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Friday, May 31, 2013

H54F!!

Happy Friday! 

I'm linking up with Lauren!



one:: I never before understood everyone's fascination/obsession with IKEA.  Jill (my running partner) is a HUGE FAN to put it lightly so I had most of my IKEA knowledge from her, but with the nearest one in Chicago, it wasn't something I ever even thought about.  But I sure knew the day the catalogue showed up!  Anyways, I totally get it now, I've drunk the koolaid, I'm obsessed.  It's the greatest place on earth.  Thank goodness I flew to Chicago, otherwise I would have replaced everything in my apartment and would be broke.  I just ordered my catalogue online, can't wait for it to arrive!!

two:: honestly, I could eat falafel everyday for the rest of my life.  We found this little middle eastern / Mediterranean restaurant near Christina's burb and decided to try it out, we ended up going back twice because it was delicious, beyond reasonably priced, and had the friendliest staff.  I'll have more Chicago restaurant reviews posted soon.  Also my goal is to figure out this whole falafel thing at home :)  Yum!

three:: Christina is not a huge museum fan, but she indulged Stephen and I and joined us at the Chicago Science and Industry Museum.  I know Stephen (her boyfriend) and I greatly enjoyed all the exhibits, minus the crowds and screaming children - Christina managed to find interesting tidbits but was happy when we left.  She's a wonderful friend to suffer through a train exhibition!!

four:: Christina and I are huge Village Inn fans, but Chicago is lacking this establishment so Christina has become a regular at a lovely little place called RoyalBerry.  I'm now an enormous fan because I was able to have gluten free waffles on my birthday.   I asked the waitress if she could add chocolate chips and blueberries - she said "that's a great idea, I wouldn't have thought of that combination!!"  Hello, chocolate loves blueberries, greatest love affair ever.  Needless to say, I couldn't finish my birthday pancakes - too much deliciousness. 

five:: after RoyalBerry we went to BusyBee and bought some flowers / soil / pots and set about sprucing up Christina's patio.  As you know, I'm a huge patio gardener and I always feel flowers or vegetables make a place feel more at home.  We were pretty proud of our work.  We sat outside and read the rest of the afternoon, such a relaxing birthday for me. 


My week was the BEST.  Tell me all about yours!!

Always, J



Blog Everyday in May 05312013


::05312013::
prompt-vivid memory:









I have very very vivid memories of India.  They come and go in flashes.  These photos above are from two different days a couple weeks apart in the summer of 2007.

The first from a short drive to a mosque in Kolkata from our hotel in the late afternoon where we saw child after child by the side of the road.  Some of them sitting waist deep in garbage, others playing in medical waste, many of them completely unattended.  But they were beautiful children, the darkest most soulful eyes, eyes that had seen more devastation than I could ever imagine, they don't know where their next meal is coming, where they would sleep that night, or if they will see tomorrow, yet they were happy because they didn't know any different. 

The second set of images are from our morning watching the sunrise on the Ganges River - the holiest river in the Hindu faith. I can't fully express the emotions I still feel seeing these images again and remembering these moments.  This experience shook my faith in humanity and in what it means to fully believe in something, a higher power that is your entire existence, your entire foundation.  In Varanasi, there is nothing but faith, the greatest faith. 

These experiences greatly shaped who I am today, there is very much a before and after when I reflect back and consider why do I and do not do certain things.  India is one of the most beautiful and horrific places on earth and it touched my soul, leaving it forever changed.  

We must realize that most of us are extremely privileged individuals.  We have more in the here and now than many people in the world ever dream of having. 

My memories are always of India, both dreams and nightmares.  



Always, J ♥

Ps.  I have absolutely loved this blog everyday in may challenge.  I hope to continue with my personal blogging along side my gluten free blogging and have some big things to come with my blog by the end of June.  I have found some new amazing blogs to follow during this experience, have challenged myself to open up more and be more honest with myself, and I have found blogging even more cathartic than I ever thought possible.  Thank you always for reading my blog for whatever reason you do! 

-Justine 









Thursday, May 30, 2013

Grape Tomato Pasta

This is super simple / quick to make. 

Boil up your favorite gluten free pasta, I like the Trader Joe's gluten free brown rice pasta.  

In a larger sized saute pan, over medium heat - saute one carton of grape tomatoes (I used the ones from my CSA bag last week) in a tablespoon or so of olive oil.  Add in some fresh chopped garlic and some red onion or whatever you have on hand.  Cook until the tomatoes explode with excitement.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Then drizzle with balsamic vinegar.  Let sit until your pasta has finished cooking.  

Drain the pasta and put into a serving dish.  Pour the tomato sauce over the top.  Finish with fresh chopped herbs - I used basil and a little tarragon.  

In my CSA bag I also received some beautiful spring asparagus last week, usually I just roast this in the oven but my apartment was quite hot and I didn't want to heat up the kitchen anymore.  So I chopped up the asparagus into evenly sized pieces and tossed into the same pan I cooked the tomatoes.  I cranked up the heat to medium high, added a bit more olive oil, and cooked until the pieces were tender.  I also finished this with a little balsamic vinegar and some fresh herbs. 

The next evening I combined my asparagus into my leftover pasta, reheated it in a small saute pan and added a fried egg, of course.  Nothing fancies up leftovers like a fried egg!  

Gluten free pasta can be tricky sometimes when used as leftovers because it can dry out, but the rich egg yolk provided creaminess and extra protein!


Enjoy! 

Always, J ♥



Blog Everyday in May 05302013


::05302013::
prompt-Letting go:

I use to be a fighter. 

I use to fight for everything, everything I was passionate about, everything I felt strongly about, everything I cared about, hell - even things I felt someone else should be fighting for... but now I'm worn down, I don't fight like I use to, I don't fight as hard for things, I don't put up a struggle, I'm not the bull I once was, I give up easier and faster than I use to.  This really concerned me for the longest time once I started to realize I was doing it.  I felt my personality was weakening and I was pretty fearful of the thought of it.  

But I've let go now. 

Maybe I'm just growing older more recently and understanding the bureaucracy better, the limitations of certain things, the expectations of others, and the standard complacency which most of the world resides.  Maybe it's just that so few of us want to make a difference and so few of us care so deeply that the rest of the them just dilute the concentrated energy.  

As much as this shift in myself scares me, that I'm becoming complacent, passive, immune, worst of all - indifferent, it's also wonderfully relieving.  I can say no like everyone else, pass it up, walk on by, look the other way, not give a fucking shit, just let it go.  

I know it will come back, the resolve to change, the fight, the challenge, the drive to stand up against barriers, the willingness to be the voice of difference, and the one who will continue on regardless. 

It's good to let go, recharge, re-energize, renew, recover, revitalize.  

Come back stronger than ever before.




Always, J



Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Blog Everyday in May 05282013


::05282013::
prompt-only photos

*Today is my birthday, so these are photos from my birthday trip to visit my best friend in Chicago.  (these are taken over a couple days)
















Always, J







Monday, May 27, 2013

Weekly Reading

Happy Monday! 

I'm in the lovely windy city enjoying my Chicago time with my bff Christina :)

Here's some weekly reading for you!

Don't let the label fool you...


Sunday, May 26, 2013

Blog Everyday in May 05262013


::05262013::
prompt-something you read online:

I really love copyblogger

This was posted a couple weeks ago on how to be a better writer:

Title: How to Immediately Become a More Productive (and Better) Writer

Essentially it states - "unleash the potent force of kaizen" a Japanese technique of taking small steps toward improvement.  

one:: become more judicious with adverbs.  

*this is the one that got me the most, I fucking love adverbs and use them often.  Now I'm very conscious of my usage and am trying to temper my descriptive language into better formats.  

two:: write, don't blog.  

*I agree with this and am attempting to take my writing more seriously (again with the adverbs).

three:: schedule timed writing sessions

*did I ever tell you about my pomodoro method?  I got that from copyblogger also, it's very effective.

four:: shift your perspective

five:: steal from other writers

six:: order a set of bathtub markers

Just take one small step and see how much you can improve. 


Always, J ♥





Saturday, May 25, 2013


I don't have much time to write a post today because I should have done this last night but didn't and now I'm packing to leave for Chicago and doing the Color Run 5k for work before I leave!  (ugh!) So much to do!  

Week one of half marathon training went well and as to be expected.  

I found the quote below on facebook - I'm not usually very sentimental but this one really got to me.


Once we're deeper into training, I promise these posts will get better - or I'll figure out how to actually make them better :) 


Always, J

Blog Everyday in May 05252013


::05252013::
prompt-something someone told you about yourself that you'll never forget:

I was on a blind date... He told me my standards were too high and that I was "chasing unicorns."  

Obviously he was right.  And an idiot.  

I don't think there's anything wrong with having standards, or even high standards.  My parents have an incredible marriage and set the bar pretty high.  I want what they have and I'm not going to settle.  Why would I?  

I want a unicorn.  And damnit, I'm going to find one.  



Always, J



Friday, May 24, 2013

H54F !!

Happy Happy Friday! 

I'm linking up with Lauren :)



one:: We had a very very successful Relay for Life event last Friday evening.  Then entire event raised over $50,000 for the American Cancer Society and our individual team raised almost $8,000!  My dad and I had an awesome night together...this is something we love doing together.


two:: Monday was the first time in the last two years that I actually had a chance to get out and golf.  Damn did it feel good.  The weather was perfect, a little windy - but that usually helps me.  It made me remember how much I love golfing and now I have the bug again, those clubs are staying in my car so I can be ready at a moments notice!


three:: I had leftovers from my CSA dinner I prepared the night before, so I decided to dress it up a bit with a fried egg.  Duh, who doesn't love a fried egg?  I've recently come to realize, fried eggs go with everything and they make everything taste more luxurious.  No one wants healthy leftovers. 


four:: I spent all last Sunday doing my favorite thing - sitting outside at my favorite Omaha coffee shop (Aromas) doing pretty much nothing productive and successfully avoiding the looming pile of laundry at home or spring cleaning.  I read for awhile, did some research, worked on my blog, chatted up the other patrons and my fav baristas, people watched, waited for the quite uneventful storm that moved through, and just relaxed in general.  It was wonderful. 


five:: My mom sent me a text yesterday afternoon saying this book was out at Barnes and Noble.  I was so excited I went straight there after work and purchased it.  I love love loved Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns....and I was actually just thinking about when he was going to release another book as I was perusing my book collection after I signed up for GoodReads upon suggestion by one of my blog readers!  It was meant to be.  Plus I'm heading out on vacation Saturday so of course I need more reading material!

I'm very very excited for this weekend - I'm off to Chicago on vacation to visit my best friend Christina for my birthday!!  So get excited for some Chicago posts :) 

I hope you had a great week - comment and tell me all about it!


Always, J

Blog Everyday in May 05242013


::05242013::
prompt-your top three worst traits:

Do I really want to share this?

One:: I ignore things.  I mean absolutely ignore things.  I do this with all sorts of things - in my mind if I just ignore it, I just think it will go away.  If I ignore conflict, maybe things will blow over and things will get better.  If I don't open mail, maybe it will just go away.  If I ignore bad news, maybe it never happened.  If you ask me to do something I don't want to, maybe I won't have to if I just ignore it long enough.  It's a form of severe denial, I've always been like this - it also leads to procrastination.  It also causes very small manageable problems to become enormous out of control infectious problems that I usually can't seem to deal with on my own.  In my own defense, I at least now recognize I do this, I've only noticed this in the last year or so.... but I've been like this all my life.  

Two:: Compartmentalization.  I'm really really good at ignoring things because I compartmentalize really well.  About 80% of the time - sometimes I can't get it together.  Now that I'm reading back through this I seem completely neurotic... so take this with a grain of salt, I'm just being honest here - it says WORST TRAITS!  When I'm at work - I have my work hat on, all business, very professional.  If I'm having a personal problem or something going on with my family, I can keep it tucked away with my professional face on - there's no crying in baseball.  Also if I really dislike you, I mean borderline hate you, I can sit right next to you, make small talk - ask about your family, your job, hobbies, have one hell of a great time - but don't be fooled, we are not friends.  

Three::  I am not the best listener... ok that's a lie, I'm a terrible listener.  I can be a good listener, when I focus and concentrate on listening, like during a personal face to face conversation.  But on the phone, absolutely not - we could talk for five  minutes or an hour and there's a pretty good chance I won't remember any of it.  Also in passing conversation I won't remember anything we talk about - it's not because I don't want to hear what you have to say, it's just because I'm incredibly visual so other things are distracting me...very distracting.  I can listen while taking notes, or watching a presentation but not just listening alone - absolutely won't happen. It's strange because if I read the information, I can remember it verbatim forever...but if you read it to me, you might as well be talking to a wall. Your secrets are safe with me.


Honestly I'm pretty proud of myself for being able to admit these things, a year or two ago I wouldn't have been able to come up with anything.  I would call that some serious personal growth! 

Always, J ♥



Thursday, May 23, 2013

Polenta Stuffed Tomatoes AND Cucumber Salad

I have two awesome recipes for you today! 

Both are super simple summer time dinner recipes and were made with ingredients from my CSA box last week.  


Cucumber Salad:
Into a medium sized bowl I sliced up two cucumbers (I'm not very patient so mine were pretty roughly chopped up) and diced up half a pretty good sized red onion.  Then into a small mason jar (with a lid) I put in probably a couple table spoons of balsamic vinegar, maybe about the same amount of olive oil or just a little less, then some herbs.  I grabbed some herbs de Provence mixture, a little french thyme, and some black pepper. I also added just a touch of my raw honey.  Shook it up really well!  Then poured it over my cucumber and onions - tossed it all about.  Then I picked a good amount of fresh tarragon from my garden, tore it up into pieces and added it in.  I let the salad sit while I made the tomatoes!  It's really fantastic :)  I've never cooked very much with tarragon before but I'm loving this lemony herb!  


Polenta Stuffed Tomatoes: 
I'm going to share how I actually made this and how I think I would make this in the future to make it better. I started with the polenta, super easy.  Put a big pot of water on the stove to boil - 6 cups of water plus a pinch of salt.  Once it's boiling add 1 and 3/4 cups of yellow cornmeal.  Turn down the heat to low and just stir it occasionally to keep it from sticking.  This will cook for about 15 to 20 minutes, I just set a timer.  While that is cooking, you can hollow out your tomatoes.  Cut a hole in the top of them and scoop out their insides, I just used a knife for the hole and then my fingers.  This is where I would change things - At this point you should sprinkle the tomatoes very lightly with salt and set them upside down to drain some of the water out of them.  Mine were super super watery (which was just fine, I just had to cook them forever).  Also heat your oven to 350 or 400 degrees.  Once your polenta is cooked - turn off the heat and add in whatever flavorings you have on hand.  I had some leftover goat cheese from my last trip to the farmers market, plus I used some fresh basil & tarragon to pull in some similar flavors from my cucumber salad.  I put my tomatoes in a baking dish, spooned them full of polenta - I had plenty of it so I filled the entire baking dish with it, just tucked it around the tomatoes.  Then into the oven.  Since my tomatoes were very juicy and undrained, I ended up baking them quite awhile - almost 50 minutes.  If you have taken the extra time to salt them a bit and drain them, this may only take 30-40 minutes.  I also drizzled the top with olive oil and put a little garnish of fresh basil before sending the dish into the oven. Let the dish sit at least 20  minutes after coming out of the oven to rest.  

Remember - cooking is about experimenting  a little of this, a little of that.  If you don't have tarragon - use something else.  It will taste just fine.  I don't have my herbs labeled anyways, who knows if that even was tarragon! 


Always, J ♥


Blog Everyday in May 05232013


::05232013::
prompt-things you've learned that school won't teach you:

I don't think there was much I learned in school that is even remotely relevant in my every day life today.  I mean I'm happy I went every day for twelve years of my life followed by four more years of college, but did I learn anything?  I don't know.  Most of what I'm really good at, I learned on my own - because I was passionate about it - and that's why I'm really good at it! 

But here's a couple lessons I learned the hard way, and I wish they would have mentioned it along the way, or maybe they did and I just wasn't paying attention.

One:: Credit cards.  I had to learn this lesson twice.  The hard way.  This could just be me, but I can't handle them - in my mind, this is free cash!  But no, it doesn't work that way.  Credit cards are a terrible thing to be given to a college student who a) makes very little money b) is still pretty irresponsible c) has very little spendable income so this seems like a great idea.... credit card companies are just as stupid as the kids they give the cards to.  Anyways, I racked up a bunch of debt - had to go crawling to my parents to bail me out, which thank god they did.  Oh and then I did it again, because it was two years later and I thought I could handle it again - a little purchase here, a little there... nope, I was back in the exact same situation I was before because I'm fucking irresponsible - and I'm almost 26! but I'm working on this, I'm actually opening mail now (baby steps!).  Pair that with my terrible personality flaw of ignoring things and you have a really really bad situation.  I successfully destroyed my credit history/score/whatever... and that's something I have to live with.  I am cash only.  Forever.  

Two:: Paying parking tickets.  Those little orange tickets are not to be ignored.  Again, I am some one who likes to ignore things and I just assume they will go away.  Well they don't and your car will get towed, which is expensive.  Even if you walk out of the coffee shop just as they are backing up to your car, and you run over, waiving your arms hysterically, crying.... it doesn't matter - You have to walk 18 blocks to the court house, pay ALL of the parking tickets, walk back, pay the tow truck guy, who nicely waited for you, only charing $1.00 per minute after 15 minutes, and then tells you stories about other cars he's towed while peeling the horrific yellow impound stickers off your windshield for you.  Oh and this was a week after I lost my dream job, so I was quite the emotional nut job, which I did apologize for - the tow guy was very understanding.  Lesson learned, pay the fucking tickets on time, immediately when you get them - it's really just easier.  Oddly enough, I haven't gotten a ticket since.  

Three:: Dream jobs exist.  You may have went to college for communication, business, physics...whatever.  Don't let that funnel you into a career just because you think that's what you should be doing.  I had to fight for my dream job, I applied three different times, and followed up with numerous emails before I even received an interview because on paper I wasn't "qualified" and didn't have the background.  But I knew I could do it and I had a deep passion for the position and organization.  I knew in my soul that's where I wanted to be and where I should be - they just didn't know it yet, I had to convince them.  Once I was there, everything fit into place.  It was even better because I had proven myself and had fought for my position - which is probably what made it harden when everything fell apart.  But I wouldn't trade it for anything.  Dream jobs exist, you never know where they may be, what industry they may be in, where the opportunity may present itself, or how long they will last.  But they do exist.  

Always, J