Potluck Legend (Crab Rounds)

Never show up to a party empty handed. It is one of the cardinal rules of adulting. When in doubt, pick up a six pack of your favorite beer on your way. This has been my standard go-to when heading to a backyard get together but after nearly two years in Indiana, I am no longer the new kid on the block. As such, I felt like it was time I started actually contributing to these friendly potlucks. 

While no one ever complains about extra beer at a party, continued social distancing measures have provided me ample time to learn a few new recipes and where better to test them than a casual Superbowl party with friendly faces? I’m happy to say that these crab rounds were a huge hit. 

These Legendary Crab Rounds plucked from the pages of Creme de Colorado Cookbook look fancy but are fabulously simple to make. Mix your ingredients into a cheesy spread for your french bread, bake to a light golden brown and voila! You’re the Superbowl superstar. No one needs to know how little you actually slaved away.  

Not a Clue

I have no idea what I’m doing. How many times does that sentence cross your mind in a day? It’s so easy to look at other people and remark on how wonderfully successful and put together they seem to be when in reality, we’re all thinking the same thing. 

It drives me insane at times. There are so many questions that it feels like I should have found answers to by now. How does another degree compare to a few more years of work experience? What are the best ways to cultivate in-person relationships amid a global pandemic? Where do I want to be in five years? If I had to describe myself in one word, what would it be? These and many more plague my lonely angst riddled brain in the quieter moments when working from home or else relaxing solo style during yet another uneventful weekend. The faintest hint of monotony seeps into our daily routine if we’re not careful. 

But it’s okay to not have all the answers. No one does. We’re all just human, going about our lives the best way we know how. What question are you answering in your life?

POTD: Silver White Winter

Good morning Indiana! Dawn is breaking over another snowy white winter day. Everywhere icicles ornament the rooftops so that Valparaiso looks like a town of gingerbread houses, each one an individual masterpiece. 

This glittering silver perfection commands a magic unto itself but can also make for treacherous driving conditions when you discover that your brakes don’t function quite like they do on dry roads. To everyone not working from home or on their way back from a weekend visit with family or friends, drive carefully. 

POTD: Me Time

These days, I spend most of my time wishing that I had places to be and people to see but sometimes you just need a totally guilt free night in. If you’re like me, you might have trouble fitting these into your ever evolving schedule but there’s something immensely satisfying about marking a weekend evening on your calendar to do nothing but enjoy your own company. Do something that is 100 percent for you. No compromises. It’s your night.

In my case, ever since I received a set of the Lord of the Rings extended editions for Christmas I’ve been itching for an opportunity to crack them open. I always ended up finding something more pressing that needed doing so rather than allow myself to be sidetracked yet again, I blocked off my Friday night for a solo, dine-in, LOTR extravaganza. I stopped by the Burgerhaus to pick up dinner for one, a masterpiece of lettuce, avocado, tomato, chipotle Monterey cheese, chipotle mayo all complete with fried jalapenos and served on a pretzel bun. 

Once back home I settled in for the only thing on my To Do list; watching my all time favorite movie while devouring my new favorite burger. Best Friday ever! It was incredibly revitalizing to set aside a chunk of time to dedicate entirely to myself. The seemingly endless stream of worries, decisions, compromises and time management that haunt the day-to-day was finally silenced for a few hours on a Friday night, alone in my apartment. 

When you choose to do a little emotional and mental maintenance and actually schedule it into your week, it becomes a worthwhile pursuit and you stop seeing as time that you could be doing something more productive. In a busy world it’s easy to feel like there’s always something more important you should be doing. Cut yourself a break. The chores and paperwork will still be there tomorrow. Grab a beer and your favorite takeout and cozy up for some refreshing ‘me time.’

Giving Up and Giving Back

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, thus announcing the season of prayer and fasting with a sprinkling of ash and the reminder that “you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” As such, it’s time to solidify my Lenten resolutions. People tend to think of Lent as a detox period in which they starve themselves of a few of their preferred vices in the name of self improvement. While this can often provide a boost in general physical and mental wellness, that alone is not in the spirit of the season as it doesn’t necessarily address spiritual health. 

Abstaining from sweets or social media in order to slim down or increase time management skills are certainly positive aspirations but what do you do with that extra energy or newfound free time? Self improvement is a happy side effect of Lenten fasting but isn’t the end goal. The sacrifices made during Lent should in some way bring you closer to God in imitation of Christ’s 40 day fast in the wilderness. 

Lent is as much about giving something back as it is about giving something up. This may surface in the form of dedicated daily prayer or as earnest community service. Everyone has their own journey but let it be more than the latest self improvement kick. Do more than break a bad habit. Start new ones that renew your relationship with God. 

In an effort to keep myself honest and on track, here are my Lenten resolutions in writing.

  • Abstain from social media (Facebook, YouTube, etc.) AND say a Hail Mary every time you feel like clicking on social media apps. 
  • Delete online dating apps AND instead devote that time to existing relationships with friends (old and new), family and God.
    • Check in with friends and family once a week by planning group dinners and events or simply by following up via phone to see how their week has been. Become the friend you’d like to have.
    • Go to Vespers every week. Spend one hour in evening prayer. 
  • Refrain from mindlessly scrolling through emails and blog stats AND instead dedicate 15 minutes every day to personal reflection.
    • Pray the Rosary, write down prayer intentions or just listen to the lyrics on your favorite Christian playlist.

This is my list. What will you give back for Lent?

Atomic Habits: In With the New

Out with the old and in with the new. Chapter 3 of Atomic Habits begins the discussion of making and breaking daily routines, one little habit at a time. As stated in the previous chapters, this process is not about completely overhauling current systems to start from scratch. According to Clear, the best way to implement new habits is to build them into your existing schedule by simply presenting them in a more effective way. 

This is done by following the four golden rules outlined in chapter 3. 

  1. Make it Obvious.
  2. Make it attractive.
  3. Make it easy.
  4. Make it satisfying. 

These can also be applied in reverse to break bad habits. Often people fail to abstain from negative habits, not due to a lack of motivation but because these patterns are more readily accessible. For example, most of us have become attached to our phones. Wherever we are, it’s always within reach, tucked in our back pocket or set out with the screen face up on the table in front of us, mere inches away from our fingertips at all times should any notification light up the screen. We are tuned in to every single ring and vibration it makes. How easy it is to pick it up and spend a couple hours flipping through Facebook or Youtube clips. 

This is one area in which I have often lacked discipline. However, as part of my resolution to reduce time eaten by social media, I’ve been experimenting with phone placement. I try not to carry it in my pocket if I can help it and during work hours, especially when working from home, I prefer to leave it on the dresser in my bedroom instead of having it out on the dining room table which has become my home office.

It’s certainly a work in progress. My motivation to maintain positive habits seems to come in waves and this particular change has yet to actually become a habit but practice makes perfect. As one of my college professors once said, “repetition is the mother of wisdom.”

When the Sun Goes to Bed

I sat down in front of my computer to write today’s post and, not for the first time, my eyelids began to droop before I’d even finished typing the title of today’s piece. I had every intention of sharing the fantastic lessons learned from chapter three of Atomic Habits or my recent and stunning success with Legendary Crab Rounds that made me the star of the Superbowl potluck. Those and many more are still in the works and will be showing up here very shortly. However, tonight I simply want to enjoy a few dazzling sunsets from Kino Bay, Mexico to Moab, Utah to Michigan City, Indiana and more. This collection is one of my favorites, compiled over years of good, old fashioned, outdoor adventure with my family, the people I love the very most. 

POTD: Time Keeps Marching On

Do you ever wish you could stop time? How relaxing would it be to simply pause everything? You could finally catch up on all the work deadlines and personal projects. In my case, I could read my bookshelf and finish the sweater I’ve been knitting for months. I could learn a few new recipes and practice them before returning to the daily rhythm. I could complete the paint by numbers that’s been gathering dust in the corner and I could get moving on a story I’ve been trying to write since I was a Junior in high school. I could at last tidy up my apartment to my satisfaction and handle all the outstanding paperwork that constantly drags down my To Do list. 

Alas, time waits for no one. Were I a witch, I might have been able to secure a time turner but I never received my Hogwarts letter and could hardly be entrusted with such an important artifact. I don’t really want to turn back time. There isn’t a single thing I’d change if I could do it all over again. Even my mistakes put me on the path to where I am now. But it would be nice to put it all on hold for a while. It’s like a crazy day at work when the phone rings off the hook and people keep popping their heads into your office, demanding your attention. Everything seems to need doing right this second and you can’t quite catch your breath long enough to focus on even a single task. Sometimes all you want to do is close your door, unplug the phone and get to work. 

Well, today is a new day. There’s no time turner or magical pause button. Just you, doing the very best you can. Don’t forget that even on a groggy, busy Monday morning, you are enough.

Be A Man

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and I keep coming across social media posts from men contemplating all the ways to placate the tyrant that is their female other half. The answer is simple. Be a man. Today’s post is for all those men facing the age old question, “what do women want.” As a 23 year old woman still at the beginning of an exciting career in the steel industry and currently flaunting the single life while on the lookout for Mr. Right, I feel confident in sharing my views on the subject. However, I think the best approach to this question is to examine the things that, in my experience, women definitely do not want.

Call me crazy but I don’t want a sensitive, new age man. I don’t want a mustached, Starbucks toting hipster. I don’t want a guy who wears more product in his hair than I do or one who takes ten minutes to properly situate his flat brimmed cap over that ridiculously coiffed hair. Baseball caps are fine but they better be on the right way. Trust me, you don’t look cool wearing it backwards. I don’t want my man to wear saggy jeans, ripped jeans, baggy jeans, skinny jeans. Honestly, am I the only one who thinks skinny jeans for men should be burned and outlawed? His nightly grooming routine shouldn’t take twice as long as mine and his favorite place to shop can’t be the vegan section at Whole Foods. 

I’m not looking for a squeamish man, of the dirty dishes in the sink or of heading to the shooting range for some fire powered therapy. He should at least have an understanding of the shooting basics or else be willing to learn. He ought to be able to change a tire and shovel the driveway when it snows and be willing to don a collared shirt for date night.

Gentleman, it’s not rocket science. Be a man. Be helpful, capable and attentive. Shower her with little reminders of all the times that you were thinking about her as you went about your day and don’t be shy about volunteering to do the heavy lifting. Ultimately, what you do often matters far less than how it made her feel. In all likelihood, your wife or girlfriend is the farthest thing from a dainty, helpless, delicate flower which might lead you to believe that your assistance and attention are somewhat redundant. This is completely false. Just because she can handle most situations on her own doesn’t mean she wants to. Be a man and make her feel like the exquisite and terrifying ray of sunshine that she is.  

Atomic Habits: Who Are You?

As promised, I’m continuing to work my way through Atomic Habits. Today’s post is all about shining grains of wisdom I found in chapter 2. It turns out that a person’s habits are no more than an outward manifestation of their identity. Who you are determines what you do far more than any New Year’s resolution list. James Clear eloquently put it in his words in the following quotes. 

“It’s one thing to say I’m the type of person who wants this. It’s something very different to say I’m the type of person who is this.”

A lot of people spend their whole lives wishing to be better people someday. They like to say things like ‘I’d love to run a marathon someday’ without ever actually planning to run a marathon. Wanting it is not enough. 

“Once your pride gets involved, you’ll fight tooth and nail to maintain your habits.”

I’ve seen this in action firsthand. It’s why I prefer to run outside. There are people around who will see if I give up halfway through and, although I don’t know any of them, my pride always eggs me on. 

“Improvements are only temporary until they become part of who you are.”

That’s why none of my self improvement kicks ever seemed to stick. It makes sense now! They were things that I did but I never really let myself consider them as part of who I was. 

“The process of building habits is actually the process of becoming yourself.”

This is precisely what I’ve tried and failed time and time again to achieve. I’m well acquainted with the disappointment which comes from falling off the mental and physical fitness wagon. Toward that end, I decided to come up with my own list of identities I’m striving to take on in my life. 

When I grow up I will be…

  • A reader
  • A runner
  • A musician
  • An engineer
  • A morning person
  • A deep sleeper
  • A tea drinker
  • A writer
  • A knitter
  • A cook
  • A shooter
  • An author

There are countless others that I’m forgetting but I think my list is best summarized with this statement. I aspire to be an adventurous hobbit. Who do you want to be?