Type A at it’s finest

I had a wild weekend, let me tell you. Actually, this weekend and upcoming week are quite an adrenaline rush for a Type A planner like myself. I’ve been trying to get my ducks in a row for the move and most of my weekend was decided to just that.

Friday started with a final trip to the grocery store before the move (I’m being intentional with how much I eat out this year and I don’t want to blow that too much during my move process). I also wanted to celebrate National Love Your Pet Day (side note: Lindsay had her first article as a freelancer on that very topic!) with a trip to the dog park. (Although truth be told, that was primarily to wear him out so he wasn’t so anxious as I packed boxes later…)

Hurley bear

After BodyCombat came dinner. I’m not sure if anyone knows (although my family is well aware) how much I love ham. Love it. It almost has the effect that turkey has from tryptophan. It’s comfort food at it’s finest for me.

Anywho, I had leftover ham and decided to make a one pan chicken cordon bleu pasta. This shows you how much I’ve had chicken cordon bleu (or love ham, I suppose) — when I was making my grocery list, I honestly stopped to think, “Wait, why do I need to get chicken? I’ve got ham.”

It’d been one of those weeks, my friends.

Thankfully the dish went off without a hitch. I added more ham than the recipe called for (and probably cheese since I didn’t measure that). For the broiling part, though, I switched the pasta to a casserole dish. The handle on my pan is wobbly and I didn’t trust it in the oven on broil. Plus this gives me a better way to store my leftovers. The broiling part definitely brings the whole dish together.

chicken cordon bleu

I also made another “dish” Friday night. My bananas were starting to turn mushy so I decided to bake some banana bread. Not the normal way, though. I opted for a crock pot banana bread.

There was a moment of hesitation before I started making it, though. I’d done a quick search on pinterest for crock pot banana bread, but I probably should have included the word healthy. Not that it would have made a huge difference, though. This was super easy to whip together. I also added cinnamon and oatmeal to the top for a bit more flavor.

I’ll confess I had an unnecessary moment of concern about putting the paper towel on before the crock pot lid. I’d never done that before and since I was leaving Hurley to go to the gym, I didn’t want there to be some freak accident. Thankfully all was safe when I returned home.

I’m not sure if it was the paper towel trick or the low setting on my crock pot is just super low, but it took a bit longer to bake than I thought. I started it around 4:30 and finally unplugged the crock pot at 10 p.m. The top was still a little doughy but the rest was cooked thoroughly and tasted delicious. (The missing piece was my way of making sure it was cooked all the way through.)

banana bread

I’ve got one more crock pot recipe on the docket for this evening to round out my meals for the week. There’s no doubt that this week will be brought to you by coffee and more Type A behavior!

Intentional living space

I’ve been somewhat quiet about my word for the year, though I can assure you it’s not because I’ve forgotten about it or put it on the back burner. I’d be lame and say it’s because I’m trying to be intentional about what I post about my pursuits, but that’s not the case either.

Having to move did throw me for a loop in terms of kicking off the year. The things I thought I would get to focus on in terms of intention (time and energy were the big ones) fell to the wayside a bit. But it’s also been a perfect opportunity to be intentional about something a little different — and something I probably wouldn’t have considered otherwise. Right now I’m trying to be intentional about my living space.

Last week I took a community education class on feng shui, which was actually my second class on it with the same instructor because I find her so engaging. Plus it’s an interesting way to think about home décor and de-cluttering. One of the big points she stressed (though I’ve heard it elsewhere before) is that everything in your house should be useful, sentimental or beautiful. When I walk into my house, does it feel like home? Does it reflect me? Are there any items that spur negative emotions (the example the instructor gave is high school year books if you hated high school) that I can toss or donate?

Despite purging quite a bit last year when I moved to Lincoln, it’s ridiculous how quickly stuff can accumulate again. And thankfully this time around my level of sentimentalism (if that’s even a word) has decreased a bit since my move this time is 5 minutes instead of 5 hours. I can be more intentional about what stays and what goes. Have I actually used all my clothes, kitchen items and crafts in the last year? Am I honestly going to look through my economics or foundations of new governance notes again?

Those tend to be more rational questions, though. This time (although I’ll preface that it sounds a bit new age….) I’ve been aided by what I learned in my feng shui classes and The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up to focus on how I feel about objects. (Again, I know it sounds strange.)

As an example, though, I love my custom-built kitchen counter (hello new coffee bar!) and my entertainment center (which will likely become a new color in the next couple weeks). Those are pieces that were crafted with hard work and family, that are specific to me and what I love. You couldn’t pay me to give those things up in the move.

But there are also items that I’m not crazy about or that don’t necessarily bring out those positive emotions. That’s where I’m trying to be more intentional about sending them on their merry way.

With seemingly perfect timing, just a couple days ago someone on facebook posted a #40bagsin40days challenge. I immediately decided to embark on it to help with this process. Not only will it help me with packing and setting up my new house, but it will also help me accomplish my 30 Before 30 goal of going through my photos and computer files. The focus of just one area a day (though the next few days are about to get hectic with that), helps me take baby steps and not feel so overwhelmed with all the clutter (though it’s primarily the electronic clutter that’s driving me nuts). Just yesterday I whittled my work inbox down to nine emails. NINE!

But I digress.

I think part of the reason I was so resistant to moving is that I love what my home became. For the first time since leaving my parent’s house a decade ago, I feel like my living space finally reflects me and the things I love. But my hunch is that will happen much faster in my new home. I’ve been given another opportunity to purge and be intentional about what goes where — with more space and a sunroom!

your home

If only the long process of packing and physical moving didn’t come first…

Keeping it simple

Easy is the name of the game for the next two weeks. And probably for a few days beyond that if I’m being honest.

I gave myself a mini-break by spending the three-day weekend with the parents. Now with my move only 10 days away (and I have yet to pack a single thing…), it’s time to get down to business. Plus getting back early Monday afternoon meant I wanted to keep my trip to the grocery store super short and sweet.

For my dinner last night (and thus leftovers for the rest of the week), I tried a crock pot spinach and mushroom lasagna. It required a bit more prep work and dirty dishes than my other crock pot recipes have, but it was absolutely worth the effort.

In part because it was on sale, I used whole wheat lasagna. I also decided to use Italian ground turkey in the spaghetti sauce layer, which I think makes a great difference. Once the sauce and the ricotta/spinach layers were ready, the lasagna was easy to assemble. Plus my crock pot is almost the perfect size for lasagna noodles. The only ones I really had to trim were along the long edges.

Two hours later, I had this beauty.

crockpot lasagna

Probably because it’s smaller than the 9×13 casserole I’d normally use for lasagna, the layers were much thicker. It didn’t feel as thin and flimsy, for lack of a better word, as lasagna often seems to be when I make it (which quite honestly isn’t that often). This crock pot lasagna actually reminded me of a thick piece you’d likely get at an Italian restaurant, but made right at home.

The ricotta/spinach layer was just as delicious as the mushroom/ground turkey layer, plus it was a great way to get in extra vegetables. And all together, it was the perfect blend.

lasagna

Even the leftovers were fantastic — so much so that I don’t think I’ll have any problem eating it for the rest of the week.

Now if only I could motivate myself to start packing… Hurley’s just such a good distraction, especially since he’s so sleepy and cuddly from his weekend adventure!

Hurley

Intentional goal setting

It’s time to switch gears from recipes again for a more life chatty post.

One really great thing I’ve done for myself this year as part of my focus on intention is get a life coach. Crazy, right?! But I figure if I aspire to be one, it wouldn’t hurt to go through the process to get a better understanding of it.

The larger reason for getting one, though, was to help me be more purposeful about the direction of life. I had a lot of life changes last year, many of them fantastic. I moved so that I’m much closer to family, I’ve got a fantastic furbaby, I’m finally in a house instead of an apartment, and in some ways I have the dream job I’d been working toward for six years. And yet I couldn’t help but think, “Now what?” It’s hard to be intentional about how you spend your time, money and energy when you don’t really know what’s next or what you’re working toward.

It’s a question that’s led to many interesting conversations. I’ve been so fortunate to find the life coach that I have. Typically sessions are supposed to be 45 minutes long, and I have yet to have one that’s less than an hour because of our rich discussions. We’re so similar in personalities (further confirming for me that becoming a life coach is a goal of mine) that she keeps imparting this advice to me — it’s okay to be comfortable and content for awhile. It’s something that’s taken her years to learn because, like me, she always felt like she needed to be working toward something bigger and better.

The most recent conversation was about those larger goals. I’m better learning to distinguish between what I actually want and what I wish I wanted. Do I want to be a mover and shaker in the community because it’s something I really aspire to, or in reality, would working toward that goal just exhaust me as an introvert with a relatively full plate already? Sometimes I have to recognize and accept that those goals are better suited for other people.

Earlier this week Liz Gilbert (who you all know I love) published an article almost about this very thing but with a slightly different take on it. Instead of striving to be perfect, we should accept that we’re going to stumble and fall. But it was this paragraph in particular that resonated most with me:

Let’s just anticipate that we (all of us) will disappoint ourselves somehow. Go ahead and let it happen. Let somebody else be a better mother than you for one afternoon. Let somebody else go to art school. Let somebody else have a happy marriage, while you foolishly pick the wrong guy. (Hell, I’ve done it; it’s survivable.) While you’re at it, take the wrong job. Move to the wrong city. Lose your temper in front of the boss, quit training for that marathon, wolf down a truckload of cupcakes the day after you start your diet. Blow it all catastrophically, in fact, and then start over with good cheer. This is what we all must learn to do, for this is how maps get charted — by taking wrong turns that lead to surprising passageways that open into spectacularly unexpected new worlds. So just march on.

That’s exactly what my life coach is trying to teach me. Let others take on those roles and goals (the ones that I just wish I wanted) instead of me. Or in the plain words of the little, “you do you, booboo.”

It’s hard not to feel a bit of jealousy when you see others around you aspiring to great goals — training for half marathons, joining a board of directors, purchasing a house, starting a business. And it’s hard not to be inspired by their energy and want to jump on that band wagon.

My life coach’s advice? Let them do their thing. Be excited for them, but don’t force that upon yourself unless it’s a craving you have for your life, too. It also helps to recognize that perhaps the person training for a half marathon has had this goal for years. Or it may signify something big in their life, a battle that they’ve overcome. I shouldn’t force myself to train for a half marathon just because others view that as a measure of success for themselves.

All of this is easier said than done, of course, but I’m making much better strides at looking at my goals and being honest about what I want to pursue and what’s perhaps not suited for me. Not only that, but I’m less likely to beat myself up for not having those goals for myself as well. It may seem like common sense, but it’s taking some great life coaching to be a more natural acceptance for me — finally!

Perfect timing

This weekend proved to be quite a contrast to the last, and the gorgeous weather definitely put a spring in my step. Despite the 60-degree weather, though, I couldn’t resist pulling out the crock pot for a new dinner recipe.

Before taking Hurley out on a second walk (it’s my attempt to counter the effects of him being cooped up last week thanks to the 13 inches of snow), I started a skinny slow cooker chicken pot pie recipe. It’s one of my favorite perks of crock pot recipes — quick prep and then it just sits there for a couple hours. I actually used some of that time to make healthy banana bread baked oatmeal.

It didn’t take long to mix everything together for the baked oatmeal either (and there was next to no mess since it doesn’t require any flour or sugar!). I did end up adding in the 1/4 cup of maple syrup that the directions suggested as well as a sprinkle of brown sugar. While I love oats, I also wanted some sweet to it as well.

oatmeal

I thought the consistency would be similar to a banana bread, and in some ways it is. It almost reminds me moreso of those Quaker oatmeal bars, which I think will make for a perfect mid-morning snack this week. And I’m definitely glad I added in the maple syrup.

As the oatmeal bake was cooling, I put the frozen vegetables in the crock pot to finish up the pot pie recipe. Already I felt like this was much more successful than my actual chicken pot pie from a couple years ago — and not just because the portion size was more manageable. Having shredded chicken somehow made it better, and I was relieve to find that using almond milk instead of skim didn’t impact it at all (turns out almond milk doesn’t work well with pudding mixes…).

chicken pot pie

The timing was also nice since I pulled the banana oatmeal bake out of the oven just a few minutes before it was time to put in the biscuits. It’s probably better to have biscuits as opposed to a crust…except I bought two rolls so I can have fresh biscuits later in the week for leftovers. I can’t help that it’s my favorite part!

pot pie and biscuits

I may have to experiment with different seasonings and maybe crumbling the biscuit on top, but on the whole I loved it. The veggies were crisp and it had a thick consistency that reminded me of chicken and dumplings, obviously minus the dumplings. This crock pot dish was absolutely the way to go this evening. Perfect for a winter day, even when that day feels like spring. Not that this girl is complaining…

Twists on comfort food

It wasn’t until I started writing this post that I realized my recipes as of late are dishes that put a new spin on what I consider comfort food.

To kick off my weekend, on Friday night I made a one pot BBQ cheesy pasta. The primary change I made to the recipe is that instead of using a mac and cheese dinner box, I used veggie elbow pasta and shredded sharp cheddar cheese. It was really easy to whip together, and making it in one pot makes the prep and clean-up process so much easier.

I didn’t get a photo of it the night I made it since that’s when I launched my technology free weekend, but I don’t know that a photo would have done it justice anyway. The leftovers, while not as creamy as the initial batch, were still delicious.

bbq cheesy pasta

Last night I tried a crock pot Italian zucchini meatloaf. I made a couple modifications based on previous meatloaf recipes I’ve tried — primarily adding in mushrooms and also onions. And I only used 1.5 pounds of ground beef instead of 2 so I could save the other half pound for my recipe the following night. I’d actually been hoping to use ground turkey instead, but

What was great about this recipe is that I was able to use the extra zucchini as a side dish. Truth be told, I barely noticed the zucchini in the meatloaf (although I actually chopped mine up instead of doing the slices that the recipe called for). The Italian approach was unique and I think having mushrooms in it enhanced that flavor a bit. Thinking back on it, it almost tasted like big Italian meatballs.

meatloaf

I brought the crock pot out again tonight (because who doesn’t want something comforting after dealing with another 6 inches of snow?). This time I decided to try a crock pot pizza, though it’s a bit unique in that it doesn’t really have a crust. It was almost like preparing a lasagna with the various layers. My toppings were pretty similar to what was recommended in the recipe — artichokes, turkey pepperoni, black olives and mushrooms.

What was also nice is I was able to throw some of those toppings into my salad. It’s the first time I think I’ve used artichoke hearts into a salad, but I’m definitely a fan. The meal was just the right combination.

Pizza

The crock pot pizza really hit the spot. I’m half tempted to try it with a layer of pasta at the bottom, if only to soak up a bit more of the sauce. It would make it a less carb-friendly recipe, but that wasn’t my initial pull toward the recipe anyway. Comfort food in a crock pot — you really can’t go wrong!

Technology bust

I picked probably one of the worst weekends to go technology free. What I thought would be a relaxing experience ended with me angrily throwing in the towel and cursing the entire situation (namely my stubbornness and stupidity). But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Last Wednesday I decided I was going to unplug for the weekend. Part of me wanted to be able to cross it off my 30 Before 30 List, but mostly I was looking forward to a break. My brain was on professional and personal overload for most of January, and I hated that I felt so glued to my phone and laptop between the whole house-hunting process and deadlines at work. A break from all the screens and keyboards is just what I needed.

(I should mention that while I went technology free, I still used my Roku to stream movies and Pandora. Primarily I wanted to get away from the constant information overload the false sense of productivity I typically get just for keeping up with emails. Plus the thought of not having any music or noise in the house for an entire weekend creeped me out a bit.)

At 5:40 p.m. on Friday, I shut my phone off and shoved it into a drawer. And up until about Saturday afternoon, I felt really great about not using that or my computer. I didn’t feel as rushed and suddenly my to-do list seemed a lot smaller since I couldn’t use my laptop. Time that would have been spent on pinterest was instead spent reading with Hurley curled up right next to me. Even playing with Hurley was better since I wasn’t texting or refreshing my facebook feed in the other hand.

But imagine my surprise when it started snowing around 9:30 on Saturday morning and by 3 p.m. was still going. Last I’d checked my weather app, there was only a small chance of snow flurries on Sunday. Imagine my bigger surprise when the cashier at HyVee later that afternoon said we were supposed to get 4-5 inches.

Sure enough, I woke up to 7.5 inches of wet, heavy snow on Sunday morning. I dug myself out (slowly and painfully) with plenty of time to get ready for BodyCombat. And that’s when I lost it.

After braving the slick streets, I got to the gym only to find out all classes had been cancelled — except for a special two-hour BodyCombat session being held so two new instructors could tape a class for their certification process. Naturally that was wrapping up in 30 minutes. It goes without saying that I wasn’t amused as the gym manager told me all of this. “Didn’t you get the email or see our update on facebook?”

Under normal circumstances, yes, I would have. I would have been at the two hour class. Or I would have nixed it entirely had I known how crappy the roads and weather were. But I wasn’t about to go into my whole “I’m technology free this weekend!” spiel with this poor guy. At that moment, I’d had enough.

In the end, I did make it a full 48 hours without a computer and I was just a few hours shy of reaching that point with my phone. But at what cost?

It’s one thing to take a break from the constant consumption. That part I didn’t mind. What I didn’t like, though, was feeling in the dark when it came to my safety and schedule. The power went off twice on Saturday night. We were in a winter storm warning and then a wind advisory. The interstate was closed, meaning the middle’s volleyball tournament in Omaha was cancelled. And I knew none of this because I wouldn’t let myself cave and turn on my damn phone. In this particular instance, ignorance was not bliss. It was annoying frustrating and, frankly, just not smart.

Perhaps once the weather and crappy roads aren’t a thorn in my side (which probably won’t be until next weekend…) I won’t feel as bitter about my technology free weekend experience. I mean, the first part of the weekend was quite successful. It was nice to prioritize my time and attention in a different way (which I know Hurley loved). There was certainly some value in unplugging and giving myself that break.

If nothing else, I’ve learned a valuable lesson (don’t screw with Nebraska winter weather) while gaining insights about how I use technology in my everyday life. I feel better knowing that, at least with my phone, it’s moreso about meal planning, grocery shopping lists, checking weather and making plans with people. The time suck that is my laptop could use some work, but I know that’s something I can be more intentional about this year.

For now, though, I’m off to use the wonderful thing that is technology to see if my spin class is still going to be held tonight. Imagine that!

Mexican food mash-up

I don’t know what prompted my hankering for Mexican food given I (over)indulged in my favorite fajitas while I was in Columbia this past weekend. It certainly made grocery shopping and meal prep simpler, though, to have back-to-back Mexican dishes. Plus with the abnormally nice weather, I felt less inclined to make soups and comfort food (though that could be changing in the next few days…).

Monday night I combined two recipes. Or more accurately, I turned the cilantro-lime ranch burrito bowl into the burrito salad from Chipotle. That only came about because I’m not a huge fan of ranch so I pulled up a copycat recipe for Chipotle’s salad dressing. I’ve never had the dressing from Chipotle before, but I figured some type of dressing would make it different from my typical burrito bowls.

It took a bit longer to bring everything together (primarily because I was also chopping for my meal the next night), but I loved all the color and flavor. Very worth the effort. I did opt for red beans instead of black, and I’ve been putting banana peppers on everything it seems. De-licious!

Burrito salad

Even as leftovers, the salad burrito bowl kept its flavor and crispness. I’d definitely make this part of my rotation, particularly in the summer when homemade salsa is a staple.

The following night I pulled out my trusty crockpot to make cheesy enchilada quinoa. This was incredibly easy to throw together, and no modifications necessary. Plus the leftovers were just as delicious, if not better — particularly since I’d sprinkled sharp cheddar cheese on top. I also added some tortilla strips as well to give it some crunch.

quinoa enchilada

Tonight I finally did need a break from all the Mexican food I’ve been indulging in, but thankfully there aren’t many leftovers remaining. Time to start plotting my new dishes for next week!

Sweet and spicy

This week I think my subconscious goal was to go for dishes that packed flavor — and rather opposite ones at that.

Monday night I decided to try a sweet Hawaiian crock pot chicken recipe. I’ve eyed similar recipes that incorporated pineapple with baked chicken, so I knew I’d be adding that for a bit more flavor (plus I just love pineapple). And I think everyone knows how I’ve been feeling about crockpot dishes lately.

I must have gone overboard with some of the liquids (pineapple juice, to be specific) since my sauce wasn’t quite as thick. When I added in the pineapple, I also threw in corn starch in hopes of thickening it up a bit. No such luck, but it didn’t phase me too much – especially for the leftovers. I’d also added red pepper flakes, and next time I might add honey as well. Perhaps that would thicken up the sauce a bit (as would not using so much pineapple juice, Liz…).

Hawaiian chicken

Later in the week I opted for spaghetti squash buffalo chicken. Although I started with this recipe in mind, I ended up creating my own dish just based on what I had on hand already.

I wasn’t really in the mood for chicken given how much I’d had of the Hawaiian chicken, so instead I used ground turkey. That was cooked with garlic and red pepper flakes before I added in Frank’s hot sauce to simmer. I mixed that in with the spaghetti squash, threw on some green onions and viola!

spaghetti squash

At first it was strange adapting to the texture given I’ve only had buffalo sauce with chicken, so ground turkey and spaghetti squash took some adjusting. But it was delicious nonetheless, and I almost think I prefer the ground turkey. By the end of the meal, my nose was running. It packs just enough heat but I think the squash almost keeps the fire at bay.

It’s hard to believe there was a time that I wasn’t sold on spaghetti squash and crockpot recipes!

Thankful Thursday #16

Life has been a whirlwind, let me tell you.

Almost two weeks ago, I got an email out of the blue that my landlord and his wife wanted to move back into the house I’m renting, ideally when my lease ends in mid-March. Considering I’d been planning to renew the lease, I don’t think shock could even begin to describe my reaction (and thank goodness I was with the middle when I got the news…).

Panic set in pretty quickly. Will I be able to find a rental that allows a large dog? Is wanting a house with a fenced-in backyard too much to ask? Can I find it within a month? Is buying a house even an option, financially (and also emotionally) within such a short time frame?

As a Type A control freak, my mind was on overload. I was constantly scouring countless websites and driving myself crazy with pro-con lists and budgets.

But today I’m thankful for a couple of things.

One, I could not be more grateful for the support I received right off the bat. Two of my co-workers offered up their basements for me and Hurley, and a handful of people sent me contact information for realtors and put feelers out with people they knew had rental properties. The number of times people said “we will find you something” made me feel like I wasn’t navigating this on my own (and that they’ve grown fond of me in the 10 months I’ve been there). And I don’t even want to count the number of emails/texts the middle fielded with links and “thoughts on this??” questions.

The second thing I’m grateful for, though, is that tonight I signed a lease for a new rental house. It’s slightly bigger than the house I’m in now with even more character and charm (the middle swooned, so I figured I probably couldn’t go wrong with it). And my new landlord is going to put in a fence for Hurley. That, among other things, means it meets nearly all my criteria. How lucky am I?!

And through it all, I’m even more in love with my dog (if that was even possible…). It definitely created a pretty large barrier having to find a place that would take a 65-pound (but housebroken and well trained) dog. But wherever I go, Hurley Bear goes. That’s a non-negotiable in my book. I love being this furbaby’s mama.

2014-12-25 12.19.49-1

I’m not looking forward to the actual packing and moving part (especially considering I was just doing this a year ago and love my current place) but I’m incredibly thankful it all worked out — and relatively quickly, too! Besides, home is where your dog is, right?

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