29 December 2011


I managed to post 125 this year. That's 35 more posts on this blog than last year. Sometimes it's challenging to keep up with posting. Sometimes it's not. Thanks for sticking with me this year. It's mostly been a wonderful year. And 2012 promises to be even better. Happy New Year!

28 December 2011

And Now for Something Completely Different

When I first graduated with my PhD, I didn't have a lot of hope for getting a job teaching and researching at a university or college. Nate and I moved to Denver and didn't plan to move away from Denver. Anyone with a new PhD will tell you that you better be prepared to move if you want to get a job. That, or cobble together adjunct positions and other research work. I decided that getting a full-time job in a field completely unrelated to my degree was the way to go. And my PhD has served me well as a grant writer. I get to research and write and use some of my evaluation skills, which has been great.

It's been so great that I never considered doing anything different. I have gotten used to set schedules and benefits and office work. So, when I was approached about teaching a class at the University of Denver, I was a little thrown off. But it didn't take me long to seriously consider the proposition. On January 3, I will return to university as an adjunct professor in DU's Media, Film & Journalism Department. I'll be teaching a graduate seminar on Media Effects and Consequences. And I'm excited. In the spring I get to teach a course on activist media. Anyone who knows my background won't be surprised to hear that I'm really excited  about that!

I do have clarify that I will only be an adjunct and my contract is only good for two classes. I will continue grant writing part-time as well to pay the bills. I have a good feeling about this!

26 December 2011

Giving. Just Giving.

I hate to stray too far away from the green aspect of Green Means Go(od). But after partaking in the largest consumer holiday in America, I feel like I have to report out all the good stuff we did to the Earth as well as the not-so-good.

This was the first year we have hosted Christmas at our house. Nate's dad, stepmom, and brother spent most of the weekend with us. Benny and Lila loved having everyone here. I think Christmas at home was a success. Plus, now we have a whole day to recover. No traveling, no schedules, no nothing.

Having a four-year-old makes the holiday truly magical. And the adorable one-year-old doesn't hurt either. However, Lila was far more interested in playing with wrapping paper and boxes than anything she received. Benny bought into the Santa gig completely. We opened presents from family on Christmas Eve, with promises of Santa gifts in the morning. When it was time to set out the cookies, Benny wanted to set one out for each of the reindeer. We convinced him that the reindeer could share. He decided that he should put the cookies outside with a flashlight to help Santa find the house. And another tradition was born.

Benny woke up on Christmas morning and padded his way to my side of the bed. I asked him if Santa came. He ran out of my room and zipped back in in about five seconds exclaiming, "I got the BIGGEST present from Santa!" We woke everyone up and he ripped into his presents. Nate bought him a child-sized guitar as a Santa gift. I didn't think he would be interested in it, but it was the hit of the presents by far. Nate, poor guy, didn't feel well Christmas morning. Luckily he pulled through.

Benny also enjoyed his spin art toy that I bought locally. It's not as sexy as a string guitar, but he's gone through all of the blue paint included in the kit and is nearly finished with the paper squares.

Christmas Eve family picture.
Merry, merry minestrone!
Christmas Day snowman.
All tuckered out.
The Brown boys, playing Chutes and Ladders.
It was a great day of giving. Giving feasts and presents and love. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.

24 December 2011

Merry, Merry Minestrone

This is the first year that Nate and I have spent Christmas in our own home. No traveling, no planning, no schedule. Nate's dad and stepmom are in town, so we are doing a bit of hosting, but the house feels comfortably full and happy.

Now that we have kids and we aren't traveling, I decided to start some of our own traditions, which include a mishmash of our own family traditions. We are opening presents tonight. Santa will visit when everyone is in bed, so we'll have more presents tomorrow morning (new tradition). The naughty and nice list has come in very handy this year. Benny is acutely aware that I have Santa on speed dial. I've made a few calls. Tomorrow we're smoking a ham for lunch and we'll go to a matinee of The Muppets (Nate's family tradition). Tonight we'll have some warm soup (my family tradition) and go out to see some lights in the neighborhood.

My mom always made potato soup, chili, and chicken noodle soup on Christmas Eve. I'm adding a twist to the Christmas soup tradition. We're making minestrone. It's hearty, it's fully of good stuff, and everyone loves it. Nate and I have been making this minestrone since we received a great vegetarian cookbook for our wedding. Enjoy the Merry, Merry Minestrone!

Merry, Merry Minestrone

3 tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 medium sized potatoes, finely chopped
6 cups veggie broth
1 bay leaf
1 sprig thyme
1/2 cup frozen peas
2 zucchini, chopped
1 lg. can chopped tomatoes
1 can white beans
3 tbsp. pesto sauce
salt and pepper

freshly grated parmesan cheese, for serving

1. Heat oil, stir in onion and garlic and cook for 5 minutes. Add carrots and celery and cook for 5 minutes. Add potatoes and cook for 3 minutes.

2. Add broth and stir. Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Cook for 12 minutes.

3. Stir peas and zucchini and simmer for 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and cover the pan to simmer for 8 minutes.

4. About 10 minutes before serving, uncover the pan and add the beans. Simmer for 10 minutes. Add the pesto sauce and simmer for another 5 minutes.

Serve with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Voila! A relatively healthy, hearty Christmas soup. We're serving ours with some yummy bread. Can't wait to report out on our Christmas feast and activities! Have a great night!

22 December 2011

The Story of Our Year

Happy 2011!
Lila, "Dancing it out!"
Benny, such a big helper.
Benny and Lila in a rare picture together :).
Benny's first Rockies game (it was snowing).
Benny's fourth birthday!
Lila's first pigtails.
Visiting Western Colorado.
Children of the corn.
Lila's first birthday!
Helping dad carve pumpkins.
Happy Halloween!
Playing in the leaves.
Blossoms of Light.
Happy holidays! We had an amazing year! Follow the links in the captions to read about all the events of our year. Here's to great adventures in 2012!

And here's some holiday humor, just for you!

19 December 2011

Giving Experiences (Plus a Great Recipe!)

Benny is four yeas old and had not experienced a Christmas light show until last night. There's really no excuse - lots of places in and around Denver have light shows for the holidays. We did try to go to Zoo Lights two years ago, but the line of cars was so long that we opted for Thai food instead. Benny was none the wiser. However, he's such a fan of lights that we really should have humored him before now.

We decided to skip the crowds at the zoo this year and experience the lights at the Denver Botanic Gardens. We became members this summer and I haven't regretted it yet. I love the gardens. We've visited as a family three times already and we took advantage of our free tickets to the harvest festival around Halloween. We invited Benny's friend Toby and his family to join us. It was a magical night - the reason for the season, without the whole Christ part! (Can you tell from Benny's enormous smile in both photos? He told me, "Mom, I really love this!" as we walked through the gardens.)

And then we made this great Coq au Vin recipe courtesy of the Whole Foods recipe website.

We served the dish with sour dough bread, simple French salad (I will write about this amazing side some day), and noodles coated in olive oil. It was a delicious, if fast, feast! We had to chow down in order to get the kids to bed at a decent time!

This is blatant plagarism:

Chicken in Wine (Coq au Vin) 


8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
Salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 slices bacon, roughly chopped*
3 tablespoons unsalted butter or extra virgin olive oil, divided*
1 (12-ounce) package white or baby bella mushrooms, quartered
2 carrots, chopped
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth*
1 1/2 cups red wine
2 large sprigs thyme


Arrange chicken on a large sheet of waxed paper. Season both sides with salt and pepper. Lightly coat chicken all over with flour and set aside.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add bacon and cook until golden and just crisp, 3 minutes. Drain bacon on paper towels and set aside. Discard drippings and wipe out skillet. Melt 2 tablespoons butter (or heat oil, if using) in same skillet over medium high heat. Add chicken and cook until lightly browned all over, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer chicken to a large plate as done and set aside.

Melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter or oil in same skillet. Add mushrooms and cook until edges begin to brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Add carrots, onions, garlic and salt and cook until vegetables just begin to soften. Transfer vegetables and broth to crock pot. Arrange chicken on top. Sprinkle bacon over chicken. Add wine and thyme sprigs. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 7 hours. Season with salt and pepper, then serve.

17 December 2011

Holiday Happenings

Thanksgiving always marks the beginning of the end for us. The beginning of parties, celebrations, and feasts to celebrate the holidays. We purposely didn't make any plans this weekend to recuperate - although we did drive 45 minutes to a birthday party today only to find out that the party is tomorrow. Doh! Benny took the mistake in stride. I, on the other hand, was really bummed and mad at myself. I volunteered to babysit for our neighbors tonight so I could have some quiet time to work. Here I am, working on my blog.

Nate's stepmom took pictures of us before we scooted out the door to Nate's company's holiday party last weekend. I'm hoping to learn how to take better pictures soon. Overexposed flash photos don't really do it for me any more.

I wore a fun dress that has a fantastic story. When I was in Minneapolis two weeks ago, my friend mentioned that she had traveled back from L.A. with some free Jessica Simpson Collection clothes. Long story short, she has a connection with the Simpson family and they were getting rid of last year's model clothes. She got to grab whatever she wanted, stuff it in a garbage sack, and bring it home. How cool is that?!? She had so many clothes that she had to give a bunch away to friends. She gave me the dress I wore to the holiday party. It's not something that I would have picked out myself, but I love it now. It's so feminine and interesting. I didn't know what shoes to wear with it in such short notice - it's navy and black - something else I would never do. But I think it all worked out OK.

By the way, I can't remember the last time I wore PANTYHOSE!

The family photo wasn't much of a success. The kids were far too tired. But you can see our mini tree. Lila has stripped the lower portion of most of the ornaments and eaten/destroyed them. Maybe next year it won't look so sad.

Hope you all area enjoying your holidays!

15 December 2011

Winter Concert

Check out Benny's BIG smile! The teachers are prepping Benny's class to perform Frosty the Snowman. Such a fun little event hosted by Benny's daycare. Last year Benny just stood and picked his nose throughout his class performance. This year he actually sang a few words and did some of the actions. I'm so proud of him. And he's so darn cute!
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12 December 2011

Giving Local

Thanks for stopping by for another installment of Green Means Go(od)!

My giving local experiment hasn't worked out quite the way I wanted it to this year. I haven't visited any local Denver shops to purchase gifts. I did, however, take advantage of "shopping local" when I visited Minneapolis last weekend. I had a great weekend visiting one of my best friends - sans children. We spent Friday night catching up with two friends of mine from grad school and attending an intense criminal defense attorney Christmas party (and I don't use "intense" lightly!). On Saturday we relaxed a bit and spent the afternoon in Stillwater, Minnesota, about 30 miles outside of Minneapolis.

I wasn't having a lot of luck finding gifts for my family. Then we stumbled on the Stillwater Olive Oil Company. It's a teeny tiny shop that only sells olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Amazing. I tasted about 10 olive oils before settling on some really great ones for some people on my list. I even found some great accessories, like spouts for the bottles.

At a small home store, I spotted a spinning art toy that Benny has been coveting. He'll be surprised that Santa is so tuned in to what he wants!

Otherwise, the local shopping will be fairly nonexistent this year. We're using Amazon for a couple of gifts, found some sheets for Benny's bed at IKEA (gasp - so not local) and went to Target (gasp again) for some new underwear and socks to stuff in his stocking.

But, we are staying true to our experience gifting plan. We're taking Benny out for a night on the town next week (his request) and we have a special weekend planned for my parents. I can't divulge much about that until after Christmas. I'd give this year's buy local project a C at best. I'll try harder next year!

07 December 2011

Why I Support Mental Health...

Mental Health America of Colorado is not only my employer. Before I started working here, I participated in the MHAC-supported support group for mothers with postpartum depression. Many things contributed to my recovery, but the support group was key. It gave me somewhere to go when I was anxious. And it was incredibly comforting to know that other moms were going through the same thing.

MHAC provides free mental health services to people who could not otherwise afford services. It trains people how to advocate for better mental health services in the state. It educates people how to prevent mental health crises. Unfortunately, with mental health, you don't know how important it is until it impacts you directly.

You can win a gift card just by "liking" or commenting on Mental Health America of Colorado's Facebook page today! It's that simple! Of course, you can also donate, which would be fantastic.

05 December 2011

Book Review: The White Tiger

The Man Booker Prize. Does anyone know what that is? Anyone from the States? I don't think I'd ever heard of it before hanging out with my Canadian sister-in-law. To be honest, the only Canadian author I've read is Margaret Atwood (and I love her). However, after reading The White Tiger, winner of the 2008 Man Booker Prize, I'm tempted to read many more winners.

My brother left a copy of The White Tiger at my house after visiting this summer. It took me awhile to pick it up. Knowing that I had an upcoming plane trip without anything to read, I decided it was time.

This is a great book about two Indias: The Rich and The Poor. However, I do think the message is applicable to any society where there is a severe line between the haves and the have nots. It's also a great portrait of someone who goes through a process of discovery about his life. The narrator is a son of a rickshaw driver from rural India who rises to the position of a driver in Mumbai. He eventually owns his own business, but it doesn't come easy (murder of his boss).

I wish I could offer more insight. You'll have to read it for yourself...

Giving: Social Media Blitz

Thanks for visiting Green Means Go(od) this week! This month I'm veering off the sustainability track. Since I focused on Giving Up last month, this month I'll be focusing on Giving (you know, the spirit of the season and all). Mostly I'll focus on giving sustainable gifts and doing sustainable things for the holidays. However, today is a special subject - very close to my heart.

Alright, I'm breaking the "no blogging about work" rule just briefly. As some of you may know, I work at Mental Health America of Colorado. I write the grants, but I end up doing a lot of other things as well. I work with a great team of three other women. This fall, one of my team members suggested that we do a social media blitz to secure some end-of-year donations.

The four of us came up with a plan and we're launching it TOMORROW! It's a 48-hour campaign on Facebook and Twitter. We've secured a $500 match and have aligned the campaign with Colorado Gives Day, so donations could possibly be doubled. PLUS, we've scheduled four giveaways.

Here's what I'm asking you to do, friends...

Check out MHAC's Facebook page. We'll be updating it regularly with our progress and with information about giveaways. Please consider donating to this good cause. Mental health is one of the hardest issues to raise money for, but it is so important. Everyone I know has been impacted by mental health - good or bad. And prevention is the key to good mental health.

Please consider joining us in this campaign - even if it just means that you "like" MHAC on Facebook. Thanks for your support! Check out the Facebook page tomorrow and Wednesday for some great giveaways!