Now that I've finished reading a biography of every American President in chronological order from Washington to Reagan, I've received two common questions:
After the first presidents, I really love Ulysses S. Grant. Everything about him. His wholesome beginnings, what a fearless, admired general he was, and the fact that he wasn't a true politician. I don't think he ever became a true politician, despite holding the highest title. It's unfortunate that corruption marred his later years in office, but I believe that came from his cabinet members working around him and some naivety from not being so personally immersed in political ways and means.
Teddy Roosevelt - obvious choice! His life is so incredibly fascinating. I have to admit, when I was nearly done with his 700+ page biography, I realized it was the first of a three-volume set. I did not make myself read the other two, but I certainly will at some point because they were very well-written, and as stated, he was such an incredible character.
The one that surprised me the most was Truman. I enjoyed it way more than I thought I would, and I finished it admiring him far more than I ever thought I would, Honestly, I didn't know too much about him before reading, so learning so much was perhaps part of the pull, but he won me over.
Why did I do this? I thought of the idea way back during the 2016 election and started in January 2017. With all the political turmoil and non-stop bipartisan spats, I wanted a good, true way to understand the American political system. Not just to understand what it means to be Republican and what means to be Democratic, but how the parties formed, what their beliefs are based in, how they have evolved and how they shape the US today. It also gave me a great understanding of our national history overall and why decisions that effected the world at large were made.
Now that I'm done with the Presidents, I can read whatever I want! Some great books have come out the past few years and I've been dying to dive back into some fiction. Here's a look at my stack, not including Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens and Stay Sexy & Don't Get Murdered by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark. Where the Crawdads Sing was excellent, but not my favorite of all time, like so many have said. Kate Morton's (my favorite author's) most recent book absolutely gutted me! I had to wait a whole day before I could pick up another book, and I was still hesitant then because I knew nothing would compare! If you're a fan of historical fiction and hate not knowing answers and go crazy to want to find out what really happened, read Kate Morton. I love every one of her books so, so much. I read Anita Shreve's The Stars Are Fire today in one day, and am really sad I won't be reading anymore of her work since she unfortunately died of cancer a few years ago. I started back on fiction on April 12, so have read seven books in the past three weeks.
What better time than a global pandemic to get back to writing?! Also, I am reading a fictional novel on two real-life writers, so that also has given me some motivation (more on my reading later). I've really been trying to focus on perspective and positivity during these trying times. But I'm not going to lie, it's been tough. The first week we were shut down was spring break, so I took it as a break for myself and was really lazy. I binged all the TV shows I needed to catch up on and watched movies and lived on my couch. The next week was rough, I hit a funk and had some days were I struggled to drag myself out of bed. I had no motivation to work and was angry at the world - angry at being single, angry at not having Lola, angry at not having family, angry at a job that wasn't fulfilling. I'm usually closeted with my emotions, but I opened up to some friends and realized I was not alone. First of all, it was huge just putting the words out there that I wasn't doing well. That alone lifted a huge weight off my shoulders. Then hearing that my friends were right there with me, having good days and having bad days, reminded me that I had a great network of support.
After that, I began scheduling my days and work weeks out. Having that structure really helped get me into the work-from-home groove. I don't always adhere to the schedule, but having some sort of plan gave me the structure I think I was desperately missing.
Although I've been doing better, I realize that part of my struggle was my faith. I normally lean on my faith in hard times, and with everything shut down, I felt shut out. Lent is my favorite time of the year, yet I couldn't get to mass. I couldn't attend a stations of the cross, or Sunday worship, or pick up a church fish fry. I couldn't go get my palms, receive communion and join my fellow worshipers in the most holy time of the year, Easter was rough. I went home and visited my family in NY and questioned my decision to travel nearly every day. My grandpa went back into the hospital Easter morning (he's ok) and some other little things culminated in a horrible attitude and morose mood. Luckily, the weather was warm. I put on my boots, took Lola for a walk around my parents' property and visited my boys, the hounds, and that helped.
I've hosted a few Zoom trivia nights, which I think have been great for everyone to see each other and have some fun. A local company that does bar trivia has posted games on their website, making it easy for me to host. I've even gone so far as to make playlists with songs relating to the questions! It's been a lot of fun. The last two I've hosted I've had a $10 fee with the winner and runner-up getting money back and the rest donated to a COVID-19-worthy cause. It's nice to have fun and give back at the same time.
For the first time, my spare room is finally somewhat livable. I had to clean off my desk in there so that turned into organizing that room. I've also cleaned out my kitchen cupboard and put a box together of items to donate and have cleaned out under my bathroom sinks. Amazing what you can accomplish when you're stuck home with nowhere to go and nothing to do!
The last notable thing I've been doing during quarantine is going on a lot of walks. I've checked out many area parks - some I've visited before, some for the first time. My steps have definitely gone up despite being told to stay home! But rest assured, social distancing is being maintained and I'm taking the precautions to stay safe.
Here I am again, which means I've been partially successful in keeping up with my blog. I've also completed all five of my monthly resolution items for the month of January. However, I can't be too proud because January is the easiest month - let's see where I am come fall!
Task 3: Have at least one culturally-enriching experience was checked off a few weeks ago at the Taft Museum of Art. The museum does monthly "house parties" with different themes each time for some adult fun. I checked out January's house party with three coworkers to see what it was all about and we were not disappointed! The theme was 90's game night. There were tons of board games available to play, a trivia night, DJ playing 90's hits and adult hot cocoa (yum!). There was also a food truck, but by the time we got out there they were closed. The event was free so being able to see the main gallery and special exhibit for no charge was a pretty nice perk. My favorite part of the night was that the museum challenged people to a "What Do You Meme" game. We drew a card and had to match the saying with a piece of art that best expressed it. Participants posted their memes on Instagram with a specific hashtag and one entry was picked as the winner. We did not win, but we enjoyed playing. Check out our selection and a selfie with former lady-of-the-house, Anna Stinton!
Task 5: Read 200 pages or watch a thought-provoking movie or documentary was accomplished, and then some. Not long after my initial post of this year, I went back and watched the first season of True Detective on HBO. WOW. I had watched the second season live and was getting excited for season three with one of my favorites, Mahershala Ali, but I realized I had never gone back and watched season one. It was amazing. Completely worthy of all the praise it received when it originally came out. In addition, I also watched Won't You Be My Neighbor?, the documentary on Mister Rogers and Struggle: The Life and Art of Szukalski. Both were great. I especially loved learning about the eccentric Szukalski and his increasingly complex life.
When it comes to Task 4: Bake something from scratch, I took a little bit of liberty. A tiny bit. Instead of a dessert, I made pierogi , two kinds! One half was potato, bacon, cheddar, green onion, and the other was potato and herb goat cheese. I brought back a bunch of homemade kielbasa, so I can't wait to pull both out of the freezer one of these nights for a delicious, from scratch, Radzinski-made, Polish dinner.
When it comes to Task 2: Spend at least 30 minutes doing something for myself, I think I did this in a few ways. One night I took the time to soak in a hot bath with some aromatherapy. Along those same lines, I have spent a lot of time relaxing. My free time at home is going to disappear soon, so I have made sure I have taken advantage of being able to be home with no plans. I've watched some shows (some noted above), read through some magazines and overall, not cared or felt guilty about just taking time to turn off my brain and work and be a couch potato for a little bit. It helped that we had some snowy weather on the weekends, so the view looking out was lovely and the birds visiting on my porch were fun to watch.
This past three-day weekend, my friend came to visit so I got to explore a new coffee shop and then we splurged on some sweet potato dumpling with pork shoulder that was almost too pretty to eat!
This post has been long enough, so, even though the Oscar nominees were announced today, I'll save that until later - maybe this weekend!
Clearly, I'm not the greatest at this whole blogging thing. But, it's a new year and there is no better time to give it a go. Writing has always been a bit cathartic and relaxing for me, so if nothing else, it gives me a reason to jot down some original thought.
Anyway, resolutions are always hard to remember and stick to for 12 months. Who honestly can keep a resolution from January 1 through December 31?! So, I've picked five items that I wish to accomplish each month during the year of 2019. They are:
1. Eat an unforgettable meal
I love food, for the first is an easy one and a way to make sure I treat myself every once in a while. The second is an obvious. The third is an attempt to ensure I get out to museums, parks, monuments, etc., to learn and to enjoy. The fourth is something I do fairly regularly. I love to create sweet treats, so I want to be sure I don't skip this in any month. The fifth is something I try to do naturally anyway, so this will be a good way to keep track. Most of these will be pretty attainable in January, but the reason for doing monthly tasks is so once my schedule gets extremely hectic February-May, I want to be sure I am still taking time for myself - for personal enjoyment and learning.
January's meal has already been checked off the list. Once the holidays were over, I swung through my old stopping grounds of Kent, Ohio, for a great visit with friends. We went to dinner at an old favorite, Bistro on Main, and I had sweet potato gnocchi with spinach and pulled pork. It did not disappoint! I had pumpkin gnocchi at a place in Cincinnati in December that were an amazing. I think that started a current obsession. The sweet potato gnocchi came with a sriracha maple syrup that I got on the side because it was a little too hot for my weak taste buds, but it had great flavor and was a great compliment to the dish.
Once I got back to Cincinnati I kicked butt taking care of things. In a 24-hour period, I cleaned out my fridge, went grocery shopping, stopped at a few other stores for some items, did two loads of laundry, dusted, swept and mopped floors, put away Christmas decorations, worked out and meal prepped. Whew! It felt great to get a lot accomplished. There are still a few things I want to do, but I hopefully can knock those off this coming weekend. On top of all the productivity, I read one of the stack of magazines I have wanted to get through. For task No. 5 I wanted the entire first season of True Detective on HBO - and when I say watch I mean binged. I watched the second season live and cannot wait for the third, but I realized I had never seen the initial season. I'm so glad I finally watched it. It was as amazing as I had always heard it was.
Saturday night had had another fantastic meal, this time checking out a new local place: Agave and Rye in Covington, Ky. Let me just say - wow! Every taco is huge and they are hard shells wrapped in a soft shell. They also can put deliciousness like queso, salsa and beans in between the two shells. I got a No. 15 The Plain Jane which was ground beef, lettuce, cheddar, tomato and sour cream with queso between the shells. Then I got the No. 5 The Rima D which has braised short rib, garlic mashed potatoes, crispy onions and natural jus. At most places three tacos is standard. At Agave and Rye, one could be a meal and two will make you so full! Highly recommend stopping by for anyone looking for good tacos in the Cincinnati area. There are unique choices and something for everyone. They are also well-known for their tequila and bourbon, for those who like to imbibe, as well.
Well, it’s been a while since I last posted and I completely left our trip hanging. But, since our 5th annual 150 mile bike trip is coming up, I figured I should finally get around to recapping last year’s. There was a pretty legit hiccup on the first day of our ride, which is probably while I left it undone for so long, but it’s well past time to get caught up.
So, the alarm went off early Friday morning to get us to the Amtrak station. The city (Pittsburgh) was still asleep. Heather and Maddi dropped me off at the train station and went to park the car before they pedaled back. Unfortunately, although we arrived bright and early for our train, it was delayed and we ended up waiting along for a while before finally boarded around 6 and taking off at about 6:30 a.m.
Well folks, the time has come again for our 4th annual 150 mile weekend bike trip. I write this from the hotel in Pittsburgh. My blogging attempts seemed to completely disappear after my last post (I'll blame sinus surgery and a busy spring season), but I wanted to bring this back to share our adventures with you all this weekend.
We are embarking on the Great Alleghany Passage, or GAP trail (gaptrail.org) which runs from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Cumberland, Maryland for 150 miles. It hike and bike-only trail so we won't be fighting with any cars or traffic. The GAP turns into another trail that runs from Cumberland to Washington, D.C., for another 200 miles, but 150 is enough for us!
Once again we are a trio - me, Heather and Maddi. I think we are a little nervous this year because none of us have rode very much this spring/summer! Shoutout to my friend MC who is training to run a marathon and got me out on the trail a few times. At least there's that. Another difference this year is we don't have a driver with us so everything I need for the weekend will be carried on my back in my light hiking backpack.
We loaded up the car and headed to Pittsburgh. The train down to Cumberland leaves at 5:20am, so it will be an early morning for us. A nightcap was needed! I may not have great service on some parts of the trip, but I will try to keep you updated each night. If unable, I will definitely post everything once we return home. Here's to happy (and safe) riding!
I calculated it to be six miles out and back and it actually was 7.25, which was fine because I felt great! I had some light rain at the start and end, and it really got windy at the end, but other than that, it was a great hike. I saw just one person, and that was when I was just starting. There were some nice pathways, but there were also some points that were basically just deer runs in the middle of the woods. I was faced with a lot of standing water, thorns and got covered in mud, but that was no bother for me!
After the hike I was quite hungry. A delicious venison dinner did the trick! I prepared it one of my favorite ways. I took venison back straps and cut it into rounds, doused it in flour, then egg, then whole wheat bread crumbs, then cooked it on the stove in olive oil. So good! Tastes even better when it's a deer you took down. This time I tried something new and added blue cheese crumbles on top. Delicious!
On Monday we had another ladies' lunch at work, so I brought in some red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. As usual, I found the recipe on Pinterest. I was nervous because I had never made red velvet from scratch before and this recipe was more involved then other ones I've used. Luckily I had nothing to worry about as they were wonderful! Definitely one of my favorite scratch recipes to date.
Since Tuesday was actual Valentine's Day I made a trifle to bring in. I simply made a white cake from scratch and layered it with cheesecake pudding died pink, whipped cream and strawberries cut to resemble hearts. It went fast which meant it must have been good! Nothing is better than trifles because they are quick and easy to make and everyone loves them. The rest of the week has been back to normal, but I plan on going on another hike this Sunday as it is supposed to warm up. I should have a post from that shortly after. Also, I'm out of work all next week due to some sinus surgery, so I should have plenty of time to catch up on movies and documentaries. Until then!
My travel schedule hasn't allowed me to cook/bake or get out much, but now that it has finally slowed down for a little bit I was able to get back into the kitchen. The other night I attempted cheesy stuffed shells and they turned out awesome! I didn't follow a recipe, just browsed through a few and then went for it. After boiling the shells, I mixed ricotta, parmesan and mozzarella cheeses together with one egg. For some flavor, I added in salt, pepper, onion power, garlic powder, oregano and basil. Stuff the mixture into the shells, layer some sauce in a baking dish, sprinkle some cheese on top and bake! It's that easy and they certainly were delicious.
I recently joined the Fitbit world, so that, with the combination of the weather warming up a bit, has motivated me to get back outside more. While I was at my parents' the other weekend, I couldn't resist taking my usual walk around the farm. However, it wasn't so warm that morning; the temperature felt like 5 degrees. But, it was still beautiful to get out there.
That was Saturday morning in New York. Monday in Ohio it was 50 degrees! So I took the opportunity to get out on the trail after work, even though it was dark by the time I was able to get done.
Homework has been drowning me lately, which also hasn't helped in keeping me out of the kitchen, out of nature and out of date with my blog. However, with it being Valentine's Day on Tuesday, I'll be cooking up some goodies this week. And I will be going on a hike later today. So, it shouldn't be as long of a break until I am able to write again. For now, back to the school work grind.
It seems like the whole time I have lived in my current apartment, my spare room has been the place where everything I don't have a set spot for goes to live. A few years ago I added my beautiful floating bookshelves; I went out and bought wood planks, sawed, sanded and stained them and then hung them to fill with my prized collection. Those shelves have long become overfilled. So, I recently rearranged to make that fit better. I have had this tall corner desk since college and never use it because the table top fits a laptop and that's just about it. I love to have my work laid out around me so this desk became a dumping ground because it was never practical for me to use. I spent some time on Pinterest narrowing down design ideas and went on a mission recently to find a new desk. I knew exactly what I wanted and what I wanted to spend, and was so extremely pleased to find it in Hobby Lobby for even less than I planned for. Yesterday I spent quite some time sorting through a bunch of junk and doing some rearrange in the spare room. Today I went and got my new desk and some items to decorate it and I couldn't be more pleased with how it turned out. I have such a lovely workspace that I cane now dream away and let my mind roll forward at.
The rest of the room is a work in progress. I need to figure out some storage solutions and rearrange what I still have in there and then I will share that with you once it's complete. For now, I will have to enjoy my little workspace that is perfect for dreaming up new ideas and letting the words flow from my fingertips.
I've decided I need to work on continuing this blog and making it legitimate. So, here I am in the start of a new year, writing away and hoping that someone finds me interesting. With it being a holiday, I of course had to bake up something sweet to bring to a new year's party on the 31st. As usual, I went to Pinterest and searched for what I had in mind and found exactly what I needed - champagne cupcakes! These were very moist and not overly champagne-tasting, but still delicious. The gold glitter sprinkles I went out and got to add to them made them perfect for the new year celebration.
Last year my resolution was to learn Polish. I downloaded this great, free app (DuoLingo) and started off pretty strong before falling off. So, I've picked that up again and am trying to be more consistent with learning the language. When I was in NY for Christmas break, I was surrounded by great Polish food. I had to bring some back to Ohio with me to enjoy longer. For New Year's Day I decided to have a nice, delicious Polish meal to celebrate a little on my own. My grandma sent me back with some charnina and I had a freezer stocked with meat, included some of my dad's homemade kielbasa - the best sausage in the world. Seriously, I've never had anything that has come close!
My main New Year's resolution is to read a biography from every US president from Washington to Reagan in chronological order. I made a list on Amazon of the highest-rated books and figured out that this would mean I would have to read 3.25 books per month this year - a tall order as I am finishing up two Master's degrees and working like crazy. This feat became even more daunting as I opened up the box of the first three books on New Year's Eve and saw how thick they were! I am starting off with a 800+ page biography of Washington by Ron Chernow (yes, the guy that wrote the book on Alexander Hamilton that the huge Broadway show is based off of). I'm trying to read as much as I can in these next few weeks before spring sports and grad school pick up pace later on in the semester. Yesterday I got a great start with 200 pages read. Today, hopefully I'll add on a bunch more. Plus, I have a week-long roadtrip that will have some time to kill. Here's to lofty resolutions!
"To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe." --Anatole France