Writer’s Block

This blog is all about attempting new projects and recounting new experiences.  However, the month of October failed to even get one little post.

Between work, responsibilities and Great American Beer Festival (of course), the blog was put on the back burner.

Sorry, October.

My life is currently out of control with “things to do”; my whiteboard calendar looks like a pack of dry erase markers threw a raging party and made an insanely colorful mess all over it in the form of appointments, events and activities. -And they didn’t even leave me a beer-

This is mostly a good thing, though. The reason I’ve been so busy is that I finally landed myself an internship in my field (it only took me 3 years out of college to do it). I managed to snag a reporting internship at a local business journal. Unpaid, of course. It’s newspaper-esque, but has a more narrowed focus. I’ve been the reporting intern since the beginning of September, and what an experience it has been.

I’m finally writing, but more importantly, I’m being published. -Selfish moment of the day: I LOVE seeing my name on the byline of a story. There’s nothing quite like that feeling.- I’m learning from professionals in the industry and expanding my personal knowledge and understanding about subjects that I would never think to explore on my own.

I even wrote my first front-page story. It wasn’t the headlining story, but it was there. Recognition for doing what I know I’m meant to do is indescribable.

Northern Colorado Business Report

The story at the bottom is mine. ….even though they spelled my last name wrong on the byline….

My experience here will hopefully propel me in to the journalism world; I’m currently working on getting another internship. Hopefully. And who knows, maybe even one day an actual, real, paid job.

ANYWAY.

The reason I’m including this is because this is a new experience. And that’s what this blog is all about.

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Half Marathon Birthday Present

I’m not really sure what I was thinking.

Actually, I am. I think.

I was thinking about what I’ve had to deal with and overcome physically, mentally, and emotionally over the past five years, and that I wanted to make a statement to myself about what is possible.

With that personal insight being said: I’M RUNNING A FREAKING HALF MARATHON!!!! In three weeks!

The day before my 26th birthday, I will walk, run, crawl, be dragged, or cross that finish line in some other method after plodding my butt 13.1 very slow miles down the Poudre Canyon. I’m definitely not going for time as I’m currently running about 10 minute miles, I’m just going for completion.

I’ve never really been a runner, or enjoyed running, but I do love a challenge and trying something new, and this encompasses both. This will be the first race I’ve ever entered in or run. Most sane people would have started with a 5K, or maybe even a five-miler. Not me. -But if you read this blog often, you probably already have a good grasp of my level of sanity. Or insanity for that matter.-

The training has actually been more rewarding than I would have thought. I started going for runs about two months ago (just because – not for half marathon training); my 2.5 mile starting runs seemed hard and tedious. After slowly working up to five miles, I started contemplating a half marathon. The timing of this particular one was too perfect not to pass up.

My endurance is noticeably up – I’m not huffing and puffing and feeling like dying after three miles. Or even five for that matter (it comes full force around mile seven). It helps to have a running buddy who has been there with me every run and every step of the way, even though mine has four legs and a tail. I’ve also been cross-training with strength and endurance exercises, including CrossFit and boxing. My support system has been great, including friends, co-workers, family, and gym friends.

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My running buddy

It has been a little over two years since my last foot/leg surgery (the current tally being four), and after being told I would most likely never run again.

With three weeks to go, my long runs are at eight miles and increasing to nine this week. I never thought I’d be saying that. Ever.

I’m proud of myself for taking this on, keeping up with the training, and knowing that this is really going to happen. I will run it. I will cross the finish line. I will earn my medal. And I will drink free beer as my reward afterward (and probably a lot of it). Happy Birthday to me!

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I think I’ll send my Orthopedist a ‘Thinking of You’ card with a picture of me crossing the finish line.

“It’s very hard in the beginning to understand that the whole idea is not to beat the other runners. Eventually you learn that the competition is against the little voice inside you that wants you to quit.” – George Sheehan

Garden To Table Goodness

I have been meaning to follow up with the Let Your Garden Grow post for a while now. Veggies are happening!! So SO many veggies. I’ve actually considered opening an zucchini stand next to the neighborhood kids’ lemonade stand….but I don’t want to steal their thunder. Although the garden has had some ups and downs, as expected, it is flourishing for the most part.

There are a few lessons I have learned along the way that only a plant could teach me (and Google when the plant won’t divulge).

  • Patience is a virtue – anyone who knows me knows that I am not necessarily the most patient person. (Those of you thinking “understatement of the century” just hush)
  • Don’t cast off something as dead, even though it may look it. My tomato plant has looked AWFUL for the past month, but still keeps giving me yellow pear tomatoes. In return, I’ll keep watering it as its reward.
  • Never trust an automated watering system. The zucchini are wilting due to lack of water. The cucumbers are sickly due to too much water. The green beans are exploding due to the right amount of water. It’s like Goldilocks, but with plants and water. Yeah, ok, that was a stretch.
  • Do NOT plant Fall veggies in the Summer. They will not do well. RIP arugula. (On the other hand, my kale and spinach are rocking it!)
  • If your neighboring community garden beds are full of rotting veggies due to lack of picking, it’s a free for all. It drives me nuts that people decide to plant and grow all this food and then let it go to waste. That’s where I come in to happily harvest those veggies for them, and either take them home, to my restaurant for use, or to the Food Bank. There are too many people who do not have food to let all of that go to waste. *Soapbox moment of the day brought to you by neglectful, lazy plant parents*
  • Carrots are deceiving. They may look ready to pick, but the joke’s on you when you pull up a tiny root instead. This goes for turnips and radishes as well. Sneaky bastards.
  • Vine plants will choke out anything else around them. Beware.
  • I LOVE the feeling of picking my dinner, or lunch, or what have you. I have a hate-hate relationship with the grocery store. Going out to the garden or out my front door to pick fresh ingredients beats it all. It’s such a good feeling to know what you’re eating, how it was grown, and where exactly it’s coming from. For me, that’s exciting.
  • I’m proud of this first garden attempt. It has gone well for the most part and has been overwhelmingly rewarding.

Here are a few things I have harvested:

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Green beans, zucchini, yellow squash, peppers, wax beans, tomatoes of all shapes and sizes, cucumbers, eggplant, turnips, carrots, snap peas, green onion, broccoli, spinach, kale, lettuce, and radishes.

My kind of ‘grocery shopping.’

Being Me.

This last month forcefully threw me in a centrifuge, separated my realities, tossed me on my ass butt, and demanded I take a strong, hard look at life and what I want out of it, and what I already have. I wasn’t quite ready for that, but the forces of life and fate deemed it so -and there’s really no arguing with them-. After taking time to ponder, I realized that my two realities (past and present) have quite a disconnect that didn’t register for me until now. I am at peace with the direction I have decided to take my life; I have also had to remind myself who I am, and vow to stay true to that. It’s funny how life events and people can subconsciously persuade you to veer from what you originally wanted out of life; I am more aware now of who I am than I was before. I guess I can only thank fate, life, and the additional underlying persuaders for that.

Motivational-Quote

This, this is what I know now:

  • I am tired of being told how I will feel about something, specifically a major life change. Let me be the decision maker in that sense. If you were right, keep the I told you so’s to yourself. I can make my own decisions, thank you very much.
  • I know myself WAY better than anyone else knows me.
  • Love can be the most wonderful feeling in the world, and the most painful at the same time.
  • ‘Friends’ are easy to find. Sincere, true friends are diamonds in the rough. They will have your back and catch you when you fall with unwavering loyalty. Don’t let these people go.
  • My dog is freaking awesome.
  • I am smart, driven, and know what I want. I’m not afraid to go after it and am taking the first steps to do so.
  • Expect the unexpected.
  • Family is crazy. But crazy in a good way. They are my rock.
  • It’s time to experience new places and expand my life bubble and what I know.
  • Excuse makers will always be excuse makers, no matter how much wishful thinking goes in to it.
  • I am stronger than I remembered.
  • Emotions are a privilege. We as humans are granted the gift of feeling, and whether it’s happy or sad, it’s a beautiful thing.
  • Time heals.
  • I have accepted my imperfections. Whether others do or not is of no consequence to me.
  • And finally:

buddha

Here’s to letting go and moving on. Here’s to being Me.

My Summer Bucket List 2013

I am a list person. Always have been. When I have a ton of things to do, I make a list. When I am trying to learn something new, I make a list. Important events/dates? I make a list. Instructions: list. Directions: list. Sometimes, I even make a list for my lists…

That being said, I  have a bucket list for my life (which maybe I’ll share one day), but I thought it would be fun to do one just for the Summer. –Hooray for cliché blog posts!- There are some things that I have already completed, and will include anyway, but there are plenty more that I would like to do, or at least attempt to do.

  1. Brew and bottle beer #2. Done. It will be ready to drink by July 4! P.S. it’s DELICIOUS! And I’m not just saying that. Turned out way better than we thought!
  2. Hike a 14-er. I haven’t done this for a looooooooong time. Done. Hiked Mt. Elbert: elevation 14,443ft.
  3. Go camping.
  4. Water ski. Ok, ok attempt to water ski. Kind of done. Attempted to surf behind a boat. Lake surfing? Boat surfing?
  5. Go to a Rockies game. I can’t believe I haven’t been to one yet this Summer! DONE! I got to go to Todd Helton’s final home game. Ever. He has been my favorite player, and one of my good friends gave me a ticket right behind home plate. I also managed to snag a Todd Helton bobble head doll. It’s proudly placed in my window sill. 

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  1. Plant a veggie garden. Done (See Let Your Garden Grow!).  Above and beyond done. Reserve your squash and cucumbers now! We will have plenty to go around!
  2. Harvest and eat veggies out of our own garden. I cannot wait to do this! Done. And they are awesome!
  3. Get back in to a workout routine. It’s important to me, so I thought I’d include it. Mission hot bod by 26! Done! I even registered for a half marathon the day before my birthday! 
  4. Celebrate 1 year with my man. I know, *gag*. Ok, stopping the mush now. Done. 🙂 Starting over. I don’t need someone else to define who I am. Except for my dog. I’ll keep him.
  5. Catch a big fish and eat it. Here fishy, fishy, fishy.
  6. Move to a new house. This will be happening within the week. Wasn’t originally planned for the Summer, but flowing with life’s curveballs. Done. SO glad it’s done. 
  7. Hit a homerun. Done. If I could high-five myself I would.
  8. Go to a concert at Mishawaka Amphitheatre. I’ve never been!
  9. Buy a ticket to the Philippines. This will hopefully be happening soon for a trip in December! Done. Will be leaving Dec. 26. I love new adventures.
  10. Buy a new car. Done. Again, not originally planned.
  11. Create a budget list for myself and see where I can cut expenses (see #14 & #15). Done. Although it’s not going so well…
  12. Read 5 books. Didn’t quite hit 5, but I finished 3. 
  13. Water fight. ‘Nuff said.
  14. Learn how to compost. For the veggie garden of course.
  15. Unplug myself for a few days – no phone, computer, etc. I actually enjoy doing this.
  16. Take a road trip with no destination in mind. Hopefully I’ll end somewhere cool. Or lost. But I think that’s the point.
  17. Attend the local Sustainable Living FairActually, I will now be volunteering at it!!
  18. Go to a museum.
  19. Run a 5K. I’ve never officially done a race. Been training and running longer than a 5K. Signed up for a half marathon in September and a 10K in October.
  20. Go to a rodeo. I grew up going to them every Summer and haven’t been for a while.
  21. Take a night hike.
  22. Watch a sunrise. Yikes that’s early. Done. I always forget how breathtaking they are. Especially in Colorado. 
  23. See a meteor shower. Love watching these.
  24. Go to the Farmer’s MarketsDone. But will continue to go because I love them. 
  25. Spend some time outside every day. So far, so good.
  26. Learn a new skill. Done. Learning how to can and preserve!
  27. Attempt Geocaching.
  28. Go on a picnic.
  29. Make homemade granola bars.
  30. Go to an amusement park. I LOVE roller coasters!!
  31. Attend Film on the Rocks. I’ve only been to concerts here…never the movies.
  32. Go to the drive-in. I haven’t been in a long, long time.
  33. Do the brew tours. Again. Done. Always a good time.
  34. Actually ride my bike to work. ….if I can remember how to ride it. Jk (I hope).
  35. Take time to appreciate the little things.

Wow. I have a lot to do this Summer. Guess I better get started!

Maybe I should make a list about where to start….

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Let Your Garden Grow!

There’s really nothing better than fresh vegetables.

Except for when you grow them yourself. That extra little touch of TLC and knowing exactly where your food came from makes gardening such a rewarding hobby. I can say that, because as of, well, two days ago, I am a self-proclaimed organic gardener; I’m going to go ahead and add that to my repertoire, and I have the blisters to prove it. I am so excited for the first season of growing my own food and learning what all goes in to it.

Aaron and I decided we wanted to grow our own fresh vegetables this year, and, while he has done this many many many times before, this was really my first time gardening outside of simply watering flowers. Needless to say, I didn’t really know what to do.

We started with seeds and germination stations. Lots and lots and lots of them.

germination

This was one of 7

Leaf lettuce, spinach, kale, green onion, yellow squash, cucumbers, arugula, beans, peas, zucchini, peppers, and carrots.

Keeping everything organic was, and is, really important to us, and we have succeeded so far, even from the seedling and germination process. We wanted no synthetics. The reality is, it doesn’t get very exciting…until you see that first tiny little green sprout – that’s when it gets real. It’s the first miniature ‘hello’ from what will be your dinner a few months down the road.

Once they got big enough, we transferred them into solo cups – yes they can be used for more than just adult frothy beverages. We put a slit in the bottom of each cup for drainage and then potted each plant individually into them. Our original labels got a little jumbled in the germination stations, so we guestimated what a few of the plants were and labeled each solo cup. Needless to say our ‘carrots’ were definitely not carrots, but peppers (which was a pleasant surprise because we thought that they had all died out). Unfortunately, the kale and spinach decided vegetable heaven was a better alternative for them. The plants can actually stay in these cups for a long time, which made it nice until we could find a home for them.

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We got extremely lucky and were able to reserve some brand new community garden beds for the season. We originally ‘rented’ two of them, but quickly got our hands on two more, as we have a ton of plants.

When we showed up, the beds were all dried out and weeded over. And that’s when the work begins. Within minutes we had broken the rake that we brought with us. Thank goodness for Home Depot. After soaking all the beds, we were finally able to pull the weeds and till the soil. To supplement the soil provided, we used Maxfield’s Organic Soil Conditioner, Maxfield’s Organic Planting Mix, and some composted manure. I bought these all at Ace Hardware.  Delish.

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The beginning

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Tilled and supplemented

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Soil, anyone?

Let me tell you, hand-tilling compacted soil is HARD.

After all the beds had beautifully tilled soil and supplements, thanks to yours truly, it was time to start the planting.

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Here’s how we broke down our garden beds:

One bed we dedicated strictly to cucumbers, because we have so many plants. We want to make our own pickles with them, too.

Cucumber bed

Cucumber bed

Pickle recipe

  • For brine: combine 3 cups water with 2-3 tbs of kosher salt, 6 tbs of white vinegar, stir until dissolved. Cut 2-3 full size cucumbers in slices or spears. Layer cucumbers in a dish or bowl (Corningware works well) with sprigs of fresh dill. Pour brine over cucumbers and grate 1-2 cloves of garlic on top. Cover and refrigerate 2 days before eating.

One bed has lettuce, beans, and arugula.

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Lettuce on left. Beans in middle. Arugula on right.

One for yellow squash, since the plants will get large.

Yellow squash bed.

Yellow squash bed

And one for zucchini and peppers.

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Zucchini on the outside. Peppers in the middle.

Obviously we still have several plants left and will be planting them in large planter buckets. And probably giving the rest away that we just don’t have room for.

After hours and hours of gardening and planting 177 vegetable plants (yes, I counted), instead of getting bored or tired, I got the urge and desire to plant EVERYTHING! So I went out and got some broccoli plants, a yellow pear tomato plant, and the last cilantro and basil plant that the nursery had. For potting soil, I used BlackGold Organic Potting Soil. I’ve turned into a planting fiend! It’s addicting!

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Broccoli

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Yellow pear tomato plant

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My one little cilantro and basil plant

I had to make myself stop and call it a day.

The hard part is done. Creating a home for the vegetables was more rewarding than I thought it was going to be and was very successful. I think I’ve found my new favorite hobby. I can’t wait to watch our garden grow!

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What a beautiful view!

Klondike helped, too!

Klondike helped, too!

Do you have a garden? What’s  your favorite vegetable to plant?

Further reading:

Organic vs. non-organic soil

Vegan Diaries – The Final Countdown

Originally posted on http://shrinkingjeans.net

vegan diaries

As of today, I have successfully been a vegan since March 11. That’s about 5 weeks, people! I have been diligent and faithful with minor unintentional slip-ups. And guess what? I survived! It IS possible to go vegan without starving yourself or depleting your body of the vitamins and minerals it needs. In fact, I have eaten cleaner and healthier in the past 5 weeks than I can remember doing before. I didn’t really lose weight (maybe a pound or 2), I didn’t become anemic, and I didn’t join PETA. But I did learn a great deal more about food than I ever thought was possible, and has sent me on a mission to be much more aware of what I put into my body from here on out.

As a way to commemorate my last few days of this vegan challenge, I hosted a vegan potluck where people crept out of their comfort zone and made some dang delicious vegan grub. Simply seeing that vegan smorgasbord brought me great happiness. Some of the scrumptious dishes provided (and devoured) included:

SOOOO much good food and a fun thing to share with friends. Everything turned out great and everyone enjoyed themselves, sans dairy and meat and all.

Learning and researching have been important aspects in this journey. And insanely eye-opening. Among the documentaries I watched, the articles I read, and the book I devoured, I have discovered there is a great deal more about the food industry that is not necessarily common knowlege, and not necessarily advertised. You have to search out the information, take the initiative to read and research it, and have the diligence to apply it to your every day consumption.

A few of the areas that I am much more aware (i.e. a label-reading fiend) include:

  • Corn and its many different masks. Corn is in just about everything at the grocery store, but may be labeled something different depending on its purpose in the food.
  • Sugar and sugar substitutes. Fake, real, or what have you, something sweet is added to many different products that wouldn’t even necessarily call for it. Not only am I looking for this culprit, but where exactly it is on the ingredient label. Remember, the higher up on the list, the more it makes up that particular product.
  • Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). Holy yikes! They are in EVERYTHING! It’s hard to stay away, especially because they are labeled as so many different things, but chances are most of the items in your grocery cart contain them. There are organizations and companies out there who will provide labels on their products if they do not contain GMOs, such as the Non-GMO Project.
  • Enriched vs. Unenriched ingredients. Enriched flour, sugar, etc. is processed so that it is stripped of any nutritional value, but is made to have a longer shelf-life and a more concentrated flavor.
  • Artificial food dyes. This is an issue most people don’t necessarily think about. Artificial food dyes are in many foods that you wouldn’t even think of: marshmallows, pickles, chocolate pudding. Not only are most of them petroleum based, the chemical make-up can cause a whole mess of health problems. Although they may be FDA approved, in many other countries a warning label is required to inform consumers that there are unnatural food dyes added.
  • Grass fed vs. not; farm fresh vs. not; organic vs. not.

It baffles me that we must become our own educators when it comes to our food. Many people won’t. We put faith in a system with little question, because we don’t think it would fail us to the point of allowing harmful products to be obtained. That’s just wishful thinking. It’s not about the good of the society anymore; it’s about marketing and target audiences and pretty colors and enhanced flavors. It’s about the money. Bottom line. Priorities have certainly become skewed, and we’re supposed to fall victim unless we have the audacity to go beyond what we’re being sold and dig a little deeper. And I do.

As a recap, these are some of the places I got my information, education, recipes, inspiration, and motivation.

Documentaries

Books

Websites (blogs, recipes, etc.)

Additionally, when I first started this journey, I set some goals for myself. I feel I have accomplished and exceeded even my own expectations. They included:

  • Become more familiar with the vegan/vegetarian community
  • Gain an appreciation for a strict plant-based diet
  • Actually cook a few recipes from the cookbook
  • DON’T CHEAT
  • Be an inspiration (hopefully) for those interested in trying it
  • Learn – I feel like this will be happening a lot
  • Have fun!

I have most certainly learned, become appreciative, and had fun throughout this challenge. It wasn’t all easy and wasn’t all hard; it was an adjustment. My mom has told me she has started reading labels more carefully when she goes grocery shopping. I’ll count that as being an inspiration. Who knows, maybe I’ve struck something in someone else along the way, too.

What now? Honestly, I’m not quite sure. What I do know is that I will be making more educated decisions about what I eat. I also intend to severely limit my meat and dairy in-take going forward. My new goals are to buy local (when possible), stay educated about what I’m eating, continue to read labels, cut out what my body doesn’t need, eat clean, and make choices that will benefit me in the long run. Armed with information, I plan on applying it as much as possible when it comes to food choices.

Whether vegan, vegetarian, or omnivore, it’s important to educate yourself about what you’re putting in your body. If I am to take one thing from this entire experience, that would be the meat tofu of it all.