Five for Friday XXX

1. It’s almost not Friday anymore and the only reason I am awake is because I am newly addicted to The Blacklist. 

 

2. I seriously had the LONGEST workday ever, and all I wanted to do when I got home was sit on the couch, eat dinner, unwind, and watch a little television.  I am also slightly addicted to Castle reruns.

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3. But instead I studied for 2 hours while the BOY was out for dinner.

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4. And tried to manage the distractions.  When Cooper got tired of sitting on my notebook, he tried to break into a few cabinets, and then started running laps through our downstairs.  This house is not conducive to learning : )

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5. When the BOY got home, we opened some amazing Sonoma red wine, cuddled up with Cooper, and just enjoyed Friday!

 

Woo hoo!  It’s Friday ya’ll!

What are you up to this weekend?

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Mondayness

My Mondays have a bit of a routine and that has been off the past few weeks.  So today, it was time to get back to it (with the addition of printing 100’s of pages of outlines).  I slept in this morning and even fell back asleep after the BOY left the house early for the day.  More surprising is that Cooper let me fall back asleep.  Once my alarm went off around 9am, he came in for a cuddle.  I made breakfast and immediately got down to laundry/printing/tea drinking.  Yesterday’s study session revealed that I am WAY behind and I have A LOT to learn if I hope to be successful with this test.

But there is still housework to be done and food to be bought.  So I did a quick barre class before heading to Target (for printer cartridges and paper), Costco and the grocery store. 

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Then came home to eat lunch (Asian salmon salad) while I folded laundry and threw tonight’s dinner into the crockpot.

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As I studied throughout the afternoon, my house smelled like Chinese take out (yum!) which I would have much preferred to actually making dinner tonight. 

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Cooper attempted to wrestle my ponytail and after the 15th time that he came pouncing across my notes, I got up and fed him his dinner.

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When the BOY came home around 7:30pm, our dinner was hot and ready to go.  Thanks to my trusty crockpot of course.  So I made Kung Pao chicken, but I modified the recipe a bit.  Since the BOY doesn’t like zucchini, I subbed in a big container of Asian veggies.  See notes below…

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Our dinner looked more like stirfry than Kung Pao chicken, and I am not sure if my cornstarch did it’s job.

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But either way, dinner was delicious!  I ran through some note cards and after a long day of Mondayness was ready to finally unwind on the couch a bit to blog a bit, and I finally convinced the BOY to start watching The Blacklist.  Oh…the pilot is good!

What do you do on Mondays?

Do you watch the Blacklist?

Meal Planning 2/23/15

Monday: Kung Pao Chicken

Tuesday: Shrimp Fajitas

Wednesday: Burger Night

Thursday: Take Out (I’m thinking ‘tillos)

 

Crockpot Kung Pao Chicken

From Crème de la Crumb

Ingredients

  • 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, chopped into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 zucchini, chopped
  • 2 teaspoon minced garlic

Sauce

  • 4 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon red chile paste (like Sriracha – found near Asian section in more grocery stores)
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • ⅓ cup water
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch + 2 tablespoons cold water
  • ⅓ cup peanuts
  • optional: cooked rice, green onions

Directions

  1. Drizzle a large sauce pan with oil and sauté chicken over medium heat for 2-3 minutes until browned
  2. Add chicken to a greased slow cooker. In a bowl whisk together sauce ingredients: garlic, soy sauce, chile paste, vinegar, brown sugar, and ⅓ cup water. Pour sauce into the slow cooker. Cook on low 3-4 hours or on high 5-6 hours.
  3. About 10-15 minutes before serving, drizzle a pan with oil and sauté peppers, zucchini, and garlic for 2-3 minutes until veggies are tender. Add to slow cooker. *See Note
  4. Whisk together corn starch and cold water until dissolved. Add to slow cooker and stir. Allow to thicken for 5-10 minutes. Serve over rice and garnish with peanuts and green onions as desired.

*Note: I added my red peppers with the chicken and then stirred in the canned veggies and peanuts with the cornstarch.

Curling in the City

Did you stay up late and watch the Oscars?  I only caught the end because I was downtown curling (random, I know!).  I never realized behind the meat dresses and crazy costumes that Lady Gaga can sing?!  I also didn’t realize that the Oscars went so late!

I started my Sunday getting back into the workout groove.  After 2 weeks without a yoga class, I was ready to get back on my mat.  I find that when I am out of my exercise routine, the easiest place to slide back in is a yoga class.  And then I found this on Pinterest…

If anything it starts out: " I almost didn't go, but I'm so glad I did!" {{so true, I haven't been feeling it.. But I went anyway to Bikram Class & had an fabulous class!!}}

So true!  Except that it’s a picture of a gymnast, but you can’t win ‘em all : )  I reveled in my post yoga glow and felt physically and emotionally awesome!

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The rest of the day went by in a flash and included Mediterranean for lunch and a study session with my study buddy.  At 5:30pm, I met my friends Jen and Megan in the city.  You might remember them from this snow shoeing adventure.  Shortly after that, they moved to Australia. They are back visiting the states and were excited to go snow shoeing again.  Sadly, there just wasn’t enough snow.  Our back up plan…curling at the Beer, Bacon, and Sausage Bar!

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We had a delicious dinner and then braved the cold (with warm bevvies in hand) to try curling.  Despite the text book form you see below, I was actually pretty terrible at the sport.  But that didn’t mean it wasn’t fun!

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It was FREEZING though so frequent rest breaks by the fire were needed.  It was wonderful to catch up with my friends and I love that they always have the MOST FUN ideas!

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I awoke this morning smelling like a camp fire (love it!) and have a busy day of Monday-ness ahead!

 

Have you ever tried curling? Any tips on technique?

It’s Good to be Cooper & Weekday Reflections

It was a good morning to be Cooper!

After meowing at the door relentlessly, the BOY woke up to feed him his breakfast.  After scarfing it down, he returned to the door where he continued to meow on and off for about an hour until I finally woke up, opened the door, and returned to bed where Cooper situated himself in the direct path of my arm for a good 15 minutes of love.  When the BOY joined us, Cooper entertained by chirping out answers to our questions.  And then it was on to breakfast number two (for Cooper) who nibbled on a few salami scraps while the eggs cooked. 

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He then positioned himself in the perfect place to charge the plate to retrieve the egg + salami mixture he’d been eyeing.  After that, there was a little time to hunt his mousey toy before curling up for the first of I’m sure numerous naps.  And all of this before 10am : )

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Reflections of the Workweek…

It was easy to get myself back into the swing of the workweek.  The kindness of my coworkers and patients was remarkable and left me with a strong appreciation for the people I interact with each day.

Getting back into the groove of exercise, that is an entirely different story.  Partly because of my cold and also because of the –20 degree weather, I didn’t push it this week. And by push it, I mean, do anything!

Somewhere in the middle is studying. I am going through the motions but my heart is just not in it.  The bad news…I am just a few weeks away from my test date. Ugh!

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I spent this afternoon studying at Starbucks.  3 Bux beverages later, I swung by Trader Joe’s (where I bumped into one of my best friends and her family).  When I got home, the BOY decided he wasn’t feeling great (I think he’s coming down with my cold) and so I made a Trader Joe’s Saturday night dinner : )

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Cooper was excited to see the cheese and I think that he even snuck a few bites.

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Like I mentioned…it was good to be Cooper today!

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Down Day Dinner

Monday I needed a bit of a physical and emotional break.  I didn’t set an alarm and slept almost 12 hours.  Mind you, there were a few interruptions as Cooper kept wiggling his body into my arms for some love, but I didn’t mind.  I missed my little kitty while I was gone!  And he missed us and his pink blanket which we took for the car ride.

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The BOY and I did a grocery store run to fill up our empty fridge.  Then, I put dinner in the crockpot, took a shower, and planned to dive back into the studying I didn’t do this past week.  Instead, I got comfy on the couch (next to Cooper and the pink blanket) and worked my way through the DVR while folding laundry and snacking on apples and dark chocolate almonds.

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You see…on top of being exhausted, I have a cold and a random rash on my neck.  I was in need of a little down time…and so I took some!  I’m sure I’ll regret it later as there is much to catch up on.

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I chose an easy dinner recipe (to go along with my day of relaxation), and it turned out wonderful!

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So here’s a tasty recipe for the next time you need a down day.

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Meal Planning 2/16/15

Monday: Crockpot Pork (recipe below)

Tuesday: Fajita Night

Wednesday: Chicken and Salad

Thursday: Crab Stuffed Mushrooms

 

Super Easy Slow Cooker Pork

From Pinch of Yum

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs. pork shoulder
  • 1 cup soda (I used diet gingerale)
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground oregano
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 cup Marzetti Simply Dressed Balsamic dressing

Directions

  1. Place the pork, soda, garlic, chili powder, oregano, and Worcestershire sauce in the crockpot. Cover and cook on high for 4-5 hours or low for 6-8 hours.
  2. When the meat falls apart easily, shred it directly in the crockpot with two forks. Add the balsamic dressing and stir with the liquid in the crockpot. The meat should be saucy and moist.
  3. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees (or use the broil setting if you have that) and transfer the mixture to a baking sheet lined with foil. Spread it in an even, thin layer (drain some juice if it appears that there is too much) and cook in the preheated oven until the juices are bubbling and the edges are crispy, 10-15 minutes (less time if you have a broil setting).
  4. Transfer to a serving platter and enjoy on salad, tacos, or potatoes!

Still Sad

Thank you all so very much for your sweet words and support his past week!

When I learned that my grandfather had passed, I was somewhat surprised.  He was 2 months away from 103 years old, how could you be surprised, you ask?  My grandpa has been a fixture in my life for 33 years.  While other grandparents got sick and eventually passed, my grandpa was always bright, strong, and healthy.  When he ended up sick and in the hospital for the first time EVER in his 90’s, I was sad but not the slightest bit shocked to learn that he pulled through open heart surgery well and was telling jokes to the nurses day one after surgery.  After that, I made sure not to take for granted any of the time we had left together.

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I have been down to Florida for at least his last 7 birthdays (and possibly more) documenting everything with photos and creating memories that are still vivid today (ie driving with him home from his birthday brunch the day after his 101st birthday).  I made sure to take a trip down with the BOY to introduce him early on and we often visited since, enjoying pancakes and stories by the pool.  I made sure that my grandpa knew that I loved him and shared all of the exciting moments of the past years, including my engagement with him.

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Although we knew that his health and independence were declining, it was shocking to hear that grandpa’s body was aging and his quality of life impaired last week.  The news broke my heart but to hear that he passed quietly, without suffering, after recent visits from family and friends in the community was comforting.  And then, it was a quick transition to GO time.  Planning for a drive out east, rearranging my work schedule, coordinating phone calls with family, and taking care of the last minute little things before leaving for almost a week.

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My mom and brother arrived in New Jersey first and it was a pleasant reunion when my dad, sister in law, the BOY, and I arrived.  We stayed with my cousins who have two young kids who were thrilled to see us and we were equally excited to spend time with them.  The week progressed with a mix of disbelief and celebrations of life.  There were stories to share, laughter amongst family, and hugs and tears.  I actually do not know the last time that I was in a room with my brother and all 5 of my cousins and I couldn’t help but appreciate this as the 7 of us, plus spouses, and kids got to know each other better at a family dinner.  The energy in the house was electric.  The celebration of life with the underlying tone of sadness.  At almost 103, there was more appreciation for the lifetime of lessons and legacy that Grandpa Al left us than loss.

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I spent time in New Jersey and strolled through Washington Heights, NYC.  I bonded with my sister in law over family dynamics and smiled brightly as the BOY engaged in deep conversations gaining the trust of my family in between playing games with the kids.  His support during this time left me speechless with an entirely new level of appreciation for the life we are about to start together.

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The days went by and at 5am yesterday morning, it was time to return home.  We ended up renting a second car to caravan home, reflecting on the week while beginning to plan for back to work, getting opinions about wedding plans and texting pins back and forth with my sister in law in the other car.  Once we crossed back into Illinois, we had a stop in the city, drove out to Ohare to return the rented car, then back to my parents to pick up our car before returning to our home and a slightly dazed and mostly annoyed Cooper. 

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I sat back on the couch to sort through emails and bills and see the adorable face of my grandpa popping up on my blog screen and my throat gets tight as my eyes tear up as the overwhelming reality that I won’t hear him scream Jennifer loudly into the phone when I call hits, no slams into me.  And I am still sad…so very sad.

But I am also happy to have had 6 days surrounded by the love and support of family, creating more memories and passing down wisdom to the newest generation of great grandkids.  My grandpa would be so happy to know that we were all together!

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And so along with the sadness, this is what I will take with me over the next days, weeks, and years!

A Life Well Lived

Sadly, my grandfather passed away this weekend after 102 1/2 incredible years!  We are so lucky to have had him as a role model and patriarch of our family. 

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100th Birthday Celebration

I am grateful for all of the stories he has shared and lessons he has taught us.

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My grandpa lived every day like it was his birthday.  He respected others, invested in his community, and let the little things go!  In my 33 years, I have watched him age with grace, staying active and involved in our family.  I am deeply honored to be able to call him my grandfather.

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You may remember that my family has a beautiful way of making the most of every situation, celebrating a life well lived with stories and love, even during the saddest times.  Tuesday morning, we are off to New York.  Already, it is looking like quite the adventure.  My mom is in Florida, my brother in Vegas, a snow storm on the east coast, and my dad, the BOY, my sister in law and I will be tackling our first long car trip together. 

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It will feel good to gather as a family and celebrate this special man!

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We love you Grandpa Al and will always remember your kindness and zest for life!