Sunday, January 31, 2010

Do Not Pass Go

Today we tried, in vain, to renew the boys passports.  They expired a year or so ago and we are planning to take a trip this spring.  So, like the good techno mom that I am, I went online and researched how to renew a passport.  Fairly straightforward, or so I thought.  

Click one - renew (pretty easy), oh they are under 16, so click two - we have to go in person (both parents, and both kids).  OK not too bad where do we go?  Click three - the post offices listed that take applications - pretty convenient locations.  Click four - what hours are they open? - 8:00 to 12:00 or 9:00 to 3:00 weekdays - really?, We both need to leave work and get the kids out of school for this? Oh well, keep looking - click five, the airport post office is open for passports on Sundays until 3:00.  Yipee

Click six Download, print and fill out the pages of paperwork, search out social security numbers and old passports, hit the road.  Wait in line, only to find out they need original or certified copies of the birth certificates - who has those?  So we click off until Tuesday when we can get all those pieces together.  I'm all in favor of security, but couldn't they take a regular copy?

Now you know I am a complete bleeding heart liberal and hardly ever complain about hard working US agencies, but this is ridiculous - This is a Government agency in serious need of a reality check.  I have to believe it would be more efficient and cost effective to figure out a way to make these services a little more accessible to the average citizen. After all if we are to have a true global economy, we need to get out of country and for that we need passports.

Enough of the rant - It is certainly not the end of the world, but it kind of put me over the edge today.  We have done a little more digging and found a location we can visit on Tuesday to get it all done, but sometimes it just feels good to sound off a little.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Kindle Cure

Who knew that my IPhone would be my Kindle cure?  As I posted a few days ago, I have been considering the purchase of a Kindle reader from Amazon.  I love to read and tend to be drawn to new technology, so the Kindle seemed like a perfect fit.  I got some good feedback from my readers - some for and some against, and when I weighed the $250 price tag, I decided against it for now.

Then, like magic, in my email came the link to the free Kindle App for my IPhone.  So with this App, I can download Kindle books from Amazon.  I found 5 interesting, FREE books that I downloaded today - double bonus.

I don't think the IPhone will ever take the place of my real-live books, and the print is pretty small to read for a long time.  It is pretty cool, though, to be able to whip out a book at a moment's notice when I'm waiting in line or sitting in the car between appointments - a quick, easy cure for now - in a word - SWEET.

And, of course, there is that new IPad coming out this spring I might need to take a look at.  After all, I'm $250 ahead right?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Coffee Shop Culture

I'm sitting in my local Caribou Coffee waiting for my boys to finish basketball practice and doing some work.  I know this is not a new observation, but somehow today it connected with me that I have completely changed my work/life model.

The coffee shop office, for those of us who work at home, has become a lovely field trip.  It's an opportunity to get out of the basement office, away from the laundry and fridge calling my name and work for awhile.  

I actually get a good amount of work done, and I really appreciate the change of scenery - especially when I'm stuck.  I think it helps with the procrastination too - I give myself a couple of hours to get something done and with less distractions than my house, it seems to work.

What a change this is even for someone of my young age.  As a young woman working in NYC, I bought a "regular" coffee from the guy at Zabar's every morning and went to my office in the Citicorp Center from 9:00 to about 6:00 and then headed for the train station home.  A coffee shop was a diner, and I would never consider sitting in the shop for any length of time.  And, of course there were no computers, never mind the lightweight laptop I bring with me now.

I am happy to be a part of this "coffee shop culture" and am interested to see what happens down the road - what kind of "culture" will our kids be a part of as they make their way in the work world of the future, I wonder?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Family Favorite Dinner - Thai Chicken

Tonight was one of those rare occasions that everyone loved the dinner.  Those of us who make the meal night after night know that the magic doesn't happen very often.  My friend Carol mentioned that she had made a coconut chicken that her family loved and I remembered seeing one in a cookbook I had, so I dug it out.

Now don't get me wrong - my family eats pretty much everything that is put in front of them with little complaint.  Everyone gets to have a food or two they really don't like - Charlie doesn't like Chili, Jack hates eggs and Bill doesn't really like potatoes (which by the way I think is against some kind of Irish code - who doesn't love a good spud?).  Other than those considerations, I cook to my heart's content; pretty confident the meal will at least get eaten, and usually enjoyed.

But still, the unanimous "I Love This" and the complete plate and pan cleaning is rare - so, of course, I thought I'd share the recipe.

This is my adaptation of a Weight Watcher's recipe entitled "Thai Coconut Chicken" God forbid I should just follow the recipe right?


2 Tablespoon olive oil, divided
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts - cut into 1 inch pieces
1 onion, thinly sliced
A little salt & pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
A hunk of fresh ginger, grated
A spoonful of light brown sugar
1/2 Teaspoon red curry paste (available in most grocery stores, asian section) - or to taste - this is fairly spicy so you may want to start with less and add
1 Teaspoon ground cumin
1 cup green beans - frozen work fine
1/2 can coconut milk - use the regular, unsweetened, not the light - Add more if necessary to get the consistency of sauce you want
1 Teaspoon fish sauce (also available in asian section  - or just skip is fine)
1/4 cup fresh basil (or use a Tablespoon of dried)
Rice - brown (which my kids won't touch) or white

Heat oil in a large skillet, add chicken, sprinkle with salt & pepper, cook until done - about 5 minutes, transfer to plate

Heat second Tablespoon of oil, add onion and saute until softened - about 5 minutes, add garlic & ginger, saute for 1 minute

Stir in sugar, curry paste and cumin cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. 

Add green beans, coconut mile and fish sauce, bring to boil. 

Reduce the heat, and cook until beans are tender - about 3 minutes

Add the chicken & basil, heat through, serve with rice.


Monday, January 25, 2010 Making Me Wait

OK, so I admit it.  I'm a seasoned procrastinator.  I always have been and I'm not sure if I work better when I add a little pressure in the mix (at least that's what I tell myself), or if it's some other issue.

Today is a great example.  I have a project due next week and continued work to do to complete it.  So am I working hard on it right now before I have to head to a meeting today?  No, I'm writing this blog, and then I have to switch the laundry and then...I'll get to work.  I know I will get the project done, I always do. But I do resist the idea of getting it started really early in the process for some reason.  I also have time, it is after all due next week, not tomorrow.

So why is it so hard to get started?  In my normal procrastination mode, I would start in earnest on Wednesday, but feel pressure and angst all week - so why not just start today?

I'm guessing it's more complicated than simple laziness, but maybe not. I know I work well under pressure and I've always been successful creating a bit of competition between me and the deadline.

I wonder is it too late at almost 50 to break this kind of habit? Can I just focus and chunk out the work and get started?  It is what I tell my kids to do - so in my quest of starting habits, maybe I can break one too.

So I will start today - I'll get the project outlined and put steps in writing that I will complete each day, and even though I may end up with a similar product, I'll see how it feels to do it differently - It does seem like life creates enough pressure without adding to it myself - who knows, I may enter my 50's with a whole new attitude.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Back in the Saddle

Isn't there a song about this "I'm back in the Saddle again...."  That's how I feel today.  I've been a bit remiss on a few things - this blog being one of them, exercise being another.

So today is the day to get back to it.  I went to spinning class this morning - and I have to say I can feel my saddle if you know what I mean.  Great class, fabulous workout and the best part is I'm done by 7:00 AM - Why don't I do it more often?  

I'm also obviously back at the blog today - I've been jotting down ideas for entries, and feel refreshed and refocused.  Of course, I can't commit to how long that will last, but for right now, I'm going with the flow.

Both of these things make me realize, again, that habits are so much easier to break than to create.  I think I heard once that doing something for X number of days (7, 14, 21?) makes the habit stick - I don't know if that's true, but it does seem like getting into the routine helps.  

So, I'm going to give it a try for at least a week - I'll commit to writing every day - (once on the weekends) and exercising of some kind every day, and I'll report back next week - not easy to hide on the blog front, I guess a little public accountability can't hurt.

Anyone else have a great trick to cement good habits?  I'm always open to suggestion.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

So Long Spenser

I was saddened to hear of the death of Robert Parker today.  I may have mentioned this before, but I have read every Spenser novel by Parker the latest one over Christmas break.  I started reading them in the 1970's in my parent's bookstore - The Village Book Shop in Rye, NY, and it became a tradition for me.

I loved the characters - not great literature, but a feeling of coming home when I read each story.  I could often predict the words each character would utter which added to the sense that I knew them.  The books were clean and often funny and his main female character, Susan, was strong and independent as well as adored (my kind of woman). The books were fast reads and I remember my father and I would each take a copy home before it went onto the floor so we could compare notes.

I will always have fond memories of Spenser, and respect for Robert Parker's ability to maintain a solid character and story lines for over 25 years.

Rest in Peace, Mr. Parker you've earned it.

Monday, January 18, 2010

My Other Favorite Bill

Of course I really only have one favorite Bill (my hubby of almost 20 years, Bill Kenney), but I must admit that there is a close second.

Bill's Imported Foods, a wonderful Greek grocery store on Lake Street in Minneapolis is one of my all time favorite places to go. At Bill's I have found the best feta cheese - the Greek is my favorite, but they have French, American and a few more.  I also love their kalamata olives - the small, briny olives are perfect for Greek salad or just for a nibble. 

I buy my regular olive oil there too - great prices on light, fruity olive oil for cooking or salads.

I always ask for a taste before I buy and the owner graciously shares her ideas and suggestions for the best selections for whatever I'm cooking.  You also can't beat the fresh baked pita bread that arrives warm every day at about 10:00 AM. 

Absolutely worth the trip if you are planning Greek dinner or if you just want a few fresh, tasty items for a salad or a nosh.

Bill's Imported Foods - Look for the blue awning on Lake Street at Lyndale Avenue - Enjoy

Sunday, January 17, 2010

I'm among the Elite

I love a bargain, as I may have mentioned a few times on this blog.  One of the things I enjoy doing is shopping a consignment shops.  In particular, I love a local St. Paul consignment shop called Elite Repeat.  

I have only become a fan of the consignment clothes shopping world in the last 4 or 5 years.  It started because I was always hoping to be a size smaller than I am and therefore didn't want to spend a ton of money on clothes.  So I stopped in one day and discovered a great world of beautiful, designer, often brand new clothes at incredible prices.  I have found great bargains in Jones NY, Eileen Fisher, Talbots, Liz Claiborne and Coach designs to name a few.  My friend Diane works at Elite Repeat and always is happy to help me find a piece that will add to my wardrobe or a special event item, particularly helpful for those of us who are fashion challenged.

I also like supporting the "green" initiative of consignment shopping - again, I can find lovely things that someone else doesn't want any more and save both money and the environment.

I'm always thrilled to find great pieces to add to my wardrobe without spending an arm and a leg.  I know that I will want to hit a "real" store when I hit my lifetime goal on Weight Watchers this year, but for now I love being one of the Elite.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Collective Wisdom - To Kindle or not to Kindle?

I love a bookstore.  I had a few minutes between meetings today so I headed into the Border's store in St. Paul.  I could spend hours there just browsing.  I've never been a real shopper, but bookstores are the exception for me.  Perhaps it is from all those years working in my parent's bookstore in Rye, NY, but I have to say it feels like home when I'm in any type of bookstore.

I also love to read and I'm fairly techno-savvy, so I'm considering purchasing a Kindle.  A Kindle is a wireless reading device, sold by  There are other similar versions out there, but the idea is the same.  One can download an entire book, magazine, newspaper or other media on to the Kindle and only have to carry one device rather than toting a bunch of books along.

I must admit I'm tempted - I like the idea of having all the information in one place and the ability to throw it in my bag and read whatever suits my fancy while I'm traveling or waiting the innumerable hours in between meetings, sporting events etc..  

But, I'm torn - I thoroughly enjoy holding a book, being able to see how many pages I've read, and collecting my favorites on my bookshelf.  I also feel a little guilty potentially being a part of the demise of the independent bookstore. In  addition, I can see the potential for a little "download" problem - I think the books are fairly inexpensive, but I'm sure it can add up fast.

Anyway - what's your opinion?  Are you a traditionalist vehemently opposed to the technology?  Are you a Kindle user and you wouldn't give it up?

Let me know your thoughts - I'd love to hear.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

In the Driver's Seat

I drove 2 hours this morning to a meeting in Western MN. I love to drive because it combines a number of my favorite things. 

First, I'm an introvert, so I savor the time in the car by myself.  I usually don't even have the radio on.  Especially living with a bunch of extroverts, the car can be my opportunity to recharge between activities.

Second, I like to think out loud - what better place to do that than in the car.  It's a great time to talk through scenarios and prepare for meetings.

Third, I'm a closet songster. when I do have the radio or CD on, I can be seen, and sometimes heard, singing at the top of my lungs.

I also really enjoy nature - I drove through farms and fields this morning and watched deer, pheasants, hawks and a variety of rodents scurrying around.  

Lastly, I think being in the "driver's seat" fits the rest of my life too.  I like to be in control, and driving gives me that on days when I don't feel like I have it anywhere else.

So I'll enjoy the return trip tomorrow and be rested and ready to re-enter my house when I arrive.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Comfort Food

As this weekend of family, friends, support and grief wound down today, I realized that the term "comfort food" had taken on a new meaning for me.

I've always joked about the importance of comfort food - enjoying favorite and/or traditional foods during times of stress or need. I've certainly done my share of eating a little too much "comfort" even in happy times.

This weekend, however, I experienced the capacity of the food as a part of this process.  Many family members and friends dropped off food at our houses as the Kenney family was caring for Kathy in her final weeks.  Those dishes were both practical and relational.  The food itself was a godsend for those busy days, and the love and support they represented was readily felt in every salad, casserole, ham sandwich and brownie.

Bill and I enjoyed hosting the dinner on Saturday night and I marveled at the way the food connected all the pieces.  From my fabulous friends swooping in to help make enchiladas, to every beautifully prepared dish that arrived to be shared, the "comfort" of the food was fully present.

As I stood back and listened to the house full of talking, laughter and occasional tears, I truly experienced how food can, in fact, provide true comfort.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

M. Kathleen

My Mother-in-Law, Kathy Kenney died early this morning after a long and gracious battle with stomach cancer.  Kathy was a kind, spiritual woman who faced her illness in much the same way she lived her life - with humor, faith, patience and compassion.

She will be greatly missed by her wonderful family, colleagues and friends and I know her passing leaves a hole in the lives of her husband, John, children and grandchildren.

I enjoyed talking with Kathy about many things, but in particular we loved comparing notes on the books we read - what we liked and what we couldn't get through (mostly me as I think she finished almost everything she read).  I still have a list of recommendations I'll work my way through this year.

We also shared a love of coffee and I know now that every time I order a Caribou, light roast with a "touch" of cream, I'll remember her.

Rest in Peace, Kathy.  I'll miss you.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Just Don't Stop for Heavens Sake

OK - I started running again today.  Truth be told, I haven't really run since the Triathlon in August.  God it stinks to start over.

I'm doing the couch25K program - beginning with walking a lot and running a little and over time transitioning to all running.  

I'm kicking myself - not literally, as I can't begin to reach that high.  I had a good running schedule going over the summer - I'm really slow, but fairly strong and comfortable when I'm consistent.
Why did I stop? Laziness, the eternal "I'll start tomorrow" thing, life interfering, a million excuses I'm sure.  Anyway I begin again.

I am going to try my hardest, once I build up some endurance to JUST KEEP GOING!  It's got to be easier to move a little on a regular basis than to start all over again.

Feel free to remind me to keep at it - let's see if I can learn from the not-so-distant past.

PS - do you think it's a problem if I'm tired just watching the woman running in the picture?  She's already run way more than I can at the moment - ah well slow and steady right?

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year

Well it's a new year and a new decade - amazing!  I guess it's time for those pesky new year's resolutions - so here goes.

My plan this year is to  keep the resolutions to a minimum and actually see if I can achieve them. I don't have a great track record in this area, so I'm aiming for improvement. I think a few categories and a goal or two in each should be plenty.  Focus is always a good thing.

The Blog - I plan to write every weekday and once on the weekends, and I'd love increase the number of comments I get so we can share the wisdom

Health/Wellness - I want to complete 3 triathlons this year and reach lifetime status at Weight Watchers

Work - I'd like to continue to grow my business with new work, new clients and have fun

Family - I plan to stop swearing (maybe the hardest one yet) and focus on patience as a parent of teenagers.

World beyond Maggie - Find a volunteer opportunity that fits - so far I've dabbled in a few, but haven't found the one that I feel great about yet.

OK - that's enough I think - I'd love to hear your resolutions - are you doing any?  What fits for you for 2010?