Sunday, October 31, 2010

This Time It's FOR REAL

First and foremost, HAPPY HALLOWEEN!  It's my personal favorite holiday (aside from Christmas with the fam), so I usually go all out.  This year I was a witch, which isn't the most creative idea per se, but I did make it myself.

Note: flats are the only shoes that work with a sprained ankle.  Ugh.  I'm sick of being short.

Friday night was spent at the Court Avenue street party - followed by after hours at my house.  I'm not sure why I ever think after hours is a good idea, but for some reason, it happens more often than not.

My sister (Mustafa) and me
After a day spent cheering at a soccer tournament, lying on the couch, and eating greasy food, I was ready for another night of fun.  This time we hung out on Ingersoll: Star Bar for a bestie's son's performance, Zimm's for a nightcap.  Thankfully, there were no after-hours to be had!

BFF and me
Today was also spent being a waste of space - and it was glorious.  I love lounging on the couch and watching an endless Law and Order: SVU marathon.

My TV-viewing was interrupted, however, to go to a visitation.  My athletic director's wife passed away this week after a two-year battle with ovarian cancer.  I always think I'm going to be tough and not cry at things like this, but it never happens; I was a basket-case, as usual.  I went with my colleague, and when we went through the line, our AD (also a kind of fatherly-type person) talked to us about the importance of listening to our bodies and doing what we think is right for them.  He started tearing up, and that's when I really lost it.  So, so sad.

In other news, I realize I have completely failed a few of my goals.  (I have stuck with one, though: reading one book a month.)  However, my blogging over the last couple of weeks has been less-than-amazing, my dieting has been relatively non-existent, my exercising has took a turn for the worse since my ankle sprain, and my partying has been increased a little too much.  I have absolutely no excuses as to why I am sucking so horribly, but I do know that it can't go on any longer: I need to get my motivation back.

This time I'm for real.

Obviously my exercising will not be where it should, but my ankle is absolutely horrible.  The swelling in my foot has started to go down a little bit, but it's still massive around my heel and ankle bone.  It hurts like you wouldn't believe.  Walking is difficult, and I can't imagine running, biking, or kicking a soccer ball.  Honestly, I can't even imagine swimming, an exercise with zero impact.  I think I'll probably get a six-pack and sweet arm muscles, though, since that's all the working out I'll be able to do!  I am going to call a physical therapist tomorrow because I need to start doing something.

Anyway, I apologize for my absence, and know that I am serious about restarting my motivation!  I'll see you tomorrow with details of healthy-eating!  :)

Monday, October 25, 2010


Here's for a quick post, as I am absolutely pooped.  Today was a long day, and tomorrow will be even longer.  I feel so old when I say that 10:30 is past my bedtime, but it is!

Today started off great with a bowl of pumpkin oats - which I took a picture of but am currently too lazy to download.  :)  I am absolutely obsessed with anything pumpkin lately.  I guess that's what fall does to a girl!

The morning was a little rough, only because my right ankle/foot is approximately three times the size of my left - and a lovely greenish hue.  But, I spent the majority of the day teaching sitting down, and my colleagues and students were great at assisting me.

For lunch I had a generous helping of wild rice and chicken salad.  It is so freakin' good and is my new go-to recipe.  Honestly: to die for.  Then...I messed up.  I have a stash of Halloween candy in my room leftover from a staff meeting, and I had a few pieces of it this afternoon.  I don't know what my deal has been lately with sweets, but I can't seem to satisfy my sweet tooth!

When I got home from school - after the PROUD meeting, of course - I ate a small thing of yogurt and two meringue cookies.  And before I headed to a 6:00 presentation, I ate one of those Weight Watchers ice cream bars.  And THEN, after the presentation, BFF and I went to Star Bar where I had half a turkey, bacon, and swiss panini with French fries.  What is wrong with me?!

Oh well...tomorrow's another day.

And tomorrow definitely needs to be a better day - I am getting unhealthy again...way too fast.  Ugh.

The lecture we attended was by Jawanza Kunjufu, who spoke on education and economics, specifically in regards to African American males.  While I think he made some good points, I also felt personally attacked, as he frequently criticized the work of white female teachers in inner-city schools.  I am quite educated in regards to privilege, race, poverty, and education, and I was not impressed with how he played the blame game by generalizing systemic oppression onto a very specific group of individuals.  Obviously it's too much too get into in this forum, but...suffice it to say that it upset me - and not in a good way.

So, on that note, it's past my bedtime!  I'm going to ice my foot, prop it up on a couple of pillows, and pass out!

Peace, yo.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Whining Permitted

I told you I'd be back on Sunday evening!  It has been quite the weekend, let me tell you.

Yesterday it started bright and early with my mom and sister for the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure:

Sadly, this is the only photo I have, as I mistakenly left my camera in the car during the race.  I really wish I hadn't: there were so many amazing photo-ops that I missed!  Oh well - next year.

After the race we headed to the Machine Shed for breakfast, but it turns out they don't serve breakfast all day.  I was super bummed but settled for a turkey reuben.  I was starving after the race.  BUT, I had about two bites and then had to split - to play a soccer game!

Although I was absolutely pooped during the soccer game, it was fun as usual, and I can tell I have improved throughout the season.  However, about halfway through the fourth quarter, I got hurt.  I was trying to save a ball that was headed out of bounds; I ended up saving it, but I also ended up destroying my ankle.  I took my first-ever trip to the ER and discovered that I had a severe sprain.  Interestingly, the doctor told me that it'd be better if it were a fracture since the recovery time is a lot less.  Lovely.  Now I get to wear this awesome accessory:

I tried taking pictures to show you just how swollen and bruised it is, but for some reason it's not turning out well in photos.  Oh well.  You'll just have to trust me when I say that it. is. bad.

Furthermore, it puts a major damper on my workout plan.

So, to cope with that, I ate horrible food all weekend long.

And then I realized there will be no more of that since I will be sitting on my booty recovering for several weeks.  Ugh.

Tomorrow, I will be back to my usual posts: food details, calorie counts (that have been lacking lately, I know), and random babbling about my life.  Stay tuned.

To get you caught up on the Life of Emily as of late, though, here are some photos:

The PSA on the garbage trucks in Watertown, South Dakota.  (Twenty-six hours in the car is a long time, people: cut me some slack.)
My grandma and me at her 80th birthday party.
My brother, me, and my sister at our g-ma's 80th.
The 'rents at G-ma's 80th.
The ridiculous artwork that Council Bluffs has recently installed.
See y'all tomorrow!  Sleep tight!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Don't Cry...

...dry your eyes.

I promise I will post again soon - most likely Sunday night.  This week has been über-busy, including but not limited to the following:

  • Parent-teacher conferences
  • Way too much fun after parent-teacher conferences
  • A giant leap away from healthy-eating
  • A 26-hour drive in less than 48 hours
  • A fabulous 80th birthday party
  • A diversity conference with students
  • Running, a soccer practice, a yoga workout, and a soccer game
  • Cookie-decorating to celebrate a good friend's exciting news
  • A "granted" grant!!!
  • Not nearly enough sleep.
I'm running a 5k tomorrow (Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure) and then playing a soccer game.  I'm sure there will be a nap involved shortly thereafter, and then it's time to party-it-up for a friend's birthday.


See you back here on Sunday - I sincerely apologize for sucking so horribly the past week-and-a-half.  Ugh.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Yes, that is the sound of someone who drank a 20-oz pumpkin latte at 5:30 in the evening.  I never - and I mean never - drink caffeine after noon because of how absolutely awake it makes me.  However, I had a grant to finish writing this evening, and I was just about passing out on my computer.  So...  I drank copious amounts of coffee.


That is precisely why I failed to blog yesterday, friends.  I had all good intentions to write, but after a full day at work, I just couldn't do it.  This was my agenda:

1. School: the day went fairly quickly, as we did an awesome activity in class that had the kids up and moving around, discussing issues pertinent to their lives.  Also, along with a clip from the History Channel about "History of the Holidays: Columbus Day," I showed this video:

2. PROUD: we solidified the final design for the t-shirt, and it's going to be pretty freakin' awesome.  Get your checkbooks ready, folks - you're gonna want one!

3. Caribou: I spent two hours working on the grant, making adjustments my principal and I had discussed...and hardly got anything accomplished.

4. Gym: I was only planning on staying for the abs/back class because I had so much to do (and I wanted to watch Dancing with the Stars), but I decided yoga was probably the better idea - so had a great 90-minute workout.

5. Dinner: I called BFF on my way home from the gym, and since she had class and hadn't yet eaten dinner, invited her over.  I was planning on making the wild rice & chicken salad but instead changed my mind at the last minute and made this:

    I did not realize until just now how horribly awful the picture is!  Apparently I was too famished to care! I made the tried-and-true classic, tortellini with pesto; however, I jazzed it up a bit by sauteeing and mixing in garlic, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, crushed red pepper, and chicken.  O...M...G.  It was a fabulous idea.  BFF whipped up some garlic bread on a toasted ciabatta roll.  (Also, I'm aware that it doesn't look like we had a veggie for this meal.  However, I threw all of the veggies that I bought into the pasta.  That counts, right?)

    The pasta was so fabulous, in fact, that I had the leftovers for both lunch and dinner today!

    Side note: I was cracking up last night because I had gone to the store and pretty much picked up whatever looked good in the produce department (i.e. cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, etc.).  Then I was joking with BFF about how I was being super random last night and just tossing absolutely whatev into our dinner.  That's when she caught me: "Um...that's called cooking, Emily!"  Haha - oh yeah.

    Because I took two allergy pills last night and drank a glass of red wine (remember, it's good for you) with BFF, I crashed as soon as my head hit the pillow - and was pretty much a zombie for the first two hours I was "awake" this morning.  However, I still managed to make a delish breakfast:

    I tried something new with my oats this morning: instead of cooking them in the microwave, I cooked them on the stove.  It worked out so much better!  First, I didn't have to stand there and open-close-open-close-open-close the microwave to make sure it didn't overflow; I just let it cook on its own.  Second, they didn't cake up the bowl like they normally do (i.e. clean-up was a lot easier).  Third, they just tasted better!  That could be because I added a dash of cinnamon, a swig of UVAB, and some flaxseeds at the end, but who knows?  :)

    Obviously today was another busy day: school, Ninth Block, grant writing all evening, and trivia.  The good news is that I finished the grant and sent it off to my principal - hooray!  Hopefully I did it correctly...  :)

    Team "Neverland Ranch Hands" did not fare so well at trivia tonight, but we are in fifth place overall for the month of October: there is still time to redeem ourselves!

    And since it's Trivia Tuesday, here's some random trivia about me:

    One of my favorite physical features about myself is my skin.  Apparently it is extra-soft (although I don't really notice it), and I love all my freckles.  I also appreciate that I get very brown in the summer.  However, my skin is also one of my burdens, as I am allergic to just about everything - band-aids included; in fact, I cut myself shaving last Wednesday, put a band-aid on it (one that I thought worked fine with my skin) for about 30 minutes, removed the band-aid, and still have a red, itchy outline of it on my shin.  If that's not awesome, I don't know what is.

    Okay: I'm off to crash yet again.  I'm hoping I'll be able to write tomorrow, but it's also parent-teacher conferences (which means an über-long day), so no promises.

    Peace out, yo.

    Sunday, October 10, 2010

    Fun-Filled Fall (?) Weekend

    Can you believe these temperatures?!  I think Mother Nature is a little confused...  It's the middle of October, and the temperatures are in the 80s!  Don't get me wrong: I'm not complaining!  It's so weird being able to go outside in skirts and tank-tops when it was snowing at this time last year!

    Friday started off perfectly: we hit up Wellman's patio to start and then headed to Noah's Ark for dinner.  With the amount of alcohol we had consumed (oops), it was probably entirely inappropriate for us to dine at an old-fashioned family restaurant; I blame it on P, as I had never been there before and didn't know what to expect.  :)  We were absolutely famished by the time we got there, though, and I didn't even have a chance to take a picture of our fresh garlic, pineapple, and Canadian bacon pizza before devouring the entire thing - along with, oh, half a loaf of to-die-for focaccia bread.  After dinner, we headed to the classy Alpine, where I proceeded to have a full beer dumped on me.  Fun times, fun times.  And THEN...home in bed by 11:00!

    I was up bright and early on Saturday, ate a bowl of Cheerios, read some of The Time Traveler's Wife, took a quick morning nap, and headed on an hour-long tour of Altoona, trying to find the soccer fields for my noon game.  At 11:57, I arrived, threw on my shin-guards and cleats, and pranced on the field - still in my oversized celebrity sunglasses.  Hot mess.  As usual, we lost the game, but it was probably the most fun game I've played the entire season: we were fairly equally matched, my feet weren't bothering me (thanks, Ibuprofen!), and we played decently well!  However, I realized it is very tiring playing an entire soccer game with no subs!  The rule is that each team must have four girls on the field at all times, or they have to play "man down."  Because we only had four girls for the game yesterday, we all had to play every single minute.  I was wiped.

    After I recovered from a sweaty game, took a shower, and relaxed for all of fifteen minutes, I joined BFF and another friend at the World Food Festival in the East Village.

    BFF and her friend had a tall table in the middle of all the action, right in front of the main stage, where as you can see below, Omega Dog was playing.  They were a totally fabulous band that we will definitely be checking out again.

    After attempting a self-portrait, a kind older gentleman offered to take our picture for us.  Perhaps we should've switched spots with the photographer, as you can see the sun's position cast his shadow over us.  Oh well - I like it nevertheless.

    There was a host of interesting individuals at the festival.  I didn't realize how many hippies Des Moines had!  :)  We ran into several people we knew: students, classmates, colleagues, and...the ex.  Not just the ex, but the ex with his family.  I debated letting his wife know that he called me at 3 a.m. that morning.  That could have been entertaining.

    I have such a visceral reaction, an immense hatred toward him - this is such an abnormal feeling for me, as I have a really hard time even disliking anyone.  I am obviously angry with him for the way he treated me, lied to me (oh, by "divorce" you really mean "working things out"?), etc., but seeing him honestly just makes me want to throw up and/or gouge my eyes out.  He is just the most despicable person I have ever met.

    But I digress.

    One of the interesting people we met at the festival was a Senegalese musician.  Upon minutes of meeting me, he all but professed his undying love for me, but I was not at all interested until he started actually talking about himself, his culture, his ancestry, and all that fun stuff.  He is part of the Mandinko group and is descended from their last known king, Sundiata Keita.  I wish that I had had a recorder so that I could remember everything this young man was telling us, but alas, I will just have to research it myself.

    One thing I found especially intriguing about him was his beliefs.  He talked a lot about "the Invisible Man," and when I appeared confused (which, um, I was), he asked if I had ever heard of voodoo.  He then proceeded to show me the amulets and other protective pieces he wears on his body at all times:

    He was telling us that nothing can harm him when he has these pieces on: bullets, bombs, nothing.  Seeing his absolute, unwavering conviction was really awesome.  I really want to learn more about his culture and beliefs - library, here I come!

    How gorgeous is this sunset?!

    After leaving the festival - without eating any food (what were we thinking?!), we headed to...Dos Rios. Where else would we go on a Saturday?!  We enjoyed a relaxing, fun-filled evening on the patio sipping our Sangrias:

    Today was an early day for me - probably because I was asleep by 11:30 for the second night in a row.  :)  I woke up at 7:30, ate breakfast

     and immediately started reading The Time Traveler's Wife.  I was bound and determined to finish it today because it was so freakin' good, and...I did!  Check out my review here.

    I then headed to the dog park with BFF and her girls, Riley and Zoe.  We did a lap around the park and then camped out on our blankets while watching the pups frolic in the lake:

    It was - quite literally - a picture-perfect day!  I hope I got some color - along with all of the slaps of wet tails and showers from doggies shaking off!

    One of us (ahem, BFF) wanted a little grease for lunch, so we headed to one of our favorite Mexican restaurants, La Hacienda.  It sure did the trick!  For once, I strayed from my normal meal (Vegetarian A) and opted for the beef chimichanga.  It was as delicious - and unhealthy - as it looks!  My plate was cleared, let me tell you!

    After a nice, relaxing afternoon - including more reading, tanning, and errand-running, I met three of the most fabulous friends in the world at BFF's house for a most fantastic meal: Chicken Bryan:

    Honestly.  Look at that.  Sauteed spinach.  Garlic bread.  Chicken with sun-dried tomatoes.  And goat cheese.  And lemon butter sauce.  O...M...G.

    After watching a TIVO'd episode of The Real Housewives of Atlanta (do I really need more trashy reality TV to be roped into?!), BFF sent us on our ways with our very own loaves of...get ready for it...pumpkin cheesecake bread.  Seriously?!

    Please disregard the kitty nose: he wanted a taste, too.  And wasn't shy about "asking."
    Okay: I'm off to scour my bookshelves for my next read.  Any suggestions?

    A Serious Post

    Later tonight I will blog about the weekend, but right now I want/need to write about something sad: death.  I feel like lately life has proven to be so fragile.  This summer, one of my friends from high school passed away unexpectedly, and I had a really hard time accepting that.  Although we hadn't spoken in awhile, Jenny and I were good friends through our church choir, and she is my first friend who has died.  It just isn't fair to lose someone so young, so beautiful, so full of life.

    Last week, a woman who I know through school and social justice advocacy was hit by a car as she and her son were walking across the street.  She spent several days in the neurological ICU - on a respirator with little to no brain activity.  I received word today that she passed away.  Chenita was always so amazing to work with - honestly, she is one of the most genuinely nice, happy, and cheerful people I have ever met - and I am so thankful that I knew her.

    Today I finished reading The Time Traveler's Wife, and it gave me kind of a new perspective on life and death: what if time isn't as linear as we think it is?  What if when people pass on, they can still be with us, still watch over us, still interact with us?  Maybe this is possible through time-travel.  Maybe it's possible through nature and the wind.  Maybe it's possible through reincarnation.  Maybe it's possible through heaven and angels.

    I just have to believe it's possible.


    Thursday, October 7, 2010

    Need: Motivation

    Yep.  I skipped again.  Twice.

    On Tuesday, I was just absolutely beat.  I went to school, worked our after-school Ninth Block program, worked out in the weight room (Elliptical From Hell for 30 minutes and then arm weights for about 20), went straight to soccer practice, and then headed to trivia.  By the time I got home around 10:30, I was absolutely wiped and decided bed was a better idea than blogging.

    I was so sleepy, in fact, that on Wednesday morning, I woke up at 6:20, decided my hair still looked decent from showering before trivia the night before, and went back to bed until 6:45.  It was awesome.

    Yesterday was another busy day: I woke up (late, obv!), had a half day of school, gave two separate presentations to the staff, and then came home to relax before cooking dinner for me and BFF.

    I did get the good news that the student about whom I was so worried (open enrollment, etc) is going to be able to stay at my school - yay!!!  And then my excitement was brought down quite a few notches when a close colleague of mine told me that I was stereotyping the other school district by saying they would not do as wonderful a job as us in serving this child.  It really, really hurt my feelings that I was criticized for doing what I thought was the right thing.  It also hurt me because my colleague did not ask for the whole story - when I emailed my principal, I expressed that I was certain the other district was great but that I feared it would be too big for this particular student at this point in the school year, especially due to all of the services we were already providing and the connections we had already made.

    I know I'm super sensitive, especially right now, but...I was am really upset about it.

    After that downer (and because I worked out like crazy the day before), I went home and chilled for a bit prior to cooking dinner:

    I made a Cooking Light recipe: Baked Pasta with Spicy Turkey Sausage.  I also roasted some fresh green beans with garlic, spices, and olive oil.  BFF came over after her class got out, and we enjoyed some DELICIOUS dinner.  Honestly, it was one of the best things I've cooked in awhile!  It was amazing comfort food, yet it was somehow decently healthy!  What gives?!  And can you believe that picture is just one serving?!

    That dinner, time with the BFF, and a nice glass of wine was just what the doctor ordered after kind of a rough day.

    During the middle of the night, I woke up several times, which was obviously super annoying.  Finally I took three Advil around 3:30 because my stomach hurt so bad.  (Lady issues, boys.  You wouldn't understand.)  Perhaps that's what I was overly emotional yesterday - although I'm still annoyed by the comment - and maybe that's why I'm tearing up at Project Runway now.

    Hot mess.

    Today, school was also kind of a disaster.  Several classes throughout the district are mandated to give benchmark tests every six weeks; my class was one of them, and today was the first of those tests.  The test was supposed to be very basic, lasting about 20 minutes or so.  Um...yeah right.  The first reading passage was three-and-a-half pages, and the second was two pages.  There were 15 multiple choice questions total and two short answer questions.  My students struggled hugely; with such low reading levels, those passages and so few questions took nearly the entire 90 minutes.  I am nervous that I am going to be evaluated - and that my students are going to be assessed - on these questions.  Should be interesting...

    I came home after working Ninth Block and have been completely lazy since.  I even took a short 30-minute nap.  Other than that, I ate dinner and watched way too many hours of Project Runway.  I didn't workout yesterday, so I really should've gone today, but I am just SO...UNMOTIVATED.

    I don't know what to do with myself!  I'm hoping this funk is just going to last these two days (boys, again: it's a girl thing).  I mean, I have goals to reach!

    Plus, it's been absolutely gorgeous the last few days, and I know I shouldn't waste it.  I hate winter: the snow, the ice, the gray skies, everything.  I need to get outside and take advantage of the sun, the bright blue sky, the awesome temperatures.  I. NEED TO. BADLY

    Also preventing me from reaching those aforementioned goals: buying meringues at the store.  OMG.  Bad news.  I thought they were a good treat because it's only 120 calories for four cookies, but it's not so great when you eat the entire package.  Never again.


    Someone please find me motivation to get my butt in gear.  I need it.  Desperately.

    Monday, October 4, 2010

    Always the Bridesmaid...

    Okay, so I've only been a bridesmaid once, but I just had my second wedding in as many weekends.  I am wedding'ed out!

    BUT - so unbelievably happy for two of the greatest friends in the world.

    On Friday after work, I headed straight to Omaha...and had to turn around 20 miles into the trip due to forgetting the most important thing: the dress.  Oops.  Let me tell you what's not so fun: driving two hours into the sunset.  I think I was standing up by the time I finally got to Omaha to try and shield my eyes from the sun.

    Eventually, perhaps with burned retinas, I made it to Omaha for a girls' night with my mama.  First, we went to a new restaurant that just opened up near my parents' house: Maru.  It was absolutely amazing.

    I opted for the sushi.  Naturally, I had a spicy tuna roll, and upon the server's recommendation, I opted for the Crouching Tiger (shrimp tempura, avocado, eel, shrimp, sweet sauce, and spicy mayo).  It was really spicy - but delicious.

    Next time, however, I'm going for what my mom ordered: beef bibimbab.  O...M...G.  Essentially, it's a bowl of rice topped with veggies and the protein.  However, it's served in some sort of cast-iron bowl so that, after you mix it all together yourself, it cooks at your table and forms a crunchy crust on the bottom. Unbelievable.

    We then headed home to polish off an entire bottle of wine while we sat around chatting and watching Tony Danza's new show, Teach.

    Saturday we woke up early and headed to Target to buy a wedding gift, the mall for a pedicure, and then to our second Asian-inspired meal of the weekend, J.C. Mandarin.  On top of it being delicious Chinese food, my brother was able to join us for lunch, so it was extra nice.  I ordered Princess Chicken & Shrimp - not because of the name, I swear!

    I haven't eaten Chinese food in a really long time because I am really, really picky.  I hate the greasy feeling in my stomach afterwards, and I hate having to pick through the meat to find the few good pieces.  This, however, was impeccable.  The meat was tender, and the sauce was not too heavy.  Yum, yum, yum.

    Mom and I then headed home since I had a wedding to attend!  Jamie and Kyle got married at St. Vincent de Paul in West Omaha.  It was a really neat church: circular sanctuary with interesting stained glass and ceiling fixtures (a moon, a sun, and an anchor as the crucifix).  At first I had a great picture-taking seat at the ceremony, but then when others started arriving, I was pushed to the very far end of the row, and my pictures did not turn out as well as I had hoped...

    The vows
    Adorable bridesmaid dresses!  Couldn't they totally wear those again?!
    Despite the lack of amazing photos from the actual ceremony, I was able to get a few at the reception.  They celebrated at the Marriott in Regency - it was beautiful!

    Gorgeous centerpieces for a crisp fall wedding
    Classy table decor
    The food was to. die. for.  The first course (not pictured) was three scallops drenched in a balsamic reduction.  That was followed by a chilled salad with unique dressing options (pepper Ranch? raspberry French?).  Then we had quite the selection of breads - different rolls, wafers, and seasoned buns.  Finally, it was time for the main course: salmon, prime rib, or chicken.  I opted for the salmon and am SO glad I did.  O...M...G.

    Look how big that salmon filet is!  And the roasted asparagus!  And the capers in the hollandaise!  And the wild rice!  I was definitely a member of the clean-plate club on Saturday night!

    I love this picture of the beaming bride - one of my bestest friends from high school - and me.  And this one of me and the other high school girls: Heidi, Mandy, Jamie, and me.  While few of us have kept in touch over the years, it was really nice to see them all again.

    I called it an early night, mainly because my dad had returned home from a golf trip with the guys, and I wanted to hang out with him for a little bit.  Unfortunately, it really was a little bit because I was so tired and fell asleep very early - and then hardly woke up the next morning when he tried to say good-bye.  Oops!

    On Sunday morning, my mom cooked me pancakes for breakfast: light batter with chocolate chips.  I tell ya: there's nothing like my mom's pancakes.  Yum.

    After that, we trekked to a yarn shop and then to lunch and wandering at Regency.  We went to Paradise Cafe - I totally wish we had one of those here!  And then drooled over all of the clothes and trinkets at Anthropologie - I also totally wish we had one of those here!

    It's probably a good thing we don't have either.  :)

    While I waited for my laundry to finish, I took a little snooze, and when I woke up, was easily convinced to stay for dinner.  My parents and brother had reservations at The Drover, perhaps the best steak house in Omaha.  Look how cute!

    Prior to entering, my brother surprised me with a present for my birthday - which, as you remember, was on August 15th.  Cut the kid some slack, though: he's been traveling across the country twice over for med school rotations.

    Just look at that fine wrapping job!

    Each meal at The Drover starts with a trip to the salad bar.  While it's just normal iceberg lettuce, it's not like it's dumped from a bag.  It is absolutely delicious, and even more scrumptious when topped with deliciousness like beets, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, sesame seeds, egg, and whatever else is hiding underneath the cheese and dressing.  :)

    I pretty much didn't have a choice as to what to order: the world-renowned whiskey filet.  I'm not kidding: it was melt-in-your-mouth.  Literally.  It was so tender that I probably didn't even have to use my knife.  And check out that baked potato!  Holy moly!  (And please don't forget the vat of sour cream served on the side...I love sour cream, but isn't that a little excessive?!)

    Finally, it was time for me to return to Des Moines.  I really wish I didn't have to - I love being home with my family!  But...duty calls!

    Clearly this blog post is long enough, but I'll briefly talk about today:

    First, after school I went to the grocery store for a few random items and then straight to the gym for 20 minutes of hard-core cardio on the elliptical and then the 30-minute abs/back class.  It was way harder than last week, and I'm going to be a hurting girl - more so than I am already - tomorrow morning.  I saw one of my BFFs at the gym, and she gave me a huge compliment - said how great I looked, that she could tell I was losing weight, etc.  Although the scale says I've lost about ten pounds, I really don't feel like it, and it's always nice to hear!  Thanks, A!  :)

    I hurriedly whipped up a batch of white chili during Dancing with the Stars commercial breaks.  It has been so chilly lately, and with no heat in my apartment yet, I was really looking for something to warm me up.  This was just the ticket - especially with the extra cayenne and cumin I accidentally added...

    Check out what my mom sent home with me!  I can't believe it, but she doesn't like Flatout wraps!!!  She bought a three-pack at Costco and sent me with two of them!  Woo hoo!!!

    This is what was underneath the stellar wrapping that my brother gave to me yesterday.  I am so excited to page through it, as I obviously love cooking, I am obsessed with Top Chef, and the recipes look fabulous.  Plus, I'm kind of looking forward to looking at the different cooking tips, like what different "chops" mean, etc.

    Finally, I whipped up another batch of healthy cookies.  Honestly: amazing.  The most unhealthy ingredient is the 1/2 cup of dark chocolate chips.  Otherwise, it's whole wheat flour, agave nectar, ground flaxmeal, banana, walnuts, etc.  YUM.  I figured I'd save a few for me and then bring the rest to school and trivia tomorrow.  Or, maybe just keep them all for me.  We'll see.  :)

    Okay.  I am absolutely wiped and am planning on passing out as soon as my head hits the pillow.  Check ya later, friends!