Friday, September 12, 2008

when the eyes look tired

Yesterday, at about eight-thirty p.m., I was just wrapping up my work day (the longest and worst of the week), when one of my co-workers said "you look tired, your eyes are very red". When I heard that all I wanted to do was run home and go to bed. The work-week was the worst in a long time. Very busy and not nearly enough coffee to keep it all going at a hundred-miles per minute.
However, I did get a wonderful mid-week break on Tuesday night, Ryan surprised me by "kidnapping" me in the parking lot and driving me to Governor Dodge where we hiked up an outcropping of rocks that we are particularly fond of, to enjoy the sunset and a picnic dinner - which he had made, planned, and packed all by himself! So I am going to brag about it - turkey-tomato-and anaheim pepper whole-wheat sandwiches, with grape tomatoes freshly picked from the garden, and capri sun to drink! I love my husband dearly. More so when he does things like this :) He even brought me a change of clothes and the appropriate hiking shoes. :) :) It was a welcome break in an otherwise blurry, stressful week. Here is a picture of the sunset that we got to enjoy:

Today is Friday, and I am looking forward to a nice weekend. We are waking up early in the morning, packing up the dogs, some "road-food", and driving to central Illinois for the weekend, to attend Ryan's cousin's baby-shower. It is sure to be a fun but hectic trip, as it usually turns out to be when we travel with the doggies. But it will be great spending time with family! It will also allow me to engage in some rather strange "road-trip-only" behaviors, for example: eating Flamin' Hot Cheetos. This particular food has been a Ryan-Niha road-trip tradition ever since we met. Don't even remember how it started!

Well, I better get to bed soon.

We leave at daybreak!
(I have always wanted to say that)

Sunday, September 7, 2008

the first Sunday in Fall

Fall is almost here. I know this because of two things: 1) there are some trees down the street from our house starting to get the slightest tinges of yellow, and 2) the crab-apple tree in our backyard, burdened with the weight of hundreds of tiny green apples, now ripe for the picking. So guess what we spent most of today doing! If you were thinking "pie", that's right. I woke up bright and early, and took a few minutes before getting dressed for church to find an apple pie recipe. In the mode of reaching for the stars, I thought I'd try the Emeril Lagasse pie crust recipe too. Ryan had already picked about an armload full of apples earlier in the week. When we got home from church, we were on a mission to make pie. And Ryan helped! I was so excited during the whole process that I called Amma, completely ignoring the time difference, I just had to share the pie-making experience with her! The pie turned out incredibly well, and was so delicious too! So what if it was my first time making any kind of pie crust and the whole "lacing" on top ended up looking slightly sloppy? It was still very tasty! Later in the evening we made two more and froze them. And we are already planning which night this week we will make more. It's a good thing to make use of the abundant provision in the backyard, no? Here is a picture from what I have now labeled "Apple Pie Sunday":

In the afternoon, we took the dogs to the park so they could run around and exhaust themselves of at least some of their boundless energy. It ended up being a two-hour outing but the strategy worked! They were very peaceful the rest of the day. So were we! A fun day, and weekend in all.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

it's too early for this

I had a very STRANGE dream last night. I dreamt that I was visiting a family. A father, mother and two teenage kids (girl and boy). All except the father had severe health problems and disabilities. The teenagers appeared to be bed-ridden, covered in blankets all day long. Their bodies looked very week, but you wouldn't know it by looking at their faces because they were smiling and happy all the time. The father's full-time job was caring for this family. He did everything from mowing the yard to all the cooking. The family had no visible means of income. Yet they seemed very happy.
In another part of the dream, all of us we went on this picnic. Several other people joined us at the picnic site. On of the families who showed up was this woman - who is actually this girl I knew in Madras when I was about six years old but forgot all about when her family moved away shortly thereafter - now about my age, with six children who all looked like they had contracted some type of leprosy and looked very sickly with open wounds.

Needless to say I was jolted from my sleep in a cold sweat, much too early for a Saturday morning, and ruined my morning yoga because I couldn't stop thinking about this weird dream.
I wonder what all this means!?!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Cooking frenzy

Cooking is a highly therapeutic activity for me. I find it to be a kind of yoga, an effective way to de-stress, taking in the smells, measuring by instinct, concocting various dishes with interesting flavor and ingredient combinations. I do it as often as I can, with whatever ingredients I have on hand.

Since I most often cook for just the two of us (occasionally I make meals for TLC requests thru church), I economize where possible by buying ingredients in bulk and making large quantities of freezer-friendly food. We divide up leftovers into Tupperware containers for easy lunches to take to work.

These past few days, I have primarily been in two cooking modes: the first being the mission to efficiently use all the produce from my garden fresh or preserve it for winter use (making pesto by the gallon, freezing peppers and herbs, and figuring out how to can tomatoes), and the second is the carbohydrate-driven frenzy which struck on Monday – and resulted in me making enough Naan, Poori, and Pizza-dough to feed a small country.

The last time I made Naan was in January, I made about 14 and between the two of us they were all gone in the space of three meals! This time, I was more careful and went ahead and froze some for later.

Last night’s dinner was Poori and chana masala.

The best part of all this is the leftovers that we get to use up during the week! Yesterday, I brought rice, dal and potato fry with a bit of mango pickle in for lunch. Once heated up, people two aisles over could smell the food. (There’s always one person in any office who smells up the microwave / break room with Indian food – and of course, here, that would be me).

I asked my mom for her delicious pork vindaloo recipe – which I will try later this week.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

a dreadful four days

It truly has been a dreadful past few days. Y'know how, sometimes, the difference between what you want to do and what you have to do is so vast that it just makes you sick to think about it? Well, I've been feeling pretty sick all week. I thought it would be a fairly mellow week and that I would actually be able to spend some time at my desk getting stuff done. But no, of course not. Murphy's Law.
On a brighter note, last weekend was very nice. We went camping, minus the dogs, and got some good quality time to ourselves with much-needed peace and quiet. And good weather! Very relaxing. Maybe that's why this week seems like it's pretty tough, because all that relaxation surely should have prepared me. I don't think so!
Ryan and I watched "Guru" (Abhishek Bachhan) a couple of days ago, and we both enjoyed it. It was well-made and well-written. I recommend it. I went through this exercise a few weeks ago, I actually took the time to rate and add a few movies to our netflix queue, so I won't have to look at it again for the next year or so!
I can't wait for tomorrow to come and go. To put this irritating week behind me. Saturday we are going on a long crazy bike ride with some fellow HVCC-ers, and I'm really looking forward to it!!!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

a sigh of relaxation

It seems like it has been a long weekend. Friday I had to go to Milwaukee for a green card thing. Ryan very lovingly accompanied me. It gave us a chance to indulge in some terrible, but oh-so-good “road-behaviors”. That encompassed a rest-stop at Target, with a cheddar pretzel for me, and a ham-n-swiss sandwich for Ryan. The appointment went smoothly and we were on the road again in less than 15 minutes. On our way home, we had the urge to stop at the outlet mall...well, I had the urge, and Ryan glumly followed. But he got some clothes; in fact, he got way more clothes than I did! I was very good, in comparison.

Saturday and Sunday we made up for all the excesses, in many ways. We didn’t use the car at all, for starters, we didn’t spend any money, didn’t shop (even online), and we ate entirely home-cooked food! Talk about living efficiently.

We started Saturday right. Whole-wheat toast with butter and jam for breakfast, followed by a beautiful bike ride to Mineral Point and back…slightly over 20 miles. It was a very scenic trail, but no shade at all! Good thing we put on sunblock. When we got to Mineral Point, we stopped by the farmer’s market, and I got a “lavender eggplant”, and also some “Italian bottle onions”. The lady at the stand said that the bottle onions tasted really good when grilled, so I thought we would make a pizza that night and try them on it! We did take some pictures along the bike trail –

Saturday afternoon and evening we primarily relaxed. We made sushi (second time last week!) for lunch, and it turned out very well. Ryan was happy that his rolls turned out much better the second time. We watched the movie version of “Girl with a Pearl Earring”. Figured it would be a good idea, since we just finished reading the book two weeks ago. The book is MUCH better. For dinner, I tried a new pizza dough recipe – which turned out very nicely – and our toppings were the eggplant and Italian bottle onions from the farmer’s market, and also some tomatoes and banana peppers from my garden. The whole thing turned out very well, and we decided that we will definitely use the dough recipe again. Here’s a picture –

Sunday, I had media duty all morning at church. Afterwards, those of us who had signed up for the praise band jam stayed on to rehearse. We needed to be there by 3, so we had from 1 to 3 to practice. It was a little sketchy, and we probably weren’t as prepared as we could have been. But the event itself was great! We couldn’t hear ourselves because the stage monitors sucked, and I guess I had gotten used to the in-ear monitors….but it was exciting, and we were there worshipping, and it was really cool to see all the area churches come together for one cause. I wish there were more concerts/events like that.

And today we are more than halfway through August. *sigh*

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

two week's worth

Before I proceed to rant about the busy-ness of work, my outdoor enjoyment of the unrealistically short Wisconsin summer, and miscellaneous other things, which keep me away from my computer-for-leisure, I must say, I am grateful for the encouragement of my friends and family who remind me to continue blogging. Every now and then I tend to forget, you see. And, we have been away for the last two weekends!

Two weekends ago, we went to Springfield, IL to visit with Ryan’s extended family. We had the privilege of visiting with his grandmother/aunt/uncle/cousin+cousin’s husband and also, his uncle and wife who were visiting from Alberta, Canada. It was a great weekend, and very very nice to spend time with family. We did take both dogs with us, which made for an interesting road trip with frequent rest stops! Here is a picture.

We went camping this past weekend, sans doggies, just Ryan and me. It was relaxing, and fun! We took full advantage of having some time to ourselves, surrounded by natural serenity. The weather was perfect. Even when it rained a little in the early part of the morning. We were fast asleep and didn’t even know it had started to rain, but we stayed toasty and dry inside the tent – thanks to the rain guard that held up very nicely! We cooked Spam and eggs over a campfire…which makes up the one time a year that I eat Spam! It was delicious, and it is really the perfect camping breakfast! Here are a couple of my favorite pictures from the trip (there are more on facebook).

Last night, we had the pleasure of dining with some friends, who we have not seen in sometime. It may or may not have something to do with the fact that they are proud new parents as of almost eight weeks ago! It was really nice to just sit and catch up over drinks (for two of the four), and Mexican food (for all). I held the baby girl for a few minutes....*sigh*....five more years. Well, maybe four.

In other news – the garden is still thriving! Despite the fact that I sometimes forget to water it. Well, it’s not that I forget – I’m discovering that everything looks and tastes fine whether or not it gets water everyday. Again, I’m discovering, sometimes three or four times a week suffices. I can’t help but think back and smile fondly at my blog from March. I realize now that I am capable of “gardening”, to the degree that I planted things in the earth three months ago, and those things have survived, flowered and borne fruit – all due to my tender-loving care. (And some of Ryan’s but he has agreed to let me take full credit.)

Thursday, July 31, 2008

mindless stuff

Sometimes I, like many other people, find myself in the position of having to do something merely out of an obligation. Whether or not there is any value in the task is irrelevant. The competency of the person who doles out the task is irrelevant. What easier way is there to feel like a one of those hamsters, that runs constantly inside the wheel? The wheel constantly spins, and the hamster doesn't realize that he will keep on running without getting anywhere. What an incredibly sad state of affairs.

Friday, July 25, 2008

what's the point if it's raining on a Friday night?

Seriously. I was looking forward to Friday all week. Anticipating a nice bike ride. Expecting a balmy 75 degree evening. Tough noogies, I guess. Or whatever they call it.
But the evening wasn't a total loss. Ryan and I had the best homemade pizza for dinner. I ran out into the garden and grabbed a handful of tomatoes, basil, and a couple of green bell peppers. And that's exactly what went on the pizza, topped with some Provolone cheese which Ryan grated. I stopped by the cheese shop on Hwy 23 last night, and asked the guy if they had Fontina. The guy behind counter blinked a few times and said "no", and that they had never carried it, and had no plans to carry it in the future. OK. I was only looking for Fontina cheese because I had tried homemade pizza with mozzarella before and it just didn't cut it. Fontina was much better. Anyway, the guy said that the closest thing they had was Provolone. So I thought I would give it a try. And it was really yummy! The whole pizza was so good. You can really tell when the ingredients are fresh, I think that's totally what makes or breaks a meal. Plus, it felt so good to know that a pizza was made with things from mygarden!!!
Anyway, tomorrow should be fun. We're spending the day at the beach, and the Flessners are joining us. Which means we also get to spend some time with their adorable girls. I'm excited! I spent another part of this evening making pesto with the basil leftover from pizza ingredients. And I also put aside some chicken in a peppercorn marinade, which I plan on grilling early tomorrow morning so it will have some time to get cold in the fridge. And sliced some fresh French bread. All for tomorrow's picnic. I'm super excited!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

remedy drive and karaoke night

So, last night, we went to a concert in Richland Center. It was an indie rock/christian band out of Nebraska called Remedy Drive, and they were FANTASTIC! And also very loud. My entire head still hurts from the sound. But the concert was great! I even bought a t-shirt....after all, I want to support their cause. We had taken the Intern girl, Stephanie, with us as she doesn't have a car. We was kind enough to treat us to Dairy Queen after wards. I got fries (craving) and Ryan and Stephanie got Blizzards which looked very yummy, perfect for the hot day anyway. So, we were driving home through Lone Rock, when it occurred to me that it was the 3rd Friday of the month, and The Shed has Karaoke on the 3rd Friday of the month. So we took a small detour and headed to where the Karaoke was. It was fun! We got a couple beers and I worked up the nerve to sing a song. And it wasn't so bad!
In hindsight, heading from one incredibly loud music venue straight to another probably wasn't the best idea. But it was a very fun Friday night!

Monday, July 14, 2008

It has been an unrelenting couple of weeks, which caused a bit of stress. Most of it was due to work (promotion) or self-inflicted (getting a second dog). So, yes, we did get a second dog.
Johnny B. Goode is a 15-lb runt of a dog, we adopted him on the 4th of July from a nice family who was moving and couldn’t take him. He’s a rat terrier-beagle mix, and has the sweetest personality I have ever seen in a dog. In other words, he’s a spoilt baby and loves to cuddle. He spent the first week with us doing everything he could to hide from Lola who, by comparison, is a monster with abundant energy and a huge tongue that always seems to want to lick him. The two are getting along fine now.
On the other side of the stress-causing issues, I’m excited about the changes at work and stepping up the corporate ladder. But, if the past week or so is any indication of the times to come, I am not looking forward to always being exhausted by the end of each day. But enough of that.
The weekend was fun! Saturday was mellow. Ryan and I vegged all morning as it was pouring rain outside. It cleared up by noon though, and very quickly became a beautiful sunny day! Funny weather. So, we went on a bike ride and our buddy Ben came with us. It was a fun, easy ride, to the bench and back. Then Ben and Amanda and the girls went to dinner with us at Café Four, which was very nice.
Yesterday I had media duty at church, and afterwards Ryan very kindly offered to come and help me clean my desk at work so I would be ready for the move to my new area. It took us two hours, and now my personal belongings are all in boxes, and my desk smells Lemony-fresh.
We met the nicest girl at church yesterday! Stephanie is interning in the area this summer and was looking for things to do and see. She mentioned having a bike, so we invited her to come with us on our bike ride. So after the desk cleaning, we changed, got our bikes and met the girl, and set off on the bike trail. We rode to Ridgeway and back, an almost no-incline 20.3 miles. It was beautiful weather, and the views were spectacular! We discovered that the wild raspberry bushes were starting to ripen, we picked a few and ate them. They were good! Next time we are definitely going with an extra water-bottle to fill it up with raspberries.
In Ben’s ongoing pursuit to “culture me” with the “classic” 80s movies that I missed out on growing up, he and Amanda invited us over last night to a grill-out dinner, and to watch Short Circuit. We invited Stephanie to go with us. We took a bottle of Sauvignon-Blanc that we had chilling in the fridge, and it went perfectly with all the good food – turkey burgers Ben and Amanda made, the fresh romaine lettuce and strawberries and stuff from Amanda’s garden, the new red potatoes I bought at the Dodgeville farmer’s market yesterday, and the veggie kababs Stephanie brought. We watched Hannah play in her plastic fort, it was hilarious. And then we watched the movie. Or at least, we started to, but half of us were falling asleep by 9 p.m. So we decided to finish it another day and call it a night. I was asleep as soon as I got home and my head hit the pillow.

Thursday, July 3, 2008


I have been thinking of extremely embarrassing moments this week, particularly Tuesday and yesterday. Like the Friends episode “The One with the Inappropriate Cousin”. I know exactly how Ross feels. Or, the episode of Sex and the City, where Carrie farts in front of Mr. Big for the first time. I know exactly how she feels. It could not be worse. I just want to crawl under the table and die.

Monday, June 30, 2008

the last weekend in June

I got a bug-bite the size of a golf ball on my forearm this weekend. This happened while we were visiting yet another new baby, this time at our friends Jill and Jeremy’s house, on Friday after work. But I don’t blame them. I blame the rotten bug that bit me while I was standing in their Strawberry patch. I was helping Ryan and Jeremy pick strawberries for about three minutes. I felt an awful bite, looked over and saw the nasty bug sitting on my arm and promptly shooed it away. I didn’t get a good enough look at it for a proper identification. It wasn’t a very big bite on Friday evening. But it got bigger and bigger over the weekend, and when I woke up Sunday morning, several tiny bubbles had formed on the surface of the bite. Yuck. Anyway, it looks much better today, and the nasty-looking bubbles have subsided.
On a different note, we went on another enjoyable long bike ride on Saturday. We seem to have perfected the art of getting in our bike rides (mid-mornings), that is, well before the weather turns bad (afternoons, as has been the case). We rode to Ridgeway and back, with no dark clouds in sight for miles around. A pleasant 32 kms, or 20 miles, in 2 hours and 3 minutes. Not bad at all. It was a gorgeous day and I didn’t even complain once. We didn’t see any deer or snapping turtles on / around the trail like we did last weekend…but we did see pretty birds, and cows and horses, and interesting weeds, and some wild grapes growing along the trail by Ridgeway. We passed this old (very old) couple riding their bikes along the highway section of the trail. We were already sitting down in the park at Ridgeway when they arrived. They parked their bikes, took out their picnic lunch and made themselves comfortable on the park bench to enjoy it. I wonder if Ryan and I will be like that when we are in our sixties…or seventies….
And so, the first six months of the year are gone. Just like that.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

what's the rush? and a certain 80s movie

Ever notice when people are in a hurry but they don’t want to be?
The urgency to achieve is at times like a gravitational pull, strong and unavoidable. Sometimes I get that way and then I miss lunch. Or, breakfast, as has been the case for the last several months. And then it’s really bad, because we all know how much I love food. (Breakfast is the favorite meal of the household). So, how do we stop to breathe? Or, in some cases, eat?
I have two fairly embarrassing claims – last night, I watched ‘Back to the Future’ for the first time in my life. And I liked it. (Not entirely sure if I should be more embarrassed of the former or the latter). Of course, I laughed my way through most of the movie…much to the delight of Ben and Amanda, whose house we watched the movie at (thanks guys). But as I said to them last night, I’m sure, had I been ten years younger, I would have been in absolute awe of things like make-believe flux capacitors and cars that run on plutonium. Alas, now, I know too much. So I just laughed, especially every time someone commented on Michael J. Fox’s “life preserver”, and enjoyed the movie and the predominantly Huey Lewis & the News soundtrack (two songs played at different intervals over and over again….you gotta love the 80s), and am definitely looking forward to parts two and three.
The good news is that the Flame Orange down vest is back in vogue, and I need to get one this Fall.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

postponing things like dishes and laundry

The thing is, sometimes I get so busy that the laundry doesn't get done for two weeks. I just got this distinct memory of my sophomore year of college, talking on the phone to my aunt Minu who kept asking me "you don't do laundry for three weeks?!? are you telling me that you have twenty-one pairs of underwear?" Yikes. And I thought I had grown since college. The laundry is one thing. Dishes are another. In the effort to not only be green-conscious, but also be frugal, we got into this habit of using only tupperware containers and not using any ziploc bags to take lunch to work, etc. The downside is...nobody has time to do dishes during the week, and it's kind of become a routine to just do all the dishes at once on Saturday or Sunday. (Let's face it, that's more efficient anyway). But...during the week, the dishes from our sink spill over onto the kitchen counter and the whole thing becomes this eyesore of fifteen to twenty used tupperware containers sitting there, all needing to be washed. Yuck. I can't believe it myself sometimes. But the dishes are getting done today! As will the laundry. I can do it, I know I can.
So anyway, yesterday, we went into Madison to run some errands and stock up on some pantry necessities like a ten-lb bag of Basmati rice, tamarind paste, and fresh mangoes from the Asian store. Our first stop was REI, to get a new bicycle seat for Ryan and possibly investigate a pair of nylon hiking pants for me. We love REI. The smell of brand new bikes, and the tempting display of brightly colored kayaks in the windows are enough to get anyone's adrenaline pumping. But bearing in mind that everything in that store is outrageously overpriced, and being responsible, we came away with nothing. So, we ventured the half-mile east to Dick's Sporting Goods instead. We didn't find a bicycle seat, since the selection was miserable. But we both got nylon hiking pants, and I even scored a pair of black Reebok running shorts on clearance. No sticker shock here. Beautiful!

Friday, June 20, 2008

my first pesto!!!

I had fun yesterday evening. I picked about 3 cups of fresh basil (from my garden!) and made pesto. It turned out really well too! After all the effort, I only got about one and a half cups worth. But who cares! I made pesto and that's all that matters. I set aside about half for our friends Eric and Becky, and another half for a girl I work with who likes pesto, and then Ryan and I sopped up the pesto from the bottom and sides of the mixie (food processor) with bread.

Then we went to visit Eric and Becky and their two day old baby boy. He is the cutest, pinkest, wrinkliest, most adorable little 5lb baby boy that I have ever seen. What a sweet little fellow.

I woke up bright and early this morning, slightly determined to end the work-week on a very good note, still energized from the successful pesto endeavor. I washed my face, turned the oven on to preheat, and Lola and I took off on our morning walk. Then I stepped into the garden to check up on it (partly out of worry that the two-thirds of the pesto plant I picked off last night would not grow back). I showered and changed for work, put on coffee, and made cinnamon rolls.....much to Ryan's surprise and delight (since we really haven't had a good breakfast on a workday in a while).

Today is going to be a fantastic day. I just know it. And I made pesto.

Thursday, June 19, 2008


Sometimes, don’t you just feel like screaming at people?

“Africa is not a country, you moron!”

“Use your blinker, you blockhead!”

“What were you thinking wearing that hideous outfit??”

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

it's a miracle!

OK. So I have had this extreme craving for fruits (particularly strawberries) for the last two days. This afternoon, the craving was at its crest of strength. The banana and quarter cantaloupe from this morning just wasn’t doing it for me. And, I hadn’t brought anything else with me from home, and there were mostly non-fruit items in my desk drawer. So I did the unthinkable.

In my desk drawer, I found a mandarin orange fruit cup that had to be at least a year old. And I ate it!!!

I know, I know. I shouldn’t have. It was highly revolting, mostly sugar, and didn’t even satisfy the craving. By the time I ate the fifth orange segment (there weren’t many more) I threw the whole thing in the garbage. Aaargh. By the way, where did all the fiber disappear? I looked on the nutrition label and there were 0 grams of fiber. I thought oranges were fiber-rich!?! Leave it to the food processing industry to take fiber naturally found in food out of it, my eyes were opened to this notion in the highly entertaining and informative ‘In Defense of Food’.

So, I got home from work and Ryan was already back. I dumped my bag and keys on the counter when I saw.....a Wal-mart bag full of fresh strawberries!!! I asked Ryan about it and he said it was hanging on the front doorknob when he got home. It turned out to be from the garden of our good friends Jill and Jeremy (thanks guys!!!) How had they known that I was craving strawberries? Ok, so they hadn't. But I guess small miracles do happen.


I learned a new word this weekend. D.I.N.K.s. So, it’s not actually a word, it’s an acronym. D.I.N.K.s = Double Income No Kids. Apparently, that’s what Ryan and I are. And, apparently, it’s supposed to be this awesome thing – doing crazy adventurous things throwing caution to the wind, no worries about hiring babysitters, taking off on a weekend trip for two at the last minute….etc. etc.

And it rocks!

We wouldn’t have even known this if it weren’t for our good friend Ben, who labeled us this way. Ben happens to be a S.I.N.K. I’ll give you a dollar if can guess what that is.

The weekend was great. I went to my first ever (and first of many more) Wisconsin Dairy breakfast!! I learned all about the benefits of milk and dairy products, enjoyed a hearty breakfast, and supported my local farming community. Well, I didn’t really learn anything, but they had pretty posters on the walls of the breakfast seating area (barn) that explained it all. We went with our good friend Ben, his wife, two adorable little girls, and assorted family members (theirs)…..which was great, because I had an excuse to visit the petting zoo (also at the dairy breakfast – don’t you just love Wisconsin?). I touched a baby Shetland pony, calves, baby goats, and baby pigs, which was wonderful. I also let a cow lick my hand.

The weather was nice, so we decided to work off the breakfast with a bike ride. Our friend Ben, who had not ridden in a while, had just gotten a brand new bike and was anxious to break it in. Unfortunately, we hadn’t even made it to the trail yet when Ben took a nasty fall. His wife had to come pick him up. Poor Ben. I don’t know if Ryan and I were upset over the experience or if we were just lazy, because we didn’t get very far on the ride...we turned around at the 45 minute mark.

Rain wasn’t very far away so we decided on indoor fun for the rest of the day by running errands in Madison and watching the Sex and the City movie!!! I love that my husband goes to watch these types of movies with me. And, it was great!!! We laughed, we cried, and laughed some more. We even snuck in Pringles and Lindt milk chocolate. What a fantastic viewing experience. Then we proceeded onto a lovely dinner at a Steakhouse we hadn’t been to yet (don’t you just love new places?) We ordered a heavenly bottle of Pinot Noir, and had a leisurely dinner. After I had giggled my way through my third and a half glass of wine we decided it was time to head home. It worked out well that I drank most of the bottle, because my wonderful husband drove me home :-)

Sunday was probably even more relaxing. I weeded and mulched the garden, we watched two and a half movies, spent some quality time with Lola, and ate all kinds of fun leftovers from the Bermuda triangle that is our fridge. What a wonderful weekend.

Saturday, June 7, 2008


If there were one thing that I could eat over and over again, every day, for the rest of my life, it would be bacon. Extra crispy. No questions asked. Now, they make a low-sodium kind, so there you have it, it is healthy too.

That is what we had for breakfast this morning, with a bleu-cheese fritatta, cinnamon rolls (no icing), and fresh brewed coffee....which gave us much-needed energy for our hour and a half-long bike ride into Governor Dodge State Park and back.

We were supposed to go to a party this afternoon/evening, in a town about thirty minutes north of here, but there is a tornado warning issued for our county and thunderstorms are still brewing south and south-west of us, so we decided to stay put at home.

I put the afternoon to good use and cut up vegetables for dinner - Som Tam (spelling?) with sticky rice.

Am I food-obsessed?

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

escaping the ceremony

Recently, a lot of people have been talking about graduation – their grandchildren, children, nieces and nephews are all graduating – high-school, middle school, college, and even kindergarten. I heard about ceremonies at school, parties and open-houses being planned, gifts being given, and various other surprises for the graduates in their lives...and most of all, the stress that was being caused by all the activities related to these events.

All this talk of graduation made me think back to my own graduations. In India, since graduation is not something as widely celebrated, my own High School graduation was a very low-key affair. My grandparents, mom and I went out to a nice Chinese dinner. At school, a simple prayer was said for the entire 12th class, and we had the relief of knowing that we were done with those horrible government exams, and that was the extent of all celebration.

My College graduation, although still low-key on my part, was very different. There was a lot of excitement and activities put forth by the University; my peers were all very excited to walk across the stage in cap and gown and receive their diplomas from the Chancellor. I, however, was not too keen at the prospect of sweating in a polyester gown and awful scratchy cap for six hours. So, I skipped the ceremony entirely and spent the week in San Francisco with my boyfriend...which was a very smart move. I got more value out of the experiences and memories of that trip than I would have ever received from attending and participating in the graduation ceremony. I was not particularly interested in the ceremony itself, my family members weren’t here to enjoy why should I have bothered?

My point is that graduating is an honor, and it should be a moment of pride, primarily for the stress needed. It is a time to celebrate. Maybe the celebration involves walking across a stage to receive your cap and gown and having a party so your family and friends can honor you. Or maybe it comes with your own quiet recognition of knowing what you achieved, from the comfort of a cushy vacation spot far, far away.

I am glad I chose the latter.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

when it really counts

It is Wednesday afternoon and you're at work. Your morning dose of caffeine has worn off and it is all you can do to stay focused. It is a sunny day, seventy-two degrees outside, and you feel like the birds are chirping your name. You are counting down the minutes to five o'clock. The week moves on at a snail's pace and Friday finally rolls around. You cannot be more thrilled as you exit the building and head

You've been there. You know exactly what I'm talking about. Friday afternoon. No work looming ahead of you. A welcome Sabbath. You enjoy the rush of joy floating to your head.

We started our weekend on Friday afternoon by walking the dog, enjoying some time in
the garden, relaxing on the couch and watching funny things on television or just lounging and reading. For dinner, we made linguine with white clam sauce accompanied by a perfectly chilled bottle of Sauvignon Blanc. Then, we took the dog on a pre-bedtime walk, and played with the Border collie puppies one street over (they have gotten so big!) What a wonderful Friday.

Saturday was even better. I woke up, after a refreshing night's sleep to beautiful morning sunrays streaming in through our bedroom window. I put coffee on and then Lola and I took off on our morning walk. Upon returning, she collapsed in the middle of the kitchen floor while I made Cinnamon rolls. Then Lola and I spent a few minutes in the backyard. I pulled weeds out of my beautiful vegetable garden, lifting my head on and off to watch Lola eat grass and dandelions and subsequently throw up
(of course). I'll never cease to wonder why she doesn't learn :-) Ryan and I then enjoyed a leisurely breakfast of coffee, cinnamon rolls, and scrumptious egg-white quesadillas while watching an episode of The Alaska Experiment (that is such an addictive show). And then...the highlight of the day - we geared up for an amazing two and a half-hour bike ride. We biked all the way to Ridgeway and back, stopping a few times to smell the wildflowers and admire the breathtaking scenery. We got home and topped off our sandwich lunch with Root-beer floats! Then, in the afternoon, we went bowling with the Flessners and smiled as two-year old Hannah rolled the eight-pound ball down the alley. For dinner, Ryan and I were both craving steak so we grilled sirloin and had baked potatoes and some wine with it. After dinner we went over to the Flessners to watch Spaceballs (I watched it for the first time, and man, was it funny!!), and play with the kids. I got to hold Samantha for the longest time and it was so much fun.

Sunday - another joy-filled day. Lola turned one year old! We got up at our own pace.... walked Lola, and then got ready for church. We waited until we got home from church to give Lola her present - a huge meaty knuckle bone - which she spent most of her day chewing down to barely anything! Ryan then ran errands, while I enjoyed some time alone at home doing laundry and picking up a few things around the house. Then I
headed over to the first of this summer's hvcc women's activities. I got to relax by the pool, met a few new people, and the lady did such great job organizing it, with fruits and cold drinks on hand. Then, more relaxation at home...a delicious dinner, lounging on the couch and reading, and the season premiere of The Food Network Star!!!

I could not have come up with a better way to end a tiresome work-week.
I knew that we had to have a special weekend. It had to count.

And ours certainly did.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

a spontaneous ride

On the Memorial Day holiday, Ryan and I went bike riding on the trail that runs through town. It was a glorious warm day, and we were enjoying feeling the wind in our faces. In a moment of spontaneity, we (meaning I) decided to seize the opportunity for a mini-adventure. So, we veered off our usual trail route and decided to zip downhill into the back-entrance trail to Governor Dodge state park. This would also give me the opportunity to finally attempt a personal challenge to me from two years ago and make the dreaded Governor Dodge uphill climb that I kept saying I wasn't ready for.

The day was perfect and the ride was exhilarating. The trail into the park was mostly downhill. It led straight into the spillover of Cox Hollow Lake, right in the middle of the state park. The trail spit us out into the wide open space around the lake, and we stopped and de-biked for a couple of minutes to just enjoy the breathtaking scenery. Caught up in the thrill of the moment, we promptly made plans to bring our bathing suits the next time we decided to bike to the lake, and then got back on our bikes to make our way out of the park. The plan was to exit through the park's main entrance and take highway 23 south back to Dodgeville.

Of course, the only way to get out of the park was to go up. And, I had not anticipated the brutal climb uphill. A wretched ten minutes later and not even a quarter of the way up, muscles on fire, we stopped to rehydrate. Another thirty minutes later we were finally done with the torturous climb and back on level ground...out of the park and onto the highway.

It was a lovely trip, in all. I'm not sure if it was the trip I enjoyed more, or the fact that I finally conquered the route I had been pushing off for two years. Yay!

Monday, May 26, 2008

encouragement to my younger self

Lately, I seem to want to go back in time with all the lessons I have learned and tell my younger self that some of the mistakes I made were okay, and some of the mistakes I made were not okay, and why. Perhaps it is because I’m getting older. And perhaps it is because I see people around me repeating some of the mistakes that I made and have since learned from.

It is okay to see beauty and hope in things. It is not okay to suck all the energy out of the room with your negativity.
It is okay to learn, and absorb. It is not okay to spend time learning things that have no value.
It is okay to want people to understand you. It is not okay to refuse to learn how to communicate better so that they will.
It is okay to teach, and guide. It is not okay to bring people down, as if they are unworthy bugs to be crushed.
It is okay to correct someone else’s mistake. It is not okay to ignore it.
It is okay to want to be a world away when people are being shallow and selfish. It is not okay to let them propagate their philosophy as if it should belong to everyone.
It is okay to desire comforts. It is not okay to believe we deserve them.
It is okay to think highly of yourself. It is not okay (and very stupid) to assume that others think the same of you.
It is okay to have a few short-lived pleasures. It is not okay to put stock in them and expect them to have a longer shelf-life.
It is okay to want boys to be attracted to you. It is not okay to base your self-worth on whether or not they are.
It is okay to want to see the world. It is not okay to make that an excuse not to put down roots and trust someone.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


The whole point is that, more often than not, we lose sight of what is best for us. We forget to breathe, to smell spring in the air. We forget that life is not all about to-do lists and dehydrated noodles for a 5 minute lunch.

Sometimes there is just too much to cram into one day. Sometimes we don’t feel healthy and well. Sometimes we wake up in the middle of the night from a deep sleep, and reach for the notepad so we won’t forget to do something at work.

We forget that – if we would only choose to – we can glimpse the image of God in our own smiles as we watch our naughty puppy make muddy paw prints all over our beautiful hardwood kitchen floor. Or by watching toddlers fall on their cute little butts while attempting to throw a basketball twice their size across a court. Or holding hands and taking a walk with your favorite person. We forget that those are the happy moments that should be cherished. Those are the moments we should cling to for dear life, and bring to memory when our day is filled with negativity, and when cranky people lecture us on all the things that went wrong.

I read yet another article today on oil prices reaching an all-time high.

I read yet another article today on government making bad decisions.

I read yet another article today on stress-related disease.

If it is true that we are morally, financially, physically, and emotionally bankrupt, as people who have Hope, shouldn’t we be the first to shout out that it doesn’t need to be this way?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

a waste of 75 cents

I made the mistake of getting a coke today. Not even diet coke, but the real, sugary kind. I don’t even like coke. When I do drink it, it’s usually diet coke. Not because I like the taste of diet coke better, but simply because it’s marginally healthier than the sugary regular one.

I know exactly why I got the coke too. I was sitting in a meeting at work, and there was a guy right in front of me with a glass bottle coca-cola. The real thing, made with real cane sugar and not high-fructose corn syrup, the kind that was all the rage half a century ago. (Apparently, you can still get these glass bottle beauties at Sam’s Club now and they are made with real cane sugar, not high fructose corn syrup – yuck).

That glass bottle coke looked so good.

I continue to underestimate the power of advertising, and my own will-power. No doubt it was the combination of the those very things, and the stress of the afternoon meeting, that made me go straight to the awful vending machine and push the damn button to get a stupid coke in a can, only to be rewarded by the consequences of my rash behavior – a stomach ache, a caffeine headache, and the grim reality that I will never get my 75 cents back.

I make myself sick.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

“we grow the best snacks on earth”

I have to admit that one of my guilty pleasures, and top five favorite snack-foods of all time, is Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. It makes up a gigantic portion of my yearly snack-food consumption. My entire mouth salivates at the mere thought of them. I take joy in seeing my fingertips turn red (from the yummy artificial food coloring), whenever I eat them. And, I keep a stash in my desk drawer at work for emergency afternoon cravings.

This afternoon, I was helping myself to a napkin-full when I saw something very curious on the back side of the package.

“We grow the best snacks on earth”

closely followed by

“Made with All Natural Oil”

Having appreciated these tasty treats (in moderation) for years and years, I happen to know that there is nothing remotely food-like, or natural, about these…and that is one of the things that makes it taste exactly the way it does. How does it go, “a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet”…or something like that? I pity those who justify buying this product because of the above claims.

Thank you Frito-Lay.

Five Beers, Five Italian sausages, Four Brats, Two strong coffees, Three Popsicles, Two large Pizzas, and a brisk Eight to Nine hours later…

We did it. We put up the six-foot wooden privacy fence surrounding our backyard. And, Oh, what a beautiful fence it is! We started at 9 a.m. on Saturday morning, and we finished by 6 p.m. that evening. This guy we know, Eric, came and helped us…which was nice, because he and Ryan did all the manly lifting. And it didn’t rain until Sunday! It started sprinkling a little bit on Saturday afternoon….but we kept working because it was only drizzling and it stopped after a few minutes anyway.

So, this one-day project brings us several benefits:

1) It cost us less than one monthly mortgage payment (since we only bought the materials, and did ALL THE WORK ourselves, saving on the labor costs), and the return on investment will be very high.

2) The fence is gorgeous and catches the eye of practically everyone who walks by, or drives past. We have, in fact, already received several compliments.

3) It makes our backyard look much bigger (adding a nice chunk to the property resale value!)

4) We can leave Lola out in the yard all day or all evening-long, and not have her bothering us. Let her tear around the yard and drive herself to exhaustion. And, she can dig up or eat whatever the heck she wants without scrutiny from me or Ryan.

5) The darn dog will not run into the neighbor yards. Or go bother the neighbor dogs.

I’m sure there will be many more over the months and (maybe) years to come. It is such an incredible feeling…knowing that I had a hand in building something so fantastic. I – who have never built anything in my entire life – helped build this beautiful fence!!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

it is fixed

That's it then. We have the perfect solution. No more worries about being ousted from the upstairs because it is overflowing with books. Here's the story behind this sudden euphoria...
Last Saturday, Ryan had a stroke of genius and we moved the ginormous ugly black bookshelves from the study into the bedroom. The curious thing is, not only have we created a lot of "new" space in the study, the ginormous bookshelves don't look ugly at all in the bedroom. Amazingly enough. The futon also fits perfectly in the study now and has turned into an upstairs haven to snuggle, read books, or simply get away from one Miss hyper-active Lola.
So not only did we solve the problem of the overcrowded study, and finding the space to put the futon in the study, but we also figured out a system for book buying. You see, we have a perfectly reasonable monthly budget for books (which we both enthusiastically agreed upon), and we will just get a few more (non-ugly) bookshelves to line the other wall of the bedroom and that's where we'll put all the new books!! Genius.
We had a post-bookshelf-futon-moving celebratory dinner at Cafe Four (at the Chesterfield) in Mineral Point. There was an older gentleman playing songs (I've got you under my skin...and that type) on his accordion. That was nice. The food was delicious. But we will not get the four cheese pizza again. Instead, we will get one of those scrumptious-looking salads, and perhaps the prosciutto pizza. And maybe next time they will have a person there who can make creme brulee. Not some sixteen year old chippy who has that permanent deer-in-the-headlights expression about her.

a whole new meaning to breakfast bars

Here in Wisconsin, where the bar to church ratio is 3:1, you can always find bars with really great “bar food”. A few days ago, we treated ourselves to our favorite dinner from a local bar – the dinner was fish sandwiches and seasoned wedge fries – and it was great! I asked Ryan if he had to wait long to pick up the order, and he said that he didn’t because the bar was dotted with old men just sitting around with their beers. And I said it was no wonder that the place also served breakfast, due to the fact that most of their customers were over sixty and, no doubt, gave the place enough business during the “early bird special” hours. That led to a conversation about the dual life of small-town Wisconsin bars - they start out as wholesome family “restaurants” where four and five-year old kids can go eat with their parents and grandparents from sunrise to sundown and then, when happy hour kicks in, they turn into thriving downtown hubs where people come from near and far for the cheap beer on tap, $1 well drinks, and to hear the country-rock bands. That led to a conversation about under-age drinking and no wonder how easy it is for high school kids to get alcohol at bars. I guess they have been going to these “family restaurants” their entire lives! Hmmmm.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

furry squirrels to cheer you up

While I was at the stop sign this morning on my way to work, waiting to turn onto highway 23, I saw two furry squirrels playing in someone's front yard. Then, one started chasing the other round and round the base of a tree. And there they were, running around the tree. About ten times. What a funny sight.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

guilty of books

Today, I spent about twenty minutes browsing books I have no intention of buying. (Not yet anyway.) The adventure ended when I realized I had over one-hundred and fifty dollars worth of books in my shopping cart. At my current reading speed (two books per month), there is a good chance that, if I buy all sixteen books, I will read all of them before the end of the year. But our study is over-flowing with books already, and if I keep buying books at this rate, we will run out of room to store them. I don't even want to think about how we are going to fit the sleeper sofa into our small study. We may end up sleeping in the yard by the end of the summer.
O, small house. Small, yet beautiful. Small, yet perfect.

the story of the organic lamb

Once upon a time a boy and a girl met, fell in love, and got married. Their friend, a sheep farmer, didn’t have a wedding present to give them. He asked the happy couple if, as his wedding present to them, they would accept a lamb. In a mild state of shock, the couple said “yes”. Five months later, the couple’s freezer was stocked with forty pounds of freshly butchered, one hundred percent pasture-fed lamb meat. They made marinated roast lamb, grilled lamb, lamb kebabs, lamb-burgers, lamb ribs, and many other delicious lamb-recipes, and they lived happily ever after.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


“solve” – noun
the answer to the question that keeps us all up at night.
E.g. “We looked at it and figured out a good solve.”

“to partner with” – verb / infinitive
work closely with an associate to deliver a project
E.g. "Please partner with Jason to get colors fixed."

“creative” – noun
a photo or film asset to be used in advertising the product.
E.g. “Have you seen the new tee-shirt Creative yet?"

“to tool out” – verb / infinitive
create a solution based on little to no information, little to no direction from management, and expect said solution to be perfect.
E.g. “Can you tool out the documents by 3 p.m.?”

Monday, April 21, 2008

to be saturday

to wake up to each other knowing that the day will be free and fun
to buy shirts and change into them in the mall parking lot
to leisurely browse books and run my fingers along their spines
to hold hands and stroll
to eat at taco-Hell and not give a hoot
to play with kittens and puppies and bunny rabbits
to decide which chew toys to buy
to kiss and not care who is looking
to go to the movies for the first time in eight months
to eat sushi with a bit too much wasabi
to overhear and secretly giggle at yuppie women complain about life, love and whether or not to have kids
to share chocolate, laughs, and sunsets

Thursday, April 17, 2008

sometimes there are bad days

At my workplace, you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting someone who is singing praises about J Crew. Or Polo.
At my workplace, there are people who are very self-directed and don’t give a crap about what is best for the business.
At my workplace, there are times when you are expected to read someone else’s mind.
At my workplace, there are people who show no respect for their co-workers.
At my workplace, a shamefully low percentage of the employees actually know anything about the customer.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

just lost

Why am I thinking about my husband right now?
I can imagine him now. Coming towards me from behind, he slides his fingers up my arms as he wraps me in his embrace. I feel his breath on the back of my neck. I shiver a little. My first impulse is to whip around and kiss him. No. I can’t do that. I don’t want him to think I’m desperate. But we’ve been married for two years. Is it okay for me to let him know that I want to kiss him now? Is it okay for me to want to kiss him all the time? Is it okay for me to want to hold him in my arms and watch sunsets from cliffs every night?
We spent all day lazing around the house. I remember just laying with him on the couch this afternoon, losing all concentration, losing the will to get up and get on with the day. I touched his hair. I told him how I loved his hair.
The truth is he occupies my thoughts most of the time. Not just on Saturdays, when I when I know I’ll have him all to myself, most of the time. I find myself thinking about him at times when I’m in boring meetings at work, numbly moving through space and time.
Today, I thought I would be more excited about spending some time reading my book. But - as funny and engrossing as Pollan's writing is – I couldn’t get past two pages without thinking back to our afternoon on the couch. I wonder if we’ll be this cute (nauseating to some) fifty years from now. I wonder if I will still want to kiss him all the time and play with his hair. Will he still think I’m his “exotic”, sexy girl? Never mind that. I love him. I told him so in a two line email a few minutes ago (although I’m convinced that he sometimes thinks I’m crazy for doing precisely such things).
So, if this is what it’s like to be constantly distracted, then I can’t think of a more pleasant subject than my husband, by which to be distracted.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

new life

It snowed yesterday. What an unexpected change from the balmy weather we had on Saturday. The good news is that the snow didn't accumulate much! The bad news is that we most likely will not have warm weather anytime within the next ten days. Ugh. The grass looks extraordinarily green underneath the dusting of snow. There is something so refreshingly positive in the smell of new spring grass, and the sounds of the birds chirping early in the morning, welcoming back the warm weather with the rest of us. Everything grows anew. A blessed turn of season. A fresh start.
Speaking of new life, but on a completely different note, everyone we know seems to be getting pregnant and having babies. In fact most people our age we know, or have come to know in the past two years of living here, have had children within the past year or have become pregnant within the past year. We are not ready for children but the feeling of being the odd ones out, the excluded childless couple, is unfortunately strong.
A beloved co-worker turned in her two week notice today. Here's to your new life, to you, Karen.

Monday, April 7, 2008


Yesterday, we walked the four blocks to Derik and Linda Cree's house to see eight two-day old border collie puppies that were born to their dog, Lily, a playmate of Lola's. We got to the house, released Lola into their backyard to play with Arlo, the other (male) dog of the household, and we went inside to see the pups. And there they were. Eight little black and white creatures, no bigger than hamsters, all whimpering, huddled into a corner of the wooden box that Derik built specifically for the birthing.
I gently picked one up, and found that he fit so comfortably in the palm of my hand. I held him for a few minutes, and then put him back down into the box, watching as he snaked his way to his mother, led by his far his best functioning sense. I had never seen puppies so young before. I had not expected them to be so small and fragile. Their eyes and ears had not yet opened. I had to wonder if they could hear their own whimpers and cries. All eight of them tumbled over each other to get to their mother, desperate for her attention, nourishment, and love. Lily still looked so tired from the ordeal of releasing eight of these tiny ones into the world. Every few minutes she would lift her head to lick her babies and snuggle them closer to her.
Of course, after sitting with the puppies for about an hour, I spent the next couple of hours trying to forget about them and the idea that we should bring one home in eight weeks. As adorable as they are, we should hold out. Our smaller, more appropriate, Netboot or Magellan will come along soon enough.


Bean sprouts, broccoli sprouts, radish sprouts.
I put some in my spinach salad.
They winked back at me as I sprinkled in feta cheese, and drizzled on some Italian dressing.
I put them in my turkey sandwich.
They tucked under a slice of turkey as I folded the bread over.
I can't wait to eat lunch.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

saturday sunrise

This morning, Lola and I had the blessed chance to hang out on the front porch and watch the sun rise. What a glorious morning! Not cold at all! I wrapped myself in a lightweight blanket, sipped my freshly brewed coffee, and curled up on the porch steps with my book. I haven't had the opportunity to enjoy a morning sunrise on the front porch since November of last year. It is mildly irritating to think that it was over five months ago! A petty thought, compared to the actual problems of the world. But, still, Wisconsin winters deserve some complaint.
Lola was laying peacefully by my side. Well, for about 2 minutes anyway. I have not seen her this languid in a long time. Unfortunately (or fortunately), she has been laying down a lot since she was sick last week...most likely the result of a lot less energy. Which is very conducive to us getting things done around the house without having a puppy constantly in our business. However, she is healing fast and will soon be back to normal.
The weather report today says it will be 57 and sunny. Maybe I'll wear shorts.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

the ant and the grasshopper

This morning, I read my favorite column on Yahoo Finance. The column is one of my favorites because they are well-written, usually thoroughly researched, and so easy to read. More often than not, I tend to agree with them. This particular column provided a view of today's economic mess through the lens of an old Aesop fable - the Ant and the Grasshopper. The Ant is the meticulous saver and the Grasshopper is the irresponsible squanderer. The column went on to say that times are tough right now and the Ants seem to be taking the brunt of it all, while Grasshoppers get the bailouts, continue to live irresponsibly and fail to learn the lesson. However, in the long run, the Ants still eat food and end up happy because they have been in control of their personal finances all along. This made me consider a few things:

I am an Ant and always will be. So is my husband, and so will our our future children. We live within our means. We have clearly defined financial goals, because of which we will be able to do all the things that we want to do. We were not born this way. We choose to live this way. For these things I am thankful.
However, we are going to be affected by the Grasshoppers in our lives (i.e., loved ones who live irresponsibly), whether we like it or not, because Ants are left cleaning up the mess. For this, I am furious. And not sure of a solution. Yet.
I do not have the ability to vote for better policy-makers, or change my family, but I do have the ability to to encourage people to vote for the candidate who will do the most responsible thing, not the one who will give the most handouts. I will continue to take opportunities to educate more people, like we did last year by leading a Financial Peace group.

In the meantime, we will continue to be Ants: in control of our finances, and responsible for our choices. We know that there is tremendous value in that.

"The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender" - Proverbs 22:7

Monday, March 24, 2008

older and wiser

Today is my birthday. I am now 24 years old. Do I feel any wiser? Perhaps. I do feel more accomplished, and maybe there's an ounce or two of wisdom that I have gained through said accomplishments. With that being said, the getting older part doesn't bother me as long as it is accompanied by getting wiser.

To take stock of a few of last year's wisdom-bringing events:

March '07: Ryan and I started leading our very own small group
March '07: baptised in water at Hidden Valley
April '07: a fairly significant promotion at work
May '07: Ryan walked across the stage and received his degree (OK, so this is not "my" accomplishment but, since we are one unit, it counts), his graduation party in Platteville
June '07: started singing with the worship band at Hidden Valley
July '07: Ryan and I closed on our house
August '07: brought home our first practice-baby at 11 weeks...our beautiful black lab puppy, Lola, the joy of our lives
August '07: Ryan's backyard head-injury and taking him to the emergency room
September '07: the weekend-to-remember conference, again, in Madison

And, there were so many incredibly fun and memorable events and getaways:

April '07: Minneapolis/St. Paul to spend Easter weekend celebrating our first wedding anniversary
May '07: the weekend in Ripon for Melissa's wedding
May '07: Mother's day weekend in Springfield, and also Josh's Seminary graduation
May '07: our fantastic 3-day Mississippi River adventure to celebrate Ryan's graduation
June '07: Crystal's wedding in Boscobel
July '07: drove to Salina, KS and visited Gina and Eric (and then unborn Raeann), the 4th of July, Gina's birthday, and the baby shower with the incredible double-action breast pump!
September '07: Devil's lake to cheer on Jill in the triathlon
November '07: weekend at Josh and Allyn's in Princeton, IL to organize their youth group paintball game, staying in their beautiful new home and playing with their puppy Cocoa Rocket
November '07: weekend in Milwaukee to celebrate 2 years since the day Ryan and I met :-)
December '07: Springfield again for Christmas

Jan / Feb '08: The most amazing trip of all, the three weeks we spent in India and getting to see my family and beloved Grandfather

This tiny list does not even include the hundreds of walks around town, and the many trips to Governor Dodge to hike on the trails or frolic in the beach.
How I have enjoyed these past twelve months. If last year was this fantastic, surely, I can look forward to another year of adventure, memories, accomplishments, surprises, and of course.......getting wiser.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

left brain right brain

I love art. I do. And I appreciate the effort that goes into others' artistic works. But I don't necessarily have the talent, patience, or organizational skills to pursue it seriously. In the meantime, I can pick up a pencil and draw something perfectly reasonable at a moment's notice. Whatever I draw may not turn out to be great, or even good, but it gives me the pleasure of saying that I drew it. With my own hands, and with my own imagination, and with my own talent.
So, last August, newly inspired after we bought our beautiful home, I had the burning desire to create something for the bare walls. So, I made two sketches...and they turned out just OK. And they lay in a corner of the study gathering dust, until yesterday. We found two frames that fit, also just OK. And then we hung them up in the guest bathroom downstairs. And this is how they look.

It's amazing how a couple of mediocre sketches can look so good. At least I have enough talent to do things like this once in a while. They do look really good hung up. And I feel prety good about that.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

black and white

I love seeing Lola go out into the snow. Her shiny black coat stands out against the white blanket. How beautiful she is...

robin in my tree

I woke up this morning to find several robins perched on a tree in my backyard. Sitting peacefully in a tree. In the middle of the freezing cold, 30 mph wind, and heavy snowfall. How strange. Despite my efforts to tiptoe out into the backyard, so I could take a picture, they were frightened away. Only one remained on that tree.
I wonder, is spring is finally here?

Friday, March 21, 2008

fussy people and their over-priced vacations

I need to work on being more compassionate. I have that annoying, but extremely skilled, habit of pretending to listen intently when someone is talking. The thing is, I could care less about what they are actually saying. The other day, someone at work was going on and on about some Asian-American fusion restaurant in Hawaii. I would love to go to Hawaii someday, but until that day comes I refuse to listen to this person prattle on about how great their five-star dining experience was and how I "simply must go eat there". Yuck. How dare you give me your recommendations of expensive things to do, and outrageously over-priced resorts at which I should stay. Like I have $25,000 to blow on a Hawaii time-share!

That's another thing. Time-shares. What a ridiculous concept. You pay someone way too much money (usually somewhere between $5,000 and $25,000), to more often than not, go to the same vacation spot every year for the rest of your life. Yes, there are ways to "exchange" your chosen destination for another, but still. It is absurd.

baked goods, and fasting

I have been baking a lot in the last few months. Ever since we bought our house, with the beautiful kitchen that I would never have been able to afford had it not come with the house!
Yesterday morning, I got up early and made chocolate-chip cookies w/ pecans for a potluck at work. Everyone loved them! So congratulations to myself for learning how to bake. A little.

Today is Good Friday and there is a day long fast that our church organized, encouraging people to fore go food all day and use the desire for food to pray instead...and then end the day with a celebratory dinner at church (the food at these types of dinners is usually abundant and very tasty!) So, I signed up. I woke up this morning and thanked God for everything we have. Our beautiful little house, the kitchen I am so in love with, our affectionate and playful 60-lb beast of a dog. I prayed for people far away and suffering. I prayed for my family. I prayed for my co-workers. I prayed for myself.

The fast lasts another 11 hours.

And I am so hungry.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

books, travel, and places far away

One of my favorite things to do is browse books on Any books. It doesn't even matter if there isn't a particular book I am looking for. I catch myself thinking, sometimes in the middle of a meeting at work, "I wonder if that Michael Pollan book price has dropped.." (Amazon posts these cool alerts at the top of your Shopping Cart page that lets you know when something has increased or decreased in price). Or I'll have another thought - "I wonder if Jhumpa Lahiri's new book is available in paperback yet..." Needless to say, these kinds of wonderings can be highly distracting, and not at all supportive of getting any work done.

One of my other favorite things to do is look for travel deals, and build make-believe vacations on Yesterday, I built a trip for two to the Cayman Islands in mid-May, for approximately $1600, total (that's right, not per person, TOTAL). That includes the round-trip airfare, 5 nights at a 4-star hotel with its own beach, and transportation to and from the airport. We can pack swimsuits and paperback books, eat cheaply while there, and spend our pocket money (if we wish to) on sight-seeing and activities like swimming alongside exotic fish, or exploring underwater caves. How fun would that be? I want to go on this trip. But I can't. Well, at least not this year.

my wish for a garden

I want to have a garden this spring. With the horrible winter that we have experienced this year, it looks like "spring" is still weeks and weeks away. But, that hasn't stopped me from planning my little garden! I want the pleasure of growing and eating my own veggies! I want to experience running outside and grabbing a handful of some delicious leafy green spinach for dinner! It is going to be a small 6 by 6 foot garden, and in it I will grow spinach, okra, bell pepper, chili pepper, cucumber, tomatoes, parsley and basil. Maybe raspberries also. So what if I know nothing about gardening and have managed to kill every plant that I have ever owned? At least I am marching on, into the unknown. So what if I don't have the hours to spend tending to the garden, nurturing it and loving it? If I plant the seeds and water the earth, they will grow! People tend to complicate things that are simple and uncomplicated to begin with, so what is there to know? You dig up the earth, throw in the seeds, cover, water regularly, and wait patiently. Simple.

Ask me about my thriving garden in four to six months.

himself, herself, and themselves

There are some aspects of the English language that I find completely absurd. To elaborate, I recently discovered that "themselves" is not a real word. It's just a pretend word. Yet, everyone I know - myself included - uses this word. The rule, apparently, is that sine the plural does not exist, you have to say "himself" or "herself". So, in this sentence: "my neighbors went to the market, and they bought themselves some fresh mangoes", the word has been used incorrectly and it would instead have to say "bought himself and herself". Or something like that.

why I can't blog

So, last year I vowed to start writing down my thoughts and it only took me four months to get to it. This year, again, I took that same vow and it has only been three months to my first post. Nice improvement, no? My reluctance in joining the blogging revolution is not because I don't like or enjoy talking about myself but, probably because I despise that some other people can do it so well. They come across as pleasant, and likable. Unlike some other people, who can talk about themselves all day long regardless of who else cares, and they usually come across as self-important or arrogant.