10 Things I Didn't Do on Vacation

Monday, September 29, 2014

It feels, as usual, both good and bad to be back from vacation. On the one hand, I slept nearly 11 hours last night (there's nothing like sleeping in your own bed!) On the other, I'm officially really far away from the ocean. But hey, there are worse things! The fall foliage is showing off its colors in Madison, so that was a nice surprise to come home to. (Palm trees don't change colors in the fall, it turns out.)

Rather than describe all of my vacation adventures (working on it!) - I decided to compile a list of 10 things that I decidedly didn't do while on vacation:

1. Drop my iPad off of the Golden Gate Bridge while taking pictures on a double-decker bus despite nearly 100mph winds. 
but it was clearly worth the risk for all of the crooked, non-centered pictures I took ;)
2. Lose my license/wallet/camera/other important items in one of our four rooms.

3. Get eaten by a bear in Yosemite.

Against all odds!
4. Get eaten by a shark in Monterey.

Monterey Bay - whattup, Steinbeck.
5. Lose my phone. (for more than 30 minutes) (who puts their phone under a shirt on the ironing board?)

6. Accidentally drive off a cliff on Pacific Highway 1 whilst distracted by breathtaking ocean views.*
Seriously, look at the road! Views for days.
7. Accidentally drive off a cliff in Yosemite whilst distracted by beautiful mountain views.**
Through the front window! Note the "speeding kills bears" sign in the lower left corner. They put these (predictably) where cars have killed bears - sad! Also, can you imagine hitting a bear? I cannot.
8. Get abducted while making the pitch-black mile walk back to our apartment in the crime-ridden streets of Carmel-by-the-sea.

9. Navigate us the wrong way.***

10. Miss my 8am flight back home. 
But I (not-so-secretly) kind of wish I did.
Am I not just an incredibly accomplished being?! I encourage you to reflect on your last week, and think of all the things you amazingly didn't do. Did you get fired? Did you drop your cellphone in a toilet? Did you get arrested? Did you lose your license? 

[Tangent: How does anyone not lose their license?! Hey, this is really important so we're going to give it to you on a 2inch by 1inch piece of paper and ask for it intermittently at seemingly disconnected places: bars, airports, pharmacies, and sometimes when you use your credit card. Also, it randomly expires, you need a new one if you move, but you can only get them between 9am-1pm every other Wednesday at the DMV, etc. If you have never lost yours, you, my friend, are a feat of nature.]

Did you get injured by a bear/shark/stray dog/vending machine? Did you inadvertently drive off a cliff? If not, go you! You should revel in your non-doing. If one of those things did happen to you last week, then here's to a better week this week! If all of those things happened to you last week - and you're still living to read this blog post - you should totally write a memoir.

*Note: I wasn't driving. Ever.
**See *
***Within reason. I can hardly be blamed for the time we went south instead of north. We were technically still driving on the correct road. Details.

Joyce: OOO

Friday, September 19, 2014

For those of you who are non-corporate speakers (jealous!) that means I'm Out Of Office, as I'm traveling to California! Bonus jargon: I'm flying out EOD and will be back EOW next week. (Ugh.)

I'm looking forward to disconnecting. From my computer, from my flooded inbox, from the midwest temperatures that are lingering dangerously around freezing ;) [exaggerating about that last one...a little.] So I'll be on a blogging hiatus.

I'm thinking of signing off entirely from facebook, instagram, twitter, and pinterest for the week as well. It's one of my goals to go a week free from social media on my 101 in 1001 list (as is explore California) so I thought this might be a nice twofer opportunity. I'm probably going to temporarily delete these apps from my phone tonight as a way to hold myself accountable. I'll let you know how it goes!

{source: pinterest}
Some links to peruse while you anxiously wait my blogging return ;)

1. 41 percent of Americans let paid vacation days expire (don't be part of the statistic!)
2. Awesome career quotes from women over on Cup of Jo
3. The fall equinox can be a hard time for some people - be conscious!
4. Would you wear one color from head to toe every single day? If so, which one?
5. Life and music - one of my favorite analogies about life by the late philosopher Alan Watts

Talk to you all when I get back!



*now there's an acronym we can all agree needs to come back.

I cooked one thing! In a crock pot, obviously.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

My mom is a wonderful cook.

High school friend growing up: "Every meal in your house is like a festival!"

My boyfriend is also a wonderful cook.

His simple philosophy: "I love to eat, therefore I cook."

My fool-proof philosophy: "I love to eat, therefore my mom and boyfriend cook."

But in the name of constant self improvement (or at least haphazard occasional self improvement) I have mastered exactly one meal. (drum-roll please)

it's better than it looks - I'm no food photographer ;)
The protein and seasoning: 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs | 2 tsp chili powder | 2 tsp ground cumin | 3/4 tsp salt
The things you must cut with a knife: 1 green bell pepper, diced | 1 medium sized onion, chopped | 3 cloves garlic, minced
The things you just open and pour in: 1 cup chunky salsa |1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes | 1 can (15 oz) black beans
Optional toppings: sour cream | avocado | shredded cheese | chips

I found this recipe in the Crock-Pot Slow Cooker Bible that my former roommate got me as a gift. I believe this is the only recipe I have ever attempted from said cookbook, but I've made it multiple times, and I love this recipe, so I love this cook book (thanks, Klaire!)

Chicken and Black Bean Chili is my go-to for a number of reasons:

1. Do you live somewhere where the temperature is already dropping dangerously close to 32 degrees? Instead of crying in a ball on the floor of your bedroom, MAKE CHILI! And then cry in a ball on the floor of your bedroom.

2. Sour cream as a topping! If you don't like sour cream, I don't know what's wrong with you. (My boyfriend hates sour cream.) Sour cream is the whip cream of the entree kingdom. If you don't like whip cream, then I assume you say "no whip" when ordering things at Starbucks, and, once again, I don't know what's wrong with you.

3. Crock Pot = No oven OR stove! When I venture into the abyss that is my kitchen, I like using very small amounts of it; thus, reducing my chances of burning down my apartment complex.

4. Shredded Cheese. And on the eighth day, God created shredded cheese.

The hardest part is going to the grocery store and motivating yourself to cook. I know, you'd rather spend your time watching HGTV/football/TLC and ordering pizza. We all would. Just go, buy your stuff. And then here's what you do. So easy I'll make it 6 sentences:

Cut chicken into 1-inch (or so) pieces, and coat it in crock pot with chili pepper, cumin, and salt.
Add onion and bell pepper and garlic, add to pot and stir.
Stir in diced tomatoes (not drained), and salsa.
Cook on high for 2.5-3 hours or on low for 5-6 hours.
Add drained and rinse black beans to the mix and cook on high for 10 mins.
Serve & enjoy!

I know people who say "If I can do it, you can do it!" usually come off as self-deprecating. But, seriously you guys, I didn't know how to make pasta until my senior year of college - and once started a fire doing so. You can do this. Go forth and crock pot.

Wanderlust: California Dreamin'

Monday, September 15, 2014

After taking a road trip to Cincinnati this past weekend to see my lovely sister Becky and attend a pretty wedding (congrats Rachel + Tom!), Stephen and I have another exciting trip on the horizon: we leave for California on Friday!

We have been planning this trip mentally for essentially the duration of our relationship (almost 5 years!?) and logistically for about the last 5 months.

I'm SO eager to see what the West Coast has to offer. Coincidentally, Stephen's sister, also Becky (what are the chances?), went there with her husband in August. She posted the prettiest snaps on her instagram from the trip, and agreed to let me share them here - because pictures of me wasting away at my desk at work? Not as fun to look at.

(Tangent: I did post this black and white artistic depiction of fast food on my insta' though. What can I say? I'm a natural photographer. And a lover of all things fried.)

Without further ado, our upcoming itinerary:

First stop: San Fran

We will be staying in an airbnb apartment in the heart San Fran (Lower Haight neighborhood) for our first couple nights in the Golden State.

We don't have a ton of activities mapped out other than general exploration of the City by the Bay, but I'm confident we'll find plenty to do! I've been there once in 2011 for a work learning trip (those were the days) and found the energy of the city magnetizing.

Second stop: Carmel-by-the-Sea

On Sunday, we'll take a leisurely drive down the Pacific Coast Highway and make our way to Carmel-by-the-Sea. Even the name is incredibly charming, don't you think? I've never been anywhere with a whimsical hyphenated preposition added on the end. Madison should definitely change its name to Madison-by-the-Lakes. Up tourism rates immediately.

We plan to set up base at Carmel-by-the-Sea for the rest of our lives three nights. During that time, we hope to do the 17 mile drive, explore Big Sur, and take in the views.

And eat! Stephen already made dinner reservations there! Now there's a man with his priorities straight.

Here's a shot from near Pebble Beach - the famous golf course!
I am much more likely to take a picture there than to swing a club.
(Note: anytime I reference "we" driving, I'm using the plural pronoun loosely. Unsurprisingly, I won't be the actual driver. I struggle with driving in an incredibly flat state (whattup, Wisco). I will be exploring the coastal cliffs safely from the passenger seat.)

Third stop: Yosemite

Pfieffer state park (but I imagine Yosemite will have trees as well ;) )
I mentioned here my family of 6 road tripped to Yellowstone. Even though I was in eighth grade at the time, I still remember it being breathtakingly beautiful. I'm really looking forward to seeing the majesty of Yosemite. And we'll have no internet or cell service! Should be nice to "disconnect" for a couple of days.

Visiting national parks always stresses me out a little bit because they are just so HUGE! I just googled it Yosemite is 1,190 square miles! Where exactly is one supposed to go once one has "arrived" to Yosemite? Any tips appreciated!

Fourth stop: back to San Fran

We will then head back to the San Fran, stay in a Marriott for the last couple nights, eat, drink, and strategize about permanent relocation opportunities ;)

Then we fly back to good old Madtown. It will be late September by then, and therefore, likely below freezing. If not blizzarding.

I'll leave you with a collection of Cali-inspired songs to help transport your minds out to the west coast - since my mind has been in California for at least the last two months:

1. California Girls | The Beach Boys (1965)
2. California Dreamin' | The Mamas + the Papas (1965)
3. California Love | 2pac ft. Dr. Dre (1995)
4. Californication | Red Hot Chili Peppers (1999)
5. Save me, San Francisco | Train (2009)

Happy Monday, friends!

Road Tripping: Audio Book Recs?

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

I am gearing up for a road trip to Cincy to see my sister and attend a college teammates' wedding. (They grow up so fast!)

So, yesterday I got my headlight replaced that had been out for about a month (oops!) and today I'm getting my oil changed.

Does anyone else walk into a car services place and immediately feel like a fatuous moron? Just me? I always feel as if I have "I know nothing about cars" tattooed across my forehead.

The headlight ended up costing only 11 bucks - but if they would have charged me $100, I would have just handed it over to the mechanic without question. Are you sure you don't also want my diamond earrings? They're yours! How about my right arm? I don't really need it. Thanks for fixing the vehicle I wholeheartedly rely on for my daily existence and know next to nothing about maintaining.

I inadvertently did something different yesterday that made me feel minutely better about the male-dominated car service space –  I wore a Detroit Lions tee, resulting in 2 conversations with mechanics about Monday night football. Being able to intelligently converse with the people working on my car made me feel slightly less idiotic.

Note: I am a Steelers fan, but my boyfriend roots for Detroit because he likes torturing himself [more proof: he also dates me :)]

So, now that my car is (fingers crossed) ready for the 7-hour journey to the nasty 'Natti, I'm thinking about road trip entertainment. Not that the corn fields of Illinois and Indiana don't offer invigorating scenery.

Stephen and I already have selected these 3 CD's for our listening pleasure:

(Yes I still listen exclusively to CD's in my car...because don't we all secretly wish it was still 1999?)
But I wanted to know: do any of you have awesome audio book recommendations?

I love audio books, because when I was growing up, my family of six drove everywhere in our Mini Van. I mean everywhere. Audio books are the only reason all six of us lived, unharmed, to talk about those road trips.

We once drove from Pittsburgh to Yellowstone National Park. Stopping in Omaha for my twin sister to high jump at the Junior Olympic national championships. Naturally.

My parents, apparently, also loved torturing themselves ;)
I have distinct memories of the AC in our Mini Van breaking while driving through Nebraska cornfields. (So many states covered in corn! You Northeasterners/West Coasters just don't understand.)

My family listened to quite a few different audio books (to this day, I've never read The Hobbit, I've only heard it.) But by far the best ones were Jim Dale's audio narratives of all 7 Harry Potters. Obviously. If you haven't listened to them already - I highly recommend them for road trips. He is incredible! You won't want your painstakingly long road trip to end. (Ok, that might be a slight over-exaggeration.)

We actually had the first few HP books on tape. I remember sitting in the back of the car, and my youngest sister asking my mom to "Play the Harry Potter tape!!!" ....before we even backed out of our driveway. Patience isn't a strong suit in my family.

So, I'm curious, what's your favorite audio book? Any Audio books you recommend for road trips? I'd love to hear your recommendations in the comments below!

Monday Inspiration: IRONMAN Wisconsin

Monday, September 8, 2014

I recently noticed a trend while talking to a few peers. Chatting about life to a 20-something involves every other sentence starting or ending in varying phrases of uncertainty. Examples:

"I like my job but I'm just not sure about..."
"I don't know if I could live (insert city here) forever, you know?"
"I just really don't know if my boyfriend/job/location/hobby is something I'm interested in long term."
Et Cetera. 

But - that's not the trend I wanted to talk about! That's just inevitable cold, hard truth of talking to a twenty-something about life. The recent trend I noticed is (I think) more"fixable." A couple of my friends said "I like my job/life/etc, but I just don't feel challenged."

Therefore - for anyone who is searching for a challenge - I present to you the physical challenge of all challenges:

2.4 mile swim. 112 miles bike. 26.2 mile run. Feeling challenged yet? Or just nauseated? 

Over 2,000 athletes took over Madison this Sunday, September 7 to embark upon this challenge. The fact that so many people (adults!) would take on such a physical feat amazes me.

I personally have never run farther than 5 miles consecutively (not ashamed), so I find the Ironman very inspiring. I ran a sprint triathlon in June, and enjoyed the experience. But - it was hard! It really put into perspective just how far these athletes were going.

Stephen and I woke up at the crack of dawn (6:45am!) on Sunday and scurried over to Lake Monona to watch the start of the swim at 7am.  It was incredible!

sun rising and volunteers out there ready for the swimmers

and they're off!
So many people swimming in the water and so many ironfans cheering them on:

I got tired just watching them!

volunteers supervising
After the swimmers swam to the other side of the lake, we  walked up a bunch of the steps to get onto the Monona Terrace. {5 flights of stairs before 8am on Sunday? That's my own personal version of an Ironman.}

We headed over to the transition area where we waited for people to emerge from the lake....and gazed at a collection of road bikes fit for kings. The maseratis of the bicycle world.

I definitely want to get a road bike before doing my next tri (any suggestions?), so I'll likely buy one before next summer. Fun fact: I actually bought hybrid bike used from a friend – and that friend completed the Ironman yesterday! (Go Mel!!)

When the competitors started exiting the water and transitioning to the bikes it was so exciting! I cheered Melanie on as she moved from the swim to the bike - and as she headed out on her 112 mile biking journey, we headed home. And, at around 9:30am, I took a much needed nap. The life of an ironfan is no joke, you guys.

I did wake up and was inspired to go for a run. I put on my triathlon tee (why not?) and meandered around the streets of Madison while listening to "Kanye West" radio on Pandora. Then, I stumbled upon this sign (as part of the bike course):

And took it as a sign from the higher-ups that it was time to turn around and head home. I certainly didn't want to over do it ;)

Two meals later, we watched runners (after swimming and biking) start their marathons! Crazy! This was around 2pm...it had been 7 hours since they began the race.

I have no grand delusions of ever running an Ironman, but do have the goal to run a real 10k. It may seem tiny in comparison, but I think it's a good fitness goal for ex-basketball player me! Watching the triathletes made me want to set more fitness goals for myself. Do you have ideas for any new fitness-oriented goals I should add to my list?

I offer you two different perspectives for reading this post:

Perspective 1: How inspirational! I think I'm going to set a new physical fitness goal for myself...maybe I'll do the Ironman next year!

Perspective 2: Holy sh*t. I'd rather be at work on a Monday than swim, bike, or run half that much.

Either way, happy Monday, friends!
ducks who were rather overwhelmed by all the swimmers in their lake Sunday morning.
p.s. The original Monday Inspiration Post.
p.p.s. Mondays can be happy too.

What to Read: 3 Memoirs to Add to Your Bookshelf

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

I cannot overstate how much I enjoy reading memoirs. It's probably the closest I can get to reading a book containing a collection of blog posts (and I love blogs - how predictable am I?)

I also love ice cream, yoga pants, the Beatles, and my friends' puppies that I don't have to take care of. I love, apparently, everything that everyone loves. 

Excuse me while I take a minute to revel in my ordinariness.

If you love reading but have never read a memoir, you're not necessarily doing it wrong, but you could be doing it better. Here are three memoirs I recently read which I highly recommend: 

 1. OPEN by Andre Agassi
image from amazon
For athletes and non-athletes alike. The story of little Andre growing up in a poor Las Vegas family (with an arguably crazy dad) and turning into a high-profile professional tennis player (and fashion icon?) is a real-life rags to riches narrative.

My favorite part? He constantly talks about how much he hates tennis. Can't we all relate to sometimes hating aspects of our jobs? ;)

My only gripe? I skimmed over some of the passages that detailed the matches themselves. Now that all the tennis fans out there have collectively rolled their eyes, I'll confess:  I still have no idea how tennis score keeping works. Was the scoring system designed with the sole goal of being convoluted? 

Even with my pathetically limited tennis knowledge (didn't know who Sampras was before this book - the shame!) I still thoroughly enjoyed Andre's story, and recommend it to anyone who has a general appreciation for sports.

For you non-sporty folk: Brooke Shields and Barbara Streisand both make appearances, and he now runs an awesome charity in Las Vegas - so I'm betting you'd enjoy it as well! 

image from amazon
As if I didn't need another excuse to pack up my suitcase and travel the world for months on end - Kristin Newman gives me a whole book of reasons in the form of trans-continental adventures. Successful TV writer and travel aficionado Newman takes us on international journeys to places I've always wanted to go (Brazil, Amsterdam, Paris, New Zealand) and surprising spots I've never before considered (Russia, Israel, Iceland, Argentina), that I found myself adding to my must-see list.

This book is more than a list of glistening destinations. She includes fascinating tidbits about working as a TV writer in LA (she wrote for That 70's Show and How I Met Your Mother) as well as a poignant depiction of her parents' relationship, and thought-provoking accounts of her more serious relationships. She also hilariously masters the "vacation-ship."

I consider this is a must-read for any girl at any age but especially for those who are single throughout their 20's and 30's.  As an aspiring writer, I only wish she gave more glimpses into the LA-TV writer world, since I found it so incredibly fascinating (since I'm a Midwest never-stepped-foot-in-LA girl). Here's hoping that's the basis for her next memoir! ;)

I judge a book by how emphatically I recommend it to friends, and this one is taking the cake this year! I read it in 2 days (on flights, appropriately), and will definitely be gifting it come this Christmas. 

3. EVERYTHING THAT REMAINS by the Minimalists
image from amazon
Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus are two friends living ostensibly successful lives - lavish vacations, high-paying jobs, and every object you could ever wish to own. Why have one living room in your one-person condo when you could have two?

When one day it clicks: even with all this stuff, they still aren't happy. So, after years of letting consumerism drive their habits, they start downsizing. Through examining (and purging most of) their possessions, they start examining their relationships. And evaluating how they spend their time. They vouch for minimalism - claiming it has allowed them to live more meaningful lives.

I found this the most intriguing memoir, because we have grown up in an age where, from the time we start counting our Christmas presents under the tree, we are trained to associate more with BETTER. They boldly challenge this assumption. I actually started following their blog at www.theminimalists.com because the topic continues to fascinate me. Could I be happier if I was pursuing less instead of more? Although I doubt I'll stop buying Essie nailpolish anytime soon, I'm thinking of trying some minimalism experiments - stay tuned!


Next on my reading queue is Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walters  which I picked up in the airport, mainly because the cover boasts a breath-taking painting of the coast of Italy. I would read a book about a no-carb diet and poisonous spiders if it had a picture of the Amalfi Coast on the front. (And I love carbs almost as much as I hate spiders.)

Next on my memoir queue? I'm searching! Any memoirs I should definitely pick up? Would love to hear your recommendations in the comments.

I'll leave you with a thought-provoking quote from Agassi:

Happy reading!