-job interviews ever, as I had only experienced part-time jobs in high school and college/grad school interviews before.

I was able to visit Emily, MN!

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The other key thing that stood out for me in January was that my dad drove for the first time in over a year.  After a couple months of small health improvement, this was a good turning point and confidence builder for him…and another “first time” I felt things were getting back to a better state.

Oh, and game night became a more regular weeknight occurrence in our crew.

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February

My birthday is at the beginning of February.  This year’s birthday week was very special, as I received the job offer for my current job as a nutrition professor, which I obviously accepted! :)

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Abhay surprised me for the weekend and we all celebrated my birthday at Weary Traveler, my traditional hotspot for my birthday while living in Madison.

And then family birthday celebrations at Graze, my favorite Iowa City Restaurant…and  my picture made it on this random article “30 Photos That Will Make You Fall In Love With Iowa City” (It’s #30 FYI)

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March

I started writing my dissertation this month…and basically didn’t do anything cool.  However, it was awesome to see the light at the end of the tunnel with grad school. Pretty sure it was still -20 degrees everyday in Madison too!

April

I gave my exit seminar in April.  Our program has private PhD defenses, so the seminar is where your friends, family, and the entire dept. come to listen to you talk about your research for an hour.   My mom and sister came and it was so nice to be able to show them what I had been working so hard on for four years!  My dad had come down with a bad case of pneumonia and couldn’t come…and it was heartbreaking to not have the one person who spurred my love of science in the audience.  Looking back though, I feel lucky that this was one of the worst’s of 2014.   Compared to 2013, this would have been nothin!

May

Graduation.  Our whole family together.  Perfection.

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June

June was just the absolute best.

I successfully defended my PhD

Phd1_thumb.jpg Had a Harry Potter themed going away party at picnic point with some of my favorite people in the universe.

IMG_35801.jpg Backpacked Europe for 2 weeks with three of my fabulous college roommates.  We tackled Spain, Portugal, and Belgium.   It was the best way to celebrate being done with graduate school!

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sofia July

My sister was working in Denver this past summer, so a mere 8 hours after I landed in Iowa home from Europe, my mom, dad, and I then flew to Colorado for a week to hang out with her, family friends, and soak up all of the beauty Colorado has to offer.

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August

I officially made the move to Minnesota.  I never really knew how the feeling bittersweet felt until this day…I still struggle with this on a daily basis.  Change is inevitable and I love my new job…but I miss my lifestyle and friends in Madison every single day.  How could you not miss the place where you became the person you wanted to be?

I crossed another concert off my bucket list.  For father’s day, we took my dad to see Paul McCartney at Target Field.  It was AWESOME and Paul is the man.

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1093 On a whim, I signed up to do a triathlon, which unknowingly to me at the time happened to be the day before I started teaching.  Best personal decision of 2014, by far.  I freaking (yes, freaking) LOVED IT.  I was finally excited about fitness again and I can’t wait to train for more!

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I also started my job as a nutrition professor! It was so surreal to me to actually have my dream job.

September

I finally had unpacked most of my stuff in my new place and started to appreciate having a walk-in closet for the first time.  It is a rude yet hilarious awakening when not all of your clothes fit…

My parents and I traveled to Austin, TX for my long-time friend Sara’s wedding.  The wedding was beautiful and we had a great time going out on Rainey St!

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October

By October I was finally into a teaching routine.  I spent our long-weekend fall break back in Madison.   It was great to see everyone, eat my favorite foods, and finish up some grad school loose ends.

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November

November was a fairly quiet month, with two fabulous exceptions…
Crossing off another concert bucket list.
GARTH BROOKS.
Katie and I ventured to the cities to see the one and only…he did not disappoint! I was hoarse the next morning from singing along to all the songs!

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My sister and I went to the Packer/Viking game with a couple of my friends from grad school! Packers won, it was fairly warm, and we all had a great time!

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December

So if you’ve made it this far in reading about the best year of my life, you can understand why my bank account was drained by this month!  I’ve spent the past couple weeks down in South Padre.  December has brought relief.  I made it through my first semester as a young professor alive and I still don’t see my job as “work”.  You have no idea how lucky I feel to be able to say that!  I’m well on my way to creating a career and am thrilled.   I’ve been doing some reflecting this month and have really come to not only appreciate this amazing year, but also the bad two years before.   You can’t experience the highest of highs until you’ve seen the lowest of lows and my family knows that better than most.   Whenever good things have come my way this year, I have worked hard to really enjoy them, knowing that they won’t last forever.  As always, I am thankful to my parents for teaching me how to be a caring and strong human, even in difficult times and for their support in my love of science, travel, and wandering inspiration.

Artwork and More by Minted (Review)

Disclaimer:  I received the opportunity to review products from Minted and received online credit to their site in return, as always thoughts and opinions are my own.

Happy Christmas Eve, all!  I am loving my break from school so far and am excited to catch up on blogging.  Today, we’re getting after it with a review I am very excited about!

In case you were curious, decorating and creativity are still not my forte.  I love science, remember?  Moving into my own place has been great, but I still have done very little to decorate, mainly because I just don’t know what direction to take my “decorating” in, if that makes any sense.  A couple months ago, I did a blog review on candles which was great…but they continue to be the only decorative piece in my living room. Oops!

Luckily, the kind folks at Minted reached out to me with an opportunity to review their products.  When I first read the email, I had to laugh because I have known Minted for their holiday and announcement cards and being a single gal, I immediately thought of this and a possible opportunity to embarrass my mother this holiday season.

Thankfully for my mother, what I didn’t know was that minted also sells artwork…not like the mass-produced cheesy quote artwork you find at target, but custom art in several different medias, with each artwork giving recognition to the artist.  They each get recognition with their products and their locations are shown on the website.  The site is easy to navigate and you can “favorite” your selections and then see them all together, making it easier to choose as they are all in the same location.  Here are some of my favorites below.

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You can also create photo gifts on the website in a wide variety of templates.  There are even collages you can make with your photos in the shape of a state!  I thought about how cool it would be to take some of my pics from graduate school and make a Wisconsin collage to hang in my hallway!

Ultimately, the selection of art and photographs you can purchase is very diverse.  My favorite so far is “burst”, which I took a screenshot of so you could all get a closer look.  All artwork comes in various sizes to fit varying walls, rooms etc.,

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You can also find the link to that piece of artwork here (an access all the rest too).

There is art for every room of the house, in my opinion.  I also thought about this bright piece for my bathroom.

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The artwork is a little pricey, but very comparable to other art dealers and even department stores…it is much easier for me to pay a little more for a piece from a small collection from local artists found on Minted than mass produced art any day!

Lastly, it is no secret that I am of the age where all my friends are getting married…and given that my summer is spent traveling every weekend for weddings and bachelorette parties, it isn’t slowing down!  Minted has a new line of save the date cards, so although I am far from that decision, I know several of my readers who are at that stage! I did happen to peruse the save the dates quickly and may have thought to myself, someone find me a husband so I can use these before they are gone! :)

Thanks to Minted for the opportunity to review and collaborate!  Happy Christmas, all!

 

 

Sometimes bloggers forget to take pictures (and that’s ok)

Attention all bloggers…if you have ever made a great recipe, attended a unique function, or meant to post about something and forgot to take pictures say I.

I! Guilty! That’s me! More often than not!

I think we can all admit to this happening to us at one time or another…

and in my opinion, it’s ok. :)

Case in point this weekend.  Yesterday afternoon I hosted a small holiday get together with some of closest local blends (blend= blog friend).  We don’t get to see one another as much as we would like so it was due time!  As always there was good food, great convo (shoutout to Mellissa and I convincing everyone they need to listen to the podcast, Serial!), and lots of laughter.  However, at the end of the day we remembered that we never got a group photo, or really any photos.

And ya know what, that’s ok.  I think we all get so caught up in documenting everything we do that we forget to just sit back and enjoy the moment with one another.   I have found that since I started using more social media outlets (facebook, twitter, instagram) and blogging, I have become especially guilty of this!  While I would have loved more pictures to look back on, it can’t replace the laughs we all had together.

But of course, I did get a couple pics…you know me better than that. :)

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031 047 045 Oh and that almond Christmas bark in the middle of the food picture?  You can find the recipe here from Keeping Up With The Kitchen Mom.  It was amazing and addictive. :)

What are some of your favorite holiday party traditions?

 

Crock-pot Thai Chicken Lettuce Wraps

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Happy Thursday!  Today I wanted to share a long overdue recipe with y’all.  First off, I can’t speak highly enough of my crock-pot these days.  It is the best kitchen side kick ever… ever.  I love being able to come home and have minimal prep work for a meal.   When looking for new recipes to create, my favorites are meals from restaurants that can be remade into healthier versions.  People rave over P.F Chang’s Lettuce Wraps and they have been on my radar for awhile.   I’ve made these Thai chicken lettuce wraps a few times over the past now, modifying the recipe each time, and finally nailed down a near-perfect one!   I guarantee these are cheaper and healthier! 10 minutes of prep and then let the crock-pot do the work.

Ingredients:

3 chicken breasts

1/2 cup diced onion

1/2 shredded carrots

1 small can chopped water chestnuts

1/2 cup soy sauce

1/2 cup honey

one head of iceberg or romaine lettuce

Directions:

Place chicken on the bottom of crock-pot.  Combine honey and soy sauce and whisk until well-mixed. Add chopped onion, carrot, and water chestnuts to soy mixture, mix well, and pour over chicken.

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Cook on high for 3 hours or low for 6-7 hours.  Remove chicken and shred, then mix well with the rest of the ingredients in crockpot.  Spoon chicken mixture into lettuce leafs.  Serve with rice if desired (I like adding it to mine)!  Enjoy!

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Life as a first-year professor: finding balance (month 4 recap)

And here we are.  Tomorrow is the last day of class, finals are next week, and I will have officially survived my first semester.   Maybe “survived” isn’t the right term, because to me that implies that I was enduring something hard, something negative, and that is not the case at all.  So I’ll rephrase…a week from now I can say I’ve finished my first semester!

But it wasn’t easy. In November, month #4, I was tired.  Tired of wearing real clothes everyday, tired of having to get up in front of others and talk for an extensive amount of time everyday, and tired of never having my to-do list completely finished.  This past month I struggled to find a balance between work-life and outside-life.

For a professor (or any educator), the struggle never ends.  I knew what I signed up for…having parents as teachers, they often worked at home after their “work day” ended grading papers and lesson planning.  That is no different for myself.  Most days after work this semester, I have continued to work– preparing lectures or grading assignments.  Many days I felt as though I was “on repeat”.

Mid-november, something had to change.  I think I “snapped” the day when my favorite jeans barely zipped up and the milk i had with my cereal was expired by a week (but I had it anyway because there was nothing else in my fridge).  I knew that I had to reevaluate my priorities and my time.    So here’s how I did that.

1. I immediately joined a gym.  I am on a serious budget at the moment, but I have definitely gained a small amount of weight since the semester started, lost whatever endurance I had built up before my triathlon in August, and honestly feel terrible about my physique.  From experience, I know I do well with physical activity and sticking with it by two means: a) fitness classes, where someone just tells me what I have to do and I don’t have to think… and b) training for races.  Given the current season, I opted for option a.  I’ve been going to fitness classes 3-4x/wk and it has lifted my spirits.  It also helps me stay on track and focused at work during the day because I know that “after work” time is now limited with the addition of gym time!

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2. I started scaling back my to-do list to a reasonable size.  By doing so, I was able to prioritize what was necessary to be done that day and what could be done by the end of the week.  This helped my anxiety immensely.

3.   I forced myself to start meal-planning for the week on Sundays, followed by going to the grocery store with a list.  When you cook for only yourself, it is very easy to have food go bad because stuff is sold in such large batches!  Just in October, I made a pizza with slightly-moldy cheese (I know, I really reached rock bottom but that was a terrible night).  I worked hard to stick to my schedule the past few weeks and use up my food.  If a surprise happy hour came up during the week, I attended, but left to stick to my dinner schedule.  I had less food go bad, was eating much healthier, and spent less money eating-out.

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4. On the days where I didn’t want to get up and teach, I sucked it up and did it anyway…and my students probably never knew the difference.  As a professor, you not only lecture, but you answer several emails and in-person inquiries.  Your students look up to you and feed off your energy, so you’re are only shooting yourself in the foot by slacking.  By remembering how lucky I am to have a job that I love, it made it easier to show up and give 100% everyday.  I mean, I expect 100% of my students…why would I give them any less?

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Anyway.  By making some changes and re-prioritizing a little, I have definitely been more productive at work and a better professor as the semester unwinded.  I think it has helped me climb out of my “tired” slump I had heard so much about that plagues educators about 2/3 of the way through the semester.  I continue to love my job, but if I’m being honest, everyday isn’t a cake walk.  So those are my thoughts for November.  I still cannot believe the semester is going to be complete in a week!

Question of the day. What are some challenging aspects of your career?

Previous First-Year Professor Recaps:

Month Three: 48 Hours in the Life

Month Two: Things I wish my students knew

Month One: Teaching Fails