Sunday, March 2, 2014

Elimination diet adventures: stage 1

....And thus continues the streak of blogging about food, and not libraries....

About 6 months ago, Matt started talking about these food and diet podcasts he was listening to, by a woman named JJ Virgin.  These podcasts included tips like not eating bananas or potatoes, so my immediate reaction was "that's stupid. no way."  But one day, I googled her and discovered she's half about dieting and removing "bad" foods like bananas, potatoes, and white rice, and half about eliminating foods that are frequent causes of intolerances.

I've had stomachy issues since I was a kid.  I drastically reduced dairy about 5 years ago which has helped a lot, but I've always wondered if I had other food intolerances.  The Virgin Diet elimination diet appealed to me because it didn't involve eating only broth shit for the first month - which seems to be a norm for many elimination/detox diets.  And, we didn't have to give up coffee.  Bonus!

An elimination diet that allows coffee. Winning!

With the Virgin Diet you can eat about anything - except for:

  1. soy
  2. corn
  3. peanuts
  4. eggs
  5. dairy
  6. gluten
  7. artificial sweeteners (and excess sugar - fruit is allowed, but otherwise should be a low sugar diet) 
As for the call to not eat bananas, potatoes, and white rice?  She suggests more healthy alternatives like apples, sweet potatoes, and brown rice or quinoa - changes I can get on board with (well, except for bananas.  I love bananas).

Today marks the start of our 4th week on the diet, and our entry into Stage 2 where we start reintroducing food.  Of the 7 eliminated, you only reintroduce 4 - soy, gluten, eggs, and dairy.  You add one back at a time, for 4 days in a row, unless symptoms develop in which case you are to stop eating that food (duh).

So, how'd stage 1 go?  Actually, really great. We both successfully made it 3 weeks without eating any of the 7 items we eliminated, with the exception of matt accidentally eating a handful of seasoned almonds before realizing they had soy on them.  We decided that didn't count. :)

We both feel awesome.  I've had no headaches, my energy levels have increased, and somehow, I've felt less hungry than usual (and not more than 2 months ago I was at my dr. getting blood work done because I felt so lethargic and "off" - go figure). Matt has lost probably 5-10 pounds and too has mentioned an increase in energy.

The main question we get is "what on earth do you eat?"  Our meal planning actually reads like a gourmet cookbook: herbed baked pork loin with greens and baked sweet potato; salmon fillets with mustard dill sauce, brussel sprouts, & brown rice; balsamic pork chops; beet, walnut, & spinach salad. Currently I have a ham, bean, and vegetable soup brewing in the crock pot that I cannot wait to eat tonight.  We've stretched our cooking skills and our taste buds by trying lots of new recipes, new vegetables, and new cuts of meat, and the result has been delicious.

Last night's dinner: hamburger with bacon, tomato, mustard and grilled onions, on a bed of baby spinach and served with homemade sweet potato fries (not a regular staple as it's really high in calories, but delicious!). 
One thing I was very unsure about was a switch to protein shakes/smoothies for breakfast.  Would they taste like chalk? Would they keep us full?  Turns out, they taste delicious (we do use the recommended protein powder from the Virgin Diet store), and they keep us more full than our pathetic previous choice of breakfast - a Kashi granola bar.  

The only pic I had of a smoothie... Trust me though, they are pretty good. My recipe: a cup of kale/greens, 1/2 cup frozen blueberries, a few frozen strawberries, ground flax seed, a big spoonful of almond butter, vanilla protein powder and almond milk.

The main drawbacks to the diet have been the big increase in our grocery bill, and the general inability to eat out with friends (the silver lining is the reduction in our entertainment budget makes up for the grocery increase!)  I ate at restaurants twice during the first three weeks and both times felt very obnoxious as I had to ask about how everything was made.  I tipped extra well and tried to be uber polite about it.

Also, while meals were fairly easy to tweak to meet the diet standards, we had trouble coming up with snacks.  Matt became a hummus making master (the last round was spinach artichoke hummus and it was AMAZING), we spent a couple hours each Sunday night chopping vegetables, and we discovered some brands of chips like black bean Beanitos that were both tasty and diet friendly.

I'm not sure how this diet would go for vegetarians and/or picky eaters as we consumed a crazy amount of protein and a ton of veggies.  I feel ok about the meat increase as the only thing off about my aforementioned blood work was protein being low.  I don't think that's a problem anymore.

Tons of veggies!  Like parsnips!
And turnips!

This diet also involved a fair amount of prep work.  For about 3 weeks beforehand I was researching recipes and revising our favorites to make the fit the elimination plan (we didn't buy the book, which might have made that easier? - but there's a lot of free guides online).  We can't drink much on the diet (and no beer until gluten has been tested. boo.) so we had to find an 8 week period not involving parties, concerts, birthdays, etc.  I HATE meal planning, but it's absolutely essential to succeeding on this diet, because the biggest temptation moments come when we're hungry and don't have the right food in the house.

Today we enter stage 2 by reintroducing soy to our diet.  Next week is gluten, followed by eggs, than dairy.  I suppose I'll blog again at some point to fill you in on our results :)

If you're considering some sort of elimination diet, I recommend this one.  While it wasn't easy, it actually seemed far less extreme than some others I've found.  I love that we can still eat fruit and drink coffee -- even "mainstream" diet plans like South Beach require you to give up fruit the first several weeks which I think is ridiculous.  And it's not anti-carb, it's pro-better-carbs.  It has forced us into a lot of better eating habits that I think we will stick to even after we've completed the second cycle of the diet.  Yay healthiness.

Monday, January 27, 2014


Though I'm now 3 weeks behind in blogging, we have still been cooking with a new veggie each week.  By "we" I mean that I have been cooking, and Matt has been willingly eating what I make.

This week was beets...... But instead I want to tell you the story of parsnips.

Before January, I literally had no idea what a parsnip was beyond a member of the vegetable family.  If you had asked 2013 Erin to draw a parsnip, she would have drawn something resembling a turnip.  2013 Matt would have drawn something like an onion.  Oh how ignorant we were.

Turns out, a parsnip looks like a carrot:

It also taste kinda like a carrot, but with a peppery zing. Pretty good raw, though I can't imagine eating much of it that way.

The recipe including parsnips was Chicken Vegetable Soup from the Simply in Season cookbook. This soup involved de-boning a chicken - another first for me (usually i just use boiled chicken breasts and shred them). That part was kinda terrible and a little bit gross - but wow are those little whole chickys cheap, and the stock/broth makes soups taste much better than the store bought stuff. 

The soup was great - LOADED with vegetable goodness (and we even left out the broccoli) - though when cooked the parsnips were pretty indistinguishable from carrots.  When we cook with them again, I'll try a recipe that features them more prominently... the same cookbook includes a very intriguing maple parsnip soup.  

The peppery parsnip in action!

Another victorious week in the learning winter vegetable challenge.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Bok Choy nom noms

In the grocery store last week, Matt and I decided we should try some new winter vegetables and bought a head of bok choy with having any idea what bok choy tastes like. 

Meet our new friend:

Being ignorant of all things bok choy, I had to Google how to chop it. Turns out, the whole darn thing is edible, and can be eaten raw or cooked.   This particular choy was delicious!  Tasted like kale & celery had a love child. mmm.

Really, how can you NOT like something that has a base shaped like a rose:

I was disappointed that the Simply in Season cookbook didn't have a single recipe with bok choy.  Thankfully, the interwebs came through, and it was added to the crock pot as the final ingredient of this pretty tasty recipe for Adobo chicken from Allrecipes (and served with a side of brussel sprouts):

Unfamiliar vegetable project for the win! Next week.... parsnips?

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Super awesomest summer bev recipe

My triumphant return to blogging... ha.  I marvel at those (esp in library world) who keep up a blog.  Not only does it take time and effort to write regularly, but to contribute professionally, you've also got to have time/desire to care enough to write and research about issues in library land.  Right now, caring means posting a tweet, not writing a blog.

So tonight, I share with you nothing important.. but rather something delicious (and, before we get any further and some of you are disappointed, it's also nonalcoholic).

by me*

half of a lime, or lemon (i prefer lime... fewer seeds)
crushed ice
fresh mint (optional)
Sprite Zero or sugar (your choice: chemicals or calories)

Squeeze half a lime into a pint glass
Add fresh mint if desired (4-5 leaves)
Fill cup about a third of the way up with crushed ice
Fill most of the glass with water, leaving about an inch to an inch & a half at the top of the glass
Add a splash of Sprite Zero (more or less to taste)

Put in straw. Drink nectar from heaven. 

*I mean, I didn't follow a recipe, but undoubtedly I am not the first person to throw these ingredients in a glass together.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Some Valentines I made...

So, I made some valentines for people with pics I had on my phone and the Skitch app for iPad.

The ones beyond the break are perhaps not politically correct, and one features a picture of my husband's bloody scalp wound... so if you're queasy and/or easily offended just don't click there, ok?

Check back as I'll likely make more as inspiration strikes throughout the day.  

Dear Honey Boo Boo fans, 

To my ladies who love the Bachelor,

To my former housemate, who had pet ducks.

I say "had" pet ducks, as he has already cooked and eaten them....

For Katrina in particular, but really for any cat lover,

Ok, now, before proceeding, remember that I've given you fair warning that there is a picture of a bleeding head wound after the break.  

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Mini update

A sort-of Christmas letter in February.  So, a special Valentine from us to you?

I have fallen terribly behind on blogging, and I offer no excuse beyond poor time management.  Since moving back to Goshen, I no longer have an empty social calendar and no friends.  And, I have a house to play in, nieces and nephews to adore, kittens to love. 

I had high hopes of sending out Christmas cards this year along with a short note about the many changes 2012 brought us.  I even bought the cards... which are still sitting in a desk, hoping to get sent out next year.  Instead, you get this half-assed blog reporting on recent life updates. 

When 2012 began, Matt and I were in Lebanon, a town I've lovingly referred to as a hellhole, redneck heaven, or lebden.  A place that, while in the northern half of a state that never belonged to the confederacy, is proliferated with southern drawls and confederate flags.  I was in a librarian job that I liked in the for-profit education sector -  but frequent layoffs, constant restructurings, long hours, and a 40 mile (one way) commute were burning me out fast.  So, I started applying for jobs.

Let's make a long story short: In May, I began a new job at Goshen College.  My time is split between two positions - librarian for the Science departments, and instructional technology support for faculty.  In June, Matt was able to join me up north after securing a PRN social work position in the ER of a nearby hospital... and by August, he moved into a full-time position in a different unit at the same hospital.

We lived a few places over the course of those months.  I spent 6 weeks in a very gracious and wonderful friend's guestroom; when Matt moved to Goshen we rented a large room in another friend's home for several months.  In December, we purchased our first home (YAY!!!).  Trust me, after almost 6 months of living in rooms, we are loving ever second of having a house, even if our world possessions only fill up a quarter of it.

Other happenings:
  • On Christmas, acquired two adorable kitties that may or may not have FIV (they get retested in a couple weeks). Should they be sick, there will undoubtedly be many sad, despondent posts to look forward to... so let's pray that the retest shows them negative.  For all our sakes. I mean look at them. ADORABLE. 
  • Matt had a lil tumbly on his bike in January and broke his shoulder.  If you're into gross pictures of head wounds, let me know, I've got plenty.   It was scary - but he's recovering speedily, and is hopefully going to be able to start painting our living room this weekend. 
Anywho.  That's the past few months in the life of team Millernese.  Life is good. Come visit - we have a guest room! :) 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

My love affair with Evernote

Do you use Evernote?  No? You are crazy.   The tagline for Evernote is "Remember everything."  And the possibilities for remembering with Evernote are seemingly endless.  It syncs across all your devices and everything you store there is completely searchable.   Anything I have saved to Evernote I can pull up on my computer, iPad, or iPhone. Or on YOUR computer, and other devices as long as there's internet.  You can forward your emails, tweets, and images directly to Evernote, and you can tag them as you send them.  You can remember by searching content and tags.  Perhaps the coolest feature is that you can take a picture of a handwritten note, and be able to search the content (assuming your handwriting is better than mine...). 

I also love Evernote as a company.  They refuse to make the free version a pain in the ace to use, essentially forcing you into upgrading.  Their strategy is different:  make the free version SO good that you love them so much you WANT to pay to upgrade (and it works. I am planning to upgrade as soon as I'm not in "save every penny so we can buy a house" mode).  The free version has almost as much storage as the paid, and they don't bombard you with ads just because you like free things. Really the only "essential" feature missing from the paid account is the ability to search within uploaded pdf documents.

Here are some of the ways I use Evernote:

Bookmarking/Link storage.  Easy tagging from anywhere.  Did I find a tweet with a link I want to read later?  I can forward it directly from twitter to Evernote.  Did my boss send out an email with a link? I can email to my Evernote with the tag of "to read."  I use the web clipper constantly to clip articles.  The downside is that it is almost too easy to save links, and I have almost 300 articles with the tag of "to read" in my Evernote notebook. I save everything from YouTube videos to recipes to thrilling articles on copyright.

Emails.  I've mentioned this a couple times already... but it is just such an awesome feature. You are given an Evernote email address when you set up your account. I don't know about you, but I have 4 active emails accounts that I check regularly.  I have important and/or sentimental emails stored in each.  Now I just forward all those emails I want to save to the Evernote address, where they I can not only still access them, but tag them and easily search them in one place... instead of trying to remember which of the 4 email accounts I kept something in! 

Scan and save important paperwork.  It's a lot like dropbox in this regard, and I basically use it as a backup to dropbox.  An important document that I really really can't lose?  I can scan and email directly to evernote.

Meeting minutes.  I either type them up directly in Evernote, or I take a picture and load that way.   Because - I keep needed to reiterate this - the text in the images becomes searchable. If this doesn't blow your mind, than I don't know what will.

Article/Book notes.  I have a notebook for book notes, and when I'm reading, I can jot down quotes or helpful things I want to remember.

Pictures of things.  I don't use Evernote for my general photos, but I could (maybe should?).  I have started using it to take pictures of receipts.  A few weeks ago, we were out in Indianapolis, and spent like $12 at one location.  But $22 was taken from our account.   I was irked, but hadn't kept the receipt so had no proof of an error.  Since then, I just snap a picture of my receipt and stick it in Evernote, where it is much easier to find than in my purse (because unlike my purse, Evernote is organized and (again) searchable).

Random things I want to remember.  My friend Kevin would be proud: I just make a notebook named "DMB" in which I typed up the a note for each Dave Matthews set list I've heard. Now I don't have to ask him if I've heard a song live, I can just consult my Evernote.

Misc/Other ideas/Things I've heard of other people doing with Evernote:  Meet someone new? Take a picture of their business card. If you have an iPad, Skitch is a pretty sweet notetaking app.  I like to use it to add text and things like arrows to screenshots and images, and it integrates perfectly with Evernote.  Join in one of their interactive activities.  They just announced an Evernote cook-along, and there have been fitness challenges too.  There are audio notes that I've never played with. There is a to-do list feature. There is actually a whole program dedicated to food for those that like to remember every meal they've eaten.  Another feature I haven't explored is encryption - making it an ideal place to store your passwords and other private information.

And the best part is, I don't feel I've even scratched the surface of what I could use Evernote for. I've yet to explore the sharing features of notebooks, and have really just started to learn what I can do with stacks/notebooks/tags.  It's one of those rare tools that I continue to use more and more, and at this point, I'm not entirely sure what I would do without it.  Basically, if you need or want to remember something, you can find a way to make Evernote serve that purpose.  How do you use Evernote?

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Hobby Quest! Let's get physical.

This is totally a cheating post. I've been a bit busy with all kinds of things, as has Matt. Instead, I'm going to blog about what has been an on-and-off hobby of ours since we started dating:  exercise.  So not so much trying out a hobby, as admitting we already have one.

We both enjoy doing things and playing in nature; Matt definitely more so than I, but what I dislike is having to drive places to do things in nature, which is just annoying and in some ways ironic. Still, we've hiked many of the state parks in Indiana (Turkey Run, Clifty Falls, Eagle Creek, Patoka Lake, those dunes with the nuclear power plant in Michigan City), ridden our bikes on any bike path within driving distance, and have run the Indy Mini-Marathon  for the past two years.  Matt is actually completing the Mini for the third time as I write this.  I'm so supportive that I gave him money for parking.


It goes in phases, of course.  From about November to mid January we were pretty sedentary:  colder weather, holidays, lack of desire.  But Matt signed up for the Mini again, and while I decided not to, it did help me get back on the fitness wagon when he would go out for runs.

Hobby grade: A-


- Well, the benefits to our health are pretty tremendous.

- Relatively cheap, after the initial cost of buying equipment like bikes and shoes. But the good stuff will last awhile if you take care of it.  If you're running, you have to replace your shoes a lot and that's definitely not cheap (and I definitely recommend going to an actual running store and being fitted the first time) but it's worth it because being injured sucks a lot.  A smart tip from my sister-in-law is to get fitted at a running store, but then buying the right type and brand of shoe online for a lower price.  (Though if you can afford it, I say, support your local small business running store!).

- Outside!!  We like outside. Matt has a gym membership because he's training for the mini and doesn't like to run when it's cold.  I'd rather bundle up than run on the treadmill.  Ugh. Treadmills suck.

- One ding I give this hobby is that it's hard to do year round.  I know there are winter sports that people enjoy... but I am not one of those people.  I hate snow/ice/sleet/any form of winter precipitation, and frankly do not at all understand why anyone would want to play in it (aside from bundling up when the sidewalks are finally clear and attempting to run).  Skiing, snowboarding, all that just sounds terrible. In winter months we tend to be lazy, or resort to home workouts like Tae Bo and Insanity.

- Another downside is that Matt and I don't often workout together.  We do bike rides and hikes together, but when it comes to "real" workouts, our tastes are different.  Matt likes to run, and is much better at it than I am - so he has to slow waaaay down for us to run together (and I usually whine the whole time about how miserable I am).  I prefer to do team sports, which is hard when we live in a town that we have no friends in, so instead I do Insanity for the most part, which Matt occasionally attempts to do with me, but really doesn't care for.  So once again, a hobby that we both enjoy, but don't do together.

As I write this, I'm wondering if I could enjoy running more if I just stuck to shorter, less miserable distances, and worked on my times.  10 minute miles are still miracles in my book - I've only once run 3 miles at that pace.  Maybe Matt and I will sign up for the MCC Relief Sale 5k in September?  Hmm...

Next hobby?  Not sure yet.  I move this next week, and while Matt and I will still see each other on weekends, hobbies will not be a priority.  It might be awhile before we are living in the same place and can resume our hobby-questing!!

Other random evidence of this hobby:

Hiking at Clifty Falls

Hiking at Yellowstone... this is after like 3 hours of meandering, when we finally came upon this amazing river. felt oh so good to dip our feet in. 

Biking around Lebanon. How not to get your pants caught on your bike:

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Twitter lock down

I never wanted to protect my tweets.  It was - and is - my opinion that what I state on my own personal accounts is my business.*  Especially because I make it a point to hide the details - like where I work, and even my last name - from my account.

I locked it down not because I got in trouble, but because there were rumors circulating that I and another frequent-tweeter were being scrutinized for "negative tweeting" or something along those lines.  The only two things I could think of were when I vented about there being a noisy baby in my library or when I had to explain to a student that Washington DC really isn't a state. So these conversations resulted in a preemptive lockdown and blocking fest.

Since I have now resigned from that job, and I think the Twitter discussion/fury has subsided, I've been weighing the pros and cons of keeping it on lockdown.  And in the end? I was pretty surprised at my decision: I'm keeping it locked.

The downsides of having a protected account are pretty numerous:

- People who don't follow you can't see you tweets at all.  This is, of course, kind of the point of having a protected account.  However, even if you tweet at them directly - like if you were to tweet your fave celebrity or a business you wanted to interact with - they STILL can't see your tweets.  This is kind of annoying, I won't lie.

- It's harder to get followers because people have to request to follow you.  Again, kind of the point of having a locked account, but also a frustration if you use twitter (like I do) to network with people you don't know and are less likely to follow you back on a locked account.

- Your tweets are left out of hashtag searches.  So I can't participate in #libchat or, at library conferences, people following the hashtag conversation won't see my tweets in the search results.

There's only one real reason to keep it on lock down, and as I evaluated this decision, that one reason was good enough: I like not having to worry.  Not worrying about something being re-tweeted to the wrong person, not worrying about being monitored by people at work, mostly just not worrying in general.  With a locked account it's not like I can say everything on my mind, but at least I don't need to ponder every tweet and how its meaning might be misconstrued.

That's my decision.  While the downsides are plentiful, they are nothing major.  If I want to participate in libchat, I can just unlock my account for a few hours.  Same if I want to tweet a conference.  So find me on Twitter, and I'll let you follow me.  Maybe**


*I'm not naive.  I know that's not how it works.  But employers demanding to see facebooks and twitters and whatever else?  Very not cool in my book.
**Just kidding! Of course I'll let you. Unless you're a jerk.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

positivity project #5: Being unashamed

In reader's advisory class in grad school, my wise professor said, "never apologize for your taste."  Heeding her advice, here are my unabashed confessions.

Things I shouldn't admit I don't like, but I don't:

Poetry. exception: Julia Kasdorf. Otherwise, I just don't understand it, and it bores me. My mind doesn't think in metaphors.

Science fiction.  There are exceptions to this too, but not many.  Let's add fantasy to this list while we're at it.

Jazz.  Sorry dad, you did your best.

Things I don't like as much as I feel like I should:


Reading non-fiction. I think being a history major burned me out on reading facts forever.

Art. Same deal with the metaphors.  Just tell me what you mean.  Jerks.

Wine. Justification: it gives me a headache.

Things I love, but should never admit to loving:

Country music.

Crappy mass produced light beer.

Justin Beiber. (and really, all pop music).

McDonald's.  Just typing it makes me want to eat it.

The color pink.  And purple.  And any other color that if I like it means I'm some sort of ditzy female.

American Idol. One time, a former contestant was a prospective student at my college campus. I couldn't even talk to her on her campus tour I was so star struck. (note: she finished 11th that season). 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Tales of a commuter

In honor resigning from my job, I present a tribute to my commute, which for the past 2 years has been about 40 miles each way (though for the first 6 weeks was about double that).

Oh the things I have seen:
-a man shaving his face
- reading while driving
-a driver holding a cat
-a construction worker's penis  (yes. He was peeing, and then turned toward traffic to shake it off)
-a tire blow on the car in front of me
- hitchhikers
- Extreme cases of road rage (like one person waving a middle finger through a sun roof, chasing the car that cut it off)
- Semis blown over from extreme winds

And the things I have dodged:
- Deer. On the interstate.
- Bread. Like loaves of it.  It was the weirdest thing, but one day, there was a loaf of bread every quarter mile or so for a few miles
- giant potholes
- A giant tarp
- Giant bags of mulch (like the huge 20 lb bags of it)
- Giant chunks of tire
- Small chunks of tire
- Whole tires
- Giant sheets of ice falling off of semis (a problem after that nasty ice/sleet storm we had in central Indiana last winter.  The sheets of ice were like 2-3 inches thick and a bit dangerous when hurdling toward you at 75mph).

And the things I have unsuccessfully dodged:
- Birds (note: the trauma of this event may eventually turn me into a vegetarian).

Once, I was on the two lane road right after my interstate exit (47, for you locals).  An oncoming car hit a bird, and the bird turned into a crazy projectile heading right at my windshield. I was practically on the floor of my car, and luckily, the bird somehow missed and I somehow didn't wreck in my moment of panic.

Should you ever be on I-65 between Lebanon and Lafayette (miles 146-172), I challenge you to play I-65 Bingo!  I promise, this is completely possible to win - just don't miss that one hill.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Hobby Quest: Bird Watching

Over Easter weekend, we tromped out to Iowa to spend the weekend with my family. My parents live in the middle of nowhere (though they will try to tell you that their town of 1000 is a bustling place, and that the true middle of nowhere is 20 miles northwest.  Don't listen to them.) and there's quite literally nothing to do. Since there's not a lot to do, we spend a lot of time sitting in the living room, looking out the window, where my parents have a lovely set of bird feeders.

When I think of bird watching, I think of someone forcing me out of bed at some ungodly hour, tromping through nature very quietly, and having to stare at birds I can't identify.  This doesn't really sound fun.  At all.

However, our accidental venture into bird watching, via my parent's living room window, was surprisingly fun.  We pointed at birds, and my parents told us what type they were.  I was rather impressed at their bird knowledge... who knew?

Hobby grade: B

- I like learning, and I learned a lot about birds!  Maybe this is why I was so traumatized last week when I killed some with my car...

- From the comfort of the living room, this was a very painless and easy hobby, done over morning coffee.  I'm not sure our efforts with this hobby will move beyond this stage.

- We had good "tour guides" in my parents.

- Easy to do together.  "look Matt, look!  a bird!"  "oh. ok.  where?"  And so on.  But a frequent problem with other hobbies was a lack of togetherness despite working on the same hobby, and this was something very much done as a group.

- I'm not sure how fun this hobby would be without a basic knowledge of bird identification.  I can probably successfully identify like 6 types of birds, which would make this hobby a bit challenging.

- Matt's comment:  "birds move fast."

While I don't see any bird watching expeditions in our future, I do see us buying a "what bird is this" manual, and installing a variety of bird feeders when we finally get a house.


The pictures were taken through windows... so aren't very good.  Sorry.

A big fat cardinal, and the bird feeder set up.  There are three feeders, plus my mom uses super secret landscaping techniques to plan flowers that attract birds.

A close up of the cardinal (or as close as I could get with my cell phone zoom):

A lovely picture, complete with trailer in the background.  In you look closely (reeeeeaaaallllly closely), on the back bird feeder (in front of the trailer), there's a .... Woodpecker?  Or a nut hatch?  I don't remember, but my mom was REALLY excited about it.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Positivity project #4: Rediscovering personality types

A couple weeks ago, Matt came home from work with his Myers-Briggs results.  An upcoming work retreat required the personality profile for discussion.  He's an ENTP, in case you're wondering.

I really don't enjoy psychology all that much, but for some reason have always found personality profiles to be really interesting.  As a teen I read the birth order book and applied it to my cats (it worked rather well, thus solidifying that psychology, like horoscopes can work for everybody if vague enough... how many people did I just tick off?  sorry).  I also took the myers-briggs for the first time as a teen and i must have been in a weird mood because I came up as an ESTJ, when I'm really an ESFP.  

So the past couple weeks I've been rediscovering various personality theories.  In my case, everything matches up nicely.  ESFP aligns well with my enneagram of 7 (with a 6 wing), Disc profile of Si, and my strengths finder assessment top five (woo, includer, positivity, adaptability, communication).  I'm happy, optimistic, enjoy variety and new experiences, am very external and people oriented, and don't deal well with conflict or pain or melancholy or anything negative.  I can't be bothered with details (cataloging books is basically torture), and while tentative broad planning is ok (like, "I'm going to Nebraska in July), specific detailed planning (like "at 9am we are doing this, so that by 10:30 we can be doing this) tends to make me preemptively hate whatever it is I'm doing.

For some reason, the enneagram is my favorite of the theories, probably because I think it fits me the best. The "wing" aspect explains how some characteristics don't match me at all, and the "disintegration" piece explains how differently I react to things when I'm stressed.

Matt though, has been my positivity personality project mystery.  An ENTP most closely matches with a 3 or a 4 on the enneagram, but he consistently comes up as a 9 or a 2 when he takes tests.  I even took a test pretending to be him and came up with matching high scores of 9 and 2.   He didn't have to take the Disc for his work, but I would guess he's an S like me.

I don't really understand my enjoyment of learning personality types, but I do find it useful for understanding myself and others.  At work, where we use the Disc, it really does help with communication. For instance, my current dean is a C - a conscientious type (loves details, perfectionist tendencies, etc).  If I ask him a question, I know I won't get an immediate answer.  He'll say something like "that's a great question.  Let me look that up and get back to you."  If I didn't know this was just his personality coming through, I might be pretty annoyed as I'm not a particularly patient person.  But since I know going into the conversation what to expect it all works out ok.  yay!

Curious what you are?  Most of the official tests have a fee attached, but here are some free ones for enneagram, myers-briggs, and DiSC.

I also discovered, just today, on my friend Alicia's blog, the VIA Character strengths profile, which seems a lot like the other strengths finder I mentioned earlier, but free!  My top strengths there were curiosity, humor, leadership (which doesn't seem right), love, forgiveness, creativity, fairness, and love of learning.  Down at the bottom were perseverance, spirituality, and appreciation of beauty and excellence. Check it out here.

What are you? Do you "fit in" and "match" between the personality assessments, or are you like Matt, a personality mystery?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

PDFs, Facebook, and Excitement in problem solving (or, How to post a PDF to Facebook)

I'm supposed to be writing a mixture of library and personal blogs on this site, but I've been failing at this recently.  Oh well!  In some attempt to remedy my recent focus on personal happenings, I am considering creating some sort of blog posting schedule, like Hobby Quests on Tuesdays and book reviews on Fridays.  However, given my general lack of discipline and the sporadic nature of my blogging, this will presumably lead only to failure. And book reviews are out because this librarian hasn't finished a book since January.

Anyway.  I learned a neat trick recently and thought I'd share.

I run several Facebook pages, but the one I do the most work on is the one for the campus branch of the school I work for.  If you've run any sort of page, then you've certainly encountered this problem, but it's a problem for your personal profiles too:  You can't post PDFs to Facebook.

Usually, my solution is to take a screenshot, save the image as a jpg or png file, and post the image.  But if the pdf includes small print or detailed information, the screenshot method doesn't work very well because you can't read the information.  In other cases, you can't fit the whole pdf to your screen to even take a screenshot.

What to do, what to do.

After much pondering, Google searching, and chatting with tech-savvy librarian extrordinaire, Rebecca, I came to not one, but TWO possible solutions.

Method 1: Google Docs
Step 1:  Go ahead and take that screenshot of the PDF like you normally do.  You'll still need it.

Step 2:  Upload the PDF to your Google docs account (if you have Gmail, you have Google docs).  If you're lucky, you have a general one that you use for work like I do.  But if not, using your personal account is probably fine.

Step 3:  Under File, select Share:

The default is private.  To the right of "private" hit change, and select "Public on the web."  Note the amazing link you are given to share! Highlight and copy the link.

Step 4:  Go back to Facebook.  Upload the image, and then paste the link.  Viola!  It will look like this.  The screenshot is really just to add a visual element to the post; it is otherwise worthless because the text is too small (which was the problem to begin with, right?)

Method 2: Dropbox
(don't have Dropbox yet? Well. join through this link and give me and you some extra space!)

Repeat step 1, taking the screenshot.

Step 2: Upload the PDF to your Public Dropbox folder.

Step 3:  Right-click on the document, and select "copy public link"

Then use the image for the visual as in Method 1, and use the link!

Ta da!  A simple solution that only took me forever to figure out.  May all your future pdfs be forever post-able. 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Hobby Quest: Baking

We are now three weeks removed from geocaching and Matt is just now getting rid of his poison ivy.  So that's fun.

In the meantime, we've been doing some less nature focused hobbies that I haven't gotten around to blogging about.  First up, baking!

Baking isn't exactly a new hobby, but actually something we frequently do when we are bored and/or craving sugar.  We don't keep a lot of sweets in the house because neither of us have a lot of self-control.  If we make a batch of cookies, they tend to disappear in about 24 hours, leaving Matt and I feeling fat, sad, and depressed at our serious lack of discipline.  It's easier to just not have the stuff around.   

In a moment of weakness, we decided we NEEDED brownies.  Like that second.  So off to Kroger we went.  We cheated, as it was a week night, and bought brownie mix.  

Hobby grade:  B

- We both actually really like to cook and bake, and are both pretty decent at it.  One issue is that even after 2 years of marriage (and close to 5 years of being together) we are still working out how to function in the kitchen at the same time without fighting.  I think we have gotten to where baking isn't a problem because there is enough for each of us to do independently, thus lessening annoyance when the less buy person tries to micromanage.  I'm fairly certain we made these brownies without any bickering, but it's a risk we take every time we're both in the kitchen at the same time.  

- Much like basket weaving, baking leaves the hobby quester with an actual, tangible product at the end. hooray! Unfortunately, the product is one we much destroy/give away immediately before we succumb to its deliciousness.

- When we do resist the urge to eat all of the sweetness, the bonus of baking is taking the leftovers to work and being well thought of and extremely popular for a day.  Even if the baked goods aren't that good, taking them to work is a sure way to feel loved. 

- It depends what you are baking, but it's a pretty quick hobby for the most part.  Once it's in the oven you can move on to other things. 

- Licking batter.  mmmm.

- Major downside:  Dirty dishes.  This can leave you feeling sad about completing your hobby for days afterward, if like us you procrastinate on your dish-doing.  Sometimes, the dirty dishes outlast the baked treats.  Fail. 

- This will probably always be a hobby for us - probably for me more that Matt.  I find baking very therapeutic, and if I had unlimited funds available to me would totally drop what I'm doing and open a coffee shop/used bookstore/bakery (and hire people to do my dishes).   Alas, I do not have much of an entrepreneurial spirit, and do not have unlimited funds, so I will stick to baking things for co-workers and community bake sales. 

So baking is a win! But it only gets a B because we tend to feel bad about ourselves afterward.  No one wants their new, exciting hobby to come with guilt-ridden consequences and a pile of dishes, right? 

Matt with ingredients: 

Mixing!  The tomatoes were not part of the brownies

In de pan

 mmmm.... batter.

mmmm.... brownie, with ice cream.