June 22, 2012

up to my eyeballs in recipes

I would like to hire an assistant. One whose sole purpose is to take all of the delicious recipes from the twenty or so food blogs in my Google Reader and copy them into Evernote. Everyday I go through the new posts and (ideally) transfer recipes I want to try into Evernote. Sometimes Most days I'm too lazy to copy/paste a bunch of times so I click "keep unread" and say, I'll do it tomorrow.

Hence, the recipes pile up fast. Especially when I seem to add a new food blog to the reader every week or so. Like this morning, I was checking new food posts and the blogger was all, "here are my 5 favorite food blogs!" and since I didn't follow any of them I checked them out. And then I was all like, "ALL OF THEM!" and subsequently clicked five feed buttons.

63 posts with recipes in them that need to go to Evernote. Egads!
Also, note my "Science" feed is currently very unread. 


My email inbox also has many recipes from Real Simple and MyRecipes.com that need to go into Evernote. There were about 20 in there as of today. Oy. So yeah, I need to overcome my summer laziness* and tackle my electronic recipe piles. 


Seriously guys, if you're like me and have tons of recipes you want to keep track of, Evernote is the way to go.** You can tag recipes, add a link to the recipe's origin (I do it so I can bring up more detailed cooking instructions from the original post), and paste a drool-worthy picture of the final product. I originally tried to make a recipe binder for the recipes I found, but copying and pasting recipes into Word and then printing them out was a huge time-suck and tree-killer. I still have the binder for clipped recipes from magazines and newspapers but since most of my recipes come from the interwebs, Evernote has been a godsend. Cooking has gotten even better since Kevin bought an iPad. I can commandeer it before dinner and bring up the Evernote app instead of wasting precious counter space with my laptop which never has enough battery life to get me through prepping a meal, these days. 

How do you guys save recipes? A note-taking application? Handwritten in a lovely notebook?


* Training for my summer job as a beverage cart girl at a local golf course starts next week. So most days I'm in my pjs and in front of the computer until around noon. 


** I swear Evernote has not paid me to gush about them. I just love it that much.

June 15, 2012

summer, summer, summertime

Summer is here! Students are out of school (huzzah for a break from subbing!), the deck has a brand-new patio set on it, our garden is actually growing and sprouting things, and humidity is about to become a mainstay here in the upper Midwest.

I spent the first 10 days of June in Tucson catching up with friends and participating as a counselor at an astronomy camp. The same astronomy camp I attended as a high schooler 9 years ago. As always I enjoyed being in the company of astronomy nerds under the beautiful Arizona night sky. A partial lunar eclipse and the transit of Venus occurred during camp with the latter being the more exciting (i.e. rare and awe-inspiring) of the two. Check out some of the images that a fellow counselor slash photography enthusiast captured up on Kitt Peak.

Now that I'm back home, the job search is back on. I didn't think I would find a job as a teacher in the districts in my area (for many boring reasons) so I applied for a non-traditional teaching but still education-related job at a company here in Madison. It was a good backup job; great pay and I'd still be using my teaching skillz. (Yes, skillzzz.)

I had a phone interview with the company during camp and it went well. Then, during a rare moment of getting cell service on the mountain, I discovered a voicemail from a Madison school asking if I wanted to interview for a teaching position. Um, YES I WOULD!

So I interviewed and they offered me the position and I'm going to be a real life teacher this fall!
* dance around, dance around *

So now I gots ta figure out what I'm going to do the rest of my summer. Not working is not an option so I'm off to see what kinds of summer jobs are out there for me. 

Wish me luck on job search #2!

April 10, 2012

Fits and Starts

To anyone who still checks this here blog... hi! Quite the hiatus I had, eh? Winter in the Midwest (or something only slightly resembling it) came and went and we're in the midst of a lovely spring. The plants and I have come out of hibernation!

My winter was pretty meh. Not much to talk about; hence the hiatus from my corner of the interwebs. Kevin and I pretty much stuck to a routine consisting of work, dinner together, and watching a lot of television series on Netflix. We didn't take many trips other than to our respective hometowns a few times.  

Weather-wise, like much of the country, it was a mild winter. When it snowed it didn't stick around very long so any desires to participate in snow-related activities were quickly squashed. There were a few minor snowstorms as well as the subsequent commutes from hell which made me long for the DC Metro and my (mostly) hassle free trips to and from work.

Overall, a comfortable winter. Since the end of February, when the weather was getting uncharacteristically warm, Kevin and I ventured out more and more. (Might have something to do with reaching the end of Mad Men, Downton Abbey, and The Walking Dead, too.) Here are some of the highlights...

  • I went to my first Bockfest at Capital Brewery in Middleton. For standing around and drinking delicious beer in the cold, I had a great time. Next year I'll remember to bring my own pretzel necklace!
  • Kevin and I spent a weekend with friends in a cabin up near Minocqua, WI. There were a lot of board games and fun times had by all. And a scary moment where we thought Hank might have drank antifreeze from the toilet. (He's fine.)
  • We celebrated the marriage of our good friends, G and E in my hometown of Stillwater, MN. It was a perfect no-muss-no-fuss wedding. I really enjoyed getting to spend time in downtown Stillwater and visit with G and E, since they currently live out in Colorado. 
Party time at the Grand Banquet Hall in Stillwater! 

Last weekend, I tagged along with Kevin and his rugby team when they played their first tournament in St. Louis. They were gracious enough to let me stay in the hotel for free and to compensate, I played videographer and taped their matches. Their team, the Madison Minotaurs, came in second place out of six teams. They played Chicago in the championship game but were pretty beat by then and ended up losing. Not bad for their first matches of the season, though!

St. Louis is a pretty nice city and we had a chance to visit a few of its touristy staples. While visiting with one of my closest high school friends, Nora, and her husband Robin, we ventured to Ted Drewes for some frozen custard. It was most certainly a tasty treat - matching the caliber of frozen custard we have access to in the Dairy State. Compared to Michael's Frozen custard here in Madison, I like that there were many different toppings and sizes to choose from. At 9pm on a Friday there were at least a hundred people there but the lines moved pretty quickly.

On Sunday, we consulted Nora and Yelp for a good place to grab brunch. Both suggested Rooster and it lived up to hype. Kevin and I enjoyed some deliciously spicy Bloody Marys and crepes. I almost always lean toward the savory when it comes to breakfast food so I had the goat cheese crepe that came with mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, and basil. I love me some goat cheese! Afterwards we wandered around downtown until our scheduled visit to the Gateway Arch. The arch itself is spectacular (we could see it perfectly from our hotel room) and the view from the top is quite nice, as well.

Clockwise from top left: the guys not posing for my picture; downtown St. Louis as seen from the top of the Gateway Arch; getting artsy with the Arch; rugby match (see Kevin lifting his teammate?)

Alright, lovlies, I'll end this rather long post. Here's hoping you are enjoying spring in your neck of the woods!

December 4, 2011

ZZZOOOOoooooommm

Did you see that?! That was November flying by.

I can't believe it's December already. Perhaps it's because I was expecting Madison to be under a few inches of snow by now and heaving a sigh of submission as I clean off my car before work. So far it seems like Madison has managed to miss the snow that's been falling in the region. * does a happy dance but then cautiously peers out the window expecting a foot of snow to fall from the sky *

So now that I've been a typical Midwesterner by starting out talking about the weather let's move on, shall we?
[Source]
Fall was beautiful here; I'm sad to see it go. The weather was lovely (crap, there I go again) and the foliage was breathtaking and surprisingly long-lasting. I took every opportunity to be outside, whether it was walking Hank, taking a bike ride, or just sitting on the deck with a glass of beer in hand and Kevin next to me. I wish I could share some pictures with you... I have pictures from a fun day-trip to Devil's Lake on my now-defunct digital camera but haven't been able to retrieve them yet.

My life, these days, is dominated by work and money. Lack of money, that is. Slowly the subbing jobs have picked up since October but I haven't had a 5-day teaching week yet. Sub pay is actually pretty good around these parts, but that's only if you are working everyday. My next paycheck from one district will be quite hefty (compared to the peanuts I've been getting so far) but I won't see that until around the first of January. January, people. That means that I have to survive on very little for 3 more weeks.

I've been doing ok with money so far but definitely not as well as I should be. I know I could really buckle down and save save save and reduce my personal cost of living but it's a tad difficult when you're used to a certain way of spending and then suddenly that income is completely gone and you're getting almost 90% LESS of what you earned before. Here's where I enter the hashtag #firstworldproblems.

I know I'm extremely lucky that I have jobs at least 2-4 times a week and that I have a roof over my head and that Kevin isn't collecting rent from me. I could have it much worse, I realize. I don't think I've ever led an extravagant life. Just one where I don't get crazy with my spending and I can live comfortably.

Now I'm just trying to get used to adhering to a strict budget... which means, paying for groceries and not much else. It means going longer than my usual 2 months before I get my hair trimmed. It means squeezing out every last drop of shampoo, contact solution, foundation, and toothpaste before I make a trip to Target. It means deleting every single email from Groupon, Living Social, Banana Republic, or music venues before I open them so that I'm not tempted to buy anything I can't afford right now. It's staying in more often and having one or two drinks when I do venture to the bars. It's not a horrible situation... just something that I need to do.

I know things will be alright and that I'll have a little more money to work with in a month. In the mean time I'm just glad that I can get by with wearing my tired old work clothes to school because I rarely see the same people/students twice in a week!

How about you guys... got any money saving tips for me? Have you ever gone from a steady income to living paycheck to paycheck? How did you manage?

October 31, 2011

parental visits

In the last 5 days, both my parents and Kevin's parents came to visit us. We see Kevin's parents pretty frequently because they live an hour and a half away near Milwaukee. This was their third visit since I moved in, in August, and we've seen them a few times in New Berlin as they have taken care of Hank (our dog) a few weekends we were out of town.

My parents, on the other hand, live four hours away in my hometown of Stillwater, MN, and are not fond of long car trips and staying in hotels as they were when I was a kid. So this was the first time they've been to visit me in Madison since I was in college. I was super excited to have them come and experience a few new places in Madison. And to meet Hank. 

Before they arrived on Wednesday afternoon, I was in full-scale "ohmygosh we have to clean the house because my PARENTS are coming" mode. For the first year that Kevin owned his house, there were 1-3 other guys living with him. Luckily they were fairly clean and responsible guys so it wasn't too hard to de-clutter, sanitize, and organize the place once I moved in. However, my parents, while less obsessed with organization like me, have a really clean house and suddenly I noticed all these things that needed cleaning. Being an only child does not save you from the critical eyes of your parents! So I folded/put away laundry, swept and vacuumed the entire house (Hank is currently in the midst of shedding his summer undercoat), and dusted/wiped down every surface imaginable. Kevin, sensing my franticness, helped me out. A similar routine was repeated yesterday, before the arrival of Kevin's parents, except that I was the solo in my cleaning and organizing efforts because Kevin's favorite soccer... sorry... football team was on TV. 

Our day consisted for visiting Olbrich Botantical Gardens on the east side, touring the Wisconsin State Capitol building, and having dinner at The Old Fashioned on the Capitol square. It was a short visit but stopping at three Madison staples was awesome.

(My apologies for the lack of pictures since my digital camera crapped out on me a few weeks back and neither Kevin nor I remembered his camera.)

At Olbrich we decided, since it was a pretty nice day, to wander the outdoor gardens. They apparently have 16 acres worth of outdoor gardens but I doubt we saw that much in our two hour visit. A lot of the flowers were past their prime but here and there we saw bunches of mums that were still providing glorious colors. We still had plenty to view since there were fall grasses and other hardy plants still going strong. The highlight of Olbrich was the Thai Pavilion and Garden. I imagine it looks even better in the spring and summer. The beautiful pavilion was a gift from Thailand and is one of two located in the entire country (only two others are located outside of Thailand). My parents and I got a picture in front of it, using my iPhone. Turned out pretty nice despite our blinking issues!

Take 1:  I blinked (which hardly ever happens).
Take 2:  Dad's eyes are closed (which happens a LOT). 
The Capitol was our next stop. We had every intention of attending the 4:00 tour but it turns out that after Labor Day the last tour of the day is at 3pm so we did our own walk around tour of the building. My iPhone had less luck taking non-blurry images in the low light so I don't have any images from the Capitol. I highly recommend going if you are in Madison - even if you only get to see the rotunda, it's worth it.  (There are a lot of restaurants, bars, and shops near the Capitol so it's not like it'll be the only reason for heading to the heart of the isthmus.)

The four of us hiked up to the base of the dome and walked around the outside. Kevin and I pointed out landmarks and UW-Madison campus buildings to my parents. The Capitol is, by law, the tallest building in the downtown area (no building in a mile radius can be taller than the base of the columns that support the dome). I've always loved this aspect of Madison. It really is a handsome looking building and I always enjoy getting glimpses of it when I'm downtown - especially at night. Afterwards we viewed the mini exhibit hosting pictures of the capitol building throughout its existence, as well as its predecessors. The rest of the time we spent in the rotunda; admiring the architecture and artwork.

Our final stop was The Old Fashioned which is a particular favorite of mine. The restaurant/bar is named after the drink (you may have noticed Don Draper drinking a few in Mad Men) and boy do they make good ones. Normally, the drink is made with brandy, or sometimes whiskey but at home my dad makes ours with Southern Comfort. I've tried it with other liquors but still prefer Southern Comfort. So my parents and I each had a SoCo old fashioned while Kevin had his with Makers Mark. We ordered the deep fried cheese curds - the best in the city - and took forever to decide what to order. Kevin's favorite, a roast beef sandwich, had been taken off the menu so he order the Old Fashioned House burger which came topped with a fried egg (YUM). My dad order a sandwich with walleye, my mom had the grilled chicken breast sandwich (with amazing bacon), and I ordered a sandwich which had, among other veggies, grilled eggplant, a portabella mushroom, goat cheese and black olive tapenade. It was fantastic, as was the entire visit with my parents.

Our visit with Kevin's parents was equally enjoyable. Our dinner consisted of two whole grilled chickens and a plethora of delicious veggies. We spent the rest of Sunday night talking, drinking wine and whiskey (not together), and watching a couple of movies.

How about you guys... do you get to see your parents/siblings very much? Are you more prone to getting out of the house and doing stuff or do you just hang out and enjoy each others' company?

October 25, 2011

Design

I'm currently substitute teaching. The awesome steady job I left in Washington, DC ended two months ago... and decent paychecks stopped a few weeks after that.

Jobs are trickling in but I'm only in one district and it is a pretty small one. I hope to be employed by two more in the next month so that I have a job every day of the work week. Needless to say, I don't have a disposable income. Kevin, my boyfriend, is pretty much my sugar daddy at the moment.

I would like this space to be inviting and that depends a good deal on the design. Since my income is limited and my graphic design skills are even more limited (and you can only do so much with a Blogger template), I've been searching for some cheap templates. A simple design that's pleasing to the eye when someone clicks over to it.

There are some good designs and designers out there (many of the good ones being out of my current price range) but there are also templates that look like a crafting room puked on them. Waaaay to much stuff going on with them. Too many colors. Too many different patterns. Too much froof.

I've seen many templates whose individual design aspects are actually quite nice... by themselves. But put together, a cohesive unit they do not make. Sure you may have a lovely background and a unique header, but they don't, as Stacy and Clinton like to say, "go" with each other. It's kinda like how some people get dressed. They pick out items to wear based on how they like them as individual pieces but as an "outfit" it looks a bit off.

Maybe I'm finding duds because I'm looking at inexpensive and free blog templates. I've noticed that designs that cost more or are featured in a designer's portfolio tend to be a lot more pleasing to the eye. What puzzles me though is, why would designers even put designs on their website that aren't their best work? Personally, since I'm not looking to get a more expensive custom design for my blog, I haven't bothered looking at designers' portfolios. I've just been judging their work based on their freebies and low-cost templates... and if I didn't like what I saw there, I moved on to the next and made a mental note not to come back to these sites if I were considering a custom design. But perhaps, now that I know this trend,  I reconsider some of the design websites I previously checked out.

So what are some of my favorite designs I've seen in the blogging world?

Of the blogs I have read for a long time, I like Nicole's, Kerri's, and Kyla's designs - all three lovely lady created their own designs. Each design is simple and beautiful... not too many different colors... not too much frill. But their personalities* still show through in their designs. Just... *sigh*... loveliness.












Are you a graphic designer? Would you knowingly put your less than great designs on your design website? Is it simply about community and sharing?

* Have you read these girls' blogs? Seriously. All rockstars in their own special way

October 24, 2011

back in the saddle again

How does one get back into blogging after being out of the game for over two years?

It's intimidating, I'll tell you that much.

I started my original blog back when blogging was beginning to take hold in mainstream popularity. I continued writing throughout college and beyond but gave it up when I looked around at my fellow bloggers and felt that my writing - style and content-wise - didn't hold a candle to theirs. I felt like an amateur amongst rockstars even though I had been blogging for approximately the same amount of time as them. I wrote about my life but there weren't wild adventures, mishaps in dating, or quarter-life crises to chronicle. Even though I had started a new job in a new city that was far away from home, I was perfectly content. For a blogger with average writing skills, my life made for stale post material... so I said goodbye to blogging.

Even though I gave up blogging, I still opened my Google Reader daily to peruse my favorite blogs.  Last year I got the urge to start a blog. I needed an outlet... to share my struggles with maintaining a long-distance relationship, my desire to pursue formal education again, and the overwhelming longing to move back to the Midwest. I got as far as creating a blog, purchasing a domain name, and obsessing over the design using my sad, sad HTML/graphic design skills. I wrote one post but didn't know how to talk about the less-than-awesome things in my life without sounding like a whiny, privileged turd. So my blog sat in an increasingly dusty corner of the internet until my domain name expired and I deleted it from Blogger.

Fast forward to today. I've changed occupations, moved back to the Midwest, and am living with my boyfriend and the sweetest dog ever. I cook, a lot, and I love it. I'm in desperate need of an exercise overhaul (i.e. getting off my butt and actually exercising). And I have an amazing Midwest city to explore and to further fall in love with. Again, the itch to write and to share aspects of my life has returned.

So, here I am! Ready to share my experiences in the kitchen, my adventures in cohabitation, my  struggles in transforming my body from squishy to slightly less squishy, and of course... the awesomeness that is the Midwest.

You ready? (Am I ready?) Time will tell!

Ignore the dirty keyboard. It's well loved.