#VoteIrene

I am very rarely at the cusp of trends. I tend to watch from the sidelines to see if a fad is here to stay, and then decide my plan of action.

This is something I miss about living in a sorority house. Information travels fast, and at Alpha Gam specifically, I could get ten different takes on a new place, fashion item, class, or topic just by sitting down for dinner.

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One of my greatest takeaways that I brought into the working world was how to collaborate and delegate. I learned it the hard way, by drowning in silent auction donations as a freshman holding my first leadership position as Philanthropy Coordinator. I silently made note when I noticed the boundless skills of the diverse women around me.

There was too much to be done, and too much that could be done, to do it alone. If I didn’t have an answer, someone did. If I didn’t have a skill, a connection, a resource, a sister did. Slowly, I realized our network was limitless, and that we might all be able to bring that spark to the communities and groups we encounter.

I remember one day, our alumnae Chapter President, Irene Fernando, and Recruitment Advisor, Ashley Harville, came to the chapter house during Monday night dinner. I was struck by their approachability. They showed me how I wanted to be an alumnae to the chapter. To be involved, relatable, and connected.IMG_0030 copy

In 2015, they stood in front of me and one hundred other senior sorority women, at an event Ashley planned and Irene was the keynote speaker.

She shared how the thought of “if someone is going to graduate and transform leadership, why not me?” changed the scope of what she believed was possible.

This question led her to wonder, in a dorm room with friends ten days into college, wouldn’t it be cool if we changed the world and Students Today, Leaders Forever (STLF) was born. (Find full speech here)

Last week, they stood in front of me again. This time in Ashley’s backyard, introducing Irene, this time as the DFL endorsed candidate for the Hennepin County Commissioner for District 2.

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#HypeCrew Meet and Greet at Ashley’s cozy NE home

Despite my delayed awareness for trends, once Irene announced her campaign last fall (the first candidate to do so) I knew I needed to be involved somehow.

Now, when I see the Vote Irene lawn signs, I have the reaction of Will Ferrell in Elf finding out Santa is coming- “I know [her]!!!” Working closely with Irene in our community makes me truly certain of her ability to lead, innovate, and transform Hennepin County.

Before this campaign, I didn’t know that the Hennepin County Commissioner was a role. I didn’t know it managed a 2.4 billion dollar budget, which put into perspective is more than the combined income of Beyonce and Jay-Z. I didn’t know how many decisions were being made and dollars allocated that directly impacted my neighborhood and community.

“In the face of outrageous circumstances, we are called to fight for the common good.” Irene Fernando

With this administration and current state of politics, I think everyone is wondering aloud or to themselves, what can I do. Sometimes that question is so overwhelming and the solutions seem so grand, that we do nothing at all.

I was stuck in this place for quite some time. I wanted to learn from all sides of the aisle that I stayed stationary and listened. As someone who rarely stops talking, I had a feeling this wasn’t the worst thing. What I was reminded of in this time, is that we didn’t need to figure this out alone.

For some, the curious question of “Why not me?” will lead to starting an organization or a campaign. For others, it’s recognizing how you can support what already exists.

Ashley and Irene have again paved the way for me, to display how sisterhood evolves. Irene’s #hypecrew is made up of Alpha Gams. And in that crew, there is a role for me, off the sidelines, that answers that scary question of, what can I do?

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Ashley is the queen of hosting
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Can we take a moment…

Today, Hennepin County Distict 2 Minnesotans, that answer is you can take part in a local primary election, and believe in what’s possible by voting for Irene Fernando.

“My future, and our future, is thanks to the told and untold stories of those who came before us. Ordinary people who chose to pave a path when there was none. Everyday people who risked some of themselves for the opportunity, for the responsibility to make a change.”

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Maya’s on the lookout for voters

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Marathon Training- Scrappy Style

I have always been driven by curiosity. And FOMO.

That’s why when the opportunity to join Team Comcast for the Twin Cities Medtronic Marathon arose, I knew I needed to be in on it. With five half marathons under my belt, I always had interest in doing a full marathon, but was too intimidated to pull the trigger. Thank god for FOMO.

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Hal Higdon Training Schedule, I mainly pay attention to the distances per week

When I trained for half marathons, I would do a long run each week, adding on a few miles each time. I wouldn’t bring water, mid-run fuel, or listen to music because it was distracting and it had never felt necessary. I figured I would do all the same things for the full distance, but with the guidance of a real training schedule (above) to tell me how to add that mileage on.

I later realized how many times I was telling myself, “this is the way it’s always been done” in reference to something I’ve never done.

If there’s one thing you could gather from this blog or from knowing me, it’s that I’m not great at following directions. They bore me. I’m more attracted to intuition, whether in cooking, marketing, design, or training. However, intuition cannot always replace reason, and that revelation hit hard when I was doing my first run past the half marathon distance.

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This 15 mile run compared to nothing else I had ever done. I needed to stop and stretch every couple of miles and was really only motivated by sticking to my training schedule and the fact that I wasn’t near home.

My legs felt like cinder blocks I was dragging along, but I kept going like this until 15.5 miles and walked the rest of the way home. Feeling lightheaded and pale, I thought about how the cars passing must be thinking about how sad I look. They must be thinking, “Aaaand that’s why I’m not a runner,” rather than “I bet that’s someone who just ran the longest distance in their life!” Based on how painful achieving that goal was, it didn’t feel like much of an accomplishment at all.

After consulting a few marathon-running friends, I realized my body didn’t fail me, I had failed my body.

Turns out, I had completely depleted my electrolytes by running that distance on little-to-no food prior, and only stopping for water once. The lead of my first aid/CPR class said I may have even been in shock.

Thinking about the 11+ miles I still needed to achieve after that run made me wonder if I could actually do this. This glass-half-empty mindset is a slippery slope. That’s the one thing I don’t like about sharing my marathon training with others, they’re always doing math for you. They ask about the longest distance you’ve run, and then calculate how much longer you still have to go. It’s really quite uplifting.

Before giving up on that, I needed to fully embrace that I’m not the expert, and that scrappy plans can only get you so far. Clearly doing it my way wasn’t working, so it was time to pivot instead of quit. What’s the point of being curious anyway if there aren’t any surprises?

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New and improved training best practices for long runs:

  • Hydrating the day before my run
  • Eating breakfast before run (I was leaving so early some mornings I didn’t realize I missed this)
  • Running with water bottle though I may order a belt with additional bottles
  • GU Gels for mid-run refuel: rough schedule so far is taking half of one before run, a full at mile 7, and then each 5 miles
  • Marine Collagen for joint recovery- bovine collagen peptides are more popular, but those aren’t pescetarian.
  • Cold shower afterwards (maybe one day I’ll be brave enough for an ice bath)

Maintaining original plans of:

  • Running Tuesday mornings with my early bird bestie
  • Long runs on weekend mornings, directly after I teach (if I go home I get distracted)
  • Cross training with yoga and sculpt throughout the week at my second home, Corepower Yoga
  • Going to Flyfeet Running around once a week so that someone holds me accountable to do sprints!
  • Not listening to music…we’ll see if I can keep holding out of this as my runs get longer. It’s partially for safety reasons (scary people, cars, bikes) but it also doubles as a moving meditation when I can actually hear myself think

17I can say with great pride that as of this week, this revised plan allowed me to accomplish 17.1 miles without pain or doubt. Of course, it was a challenge, but that’s what I signed up for.

I still took breaks, but they were intentional and purposeful rather than out of desperation. Most importantly, it allowed me to prove to myself that I can keep moving forward regardless of any bumps along the way.

I can say with confidence, but not certainty, that I can finish a marathon. But I don’t need to run a marathon today, or anytime soon, that’s for us to find out on October 7. Don’t worry, I’ll save you the math- that’s two long months away.

Energy Balls- Bites of Joy

We’re told to not set goals in an if-then mindset. Once I weigh this/get this promotion/buy this/ get married, I’ll be happy. For most things, I agree.

But the rules are broken for my recent purchase of a food processor. That DID make my life easier, happier, and I AM making all of the recipes I said “one day” to before. I’m in love and I don’t care who knows it.

These were meant to be peanut butter brownie bites, but I got feedback (from one of the 15 coworkers that devoured these) that the date and PB combo made it taste like a PB&J sandwich.  51Rz319kCLL._SY355_Uncrustables needed a face lift anyway. Welcome to 2018, kiddos.

Most importantly, one coworker, who is looking for me to help him be healthy described them as Bites of Joy, which took the cake in my book. Especially to my skeptical manager’s praise of “much better than I expected.”

Most importantly, here’s how you make them. And just like all the blogs that drove me crazy for years, I can only speak to how to make them with a food processor. You could try out a lot of almond chopping and date crushing, but I can’t make any guarantees.

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INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cups raw almonds
  • ~20 medjool dates, or use the full pack from Trader Joe’s like I did and skip the counting
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup mix ins: I used cocoa nibs and chia seeds
  • Sprinkle of sea salt

DIRECTIONS

  1. Put almonds into food processor, grind until they are finely chopped like an almond meal
  2. Add mix ins, cocoa powder, peanut butter (disperse this as much as you can) salt and maple syrup
  3. Pit dates (I just pulled the pits out) and add to mixture. Run until they are finely chopped and blended with all other ingredients.
  4. Take out and form into balls, and enjoy! Keep in fridge for best results.

Enjoy!

Mother’s Day- Inspire the Woman, Impact the World

I love Mother’s Day for reminding myself and others to reflect on the powerful and supportive mothers and mother figures in our lives. For my mom, that was done through bridging our Minneapolis-Milwaukee gap with a phone call this morning, and a card en route (and taking its sweet time if I may say). But this year, that’s not all this holiday means to me.

While my mom will always be the Queen of my Mother’s Day, today, I was also reminded of the powerful and supportive female-driven communities I am a part of and have access to. For me, the last week was like a drum roll to Mother’s Day.

inspireSunday afternoon brought me back to my sorority chapter house for our monthly Executive Council meeting, on which I serve as the Philanthropy Advisor. While the meetings aren’t known for their brevity; for me, the time flies. I become consumed by the energy in the room and the vibrant conversation– the main topics and the side conversations I can’t help but start.

This time, I was most struck by the impact the chapter women have on our community. There are collegiate women serving the country through National Guard, they are in the marching band, orienting new students as welcome week leaders, and running student groups across campus. While it’s no longer our key phrase/slogan, I was reminded of the words, “Inspire the Woman. Impact the World.” I love this phrase, this mission statement for not being an if; then. It’s absolute. It’s not a goal, it’s a reality in this very moment.

The next night, the External Affairs team at Comcast offered me a seat at the Girl Scouts: Women of Distinction dinner and benefit. Once there, my guilt set in as I realized the breadth of this organization; and while I was able to rise under the preset of “once a Girl Scout, always a Girl Scout,” I knew elementary-Sarah didn’t even skim the surface of the opportunities available.girl scouts

I heard similar values I associate with my sorority being echoed by Girl Scouts ages 16 to 70. GIRL now stands for Go-Getter, Innovator, Risk-Taker, Leader. I can only imagine how my outlook, experiences, and priorities would have shifted if those were elementary-Sarah’s guiding values. If that was how I described myself, and even more so, if that was how I described the girls around me.

Girl Scout CEO, Sylvia Acevedo, shared her own story of refusing to choose between earning the baking and science badge, and pursued them both. Despite being told by a college counselor, “Girls like you don’t go to college,” she went on to be one of the first Hispanic female rocket scientists.

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Thursday, I was invited to fill in for a coworker at the YWCA luncheon, and didn’t even check my calendar before accepting. By attending, I was able to sit at a table of driven Comcast women and listen to speakers from all different walks of life speak to the impact YWCA has had on them. ywca1.jpg

After Alicia Keys’ “Girl on Fire” perfectly welcomed her to the stage, Kim Nelson, former Vice President at General Mills, shared this powerful sentiment with us,

“My hope for my daughters, for all of you, and for myself is that each of us wake up everyday and live as women of power. Confident, courageous, and intent on empowering ourselves and others to change the world for better.”

medal1.jpgThe week ended with two sponsored events of Jessie Diggins, the Team USA Gold Medalist Cross Country Skiier. Even though I was taking my self-proclaimed job of photographer and videographer very seriously, I couldn’t help being in awe of the number of girls cross country ski teams that came in, together, to meet their idol and inspiration.

They were poised, and prepared with great questions of how Jessie reaches new goals. They sought advice and soaked in every word she gave them. These girls struck me as the type to describe themselves and each others as go-getters, innovators, risk-takers, and leaders.

I saw first hand, they’ve been inspired. They will impact the world.

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Butternut Squash Curried Soup

There comes a time for everyone to face their fears. Mine is cutting squash and getting things out of the sink drain/garbage disposal. Apparently I’m the only one who does the latter, because it’s obviously not a foolproof plan.

But people everywhere are somehow cutting butternut squash, and living to tell the tale with all ten fingers. It’s inspiring. I make spaghetti squash in a crock pot to avoid this, but buying frozen butternut squash wasn’t cutting it.

So after the advice of many brave souls, I bought butternut squash (with no plan or recipe) and put it in the oven (whole) at 400 for 10 minutes before attempting any chopping. Magic.

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That brought me to this what-do-I-have-in-my-cabinet soup. It was completely random but filling and delicious. Hope you enjoy!

INGREDIENTS

-1 butternut squash, chopped
-1 sweet potato, chopped
-1 1/2- 2 cups of (cooked) quinoa, I used tricolor from Trader Joe’s. You’ll need just 1 cup uncooked
-4 cups vegetable stock
-1 can diced tomatoes
-1 tbsp curry paste
-1 can coconut milk
-5 shakes curry powder
-3 shakes cumin
-1 tsp ginger garlic paste
-1 tsp sesame oil

DIRECTIONS

1. Bake whole squash at 400 for 10 minutes to soften (option to do this with sweet potato as well)
2. Chop squash and sweet potato as shown above
3. Place veggies in soup pot and add broth. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Stir occasionally.
4. Make 1/2 to 1 cup (dry) quinoa in separate pot in the meantime
5. Add curry paste, tomatoes, coconut milk to soup pot and start to mash potatoes and squash. Simmer for 10 minutes.
6. Mash squash and sweet potatoes again to desired consistency, or remove from pot and blend if you want it super creamy. I prefer some texture.
7. Add curry powder, cumin, ginger garlic paste, and sesame oil.
8. Stir and serve!
Yields ~8 servings

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Superbowl Sunday Veg Buffalo Dip- 2 Ways!

I’ve been a vegetarian for almost 9 years, and people always ask me if there’s anything I miss. To their disappointment, I always say no, and that it’s such a habit, I forget it’s an option.

And then this time of year in the #BoldNorth rolls around. Minnesotans. love. buffalo. chicken. dip. It’s in every crockpot at the tailgates, holiday parties, and you best believe it will be at Superbowl Sunday. And I’m jealous.

So here we are, the first recipe is vegetarian buffalo dip for the guests that don’t want to be eating bird food. Focus on mentioning there’s cheese, keep quiet about the cauliflower.

Health nuts, keep scrolling for the vegan/paleo buffalo cauliflower hummus that is dairy free, gluten free, and still adored by regular food people like my coworkers.

VEGETARIAN BUFFALO DIP

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INGREDIENTS
1 head cauliflower, chopped into florets
1 tbsp olive oil
1/8 tsp salt
4 ounces cream cheese
1 cup plain greek yogurt
1/2 cup Frank’s buffalo sauce
1 tbsp ranch seasoning
3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Sliced green onion
Carrots, celery, and/or chips and crackers for serving

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Toss cauliflower florets with olive oil, salt and pepper on baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until tender and slightly browned. When cauliflower is done, lower oven temperature to 350 degrees F.
  3. Add roasted cauliflower to food processor and pulse until finely diced. Add cream cheese, yogurt, hot sauce, ranch seasoning and 1/2 cup mozzarella to the food processor and pulse until smooth and creamy.
  4. Transfer cauliflower mixture to a baking dish. Top with remaining mozzarella and optional blue cheese. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until mixture is heated through.
  5. Remove from oven and garnish with sliced green onion and serve with carrot and celery sticks and/or tortilla chips.
""VEGAN/ PALEO BUFFALO HUMMUS
ingredients
INGREDIENTS

1 head cauliflower, chopped into florets
Sea salt/ himalayan salt and cracked black pepper to season califlower

1/3 cup tahini
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 cup Frank’s buffalo sauce
1/4 cup lemon juice
Sliced green onion (optional)
Carrots, celery, and/or chips and crackers for serving

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Toss cauliflower florets with olive oil, salt and pepper on baking sheet. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until tender and slightly browned.
  3. Add tahini, olive oil, cauliflower, buffalo sauce, and lemon juice to food processor (blender in my case) and pulse until smooth and creamy
  4. Mix in sliced green onion if you’d like
  5. Transfer cauliflower mixture to serving dish. Sprinkle cayenne pepper on top. Cool and enjoy!
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Perfect for our arctic Minnesotan Sundays!

Armenian Stuffed Zucchini

“Is this a monthly thing or something?” my workers asked me as I shared my casual plans for an Armenian dinner with friends.

Yes, yes they are. For about 6 months, my roommates from my time studying abroad have committed to planning the next month’s plans while we’re together. It makes managing crazy schedules and multiple priorities, well, manageable.

If you’re late to the party, catch up on the first three “cultural dinners” that preceded this one.

Come Thursday, I was given a few options for my contribution to our Armenian dinner, but my scrappiness prevailed, and the zucchini’s I needed to use up because the new focus.

Turns out, Armenian Stuffed Zucchini is a thing…

INGREDIENTS (yields 6 stuffed zucchinis, good for 4 people as a side)

-3 Zucchinis, the wider the better
-1 can chickpeas
-1/2 cup kalamata olives
-1/2 cup crumbled feta
-1 medium onion
-1 small can tomato paste
-1 tomato

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PREPARATION (15-20 minutes)

  1. Cut zucchinis in half and core each half, not puncturing all the way through so it can hold the stuffing.
  2. Chop onion and sautée with zucchini “insides.”
  3. Pour chickpeas, feta, and olives into seperate bowl and mash to a stirrable mixture
  4. Once onions and zucchini insides begin to brown, add in tomato paste and bring to simmer
  5. Take off heat, and stir into the mashed chickpea mixture
  6. Chop tomato and set aside for final topping

COOKING (40 minutes)

  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Stuff zucchinis with filling to the brim, you should have some stuffing leftover
  3. Place leftover stuffing at base of narrow pan- I needed the zucchini to be close together to help keep everybody standing and fillings in tact
  4. Bake at 350 for 40 minutes, vary if zucchini is preferred crunchier/more well done
  5. Add chopped tomatoes to the final dish, and serve!

I promised myself my “pan picture” would turn out better than one’s I saw online, but I’m not sure it’s possible. Now it’s your turn to try!

If you need help convincing to host an Armenian dinner, please see below…