Thursday, December 31, 2009


Today is New Year's Eve and the transitions - the process or period of changing from one condition to another, seem to be all around me today. 

There is the obvious transition from 2009 to 2010 - year and decade happening at midnight.  There is something hopeful about changing decades - another chunk of time to remember as we get older - Jack & Charlie moved from little boys to teenagers in the 00's and will be men by the time 2020 arrives - what fun those transitions will be - let's hope "fun" is the term I use then!

Seventeen years ago today, my father, Frank transitioned into the next life - seems like yesterday we were literally watching that passage take place.

My mother, Mary, retired today after 16+ years as the Town Clerk of Salem, NY. I'm sure it will feel strange not to see her in the office, but I also know there will be new and exciting opportunities for her going forward.

Work seems to be transitioning for me too - new projects and old clients resurfacing after a somewhat slow 2009 is a wonderful direction.

Tomorrow I will begin to think about resolutions for the year, but somehow today, it feels right to contemplate the transitions.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Snowy Travel Day

We are heading up to the land of no internet today.  We will enjoy the snowy lake, a little KilKenney work and a bunch of homework for the boys - I'll post again when we get back on Wednesday night or Thursday.

Friday, December 25, 2009

And To All A Good Night

Merry, Merry Christmas.  We are enjoying a lovely, snowy day filled with love, laughter and thoughtful gifts.  

I wish you all a wonderful Christmas Day.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

When in Doubt, Fake It

Well, it's actually happened to me - I swore It never would.  I have an artificial (fake) Christmas tree in my living room!  I am a die hard, real Christmas tree gal - I love the smell, the tradition, the history and the fun of a real Christmas tree.

So, you ask, how did I end up with a fake one?  Fate and frugality, I think.

Last weekend, we went to our local hardware store to buy a tree. I love supporting the small business - the people are great there and, by the way, the trees were reasonably priced.  So, being the bargain shopper I am, I picked the largest, fullest tree in the lot - Bill, of course having that eye, said let's cut a big piece of the bottom as I think it's too tall.

So we took our freshly trimmed tree off the lot and into our living room - OK - it was big, really big.  At this point, I'm feeling like it's a coup.  We (and by we, I mean the boys) put it in the stand and we decorated the heck out of it.  Now, I don't usually like to kibbitz, but I did say at one point - does it look like it's leaning? No, they thought it would be OK.  Sure enough, the next day I come home and it's on the floor - ornaments everywhere needles galore. 

But I'm stubborn, so we (the boys) put it back up - it looked great, shored up with a few extra twists of the screws and we're good to go.

So, I go out of town for work, and get the uh oh call from Bill - at this point, I'm all in favor of putting it on the curb - which they did - needles and all.

And, enter stage left the fake tree - borrowed from my in-laws and sweetly put up and decorated before I got home - thank you one and all - a gesture I truly appreciate.

Of course - I'll be right back to real next year, but maybe I'll remember my father's sage "you get what you pay for" advice and cough up a few more dollars for a better tree.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

New is Good - Right?

I have a new project beginning tomorrow.  I welcome new work and new clients and as I've mentioned before, I really enjoy the work I do - HR Consulting and Coaching.

I am realizing, though, that whenever I have new work, I get a little nervous. It's easy to be worried about the unknown, I think, but I wonder if at some point the nervousness goes away and one just launches into the bold new world without thinking.

I'm thrilled with the opportunity, and confident in the work that I do, but the new still puts that little queasy feeling in my stomach. I would tell my clients that the feeling is normal and not to be afraid to "pursue the new" - so we'll see how good I am at taking my own advice! 

I also think the nervousness is probably OK because I know it helps me to prepare well and my experience tells me that when I get started, it will likely be fine. 

I'll post an update on Wednesday when I get back into town, but in the meantime, it feels better just to write it down and think through it.

Friday, December 18, 2009

A Little Irish Comfort

I've gotten a few requests for the Shepherd's Pie recipe that I've served for a few occasions over the last couple of months, so I thought this would be a great place to post it.  

Shepherd's Pie is an old Irish recipe that is traditionally made with ground lamb, but I usually make mine with ground beef because it's easier to find, less expensive, and I realize that many people don't like lamb.  It's a great dish to make for your family, true comfort food, and wonderful to take to a potluck or to anyone you are making a meal for.

I've kind of made this dish up along the way, so if you have any questions, feel free to post them or send me an email:

KilKenney Shepherd's Pie:
Serves 4 - 6 (easily doubled)

1 Large Onion - chopped
2 Cloves Garlic - minced
1 lb Lean Ground Beef
1 bag frozen mixed vegetables
1 C beef broth - or more as needed
1/2 bottle Guinness Beer - optional
1/4 C flour (regular or a gluten free flour mix)
1 Tsp dried Oregano
1 Tsp dried Rosemary, crushed
Salt & Pepper
4 russet potatoes
1/2 cup milk
2 Tbsp butter (or more to taste)
1/2 C shredded parmesan cheese

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F
2.  In a large saute pan over medium-high heat, heat the oil, then add the onion.  Saute for a few minutes until soft.
3.  Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute
4.  Add the ground beef and cook until browned, 8 - 10 minutes.
5.  Add the flour and cook until "raw" flour taste is out of the pan
6.  Deglaze the pan with the Guinness or beef broth - start with 1/2 cup at a time and stir until the sauce has a gravy like consistency. (if you want to skip this step, you can add a jar of prepared gravy instead)
7.  Add the oregano & rosemary
8.  Add the mixed vegetables
10. Cook until flavors have melded - 10 minutes or so. - add salt & pepper to taste
11. Place meat mixture in a 1 1/2 quart baking dish
12. Meanwhile, bring the potatoes to boil in salted water, cook until tender, about 20 minutes
13. Mash the potatoes with a hot milk/butter mixture add salt
14. Cover with mashed potato mixture
15. Shred cheese over the top
16. Bake until golden - 30 to 35 minute

This is great the second day, so go ahead and make it ahead for a family dinner or party.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Collective Wisdom - Teen Time

OK - here's the next collective wisdom request - Teens and time.  I have two boys, one teen, one almost teen and it seems that we are always arguing about time - particularly "family time"  I am thrilled to have boys who enjoy friends and have, shall we say, an active social life.  In some ways, I'm envious because I've always been an introvert and socializing can be tough for me sometimes.

Having said that - I think there is a balance somewhere between social activities and family time.  We get into it sometimes when we are trying to go to the cabin or other travel.  We often have them bring friends which we all enjoy, but sometimes I would just like us to go as a family.  

The struggle seems to be that perceived fairness - when do I hold my ground and just say no to the activities and when do I give in and change the plans.  I know it may sound easy to just insist, but, perhaps because I'm an introvert at heart and may be too prone to some quiet time, I think I should be more flexible occasionally.

So - how do (or did) you manage it with your teenagers?  Have you found a balance or system that seems to work well?  

Again, all opinions and advice are welcome here - feel free to share.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Small Win

OK - I won't bore you with the details, but all I can say is the score is KilKenney Family - 1, Mouse - 0 as of today.  It feels like a small win.  We'll keep at it and hopefully go into 2010 mouse free!

Also - tomorrow is the next collective wisdom question - so get your keypads ready, it should be lively.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

EEK - I've Come Undone

There are very few things that completely throw me.  I like to think of myself as fairly unflappable, but this morning I saw a mouse run under my stove.  I swore, jumped and screamed, not necessarily in that order.

I hate rodents in general, but I particularly hate mice and I completely hate the idea that there is one in my house.  - I know, there are probably more than one, but I am going to continue to rationalize that one brave, lonely mouse made it's way into my house by mistake on his way to a field somewhere.

I rushed to the hardware store to buy traps and anything else that might make it go away.  The dog, is no help - in fact she is afraid of anything that moves.  

I, of course, googled "getting rid of a mouse" and found about a million websites that talk about sealing up any small entrances to the house - that doesn't help me much now does it?  They also talked about cleaning the house which I took personal offense to because my house is clean - not obsessively clean, but certainly keep critters out clean.

As you can probably tell from reading this, I may be overreacting, but this has almost taken me down.  Who knows - maybe I had a run in with a rodent in another life.

I will defeat this mouse though - I refuse to let it take over my life.  The men in my house and I will be strong in our pursuit of the mouse and humanely put it out of my house - and all of our misery.

Any mouse hunting ideas are welcome, and I'll keep you all posted on the progress.

Friday, December 11, 2009

It's a Toss Up

An update on the grey hair question.  So far from the comments I've gotten on the blog and many emails & conversations, the opinions are pretty evenly split.

Those in favor of going grey confirm the ease of it all and suggest that I may be able to pull it off with my complexion (honestly the biggest worry for me as my natural color can only be described as pale)

Those against caution against looking prematurely older than I am, and that makes sense to me too.  Frankly, one of my biggest concerns is the "going grey" from my current color.

I have a few months before I have to make a decision - in keeping with the timing of this journey.  I'll continue to observe women in all stages of grey, particularly women with complexions similar to mine and I'll let you know.

I may go back and forth a few times as I decide - a woman's prerogative right? I will, however,keep you posted on my progress.

Feel free to weigh in along the way.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A little Wednesday Obsession

OK, true confessions time here.  I love the series Top Chef.  As I've mentioned a few times, I love to cook and I think in another life, I will go to cooking school and be a real chef.  For this life, however, I'm content being an amateur, and living vicariously through the chefs in this silly "reality" show.

In approximately 14 minutes, the final show of this season will be on and there are three chefs left - Kevin (my personal favorite) and the brothers - Bryan and Michael.  One brother is cool and one is kind of a tool (nice rhyme huh?), but all three are talented chefs.

I have actually drafted my entire family into my little Wednesday obsession and our world kind of stops for an hour a week - and it doubles as family time.

I hope Kevin wins - I like his style and his food, but sadly, my favorites don't usually win, so we'll see how it goes.  I am now hearing Jack and Charlie chanting "go Kevin" so it must be time to go get my tea and my place on the coach - I'll let you know how it goes tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A Cardinal in Snow

I am sitting in my office enjoying the first real snow of the winter here in Minnesota.  I can see a pair of cardinals in the backyard.  They look so beautiful in the snow - red and regal.  

Somehow the Cardinals seem like hope for the cold winter.  We have two or three pair that spend the winter here and they always brighten my day.  I love to point them out to my kids - and they always say - we know mom, a cardinal - big deal.  But I never get tired of seeing them.

They also remind me of my dad, who loved to bird watch.  So when I see them, talk to them or acknowledge them to anyone who'll listen, I remember having those conversations with Frank.

Enjoy the snow and be sure to say hi to the cardinals in your backyard.

Monday, December 7, 2009

50 already - Wow

I just noticed that yesterday I reached 50 posts on this blog.  I'm pleased, and frankly a little amazed, that I've written that much. Maybe I'm more sensitive to the number 50, but it seems like a measure of stick-to-it ivness (truly not a word) and I feel good about it.

I am enjoying writing the blog and even though I occasionally think I don't have anything else to say - I seem to come up with an idea or two.

I love that people are reading and following along.  The support and ideas you share are encouraging me along this journey.

In early January, I plan to post an update on all those goals I listed early on (that reminds me, I'd better take another look at them this week!).  I reserve the right to edit them, but I think it will keep me honest along the path.

On to bigger thoughts tomorrow, now that I'm on my way to the 100th post.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Gobble, Gobble

Last night we hosted the 26th (I think) annual Turkey Trot dinner party at our house.  It's a party Bill and some of his friends from college days and before started and it's evolved over the years.  The theme of good friends, great food and a rousing white elephant gift exchange has remained the same however.

I love to cook, so I truly enjoyed planning and cooking the meal - topped off by a wonderful, if I do say so myself, cappuccino creme brulee.  (I'm happy to share the recipe with anyone who's interested - it's easy and a great make ahead dessert)

Every year it's a fabulous group of people some of whom know each other well and some who are meeting for the first time.  I always marvel at the voices and laughter from the kitchen and I think how lucky we are to have such terrific friends.  

This year it happened to be in December, rather than November, and I think it's the perfect kick off to the holiday season - maybe that will become part of the tradition in the years to come!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Boca Chica - Yum

One of my favorite spots in the Twin Cities is Boca Chica - a wonderful mexican restaurant on the East side of St.  Paul.  Lucky for me, Jack had a Spanish project he had to complete last night.  He had to go to a place he could speak only Spanish for a meal or event.  Being the smart kid that he is, he figured he could get a great mexican meal out of the deal - and we did.

Bill, Jack, Charlie and I went to Boca Chica and enjoyed a wonderful meal and terrific waitress who was happy to help Jack with his project.  Who knew the Sophomore knew so much Spanish?

I love that I live in a city with such rich cultural heritage - the East side of St. Paul has a great hispanic culture.  I also love and frequent El Burrito Mercado, an excellent mexican grocery store.  

I do love food, sometimes a little too much as we've discussed, and in this journey of my 50th year, I'm trying to embrace the idea of appreciating great food, in all its forms and truly enjoying it in moderation.  So far, so good.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Collective Wisdom - to Grey or not to Grey?

OK - here goes with the requests for opinions & help.  

One of the things I've been toying with as I approach the big 5 0 is whether I want to let my hair go to it's natural grey.  I have been having it colored (expertly, I might add by my friend Joanie) for a long time, but I think I might be ready to let it all hang out, so to speak, as a 50th birthday resolution.

I know it's all grey underneath the brunette now - I come from a long line of lovely, Irish grey-haired women, but I'm not sure I'm ready to take the plunge -

Any thoughts, experiences etc.. are welcome - no holds barred here!

PS - if you'd like to comment, the easiest way is to open a Google account - free, easy and no spam involved - just go to click on login at the upper right corner and follow the directions to open an account.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Get Ready - Here it Comes

OK - now I need your help.  I am going to start a category tomorrow entitled "Collective Wisdom"  I plan on asking a question twice a month or so, that I'd love to get your thoughts and/or advice for.

I hope this will become a place we can share our wisdom and ideas about a variety of almost 50 issues.

So, I hope you'll comment - if you have questions on how to do it, just send me an email.

Now - I just have to narrow down all those questions running around in my head.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

An Old Friend

We had a wonderful, relaxing weekend at the cabin after Thanksgiving.  I spent about 4 hours on Saturday reading the newest Spenser novel - The Professional, by Robert Parker.  I realized that I have been reading the Spenser novels since 1973 when I read the Godwolf Manuscript.

My parents owned a bookstore when I was young, and I remember racing my father to the new Spenser novels as soon as they came into the store.  It feels like finding an old friend when I read these books.  

They are not great literature, and are certainly fast reads, but they bring back great memories of that bookstore - The Village Bookshop in Rye, NY and all those days of hard work and great books.  I will continue to read them as soon as they come out and enjoy going back in time for a few hours.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Fall Travel Weekend

We are heading to beautiful Spider lake today where we have no have no wireless internet, cell phone or TV service. - A wonderful rest.  I'll post on Sunday night.

Have a lovely weekend.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Today, I am especially thankful for the many ways my life is blessed.  Family near and far, great friends, gainful employment and a warm, safe place to live.  I will strive to remember those blessings every day.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The "Joy" of Thanksgiving Dinner

I love to cook and tomorrow (Thanksgiving) is the like the world series for cooks.  Of course, the menu is pretty fixed, but I can still put my personal spin on the classic dishes - like greek yogurt in the mashed potatoes and grapefruit and pomegranates in the salad.

I never, however, can remember how long to cook the turkey.  Somehow, I overcook it or find that's it raw when I go to carve it - a little embarrassing in front of the in-laws!

This is where the old favorite - The Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer comes in.  My mother gave me a copy of the Joy of Cooking that looks like the one in the picture years ago.  It's not a first edition, but it's pretty close and it has become the go to resource for all those basic cooking questions like how long do you cook the turkey.

The Joy of Cooking is a great resource for anyone.  I give it to people who love to cook and people who never cook unless they have to. 

I have a little obsession with cookbooks and have way too many on my shelves, but if I had to give up all but one, this would be the one I'd keep.  Now, don't get me wrong, I wouldn't give up my library of cookbooks lightly, but I'm more relaxed as a cook knowing I have the Joy of Cooking ready and able to answer my last minute questions, that somehow I think I should know.

The answer for turkey, by the way is: at a 325 oven, for an unstuffed turkey, you want to look at 10 - 12 minutes a pound, but the real key is testing with a thermometer - 175 to 180 degrees at the thickest part of the thigh.

Happy Cooking!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Theater & A Deal

I feel blessed to live in a city (or cities as we say here) that has such wonderful arts.  We are lucky enough to have the new Guthrie theater in downtown Minneapolis as well as many other wonderful theaters around town.

I got an email last week advertising half-price tickets to the Guthrie's new show - The Faith Healer for a few nights this week, so Bill and I are going to go tonight.  and I love that the theater in the twin cities is not only outstanding, but typically affordable too. Of course the current economy has impacted people's ability to take advantage of the theater, but I am happy when I see the theaters making it more accessible.

So, I'll let you know how we like the show and I encourage you to search out a deal on something you love to do over this holiday season.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Let's Talk Turkey

Well, here we are at the beginning of all those holiday meals, temptations and treats. I think I've heard that as  American's we gain something like 5 pounds, on average, during the holiday season.  I know I've been guilty of overindulging and I'd like to change that pattern this year.

I will stay with Weight Watchers, which I know will help, but I am also going to try a few things this season aimed specifically at monitoring myself over these next 6 weeks:

I am going to read the book The End of Overeating, by Dr. David Kessler (thank you Joan for the recommendation).

I am going to cook and bring healthy versions of the holiday food I'm in charge of.  I won't go crazy, but I will err on the side of fresh food and good choices.

I will stop and smell the roses as well as the pie.  I want to be sure to enjoy the friends and family as much as the food.

I will try to exercise consistently along the way - again, I know I won't get there everyday, but I do have time to do my regular classes.

And..I will give myself a break - I think if I just relax a bit about the whole thing, it will be fine.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Tide me Over

I said somewhere along the line that Sunday was going to be my contemplative day.  We do go to often go to church on Sunday.  We belong to a church that we love - St. Joan of Arc in Minneapolis.  I find being a part of that community feeds my soul in many ways.  

I realized today, though, that one of the ways I spend time in thought or contemplation is when I'm doing laundry.  I actually like doing laundry - not in a weird Betty Crocker, my house has to be perfect all the time way (anyone who knows me can attest to that) but in a doing laundry helps me think kind of way. I enjoy the routine of separating, washing, drying and especially folding.  

I know that when I feel overwhelmed by the number of things in my brain, or how much I need to do for work, or how many tasks I need to get finished, I can do a couple of loads of laundry and feel like I've accomplished something.  It, of course, has the added benefit of my kids being able to have clean clothes for school, but there is something about doing work with my hands while I'm trying to figure out a problem or work through an idea that helps.  

OK - I might be a little on the wacky side for this one, but I think I'll keep at it until I can figure out a better way to contemplate.  

Friday, November 20, 2009


I love Fridays.  I'm not sure why, but I've always loved Fridays. When I was in school, it was freedom for at least part of the weekend.  As an adult, it's looking forward to an quieter schedule for a couple of days (usually)

I think though, my favorite thing about Fridays is how much the kids enjoy it.  It's a reprieve from homework for at least one night, they bring their friends over and seem like "just kids" for a while.

In our crazy, busy world, it's nice to be able to enjoy each other and relax a bit before the weekend events kick in.

I know that we will sometimes have stuff on Friday nights, but for today - I'm just enjoying it.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Take Care

I've been interested to see the new recommendations on mammograms in the news this week.  I'm not sure I agree with them (based on my vast medical experience, of course).  But I do see them as a reminder that we, women of a certain age, need to take charge of our health.  

I know the new mammogram guidelines are aimed at younger women, but it brought up for me the number of conversations I've had over the years with friends, and myself sometimes, about how busy we are, how we have too much going on to schedule that mammogram or other preventative health measure.  It almost seems like a badge of honor not to pursue the care.  Somehow we are too tough, or practical or we don't want to seem whiny.

As women, or maybe just in my case, I think we are more focused on our kids, partner or other family member getting the preventive healthcare they need and it's easy to procrastinate ours.  Somehow it's more fun to talk about doing it than actually doing it.

I think it's time to take action - just schedule the mammogram, blood test or whatever we need to take care of ourselves and know that in taking care of ourselves, we are taking care of those we love.

I know it can be easier said than done, but I'm hoping it makes sense - Any thoughts or ideas on what's worked for you?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

My Favorite Things - Greek Yogurt

I love greek yogurt.  It is truly one of my favorite things and I eat it almost everyday.  I discovered greek yogurt a few years ago when I was making tzatziki sauce (a greek speciality made with yogurt, cucumber & garlic). I found the yogurt rich, creamy and incredibly tasty - even without sugar or added flavors.

Since then, I've incorporated it into my daily, dairy needs.  I love it plain, with granola or with fruit.  I add it to mashed potatoes, salad dressings and sauces that call for sour cream or regular yogurt.  I have also found some flavored small greek yogurts, that I enjoy as a snack.  One of the amazing advantages of this yogurt, is that is has a ton of protein.  A 5 ounce serving has upwards of 10 grams of protein, so if you are trying to eat more protein, or balance your carbs with protein, this is a great way to do it.

My favorite greek yogurt is from Trader Joe's.  They have full fat, 2% (my pick) and non-fat.  Their price is also the best from what I've seen.  I also like the Fage brand and the Oikos brand.  They can be pricier, but worth the splurge in my opinion.

As the old commerical used to say "try it you'll like it"

Monday, November 16, 2009

I Love a Class

I spent the weekend in Chicago taking a class on the Enneagram at Loyola University.  I thoroughly enjoyed the whole weekend.

I got to spend time with Sarah which is always great as we don't get to see each other very often.

I also really enjoyed the class.  The Enneagram is a personality type assessment tool that I use in my coaching practice.  I think it's an incredibly useful tool. I have found it helpful both personally and with clients to build self-insight, and therefore better relationships at work and and home.  The class this weekend was focused on using the Enneagram in dealing with conflict, again, I think useful for everyone.

I also realized this weekend, that partially , I just enjoy taking the class (which if you are familiar with the Enneagram, fits nicely with my type - 5).  I like to continually learn about a variety of topics, I enjoy being away from my office and focused on something I want to know more about.

So, I'll continue to look for occasional classes to boost my knowledge, and I would love to chat more about the Enneagram with anyone who's interested.

Friday, November 13, 2009

My Kind of Town

I'm off to Chicago today for a workshop on the Enneagram (a personality type assessment tool I use in my practice) at Loyola University on Saturday & Sunday.  I will stay with my sister, Sarah, which will be great.

I'm looking forward to the weekend, and will post about my trip when I get back on Sunday night if I don't get a chance over the weekend.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Making my Point

I almost can't believe I'm saying this out loud, but I joined Weight Watchers again last night.  Now, I'm an experienced Weight Watcher - I can count points in my sleep.  I think the problem has been that I should have counted more and eaten less - but today is a new day - right?

I re-joined because it has worked for me in the past, and I hope if I focus, it can work for me again.  I also went back because I finally found a great group.  The Wednesday night Weight Watchers group at the Midtown YWCA in Minneapolis is an eclectic, supportive, successful group that I enjoy being a part of.  The leader, Diane, is funny and real - not one of those annoying, super skinny, leaders who make me want to run screaming in another direction.

I also know that I have gone down this road before, with less than sustained success, so I'm hoping that by writing it down and bearing my soul a bit here, I might be motivated to continue.  I will keep a realistic attitude and try to be kind to myself in the process.  I also promise not to bore you with the details, but will update periodically on my progress.

Any other Weight Watchers out there with experiences, tips or ideas to share - feel free to weigh in!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Coming to Fruition

It's sometimes amazing how things happen.  A week or so ago, I wrote about wanting to get clarity and action around volunteering this year.  That same week in the bulletin at St. Joan of Arc, was an ad for a member of the commissary team for their new initiative Mobile Loaves & Fishes.  

I jumped at the opportunity.  MLF is a non-profit organization based in Austin, TX with the mission to serve the homeless and working poor in the community.  St. Joan will introduce the ministry in Minnesota with a truck that will arrive from Austin next week.

My role will be to work with another volunteer managing the kitchen and food service portion of the truck.  It fits perfectly with my passion around homelessness and affordable housing and, of course, my love for food.  The truck will provide meals and/or dry goods for people in Minneapolis neighborhoods - more on the logistics as we get closer to launch.

I'm thrilled to be in on the beginning of this ministry, and look forward to updating you on the progress as we go forward. Please feel free to share any experiences or ideas if you have done this kind of work - we are open to suggestion!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

My Favorite Things - A Truly Lovely Day

I hit the jackpot today, and enjoyed a day full of my favorite things.  

First, I drove to Red Wing, MN - a small river city about an hour Southeast of St. Paul.  I love to drive, especially when I'm by myself and have time to think.  About 15 minutes out of the city, the landscape begins to sprawl - lovely fall cornfields and beautiful farms all the way to Red Wing - a great opportunity to center.

Next, I had the pleasure of teaching a workshop on performance management to a group of non-profit leaders and staff.  I love to share knowledge these wise, passionate people focused on making our world a better place.

Finally, I had dinner with my family and some good friends, Jim & Mary McHugh, who are moving to Denver later this week.  We had a terrific, gluten free, meal at the Chianti Grill in Roseville.  It was fun for all of us to catch up before Jim and Mary head off to Colorado.

I know tomorrow will be a busy day less likely to be filled with my favorite things, so I'm glad to take a minute to appreciate today.

Monday, November 9, 2009

I'm Open for Suggestion - Teenage Boys

This is another on-going category for this blog - I hope to get some thoughts and ideas on a number of topics on this journey to 50.  I welcome opinions and promise to, indeed, be open to suggestion when I ask, and even when I don't.

Certainly an everyday role for me in this journey, at least for 9 more years, is that of a mother to teenage boys.  I love being a mother, and like many of you, truly enjoy both of my sons with the occasional exception.  I don't pretend to understand how the teenage mind works here in the 21st Century, and I certainly have some questions as I go along - so here goes.

The most recent quandary has to do with my older son, Jack.  Jack is 15 and a sophomore in high school.  He is a great kid.  He has Bill's social skills and my sense of humor and lots of his own unique qualities.  

What he has not seemed to inherit or pick up along the way, are good study skills.  He is a pretty good student, but he's less than motivated to do anything beyond the daily homework (which is plenty) and therefore, isn't very prepared for tests and we all know where that goes.

So Bill and I are talking to him (I'm sure it seems endless and tedious to him), yelling at him, sometimes, and probably missing something fundamental about how we can really help him.  Jack has talked to his teachers and we will go to meet with teachers/administrators in school to discuss it there too.

I am not a helicopter parent, and I don't want to become one, but I do want to figure out how to help him help himself.  Maybe I'm too competitive, and I should just leave him alone (truly not in my nature) or maybe there is another way to approach it that would be more effective. I'm not expecting high school to be without angst, but I'd love to get to a truce on this issue if we can.

I know I'm opening myself up here, but if you have experience with this or suggestions of how else to approach it - I'd love to hear them.  I'm all in favor of collective wisdom.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Gorgeous Travel Day

We are heading to the cabin today so I'll try to post tomorrow night.  I hope to have pictures as we are going to see if we can get the boys Christmas picture done tomorrow - it is a beautiful weekend here in MN/WI

Friday, November 6, 2009

Create some Creativity

One, last, (I think) goal for this year is to focus a bit on my creative side.  I don't think of myself as very creative - I know we all probably have some artistic part of ourselves, but mine is not very strong.

I am the queen of practicality (perhaps more on this in a later post).  I get stuff done, I am the voice of reason and real life solutions. Even my writing has a pretty practical bent.  Now I'm not dissing those qualities - Everyone can appreciate a good reasonable point of view and I'm great in a crisis. I also know that my sensible side can cause me to be a little one dimensional sometimes.  So this seems like the right year explore my creative side.

I have two quasi-creative outlets.  I can cook and I can sing.  I really enjoy cooking, but like most of us, the majority of my cooking is done for the weeknight get the dinner on the table kind of meals.  I need to branch out and experiment a little so, I'd like to practice soups this winter. I'm going to try to make one new soup or stew a week - so please send me your great soup recipes.

Last night, I re-joined the St. Joan of Arc choir.  This is the perfect outlet for me.  I love to sing, but I'm not crazy about singing by myself, except in the shower.  The SJA choir sings wonderful music, and we get to sing with some really accomplished artists throughout the year, so that is even more fun.

So - that's the creative vibe today.  Please feel free to let me know how you have discovered your creative side.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

My Favorite Things - Stormsister Spatique

OK, it's time for another installment of my favorite things.  This time I wanted to give a shout out to one of my new favorite places - Stormsister Spatique - a wonderful boutique of skincare, haircare and many other fun products.

I admit to having a little obsession with skincare products.  I have really dry skin, and have gone through my share of Clinque, Estee Lauder, Keihls, Mary Kay etc... products trying to find one that works for my skin and doesn't give me a rash. I'm fairly easily taken in by a new cream or potion, and end up with many thrown away.

Well, luckily for me (and my wallet), that all changed when I walked into the Stormsister Spatique a year or so ago, while I was waiting for my breakfast at the Capital View Cafe on St. Paul's West Side (I think, I always get the West Side and West St. Paul mixed up, so forgive me if I have it wrong)

Becky Sturm, the owner of Stormsister graciously helped me find (and take home samples of!) a skin care line that has worked wonderfully for my dry skin.  I was impressed with her knowledge and pleased that she took the time to figure out what I needed - a simple, straightforward skin care regime that didn't cost a fortune or have so many steps I couldn't remember them.

I love to support small businesses and it makes me happy to see good owners doing well.  So, I pass this along as one of my favorite things, and as always, I'd love to hear what your favorites are.  

Let's share our secret "finds."

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

You Learn Something New Every Day - IPhoto

This may sound crazy in the 21st Century, but today I learned how to post and email pictures on IPhoto from my real camera. So, for example, here is Charlie in his groovy Halloween costume on Saturday.  

I know, I know - I can hear my kids saying it now - Mom EVERYONE already knows how to do this, but I am thrilled to figure it out. You will, no doubt, get sick of the pictures I'll be posting throughout the year.  I also love that I can now post and email the really good pictures Bill and Jack take, rather than only the average pictures I take with my phone.

I have to say that IPhoto & my Mac make it incredibly easy to do this and although I should have done this years ago, I'm glad I learned this today. I look forward to learning more. Any cool things on IPhoto I should know about?

What have you learned today?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

One a Day - A Vitamin for Work

I think I Mentioned a week or so ago, that one of the goals for this journey is to continue to build and develop my business; particularly consulting with non profits and teaching.

My field is Human Resources and I've been out on my own for a few years now.  I have great clients, an although I love doing the work, I know I am not as comfortable marketing myself and generating new work.

So I had a simple idea I'm going to try.  I am going to do one thing every day that is focused on building my business.  I will keep track of those things and, if I can, connect them to new clients, business and/or directions throughout the year.

I know is sounds simple, but I tend to be successful generating ideas to pursue, and less successful actually pursuing them.  This seems manageable and like this blog, doing it daily will keep me accountable.

I would love to hear other ideas about how people have successfully built and developed their small businesses or practices - I am always open to suggestion.

Monday, November 2, 2009

A Day to Remember

Today is All Souls Day.  I wasn't really sure what All Souls Day was, except a day to remember the dead.  So, of course I Googled it. I was right, All Souls Day is, in fact, a day of remembrance for friends and loved ones who have died. (There was a bunch of stuff in there about purgatory too, but I'm pretty sure I don't have to be concerned about that.)  

Like all of us on this journey through middle age, many wonderful people who have touched my life have passed away over the years. I remember all of them, but there are two people in particular I'd like to write about today.

My father, Frank Edmonston Kilpatrick, died on December 31, 1992 from complications of Alzheimer's disease.  He was 68 years old. Dad was a smart, funny, kind man who I miss more and more as my kids get older.  I know he would have loved getting to know them.  I can see little bits of him in both Jack & Charlie - in athletics, quick sense of humor and love of airplanes.

My brother, Andrew Edmonston Kilpatrick, died unexpectedly, on December 9, 1992.  He was 36 years old.  As I mentioned in my first post, Andy struggled with the demons of addiction for most of his short life.  I have a better understanding, as I get older, of how difficult that must have been for him.  I will always remember his sharp wit and sense of fun, and I also see some of him in my boys - particularly his competitive game playing. (Let's just say that Jeopardy should just never be played by anyone with Kilpatrick blood)

So as I said, I remember both of them every day, but it's nice to remember them a bit more today.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

A Candy Miracle

I just realized this morning, that I made it through yesterday without eating one piece of candy.  Now this is something of a miracle for me.  I think it may be the first Halloween since I could eat solid food, that I have done that.

I know this sounds crazy, but in the past Halloween has been something of a free for all day for me.  One fun size snickers (whose idea of fun is that by the way?) leads to two butterfingers, which leads to a oh well, the day is lost anyway attitude which leads to many trips through the boys halloween bags. I usually end up with a total sugar buzz and generally icky feeling about myself.

I'm not promising that I will never eat another piece of candy.  In fact, I'm trying to embrace the idea of all things in moderation, but I feel good about not going down the candy garden path yesterday. 

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween

I love Halloween - what's not to love?  Beautiful fall weather (this year at least), kids in costumes and candy - what's better than that?  

I do, however, have a little problem with Halloween candy in the house.  So this year, I decided to give out microwave popcorn instead of candy in an effort to reduce the amount of candy around.  Jack is too old to Trick or Treat, so I'm down to one bag of candy showing up and, much of it will go to the food shelf in a week or two - don't tell Charlie.

I'm proud of myself this year because we actually have pumpkins to carve and Charlie has his costume all set - I am usually the mother who is looking through the closets this afternoon for something to make a costume out of.  Maybe I'm getting more organized in my 50th year?

I look forward to seeing the costumes and enjoying the kids in the neighborhood tonight - I wish you all a Happy Halloween too.

Friday, October 30, 2009

I take it all back

Ok - all that pontificating about kettlebell yesterday - It's killing me today - I am sore from head to toe, my quads are on fire and it hurts to do almost anything. 

I purposely chose the high chairs at Cafe Latte (one of my favorite St. Paul restaurants) at lunch with my friends today so I wouldn't have to sit all the way down.  I may have to eat dinner standing up.

Now to be fair, Dawn (maybe feared leader is a better label) said we might be sore today - I don't think I realized how much and of course, she said it at the end of the class.

So my advice is if you are working out regularly - DO NOT STOP!!  It may not be worth the pain to begin again.  I will stick it out and hope to do a cycling class tomorrow (that is if I can climb on the bike).  I truly hope by next week's Kettlebell class, I can still lift that thing.

Stay tuned - I'll let you know.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

One in a Row

OK, I'm back in the saddle - the exercise saddle that is. After I did the triathlon in August, I thought I'd take a week off - after all I deserved it after that huge accomplishment right? Well, maybe you know how that goes, a week turned into two, which somehow turned into 8. I guess there was something to that freshman science class - isn't inertia that says something (or apparently someone) at rest tends to stay at rest?

I decided today was the day to get back on the horse, so to speak. I signed up for a Kettlebell class at the YWCA and went tonight.

It was a great class. A kettlebell is sort of like a cannonball with a handle. Dawn, our fearless leader, took us through a variety of exercises and it was clear that the kettlebell class will be both a good cardio & strength workout - I wasn't even the oldest person in the class - not too shabby.

It feels good to get started again, and although I promise not to bore you with endless detail of my exercise routine, I will let you know about my progress.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

My Favorite Things - New Kitchen Gadget

This may fall into the category of "I'm easily entertained" as well, but I found a fabulous new kitchen gadget in a little store in Sausilito last weekend. I'm guessing it would also be easy to find in a kitchen store or online as well.

It's called the "Tirra" milk frother or mousseur a lait (It always sounds better in French doesn't it)? and I have to say it's best $12.95 I've spent in years. 

The small, light battery operated frother is made by Trudeau and comes in a triangular box that weighs only a few ounces and, fortunately, doesn't seem to pose a threat going through security in the airport.  
The Tirra makes warm milk froth up wonderfully nice and light for a perfect cappuccino or latte in my own little kitchen.  

A few years ago, I purchased a Bialetti, old fashioned, on the stove, espresso maker a and love it but I could never get the milk to taste right without a steamer.  With this little frother, though, the drink tastes just as good as the $4.00 drinks at Starbucks.

For those of you who know me well, this is truly a breakthrough.  I am guilty of spending way too much money at coffee stores around town to feed my caffeine habit.  Now, I don't want to get crazy, and say I'll never go to the coffee store, but I do think it will be fun to track how much money I save over the course of the year with my new gadget.  I'll let you know next year and will plan to donate those savings to the food shelf.

I'd love to know what your favorite kitchen gadgets are.  Any new finds or fun items you'd like to share?  As always, please feel free to let me know.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

In Her Service

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I'd like to pursue a few goals as I go through this journey.  I've read here and there that if we write down our goals, we are more likely to achieve them. I think I'm adding to that, by writing them down for all to see.  I'll keep tabs on how I'm doing in this blog as I work toward the goals and I'll update my progress periodically, as well as ask for advice along the way.

This goal is about service.  I want to find and actively participate in a great volunteer activity - I'd actually like find or create an opportunity I feel passionate about and commit my time, talent and treasure.

I have always had a passion for issues around homelessness and affordable housing.  Simply put; I think every person deserves a warm, dry, safe place to call home. Many too many people in our own back yards don't have that luxury.  I have volunteered in many shelters, food kitchens etc.. , but I can't honestly say that I have put in the time or energy I know I'm capable of to try to make even a small difference.

So, this is the year.  I will spend time actively looking for that opportunity. It may be more than one; I'd like to do some hands on work as well as either some legislative or strategic work in the area of homelessness and/or affordable housing.  Ideally, I'll be well into the project by the time this blog ends.

I think it is always easy to have good intentions, but they have not consistently turned into action for me.  I believe it's time to make the time.

I'd love any thoughts or suggestions along the way - I know some people who work in this arena in the Twin Cities, but I'm always open to more.

Monday, October 26, 2009

San Francisco Treat

We had a fabulous weekend in San Francisco. It was fun to get away just the two of us.

We enjoyed an incredible dinner on Saturday night at Chou Chou restaurant with our friends Tom & Mary Alice. Nick, the chef, knows Tom & Mary Alice well, so we were treated to an amazing evening with many kisses on the cheek - very French!

We loved the evening, the food was spectacular, and catching up with old friends, even better.

On Sunday, we exercised our midwestern right to be tourists in San Francisco. We took a cable car ride and ate breakfast at one of San Francisco's oldest places - Sears Fine Food, in Union Square. We then hit Ghiradelli Square for a few chocolate treats to bring home.

Bill and I both remarked on what friendly service we had all over the city; from our "local" Starbucks we visited each morning to the bike rental salesperson, to the waiters at the restaurants - a truly wonderful trip.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

In The Airport

I'm in the San Francisco Airport on my way home.  It's been a wonderful trip.  I'll blog more about it tomorrow and post some new pictures.

I am always happy to get home - especially to see Jack & Charlie

I'll try to use the rest of today in contemplation (it's Sunday, after all). I plan to have another goal or two and some additional categories before October is through.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Beautiful San Francisco

We are having a wonderful time in San Francisco.  We ate at a fabulous french restaurant called Cafe Claude last night - great food, excellent service and smooth jazz. 

Today we rented bikes and rode across the Golden Gate bridge to Sausalito.  The weather couldn't have been nicer and it was a great way to see the city and spend the day.

Tonight we are joining our friends Tom and Mary Alice for dinner.  I am looking forward to catching up as I haven't seen them in years.

I'll try to post again tomorrow from the airport on my way back to chilly MN.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Another Rainy Travel Day

I'm am off to San Francisco for the weekend with Bill.  I love San Francisco and, of course, I love Bill, so it will be great to get away.  I am looking forward to seeing the city, walking a lot, eating terrific food, and just relaxing.  We'll also get to have dinner with our friends Tom & Mary Alice on Saturday night, which will be marvelous.

At the moment, I'm in the "what am I going to wear" mode which always makes me a little anxious.  This is where those extra pounds enter stage left.  I'm sure I'll figure it out, after trying on yet a few more options.  Ultimately, I have to just bring the clothes I feel best in and know It's going to be a wonderful trip.

The boys are staying with our wonderful neighbors, Mary & Bob. They will have a great time, and now that I think I've got that who has what activity after school, what time is that soccer game tomorrow?, whose house do you think you're going to? stuff figured out, I feel better. 

I plan to blog from San Francisco and will post some fabulous IPhone pictures.

If anyone has good SF recommendations, please feel free to let me know.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Maiden of Multiple Hats

I have a couple more goals that I'll share over the coming weeks. I don't want to get crazy, but I do want to be able to track a few goals over the course of the year.

This goal is business related. I am an HR Consultant, a teacher, a coach and now a writer. In my consulting practice (KilKenney Consulting,LLC), I work primarily with small organizations, many of which are nonprofit. I act as an HR Generalist for these clients and provide a variety of services from hiring & firing, to writing HR policies, to designing HR programs such as performance management, orientation and employee development. I also work with directors and managers as a coach throughout the process. I love this work, and want to continue to build my client base particularly in the nonprofit sector.

I sometimes teach HR in the Master's of Nonprofit Management Program at Hamline University, and although I don't have a class this semester, I love teaching. My goal is to teach more - I find it fun and challenging and a great way to stay current.

I have realized this month, that I'm also a writer. I enjoy writing this blog everyday and I am learning how to get my thoughts and feelings into words. I hope to expand my writing to other areas of my work/life as I go forward.

So, you can see, I am the maiden of multiple hats. I'd like to focus and/or combine these hats a little more effectively over the next year. I want to create a more streamlined message for my practice that somehow combines these interests and experiences.

I think many of us on this journey live a version of the multiple hats. We love the work we do, we love the variety, but sometimes pursuing that variety leads to distraction. I'm comfortable wearing the hats, I just need them to fit together a little better.

Any other Maidens want to share their successes?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Food and Cooking - Don't Mess with My Ina

OK - yet another new category for my journey - Food & Cooking. I love to cook - it is really the only creative outlet I use on a regular basis, except now, writing this blog. I would like to share my favorite recipes, ideas, websites and sources, and of course, I want to hear what yours are too.

To begin the list, I am a little obsessed with Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa. Not in a weird stalkerish way, but in the I can see myself in her, wouldn't it be fun to do that, kind of way. In fact, I fancy myself the Gluten Free Barefoot Contessa.

I am enamored with almost everything about her - I have all her cookbooks, and use them regularly. I think her recipes are beautiful, easy and they taste great. I have found that when I make her recipes, they work and are easy to fool around with to get the result I want for any given meal. Contrary to the local joke - you don't really need to use a pound of butter in every dish. Yesterday, my nephew Emmett and I made a version of her Granola from the first cookbook, called interestingly enough, The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook. The granola received rave reviews all around.

I watch the Barefoot Contessa Show on the Food Network when I can and enjoy watching her cook and actually eat her food. I hate those chefs that look like they never eat a bite. She is a obviously a talented chef, but she also makes it seem easy and accessible to us amateurs.

I'd love to meet her one day, In fact, I probably have met her, she just doesn't remember me (OK that does sound a little stalkerish). when I was in high school in Rye, NY, I visited the Hamptons with friends and I'm sure I ate at the original Barefoot Contessa deli in East Hampton.

I never go see famous people whether it's at a book signing or a meet and greet, but I think I will step outside my box in this 50th year and if she comes to Minneapolis on her next book tour, I'll get up early and be first in line. That is if someone doesn't forward her this blog first and she decides to give me a call.

Do share your food & cooking favorites; recipes, chefs, websites etc ... It's fun to learn from each other.