Tuesday, June 8, 2010

My Life List (part the first)

When I first read Maggie Mason's Mighty List project, I was intrigued. Her theory is that the act of writing such a list is in and of itself transformative and secondly, if you put what makes you happy on the list, then doing the items on your list will contribute to a happier life. It's basically a bucket list, but without the whole "kicking the bucket" aspect - something which I, a detester of "over the hill" parties and the like - certainly appreciated.

I played around a bit with some of the things that I would put on my own list, making vague notes here and there, and when she finally posted this, I was inspired enough to write my own.

So without further ado, here is the first part of my own Life List...I plan on blogging about the good stuff (which, because of its virtue of being a Life List, is all of it.)

  1. Read the entire Bible - CHECK
  2. Visit five Colorado landmarks (Royal Gorge, Dinosaur National Park, etc)
  3. Take the train to Glenwood Springs
  4. Taste 100 cocktails
  5. Climb a 14er - CHECK
  6. Visit ten Colorado museums
  7. Visit ten national museums
  8. Scrapbook my Life List
  9. Sew something that I actually wear
  10. Visit Hadrians Wall
  11. Eat pho in Saigon
  12. Cook my way through an entire cookbook
  13. Visit all 50 states (continuing from where I am at now)
  14. Design and create a font
  15. Go on a girls-only trip with my best girlfriends - CHECK
  16. Taste 100 unique desserts
  17. Attend a taping of The Daily Show or the Colbert Report
  18. Write my freakin' book
  19. Go a full week eating all my food made from scratch (by me)
  20. If it isn't beautiful or useful, get it out of my house
  21. Submit a funny picture to I Can Haz Cheeseburger
  22. Host a really swanky dinner party
  23. Read the Big Read 100 books as ranked by the BBC
  24. Leave a secret in a Post Secret book
  25. Get a tattoo to honor my heart donor
  26. See the glaciers in Patagonia before they disappear
  27. Read Entertainment Weekly's list of new classics
  28. Dine at the French Laundry
  29. Learn how to alter/tailor my own clothes
  30. Grow my hair to my waist - CHECK
  31. Volunteer for Meals on Wheels
  32. Learn how to knit and make scarves and handwarmers - CHECK
  33. Learn how to use my DSLR on its manual settings
  34. Get in the habit of grand loving gestures
  35. Create family archive scrapbooks
  36. Get paid to write

There you go! The first 36!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Going Back

This week I had my annual heart transplant tests - a right heart cath, a left heart cath (aka, I believe, an angiogram), an echo, a VO2 max treadmill stress test and a kabillion labs. The only thing missing from this day of fun was a biopsy, aka the rejection test. Unbeknownst to me, the clinic has stopped doing biopsies for everyone over two years out providing that 1) you are not presenting any rejection symptoms, 2) there have been no med changes, and 3) you have a good history. So no neck poke. Hooray!

Annual test day, in a word, is tough. The tests span two opposite ends of the spectrum - running on a treadmill with snorkel gear in your kisser to flat on your back, stoned on the "juice," and keeping your leg still for four hours. And in between, there are EKGs (at least two), blood draws, IV insertion (three attempts this year) and multiple exposures of any and all body parts. Including the ones that have nothing to do at all with your heart. AT ALL.

I can't help think when I'm doing all this that for 3 1/2 months - and really for the first two years post transplant - that this was my life. I'd automatically extend an arm to a nurse for a draw, it was second nature to rattle off my extensive drug list (including dosages) and I could give you a medical history so fast and complete it would make your head spin.

And I can still do those things (and did) but these year was different. This year, I RAN on my treadmill test for almost a minute - at an 18% grade. That is like running up Mount Massive (okay, for a minute, but still!) I exceeded my age potential by 103% - most heart transplants, due to our physiological differences, don't get to 75%. When I commented that I'd been doing interval training, the doctor warned, "but the test has an incline." To which I responded, "yeah, when I'm not doing intervals, I'm nearly at the machine's incline potential." 'Nuff said.

This year, the number one question was if "I'd gone back to work yet." There were actual looks of surprise when I answered, "Um, yeah...I've been working since five months post-transplant. And yes, I am back full-time. More than full-time some days."

And when the X-ray technician asked me if I "was a good walker" for one second, I wanted to throw that 103% in her face and then sprint to the machine, although despite the fact that I am a GREAT walker, I would've fallen on my doped up ass.

And then I remember that I could've run into the hospital straight from an Ironman competition and that wouldn't change a thing. To them I am a patient, the girl who survived one of the last of the old school bi-VADs, the girl who had her blood replaced three times in twelve hours, the girl who could barely walk when she left the hospital. And I was all those things - without those things, I wouldn't be who I am now. I am so grateful for that experience which gave me my life.

So even if the hospital never sees me as more than my patient number, I know that I am the woman who hiked nine miles in one afternoon on the Colorado trail, who indeed works a full schedule (plus extracurriculars), who dreamed of scrapbooking (literally) while on the cath table instead of grilling the doctors and happily left with her wonderful husband late Tuesday night to go her home with her pets - back to this incredible life.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Best Peanut Butter Cookies Ever

Right now...
  1. Go into your kitchen. Preheat your oven to 350 F.
  2. Using a stand mixer, mix 1 cup of commercial peanut butter with 1 cup of brown sugar, 1/3 cup of white sugar, 1 egg, 2 tablespoons of vanilla and a pinch of kosher salt together until combined. Add some orange zest if you are feeling springy.
  3. Using a little ice cream scoop (or a spoon), form into balls. Place on a parchment paper lined sheet pan. Resist the temptation to smash them down. They spread a little so leave some room between them. Top each cookie with a little chunk of bittersweet chocolate. Sprinkle some kosher salt (or sea salt) over the pan.
  4. Bake for about 12-15 minutes in the oven to cook the egg and to set.
  5. Let them cook on the cookie sheet for about 5 minutes before removing to a rack.
  6. Try not to eat them all in one sitting.
These would make a great hiking cookie. And they make an excellent scrapbooking cookie.

Recipe taken from the Amateur Gourmet and tested by me on Friday. It is originally a Paula Dean recipe. Who knew she could make something without butter?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Italian Chicken Sandwich

I am one of those people that takes their camera everywhere. It is always in my purse. So why can't I remember to take pictures! I decided to blog this yesterday - after we'd eaten and cleaned up - hence I only have one picture.

For some reason, this dinner reminded me of my dad. I don't think he's ever made it for me, but it just struck me as something that he *would* make. So I am officially claiming this is "Dad Inspired Cuisine."

Italian(ish) Chicken Sandwiches

- 1 pound of chicken breasts (you could make with less if you want to be more frugal)
- 1 zucchini, diced
- 1 red pepper, diced
- 1/2 medium onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 14 oz can of crushed tomatoes
- Dried basil and oregano
- Fennel seeds (these totally make the dish!)
- Rolls
- Parmesan or Romano cheese

In a skillet, saute the zucchini, red pepper, onion and garlic until everything is soft and the onion is translucent. Add a generous sprinkle of the fennel seeds and cook for a about a minute longer. Transfer to a plate. In the same skillet, add the chicken and saute until cooked through. Return the vegetables to the skillet, add the tomatoes and add a generous sprinkle of the basil and oregano. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer until you've got all the rest of your dinner ready. Serve on the toasted buns topped with the cheese.

This dish is extremely customizable based on your dietary needs. As it stands, it is fairly low fat. For a low sodium version, use unsalted tomatoes, don't season with the salt and pepper, top with fresh mozzarella and serve over pasta cooked in plain water. If you aren't a fan of the veggies, swap them out with veggies you do like (eggplant would be great in this as would mushrooms.) And it is fast for a busy weeknight.

Anyway, thanks for the inspiration, Dad!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A Little Bit Obsessed

You know it's bad when the fabric lady at Hobby Lobby says "another bag?"
Fabric: Hobby Lobby
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Monday, January 25, 2010

Monday Monday

Another confession time and this time not about Twilight. I actually like Mondays. Not a huge revelation to be sure, but common wisdom dictates that I should hate them. Despise them even.

Not so here. Mondays, while even though they mean I have to go back to work, also represent a fresh start, a chance to hit the re-do button on my chore list and everything, at least right now, is organized and ready to go. I also have FIVE full days to get all my stuff done. It's never a good realization when it's Thursday and you still have miles to go before finishing your week's work.

So there you have it. Mondays rock! Tuesdays...now that is a totally different story.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Friday Link Roundup

An eclectic collection of links this week...
  • When I was in elementary school, I had two favorite educational films. One featured all sorts of things magnified into futuristic landscapes using an electron microscope and the other was super slow-mo film capturing various things like bullets being fired through an apple. This collection of high speed photographs clearly invokes the latter. Super sweet.
  • From the "who knew?" category: The World Beard and Mustache Championships
  • The best response I read to Clay Shirky's sexist rant against women. I am putting out the best response - not the link to Shirky's essay. If you want to read that drivel, you can find the link there.
  • The funniest thing I saw all week, hands down. Oh Stephen, is there nothing you won't do?
Happy weekend!

Thursday, January 21, 2010


(this is Thursday's post, but Vimeo was slow to upload and convert last night so here it is today...)
  • Surprised a co-worker
  • Had dinner with my girl (fab enchiladas, Liz!)
  • Bemoaned the fact that peanuts are not actually nuts (criminal, I say!)
  • Cleaned up cat pee
  • Wore a new pair of boots
  • Walked in an alto and out a soprano
And solved this mystery...

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

In Progress

A messenger bag

Learning how to create argyle. Still not quite there yet.

Commemorating an excellent vacation

Creating music files

And figuring out how my dog trapped herself in the forbidden living room - ALL DAY - while leaving all the baby gates perfectly intact. Hrm....

Monday, January 18, 2010

Twilight v. The Bear

This post is treading on ground that some might hold near and dear...but it is all about keepin' it real, so,

Internet, I confess that I just can't get into Twilight; however, if I am honest, I should preface this by saying that I was starting reluctantly as I am not a fan of vampire stories in any media form, but had received several glowing recommendations with most noting that Twilight wasn't really a vampire story and besides, I needed something light since I had just finished this...
The outstretched neck she clove asunder, and the hewn head fell like a stone. Backward she sprang as the huge shape crashed to ruin, vast wings outspread, crumpled on the earth; and with its fall the shadow passed away. - Return of the King, JRR Tolkien
and going from that to...
The meadow, so spectacular to me at first, paled next to his magnificence. - Twilight by Stephanie Meyers
was jarring and boring (I hate to say it), but since I wanted to give Twilight a fair shake, I put it down to read, at the request of a friend, The Bear by William Faulkner all the while expecting, to be honest, to hate it and harboring the hope that that perhaps I could alternate the heavier reading with Twilight remembering that

I had avoided Faulkner like the plague in college although I think now, that I was confusing him with James Joyce, but even so, I'd heard that there was a sentence, one sentence, that was SIX pages long, but I hardly even noticed, so riveted I was by the startlingly deep beauty of the prose, the feeling that I am alongside this deeply involving drama that isn't just about a hunt for a bear, but the hunt for a past and redemption that isn't easily forthcoming and by the time I hit the climax of the hunting scene, I found myself reading faster to pace with my breath and my heart was pounding when I put the book down...now that's some good writing:
He watched it for the next two years from that moment when Boon touched Lion's head and then knelt beside him, feeling the bones and muscle, the power. It was as if Lion were a woman - or perhaps Boon was the woman. That was more like it-the big, grave, sleepy-seeming dog which, as Sam Fathers said, cared about no man and no thing; and the violent, insenstive, hard-faced man with his touch of remote Indian blood and the mind almost of a child.
I think Twilight's going to have a wait a little bit longer.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Friday Link Roundup

A collection of some of of the things this week that inspired me...

- Haiti earthquake relief from Compassion International
- Remembering the wonderful times my family used to have on our trips to Helena, thanks to this beautiful post on my dad's blog
- A summoning spell for your lost cameras (do it now before you lose it!)
- Holy crumb. I need some apples - this cake is on the list for the weekend.
- Now that we own this, some serious discipline is going to be needed if we are going to get anything done this weekend.

Have a great weekend and thanks for joining me for another week of posts!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Hello, Adorable

A missed day of blogging means a new treasure for my closet!

This year, I am trying several different tacts to stave off the yearly blues that the dead of winter can commonly bring. My first strategy was to hit the mall with some Christmas money and my sister. New clothes certainly do help.

Another strategy is to create. The spring and summer are a veritable storm of natural creation. There is green and sunlight, gardens and abundance. So, I decided to make winter the season of my own creation. Creating is even better in color.

Hence, this little treasure...

Pattern: Phoebe Bag
Fabric: Hobby Lobby

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Good Day

Why today was good...
  • Wearing a skirt in the middle of January
  • Finding my favorite hoodies on sale at Target for $3.75. Serious score.
  • Carrot cake
  • For the first time, not having to drive to a production committee meeting
  • My new boots
  • Organized fabric
  • Seeing my friends
  • Stalking Lisa with emails
  • Laughing with Chris
  • ...did I mention carrot cake?
Hope your day was good as well!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Handling Winter Just Got A Little Easier

(And yes, both the boots and the cute puppy face)
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Friday, January 8, 2010

Friday Link Round Up

I don't know if anyone else's week has been exceptionally long, but mine has. Whew. So yippee for Friday. Especially because tomorrow is the Lafayette Oatmeal Festival - where I plan on consuming my weight in oatmeal - and also a much-anticipated Sister's Day.

So to celebrate the close of another week, here are some links that I found inspiring or moving in some way. Enjoy!
Have a great weekend!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Mashed Potatoes for Another Night

No lists today! How will I write?

If you haven't noticed, I've been posting a lot lately. I may or may not be trying to post every week day in January. Maybe. Okay, yes. I am. But no pressure. So let's all just be cool.

So I've been on this writing tear - every night a great topic (at least to me) and then it strikes! On the fourth night in? Writer's block! Yay! Well, that's why I'm doing this - the best practice for writing is writing so I'm just writing and hopefully it won't suck.

Blog writing for me is the thrill of writing on the fly. I just sit down with my topic (hopefully!) and write. I do revise and sometimes will even go back and rework a post months later, but it's relatively unpolished.

I do a lot of writing for work - mostly standard corporate writing - letters, reports, and marketing and promotional materials. It's one of the best parts of my job. It's writing that is the exact opposite of my blog - revised, carefully wordsmithed and refined. The kind where I can take ten minutes to find the perfect adjective.

But like this post? This one is just to get the words on the page. A meta-post on writing so that I can practice. So bear with me...this started as a post on mashed potatoes and look where my words took me.

See? That's the thrill of writing.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

First World Gratitude

Back on Thanksgiving, I published a list of 50 things for which I am grateful. I struggled with 50 and decided to stop at 25, but the more I listed the more I was able find. But while it is great to be thankful for caramel macchiatos, I decided to take my gratitude back to the basics.

I am grateful that...
  • I can walk my dog in open spaces without being afraid or even thinking about land mines.
  • I can speak my mind without fear of being thrown into prison.
  • I have access to clean, fresh water anytime I want by turning a faucet.
  • I can choose and switch my own religion without fear of my family wanting to kill me.
  • I survived to be an adult protected against life-threatening diseases like polio.
  • I can go outside of my house with my head and legs uncovered without my husband, father or brother as a chaperone.
  • I never needed to fear the "rite" of genital mutilation.
America isn't perfect by any means and I am grateful to live here for more than the above reasons, but let's face it, the world is full of suck. The following are links to the some of the above issues if you are compelled to learn more to help reduce it.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Best Books of 2009 (part two)

Part Two! Let's get right to it, shall we?

Best Classic
- Beowulf: Okay, I sort of cheated and read David Wright's prose translation instead of the poem, but nonetheless, I was hooked from the first "chapter." Plus there are some great footnotes with plenty of historical information and context. Such heroism! Such drama!

Most Disappointing Book
- Life of Pi by Yann Martel: This book was beautifully written so no quibbles there, but I think maybe I missed all the allegory and symbolism that is supposed to be there. Anyone who has read it out there? Maybe you can clue me in.

Best Series
- Harry Potter by JK Rowling: Holy cow. I'm afraid few years will be able to beat 2009 in the book department. It was the year I caved and read the entire series - nonstop. I went from "meh, the movies are pretty cool" to "OMG I CAN'T BELIEVE THEY DIDN'T INCLUDE [insert trivial point here] IN THE MOVIE!" Yes, I turned into a giant Harry Potter nerd. The kind that can quote, discuss and now scours the internet for spoilers on anything. Anything! I loved the depth of the characters and the cleverness of the writing. Total fan girl.

Best Book of the Year - A Tie!
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling: A complex satisfying ending to a great series (see above).

- Return of the King by JR Tolkien: Oh, the joy of following The Deathly Hallows with Return of the King. I found myself re-reading over and out loud sections to my poor husband. Lovely character drama and heart-pounding battles made this another satisfying end to a marvelous series. And the scene with Eowyn (you know the one) - killer.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Best Books of 2009 (part one)

In 2008, my new year's resolution was to read a book per month. I know that doesn't sound like much, but at the time, I was reading about two books per year. To my surprise and delight, I actually kept that resolution. In 2009, I upped the ante to 24 books - and, on New Year's Eve, I finished book #25.

To keep it interesting,I follow a loose pattern of reading a fiction book, a non-fiction book and a "classic" - because I have multiple books going at once there is much overlap in the order as well as overlap in the genres (classic is usually fiction too), but it works to keep me from getting into a rut.

So without further ado, the (first part) of the Best Books of 2009.

The Best Non-Fiction Book
- Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan: A politically charged manifesto on how our food gets to our table. I seriously changed my eating/food purchasing habits after reading this book to include taking part in a CSA as well as stopping my consumption of commercially processed beef.

Honorable Mentions: A Year of Living Biblically by AJ Jacobs and Elements of Cooking by the passionate Michael Ruhlmann (if you love from-scratch cooking, then Ruhlman's blog is a must)

Best Blog-to-Book
- The Daily Coyote: A Story of Love, Survival and Trust in the Wilds of Wyoming by Shreve Stockton: A rare book from a blogger that isn't just a compilation of blog entries. Instead, the book is a full narrative of the story of a woman and her coyote - all against a blazingly beautiful Wyoming backdrop.

Honorable Mention: Rockabye: From Wild to Child by Rebecca Woolf. I think this may have been one of those blog-entry-compilations, but since I was a recent convert to her blog, it was all new to me.

Best Non-Fiction Subject Matter with the Worst Writing
- The End of a America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot by Naomi Wolf: The subject matter detailing steps from democracy to fascism is provocative, relevant and scary. Everyone should know what this book says. It's a shame that the writing presented only statements backed up by sources in a series of footnotes. I struggled to finish even though I was anxious to know the ending.

Funniest Book
- Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris: Simply the funniest book I'd read in a long time teaching me the valuable lesson that exercise and belly laughing don't necessarily work at the same time. The first part about Sedaris's youth and drug use is pretty raw, but second part describing Sedaris's adventures to learn French in France with his longtime partner is hilarious.

Next up...Most Disappointing, Best Classic, Best Series and Best Book of the Year!

Friday, January 1, 2010

2009 in Images

Happy New Year!

For us, 2009 was a year of many changes - most good (but expensive) and some not so good. But we persevered and here we are!

The highs of 2009 were plentiful.
  • Buying our first home together. We love our new home with our small living room and ginormous kitchen. We love the challenge of making this place our own.
  • Stable and steady jobs for both us this year.
  • Welcoming Jeely, our rescue mutt, into our home. She could possibly be the Happiest Dog Alive(tm) as that tail rarely doesn't wag.
  • A rainy lush summer that triggered a love for all things green in our beautiful yard.
  • Singing together for the first time in the same choir and having it bring us closer together.
The lows? Nah. We're making a fresh start here with a new year. Never mind the lows.

Below are some of the images from 2009 gathered into a slide show. What's missing from this slide show are any images from my choirs which represent a huge part of my life. It is tough to sing and photograph yourself at the same time. So choirs, next year expect to see that camera!

Happy 2010 and thank you all for being a part of our lives.

2009 in Images from Txgrrl on Vimeo.

(Soundtrack is "The Aspidistra Files" by Stars. Video works better with HD off)