as we approach Thanksgiving...

After having a couple of colleagues and friends pass away in the past couple of months, it's been tough. The service I attended today has made me particularly reflective... he was a great man. Kind, thoughtful, polite, genuine, and wonderful (and a vet - thus the photo). About a month ago, I had stopped by his office at work to just to say 'hello' or as a quick question... I don't really remember. What I do remember is that he took the time then to tell me how much he appreciates me and a conversation we had when he first started working with us a few years ago. And it wasn't the first time he did that - he never hesitated to share a kind word.

The people who gave eulogies today talked about how he had love in his life. Love for his family. Love for his friends. Love for God. Love for everyone. He just loved.

At the service, there was a display of pictures and stories - and I think my personal favorite, a list of things you would commonly hear him say. The last one on the list was "I sure do love you."

So, with Thanksgiving approaching, most of us are already a little reflective - or we will be on Thursday. We're all thankful for the usual suspects - family, friends, jobs, etc...  but beyond Thanksgiving, how often do we tell them? Do we even actually tell them on Thanksgiving? These experiences, though, have made me think about the type of person I really want to be. I'm going to try to be better about making sure people know I appreciate them, care about them, am there for them, and love them. And not just one day a year for holidays, or at a funeral.

So, let's get started: to my family and friends: I sure do love you. (as Willie would say)


restored faith

Sometimes karma's a bitch... but sometimes she's a God-send.

Yesterday morning, shortly after I got up, I went to run an errand. When I opened my purse, I couldn't find my wallet and, or course, started to panic a bit. I ripped apart my car, looking in every nook and cranny (even the trunk, because I had put groceries in there the evening before). Nothing.

I knew it wasn't in the house, because I had gotten home late, dropped my stuff, and went straight to bed.

So, I began to re-trace the few steps I had taken the evening before after work. I went to the grocery store (called them... nothing had been turned in.) Called my friend who I had been with last night (nothing, and we hadn't left her house.) She texted another friend who had been with us and I called the other (nothing, and nothing.)

Then, I left to pick up a friend's dog from the dog kennel as I had promised and decided that, when I got home, I'd check every nook and cranny of my car again (nothing). At this point, my best guess is that I left it in a cart at the grocery store becuase I had been in a hurry and distracted... and if the store didn't have it, I probably wasn't getting it back (stupid, I know.) So I canceled my cards.

About 90 seconds later (literally) there was a knock at my door. There was a teenage girl there, and she was holding my wallet in her hands. It went something like this:
Me: I'm going to hug you. (I didn't, though - I didn't want her to feel awkward.)

Girl: I found this in a cart I was returning at the grocery store and we didn't trust that the store would get it back to  you. I tried to call a number I found online - did you get the message?

Me: No, I didn't - but I'm so happy to see you. (it turns out the number was my parents house. I got a worried call from mom later in the day)

(I walked out of the house and down the steps to talk to her and her mom, who was waiting in the car)

Her Mom: She found the wallet and told me about it and wasn't sure what to do.

Me: I'm going to cry, I'm just so happy to see it again. I hope you didn't have to go out of your way to bring it to me, though!

Her Mom: No, I had to come to the bank in town, anyway. I'm just sorry we couldn't bring it to you last night.

Me: I wouldn't have been home anyway. I was at a friend's for girls' night and didn't get home until 12:30 - I didn't even know it was missing until this morning because I never opened my purse after I left the store last night!

(I think I went on and on about how I was going to cry I was so happy and that they made my day and blah blah blah... and I'm pretty sure the mom started to tear up because I was.)
Although I had just (within 90 seconds prior) finished canceling my stuff, that was the least of my worries at this point - I can easily get those back. Instead, I was happy, thrilled, etc... for a number of reasons. 1) I knew my stuff had been with someone safe. 2) I like my wallet - I bought it for a reason. 3) My panic level went from 20 to 0 (on a 10 point-scale) 4) I didn't have to go and get a new ID, and most importantly  4) there are good people in the world - and this teenager who was obviously taught to do the right thing, and knew to call her mom to find out what to do... and that they went out of their way to bring it home to me without wanting anything in return (they wouldn't take anything - trust me, I offered.)

Once I had collected myself I remembered that when I had been at the store, a woman in front of me at the self-checkout had dropped $20 on the floor - and I had tapped her on the shoulder and said 'Ma'am, you dropped your money." Maybe this was my payment back for doing something nice for her?

Call it restored faith in humanity. Call it karma. Call it beauty in the world. Whatever you call it, it made my day. And I went and did something nice for someone else after that.

So, I encourage you take an opportunity to make someone's day. You won't regret it.


the fremont store

I was driving to my hometown for the July 4th weekend and decided to take a different route for part of it... some of it I had been on before, but only a few times, and some I hadn't done at all. I had my camera with, so took some pictures along the way.

In a little town called Fremont, there's an small town grocery / convenience store. The sign says it's been open for 157 years. Wow.

I've been by here before and wanted to take pictures because they have really cool old-school signs on the building (see coca cola sign above and 7 up sign below)... I think they've been there for 157 years too, and I love it. But, I had never stopped. When I did today, they were open - so I went in to ask if it was OK if I was creepy and took pictures of the building. Inside, there were 3 older (but spry) women sitting around chatting... and that was all. I grabbed a soda and approached them...

Me: How much?

Lady: Just the pop? 50 cents.

Me: OK, here you go. (pulls 50 cents out)

Lady: Oh, you just put the money in the register yourself.

Me: Really?

Lady: Yep - it's over there on the other side of the table.

Me: (walks around table and looks) Where?

Lady: There's a box under the table.

Me: Oh, there it is! (opens register and puts my own money in)

These ladies were adorable and we chatted for a bit about where I was from, why I wanted to take pictures, and the lady in charge's niece with all the tattoos that lives in the nearby town my brother lives in. On my way out, she asked me to sign her guest book (a regular notebook) at the front of the store - so I did. So cute.

I'm glad I took the time to stop... and I'm glad I went in to ask if I could take pictures (instead of creeping around outside) so I could talk to those ladies briefly. I wish I would've asked the ladies if I could take their picture... So, next time you see something you've thought about stopping to look closer - don't just drive by. Stop for a few minutes. You might be pleasantly surprised!


so far, so good!

I'm on my first real vacation of 2013! A friend flew in from out of town and we drive from the Twin Cities to Grand Marais. And, you may wonder why, if I'm supposed to be relaxing on vacation, am I sitting here on the internet writing? Well, because we're staying at a B&B and breakfast won't be served for T-29 minutes and I'm trying to distract myself because I'm very hungry after not having real dinner last night.

And why did we not have real dinner last night? Probably because we had burgers in the middle of the afternoon on the way here at the Duluth Grill, which has been featured on Diner's, Drive-Ins, and Dives. The burgers were quite tasty (friend had a bison burger, I had an asian peanut burger with an egg on top), but the homemade onion rings were outstanding. I like that this restaurant is into locally grown foods.

The clear favorite part about the Duluth Grill, for me anyway, was the Banana Cream Pie, which was featured on the DDD show specifically. I don't really need to say much here - just look at the picture.


We were also told about a place called Betty's Pies that we just HAD to stop at. Because I'm terrible with judging distance, I assumed it was about half way between Duluth and Grand Marais, so we'd have some time to settle after the Banana Cream gloriousness (is that a word?). But no. About 45 minutes later, we were sitting at the counter of Betty's Pies having this:

I'm a little embarrassed about it, but we're on vacation - and I can't remember the last time I had a 2-pie day. We had a blueberry (which we were a bit indifferent about) and the Great Lakes pie (apple, blueberry, raspberry, strawberry, and rhubarb, topped with oatmeal crumble yum). The Great Lakes pie was a big win.

And that, my friends, is why we didn't have dinner last night. On the bright side, we are now only T-15 minutes until breakfast, and I'll leave you with a couple of view pics from our B&B.

View from the deck around 5:15 a.m.

View from the deck - a little after 7 a.m.


a happy accident

In my last post, I mentioned it's grilling season! Turns out I was wrong. It's winter again.

And, because I prefer denial, I'm posting about the other grilling we did last weekend. In the spirit of full disclosure, I made the glaze and only purchased the salmon. The rest of was my brother and his girlfriend's doing - including the grilling part - so this post is really about the glaze since that's the only part I really did.

I knew that they were making mango salsa to go with the salmon, so I wanted to find something that I thought would go really well with that. On the Food Network website, I found a recipe for a Brown Sugar Mustard glaze - a Bobby Flay recipe and the reviews were awesome, so it had to be delicious.

So, I set to making the recipe and did it all like the recipe said - except I forgot to add the dijon mustard before I left the house. On the bright side, it smelled awesome without the mustard - and kind of like what you would dip potstickers in. So, we went ahead and used it on the salmon and it was really tasty and went great with the mango salsa they had made (and the grilled veggies and the risotto)!

There are two happy parts to this accident:
  1. I think I found my new favorite glaze/sauce for lots of things. I'm going to try it with potstickers and burgers and whatever else it might be delicious on.
  2. I don't have to look up a salmon glaze next time we make it - because I can redo this one, but make it actually according to the directions, the way Bobby Flay intended. 
 It was a good, and delicious, weekend. :)


The Mark Burger

It's finally spring in Minnesota! At least for a few days. And with that comes grilling season! I've only grilled once so far this season before this weekend. To get in the spirit, I posted asking for friends favorite grilling meals. I got some great suggestions and today tried a burger suggestion - which I am calling The Mark Burger, because it was inspired by my friend and colleague, Mark. Super creative burger name, I know... but I dig it.

The Mark Burger

He said he likes to use pork burger (but I used 92% lean beef) and mix in diced onions, A1 steak sauce, and mustard (I used dijon mustard). I didn't measure, but put in about how much I thought might be good. The obvious next steps were to make patties and grill them - I made four 1/4 lb. patties.

The other twist was that, instead of ketchup, he said he tops with BBQ sauce, so I used Sweet Baby Rays BBQ sauce. I also bought a jar of pickles that also had pickled red peppers and carrots in the jar and used a mix of pickles, red peppers, and carrots on top. 

And, to make a long story short, it was delicious - I'll likely make The Mark Burger again this grilling season and recommend you try it, as well. :)


Dear Mother Nature

Hedgie has starred in his first video - in stop action. Enjoy!
*better with sound turned on*

Created in MN on April 18, 2013.


a near disaster

OK, that may be a little dramatic, but serious.

This Easter, I was assigned to bring a dessert, so looked and looked and decided to do a carrot cake because a) it's Easter-y, b) I've never made one before, and c) it's delicious.

I made Paula Deen's carrot cake recipe from the Food Network, under the assumption that I couldn't fail. Right? Paula Deen has awesome stuff... and this was classified as "easy." So, I shredded 3 cups of carrots, mixed the ingredient, baked it and frosted it. And, except for the frosting job looking like it had been done by an 8-year-old (I've never claimed to be a good froster), it was awesome! And looked like this:

So, why the near disaster?

Because the scenario above was how it turned out the SECOND time I tried. The first time, I mixed it "all" up and the batter looked funny - dark and  lumpy. But, I've never made a carrot cake before and I attributed the "lumpy" to being filled with a bunch of shredded carrots -- what do I know? I didn't want to doubt Paula Deen.

I proceeded to bake it and they came out in what I can only describe spongy frisbee shape. At this point, I'm disappointed and a little: What the?!?! Yet, I considered that it may still taste OK... and, if frosted, no one will know it looks bad anyway.

Thankfully, I had the foresight to make a few mini muffins so we could taste it without cutting into the cake. I can only describe the taste as 'salt and gross'. And then it hit me... I didn't put the sugar in! Crap.

So, I went to town to get more carrots, eggs, and pecans and started over at 7:30 p.m. after dinner. I shredded the carrots (again). And mixed it again... this time with sugar. And it made some kind of amazing chemistry miracle happen where the batter looked normal. So, optimistically, I baked it. And, again, it rose and looked like cake this time! It's amazing what a little sugar will do, I guess.

 So, there you have it. Fortunately, no one besides me had to taste the first one.

Now, make me feel better and tell me you've done this?!


who the easter bunny really is...

Happy Easter! I thought I'd share just a quick story on this lovely (windy) Easter.

When we were little, the Easter Bunny came every year, without fail. At some point, my brother and I had figured out that the Easter Bunny wasn't who we had been led to believe. So, we teamed up (which is what we did whenever we decided to stop fighting) to prove our theory - and, in my memory, it went something like this:

Us: (approach mom while she is busy doing something, like getting ready for church.)  Hey Mom! Where did you get this Archie comic? We love it!

Mom: (distracted because she is busy) Oh, I got that at the store in town, I think.

Us: HA! You ARE the Easter Bunny! (pointing and laughing our heads off)

Mom: Oh, you little stinkers! (not the first time we've been called this)

Us: (continue laughing our heads off)

And, that's how we confirmed who the Easter Bunny really was. :)

Enjoy your day, however you spend it!

This photo is from around the time this story happened. I'll tell you more about why I had that haircut later. :)


bittersweet memories

Grandpa K and Me
somewhere around the time of this story.
I recently moved into a new role at work. When I did, mom said: Too bad Grandpa K isn't here so you can tell him. And I told her, I know, I thought of that, too... 

When I graduated from college, I worked in retail for about 9 months while I looked for a job that I wanted. I figured, I have a job, so I can be a little picky.

So, when a friend introduced me to my first real "big girl" job after college at the company I am still at today, I was pretty pumped that I had found what I was looking for.

Grandpa was in the nursing home at the time. I went to visit him and told him all about it shortly after I started. He was so proud - you would have thought I had become the youngest CEO on the planet. But I hadn't - it was just a normal job, but one that I was excited about and that related to my degree. I remember that he asked me to write down my job title so that he could remember what it was. I did, and we put it in his top drawer so he would know where it was.

The next time I went to visit, people who worked at the nursing home were stopping me and telling me Congrats on your new job! and Your grandpa told me what a great job you got!  and Your grandpa is so proud of you! Apparently he had been pulling out the piece of paper with my job title on it and showing it to anyone who would look and listen. :)

A few months after I started, a job a step up opened and I moved into that role. I again told Grandpa, and he made sure to pull out the piece of paper from his drawer. We crossed out the old title and wrote the new one down and put it back in the drawer. And, again, he showed it to anyone who would look and listen.

Not too long after that, Grandpa passed away. Since then, I have moved into 3 new roles at my company and, each time, I think about how proud Grandpa would have been and wish he was here so I could update his little sheet of paper. And I'm proud to have had a Grandpa who loved me so much and wasn't afraid to share how proud he was.


Be the change!

Tonight (well, technically last night since it's after midnight now), I went to see Revolution '63 performed by the Youth Performance Company (YPC) with friends.

The show is about - as it sounds - 1963, a time of revolution in the U.S. and key historical events. The assassination of JFK. A number of significant civil rights movements, including the March on Washington. A time of struggle and growth for women's rights. I even learned quite a few things.

The show was amazing and a bit of an emotional roller coaster.

The portrayal of the commitment by those who fought for the rights of all people during that time made me proud and inspired. The fact that such inequality existed made me disappointed and uncomfortable. An old clip of the news announcing that JFK had died pulled at my heart. And the recognition of those who sacrificed their freedom and their lives for the cause of equality and peace - and those injured or killed as innocent bystanders - well, I don't really have the words.

In addition to the storyline, I'm (again) in awe at the talent of the youth who perform in YPC performances. This organization and those who participate in it are truly wonderful and have done another great show with another great message. This time "Be the change!" Although there has been progress, there is still work to be done.

To say the least, I was moved and impressed. This show is still happening next weekend (Feb. 15-17) and I highly recommend you see it. It's only $12 and is worth much more. And, if you don't want to go alone, I'd go again. Just let me know!

Visit the Revolution '63 web page for more details.

And, if you're interested in seeing YPC's next show, Free to Be You and Me, I'll be going in May. And I'd love it if you'd join me.