Monday, March 2, 2015

Progress Report: OLW February 2015

Hi Friends!

Holy cow!  It's March!  I saw that quote this morning and I could completely relate. Christmas just happened, right?!?  The start of a new month gives me an opportunity to check in on my One Little Word:  Progress.  I still get a big bunch of happiness from coloring in my little circles every day after I make progress.  Thank you Elise!  
I am still plugging away on AbMat sit ups.  Perfect 28/28 in February! Woo Hoo!  I can definitely feel myself getting stronger.
I missed a few days of writing in February, but overall, I'm pleased with my effort.  I sent out a bit of actual mail this month, which I think is my favorite kind of writing.  I'd like to send out 15 pieces of happy mail in March.
Ah, the sugar goal.  This is definitely my hardest goal.  I wish it wasn't.  I'm going to keep plugging away on this goal.  Any day without sugar is a good day.

Last week I started wearing John's Fitbit, and it has definitely made me aware of my activity levels throughout the day.  I tell you what, there is no way you can accidentally get 10,000 steps a day--you have to work at it.  I am like a little walking goddess these days.  I'm excited to see how many times I reach 10,000 steps in March.  I'll keep you posted!

How are you doing with your 2015 goals?

XO,

Vicki

Friday, February 27, 2015

Book Report: February 2015

Hi Friends!

Oh my gosh, I read so many amazing books in February!  I plowed through 8 books this month--mostly because they were all SO GOOD--you are going to love this month's list!  There's a nice mixture of genres this month--a little something for everyone!

Redeployment, Phil Klay (3 1/2 stars). Phil Klay's short stories confirmed what I already knew:  I wouldn't make a good soldier.  His stories are filled with heavy, deep, and real situations--situations I can't even imagine being part of.  I've said it before, but it bares repeating:  thank God there are people who are brave enough to do the things they need to do in order to keep our country safe.
Yes, Please, Amy Poehler (3 1/2 stars).  Amy Poehler has to be the coolest woman on the planet.  I picked this book up because I have a complete girl crush on Leslie Knope (the character Amy Poehler plays on Parks and Recreation).  I was so happy to see that Amy is every bit as delightful as the character she plays.  Hooray for funny, strong, real women.
The Wives of Los Alamos, Tarashea Nesbit (3 1/2 stars).  I love historical fiction, especially well-written historical fiction.  The Wives of Los Alamos is definitely well-written historical fiction. Nesbit writes the story of the wives and families of the scientists who created the atomic bomb in such a way that it feels like she gives the reader every possible perspective on what happened.  
Bird Box, Josh Malerman (4 stars).  Oh my gosh!  I think I held my breath through this entire book. I don't read a whole bunch of scary books, but this one is awesome.  The tension is unbelievable.  I literally couldn't put this book down.
The Magician's Lie, Greer Macallister (4 stars).  This is such a magical, delightful story.  I loved the way Macallister wove her way through this tale.  You're going to love this book!
The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins (3 stars).  This book is being touted as the new "Gone Girl," so I was eager to pick it up.  There were a million holds at the library, so I ended up buying it.  I ended up thinking this book was good, but not amazing.  The main character, Rachel, is not super likable. She makes some pretty bad decisions which lead to her to get involved in trying to solve a murder mystery.
Unspeakable, Meghan Daum (4 stars).  There is nothing I love more than a well-written personal essay--one that challenges the way I think.  Meghan Daum's Unspeakable is filled with amazing essays.  Each essay made me think.  Each essay challenged me to examine myself.  Meghan Daum is a Writer with a capital W.  I loved this book.
The Children Act, Ian McEwan (3 stars).  I was pretty darn excited when my friend, Denise, sent me a text and told me she just finished this book and liked it.  I liked it, too, but not as much as Atonement or Saturday.  I LOVED both of those Ian McEwan books.  I will keep picking up everything Ian McEwan writes, because two of his books are on my all-time favorites list.  Keep writing, Ian McEwan!

Read anything good lately?  I'd love to hear your recommendations!

Happy Reading!

XO,
Vicki

PS My rankings are out of 4 stars.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Sisters Are Forever

Every time Christy and I got in a fight when we were growing up, my mom would say, "Remember girls, sisters are forever!"  It was a phrase she picked up from a mug her sister had sent her that said, "Sisters are Forever!  I'm so Glad You're Mine!" Every time she said it, Christy and I would roll our eyes.
The phrase literally made me cringe.  Part of that was probably due to the timing of the phrase and the sing-song way my mom said it.  I only remember her saying it when I was really angry at Christy. It got to the point when we would say it to each other when it suited our needs.  I'd whip it out when I wanted to borrow something or make her do something I didn't want to do.  "Christy, can I borrow your black penny loafers today?  Remember, sisters are forever!"

The years rolled by and life went on, and Christy and I left for separate colleges.  By the time we left for college, we were already friends.  The college years taught us how to be friends who didn't live together in the same small room.  We learned to treasure our weekends together, and we talked on the phone a lot.  After grad school, I got married and had kids. I moved around the country.  Christy grew up, began her career, moved into a two flat, and adopted a Greyhound. Friends and lovers came into our lives and left, but one thing remained: my friendship with Christy.
Christy has been one of the few constants in my life.  She has seen me at my very best, and she has helped put me back together when I was at my worst.  She has traveled all over the country to cheer me on during bike races and triathlons. She has supported every cockamamie idea I have ever had (and there have been many).  She rocked each of my babies to sleep.  She nursed me back to health after foot surgeries. There have been many times when she has understood me better than I understood myself.  Christy is my favorite sounding board and the person I go to when I need a reality check. She makes me feel funny.  She makes me feel wise.  She believes in me.

I feel like I am the best version of myself when we are together.

Christy, I can't imagine my life without you.  I am so, so blessed to have you as my sister and my friend.

Happy Birthday, favorite lady.  I hope the year ahead is magical in every way.  I hope it's filled with love and laughter and all kinds of good memories.

Sisters are forever, and I'm so glad you're mine!

I love you big bunches,

XO,
Vicki

PS When Maddie was born I was beyond thrilled because I knew I gave my girls the best gift in the whole, wide world:  a sister.




Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Around Here: Kid Edition

Emily
She is halfway through her second semester at UW Madison.
She made the Dean's List first semester.
She is so happy to be able to eat peanut butter again.
She just got hired to be a UW Rec Sports Brand Ambassador 
She is busy debating internships and study abroad options and whether or not to do a certificate.
She is working out in the weight room.
She is getting ready to head to England.
She is sad that Parks and Recreation ended.
She is feeling a bit overwhelmed by this semester's homework load.
She made homemade Valentines for all of her friends.
Maddie
She is halfway through the second semester of Junior year.
She has her first college visit on Friday.
She was just asked to be the Editor and Chief of the school newspaper for next year.
She loves her new queen sized bed.
She is putting together her wardrobe for her France trip.
She is picking up hours at Pickard and working at a lot of concerts.
She is sad that Parks and Recreation is ending.
She is diving to Madison to visit Emily for the weekend.
She loves her French teacher and thinks Pre-Calc is easy.
She has a bunch of before school meetings every week.
She is absolutely obsessed with Corgis.
Jack
He is halfway through the second semester of 8th grade.
He loves playing Minecraft more than pretty much anything else in the whole world.
He thanks me every day for making his lunch.
He is starting rehearsals for the spring musical this week.
He does not like getting out of bed in the morning.
He would eat pizza and ice cream every day if I let him.
He asks me the most ridiculous questions on the way home from school every day.
He is taller than me.
He loves lounge pants.
He falls asleep on the way to his bass lesson every Tuesday night.

I love my fabulous kiddos.

XO,

Vicki

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

UKCC 2015--Indian Tomato-Cilantro Chicken 7/52

Hi Friends!

I'm seven weeks into my 2015 cooking challenge, and I'm still having fun with it!  The best part of this challenge is that it's pushing me a little out of my comfort zone.  This week's recipe, Indian Tomato-Cilantro Chicken was full of flavors.  Everyone ended up liking it--which is a good thing, since I had to buy a couple new spices to make it (I have lots of turmeric and cardamom if anyone wants to try out this recipe) so I'm definitely going to be making it again.  John actually spent a few weeks in India in December, so he was the "expert" taste tester on this recipe.   He told me he ate a whole bunch of food that looked similar to this in India, but he said he doesn't remember any of it containing Cilantro (which I associate with Mexican food).  This recipe definitely has a kick to it, but the brown sugar and coconut milk also add a hint of sweetness.

Indian Tomato-Cilantro Chicken

Chicken Marinade:
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 TBL lemon juice
2 large boneless/skinless chicken breasts cut into bite-sized chunks

Tomato-Cilantro Sauce:
1 bunch of fresh cilantro, bottom two inches of stems removed
4 cloves of garlic
3 Serrano chilies, seeds and membranes removed
1/8 C lemon juice
1 TBL water
3 TBL olive oil
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp. cumin seeds, divided
2 medium onions, chopped
2 TBL brown sugar
1 TBL minced ginger root
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. ground cardamom
1/3 C canned unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 C water

Combine the chili powder, salt, lemon juice, and chicken breast pieces in a medium bowl.  Cover and refrigerate at least one hour.

Meanwhile, place cilantro, garlic, Serrano chilies, 1/2 tsp. cumin, lemon juice, and 1 TBL water in the bowl of a food processor or blender.  Process 20-30 seconds or until the mixture forms a paste.  Set aside.

Heat the oil in a wok or heavy bottomed skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the black pepper and red pepper flakes and let cook in the oil for 1 minute.  Add 1/2 tsp. cumin, onion, and brown sugar to the pan and toss to coat the onions in the spices.  Let cook for 8-10 minutes or until the onions are nicely browned.

Add chicken to the pan.  Toss to coat it in the onions and spices.  Cook for 3-5 minutes or until the chicken pieces have turned white on all sides.

Reduce the heat to medium and then add in the ginger, tomatoes, turmeric, and cardamom and give it a good stir.  Add in the contents of the food processor or blender, stir, and let cook for 2-3 minutes.

Pour in the coconut milk and water and let the contents of the pan slowly come to a boil over medium heat.  Once it has reached a boil, cover the pan and reduce the heat to low.   Simmer for 10 minutes.

After 10 minutes, taste the sauce.  If it is too spicy, add more brown sugar.  Add salt and black pepper as needed.  I did not add any more brown sugar--we like spicy.

Serve over Jasmine rice and ENJOY!

As always, I'd love to know what you think if you end up trying out this recipe.

Happy cooking!

XO,

Vicki


Recipe adapted from The Wanderlust Kitchen