How to: Grill

katherine holmgren, beaverdamusa.comSaturday April 18, 2015 was the day I became an American. What I mean is, I learned how to use a grill.

Maybe I should provide some context.

I don’t remember when my awareness of the grill was formed but I assume it was around the time I learned about the American flag and restaurants with unlimited buffets. My dad’s three main “Dad Meals” when I was growing up were Swedish pancakes, chow mein from a can served over crunchy Asian noodles from a bag, and Dad Burgers. For those of you who don’t know, Dad Burgers are the perfectly formed, artfully seasoned burgers that men over the age of 35 are capable of producing from a grill for their families. Non-Dad Burgers are the charred hockey pucks your under 35 male friends serve you at pool parties. There are some exceptions both ways, but this is what I’ve found to be the standard. My dad can grill anything to perfection and would have happily taught me how to use a grill at any point leading up to this moment but I never asked. I was the laziest child. And here we are now.

On Friday afternoon I sent out the bat signal to my most grill-savvy friends about my plan to learn to grill. They quickly informed me that my understanding of how long food preparation takes was incredibly uninformed.

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As if you couldn’t tell from this screenshot, my grilling mentors live in East Nashville where grilling is not burgers and hot dogs, it’s pork chops and vegetables. And it’s an all day process.

The grill journey started early Saturday afternoon at the Porter Road Butcher in West Nashville. Porter Road is where you go if you are craving meat from an animal that was killed less than 48 hours ago. I don’t even know, you guys.

I walked into the butcher shop and immediately understood that I was an outsider and would never belong. The guy behind the counter motioned a hello and asked what I’d be having. “Uh…pork.” I said, convincingly. He nodded and asked me more questions about the meat, each more confusing and vague than the last. His final question was about how thick I wanted the pork cut and I actually responded with “Whatever will be the most impressive, but least expensive.” He nodded again and went to the back.

While I was waiting for my mystery pork, a lady behind me in line expertly ordered a giant piece of cow that she was going to “tenderize at home.” I told her the chunk of whatever part of the cow she was getting looked delicious and she did not respond because I had apparently broken some kind of fourth wall. I hope the meat she ordered turned out to be more tender than her heart.

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I went straight from Porter Road to Chris and Lauren’s house to start the brine process. For the less informed, this just means you soak the meat in salty sugar water for hours and hours. I don’t really understand the science behind it because I think I was probably on my phone and not listening when my friend Mike tried to explain it to me.

The period of time between when I bought the pork chops and when we grilled the pork chops is what I would like to refer to as “The Hipster Vegetable Hours.” Growing up in Kansas, gathering vegetables for grilling would mean a single trip to the nearest chain grocery store. And honestly, we probably would not build in a specific vegetable trip so the comparison is already a little one-sided. This East Nashville vegetable trip took TWO SOLID HOURS and included a fancy coffee stop at Barista Parlor (see selfie below), a trip to the Nashville Farmer’s Market where we didn’t buy ANY vegetables but DID talk to all the local shop owners, and finally a stop at a hipster grocery store called the Turnip Truck which, as far as I can tell, is just like a normal grocery store but less convenient and almost none of their vegetables are packaged to easily carry home.

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Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetWe made it back to the house at the exact time the clouds overhead started to look the most ominous. This isn’t some East Nashville rain grilling flavor secret. It’s been raining every day for the last twenty days and at some point you just decide to forge ahead with your outdoor activities with the biggest umbrella you can find.

Though it was rain-soaked and a little lengthy, I found the actual grilling process to be pretty interesting. Mike and Chris taught me how to light the (gas) grill and strategize about grilling order. Once I got over the intense amount of bumblebees hanging out on the patio, we grilled pineapple, bell peppers, sweet potatoes, asparagus, garlic, bread, and finally the chops. Some quotable teaching moments that stood out to me were:

  • Technically, you can grill anything.
  • Know your grill and its hotspots. Again, not like wifi hotspots. Like spots that are hotter than others.
  • The FDA recommends these pork chops be at least 145 degrees Fahrenheit before we take them off the grill.
  • You should pay attention more, Katherine. One time I came out and it was on fire and you were on your phone.

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In my defense, I was on my phone a lot because I was writing stuff down for this post and trying to take a lot of pictures. I was probably also checking Instagram and Snapchat and whatever but that’s not the point. The point is, I learned how to grill. I took pride in myself and pride in my country to wo-Man the Grill and provide food for my friends. No, it wasn’t easy. And yes, I had to keep reminding my male friends that this day was about me, not them, and could they please tone down their primal male grilling instincts to let me have control? Did they want to write this blog? Thought so.

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Dinner was delicious and afterwards we grilled s’mores (courtesy of Emily and Houston) and played board games.

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The pride and exhaustion of grilling an entire meal for six people is not lost on me. Well, it’s kind of lost on me because I’m still tired from doing it. I could draw a lot of positive conclusions around buzzwords like “hard work” and “America” but the truth is that being a Grillmaster is just not for me. NOT WHERE YOU THOUGHT I WAS GOING WITH THIS, RIGHT? I typically take on the role of entertainer when I grill with friends. I provide jokes, commentary, and life advice to distract from how boring meal preparation is. Occasionally I help chop stuff and set tables. Always I try to overcompensate with a monetary contribution to distract from how unhelpful I am the day of an event (example: Katherine hasn’t done anything, but she did contribute all of the drinks for this party). I take a very biblical approach to parties and believe that we are all different parts of one body working together for a common cause. My part of the body is just the superfluous, unhelpful part. The spleen, maybe? I’m not sure how I have friends. All I know is standing at a grill and being responsible for the health and safety of other people is not where I like to be. I’ll be in the kitchen helping chop stuff and eating all the appetizers, thank you very much.

To my friends Chris, Lauren, Mike, Emily, and Houston: Thank you for helping me grill and celebrate a delightful Saturday. I’m sorry it took so long and that I got mad when you tried to hurry up the process by cooking some things on the stove or in the oven. I hope you understand my insistence that everything had to be grilled was an artistic choice and not necessarily the best way. I hope in the end your bellies were full and your hearts happy. Maybe we can do this again except I won’t be Grillmaster. I’ll be jokemaster.

To my dad: Thank you for all the hours you stood and continue to stand at the grill to keep your family full and happy. If ever you think of me, please send me some burgers via overnight mail. I miss them.

To Barry: Sorry this blog is late. I had a lot of words to say and emotions to process.

Happy Grilling!

 

How to: Do Your Taxes

katherine holmgren, beaverdamusa.comI took last week off from the blog and you would have thought another kid fell into a zoo exhibit from the pandemonium that ensued. Office productivity across the nation saw record increases as everyone had one less blog to procrasti-read* and had to resort to doing actual work. I received angry emails and Facebook posts (mostly from my grandparents) and my dad told me people at his office “definitely noticed.” I told my dad maybe his coworkers could “definitely notice” the part of their performance reviews that mentions procrastination issues, but I digress.

I was busy last week, okay? I don’t feel like I need to break down my work and social calendar because, truth be told, you’re coming across as a little needy right now, dear reader. And that’s not an attractive look for you. I gave you eleven straight weeks of top notch, high dollar content and you gotta leave to come back, ya know?

Speaking of high dollar content, I will not hesitate to remind you that I do not get paid to write this blog. Thank goodness there isn’t money involved because I do not need yet another vague profession to deal with on my taxes. Speaking of taxes…

I thought long and hard about how to approach taxes on the blog. This post will go up on Tax Day (April 15), but I hardly feel qualified to speak on the subject. Thanks to my eternal youth, I’ve only been on the IRS radar for a few short years and even then my dad has helped me input numbers and organize the data. This was my first year filing from my own computer without adult supervision, and I don’t even know if it went well. I have to file for my day job at an office and my night/weekend job playing music. It takes twice as long and is infinitely frustrating. Who am I to offer advice?

The loudest voices in the tax community are those who file well before tax day and condescendingly say things like “Oh, you haven’t done that yet?” when you mention your April 14 plans. To those know-it-alls, I say this: You are not every man. You filed your taxes so early because you are very boring and you don’t do very many fun things. My taxes will get done. Your taxes will get done. We will all move on. But until then we need to support each other and share our stories so that we know that we are not alone. I think there is comfort in a community that listens and shares in the struggle to survive. I would like to tell my story here in hopes that it will create an open dialogue for the millions of normals just trying to figure out the percentage of time they use their personal phone for business and how many women’s casual t-shirts did they give to Goodwill last June?

Here is my tax story (in numbered format because, you know, taxes). It starts in February 2014:  

  1. February 2014: I finish filing my 2013 taxes.

  2. March-September 2014: I keep immaculate track of my musician expenses and mileage. Document everything in a beautiful excel spreadsheet with formulas and tables and an air of superiority.

  3. October 2014: I contract the Great Sinus Infection, Charlie Brown. I give up my zeal for life and seal off my musician expenses spreadsheet for the rest of the year. The spreadsheet is not opened again until April 2015.

  4. Mid January 2015: I receive my W-2 and any applicable 1099s and determine that I will get to these soon. I put them in a safe place on top of my dresser with other unopened credit card offers and paper billing statements even though I checked the box for paperless billing.

  5. Mid-January to April 5, 2015: Wait. Watch Netflix.

  6. April 6, 2015: I text my dad to ask which kind of Turbotax I’m supposed to use since the days of using his subscription are apparently over. When he doesn’t answer, I don’t follow up. It’s not my fault his phone is broken.

  7. April 12, 2015: I spend a few frantic minutes searching for my tax stuff. I eventually find it in that pile from January. I do my best to fill in those months I missed on the musician expenses spreadsheet and eventually just “call it good.”

  8. April 13, 2015: I finally follow up with my dad and practice my stress exercises when he tells me that because I am a musician and life is hard, I have to buy the most expensive version of Turbotax. I try not to think about how my whole tax return will be spent on tax software.

  9. April 14, 2015: I allow the Turbotax software to lead me through the valley of the shadow of my 2014 fiscal year. I laugh weakly at the software’s attempts at jokes while I plug in numbers. I spend hours plugging in numbers. I eat a lot of Cheez Its.

  10. April 14-15, 2015: I write this blog at 11pm after I’ve spent all day staring at numbers. The Cheez Its are gone. So is my soul.

I did my best this year, you guys, and I hope my story resonates with someone else out there who is just doing his/her best. We’re all just trying. We have all the years of our lives to get this right and hopefully someday we will be rich enough to make someone else do our taxes for us. Then we will be truly happy. Then we will be free. Get your billions back, America.

*Procrasti-read: a term I just made up that I am going to figure how to monetize because it is obvious gold.

How to: Say Goodbye to an Old Friend

katherine holmgren, beaverdamusa.comBy the time you read this post it will be April and I will be going through some serious withdrawals. I’m experimenting with making the opening lines of my blogs more intriguing and also I’m giving up unnecessary sugar for the month of April.

Credit where credit is due: this was my roommate’s idea. She told me about her plan to cut out unnecessary snacks/desserts for a month and since I don’t have a lot going on in my life right now, I decided to join her. How hard could it be, right? I’ve gotten on a small health kick in the last few years and I have a working understanding of what gluten is. I go to Farmers Markets on the regular and Christmas of 2014 I taught my family spaghetti squash cooking techniques. I ran a half marathon last year and now I have the 13.1 sticker on my car for the rest of forever to annoy and shame the people around me. I’m a health champion, basically. #humblebrag

Recent health strides aside, I think a little sugar awareness would be good for me. A few weeks ago I bought a pack of normal, healthy Greek yogurts and ate them for breakfast four days in a row before I looked closer and realized they were the Toasted Coconut flavor which has 17g of sugar per serving. It took me four days and 68g of sugar to realize something was off.  Another time, I enjoyed a few days of healthy muffin breakfasts before my roommate told me I had been eating the cupcakes she was waiting to frost. I don’t think these things are necessarily big issues…it’s more that my palate is very American.

I’m going to miss a lot of the joys of having sugar in my life. I know without a doubt the office friendships I’ve worked hard to establish will deteriorate almost immediately. Sugar and coffee overload is the glue for coworker relationships. The “Well, looks like my diet is ruined” conspiratorial wink that’s used while grabbing the biggest piece of office birthday cake is my trademark. For the last birthday I asked to be served the cupcake “with the least amount of gluten” and brought the house down. Now I will be the girl who refuses cake and robs the room of joy. Productivity will shut down an hour later with the post-celebration sugar crash and I will be at my desk working steadily like an idiot. Fun coworkers will come up to me at 3pm on a Wednesday and whisper excitedly “do you have a piece of chocolate? I need a pick me up–this day is dragging,” and I’ll have to say something stupid like “No, but I have this handful of almonds if you’re feeling hungry.” Ugh. Even I don’t like me anymore.

So it is as I type this at 11:09 pm on Tuesday, March 31, 2015, that I say goodbye for now to my dear and ever-present friends, sugar and delicious snacks. Thank you for being there to help me celebrate, commiserate, and pass the time. Thank goodness April only has 30 days. Honestly, we should have done this in February. Also, I should clarify that I am not giving up all sugar. Just some sugar. Kind of an as-I-think-of-it situation. There are no parameters. There are some parameters but they’re kind of at my discretion. My discretion is easily broken. Oh wait, Easter is on Sunday! I forgot about Easter! The chocolate bunnies! This might be difficult.

How to: Pretend You Know Anything About March Madness

katherine holmgren, beaverdamusa.comListen up, you guys. March Madness is in full swing and things are only going to get worse from here.

You haven’t paid any attention to basketball since last year at this time and you have absolutely no idea what’s going on. You filled out a bracket based on which mascot you thought would win in a fight and submitted it to your office bracket pool.

Now your boss or one of your cute coworkers is trying to have friendly conversations with you about the games at the water cooler and you have no idea how to handle yourself. Never fear! I have developed three foolproof game day strategies to help you save face and command respect.

Use these suggestions to effectively lie about your basketball knowledge and impress everyone you know.

  1. Talk about Kentucky winning the whole thing. In case you didn’t know, Kentucky has an incredible team this year and is favored to win the entire tournament. I’ve been using this knowledge to shut down bracket conversations early by saying things like “Well, I’m a Wichita State fan but I have Kentucky going all the way on my bracket so…” and then I shrug my shoulders like what are you gonna do? It’s very important that you talk about Kentucky as passive aggressively as you can.  It makes it seem like normally you would care a lot more but this year you’ve read and compared game statistics or whatever and you’re no fool–Kentucky’s got this one in the bag. See you guys next year.
  2. Mention how you hope a player or element of the team “shows up tonight.” This is a good throw away line to use when you’re forced to give your opinion on an upcoming game. It works best if you know the name of one of the players on the team (e.g. I think the boys have a fighting chance if Johnson shows up tonight), but it can work equally as well if all you have are more general aspects of the game (I’m just hoping their defense shows up tonight or else we’re in trouble.) People tend to agree with you because your words make you sound like you’ve crunched numbers or something and the truth is no one has researched anything about any of the teams outside of the one or two they care about so no one is going to call you on your bluff. Also, a team truly has no chance if their players or playing strategies are literally not present at the game. Everyone needs to show up.
  3. Garner sympathy over your busted bracket. This is a Hail Mary to use if you find yourself backed into a March Madness corner with no visible escape route. Normally you should try to lie about your basketball knowledge to end up looking smart and savvy but occasionally that doesn’t work and extreme measures have to be taken.

I’ve noticed that a lot of my guy friends become very emotional over their brackets. They open up their hearts (like men do so well) and dare to dream that their 8 seed hometown team can overcome a powerhouse 1 seed. When it doesn’t happen, their bracket is busted and all talk of basketball is off limits. Use this to your advantage and pretend it’s what happened to you! Make weak eye contact and talk about how depressed you are about your team and your terrible bracket and your terrible life. No one wants to walk through your pain with you! Change of Subject! Hooray!

Just remember, these tips will only work for the first three minutes of any March Madness conversation. You are not equipped to handle a full tournament breakdown. You still do not actually know anything about anything. Good luck out there, champ. Go Shockers!

How to: Justify How Lazy You Were This Winter

katherine holmgren, beaverdamusa.comI don’t normally research anything for this blog (because I want my words to speak for themselves) but today I’m going to throw some outside knowledge at you: Nashville gets an average of 123 hours of sunshine in January and 308 hours in June.

I’m no mathematician, but according to the formula for percentage increase I found on a middle school math help website (www.mathgoodies.com), that’s a 150% increase in sunlight hours. A HUNDRED AND FIFTY PERCENT, YOU GUYS. 123 HOURS IN A MONTH THAT HAS 31 DAYS TO 308 HOURS IN A MONTH THAT HAS 30 DAYS.

This is blatant confirmation that my body contains no Vitamin D whatsoever coming off this bleak winter. No wonder I’ve been scowling at children and openly laughing at the idea that love and happiness exist. I never stood a chance!

What I’m trying to say here is that the winter laziness you championed in January and February was not your fault. You had 185 hours of daylight darkness to deal with in January alone and you did your best. Sure, maybe you leaned a little too heavily on your Netflix and Goldfish Cracker addictions but what else were you supposed to do? And yeah, sunlight shouldn’t necessarily affect how often you shower or do laundry, but people need to know you at your worst so they can appreciate you at your best, right? It’s hard to care about anything when the sun starts setting at 2:30pm.

Thank goodness for March and the precious halfway point it marks between depression and 308 hours of June happiness. I went for a long walk in the sun on Sunday afternoon and felt the first ray of hope enter my bloodstream since before The Great October Sinus Infection, Charlie Brown . I daydreamed out of my office window on Monday until my eyes burned from the precious light bouncing off cars, making me think I had gone blind.

I’ve been watching the new Tina Fey show on Netflix, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (which I believe is also a credible source of Vitamin D), and I feel myself beginning to change, you guys. I’m smiling more. I’m noticing the dust and small piles of laundry I’ve let seep into my bedroom. Today I wore a dress to work! Tomorrow I might plan and execute my grocery shopping ahead of time for the rest of the week!  Sometime soon I might actually take time to find a dentist in Nashville and schedule a cleaning! Big things are happening! Spring is coming!

How to: Navigate the Crowd

katherine holmgren, beaverdamusa.comFirst and foremost I want to give a shout out to my Grandpa Wendell, a faithful reader of the blog, because I told him I would. Grandpa Wendell and Grandma Ellie have lived in the same house for over 50 years in Edina, Minnesota and every Wednesday they snuggle into their respective recliners with a plate of homemade Christmas cookies and Grandma Ellie reads my blog aloud. Most of what I just said is speculation, but it’s probably accurate.

This weekend I went to see The Lone Bellow perform at Exit/In in Nashville. If you have not listened to The Lone Bellow you need to educate yourself and I will wait here while you do it. I could describe their sonic brilliance but I don’t need to waste blog space on something you should already know.

Aren’t they the greatest?!  

Exit/In is standing room only which makes sense because the people that attend shows there are unfit for music venues with seats. An alarming number of girls with big purses kept excuse-me-can-I-get-past-you-my-friend’s-over-there-ing me and I lost track of how many times I had to shuffle around to create paths for others to get closer to the stage than me. Maybe it’s my classical musician side–or perhaps I am just a better human than almost everyone–but concert etiquette is a real thing and we need to discuss it.

First of all, you are only allowed to leave and come back to your spot in the crowd two times during any given concert at an indoor venue with no seats. I honestly don’t know what errands you are running during the show that you need to squeeze-past-oh-sorry-scuse-me five different times. You can have one bathroom break and one additional trip to the bar but I will not sacrifice my enjoyment of the show because you are a poor planner. Would you pull these shenanigans if we were sitting in seats?!

Secondly, please don’t make your route my problem. I am tall so I absolutely understand that a situation might arise where I would be in your way. If you’re going to inconvenience me, I would rather you do it in a way that elicits the smallest possible exertion of effort from me. For example, do not tap me on the shoulder to tell me you need to get by me. This will force me to stop whatever I’m doing (listening to the music), process your needs, interpret my surroundings, move myself to a different location, and grumble when you leave. Instead, you could just push past me and I’ll have a moment of disgruntled confusion but in the end will not have been required to problem solve. Do you see the difference? Just get yourself from Point A to Point B as quickly as possible and if you’re lucky no one will see your face to be specifically mad at you.

Finally, consolidate your personal belongings. I was willing to pack myself into a room with 400 people, not 400 people and their coats and bags. Always assess the ratio of time you anticipate spending outside to time you anticipate spending inside with 400 other people. In this situation, I estimated a 4 minute walk from my car to the venue in 30 degree weather, 3 ½ hours standing inside the overheated personal bubbles of at least 20 strangers, and a 4 minute walk from the venue back to my car in 29 degree weather. Do you really need your heaviest winter coat for 8 minutes of mild discomfort? Are you okay with holding your coat and giant bag for three and a half hours? Do you understand that your colossal tote bag is digging into my back and altering the contour of my spine?

I could go on forever about this but it’s getting late and the more I write, the more my inner “50 year old single lady with cats” personality comes out. I don’t even like cats. Or youths. Oh no! She can’t be stopped!

All this to say, go see The Lone Bellow if you get the chance. They put on a killer show and I loved every minute of it. Thanks to my friend and band-boss Erica Bryan for buying me tickets as an apology for making me miss their Live on the Green performance last fall because she needed me to “tour and make money as a musician.” Booooorrriiiiiinnnnng.

How to: Make People Feel Appreciated

katherine holmgren, beaverdamusa.comYou are going to encounter a lot of people in your life. Some of them will be the best and some will be the absolute worst and others will be okay-ish if you only see them once a week.

This is life and you are in it. The important thing to remember is that every single person, regardless of category, has value. And I know it’s 2015 and every opinion source from everywhere is screaming acceptance and affirmation, but where is the practical application? Thank goodness I’m here.

Here are three easy ways to show appreciation that will hide the fact that you are the worst and only do things for personal gain:

  1. Use names. I have this fun party trick where I do not use anyone’s name when I’m talking to them until I have heard someone else say it at least 10 times. At this point I do not know if I am bad at names or if I am afraid of being bad at names. Working in corporate America, however, I have noticed that the people I remember are the ones who say “Hey, Katherine!” instead of just “Hey!” And I mean, I know my name is very beautiful and whatever, but there’s something about hearing other people say it when they greet me that makes me feel like I am remembered and that I matter. And how easy is it to say someone’s name? No monetary or emotional cost so I’m all about it. I also have a working theory that remembering and using names will get you promotions and notice at work but that’s for another blog.

  1. Food. This weekend I was in Alabama staying with the most wonderful host couple while I played with a symphony.  After a long day at work, a long drive to Alabama, and a long rehearsal, I was greeted at my hosts’ home with fresh cookies and hot tea. The next day my host told me I needed to finish the cookies because she was planning to make a different kind that day and needed space in the cookie jar. Listen to me, people: I have never felt more appreciated in my entire life. Food is everything. Whether it’s bringing coffee to a coworker or hosting brunch for your friends, you cannot go wrong. It’s easy and usually the best gift because you can spin it so that you also get to partake in the food. Friend appreciation and self appreciation.

  1. Rides to the airport. One of the most boring and fruitless thing someone can ask you to do is take them to the airport. I get nothing but lost time when I have to take 30 minutes to an hour out of my day to act as a taxi service for my friends to go have more fun than me. Truly, when you need a ride to the airport, you have to find a friend with nothing else going on who wants to solidify those plans to do nothing fun. It’s terrible. And yet, people offering to take me to the airport is an act of kindness that makes me feel the most appreciated so it’s the one thing I have tried to continually do for others. I also work right next to the airport so it’s basically nothing to me. Pro tip: If you are taking someone to the airport, don’t ask for any sort of gas reimbursement. You can stop being cheap and absorb $5 or whatever. Also, there is no way to ask for money without sounding terrible and old. Additionally, if someone is giving you a ride to the airport, you should provide coffee or food (see above paragraph).

So that’s it. Easy-peasy, right? Now go out into the world and show appreciation because life is difficult and we’re all just doing the best we can.

How to: Bring Lunch to Work

katherine holmgren, beaverdamusa.comSometimes you just get tired. I know this because I am tired right now. I flew to Kansas this weekend for a baby shower on Friday and made it back to Nashville in time to attend a wedding on Saturday. It was a fun exercise I like to call “how much money can you spend in one weekend.” I do not recommend the exercise. But it was fun. But I’m tired.

Something I’ve been wanting to address on the blog for a while now is my giant mental catalog of DIY everyday techniques. I’m full of great advice (hence this blog) and I think we’ve gotten comfortable enough in this space to get down to brass tacks. We’ll start with Lunch.

I think Lunch is an important jumping off point because it is a simple concept that is often way over-thought. Lunch is arguably the least important meal of the day. It is a necessary filler between Breakfast and Dinner and a lot of old people don’t even eat it. Even brunch, a combination meal, is just breakfast that you eat during the designated lunch time because lunch food is so bland.

Working in an office, I get the opportunity to see a large survey of people try out different lunch techniques every day. Some people meticulously pack a salad from home one day a month and go to McDonalds or Hardees on the other days. Others bring the same exact PB&J sandwich they have been bringing since elementary school. A third group tries to drown the day’s most boring meal in culture by ordering mass amounts of Italian food that gets delivered by a Chinese man (I work in a strange part of town). And what do they all have in common? These people are spending valuable time, money, and/or calories on the most boring meal of the day.

Here’s where I come in: I’ve mastered the art of the DIY lunch. I used to waste time at night or in the mornings trying to throw together healthy lunch options for the day. I would pack elaborate mason jar salads, ham and cheese sandwiches, and leftover casseroles. It was a nightmare trying to find an extra 15 minutes each day to prepare a meal I was just going to eat at my desk anyways. Now I spend 5 minutes every Sunday making my lunches for the work week and they are delicious, efficient, and cost effective. I sleep more, worry less, and nothing sad or bad ever happens to me.

How do I do it, you ask? Here’s where the DIY part comes in. This is exactly like those terrible food blogs where the author throws up a million pictures and a story about their J. Crew kid before they ever get to the recipe. Well HERE IT IS, folks. The recipe:

  1. Go to your local Kroger (or sometimes Target is cheaper–or you probably have a grocery store that you like. I’m not the boss of you.).

  2. Find the freezer section.

  3. Locate the “Healthy Single Meals” section but try not to think of that as a metaphor for your life.

  4. Pick out five meals because there are five days in your work week. Brands I like are Amy’s, Kashi, and Evol.  Usually I go with whatever is cheapest. Keep in mind that you are looking for a frozen meal, not a sodium overload, so stay away from Hungry Man and that sly minx Marie Callender.

  5. Take your meals to the self-checkout line and pay for them with money.

  6. Go home and count up the hours you just saved.

So that’s it, you guys. Any questions? I didn’t think so. Grab one of the meals from your freezer right before you head out the door and try to wait until after noon to heat it up. You just saved space on your Pinterest boards, money in your wallet, and time in your mornings with 6 simple steps. Lunch is already a super boring meal, why try to over-complicate things?

See you at lunch! (You’re welcome)

How to: Survive Valentine’s Day (or a Terrible Ice Storm) Alone

katherine holmgren, beaverdamusa.comTennessee celebrated two events this week: Valentine’s Day and The Giant Ice Storm Nuisance of 2015. The latter was a little unexpected because I did not look at any sort of forecast until Sunday afternoon when I was at the grocery store unable to find bread or milk. As I am writing this (late Tuesday night–sorry, Barry), I have been home without human contact for two consecutive days. I am starting to go/may have already gone insane.

Speaking of being alone during this Snowpocalypse, I was also alone on Valentine’s Day and I have found the similarities between the two events to be uncanny. Both require preparedness and creativity in the face of adversity. Both are survival of the fittest. Both are situations I have encountered and mastered in the last week.

Whether you are single on Valentine’s Day or alone in an Ice Apocalypse, here are some tips to help you make the most of the experience:

  1. Stay Home. It is not safe for you to be in the world right now. Venturing out of your home will only bring hardship and frustration.
  2. Watch Netflix. Let’s be honest, you deserve a break. Well, if you’re reading this the chances are good that you’re white middle class so you probably don’t deserve a break. But whatever. You are alone and have no one to talk to so observing television dialogue will help keep your skills sharp should you ever find yourself in a situation that calls for human interaction again.
  3. Eat a lot of food. There’s something about holidays and ice storms that makes me feel like I deserve twice the caloric intake of a regular day. At one point on Valentine’s Day or one of the Ice Days (I won’t tell you which) I caught myself eating semi-sweet chocolate chips straight from the bag for no reason at all. I’m kidding, of course. I ate chocolate chips from the bag on Valentine’s Day and the Ice Days.
  4. Wear sweatpants. You deserve to be comfortable and warm since there is not a human in your life to keep you comfortable and warm. I wrapped myself up in a giant purple sweater I bought off Etsy for $10. It is warm and fun and a little mysterious–just like romance.
  5. Find a Boyfriend. This one is a little more Ice Storm specific but I think you’ll be fine. I am very vocal about how much I love being single in everyday life but hate it immediately when I have to deal with anything involving my car. I lost power in my house on Monday and had to creatively break through the icy exoskeleton surrounding my vehicle to attempt to leave. I cursed myself the entire time for not being more available romantically so that some guy could chivalrously chisel ice from my car for me. Some people would chastise me for taking a feminist step backwards with that opinion but I would argue that I am too busy being a boss at life to have to deal with dumb stuff like my car or fixing the door handle on my freezer that has been broken for as long as I’ve been single.

So that’s what I’ve got this week. By the time you’re reading this I am either back at work or I have mentally snapped from lack of human contact and can be found bouncing off the walls of my home while episodes of Friends play in the background. I have watched two seasons of Friends since Friday.

How to: Make the Grammys Better

katherine holmgren, beaverdamusa.comHow was your week? Good? It doesn’t matter, I can’t hear you. This is a blog.

I’ve become a bit of an awards show junkie in the last few years. I clear my schedule and carefully select snacks for the evening. I snap at people who talk during the host’s opening monologue because I want to hear and analyze the jokes. I go back and youtube specific moments in the show I found to be the funniest and relive the moment. I love it.

I don’t even watch a lot of movies or TV — I just love the awards. This is probably a giant metaphor for my life in which I crave the reward and not the work that comes beforehand. Just kidding, it’s not. I’m fine. We’re all fine.

But yeah, my love for award shows has yet to extend to the Grammys. For one thing, the show is obviously a place where no fun is had. I know this because if fun was happening at the Grammys, Taylor Swift would not make headlines for dancing in her seat. I’ve been to a lot of music shows and if only one person is dancing, it’s a boring show.

Ellen had a pizza delivered at last year’s Oscars. A PIZZA! And the only thing we hear about the Grammys is that T-Swift danced?! I just don’t understand the musicians’ need to be serious and too-sensitive about their art. Yes, I’ve heard the argument that musicians put their heart and soul into their work and every album is just a portrait of the vulnerable, inner-workings of their mind or something dumb like that, but Lupita Nyong’o was in 12 Years A Slave and still managed to jump into the Most Ever Tweeted Oscar Selfie so I think everyone can just calm down.

Here’s my idea: we get a straight up comedian to host the show. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler just got out of their Golden Globes contract so I’m pretty sure they’re available. Also, Kanye West attends these kinds of events so the material is right there for the taking. Secondly, I think the Grammys should actually present awards at their awards show. I know it seems simple but there were a good two hours on Sunday where absolutely no awards were handed out. “But what about the performances?” you ask, like a child. Here’s where it gets good:

The stage set up is very simple with a microphone and a single acoustic guitar. The presenter comes out, reads the list of nominees, and announces the winner. The winner must then take the stage and perform the song associated with the Grammy they just won. I know you’re trying to think of holes in this idea but let me tell you right now that there are none. If you are going to win a Grammy, you need to be able to perform anywhere at any time. This is a show I would enjoy watching and it probably also wouldn’t be three and a half hours long. I dare you to show me the downside to this brilliant idea.

That’s all I have to say this week. Valentine’s Day is coming up and I’m single so if you’re interested, please send a dozen roses and your HBO GO password and we’ll talk.

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