#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.

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…

 

The Best “Say Yes to the Dress” Signs

Two years ago today, I wore the proudest title of “Maid of Honor,” as I entered Posh Boutique in Minneapolis to help my best friend say “yes” to her perfect dress.

About two days before the trip, inspiration struck, and I decided this event needed a little extra spice.

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I designed these signs to be a constructive way for everyone in the group to give feedback, without any negativity, such as a low score on a 1-10 scale.
I made the template for the signs, just by googling and inserting the various emojis. Once printed, I pasted them onto half sheets of scrapbook paper that corresponded with the sign. Everyone attending should have all 4 signs.
Here’s how I explained the scale:

Doesn’t do you justice: This might be a boring dress, or not playing up their best features. The sleep emoji says it all

How Pretty!: This is a pretty dress, but it’s not necessarily what the sign holder sees having the wedding day “wow.” It’s like when all you have to say about someone is that they’re “nice”
Gisele, is that you?: This is a fun sign to tell the bride they are bringing it in this dress. It might be flattering, sexy, beautiful, or they may be carrying themselves extra confidently in this dress.
Absolutely stunning!: The bride emoji says it all- this sign shows the bride you can see her walking down the aisle in this dress.
I hope you enjoy this as much as we did. I consider myself a Maid of Honor for life, so I can’t wait to live vicariously through all of you who try this!
Happy shopping 🙂

The First Headline About Festive Fleet

When deciding to leave a then-11-person organization for a Fortune 50 Company, I was most excited to see what an organization of that caliber could accomplish. What impact they could have on the communities they’re in.

I’ve been lucky to dive into that first hand, in my first quarter with Comcast, by being the Twin Cities Region lead for Festive Fleet. While I’m a woman of words, I’d rather show you just what Festive Fleet is:

Festive Fleet has given me the opportunity to empower a team of technicians and support staff to embrace the impact they’re capable of. We leverage the relationships they are building in homes every day, and asked them to nominate deserving customers for a special gift.

These are customers who are financially struggling, suffering from a loss in the family, encountering a difficult time, creating a pleasant experience for technicians in their home, or unfortunately having an unpleasant experience with Comcast.

Customers aren’t asking for these gifts, or reaching out to us with these stories. These stories are discovered by the Technician’s time in the home, and their ability to be there as a person, for a person, rather than completing a job for a customer and leaving.

I could talk for hours about the stories I read while choosing the 35 customers from the Twin Cities area to receive gifts. 

The only issue is, no one knows we do this.

While I was interviewing for Comcast, I didn’t think of Festive Fleet. I thought of many of the headlines that are probably racing through your mind now.

I decided to set up Google Alerts for Comcast so I could learn the company, but also keep tabs on the outside impression. I still read it everyday; it’s not always the most uplifting email, especially recently.

Today's Update, 12/18

But when I was about a week into my new role at Comcast, it was a different headline that made me pause. One from the Region VP down the hall, who I now often talk to while making coffee.

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Also new to his role in the Twin Cities Region, I was excited to see we were the first to admit where we have gone wrong, and also the first to bet on this team.

I have no desire to have my point of view outweigh these other headlines, rather I hope to capture the side of Comcast that no one hears about- the family that always puts the customer first.

Like peeling layers of an onion, I keep discovering new programs available to employees and customers, and new coworkers to connect with.

I was inspired by Internet Essentials, which offers low-cost Internet service, discounted computer equipment, and free digital literacy training to families with children in the National School Lunch Program. This was then expanded to eligible seniors and community college students in limited markets.

It’s solutions like these that motivate me to find creative solutions, because this fast-paced industry doesn’t allow time to say the words, “This is the way it’s always been done.”

Still, Comcast isn’t perfect. It’s a work in progress, an organization embracing new practices and priorities, and ensuring that cascades down to every single individual. And outside of an 11-person organization, there will be customer experiences and decisions that are out of my control. That’s difficult for a scrappy mind to accept.

So instead of being on the sidelines, I’ve used my scrappiness to make the Twin Cities Region close-knit and I’ve seen how this 159,000 person organization can still build partnerships across departments and regions. I’ve learned from collaborative leaders who are focused on a bigger picture that’s rooted in customer experience.

I’ve shared my experiences with others, and no longer hesitate when saying, “I’m a Marketing Specialist at Comcast” as I did my first week. Whatever reaction that brings, it’s just another opportunity to share why I am so proud to say #IAmComcast.