As you can probably gather from the title of this post, I’m writing about some struggles that I’m going through. Not sure how to deal with all of them, but for now writing about them seems like a good idea (and hopefully I’ll able to look back on this post, laugh and realize how pity these things were).

Generally speaking, I’d like to consider myself a content person. I grew up in a great family but we weren’t kids who had everything and the things we did have, we usually had to work for. That, and my parents always taught us that we should be “content in all things,” which I’m sure has played a large role into who I am today.

But when does contentment become complacency? Where’s the shift from being OK where I am (because I don’t “need” more) become a downfall where I should’ve gone for more? Can I be both content and ambitious simultaneously? Do the two even mix … at all?

“My mistakes are running through my mind
And I’ll relive my days, in the middle of the night
When I wrestle with my pain, struggle with my pride
Sometimes I feel alone, and I cry” ~ Sanctus Real

Those are some of the thoughts that I’ve been thinking over the past few months. You know when people say “get your head on straight” or something of that nature? Yeah, honestly I feel sometimes that my head is on too straight. Is that possible?! When people say they’re “living the dream,” what does that really mean?!

I’m sure you’re wondering what I’m struggling to be content vs. complacent with. Well, glad you asked. Almost everything. Right now, I’m comfortable saying “I’m good” with where I am in life. But I also thought that five years ago, and today I look back and have some regrets about things I did and didn’t do, people I met or didn’t meet, places I went or didn’t go. A few specific examples … Work is great but am I on the path to reach my best potential? Life is great but if I stay the way I am, in 10 years will I just be the exact same “me” but only a 35-year-old version of myself? Friends are great, but am I just everyone else’s mutual friend?

I understand (maybe too well) that things don’t fall from the sky into my lap, money definitely does not grow on trees, opportunities don’t knock at the door, and relationships don’t suddenly begin; but if I don’t try harder on my own, will anything ever be different? Or better?

This year, I really am trying to reach for the bigger things, the better opportunities, my greater potential, etc. I guess I’m just trying to figure out how to balance it all.

This post probably sounds Eeyore-like post, which I don’t intend it to be, but these are real (honest) thoughts that have been plaguing my mind. I don’t even know where I’m really going with this, except to say here is one of many posts to come that are a bit more on the honest reality side of things.

Do you struggle with being content? How about becoming complacent? What do you do to balance the two?

I like cooking with ground turkey meat as an alternative to beef (nothing against the cow, but it’s not my favorite type of meat). One of my original recipes I’ve tried perfecting over the past few months is a Turkey Burger with either spinach or kale.

I made these last night and love how they turned out! They’re moist, a bit spicy, quick, and best of all: made with nothing gross! Haha.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 package ground turkey breast (I used a 1.25 lb. Jenny-O brand)
  • 4-5 cups (yes, cups … packed) baby kale, minced (see note below)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder (or cayenne pepper)
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons garlic (fresh is best but jarred or powder work too)
  • 1 teaspoon spices (usually I toss in my own concoction, but Old Bay, Mediterranean or any general purpose MSG- and salt-free blend works)
  • 2 teaspoons oil (I like using coconut oil, but I’m out so I used canola)

Method: Mix everything together in a large bowl, except for the oil. Form into patties (you can make about 5 with this amount). Heat a skillet on medium-high heat, or until the oil is glossy. Cook the patties for about 3-4 minutes on each side or until browned and cooked through.

I prefer these just plain (no bun, cheese, etc.) with a little ketchup. They’re so easy and really, there’s nothing unhealthy about them. No grains, no sugar, no added fat (except the oil to cook them, but since ground turkey is virtually fat-free, you need something!). Try them out and let me know what you think!

**Note: For the kale, I prefer using baby kale (available in a tub at the store) instead of normal kale because there aren’t as many hard stems and you can use entire leaves. I tossed mine into the VitaMix with about 1/4 cup water and pulsed until it was minced really well (the size of chopped parsley).

I just enjoyed a glorious two weeks with my little munchkin niece! She came to visit with my sister for Dad’s 60th and our sister’s 21st birthdays. We had a great time together and my niece is growing up so fast. Some of the highlights of the trip include teaching her new words (or at least in consistent contexts) and funny things. She has the best sense of humor for a little kid (she’s not even 18 months yet).

Anyway, next on my “Auntie Approved” list is the Crane Adorable Elephant Humidifier. When my family came to visit, I was sick (of course). Sadly, I must have passed the germs on to my niece because she was all stuffed up and full of snot within a few days. We bought a humidifier and this is the one we got.

elephant

Isn’t this so cute? The cool steam comes out of the elephant’s trunk! It was quiet, worked well and helped all of us to sleep better at night.

We bought from Target, but this is available at multiple retailers.

Here’s my next little post about some of my favorite things…this time from the grocery store. I’m probably not normal (OK, I know I’m not normal, in lots of ways), but I absolutely LOVE grocery shopping. Seriously, I would go every day if I could just to see what’s new (usually nothing) and exciting (lots of things). My favorite grocery stores are Whole Foods, Central Market and Metropolitan Market, but since I’m nowhere near wealthy especially when it comes to my food budget, I often end up shopping at Fred Meyer or QFC. Nothing wrong with those stores, but they’re not as cool as the others.

Anyway, here are some of my favorite things to pick-up at the store:

  • The Greek Gods Yogurt. I love this brand of yogurt and it’s local so it’s even better! I use the nonfat plain for green smoothies but also enjoy the other flavors including honey strawberry and honey blueberry. My favorite ways to use it: by itself, with fresh peaches or topped with granola.
  • Bull-Dog Tonkatsu Sauce. Even if I wasn’t half-Japanese, I think I’d love this sauce. Of course it’s great for tonkatsu,(Aren’t you surprised?! That’s be like saying BBQ sauce is good for BBQ.) but it’s also amazing on simple things like veggies or rice. If you haven’t tried tonkatsu sauce before, try it … it’s not intimidating, I promise.
  • Organic Baby Spinach. For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved spinach; as long as it’s fresh and not frozen and/or canned. It’s so easy to prepare and because it’s nearly tasteless, it can be added to a lot of things without ruining flavors. My favorite ways to use it are in green smoothies, swimming rama (Thai dish with blanched spinach, chicken or tofu and peanut sauce) or blanched and shocked with a homemade soy and sesame sauce.
  • Ground Turkey. Unlike spinach, ground turkey hasn’t always been one of my favorites, but over the past two years it’s been a necessary item on my grocery list. It’s healthy and versatile. I use it in a variety of recipes (I hope to post most recipes on this blog soon) and so far only dislike it as taco meat. Something about the extremely low fat that makes it a weird texture for me when used in tacos. My favorite ways to use it: spinach and jalapeno burgers, Mediterranean meatloaf, bean and kale soup, or yakisoba.
  • Odwalla Superfood. Sure, it’s green, thick and expensive, but this stuff is amazing. I prefer making my own smoothies with my Vitamix, but when I’m in a pinch (or if it’s on sale), I love some Odwalla.

What are some of your favorite grocery items? I’d love to hear about what things you keep on your grocery list!

I love fresh fruit … of almost every variety! Today was a super stressful, frustrating, depressing and otherwise horrible day, and I didn’t feel like cooking but needed something to eat when I got home. I decided to make a quick smoothie and I didn’t want to put any processed ingredients in it. Here is what I made … it turned out awesome! Sorry, I forgot to take pictures.

Smoothie:

  • 2 oranges, juiced (about 8 oz.)
  • 5 frozen strawberries
  • 12 frozen organic red cherries
  • 1 cup fresh spinach
  • 1 cup fresh kale, chopped and stemmed

Whirl it all together in the VitaMix or whatever other blender you have. So simple and it doesn’t have any sugar from juices and it’s a massive amount of fruit and veggies! Enjoy.

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Here’s a great recipe that’s perfect for Valentine’s Day! I’ve seen these awesome push-up pop holders that remind me of the push-up pop ice cream treats (do they still make those?!) all over Pinterest and other blogs, so I was out to find them.

I had a 50% off coupon for Joann’s and I found a set of these holders made by Wilton (like this).  It cost roughly $7.50 for the set after the coupon and they’re dishwasher-safe so I thought it was worth it. 

I love red velvet cake and so do my Life Group friends, so I wanted to try it for our get together this past week. I love, love, love cooking without recipes for everything except baking. So because of that, I used Bakerella’s recipe for red velvet, except I used 1 (vs. 2) ounces of red coloring … I can’t imagine how “red” this would taste with that much color! Anyway, I baked it in a 9″ x 13″ baking pan for about 40 minutes. 

I did use my own cream cheese frosting (although I didn’t use a recipe, it’s probably very similar to any other one you can find). Here’s what I put in the frosting (really easy … just combine all together and mix on medium-high until it’s really light and fluffy): 

  • 12 oz. (1 1/2 blocks) of cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar 

I also saw Wilton makes “Mini Whoopie Pie” pan that they say is perfect for the molds, but what the heck, I didn’t see the point; I just used the mold itself to cut the cake (I cut the cake into two layers so each piece of cake in the push-up pop is about 1/2-1/4″ thick). 

These were a big hit and they were super easy! I can’t wait to use these molds again. I’m thinking cheesecakes, tea sandwiches, tiramisu, etc. The possibilities are pretty endless! 

Here are a few extra pictures from the process:

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Mixing the wet and dry ingredients.

 

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In the oven.

 

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The finished cake.

 

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Close shot of the red velvet push-up cake pops.

 

I love reading my best friend’s blog and have enjoyed seeing and hearing about her “10 Minute Craft Dash” that she started a while back. I decided I’d try to do it and so here you go, my first entry!

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The colors were (excuse my potentially inaccurate crafting color descriptions) slate, moss and light pink. I love these colors, but everyone who knows anything about me knows that I’m incredibly indecisive.

I don’t make cards very often (OK, really at all) so my entry isn’t a card, but rather a cute little “taggie” security blanket. I’m the proud auntie of a hilarious little girl (16 months) and will soon have twins nieces/nephews added to the mix (coming in August), so I love sewing things for them. Since I don’t know if the twins are boys or girls yet, I’ll just keep this on hand … and if they’re boys, I’m sure I’ll find someone to give this to!

The blanket measures roughly 13″ x 13″.

*Please excuse the crappy iPhone pictures … I need to get myself a new digital camera!*

CD_1 Photo Jan 20, 12 24 10 PM Photo Jan 20, 12 23 48 PM Photo Jan 20, 12 22 36 PM

I have to say, this is the quickest that I’ve ever sewn something start-to-finish … I started the clock and had to cut all the ribbon, fabric and backing and then get sewing! I misjudged how much fabric I had, so I had to do stripes of the grey background instead of the two-piece diagonal triangles I had planned. I also originally planned to do three ribbons on each side, but with the time constraints, I settled for ribbons on just two sides. I think it turned out pretty well anyway. I didn’t look at the clock when I was sewing so I was hoping I was still within the time limit!

The time it took me:

Photo Jan 20, 12 21 21 PM

Here’s a list of some things I personally love and think you might will, too! I’m hoping to post from time-to-time in categories, whether it’s music, food, local spots, products, gadgets, etc.

Since I spend most of my day at the office (who doesn’t?!), today’s list is comprised of some of my favorite office and/or work-related items. What are your go-to favorites?

  1. Page-Up Document Holders: These things are awesome! They hold a piece or two of paper at just the right angle so you can read and type simultaneously, or do what I do and leave an important list propped up. It’s way better than getting piled under every other piece of paper.
  2. BackJoy: By no means am I a doctor, chiropractor or other medically intelligent person, but with my share of unsolved back problems, this little support works pretty well. I started having horrible back pain in high school and college, and unfortunately still do (and sitting for most of the day doesn’t help). I bought my BackJoy from Bed Bath & Beyond and use it semi-regularly.
  3. OXO Good Grips Pocket Stapler: Not sure if the inventor of the stapler ever won any awards, but I love this mini must-have. My desk gets cluttered with enough other things and I like having a stapler within reach. Only downside is due to its size, it doesn’t hold nearly as many staples as a traditional stapler.
  4. Energizer Premium USB Wall Charger: Let’s face it, anyone who owns an iPhone knows the battery won’t last through the day (OK, maybe if you don’t touch it at all while at work). I like this charger because its cord is a decent length and the actual unit can be used to charge any other USB device. Also, the cord wraps around the hub of this charger, making it quick and easy to transport or throw in a work bag.
  5. Royal Apothic Holland Park Hand Creme: I love hand creams, especially if they smell good and aren’t greasy. I found this one at Anthropologie and I hope it never gets discontinued! I love the scent and it keeps my hands moisturized without being too heavy or oily. It is a bit pricey but I figure it’s worth it if I use it multiple times every day.

I felt adventurous tonight while planning my weekly lunch menu, so I tried to think of something familiar and leave room for some innovation. Most people plan dinners and bring leftovers for lunch, but I’m pretty much the opposite: I love planning lunches and then eating whatever is left for dinner.

Anyway, so I knew I wanted to make something spicy and because it’s been so cold outside (super icy but not snowy … yet), I also wanted something hearty.

Here’s a recipe I came up with tonight. It’s simple, healthy, relatively fast and it turned out well (although I’ll admit, it is quite spicy)!

Usually, I try to avoid using canned products, but since I wanted something quick and easy, I gave-in and used canned (although, I did make the stock from scratch using the carcass from a Costco rotisserie chicken).  Also, I chose kale because it holds up well even after being cooked, unlike chard or spinach.

Let me know what you think!

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Spicy Chicken Sausage, Kale and Bean Soup

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 package (4 links) Aidell’s Italian chicken sausage, sliced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 can (4 oz.) chopped jalapenos, drained
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) petite diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) tri-color beans, drained
  • 1 can (14. 5 oz) northern white beans, drained
  • 4 cups kale, roughly chopped
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

In a Dutch oven (I use my beloved Le Creuset … well worth the money!), heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.

Add the chopped onions and sweat until translucent, about 3 minutes.

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Add the chicken sausage and brown, about 5 minutes.

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Add the garlic, tomatoes, beans and jalapenos, stirring occasionally until excess liquid from the beans and tomatoes has evaporated.

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Add the chicken stock and sugar. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. After 20-30 minutes, add the chopped kale and remove from heat. Adjust the salt and pepper if needed.

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I didn’t have any, but this would go excellently with some rustic bread!

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**Note: I love the heat, so it’s not an issue, but if you can’t handle it, you can either use less jalapenos or replace it with chopped green chilies.

I made this mug for my best friend from college, Molly. Her birthday is later this week and I wanted to do a DIY gift for her. She lives in Wisconsin and I’m in Seattle, so I thought this idea would be fun. I love how it turned out and hope she enjoys it, too!

Here’s a quick overview of the supply list and steps to make a mug like this:

  • White ceramic mug (I purchased mine from Fred Meyer)
  • Sharpie pens (I used the traditional fine print ones in black and red; I wanted to make the hearts pink but my pen was defective)
  • Image of whatever you want to put on your mug (I just used Google Maps on my iPhone)

Here’s how I did the project:

  1. Determine what you want on your mug. My friend lives in Wisconsin and I live in Washington, so I just needed to find the basic shapes for both states. I just searched on Google Maps! 
  2. Draw the shapes on the mug; I freehanded mine and (very) surprisingly, they turned out nicely. I definitely didn’t inherit the artist genes the rest of my family has, so I was pleased.
  3. Trace over the initial drawing until it’s the thickness you like. I wanted my state outlines to be pretty thick, so I went over it 3-4 times.
  4. Using a colored Sharpie, draw a heart nearby the city you and the recipient of the mug live.
  5. Draw little dashes from each heart to the other. Of course from Washington to Wisconsin there isn’t a funny squiggly mark, but I added it for a fun little touch.
  6. Place the mug in a cold oven in the middle of the rack. Turn the heat to 350 degrees and “bake” it for 30 minutes. Turn off the oven and let the mug cool for 15-20 minutes. Carefully remove (be especially careful not to smear the ink; since it’s warm it might be a bit wet) the mug and place on a potholder. Cool completely.

**The mug is ready to use, but be careful not to wash in the dishwasher and/or use a heavy-duty scrubber to wash as the ink might fade. 

tHe fiCkLe piCkLe

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