The Tale of Two Houses

It’s hard to believe an entire year has passed but 2013 has come and gone. Things have been moving fast for me, hence the absence of any writing for more than a month! Now that the holidays are over and things are finally starting to normalize my goal is to really hunker down and get writing here. So even though I’m still shaking off some of the “Egg Nog Fog” (even though I’ve never had egg nog before in my life), I thought I may as well start today!

So one of the reasons I was particularly busy around Thanksgiving and really all through December, aside from the holidays, is that I moved! If it wasn’t obvious by the title of this post, there is a lot that has remained untold about my former living situation. This is actually a story I’ve been dying to write down, mainly because it’s absurdity is like something out of a book, and if I don’t write it out I”ll probably forget some of the most ridiculous details. Until now I haven’t really been able to talk about it, aside from with my family and Ted, because there has actually been a lawyer involved and I really needed to wait until I was sure legal action wasn’t going to be necessary.

That said, this story is a fantastic way for me to bid adieu to 2013, because it goes back all the way to when I first moved to Atlanta last January, which should really give you some indication as to how absurd this ramble is going to be. As I’ve mentioned before on the blog, when I first took a job in Atlanta last year, I had a very short amount of time to figure out where I was going to live and get my butt up here, so I had to get my house hunt done while I was here for a 3 day visit to get my paperwork etc, in order at the new job. I think all total I looked at maybe 3 places –– my future house on Smith street was the first stop.

While the house on Smith wasn’t my dream place –– it was small and outdated, and while it did have updated appliance and what not, the updates had obviously been done. . .hastily–– it still seemed like a good, this is my first time living on my own and I have no idea what I’m doing, home. It was right near Ted, only 30 minutes from my office, there was a backyard for the puppies, a security system, and it was right within my budget! Enter the landlord, Michael Mendenhall. Though are meeting was pretty brief, in the 15 minutes he spent with Ted and I, he seemed like an ok, though definitely quirky, man. He said over an over that he loved that I had dogs because that meant I would be safer, and of course made promises to take care of things like routine maintenance around the house and in the yard. I was sold.

My last night in town me and Ted sauntered over to the house to sign the lease with Michael. I was feeling good, I had my new job all squared away, was about to sign the lease on my first big-girl house, I even had my gym picked out. I came, I saw, I got shit done! So I thought.
That night, me and Ted got a glimpse, just a glimpse, of the craziness that is Michael Mendenhall, while he was adding my name to the alarm system account. The crazy came in the form of him screaming at the customer service rep, more or less because she was asking him routine account verification questions. I don’t think either of us really judged him too harshly for the incident though, because we have certainly all been in our own bite-your-head-off moods, but it didn’t give me the warm-fuzzies or anything.

A few weeks later I made my big move, and I was in the throws of my get-shit-done mode when it happened –– the Comcast installer tried to plug in my TV, and the outlet sparked and tripped my breaker. If there was one moment that really set everything bad about living in that house in motion, this was it. The outlet situation lasted for probably close to two months so I’m going to save myself the trouble of writing it, and you the trouble of going attention deficit trying to reading it, and give the abbreviated version: He didn’t believe me that the outlet was the problem, he later admitted he really didn’t think I was making it up or that it was all in my head, he blamed it on the Comcast equipment, he wouldn’t make the appointment with the electrician and instead had me to do because he “didn’t want to traumatize my dogs?”, which would have been fine but then the guy he was trying to set us up with was awful and unresponsive and when he did respond it was specifically when we said we were unavailable! Eventually we worked it out, and it turned out it wasn’t in my head, the wires were in fact all corroded, deteriorating and not up to code. I was a little irritated that things took so long to fix but other than that things were still more or less good at this point.

Warmer weather rolled around and Michael showed up to mow the lawn. Great, awesome, except for that he didn’t let me know he was coming so I left Marley and Millie out in the back yard. Obviously, that meant that he couldn’t mow the back yard, but the less obvious problem with this is that M&M are rescue pups. Millie, in particular, is really sensitive, and by sensitive I mean scared of everything. Really, thing I would not ever classify as potentially scary, like my empty water bottles for instance, are just all kinds of not ok with the Millster. So if my water bottle is like a tiny, menacing shiny creature, a lawn mower is probably the monster equivalent of Godzilla to her. She dug her way out of the backyard and hid in the woods for 3 days before we found her. Alright, he had no way of knowing she would do that, so no big deal. But then he showed up again without giving me any kind of notice. This time my dogs were up so he was able to mow the back without any incidence, but since I didn’t know he was coming I didn’t clean up any of the puppy piles out there (I’m the kind of person that has my one day a week I devote to cleaning, that includes puppy piles, which I don’t think is unreasonable). I felt bad about that, but I also felt like he really should have given me some notice. I could have been doing some no-tan-line sunbathing back there! I mean, I don’t, and didn’t, but still.

I decided to extremely politely ask Michael if he could please just let me know when he plans on mowing, you know, if there is like a certain day he plans to do it (I have a few friends who own lawn care businesses and have extremely planned out maintenance schedules, planned 5 months in advance, so their clients always know when they are coming), or if he could just even give me a text the day of, that would be great. I got back on the nastiest, most inaccurately written, emails of my life. I think the first line I was actually “What……are you kidding me.” The email then continued to tell me that this was his fourth time trying to come out to the house to mow the backyard (which again…would have been easily avoidable had he given me some notice), and that I was going to be getting an invoice because he got dog pop on his equipment and in his truck (and again, there would have been no dog poop, had he just let me know), he then rambled on about how somehow now having dogs was a violation of my lease and he was going to charge me an additional pet deposit and pet rent, and a few other things. That Michael, such a peach.
To my credit, I sent back one of the most courteous emails I have ever written, apologizing for the miscommunication and his equipment and saying I wanted to be respectful of his time and proposed to just let me handle the backyard. No response. Then, like a week later, a tree falls onto the car port at the house and sets off the security system, we all meet at the house and he acts like everything is fine and we are great. He says he will come take care of the tree in the morning, and I leave my dogs up the next day in preparation. He never comes. In fact he doesn’t come until more than a week later, and of course, doesn’t let me know, so the dogs are out back and Millie freaks out and escapes into the woods again. He also sent me some awesome text messages complaining about a hole Marley dug, in an already grassless place, in the yard, and saying we needed to talk immediately.  I got home and Millie was gone and Michael wasn’t there and never responded to any of my calls. Clearly, my luck is abundant.

At this point I was more than a little irritated. I have enough stress to deal with at my job, I really don’t like dealing with it at home too. A month later I came home to learn from Ted that Michael had apparently stuffed a letter in our mailbox and then drove off. The letter was a late rent notice, with my voided rent check. Just for reference, it was the 10th of June when he drove up (he lived like 5-10 mins away) and dropped off a letter, which was probably a full 7 days after he had received my rent check. Why he waited 7 days to drive over and give me a letter saying my rent was late, I have no idea. Anyways, the letter said that my rent had been late pretty much every month that I had lived there, and he was trying to charge me something like $1500 in fees, plus $500 for “damages” to the backyard. Same day, I also received this other notice that day from the alarm company, informing me that the alarm bill had not been paid since before I moved in, and it was going to be turned off and the case would be handled from this point on by a collections agency. I was irritated before, now I was livid. The alarm system had been one of my stipulations about living there, and on top of that I paid him for it every month in addition to my rent! I kept thinking, what has he been doing with my money every month? As for his letter, well I know my rights, and in order to try and charge me anything he needed to give me official notice, official meaning certified mail. Don’t thinking stick a letter in my mailbox counts. I sent him a really direct email, just kind of saying what the heck, because I was under the impression that there is a 5 day rent period, in fact we had discussed this when I was initially signing the lease, and I had always had my rent in by the 5th at the latest. Also, up until this point he had never given me any indication that it was an issue. He of course emailed back saying he doesn’t like making two trips to the bank, and said something how he was just “cover his own butt” because he just got out of a lawsuit.

Here’s the thing I already understood about Michael though, he is a typical Type A personality, he doesn’t think anybody’s time is as important as his, and he’s a bully. In his eyes, I was just a young, little girl living by myself. By those measures I should be pretty easy to push around. This is a key example of why it’s not the best idea to judge people you don’t know, because anyone who knows me, even on the acquaintance level, could have told Michael that I really really am not the type to be bullied.  So of course since he complained about a lawsuit in his email, I immediately lawyered up. From this point on Michael was required to go through my lawyer for any and all communication with me. This is where the story got sort of gratifying for me. My lawyer, who it’s worth noting is a friend of a friend and didn’t charge me a dime and did a really fantastic job, pretty much confirmed that Michael had no base to try and charge me anything, not to mention the late fee he stipulated was not even close to the same as the fee listed in my lease. I guess he never read it. Right about now is when the whole Debelle street home-buying debacle happened. When that home fell through I knew I needed to go ahead and start looking for another place to rent, but I figured I could at least last until my lease was up. Of course, no sooner did I think I could last than the water at the house on Smith street got turned off. I got home one night, and it just wasn’t on. When I tried calling the water department about it, they of course would not give me any information because the account was in his name. In case you didn’t know, you have to be reaaallly delinquent on your water bill for them to actually shut your service off. We eventually discovered that the water had not been paid at the property in 3 years, and because it was not in my name I could not get them to turn it back on. When my lawyer tried to contact Michael about it, he of course, in true form, immediately questioned why it was his problem that I’m not paying my water bill? After all, the bill is in my name. Well, the bill was in his name, in fact, that water bill was actually registered to come to his address and not mine, so even if I wanted to pay the bill I wouldn’t have known when or how much was owed. Anyways, I got it taken care of, and subtracted the amount I paid for the water bill from my rent that month, and my lawyer made it clear that I was going to do this until Michael could provide the bill statements showing what I actually owed for the water. Makes sense right? Apparently not because then he tried to evict me, via text message.

IMG_4282I guess this was his way of letting me know he had an issue with the check I gave him? (p.s., don’t bother saying anything about me posting a random voided out check, this bank account is closed anyways 😉 I ignored both the envelope and the text messages, especially since if he did file an actual eviction it would take a minimum of three weeks to actually go through, and I was planning on being out way before that. I had already found another place, paid the security deposit, and was packing up my stuff. The only response we ever actually gave was to submit to him, via email and certified mail, a formal letter that I would be terminating my lease agreement with him (a whooping month early) because of his negligence as a landlord.

I cleaned up the place and repaired any damage I thought was caused by me or the pups. No matter how terrible he was I just couldn’t leave the place in disarray. The sort of interesting thing is that once I cleared all my stuff out on November 30, that house actually got broken in to. There was nothing there, but I guess they still caused some damage. This house had a history of break ins with previous tenants living there, but the alarm system acted as a deterrent while I lived there. At this point, since he never paid the bill, it wasn’t actually monitoring, which is why someone was able to break in unhindered. Ironic? Yeah a bit.

I am now happily in a new place, and fortunately and much more versed in how to deal with crazy landlords, though my new one is definitely not crazy. Now that all of that is out of my systems I an officially say, farewell 2013 and hello 2014!

Advertisements

I have a problem

Really more of an addiction –– a pumpkin addiction. I have been eating pumpkin almost nonstop for basically an entire month, so much so that I’ve actually had concerns about if it’s possible to eat too much pumpkin? I actually googled this the other day, I’m that pathetic. Pumpkin does make everything better though so how can you blame me?

All of these pumpkin meals have meant a lot of experimentation on my part, and that’s resulted in everything from pumpkin oatmeal casserole for breakfast to a simple creamy pumpkin soup. In the interest of my sanity and my time, I’m only going to share the pumpkin recipes I have liked the most so far.

photo (18)Pumpkin Alfredo

This was by far my favorite recipe of everything I made. I haven’t perfected it though, so I don’t have firm measurements on what I used, so I’m just going to guesstimate right here.

I used one package of gluten free pasta noodles, the brown rice kind. In retrospect I would have used the quinoa pasta noodles instead, I find them to be a bit less sticky. I also served this sauce over some lightly sautéed greens, I used spinach but kale or collard greens would work here as well. I just used spinach because it was what I had in my fridge. For the sauce I took about 3 tbsp of olive oil and combined with 2 tbsp of flour, stirred it up until it thickened a bit and then added 3-4 large cloves of minced garlic (I like a lot of garlic). At this point you will need to stir continuously because the mixture can burn very easily. Once it thickens and turns a golden color you can slowly add milk to the mixture. I used  cup of almond milk and a half a cup of soy milk, both unsweetened. Stir until everything is evenly mixed, and then bring it to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and stir continuously until the mixture thickens. Now I added probably half a can of pumpkin puree and a tablespoon of dijon mustard, mixing in everything evenly. Here is where it comes down to personal preference. I like a bit of a thicker Alfredo sauce, but I still thinned this out with several tablespoons of cold water. If you like a thinner sauce you may be better off adding less pumpkin. Like I said, not perfected.

Meaty Pumpkin Coconut Chili

  • Two packages of some kind of veggie ground –– I think I used smart ground here
  • Two cans of kidney beans, I used one white and one red
  • two cans of petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1 can of water to thin the mixture
  • half a can of pumpkin puree
  • 1 can of full fat coconut milk (the mini cans, like 4oz)
  • For spices I did a dash of pumpkin pie spice, a gracious plenty of chili powder,  some hot sauce, a dash of cayenne, a dash of paprika and of course a pinch of brown sugar
  • several cloves of minced garlic

photo (19)The great thing about chili is that it is pretty straight forward and hard to screw up.  All I did was sautéed the garlic in a bit of olive oil, then I added the chopped onion and cooked it until it was translucent, then I added the veggie crumbles. My veggie crumbles were pretty frozen so I had to break them apart and cook them for about 10 minutes before adding the peppers and the tomatoes and kidney beans Let this simmer for a few minutes and than I basically added everything else. You can add more or less pumpkin puree depending on how strong of a pumpkin flavor you want, but it’s worth noting that the more pumpkin puree you add the thicker the chili will become, so it may need thinned some.

IMG_1761Then of course was some pumpkin soup served over quinoa. I’m just going to tease with this recipe for now, because it was my least favorite pumpkin experimentation of the ones I have posted. Once I have a more perfected version the recipe will be all over this blog. I will at least say that my second time around with this soup I used a combination of pumpkin, sweet potato, carrots, cashews and coconut milk as my base.

Frustration, followed by a seriously intense workout

I want to just start off by saying that my current bout with “getting back in shape” has been the most exasperating workout experience I have had in a really long time, probably since I first began running 5 years ago actually. Maybe it’s the shoulder impingement that is preventing me from doing yoga, push ups, or really much else with my arms, or maybe it’s my current struggle with shin splints –– something I thought I had experienced the last of 2 years ago –– it could even be that working out in the morning is just very different for me, since up until a few weeks ago I have historically gotten to the gym anywhere from 2-5 pm, OR it could just be all the stress I’ve been dealing with popping up in weird ways, like the feeling that my lungs might explode while I’m running.

In case it wasn’t obvious enough from the title, frustration and stress are the overarching theme for my ramble today, so let me back up. For the past oh I don’t know, 3-ish months, I have been going through the staggeringly tedious process of trying to buy a house. Trying is the optimal word there. When this all began, I wasn’t necessarily planning on buying a house, I  just happen to enjoy house browsing, which is kind of like clothes browsing for me except a lot more expensive and instead of deciding if a top is versatile enough to wear to work AND out on the town, I look at things like the quality of the flooring and projected home values in the area. So the same right? Well, one night while I was perusing the local real estate, I noticed a recently listed foreclosed on home right within the city limits, so of course I had to go and take a look in person. In the shopping process that’s the equivalent of trying on clothes to me, because they always look great on the rack or the mannequin but until you actually put it on yourself you just can’t know for sure.

Somehow looking at the house turned into putting an offer in on the house and it was all downhill from there. Well, the prospect of getting a house wasn’t “downhill,” it was actually really exciting, it was just everything else that was awful, and I’m not talking about the copious amounts of paperwork, because I expected the paperwork. What I didn’t expect was that I would loose nearly $3,000 and end up walking away from the house. This was a foreclosed on home and needed a sizable amount of renovation work done, that was apparent from the beginning, and it of course made the entire loan process much longer and more tedious. However, my loan officers (at Wells Fargo for the record) apparently were inept at figuring out how much longer the renovation work would make the loan process, because we missed our closing deadline not one, not two, but three times (I could argue four technically but I’m feeling kind this afternoon). The first missed deadline led to an extension for the closing date, which was all fine and good, but when we got around to that date we still weren’t ready and the sellers refused to grant us a second extension, citing a lack of communication from the loan officers as the reason. That’s when I lost my first $1,000 of earnest money (it’s worth noting that at this point I had also sunk in probably $1.000 for inspection costs, the appraisal fee, HUD consultant fees, you get the picture). My chief loan contact also admitted to me after the fact that he knew it would take more time than the sellers were granting to actually get the loan closed, he just didn’t push them for the time he needed. Don’t ask me for an explanation on that, because it defies logic.

Somehow I was persuaded to rebid on the house, and keep this excruciating process going by putting another $1,000 on the line. The sellers accepted the bid, gave us our closing date, and they went ahead and told us upfront that no extensions would be granted this time around, because after all, why on earth would we need one anyways? The loan officers at Wells Fargo had been touting the mantra that they were “days away” from the sealing the deal since we first missed a closing deadline. Surely this time they were telling the truth right? Two weeks went by and in no time we were days away from closing yet again, and the underwriters were still requesting additional documentation –– documentation I had sent them at least 3 times at this point. To say I was doubtful  we would make it is putting it lightly, but I was holding out hope. Then, yes there is a then, on Tuesday night my loan officer called me and announced he had been “running the numbers” and that as it turned out I would need to bring about $15k to closing, up from the $8k I had originally been told. He went on to tell me that based on every dollar I had, I was still about $4,000 short, but I could get a gift for that amount right? To better highlight the timeframe of this call I will say that we were supposed to be closing Friday by 5pm, which technically means Wells Fargo needed to have a closing package out the door 48 hours in advanced for the sellers to look at. So, when he was asking if I could get a gift for $4,000 before closing, what he really meant was can you get a gift for that amount in the next 12 hours? I don’t know about you, but there aren’t many people I can think of who have a spare $4,000 laying around. Not to mention, he was factoring in money from the account I use solely to pay my bills, so when he said I would need to find an additional $4,000 to bring to closing, he meant after using every single dollar I had. Who really needs to pay bills or eat anyways?

That was pretty much the breaking point for me. Some scrambling happened after that, with different branch managers calling me everyday and trying to work out some kind of deal that would make me reconsider. One thing about me though –– I’m extremely stubborn. Generally speaking, once I make up my mind about something, it would practically take an act of God to change it. Not to mention, I had this overwhelming feeling that I had more or less been jerked around for the past 3 months, and truthfully there had been something inherently off about the house and the entire situation for a while now –– call it a gut feeling but as many other people I’ve learned to trust those instincts.

I think my manfriend was a bit more disappointed about walking away from the house than I was, which is understandable, but I really felt more relief than anything else. That’s not to say I wasn’t bummed about being out another $1,000, about $3,000 in total at this point. I definitely was bummed about that, but $3,000 seems small compared to the burden of taking on a mortgage, and potentially 10s of thousands in renovation work.

photo (14)So with all the frustration, stress and disappointment of the entire house situation still fresh in my mind the next morning, I decided to plan a workout so intense that I wouldn’t be able to think about anything other than surviving it, and that’s exactly what I did. This is probably one of the most intense workouts I have planned to date, and by the end of it I was drenched, not just dripping, in sweat and too exhausted to think about much besides the fact that I had survived.

So if you’re feeling like you need a really great workout in a relatively short amount of time, give this one a try.

I should say I did warm up with 10-15 minutes on the elliptical, and then I did a 30 ish minute leg session in the weight room. I did 4 rounds of 15 weight squats, 15 russian lunges per leg, weighted step ups, and kettle bell swings. So feel free to do whatever weight session you want, or none at all, I just think it’s very important to get some dedicated weight training in.

Here is the breakdown of the meat of the workout:

The rounds are structured for 30 seconds of 100% effort (max reps) and 10 seconds of rest.

1.) Sprint (alternately you can jumprope or do some other cardio exercise where I sprint)
2.) 4 bicep curls and then 4 prisoner squat jumps (basically a low squat where you jump your legs in together and out wide) – once I got going I could get 2-3 sets of this in
3.) Sprint
4.) 1/2 Burpee & Tuck Jump
5.) Sprint
6.) Scissors – Lay down completely and extend one leg into the air and let the other hover about 4 inches off the ground, sit up until your shoulder blades are off the ground, reach through and touch your hands, switch your legs, touch again, etc.
7.) Sprint
8.) In&Out Legs in plank + 2 spider abs –– from a plank position, jump your legs in out wide, then bring your left leg across your body to the outside of your left arm, put it back and then do the same thing with the right leg
9.) Sprint
10.) Knee raises

I repeated this 4 times, and was about dead by the end of it.

Clarkston Politics

Are you ready for a rant? OK great. About 10 months ago, I moved to a little town called Clarkston. Now, for those of you who don’t know where Clarkston is, don’t feel bad. I don’t even think a lot of Atlanta natives know a lot about the city, much less where it is.

Here’s the rundown: Clarkston, Ga., is located just beyond Decatur, like literally a couple miles down the road. Clarkston itself is a 1.1 sq. mile city, and we have a mere 8,000 people living within the city limits. The extraordinary part though is that housed in this tiny little city are people representing more than 40 different countries, speaking more than 60 different languages. Clarkston has often been called the most diverse 1.1 square mile in the country. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but it certainly feels that way walking down my street.

The reason we have such a fantastically diverse community is because Clarkston is a resettlement city for many of the refugees our country receives (which, isn’t a lot by the way. America only receives about 1% of the refugee influx). As I’m sure you can imagine, when you mash all these things together, you get a really gooey complicated mess for literally every issue the city deals with.

Right now, Clarkston constituents are in the throes of a mayoral election, and this is really the crux of my rambling.

ted at forumSee this guy, with the fuzzy hair? That would be my boyfriend, or rather manfriend (I much prefer calling him a manfriend as opposed to my “boyfriend.” Boyfriend just seems very high school to me, and I’m not a teenager anymore, I’m a woman damnit), Ted Terry, and he’s running to be Mayor of Clarkston.

There are two other people vying to be mayor of this tiny town, one is Ibrahim Sufi and the other, of course, is the incumbent mayor Emanuel Ransom.

I plan to vote for Ted on November 5. I’m sure a lot of you out there reading this are thinking, well of course you are going to vote for him, you HAVE to. I just have to say, I hate the notion that I “have” to vote for Ted, simply because we are together. My relationship does not dictate my decisions. I am my own person, and I make up my own mind about things –– that includes who I will or will not vote for in the Clarkston Mayoral election this November. I would not vote for Ted if I didn’t believe he was not only qualified for this job, but that he could do it well. Ted knows that I am who I am, and he’s fine with that, and he knows that if I didn’t think he should be Mayor, I wouldn’t vote for him.

I went into this election with an open mind, so now I’m going to talk for a minute about why the other two candidates are not getting my vote. The incumbent, well I really just have nothing positive to say about him. It’s important to clarify that Mayor Ransom was never elected, he was a Vice Mayor. The former Mayor, who was tremendously liked among Clarkston residents, very suddenly died about halfway through his term, and then Ransom was, rather unfortunately, blundered into the picture. So despite his claims to have been in office for the last 4 years, he’s only been in there for about 2. Every encounter I have had with the Mayor, whether it was at a candidate forum, a radio debate, and even simple neighborhood visioning meetings, has done nothing to improve my abysmal  impression of him. His cantankerous demeanor and habit of harassing residents about arbitrary yard ordinances definitely got the ball rolling for me, but really it was his debate performances that sealed the deal. It seems like his answer to every policy/platform oriented question that has been raised over the course of this campaign has been, “we’re working on it,” or alternately “it’s already being taken care of.”

I’m sorry but that is just not a reasonable answer. It’s also simply untrue. Frequenters of city council meetings and workshops can tell you easily enough that since Mayor Ransom came onto the scene, little to no progress has been made on any of the projects his predecessor envisioned.

As for Mr. Sufi, I have no inherent problem with him. From everything I have experienced he seems like a basically good guy, albeit a bit antagonistic at times, but only towards the Mayor and really who could blame him? My big problem with Sufi as a candidate is his inherent lack of experience, and by lack of experience I mean he has literally never worked in any form of government, city level or otherwise, and has only begun showing up to city council sessions and other city government meetings during the past month. Inexperience is not always necessarily a bad thing, but he would have been better served running for one of the city council seats instead and potentially working up to mayor. Sufi also has four young children, and while that does mean he is probably vested in Clarkston’s development, that also means he has a huge time commitment in conjunction with the small business he owns (Sufi & Sons, a trucking/towing company I believe) .

Really, just looking at the campaign reports from these two candidates can tell you loads. Mayor Ransom for instance, reported a $500 contribution from “John Doe” with an unknown address. For those of you wondering, it’s against state law to accept anonymous contributions. He also states on his campaign cards, his Facebook and other materials that campaign contributions are “tax deductible” which is completely false.  I don’t know about you, but that’s definitely the kind of character I want in my Mayor. Not sure how well that sarcasm translates via the interwebs but it was worth a try.

Sufi on the other hand has failed to file his personal financial disclosure report, something state law requires within 10 days of qualifying, and he has reported $0 raised and $0 in expenditures, yet he has managed to somehow pay for the Sufi yard signs that are littering my neighborhood, as well as a campaign website. I don’t think any of these things were intentional on Sufi’s part, these first-time candidate oversights simply further highlight his inexperience in this realm. Also, I sincerely hope people are not basing their vote for Sufi merely off of his status as a refugee, because that’s worse then voting for someone based purely on party lines (it’s worth noting that this election is non-partisan).

Ted, in contrast, has spent all of his adult life working in public service, and he has worked at every level from a U.S. Congressman all the way to Mayoral and City Council candidates and elected officials. He got involved in politics all the way back in high school and became very involved when he was in college, because it is something he is passionate about. It’s also worth mentioning that he got his degree in food science and nutrition, with the intention of becoming a dietician. That means he willingly decided to leave that and get involved in politics. Aside from all that political experience, he has actively gone to city council and other city government functions since moving to Clarkston around two years ago, he has been actively involved with city visioning groups, the neighborhood watch, he has written grants that helped Clarkston get it’s first ever mural project and has plans to do more, he has gone through Clarkston 101 workshops, a weeklong Community Transformation Course –– the list goes on and on. So, with all that experience in mind, I always find it pretty entertaining when some of my fellow Clarkstonians say they are not completely sure about voting for Ted, because he “doesn’t seem ready” to be Mayor. My response: Compared to whom? Because you certainly can’t mean his competition. Without sounding like a blatant advertisement, Ted has the experience and the wherewithal I’m looking for in my next Mayor.

Rambling complete.

Crock Pot Pumpkin Coconut Curry

I feel like I’ve been a negligent blog owner. For a couple weeks now planned posts have been sitting in my draft box, untouched. Things have been hectic on so many levels. For starters, I’ve been trying to buy a house for the last two months.

Why did nobody ever tell me that buying a home is one of the worst experiences of all time? I think I have filled out more paperwork during the last few weeks then I ever knew, or wanted to know, was possible. Really, I can look past the paperwork. The bigger stresser has been just dealing with the sellers, who I feel have really kind of jerked us around. My biggest issue is that we (we being me and the loan company I am using for the mortgage + renovations) requested 60 days to close this loan, which is a pretty typical length of time for this kind of loan. They gave us 45, and said oh we will just file an extension. So we filed the first extension, which put us around 55 days, and then they refused to extend to 60. Our contract was technically “canceled” when we were unable to close on the 55th day, but with this partial government shutdown it is unlikely someone will be able to come in and steal the house out from under us.

My boyfriend also has no job at the moment. He’s working on it, and it’s ok that he doesn’t have one, especially because he is running for Mayor of Clarkstong (the town we live in) and that is really time consuming until the election in November, but it means that all the financial obligations that come with buying the house are on me.

Then there’s work, which is a different kind of stress all together. Let me just say,  I love my job. I love what I do, but we are in the midst of a crazy statewide, weeklong event with another big one coming up in a month.

The last straw was my left shoulder injury, something I have been dealing with off an on for the last year or so. I’m not sure what I did, but last weekend the injury really flared up to the point where I could not even rotate my arm. Apparently I have an impinged shoulder, which is awesome, and could take 6-8 weeks to feel better but may not ever completely heal.

On Monday I was really feeling all of these things weighing on me, and I responded with pumpkin –– lots of pumpkin. For those of you who haven’t gotten the memo –– fall is officially here, and that means I can now cook and eat a copious amount of things using pumpkin and/or butternut squash. First up on my list was this coconut pumpkin curry! It was super easy to make, took me all of 10 minutes to cut and and throw everything into my slow cooker before I left for the day.

Ingredients

  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 package tofu – extra firm, drained
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 Tbsp ginger
  • 2-3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 plum tomatoes, diced
  • 1 15 oz can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix)
  • 1 cup coconut milk (unsweetened, full fat)
  • 2 tsp high quality curry powder
  • 1 large pinch cayenne powder
  • 2 cups roasted butternut squash
  • 1/2 lime juiced
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro

coconut curryI really just threw all of these ingredients into my crock pot and cooked it for 6-8 hours on low. I probably used more coconut milk and more curry powder then I have listed here, but I like very rich flavors, so add more as you see fit.
One note about the tofu –– I always fry or bake mine prior to putting it into the slow cooker. I also freeze my tofu and thaw it just prior to cooking it. This gives the tofu a very different texture, and I like it a lot. I also only added the tofu for the last 2-4 hours.
This can be served over any grain, I chose to serve mine over black rice.
I probably ate this four days in a row for dinner, and every day it successfully melted my worries and stress away.

A Day of Gratitude

24 years ago today, I was officially born into the world.

I’m not big on celebrating my birthday day, not that I don’t like celebrating or don’t want anyone to know about it, but I am just more of a low-key kind of person. Plus, it’s Tuesday. What can you really do on a Tuesday?

I spent most of last night dwelling on how stressed out I am over buying my first home, and the mess that comes with that process, in the form of mounds of paperwork and seemingly pointless paperwork requests for documents I’ve never even heard of, which of course I took out on my blameless boyfriend. I woke up this morning feeling headachy and fatigued –– just generally icky, but I still managed to drag myself out of the house and for a more than 5 mile run around the neighborhood.

I still for icky, and irritable, not the best combination for a birthday bash. So, instead of trying to rid my apathy for celebrating today, I decided I should just take some time to talk about al of the things I am thankful about, in this 24-year-old life of mine.

I am thankful that I have woken up every morning for the past 24 years.
I’m thankful I have the ability to move and be active, and do things like go for early morning 5 mile runs around my neighborhood, even when they are annoying and I don’t want to go.
I’m thankful that I do something I love
I am thankful I have the ability to pay my rent, to even attempt to buy a home even though the process is a much bigger pain in the ass than I ever could have possibly imagined, to buy the kind of food I want to eat, to feed my dogs the kind of food they need to be healthy.
I’m thankful I have parents and siblings and friends who love me, even though I totally march to the beat of my own drum.
I’m glad I got to eat carrot cake, and still have some in my fridge
I’m grateful for coffee
I’m thankful I have a loving boyfriend, who has the patience to put up with my craziness, even though I have a remarkable lack of patience for much of anything
I’m thankful someone figured out how to make nut butter
I’m grateful for my dogs, because even though they really annoy me sometimes, and are smelly and slobbery and kind of dumb, they love me unconditionally.
I am thankful for every experience I have had, good or bad, because I would not be the person I am today without those experiences.
I’m thankful for all of the things I can’t remember right now, because it’s late and it’s been a long day.
I am thankful for every second of the last 24 years, even the ones I can’t remember, and all of the people who have touched my life.

I’m also super grateful for this glass of wine sitting in front of me.

night cap

Remember to Breathe

treadmillAs promised, the photo bombardment has begun. In the last two days I have managed to tack on a little more than 22 miles towards my 200 mile goal, leaving the official tally at a bit over 82 miles.

My plans when I got up this morning were much more ambitious, but somehow an hour passed between the time my alarm went off and the time I actually got out my front door.

The good news is after two weeks my workouts are finally starting to get back on track, now I just need to really start focusing on my diet. Don’t get me wrong, my diet hasn’t been “bad,” I just need to tighten up on some areas, like the fact that right now I’m eating dairy and gluten filled goodies a bit too often, which has my body all inflamed. So this week I am really going to focus on balancing what I eat when I’m at work from 10-6, which has been the biggest challenge for me so far.

The bad news is that I find myself, more often then not, comparing my current fitness level, and even workout intensity, to where I was a year ago. I don’t do it intentionally, but when I finish a run, in the back of my mind I compare how far I ran, how fast I ran, how intense it was, to the level I used to exercise at. And even though it’s not intentional, it still leaves me with a feeling of discouragement and inadequacy, which really raises flash backs to a time when I was obsessive about my body image and about working out.

I frequently tell people to approach situations from a place of non-judgement, so why can’t I practice the same philosophy here with myself? It’s frustrating –– this need to do better, be better, run harder, faster. The only time the though isn’t nagging at the back of mind is when my shoes are hitting the pavement, when I can’t think about anything besides the rhythm of my breath. I think my goal for this next week is to stop being so hard on myself, and instead be happy with the fact that I am making any progress at all. If all else fails, I will come back to my breath and let the rest go.