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Shop Talk

22 Apr

Shop talk today = the grocery store.

I love the grocery store. I also hate the grocery store. I think a lot of people feel this way, because 1) the grocery store has all the food and it’s fun to buy stuff. 2) when you don’t know what you want/where anything is/have the slowest cashier ever it is the worst.

But I mostly love it, because I love cooking and the only way to cook is to grocery shop. And I’m really good at grocery shopping. It’s one of my skills. I would put it on a resumee if people cared, along with my skill of pouring a big thing of liquid into a different container (another acquired skill). I’ve developed a method and gained wisdom from my several trips a week, and I’m here to share my insights and warnings.

1) You really do need a list:
People almost always tell me they don’t need a list. It’s in their head. They know what they need, screw your pen and paper. This never works. This means you forget at least  6 things and you had to go up and down every aisle since you did’t make a list and the aisles will jar your memory. This is why it takes you an hour and a half to shop. Trust me. I know this. This is why my husband hates the grocery store; PTSD from our college days of group grocery trips where no one has a list and everyone is going down the aisles at a different pace. It’s excruciating. (Don’t go group grocery shopping. this is a sub tip)

Make a list, people. Really, it’s not like you giving into everything you hate about domesticity. The list is all about efficiency. You don’t lose cool points for having a list.

And while I won’t tell you how to make a list, I think it would benefit you to organize your list in groups of ingredients (produce/meats/dairy/dry goods/frozen/miscellaneous). This helps you shop for things in the same area and avoids the trek across the store every other item, and lets you avoid going down every aisle.

(On that note, it wouldn’t hurt to plan a couple meals for that list. That way when you shop, you’re actually buying ingredients for an actual thing. So later on that week, you’ll magically have all the ingredients. but we’re getting off track.)

2) Try to go to the same store every time:
This is only because of efficiency. Eventually you’ll know exactly where everything is and what is down every aisle and you can zip around the store super fast. I get so disoriented even walking into the same name brand store but at a different location. It’s maddening. I get lost and it takes me twice as long.

Also, once you know the store really well, you’ll have a good idea if they will or will not have the item you’re looking for. My usual grocery store doesn’t have a great baking aisle and is often out of specialty produce so I have to stop by a different store that is better in this capacity. It’s annoying, but I don’t waste time looking for things.

3) There are good cashiers and bad cashiers:
Since I go to the same grocery store so often, I also know the cashiers. I have a favorite and go to her lane if she’s working it (I think she’s a manager or shift supervisor). She’s so fast and no-nonsense, doesn’t ask me lots of random questions, and knows every produce code and gets me out of there fast. She’ll help the baggers, too. I just love her. I might buy her a christmas present, that is how much I love her. (I’m not really going to do this, but I have considered it very seriously.)

The bad cashiers are the worst. They’re good people, I’m sure, but I have a hard time getting past how slow they scan every item. Or make a comment about every item. Or have to put on/take off/put on/take off their glasses to read the produce stickers. Or give me a spiel about the rewards card (even though I tell them I already have it).  Or don’t actually know what they’re doing and try to scan my reusable canvas bag (?), and then bag everything in a plastic bag, and then look puzzled when I ask them to use said canvas bag. This usually happens at Target, which is a bummer since I love Target, but now they have self checkout! (although, see #4)

Once, at Trader Joes, the cashier asked me if I had tried something I was buying. I said no, and he proceeded to tell me he didn’t like it and thought it was gross. Okay, dude.

4) Self checkout is a blessing and a curse
Sometimes, the self checkout is quick and painless. Sometimes.

Usually, it bites me in the butt. I’m so, so impatient in these situations.

Tip. Do not buy produce at target and then try to scan it yourself. Today I bought a lemon. A nice, simple, not even organic lemon. I placed it on the scale. I hit “find item.” I found the lemons. The machine told me “Set aside and seek assistance.” WHYYY machine?! Then, a manager had to come over and scan my lemon and I kid you not, it took at least 6 steps. Since the cashiers in this Target are so terrible, this was preferable. It’s a delicate balance.

The self checkout is use at your own risk.

Okay, I’ve probably sufficiently bored most of you…if you even got this far. brb, gotta go buy MORE STUFF THAT I FORGOT YESTERDAY. (sigh, my lists are not working, clearly.) Tell me your grocery store tips or stories in the comments!

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Healthy Minds, Healthy Bodies (yoga and food)

6 Feb

After a couple month hiatus, I went back to yoga today. I seriously love yoga. Don’t turn away yet- this isn’t going to be a long diatribe about yoga! I just wanted to talk about healthy living.

I’ve been working really hard since the New Year to have a more healthful life. I’ve been working out about five times a week and have been making conscious, good choices about the food I eat. I sleep amazing and I never get tired during the day anymore, where I used to need a nap around 2pm. But I took a little break from yoga.

Yoga is expensive if you go to a studio like I do, but I need that studio space to focus and be present. Otherwise I’m fending of cats and waiting for videos to load and getting distracted by dirty dishes and emails. So off to the studio I go, usually with a friend in tow.

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Today we went and encountered a new instructor, which was pretty jarring. She had a different approach and style and we were not feelin’ it at all. We missed the calm, focused yoga we used to do with our usual instructor, so we walked out of yoga a bit more tense than we walked in. But this instructor did make a good point. It’s your practice. She said it about 1000 times so it really got hammered into our heads, but I’m trying to use that phrase to help me feel good about our yoga experience by choosing to feel good about it. Healthy living is all about a healthy mindset. Letting negativity and grumpiness to edge its way in, that’s how you’ll feel all day, thinking about that experience with a frown. We’ll probably go to this new instructor’s class again, and maybe we’ll enjoy it more next time. But for today, I’m going to choose to feel good about my choice to go to yoga and further my yoga practice and strengthen my body, letting that choice influence the rest of my choices today.

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To continue to nourish my body and keep a healthy mindset, I made these nutrition-packed bars. If you don’t have time to work out today or do something good for yourself, maybe you can make these little treats instead. Fruit and nut bars don’t sound good at all, even to me, but trust me. I have a major sweet tooth that consumes my life; so if I can eat these and feel like I’m eating a treat, I think you will too.

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These are essentially Lara bars. If you’ve never had one, it’s a mix of nuts and dates, with one or two other ingredients to give it a flavor. Today we’re doing a brownie version. People comment often on the high sugar count in these bars, but I don’t feel bad about it since I’m getting fiber and nutrients from the fruit and good healthy fats from the nuts. It’s like yummy trail mix in a tasty bar.

The ingredients are simple: dates, almonds, walnuts, a couple tablespoons of chocolate chips and cocoa powder, and a pinch of salt. But it tastes like a fudgey chocolatey treat.

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You can eat these as an afternoon pick-me-up, after a workout for a bit of energy, or even for dessert. I really love this bar and I hope you do to! They’re gluten and dairy free (make sure to grab dairy-free chips if need be), and infinitely adaptable – there are tons of recipes and ideas online, so if you like this one, go explore and experiment with others.

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Yum!

Fudge Brownie Fruit and Nut Bars 
Serves 6

1/2 cup raw almonds
1/2 cup raw walnuts
1 cup packed whole dates
3 tablespoons chocolate chips
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
few sprinkles sea salt


Method:  Line a loaf pan with some lightly greased parchment paper. Soak the fruit in a cup of warm water for about 10 min, unless your fruit is very soft.
Add your nuts to your food processor, and process until nuts are very fine, but before they become a paste. Add in the remaining ingredients, processing until mixture comes together into a thick lump (mm…lumps.) This only took me a few minutes, but it could take your processor longer to combine everything.
Spread mixture into prepared pan with a greased rubber spatula, making it as evenly spread as possible. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Remove from pan and cut into 6 bars.
Wrap bars tightly in plastic wrap; will keep at room temperature for a few days, and in the refrigerator for a few weeks. 


Recipe adapted from Leite’s Culinaria

 

 

The Perks of Living in the Land of Beer and Cheese

25 Oct

Wisconsin has a reputation for free-flowing beer and an abundance of cheese. This is not a stereotype, folks. This is real life.

Once, I saw this.
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We live in a hotbed of local craft breweries, and it’s super cool and exciting. I lived here when I became of drinking age, so the beer I was exposed to was a bit of a step up from the usual collage fare of Miller High Life and PBR (not to say those don’t have their merits on a hot day!). People here really appreciate their beer here, and I have to say I’m among them.

I like those citrusy, bitter IPAs. Fruity, malty belgians. And yeah, I do like those “girly” beers that are brewed with fruit. Yum!

Sunday, we headed over to Ale Asylum, one of several local breweries, for a tour. They’ve grown exponentially in the last few years, so much so they had to build a new, state of the art facility to brew their beers, effectively tripling their output.  It’s pretty impressive!

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malts!

malts!

I love brewery tours. This one was really fun, since they let us grab a pint of our choice first and we got to take it around with us.

Look at all the glorious choices!

Look at all the glorious choices!

pure enjoyment.

pure enjoyment

Chelsea made the mistake of getting the high APV Belgian and I drank mine too fast. Solidarity in lightweights.

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Of course, we all think we can just start our own brewery now, since we’re just experts on stuff. While it would be basically the most fun job ever, it’s a far-away glint of a dream. It’s fun to dream, though, and we’ll probably take a crack at a home brew soon.

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In the mean time, I baked with some beer. I wanted to use one of Ale Asylum’s beers in it, but we had a fridge full of other stuff I needed to get rid of. I made some delicious maple beer quick bread with a pumpkin ale for a touch of fall flavor, along with some hand-tapped maple syrup from Brent’s grandpa’s friend. His grandpa has connections.

Here’s the recipe for the bread. Note that I added more maple syrup and reduced the brown sugar, added a dash of cinnamon, and didn’t use a stout (although, I am sure that’d be delicious). Try it out, it’s a super easy, quick bread to whip up and share!

Mt. Fuji: Seeing God in the Mountains

30 Jul

I have a complete obsession with mountains. I am fairly certain this stems from growing up in the utterly flat prairie land that is Illinois. Even Wisconsin’s beautiful rolling hills captivate me. But mountains.

Oh, mountains.
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Ever since I went to Honduras in high school, I’ve always seen God in the mountains. They’re breathtakingly beautiful, impossibly tall, and impossibly there. How did they get there? Yes, on one level I understand the geology and what-not. But they’re just…there. And it’s wonderful. I can stand on one and look down and see the rest of creation, and it’s just a powerful experience. So going to Mt. Fuji, the tallest (and most iconic) mountain (volcano) in Japan, and now a UNESCO World Heritage site, was pretty amazing.

We haven’t been able to see Fujisan since we’ve been here. Summer means hazy here, and there is rarely a day when the distance isn’t obscured with clouds. Bummer. So we went there instead. But…it was still covered in clouds, even though we were only a few miles away from it.

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So then, we went there.
We took a bus up to the fifth station – one of several “bases” that climbers can start out from. You can climb the entire thing, but a lot of people choose to start about halfway up the mountain – it will still take about a day to climb to the top from the fifth station.
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We looked around here – there was a shrine, tons of gift shops, and great spots to see the summit. We picked a trail that wasn’t a main one to go up the mountain and it was absolutely beautiful.

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The trail was a widely varied terrain. I never really thought the mountain would be made of lava rocks…but duh, of course it is. It’s still deemed an active volcano, even though it hasn’t erupted since the 1700s.
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I was in the cloud!

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Tiny pine cones!

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All the branches were stretched away from the mountain.

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The summit doesn’t look too far away…but don’t let the skewed perspective fool you.

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This was really cool, but it wasn’t really put in to perspective until we got to our hotel on one of the five Fuji lakes. We stayed on Lake Kawaguchiko, the most developed of the five.
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This was the clearest view of the mountain we ever got. It was evening, and we looked out the window of our room and we were greeted with this beautiful, amazing view. We got so lucky to see this, since the next day the mountain was completely shrouded in clouds, even when we took a little trip out into the middle of the lake, where they say you can get a complete reflection. I was a bit bummed, but still so glad we got to see it. We were on that mountain! it’s incredible to think about it. It was definitely one of the best experiences we have had so far.

 

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Painted Skies

9 May

One of my favorite things in the world is looking up at stars. Not just in a romantic way, but in a serious, scientific, I-cant-believe-this-is-real type of way. This video shows both stars and another phenomena I hope one day i’ll get to see- aurora borealis (AKA, the northern lights)

This video is of Michigan skies. I might have to make my way back up there for some northern lights viewing. It’s truly incredible and beautiful!