i heart fall

I love most things about fall. The leaves changing, the temperature dropping, sweaters, my awesome boots... all of it. To clarify, by temperatures dropping I mean to fall temps, not to winter temps. I love the in between stage. It's also time for foods to change. And since it's been a while since I've had time to try something new, I used today make some fall food before snow falls.

Today was Butternut Squash Turkey Chili and Jalapeno Cornbread Muffins. I'll post what I did here for the chili because it was slightly different than the posted recipe. The muffins I followed exactly, so am just going to link to the recipe for that. With the cornbread muffins, I recommend the honey butter on the recipe, too - it was very good!

My notes on the cornbread:
  • I used 1 c. fresh freezer corn rather than the canned corn the recipe calls for.
  • It could have used a little more jalapeno, probably - I only used 1/2 of one, but could have probably used a whole one.

Butternut Squash Turkey Chili
1 sm/med onion, chopped
1/2 large red pepper, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. ground turkey
1 lb. butternut squash - peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2 or 1 inch pieces
1 1/4 c. chicken broth
1 can chopped green chilies (4.5 oz)
2 cans diced tomatoes (14.5 oz each)
1 can chili beans
1 c. freezer corn
1 can tomato sauce (8 oz)
1 Tbsp. chili powder
1 Tbsp. cumin
dash of garlic salt

Saute the onion, minced garlic, and red pepper in olive oil in your large pot for approx. 3 minutes. Add ground turkey and cook until browned. Stir in all remaining ingredients and simmer for 30 minutes. I thickened it a little with cornstarch/water at the end, as well.
My notes on the chili:
  • I used more garlic than the original recipe called for, so didn't use the full tablespoon of garlic salt the original recipe asked for.
  • Adding the red pepper was good - I used half of a large one, but could have probably used the whole thing.
  • I used fresh freezer corn (from the garden) instead of the hominy in the recipe for the chili.
  • It was a little runnier than I would have liked at the end, so just thickened with cornstarch.

And this is what it ended up as (below). I really liked it - it tasted a lot like regular chili does, but liked having the squash in it. I may use this for our chili cook off at work in a couple of weeks. :) Wish me luck!


vacation & family

As some of you know, I went to Florida on vacation with my brothers and cousin Julie to visit our aunt Gail and uncle Duane - we left last Saturday and got back last night (Wednesday). It's funny because when you tell someone that you're going to (or just returned from) Florida, they give you this look of jealousy and get excited for you. I think they assume that you went to Miami, Orlando, Key West, or one of the other usual suspect vacation spots in Florida. But when you tell them you went to Tallahassee, a look of confusion overcomes the jealousy. Why Tallahassee? Because that's where our family is. And to be honest, I would take that over Disney any day.

An overview of the trip:


Travel day from Minneapolis to Houston (where we met up with Julie) and then Houston to Jacksonville. We rented my cool mini-van there and drove to Tallahassee, stopping in Live Oak at Big Daddy's for dinner.

We went to the beach house and enjoyed great food, drinks, views, and company. We took an intermission to our sitting around and visited St. Mark's lighthouse, saw some gators there, and then returned to the beach house where we continued to relax and had a great dinner there.

The boys swam a bit in the morning. We split up for the day and the boys did the antique car museum (which actually held a lot of other things - pianos, boat motors, motorcycles, etc...) and then they went out for wings/beer with Duane. Julie and I went shopping with Gail and we only made it through Bealls, which was great - but we then had to figure out how to pack for the way home. Gail made appointments for me and Julie to get massages, which was awesome.

Duane took the guys and Julie to Wakulla Springs to do a boat tour to see more gators and other wildlife. I stayed behind at the house and sat in the sun by the pool with a book and some coffee. One of my goals for the trip was to relax - so this was perfect. Gail could do her thing for a while and I did mine - and then we had some nice one-on-one time. That night, Russ did a test-run with Duane's new smoker and we had smoked pork chops that were awesome.

Another travel day. We left early in the morning and drove back to Jacksonville and then back to Minneapolis. It was cold when we got home and were all ready to go back to Florida weather.

What I Learned
Something I learned from Duane: y'all is singular; all y'all is plural. :)

That's the brief version and I'm happy to tell you more if you want more. All I can say is it was amazing - we all thought so. We all appreciated Gail and Duane letting us invade their home and their lives for a few days. We ate in for most meals (awesome food, including the best key lime pie I've ever had) and spent a lot of time just hanging out, relaxing, and having fun. We can't possibly thank them enough for their hospitality and generosity.

I've mentioned before that last year was a rough one for us. Among other things, it was the year we lost both of our grandmas. And it was the year we became grandparent-less. One of the things that I worried about (and still do sometimes) is that extended family came together for holidays and events so that our grandparents could see everyone... so what now? That was part of the reason this was important to me. And we've never been to Gail and Duane's to visit and it's something I've talked about and wanted to do for a long time. So, why Tallahassee? Because that's where our family is. And that's why I head to Caledonia regularly, and have visited Becky in Atlanta, and hope to go to Colorado again.

And without further adieu, here are the pictures:

More later on our flight stories... :)



Most of you know that I just hit a new milestone... and turned 30 on Friday. It's interesting to turn 30 because people have a lot of opinions about it. And there is a stigma around it that people think that the person turning 30 is going to have a meltdown or go into denial. We've all heard of the people who turn 29 again and again because they're in denial. Fortunately, most people have been supportive and tell me that this is a good thing - and that they love being in their 30s. One person said 'Ohhh, that sucks!' I choose to ignore that person.

I'm actually kind of excited about it. Turning 30 isn't bad, or scary, or the end of the world. It's not that much different than being 29, so far. And I think there are a lot of good things that will come with it.

Mom and I joked about it because she says whenever she used to try to tell me about the day I was born, I would say 'not this again...' But since I found out that I was nameless in the hospital for a couple of days, I like to bring that up. This year, I told her that I was looking forward to my 30th birthday... and a few days later, the 30th anniversary of having a name. :) I think, though, that it was worth the wait because my name seems to fit me well.

I got a few cards (thank you!) and my mom finished my APO quilt. I had given her a bunch of my old APO t-shirts from college and asked her if she could make me a quilt or pillows with them since I didn't wear them anymore, but they mean enough to me that I didn't want to toss them. So, for my birthday I got a card with a picture of the finished product and I love it!! Thanks, Mom!

So how did I spend my birthday? First, I didn't work. I never take my birthday off, but it was a Friday and I thought a long weekend would be a nice way to celebrate. My awesome friend Keri took the day off, too, and took me to lunch and made appointments for us to get our hair and nails done. I did haircut and manicure and she got highlights. Then I went home and changed, and we went out to dinner with a group of great friends and my brother at Cooper in St. Louis Park (an Irish pub). After Cooper, we hit Toby Keith's I Love This Bar for drinks, listened to the bands, even danced a bit, and played some Buck Hunter (a hunting video game). Here's some photos from the night.

So, they say 30 is the new 20. I'm not sure about that, but what I do know is that even though there are a few things that I cannot do as well as I did at 20, there are a LOT of things I can do better at 30. So, bring it on.

Thanks to Keith, Jennifer, Abby, Coral, Shannon, Emily, Keri, Kari, Bryce, and Kat for celebrating with me. And to those who send cards, FB posts, and phone calls. You guys rock!


Update on the war

I mentioned earlier that we are waging a war against condiments and today we notice progress! Today, we had to buy regular yellow mustard because we were out apparently - which I never thought would happen. And got rid of two bottles of salad dressing. There is progress being made and the war will go on. But I'll take the progress. Hooray!



I've been wanting to try butternut sqaush soup. As you may recall, I'm not always good at making things when they make sense. It may be the wrong season. Or something that makes the house hot when it's already 80 degrees. I did the latter, again, yesterday - but in my defense, it is the right season this time. It's not my fault that we're having unseasonably warm weather!

The recipe I used was great - and I did pretty much exactly what I was supposed to, so won't re-write it here. But I highly recommend it! My only notes are:

  • I added some red pepper flakes to the soup
  • you probably don't need the fresh thyme - it's just a garnish
  • it was really thick, but not in a bad way. I may add some more chicken broth to make it a little more soupy next time.

So, I'm interested... as we approach the colder weather, how do you keep warm? Favorite soups? Hotdishes? Comment and let me know!



Last week I was in Baltimore on business travel to our office there. While a majority of the time was work - as it should be on business trips - I opted to spend the weekend and did some other things, too. Work stuff went well and I was there during the torrential rain remnants from a hurricane that was coming up the coast. The good news is that my hotel and my office are connected by a parking ramp, so really if I hadn't watched the news and talked to people, I would have never known because I didn't really have to go outside (except to get to Starbucks). By Friday, mother nature had calmed and it was a beautiful weekend.

On Friday night, I went with a couple of friends to Oceanaire for dinner. If you haven't eaten at an Oceanaire, it's amazing - and spendy - but more importantly, amazing. We had crab cakes as an appetizer - a given if you're visiting Baltimore. I had the black & blue halibut with crab and we shared some family style mashed potatoes... and followed up with bread pudding, which I normally am not a fan of, but this proved otherwise. The photos are of my halibut meal and the bread pudding.

While the food was excellent, the company was better - Gina & Jean are pretty awesome.

On Saturday morning, I participated in Walden's Global Day of Service with the Baltimore office staff and it was a great experience - fun and fulfilling. We painted a gymnasium and lockers at a charter school that has been open for about 3 years. The building needed quite a bit of work and it's amazing what a coat of paint can do! We had a chance to hear from a couple of the 11th graders at the school about their goals for college and career - they're very driven and it was nice to get to hear from the people we were helping. Here's a picture of people painting the gymnasium, which is what I worked on.

It was nice to get to do this with some of my colleagues who I have known for almost the whole time I've worked here, but don't see often. The first picture is me, Jerry, and Jen and the second picture is me and Craig.

After the service project, I went for a walk through Fells Point, a fun area of Baltimore. Kind of like Northeast Minneapolis. They were having the Fells Point Festival which was fun, but huge crowds, so I didn't stay super long. No pictures... sorry.

Oh, and I had this pretty sushi and mango martini while I was there at Ra Sushi - I've been here before, but it's yummy so I went back.

All in all, it was productive with work and I got to see a lot of people who I don't often get to. The service project was great, though I was sorry I wasn't able to join my colleagues at the Minneapolis project that day. So all was well... except the weird smell outside of my hotel that came from a drain. For some reason late night and early morning it gives of steam that smells like burning tires. That I could have done without. It did it the last time I was there, too... so weird.