What I’m Into / July 2014

A summer night is like a perfection of thought.  — Wallace StevensIMG_4560

I realized that I’m becoming like my Grandmother, starting these posts each month with a quote.  A few words that share the beauty of the month, the season.  There are worse things. She does like the summertime.  


I wrapped up my 33 Before 33 list, including the things I did not do.  But! All the things that I did do that were not on my list, for which I got zero credit.  I feel cheated.

I mean, in July alone, I cleaned out our linen closet, I tried cooking bok choy (successfully), and we had a roommate.   I’m giving myself extra points.

tbt dad

My dad found this #tbt gem at my grandmother’s house and basically won the internet that week.  Tiny Dad is just so cute.  


I did a week-long hydration challenge and subsequently used the bathroom all. the. time.  


Chad and I went to Pasadena for Max & Kate’s wedding (sadly missing Matt & Jenya’s celebration) and took pictures in a parking garage.  Because love.

IMG_4928Chad is exploring Business School, so we went to a Preview Day for a program at Northwestern, and naturally had to enjoy beignets and Bloodys at Dixie Kitchen.  Lake Effect makes for a nice July morning, I’ll say.  

What I’m reading
I linked up with Modern Mrs. Darcy to share books I’m reading in Twitter-inspired fashion.  This month’s reads included The Romanov Prophecy, Bound, Between Shades of Gray, Wedding Night, The Fault in Our Stars, and Department of Speculation.

What I’m watching
I was obsessed with The Face on the Milk Carton as a teen, and MTV’s Finding Carter fills a special place in my heart.  I don’t regularly watch the full show, but I can’t get enough of watching Kacy Catanzaro absolutely dominate this American Ninja Warrior course.  And, we finally watched Season 2 House of Cards and loved it, natch.  

Around the web
Consider digging into some of the Faith Feminism synchroblogs here.

Little things I’m loving

Summertime fresh fruit is the best.  Especially when Whole Foods has samples.


My friend Jenipher creates these amazing, encouraging doodles (and sells adorable prints and cards in her Etsy shop).  I loved this one especially.  Emojis are the best.  


Jazz on the Green on a beautiful evening AND Ranae in town.  The greatest.


Oh – I’m NOT loving this.  Starbucks, what is this straw?  Quit messing around.

Adventures in Piggery


The tassels on sweet corn are my favorite.  They pop out all ethusiastically Pfft Pfft Pfft!!  Plus, popcorn is super good.

IMG_4903 IMG_4753I mostly saw barn exteriors this month. This is what #RealPigFarming looks like from the outside.

The things I did not do

I made a list of 33 things I want to do before I turn 33 in June 2014.  See the full list here.

4.  Tour a dairy farm.  I’ve never been on one as an adult, and I want to see how the operation works.
9.  Tour a feed lot.  See #4.
11.  Keep our hydrangeas alive.  Easier said than done.  I kill things.
17.  Tour a poultry farm.  See #4.
20.  Finish Project 4:4.  Amen.
27.  Purge my Facebook friends.  I’m up over 1,000 again and that’s just ridiculous.

These are the things I did not do.  No other way to say it.

There’s no real reason that I did not get the farm visits scheduled – I made some basic attempts, and it just didn’t come together.  I’m still interested in visiting a dairy, feed lot and poultry operation, and hopefully I can get it done this fall.


My hydrangeas.  You guys.  We have a beautiful large hydrangea bush in our back yard, and it comes back faithfully every year.  We had smaller hydrangea bushes planted in our front window box, and paid a kid to water them carefully last summer through the draught and our travels.  And then, the winter hit.  And they did not live.  At all.  So we have mulch and a few unwelcome volunteer mini-trees right now.  We’ll try again next spring.

Screen Shot 2014-07-29 at 1.47.33 PMIn 2012, the church we were attending underwent a year of reading the Bible chronologically.  There were videos and blogs and podcasts and a whole lot of support for readers.  However, we got all the way into the minor prophets and then lost steam.  So close to the New Testament, we really should have just kept going, but alas.  We had initial hopes of completing the readings and videos this past year, but nope.  It just didn’t happen.  We didn’t even start again.

Screen Shot 2014-07-29 at 2.33.46 PM

Have you ever tried to sort through your facebook friends to (kindly and thoughtfully) unfriend people?  They make it difficult, let me tell you.  Anytime you go back to the full list, you have to start at the top, and it’s not alphabetical. And there’s no “open this person in a new tab.”  So, I unfriended like 3 people and gave up the ghost.  And then I took two e-courses and became friends with about 30 new amazing people.  So, the more the merrier, y’all.  I have muted and unfollowed a few people here and there, and I’ve definitely been on a Do Not Invite Me to Play a Game Ever rampage, but I’m done trying to systematically unfriend.  Too much effort.

So there you have it.  Those are the things I did not do.

Snail Mail

I made a list of 33 things I want to do before I turn 33 in June 2014.  See the full list here.

10. Send one snail mail card each month. Between my grandmas and all my friends scattered about, I’ve got quite a few options.


I actually did this! Cards and packages went to Chicago, Seattle, Tacoma, Omaha, Kansas, South Dakota, Raleigh, and the last package I sent went to my friend Regina who lives in Zimbabwe. Mac & Cheese, taco seasoning, Twizzlers, all the great U.S. goodies…I went out with a bang.

I like receiving mail, and I like sending mail. I think I’ll keep it up.


Twitterature / July 2014

A Twitter-inspired look at books I’ve been reading recently.  (And here’s what I read last month.)  What’s on your bookshelf these days?


The Romanov Prophecy / Steve Barry
While not exactly great writing, I enjoy a good international conspiracy thriller. And, I love all things Russian, especially when it deals with Anastasia Nikolaeva or Anna Anderson.  I’m a believer.


Bound / Sally Gunning
Nicely written historical fiction set pre-revolutionary war. Bound is a sequel, although I didn’t know that until after I finished.  Enjoyable but not overly compelling.


Between Shades of Gray / Rūta Šepetys
An important, beautiful book.  The western world has long brushed over the atrocities of Stalin’s reign of terror in the Soviet bloc. Rūta does her family’s Lithuanian heritage justice with this must-read (but admittedly hard-to-read) YA book.

17910611Wedding Night / Sophie Kinsella
Typical Kinsella – fun, fluffy and quick.  Not my favorite of hers, but great for a sunny Saturday with a cocktail in hand.  


The Fault in our Stars / John Green
I cried as much as the next girl, I suppose, but I have a hard time buying the idea of My One True Love at age 16.  As good as any Lurlene McDaniel book was when I was a tween.  (Also, I kept thinking that Jennifer Lawrence plays Hazel in the movie, and that was super distracting.)

17402288Dept. of Speculation / Jenny Offill
Brief, lovely snapshots of a marriage – the “love, loneliness, grief, joy, fidelity, beauty, depression, mania, motherhood.” Less a typical novel and more enticing fragments of thought and life.  Should be read in one sitting.

I’m linking up with Anne Bogel for her Twitterature series. Hop on over to Modern Mrs. Darcy for more.



All the new restaurants

I made a list of 33 things I want to do before I turn 33 in June 2014.  See the full list here.

8. Try one new Omaha bar or restaurant each month.  We love our city, but tend to go to our old favorite places all the time.  Time to branch out.


I haven’t been very good about blogging about these restaurant excursions, but actually, in addition to Kitchen Table, Block 16, and all our new friends in Benson, we’ve done a good job of branching out in the way of restaurants this year.


New-to-us places we’ve tried this past year include:

  • Wilson & Washburn – Good happy hour and fries.  I’d like to try their beet burger.
  • Avoli Osteria – Um, AMAZING.  I’ve heard that it’s the best food in Omaha right now, and I wouldn’t have much of a case for disagreeing.  Get your boss to pay if at all possible, cause she ain’t cheap.
  • Taco Truck on Saddle Creek – Darn good tacos on the cheap. (pictured above)
  • Rivera’s Mexican – our company that night was far better than the food which was just okay, and the atmosphere was terrible.  The tile floor and crowded tables made it almost impossible to have conversation.
  • The new Bread Oven – I have such fond memories of the old Bread Oven, but the new one’s food seems at least up to par with the old.
  • Railcar – Okay, not amazing.
  • Salt 88 - Better than I was expecting, actually.  Too far away to make our regular rotation.
  • Heartland BBQ – Come to mama.  That brisket is to die for.

See new restaurants #1 & #2#3, #5 & #6) here. What was #4? You tell me. I don’t remember.

Dinner: A Playbook

In a crazy moment of complete how-did-that-happen, I was chosen to review new recipes to help promote the upcoming release of Jenny Rosenstrach’s new cookbook – Dinner: A Playbook.  I’ve been a happy blog reader of Dinner: A Love Story for years, and was thrilled to participate in the recipe challenge last week.

The instructions were pretty basic – we were asked to try 3 new recipes from Dinner: A Playbook (out in August – pre-order here), and share stories and results on social media.  So here we are!


If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you’ll know that I served cheddar brats from a local grocery butcher and TJ’s chicken sausages alongside a Feeling Brave kale slaw (with bonus dried cranberries) to some lunch guests.  I say feeling brave, because I never know what to do with kale, you guys.  I know it’s ridiculously trendy, and I don’t mind eating it, but buying it is a little intimidating.  I was pretty excited to find a kale/spinach/chard blend at HyVee, and I just chopped it up to make the slaw – easy peasy.  The tangy dressing on the greens was the perfect accompaniment to the grilled sausages.


I love the bright flavors (and colors!) of summer vegetables, and radishes are some of my favorites.  This salad brought together spicy radishes and sweet sugar snap peas with a few surprising ingredients for a fresh combination so good that I might have made it 3 days in a row for lunch.  Chad doesn’t like radishes (silly boy), but that just meant there was more for me.  Win.


God bless the slider for popularizing the meatball that refused to ball.  I did pan-fry these chicken parm meatballs instead of baking them (it’s too hot for an oven, y’all), but they would just not stay round.  So, meat-flats they were.  And boy, were they tasty.  Raw ground chicken is admittedly kind of strange, but the finished product was simple and delicious – one that I’ll keep in our regular rotation.

So there you have it.  New recipes and a fun challenge.  Check out more photos and stories on Twitter and Instagam with #DinnerPlaybook.

Disclaimer: I received an advance copy of Jenny’s new cookbook and a $50 Target gift card to pay for groceries, but was not otherwise compensated for my review.  As you know, I love Target and food, and all thoughts here are my own.

What I’m Into / June 2014

Spring being a tough act to follow, God created June. — Al Bernstein


Welcome back to puffy cloud season, everyone!


First things first.  Let’s take a look back at June 1983 – the month that Chad turned 1 and I turned 2.  Yep, I’m the older woman; we’re the same age for 24 days each year.  But seriously, if that’s not the cutest thing on the internet right now, well, maybe just don’t tell me about it.  Happy birthday, Team Wastell!

We spent the majority of the month on the road, but still managed to squeeze in plenty of fun.


Namely, with these little nutters.  We spent a few days at my sister’s tacked on to the beginning of a business trip to the east coast, and I LOVED getting lots of snuggles and silly moments with my nieces.  They’re 4.5 and 2.5 and full of energy and giggles and wanting all the snacks and treats.  Sisters are the best.


We hosted some super fun Airbnb guests, including one couple who bought steaks at a local butcher, but were tired at the end of their day, so Chad the Rockstar Griller Man offered to grill their ribeyes for them.  We’re pretty much great hosts.  Come visit!



Speaking of beef, we were in Chicago over the weekend, so we popped up to Evanston for Al’s famous roast beef with blue cheese.  So good.  And Al’s accepts Euros, so hey.




We took a stroll along the lake and took a picture in which I actually look slightly tan, but do not be fooled.  Just good lighting and a little Instagram.

What I’m reading
I linked up with Modern Mrs. Darcy to share books I’m reading in Twitter-inspired fashion.  This month’s reads included A Year of Biblical Womanhood, Someday Someday Maybe, The Slap, Admission, and Burial Rites.

What I’m watching
Grey’s & Nashville finales, CHECK.  Game of Thrones finale, CHECK.  Bad summer movies and all the funny YouTube videos, CHECK.

Around the web

Check out #DinnerPlaybook on Twitter and Instagram – I was chosen to participate in a fun challenge for one of my favorite food blogs to celebrate a new cookbook.

Little things I’m loving


A dear friend sent me some homemade jam, plus some art from her littles that basically rules.



Even Solomon in all his splendor was not clothed like one of these.


But, new shoes!



Some good friends baptized their baby and I got to do a reading.  The afternoon was full of moments of glory.

Adventures in Piggery
Most of the month was spent preparing for or recovering from World Pork Expo, where people take pigs for a walk, among other things.  Read my full recaps here.



I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer for her What I’m Into series. Hop on over to her blog for more.