January, 2023

I am trying something new with my posts this year. My intention is to post once per month, a recap of what happened throughout that month. It’s sort of a trial run year to see if I like this way of sharing my life better than posting semi-daily on social media. If all goes well, I’ll ditch social media in 2024 and share exclusively on here instead. Let the experiment begin!

January 1st marked my three year sober anniversary which feels like such an accomplishment while also one the easiest things I’ve ever done. The time was right when I decided to call it quits and I’ve never looked back. I’m so thankful for the alignment and perspective that I got in that moment three years ago that lead to this new sober lifestyle. Last year I discovered that there was such a thing as alcohol-removed wine and I was pleasantly surprised to find that it actually tastes good. Sipping on a glass of wine at the end of a long day was one of few things I missed about drinking. Not so much the alcohol part, but the ritual of decompressing with that familiar taste with the weight of the chunky wine glass in my hand as I curled up with a soft blanket, listened to soothing music, and had a fuzzy friend nearby. It’s nice to know that I can still create that experience for myself from time to time. There are other products on the market as well to replace a variety of liquors too, which I have yet to try. The idea of being able to enjoy a dirty martini or old fashioned once again without alcohol is something I look forward to trying at some point in the future.

Luke and I decided that this year we were going to venture into the Twin Cities once a month to try out a new-to-us restaurant. This month, we enjoyed a wonderful Ethiopian dinner at Bole Ethiopian Cuisine in St. Paul. Wanting to enjoy sampling a large variety of items, we selected the Tour of Ethiopia which consisted of two veggie and two beef sambusa, a meat combo consisting of chicken, beef, and lamb, and then a Chef’s selection of six vegetarian dishes which all turned out to be super delicious. It was entirely too much food for just the two of us though but luckily they had plenty of to-go containers for us to bring our leftovers home to be enjoyed days to come.

True to form, our food adventures did not stop in Minnesota as Luke created lots of wonderful dishes for us at home too. Some of the highlights include:

• Pizza with a spinach-miso-pesto sauce, fontina, parmesan, feta and cream cheeses, and topped with caramelized onion, sausage and chopped almonds
• Steak paired with an apple, cranberry, walnut salad
• Tin Shed-inspired Tim Curry: Tofu, sweet potato, asparagus, mushrooms, onions and spinach in a yellow coconut curry sauce, topped with raisins and walnuts, served with a side of hash browns and sour cream
• Chicken satay with peanut sauce, coconut ginger jasmine rice and a cucumber salad
• Smash burger with gorgonzola, apple, pickled red onion, bacon and slaw with a lime-cilantro-avocado side salad
• Hot pot with ginger miso and thai chili broths and a variety of veggies and tofu
• Gorgonzola, pear, and prosciutto pizza with a tomato, pepper, and garlic sauce
• Apple, bacon, gorgonzola quiche
• Ginger miso udon with broccoli, mushrooms and tofu

My first end-of-life pet photography session of the new year took place in Stillwater, Minnesota. Darby the Boston Terrier had a seizure on Christmas day and was sadly diagnosed with brain cancer shortly after that. His mom Liz reached out to me via The Tilly Project right away as Darby was not doing well and she did not know how much time he would have left. Luckily Darby did well on his anti-seizure medications while waiting out the winter storm that delayed us a few days. We met up the day after the storm ended to capture some photographs amidst a fresh blanket of snow in Darby’s favorite park. Liz told me after we finished that she was so worried he would not make it to his photoshoot and felt a huge weight lifted now that we were done. I’m so thankful to be able to gift her that relief during this most difficult time and to have the opportunity to capture those moments of their final days together so she can hold onto the memories long after Darby moves on.

Moving to Menomonie last year meant having to change my health insurance provider and all of my doctors and scheduled doctor appointments. Luckily I was able to keep on track and get in with the Mayo Clinic to do my annual kidney monitoring as part of my post-cancer treatment plan. They did a CT scan, drew blood, and did a lung x-ray. The good news is that my kidney, lungs and labs look great and there is no sign of cancer there. The not so good news is that they did find a small lesion in the small intestine of my stomach that will need further evaluation with an enteroscopy, likely not able to happen for several more months. In the meantime, I’ll do my best not to worry about it too much until I know more.

For Luke’s 41st birthday celebration, we went to Minneapolis and enjoyed an Exclusive Cat Lounge experience (aka one hour of private admission) at The Cafe Meow. We picked up some new cat toys while we were there for Siegward and Alvina. Afterward, we enjoyed Thai Tea and Red Velvet Tres Leches ice cream at Milkjam Creamery and then sipped some rare matcha teas at Northeast Tea House. We ended the day enjoying a Lady Zaza pizza (Italian red sauce, gochujang, kimchi, sakura pork, scallion, and sesame) from Pizzeria Lola. On the way home, we stopped at Trader Joe’s and picked up a Tiramisu Torte and enjoyed that while watching the premier of The Last of Us on HBO Max while the cats played with their new toys. A good day was had by all!

Luke and I enjoyed our first vacation together hunkered down at home for a week amidst the frigid January weather. The original plan was to spend a few days at his family’s cabin and then the second half of the week relaxing at home. Due to the weather making the drive way impassable, we opted to stay home the entire week. The week was filled with lots of yummy food, movies, and just general relaxing time with the animals. It was the first time in a long time where I did a vacation like that where I wasn’t traveling somewhere and gave myself permission to do absolutely no work and very few, if any, house chores. I shouldn’t have been so surprised but I was at how stress free the week was. I definitely would like to find ways to do more of that throughout the year.

After our vacation, Luke returned back to work and within a couple days, brought back his co-workers cold. Luke was hit hard and is still struggling to recoup. I was hopeful that it would somehow miss me but I was not that lucky and about five days after Luke started to feel ill, I did too. I was lucky in that it didn’t seem to impact me quite as hard as Luke. Still, the process of the two of us being sick at the same time was challenging. It’s a lot easier to care for each other when the caregiving partner is healthy. We are making it through though and I look forward to someday soon feeling back to normal. Here’s hoping that February is a healthier month for us!

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