30 Days of Blogging: Accomplishments

1328660075723_9561143When I came across the blogging challenge, so many of the various challenges had questions that focused on personal accomplishments.  I don’t normally like talking about my accomplishments, probably because I fall under that strange female trait that absolutely HATES talking about achievements and it just feels like bragging.  I’m the sort of person that will normally downplay achievements, partially because I honestly don’t believe they’re all that fantastic, but also because sounding prideful is really unappealing to me.  J is always telling me that I need to be more mindful of that, and that telling people what I’ve accomplished isn’t being prideful or boastful, but instead it’s being truthful about my life and where I’ve come from.  Which, from that perspective, makes it seem ok.  So…here goes.

One of my greatest accomplishments in life is probably my academic success.  Which, when written like that, seems vague as hell.  I am a first generation college student.  No one in my family (immediate or extended), even to this day, has ever gone to college.  Just me.  When I was in high school, college was never an expectation for me.  I’ve always been really jealous of those people who were “expected” to go to college, like it was a foregone conclusion that they attend.  The type of people where it wasn’t a matter of if they went to college, but where they went.  It just wasn’t like that for me.  High school was easy for me, and I really enjoyed academics, but from my parents’ view it was always expected that I would graduate, then get a job at the local factory and get married/have children.  When I told my parents that I wanted to go to college, it was met with questions of, “why” and “for what purpose.”  So, I honestly never believed I’d be attending university, and it didn’t truly become real until I had moved into my dorm my freshman year.

Towards the end of undergrad, I was feeling what most other soon-to-be graduates were feeling…the “what in the world am I going to do now?”.  I decided to apply to law school to continue my education.  Once again, I was met with questions from my family on why I would ever do that, and when would I move home and settle down with a family.  I think they wanted to be supportive of me, but my life was just so completely different from anything they’d experienced before, they didn’t know how to relate.  It actually severely damaged my relationship with my mother, and even to this day our relationship still suffers from my decision to pursue higher education.  I applied for a legal education program for minorities, and, as a first generation college student, I was accepted.  I was fortunate enough to meet a few other people in the same position as myself, and we bonded over that aspect of our lives.  I went into law school knowing that I’d work harder than anything else in my life, and boy was I right.  Midway through law school, I decided to stay another year to earn a Master’s degree as well as my Juris Doctorate.  I graduated from law school in 2009, after having spent 21 consecutive years in school (in one form or another).

I’m incredibly fortunate, and well aware that several small decisions in life could have led me down a completely different path.  I’m comfortable with what I’ve accomplished academically, but don’t usually talk about the background of it all, especially because it has led to quite a rift between me and my family.  I do feel that I was up against quite a lot of challenges, and am glad that I pushed through and overcame those to be where I am today.  I can only hope that, when J and I have children, that I will encourage them to do anything they would like to do in life, and that no path is a wrong path, which is more than I can say for my encouragement over the years.  I think, at some point, I would like to go back to school and work towards a Ph.D, probably in education, but that will be years down the road.  Who knows…maybe I’ll be back in school when my children are in school as well!

There it is, one of my greatest accomplishments.  I hope you enjoyed, and I’d love to hear one of yours!

Much love,
K.

Friday Favorites: Vegetables

Early last year, I decided to give a vegetarian diet a try.  I’ve always struggled with the moral issues around eating meat, and felt that moving away from an animal based diet, to one of a plant-based diet, would be best for me.  I was a vegetarian for over a year, and then slowly started introducing meat back into my diet.  I still rarely eat meat, and plan to continue a primarily vegetable based diet, but every now and then I do enjoy a meat dish.  I still feel bad about eating animals, so I try really hard to make sure that the meat that I do eat is sustainably and ethically sourced.  However, since becoming a vegetarian, I have found a new appreciation for vegetables, so I thought I’d do a Friday Favorites post on my favorite vegetables!

1.  Brussel Sprouts

brussel sproutsI know what most of you are thinking about brussel sprouts.  They’re bitter, and small cabbages, and really tasteless.  And, for the longest time, I would have agreed with you.  But then, I came across some good recipes, and learned how to cook brussel sprouts, and now they’re my absolute FAVORITE vegetable of all time!  Roasted brussel sprouts with shallots, salt and pepper, are fantastic in so many ways.  They’re a great side dish, they’re fantastic cut up in cold salads, and I even use them as the main toppings for one of my favorite pizzas (roasted brussel sprout pizza with potatoes and goat cheese…YUM).  Sure, they get a bad rap, but I’d encourage you all to go out there and try them again, because they really can be amazing!

2.  Eggplant

eggplantEggplant, or aubergine, is another highly overlooked vegetable (in my opinion).  Eggplant parmesan sandwiches were a huge staple in our house during my year of meat-free living, and we still enjoy the vegetable regularly.  I really enjoy it breaded and baked (never fried), with spicy marinara and fresh mozzarella melted on top, but it’s also fantastic just grilled with some extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper.  I also use eggplant quite often in my Couscous with Seven Vegetables recipe which I got from the cook of our riad in Morocco.  J and I will also eat leftovers that were grilled and put into the fridge, as a topping for pizza or cold salads.  Another favorite is a roasted vegetable sandwich, in which eggplant plays a starring role, along with onion, bell peppers, zucchini, and feta cheese!

3.  Asparagus

asparagusIn the Netherlands, people anxiously await the spring because it brings with it “aspergeseizoen” or asparagus season.  Both green and white varieties are celebrated there, and they even have specific recipes that include asparagus.  One staple recipe is the asparagus soup (which is divine) and another is its chlorophyl-free counterpart, white asparagus served with thinly sliced ham and soft-boiled eggs, with a lemon butter sauce.  Here in the US, we still eat a ton of asparagus, and it isn’t quite as seasonal as it is there, though we do eat the most of it in the summer.  Grilling the asparagus stalks or roasting them in the oven are our two primary ways of cooking it, though each Easter I do make the Dutch white asparagus, complete with soft-boiled eggs and roasted potatoes, and that delicious butter and lemon sauce.  It’s quite a special treat, and one that we look forward to every year, especially because it brings back such fond memories of our lives in the Netherlands.

4.  Avocado

avacadoOk, this one is cheating, because technically it’s a fruit.  I don’t care, I still love it.  It’s creamy, it’s got fiber, and it tastes amazing with some salt and lemon juice.  Avocado is a go-to adder for a lot of our recipes at home.  We’ll dice it up and add it to salads, we’ll smash it onto toast with an egg for a quick breakfast, and I’ll even eat it plain for a snack (either topped with lemon juice or some balsamic vinegar).  The healthy fats in the avocado add to heart and brain health, and it also improves the absorption of certain nutrients by up to 400%.  Another way we eat them at home is to add them to our protein shakes in the morning.  The velvety texture really adds smoothness to the shakes, plus you can’t really taste the avocado if you are adding other ingredients.  I only started eating avocado a few years ago, prior to that I wasn’t a huge fan of the flavor, but I’m so glad I gave it a second try.  Now, it’s one of our go-to snacks in the house and we always have one or two of them ready to eat!

5.  Artichokes

artichokesLast, but surely not least, is my love affair with artichokes.  These are another staple in our house, either raw or in their jarred variety.  I’ll put them on anything: pizzas, salads, couscous or quinoa…pretty much, if I’m making something that has any sort of mediterranean flavor to it, I’ll add artichokes.  My favorite is my Mediterranean couscous salad, which I make with whole wheat couscous, artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, red onion, garlic, and feta.  It’s basically a “chop everything and add together” type of salad, and it keeps in the fridge well for next day’s lunch.  We’ve also really liked them lightly steamed and then grilled for a side addition to our main meal.  I’ve come across a few stuffed artichoke recipes that I’d love to try, but haven’t given them a whirl yet.  Once I do, I’ll be sure to post back here in a recipe post, because I’m sure that we’ll love it!  While we really enjoy the marinated variety, I’ve found that some of the jarred, marinated artichokes have a high sodium content, and lots of additional fat from the oils, so you should be careful if you’re buying the jarred artichokes.  Be sure to read the label, because you never know what else is in the jar if you don’t look at the ingredients!

There you have it, my top five favorite vegetables (ok…four vegetables and a fruit)!  What are your favorites?  Also, if you have some recipes that include my vegetables above that I haven’t mentioned, I’d love to hear about them!

Much love,
K.

30 Days of Blogging: 5 Years from now.

5 years from nowIt’s hard for me to not think about the future.  I’m a planner by nature, though more of a “long-term” planner more than anything.  It comes and goes for me, really.  I love to take every day as it comes, but I do have long-term goals in mind.  I’m a hot mess, what can I say.

In the next five years, there are several things I’d like to see for myself:

*Professionally – I’d like to be further along in my career.  I’d prefer to either be a Program Leader by this point, or work in the Government Relations group.  It would be nice if we were doing another expat assignment, or working out of DC (where several of our Government Relations people work), but I think I’d also be happy still living in the Midwest.  I think my overall goal would be for J and I to not have such similar careers.  Currently, we’re both in management (which can create a lot of job stress) so I feel like we’re both in demanding careers.  I think it would be better if one of us were in a less demanding career, but that will remain to be seen.

*Personally – I’d like to be a mother, hopefully of two children (though I’d be perfectly happy with only one as well).  By this point, I’d like for my first child to be starting kindergarten soon, with a second one not far behind.  I’d like to be playing music still, and even more involved in the church (I’m currently involved in Music Ministry, but I’d also like to be involved as an RCIA sponsor).  J and I will be past our 10 year anniversary, but I know we’ll still be very happy together.  I’ll be nearing 40, so I hope to still be in good shape, maintaining my weight loss, and very active physically.  I’d also like to start taking Krav Maga classes, so maybe I’ll be involved in that!

Overall, in 5 years, I’d like to be as happy with my life as I am now.  I’m in a really good place, both professionally and personally, and I’d like for that to continue, and even improve.  I hope my friendships are as strong then as they are now, and I’d like to create new friendships in the meantime.  I’m excited for the future, and what it holds!

Much love,
K.

30 Days of Blogging: Living in the Past

39f682ef48e6cc6ad133a5fb84abeb14I remember when J and I first started dating.  I was a big fan of those “getting to know you” type of questions, (you all know what I’m talking about) like, “If you could be any animal in the world, what would you be and why?”   You know…those types of questions.  My favorite of all, though, was the question of “If you could live in any time period of the past, when would it be and why?”  Something about that question always appealed to me, probably because I would love to explore ancient times and places.

If asked the question now, I think my answer would be different from what I would have given back when we first started dating.  Then, I probably would have said ancient Egypt, in the times of the Pharaohs.  I’d still like to travel back to that time, but now other times and places hold more interest to me.  I think I’d have a hard time picking between two options:  I’d like to travel back to the time of Christ and live in Galilee, or back to ancient Rome to experience the beginnings of the Senate and Rome becoming a republic.  The first choice, the time of Christ in Galilee, was such a tumultuous time with the beginnings of the Church, and I’d love to see how it all came about.  Plus, the opportunity to potentially hear Christ preach would be amazing.  The second option, the founding of the Roman republic, would be fantastic as well, as so much of our modern-day civilization came from those early beginnings and to see it all come together is something that I’d love to experience.

So…there you have it, my choices for living in the past.  What about you?  Where would you live, and why?

Much love,
K.

30 Days of Blogging: Ridding the World

bigotI think a lot of times, in life, we ask ourselves what would make the world a better place.  We all have an idea of what, in our minds, would make life on earth more bearable and pleasant for everyone.  Of course, all those ideas differ, but variety is the spice of life, right?

I have a hard time trying to figure out what I’d do away with.  My faith tells me that everything happens for a reason, so changing one thing could put events in play that are way worse.  My practical side says get rid of bigotry and hatred, and we’d all be a hell of a lot better off.  It’s a crap shoot, really.  If we didn’t have bigotry and hatred, who knows what the world would be like.  I’d like to think it would be better, but in reality something else might creep up to take its place that is far worse.

Every day, with the current events going on in the media, we’re constantly inundated with images of how hatred for others, hatred for different races and ethnicities, hatred for different religions threaten to tear apart our humanity.  I still believe that, without it, we could all live just a little more peacefully.  I look forward to the day where I can see if my belief is reality.

 

Much love,
K.

Friday Favorites…Children’s Books!

I love reading. Ever since I was a child, when you couldn’t find it, it was probably because I was hiding somewhere with a good book. My best friend’s mom likes to tell the story of when we were kids, she would have to drag her daughter to the library for summer reading, and I’d be coming out of the library with a stack of books taller than my head, happy as can be. In high school, I snagged a very coveted job (ok…I was probably the only one coveting it, to be honest) at the local library. I was a page, and I shelved books and movies. Boring for most, but I loved it! Later, during law school, I stuck around for another year to finish a Master’s in Library Science, which would allow me to be a librarian at a law library (if I decide to go that route, eventually). As you can see, books and reading are a HUGE part of my life.

Which is why, I’m now going to share with you all my top five favorite children’s books of all time. Hopefully, if you haven’t already read them, it’ll inspire you to pick up a book and maybe you’ll like it just as much as I do!

1. Harry Potter. All of them.

HP SeriesI know, it’s clichéd, the Harry Potter craze, and I swore to myself that I wouldn’t be sucked in. I managed to resist all the way until the 4th book came out, in 2003. At the time, I was an orientation leader at Indiana University, and all my leader buddies were reading the books, and I wanted to know what the hype was about. I picked up the first book and was completely captivated!  The books were magical and quick reads, and I found myself waiting excitedly for the next book to come out.  I started watching the movies shortly after.  I won’t lie, a part of me felt like family members had passed once the books reached their conclusion, because I had become so close to the characters.  The series is a fabulous one, and J even purchased for me the British version, in hardback, so that we can one day read them to our children.

 

2.  The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.

LWWC.S. Lewis has a gift for storytelling, to be sure.  I’ve read several of his books, including all in The Chronicles of Narnia series, and I haven’t really found a book that I didn’t enjoy and learn something from.  I picked The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe because that book was a favorite from childhood that I still enjoy reading, several years later.  Much like the Harry Potter series, there’s something so magical about the world of Narnia that Lewis has created, and it’s something that both children and adults can appreciate.  I also have more recently been able to appreciate the spiritual aspect of the series, and of Lewis’ writing in general, which has opened up a new area of exploration for me.

 

3.  The Secret Garden.

SGI remember reading The Secret Garden several times when I was a younger girl, and loving everything about it.  Then, last year, I had a desire to pick it back up again to see if it was as good as I remembered it to be.  It was still amazing (though by far a much quicker read), and I realized that this is one of those books that are truly timeless.  We can all remember a point in time where we found something that was ours, and ours alone, and it was the sweetest secret of all.  We’ve all dealt with feelings of anger and ostracism, and the desire to find that place in the world where we feel like we belong.  This book really drove that home for me, and made me realize that, though it’s a children’s book, the inherent desire to feel safe and secure in our own special spot in the world is universal.

 

4.  A Wrinkle in Time

AWITMadeleine L’Engle was one of my favorite authors growing up.  The first book of hers that I read was A Wrinkle in Time, which I quickly followed up with the next three books in the series.  Every now and then, I still pick up this series and re-read it from the beginning, and I always find myself seeing different aspects in the books that I didn’t pick up on the last time I read it.  I only have paperback versions of these books, but I’d love to find hardback versions to keep for our children.  Plus…I just really love the books!  The protagonist is one that I identified with so well as a young girl; social misfit that doesn’t quite fit in anywhere, emotionally immature at times, and intelligent with high expectations placed on her from others (though, I didn’t feel overly intelligent as a child, so that one doesn’t quite fit).  She has tight bonds with her baby brother and willingly enters into a dangerous adventure to save him.  It was pretty much everything that I wanted to be as a young girl;  the type of person that, even though she is scared, she pushes through and does what needs to be done in order to protect her loved ones.  It’s one of those books that really has it all: science fantasy genre, an epic battle between the forces of good and evil, a burgeoning romance, family love, and adventure.

 

5.  Bridge to Terabithia.

Bridge_to_TerabithiaI’ll be honest, I haven’t seen the movie version of this one.  The book was my absolute favorite book during my 4th grade year (I remember the year well because this was the year we had a student teacher that I adored, and when she left I was heartbroken).  Bridge to Terabithia was the first book (that I can remember) that moved me to tears.  Up until that point, most books I had read were fluffy and light, fully of happiness and adventure.  This book was so powerful and heart wrenching, that I remember crying my eyes out for hours after finishing it.  It was a story a lot of kids could relate to; two children, trying to escape troubles at home, band together to create a magical place in the woods for their adventures.  They grow closer as friends, and (if given time) would probably grow into something more later in life, when tragedy strikes.  Even now, thinking about this book makes my heart hurt for the characters, as losing a beloved friend is a feeling I’d never want to experience in life.  I do think it’s important for children to read various genres of books to experience many types of writing, and I’m really glad that I read this book at the age I did, even though it was a tough subject to read.  When we have children, I hope to pass my copy on to my child and have them read it as well.

 

So, those are my 5 favorites for children’s books!  I encourage you all to pick up a copy and give them a read, and hopefully you enjoy them as much as I did as a child, and as much as I still do now!

Much love,
K.

30 Days of Blogging: Advice

adviceDear K.  You’re 16 now, and nearly ready to tackle the world. You’re scared of what your future holds, whether you’ll go to college, and what you’ll be when you “grow up.”  That boy you’re dating…he’s a sweet guy.  He’s not your “forever,” but he’s a good man, so treat him right and he’ll still be your friend on FB 16 years later.  You’re gonna decide not to follow him to college…don’t worry, it’s the right choice.  You’re going to meet other men who help shape who you become, and though you’ll struggle, you’ll come out ahead of the game.  And don’t worry that you’ve not made up your mind on what you want to be…you’ll still going to be wondering at 32, so no need to stress about it now.

If I could offer you one piece of advice, for all that I know of what you will face for the next 16 years, I’d say to just know that things will be difficult.  They will be hard at times, and there will be times when you are so exhausted (both mentally and physically) that you will want to give up.  You will struggle with depression and anxiety, worse than anything you can imagine, and there will be times when you’re ready to throw in the towel.  But don’t.  It WILL get better.  You are going to meet the love of your life, and you will achieve things no one ever dreamed possible for you.  You will travel the world and experience places and people you only read about now.  There will be good and bad, which is typical of all facets of life.  Hang in there, because above all, it’s WORTH IT.  100%…completely worth every pitfall and joy, every stumble and moment of excitement.  Life is hard, but in the end, it’s all we have, and you have to hold tight to that.

Enjoy these next 16 years…hell, I know for a fact that you will.  Embrace all the experiences thrown your way and don’t let fear hold you back.  Life, in every aspect, really is beautiful.

 

Much love,
K.