Saturday, September 29, 2007

Like Herding Cats

I've never been one of those people who love to run. Running, to me, is torture and more than a little boring. I like to take long walks, but for years I've struggled with taking that walk up to a jog, let alone a run. This morning, though, I ran more of a 5k than I ever have before. Earlier this month a group of friends and I did a 5k, which I finished - walking the whole time - in 49 minutes. Today, I jogged through a good part of the course and finished in 38 minutes. While it isn't a rock star time, I am proud of myself for doing it and shaving a whole ten minutes off my previous time.

Today's walk was the Cat Caper for a local cat welfare organization. We all joked we running for cats on welfare, but it was a really fun race with strangely enough a lot of dogs participating. We also got samples of cat food and kitty toys to bring home to Prada.

Keeping in the spirit of the race, like, Bob Barker, I'm reminding you all to spay and neuter your pets.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Little Holes are Good

I was reminded today that Swiss cheese isn't only a tasty addition to a Reuben or a cheese tray, it is also helpful in problem solving and ultimately in stress management. In grad school, preparing for my thesis, I was introduced to the Swiss Cheese method of project management by a professor. We were told all about this method the first day of grad school and while I kind of used it to complete my graduate work, I haven't really much thought about it since.

The gist of the Swiss Cheese method is that when faced with a large project, to nibble off small sections and soon the whole assignment is complete. They somehow connected this to the holes in the Swiss cheese, but I have to admit the reason escapes me right now.

Anyway, since getting the invitations out to the guests of our upcoming wedding was beginning to overtake us all; I devised a plan with specific tasks and due dates which makes it seem manageable. When the goal was get the invitations out by next week, we all flipped out. Now, today's goal is to finalize the guest list, tomorrow's goal is to finish inputting addresses, this weekend's goal is buy stamps, etc until the happy day of October 5 when they are in the capable hands of the USPS.

Grad school actually was good for something! If only one of the lessons would have included ordering more wedding invitations than you really think you'll need.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Tastes Like Home

Sausage gets a bad rap these days. What with the high sodium and fat content, not to mention the nitrates, sausage has found its way off many of an American diet. I do try to watch what I eat, but sausage is a regular staple of our menu. Before you turn your nose up, it's not quite what you think. No Hilshire Farms here. My Dad makes his own secret recipe from scratch. I can list all the ingredients (in abbrevriated form - he would break your fingers if you knew more) - pork and spices. It has a surprisingly low amount of fat, but a lot of spice. I'm not going to say it can be classified as health food, but it is good stuff and it is one of the many tastes of home to me. I still remember when my Dad used to make his recipe in the basement of our old house; throwing scraps of pork to our cats and teaching us to put the casing on the machine to make links. So to me, this Italian sausage recipe is a true reminder of home.

Almost every Sunday, Chris and I head to my parent's house for dinner. We talk, play boccee, drink wine and eat. It's a ritual we all enjoy. This past week, Dad had made a fresh batch of sausage so he grilled up a few links. Along with home-roasted red peppers, a hard roll and shredded mozzarella, this is a meal not be missed. We, as we are almost every Sunday, were sent home with leftovers and this week were also sent home with a couple of links of fresh sausage.

Last night I used the sausage to make an outstanding dish for Chris and I - building our own memories of home. Recipe is as follows (this would have been so much better if the fennel planted in the backyard would have matured as planned!)

Pasta with Italian Sausage, Fennel and Tomatoes

Pasta for however many people you want to feed - I used about 2.5 servings of Angel Hair

3 sausage links (use fresh from a deli if you can - or if you know my Dad, his is the best)

Fennel bulb, roughly chopped

2 large garden tomatoes, peeled and seeded, roughly chopped

One garlic clove

Olive Oil


Saute sausage (taken out of the links and crumbled) until almost opaque, in a small amount of olive oil and chopped garlic. Take sausage off stove and transfer to paper towel covered plate. Add more olive oil to pan, scrape sausage bits off bottom. Add chopped fennel to pan, cook about 5 minutes. Salt and pepper (not much seasoning is needed if you have strong enough sausage). If needed for more deglazing, add a splash of whatever wine you are drinking. Add tomatoes. Stir. Let cook for 3 more minutes. Add sausage back to pan; finish cooking. Serve over pasta with bread, and a strong red wine. Enjoy the memories.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Just Breathe

I really envy people who aren't inexplicably drawn to food when a perfect storm of stressful incidents happen in their lives. I'm not one of those people who eat a pint of ice cream after a bad day, but I am one who lunges for a baguette, sea salt and olive oil. Maybe there aren't others like me, but I feel it is rather helpful to eat bread, oil, cheese and wine for dinner on less than stellar days.

Why this veritable feast today you might ask? For one, my office is moving buildings. I'm not a huge fan of change (mainly because of the packing), so this is throwing me for a loop. Plus Starbucks is further away and we won't be near the farmer's market any longer. There is also an office placement issue that pisses me off. It all sounds petty and probably is, but I'm having a tough time keeping a sunny perspective on this one.

Further on my just take a deep breath list: our wedding is 59 freaking days away! How did that happen! So excited, but so much to do. Beginning with getting the invitations out by the end of next week. And by getting the invitations out, I really mean: finalizing the guest list, gathering addresses, deciding how to get the addresses on the envelopes and then getting the envelopes stuffed and into the hands out the trusty USPS. Makes me tired thinking about.

Oh yeah, and then I have to figure out how to convince 12 people next week at this time that I really do know how to teach yoga. Now I'm going to work on that with a nice long practice which I hope makes me have a better attitude about the move, come to some epiphany about addressing the invitations and make me forget the yummy baguette I just bought at the store.

Saturday, September 22, 2007


Without looking at the calendar and noticing September 23 was the Autumnal Equinox, I knew as soon as I woke up that it was close (and clearly it is about this time each year). Strange dreams of giant cucumbers and faceless people haunted my night. Chris said I kept up a steady stream of jabbering as I slept. Usually not a person who remembers dreams, I was surprised to wake up picturing these images. I am always a little out of sorts during this equinox. And if you look around you, you'll notice others are having a tough time too. People have seemed to have a short fuse all this week, and the squirrels around our house are scurrying every which way.

Although, the vernal equinox seems to get all the attention, I always seem to be much more effected by the fall edition of equal day and nights. Yesterday I was drawn to drag out a sketchbook and pastels, I've been feeling the need to bake and I simply want to be. I have heard the autumnal equinox is time for personal harvest, which I like the idea of, I just have trouble shaking the uneasiness that comes along with all this energy.

"We now enter the all-important time of inner growth. During summer, there was little time for the juices of contemplative creativity to bubble up from deep within us. Now is the time to prepare for this to occur most fruitfully. Only when we surrender to our inner nature can we begin to hear the still small voice within, and we must set our outer affairs in order now to be ready when it calls."

From The Essene Book of Days by Danaan Parry

Friday, September 21, 2007

Practice Makes Better

Last year at this time, I took a training class to be certified in teaching yoga. Deepening my practice means, to me, sharing all the beneficial aspects I love about yoga with others. I figured through instructing, I could impact a community, further develop my own practice and also make some extra money. I still plan on doing these things, but my procrastinating habit and a sizable amount of fear have stymied me. As I mentioned once before, in order to finish this certification all trainees must first do eight hours of community service. The organization which is giving me the certification thinks this is a great plan because it not only exposes people to yoga who otherwise might not have the opportunity, it also provides practice for new instructors. I agree with this and for 12 months have really meant to complete these hours and be on my way. I just haven't...

One of the women who teaches a yoga class I often take was recently able to push me into finishing the certification and even helped me find a place to do the eight hours of service. She basically said to me what I've been thinking for 12 months: it's something I just need to do, it is never going to get easier, there is not ever going to be a perfect time to do this, I owe it to myself to take this next step. I guess I just needed to hear it from someone else because for an hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays throughout October, I'll be leading the employees of Goodwill (not more than 12 per class) in basic yoga.

I'm really excited to be doing this, but I need to practice more before I'm ready to face a class of 12 and walk them through 60 minutes of postures. It's surprisingly difficult to explain some of the postures while maintaining good form. So far my only audience has been Prada, who seems to enjoy watching and listening to me practice. She'll even roll around a bit as if trying to imitate some of the postures I am doing. Even without opposable thumbs, she's got a pretty good happy baby! I guess if teaching humans doesn't work out for me, I could start a practice devoted to felines.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Think First

A lesson I learned today: when asked by a client for a favor, don't answer yes until you get more details. Otherwise you might end up driving her 45 miles away to pick up a rental car. Uh, we live in the 15th largest city in the US, people needn't drive to Newark, OH to get a car. But, whatever. I get to take the drive on Monday, which while not exactly how I want to spend a busy Monday in the office, will at least be different and might provide me some time to think.

My thinking lately has revolved around the extravaganza which is wedding planning. A co-worker of mine recently compared the wedding industry to the funeral industry. And while jaded and cynical he surely is, he's not far off. Both make their money by up selling details. Sometimes, high pressure sales tactics are geared toward making happy brides / grieving families feel they need the chair covers (or the velvet casket lining as it may be) or the whole event / afterlife will be ruined.

We're having what is really shaping up to be a lovely wedding, and I'm so thankful for that as I'm sure many memories will be made come November 24. But, where do you draw the line? Surely we can do without the ice sculpture, right? I think yes.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Favorite Flavors

Regardless of what the calendar might say, it is officially autumn (or at least very Indian Summer). I know this because today at work I was snacking on a truly autumnal treat - candy corn mixed with Spanish peanuts. This striking combination of textures and tastes is so very fall to me. Normally, I wouldn't eat these two things separately but in tandem I can't resist. It's a yin and yang of pure bliss.

Another salty sweet treat I enjoy is the Salty Caramel ice cream at Jeni's. Some have said this is too salty, or too sweet or too rich. But, boo hiss, I respond to those naysayers as I find this concoction of butter, milk, and liberal amounts of salt and sugar to be an out of this world ice cream flavor. I had a big scoop of this after downing multiple 6 ounce tastings at the annual Microbrew Festival this past Saturday. It was a little crowded, and I really think this should be an outdoor event, but otherwise, a good time was had by all. And a great chance to sample local beers without committing to a whole pint, because let's face it, sometimes microbrews can be a little hoppy and you are really better off tasting it first. No such taste test is needed with salty / sweet treats detailed above, just dive head in.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Slightly Not Average

Looks like we are in the minority, according to this story in the Columbus Dispatch saying Columbus has a higher than national average of 20-something singles who are waiting until their 30s to tie the knot. Granted, when I do get married this November, I'll be less than two months shy of the big 3-0. Chris, on the other hand, just turned 28. Either way you slice it, we waited until our later 20s to get married.

I'm sure there are those out there who bemoan this trend of getting married later in life, but I think it is a good thing. When I think back to my early 20s, I know I was not ready to make a life-long decision. I was good at making happy hour decisions, but I wasn't ready for a marriage. I changed a good deal between 20 and 26 and while it may be possible to go through those changes with a partner, it has to be rough and unfortunately, that sometimes take a toll ending in divorce. I also think many people (women especially) need this early 20s time to be on their own: to explore who they are and who they want to be. Having to do things on your own makes you a stronger person. I like to think strong people make better partners and thus better marriages.

Clearly everyone does what is right for themselves, when it is right to do it. I'm just glad to see as a city, we're not rushing into anything too fast. Maybe Columbus just has a whole bunch of commitment-phobics. In fact, I'm pretty sure I dated a number of them.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Losing It

My friend Sara and I were commiserating today about our sudden lack of memory skills. I'm planning a wedding and dealing with everyday life stuff and she is an 8-month-pregnant mother of an 18 month old. We decided, at almost 30, it wasn't quite time for dementia to set in, but at times we don't seem far away. Preparing for life changing events tends to make remembering where you put your keys a task that is hard to do - at least for us. Sara is messing up appointment times and I can't keep straight what thank you notes I have sent to whom.

Lists have become my friends, I have one here by the computer for online to dos. Several lists live on my desk at work - one for work related tasks and one for wedding related jobs. There is also a list downstairs somewhere reminding me to take the dry cleaning and buy curtains so the creepy neighbor stops looking in our kitchen.

I fondly (and somewhat hazily) remember the days when no lists were required. When things just got accomplished because they did, with little effort involved. Those days are not in recent memory.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Birthday Cupcakes

Today is Chris' birthday. I bought him cupcakes for breakfast (I haven't quite gotten around to baking this cake). I thought cupcakes for breakfast sounded like a great idea - fun, different and decadent - perfect for a birthday celebration. He thought cupcakes for breakfast sounded nutritionally lacking and would upset his stomach. Clearly, we have different takes on food. When we first started dating, we had a tough time working out each other's eating habits. I was always cooking too little, he was wanting to eat earlier than I was ready, he wanted meat while I was happy with pasta. It has somewhat worked itself out, but we still have these issues arise every once in awhile. Men and women just react differently food. It would probably be better if I took on more of his eating ideals, but I really can't imagine not having for cupcakes breakfast on special occasions.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

My Name is Amy and I'm a...

MESSIE. If you know me, this probably isn't a shock. My house, previously apartment or dorm room, or bedroom has never been what one would describe as tidy. Rather, I'm the leave out as I go along type person which at some point results in a huge mess. That's pretty much where I'm at now. The thing is, I never truly unpacked all my things when I moved in with Chris last October. To compound the problem, Chris never really unpacked all his things when he moved in last July. Triplicating the problem is that we are now being given wedding presents and have nowhere to put them. To really quadarate the issue, our house is 1350 square feet. There is stuff absolutely everywhere. Perhaps more annoyingly to me (I have a high threshold for messy), we also haven't at all decorated the second floor of the house. I told Chris we are living like Monks. He pointed out the 33 pairs of shoes and suggested we weren't quite monk-like.

So, as they say, admitting you have a problem is the first step. And here I am phoning into Houston. Steps are being taken to correct this situation. I have checked out books on the topic of organizing and housecleaning. They are by Sandra Felton and while she feels the need to compulsively throw in Bible verses throughout her text (I don't think God cares what my house looks like), she has some really good key points. For example, she says keeping your house neat and tidy is not only inviting to guests but also a privilege and shows respect to your home. I like that.

Also helping is that my boss is having a yard sale this weekend. He has offered to try and sell anything I want to haul to him. This is so great: the benefit of selling my nice(r) junk without actually doing the work of a yard sale. Plus, it's been so freeing to go through things and single out items for sale. Please keep your fingers crossed that none of it comes back!

Monday, September 3, 2007

Do You Want to Sign My Petion?

I'm thinking about starting a petition for the summer to last a little longer. I haven't had quite enough yet. While running to the store to pick up limes, avocado, rum and chips (I'm not giving up yet on mojitos and guacamole in the backyard), I noticed caramel apples and acorn squash. Don't get me wrong, I really enjoy these two items, but I'm not quite ready for them yet. There are still pool days to be had and I can't yet bring myself to be roasting squash (or anything else) in the oven.

Only problem is, who do I send the signed petition to?

Sunday, September 2, 2007


Just finished The Road by Cormac McCarthy. Whoa. Mom warned me this book was weird and I have to say it wasn't cheery, but I really liked it. Haunting is a adjective for this book because I keep thinking about the unnamed man and his son making their way through this nuclear winter type environment. The book was startlingly to me (other than just with the vivid imagery and bleakness of their world) because there was no explanation of how the pair ended up traveling the road. What was the event which sent their world into darkness? How long had they been traveling? At one point did they have other companions? How old is the boy? The novel was very specific in it's scope and wasn't answering these questions, but I would really like to know. I didn't see the Oprah when she interviewed the author and I wonder if he addressed any of these things.

If you have any interest in this book, I would recommend it, but just don't be expecting a light road-trip memoir.

Saturday, September 1, 2007


Today was the season opener for the Buckeyes. It's pretty sacred around these parts. Even though this season isn't looking like a championship team and the early games are not much of a challenge, there is something about football season in Columbus that is unexplainable to those on the outside. I've found it is hard to explain, even to people who live here now, but either didn't go to OSU or didn't grow up in the area. They just don't get what the big deal is about and it's hard for the rest of us to put into words.

I have to admit, I'm not much of a football fan, but I am a Buckeye fan. I have had twangs of guilt and longing all day because I wasn't on campus. Alas, there were weeds to be pulled and living rooms to organize. In the not so distant past, each Saturday during football season was spent either on campus or at a sports bar watching each game. My life is different now, but how much fun those days were! Arriving early for prime tailgating spots and staying late after the game was over, making new friends, and running into old friends were all part of those days.

I think, for me, the game watching is as much about the game as it is the community spirit accompanying it. The collective roar of the crowd, the hugs and high-fives at a good play or win are the best moments in college football. And the sudden intake of breath, the blinked back tears, and the silence that goes along with a bungled pass or tough loss is something you learn to live with: it's all part of the game. It takes a born and bred Buckeye to understand.