My must-haves at Trader Joe’s

Trader Joe’s has been one of the best additions ever to my foodie-life.  Being from a small town in Iowa, I wasn’t exposed until moving to Madison.

And then a monster was born.  Once I tried out some of their stuff, I was hooked.  The prices and variety on my poor-kid grad school budget were absolutely clutch.  The town I live in now doesn’t have a Trader Joe’s, so I have to make sure and stock up whenever I am in the cities, about an hour away.  I typically make it there at least every other week, which has me on a good cycle!  I have about 10 “staples” that I buy each time I’m there, and then buy a few other things based on what I need or plan to make during the week.

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My Trader Joe’s Must Haves (literally, must have every visit).

  • Carrots and green beans…they are so cheap, and I love that their beans are washed and trimmed already!
  • White Cheddar Popcorn
  • Pizza Al Pollo Asado…this is one of my favorite things to bring for lunch.  The crust is corn meal and the toppings of chicken, peppers, and beans make it a tasty lunch!
  • Chocolate covered sunflower seeds. Treat yo’self.
  • Dark Chocolate Almond Bark. People, this is what crack in food form looks like.
  • Bananas and apples. Convenience is key, so i try to pick these up while I’m there.
  •  Turkey Burgers.  These are great for when I need a quick dinner.
  •  Edamame Crackers.  I like that these crackers are smaller and have a little different flavor than typical crackers.  They also go great with the hummus!
  • And lastly, my favorite…Hummus!!  If I could only eat one item from TJ’s for the rest of my life, it would be their hummus. Case in point- buying 3 containers. 116

So there you have it, my must-haves every time I’m at Trader Joe’s.  Obviously, My grocery-buying and diet consist of more than this with area grocery stores, but they just don’t compare to TJ’s!

What about you? What are your Trader Joe’s must haves?

This is 27: Eel Pouts and Hipster Blends

I am 15 days into being 27 and so far, I have no complaints.

True to my 2015 resolution, I’m working on a) life balance and b) trying to actually like living in Minnesota.

Some days, I feel like I’m majorly failing at both.  This weekend though, I did not.

Saturday some friends and I ventured up north to for the Eel Pout Festival on Leech Lake.  Think hundreds of ice fishermen, small town MN, and a heated beer tent with a bar made out of ice. There was a polar plunge going on, some other winter activities, and my favorite– Eel Pout Ice Curling!

163 153 So yeah, that’s a frozen eel pout fish in an ice block…and basically, like curling, you push it along the ice to try and hit the target!  It was fun but hard because I kept slipping on the ice (see above).

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Despite the 3 degree temps, we were toasty warm in the beer tent (which, we did have to pay $20 to enter) and enjoyed many a miller lite and people watching.  Very, very entertaining.   I’d also like to thank my Northface long johns (clearance from REI Outlet) who were da real MVP allowing me to feel my legs by the end of the day.

Saturday night I caught up on some grading and grey’s anatomy (nothing says 27 by being exhausted by 8 pm and having sincere excitement to sit on your couch and just veg).  Speaking of grey’s…i think its time to be done.   Or bring back McDreamy.  Your thoughts?

Sunday started out with a selfie.  Because although I am 27, I still am shameless and felt the need to document my semi-hipster look I had going on (if only my half combat boots were included in this pic).

167 I was super pumped about this  blogging t-shirt that said “I’m not a player, I just blog a lot” that Abhay got me for my birthday from Raygun.  Raygun is this awesome store that started in Iowa (HOLLA) and has sarcastic tshirts.  They’re brilliant.

 

I spent the afternoon with a couple of blends (blend = blogging friends), Kim and Amanda.  They are fantastic, it is so nice to have female friends outside of work!  Don’t get me wrong, I love, love my group of friends I’ve made through work…but it’s also nice to have other friends who have similar hobbies (like blogging, running, etc.,) that you can indulge about those activities with! 180

Naturally, being the good bloggers we are we documented our hang with some amazing natural light.  I am so looking forward to hanging out with blends more as I journey on making a life in this state!

 

Also on my mind this week:

Watching the Oscars now and can I just say A-TO THE-MEN to Patricia Arquette’s acceptance speech speaking up for equality for women?

The Bachelor.  OBVI, I’m invested because Chris Soules is a fellow Iowan and lives an hour from where my grandparents lived (so basically, we’re soules mates. Baha.).  I picked Whitney in my Bachelor Bracket League (1. yes there are such things 2. surprisingly, one of my good guy friends is in charge of it) and i am still stickin to it!  Girl just has got it going on…successful, sweet, down to earth.  I also love Kaitlyn and would give anything to be as funny as her.

Grading. SERIOUSLY DOES IT EVER STOP.

 

….what about you? what did you do this weekend?

Read it: Yes Please by Amy Poehler

Whenever I get the chance to read anything written by female comedians, I do. I believe they are great role models for women, encouraging self confidence, hard work, and staying true to what you believe in.

I often associate Amy Poehler and Tina Fey together due to their time on SNL, movies, and phenomenal hosting of awards shows.  I read Tina’s memoir Bossy Pants last year and loved it, so I was thrilled to read what Amy had written.  My mom bought the book for the girls in our family to share, and I was the first to devour it over Christmas break.

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I loved parts of the book and was a little bored with other parts.  Amy’s outlook on life based on her hard work and experiences are genuine and real.  My favorite quote of the whole book was on a chapter she wrote about having a baby and motherhood…and how different it is for everyone.  Regarding advice, etc., from others she says:

“Good for you, but not for me”.

And i was like, A-TO THE-MEN, Amy Poehler.

It is hard for me at times to accept choices and actions of others that I don’t agree with.  I also find it hard to tolerate others when they don’t accept or understand my choices.  The more independent I’ve become in the past couple years, the more I’ve really had to work on this concept and Amy just hits the nail right on the head.  I posted this quote above my desk and refer to it often.

Amy talks extensively about her rise through the ranks of comedy…at times, I found this a little long, but I was still really impressed by her guts and hard work.  She writes about the highs and the lows, and how they made her stronger.   Her humor is, as expected, brilliant.  Clear, real, and confident.

Read it.  It’s a good one.

27 thoughts on my 27th birthday

It is the early morning hours of my 27th birthday.  When I say 27 out loud, it sounds a lot like adult.  This is the first birthday where I feel like an adult.  I ache from yoga and a broomball tournament yesterday, I wake up at 7 am regardless of how exhausted I am, last night I stopped at 2 drinks because I wanted to actually feel ok for today.

So here are 27 random thoughts I have been thinking lately, as I make to another year here on this earth:

The big questions I’ve been asking myself lately:

`1. How will 27 ever compare to 26, the best year of my life so far?

2.  What do I need to do to make it even better than 26?

Places I’m looking forward to traveling while 27

3, Boston!

4, Nashville!

5. 2 National Parks west of Colorado….now that I have a job with minimal summer requirement, I want to spend that time outdoors exploring!

Minnesota Life Thoughts

6.  It is no lie that I love, love my job, but on the contrary am not a huge fan of the area I live in (that is the really nice way of putting it).

7.  Over the past few weeks I’ve come to realize that maybe it’s not the area I don’t like, it’s just the loneliness I don’t like.  My first year in Madison was rough and looking back, the challenges I felt there stemmed from loneliness.

8. Cannot wait for summer in Minnesota: Triathlons and lake time at our cabin up north!

9.  My favorite thing…..my faveeeeeorite thing about where I live, is that I have tons of extended family in this area of MN that I never knew very well growing up.  I don’t see that them that often, but honestly, the conversations and seeing them is my favorite thing ever right now, and definitely helps with the loneliness.

Things I’m looking forward to while being 27:

10. Training with a local triathlon club

11. Seeing my mom go tubing for the first time (!!!!!!). :)

12. Having more chill weekends…not always traveling, being on the go.

Goals for 27

13. Start my research program (this is a must)

14, Find a place to volunteer

15. Become a consistently good water skiier.

16, Keep traveling and staying true to my goals/dreams!

Other thoughts (very random):

17. Katie Looking Forward is my favorite Minnesotan.  I also refer to her as my “spirit guide”, because she has become one of my main lifelines when I need life decision (or clothing decision too) advice.  I am so lucky to have her ridiculous honesty and motivation in my life..I always think God must have known we were meant to be friends by helping me move closer to her!

18. turning one year old ALSO separates me as one year older than my students!  Hopefully it will be less intriguing for them when I say I’m 27, instead of 26.  Ive never had an issue with age, as I teach primarily freshmen, but I did have some seniors this year and it is a little wierd at times being the authority over seniors (22 years old) who are so close in age.

19.The older I get, the more my signature looks like my moms and the older i get the more I become like my dad.

20. Grading papers puts me to sleep.  Not because the paper is boring, but I’ve found that after I’ve read 3 in a row I am sleepy.  I think I may try grading while walking on the treadmill for the rest of the semester.

21. I also hope grading doesn’t give me any gray hairs.

22. I have thought about scratching my blog multiple times over the past few months.  It has been hard to maintain with my job and although I love it, I sometimes wonder if it’s actually serving it’s purpose.

23. I have thought about starting a new blog dedicated to 20-something women who are young professionals.  In my job, I learn something new everyday and I think it would be beneficial to have a commonplace for women to talk about their work, their dreams, their fears in their careers.

24.  My beloved hair dryer, which I have had since I was 8 and was a gift from our nanny, Jean, started smoking last week.  Call it wierd, but I’ve always felt that the “hair dryer that lived” was a sign that she is always with me and has been since she died.  Here’s to better luck this week with it!

25.  In the past year, I’ve become more of a feminist than I ever would have bargained for. And I like who I’ve become.

Two books I hope to read while 27.

26. Not That Kind of Girl– Lena Dunham

27. GAME OF THRONES!!!!!

Lastly. ….Here, have a picture with my new glasses.

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Anyway, I’m off to brunch…does a birthday start any better than that?

 

Did You Know? Friday: An easy intro to alternative sweeteners

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Hello hello!  This week’s Did You Know? Friday topic came from a topic in one of my classes last week that had a lot of questions!  We were talking about hot topics in carbohydrates: high fructose corn syrup, whole grains, annnnnnd alternative sweeteners.   So today, I decided to write about alternative sweeteners because I know there is a lot of misinformation out there about them. Also, don’t forget, if you have been talking about nutrition or health on your blog lately, share the wealth with the linkup below so we can all learn from you!

Ok, back to sugar talk.

Background things to know:

Simple sugars (such as glucose) are carbohydrates.  Glucose, in particular, is directly related to blood glucose.  Alternative sweeteners are not table sugar and do not contain glucose (hence the name, alternative).

Alternative Sweeteners Today:

So, alternative sweeteners have made headlines in the past few years regarding their safety.  However, many of those headlines are not backed up by solid science and a large percentage of consumers don’t know what they are.

Alternative sweeteners are alternatives to sugar, in particular, table sugar…the stuff you put in your coffee, breads, cookies.  Alternative sweeteners are chemically synthesized from amino acids, other molecules with nitrogen, or are extracted from plants.  Because they do not contain sugar or glucose, they are commonly recommended to diabetics

Also, because alternative sweeteners do not contain sugar, they contain little to no calories…which has made them very popular over the past 10-15 years for many consumers wanting to lose weight.

Here are a few fun facts about some common alternative sweeteners:

Saccharin (sweet n’ low)

  • First alternative sweetener developed
  • 300 times sweeter than sugar (sucrose)
  • Will have a bitter taste if heated too long

Aspartame (Equal)

  • Receives the most flack from media and consumers, as negative effects have been reported after consumption.
  • Synthesized from the amino acid phenylalanine.

Sucralose (Splenda)

  • 600 times sweeter than sugar
  • Doesn’t breakdown due to heat, so is optimal for baking.

Stevia

  • Extracted from plants, originated in Japan
  • Added to beverages (mainly soda) and also sold alone.

I know what a lot of you are probably asking…sooo, thanks for the info Em, but are these safe?

As all good topics in nutrition, my answer is:  it depends.

Both the FDA and the ADA (American Dietetic Association) have reviewed scientific, peer reviewed (AKA highly controlled) studies done on consumption of artificial sweeteners and have found no alarming detrimental effects for the general population consuming the recommended amount. (KEY WORD: LESS THAN OR EQUAL TO RECOMMENDED AMOUNT).  Each alternative sweetener has a recommended amount, which can be found on the FDA’s website here.

However, there have been reported symptoms such as headaches and nausea, in response to Aspartame consumption reported to the FDA.  But these have not been confirmed in scientific studies.  There also was a study in the 1970’s where rats consuming saccharin developed bladder cancer.  But honestly, that was all i found and I have spent a lot of time researching it.

Thee safety of alternative sweeteners  is an issue of moderation.  If you chronically consume over the recommended amount of alternative sweeteners, you probably are going to have some negative side effects!  Just like if you consumer over the recommended amount for vitamins and minerals…there are limits for a reason.

I also think that, like a lot of foods and additives that were introduced to our food system only in the past 20-30 years, that the long term effects can’t fully be known at this moment, it hasn’t been long enough.  Diseases and conditions sometimes take years to develop from intake, so I wouldn’t be surprised if we found out new information regarding this subject in the next 5-10 years.

If you are looking for a sweetener that isn’t table sugar, you can get it from another food source that is not an alternative sweetener that was synthesized in a lab or extracted from something else.  Foods like honey (high in fructose) and agave nectar can serve as alternative sweeteners.

My two cents: my students asked me last week if I would choose regular soda over diet soda in regards to alternative sweeteners.  My answer was this:  1) I hate the way pop (yes I call it pop) tastes 2) I would only drink pop/soda if it has real sugar in it…so that means no diet pop with artificial sweeteners, no high fructose corn syrup.  Yes, I know the research has shown consuming a small amount of alternative sweeteners is safe (so far), however, I just firmly believe in consuming foods with as minimal processing and synthesizing as possible. As always, I try really hard to give you guys the unbiased facts here on the ol’ blog, but I think it’s important for me to share my opinion’s at times given all of the blood, sweat, and tears, I put into studying the great topic of nutrition. :)

Happy Friday!  Next time I blog, I’ll be a year older!

**Sources used for this post are found in the hyperlinks!  For a few of the studies I mentioned, I could only link up with one study, but if you are interested in more good, quality sources please email me and I’d love to send the links to you!  Remember if you are linking up to use credible sources!


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

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Blue Diamond Almonds. For more Game Changing Snacks, visit Blue Diamond Almonds on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  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!