Category Archives: Challenge

Happy Easter!

It’s Easter – a time for new life! A time to rejoice and celebrate!!

My boys hunted around the yard this morning for Easter eggs. We hung up some homemade bird feeders in the yard. We enjoyed playing games as a family this afternoon. What a great day! I have been marveling at how much these guys have been growing recently. Just yesterday I put a size 6 pair of pants on my 4 year old…that still kind of fit my 8 year old. It’s crazy how bit they are getting.


Here’s my story: My boys, 8 and 4, need yearly checkups like all kids. So I make appointments, pile them into my SUV, and drive them all of five minutes to our medical clinic. While my health insurance can be frustrating and hard to understand, it pays for most of their care. My boys are evaluated – blood pressure, pulse, say “Ahhhhh”, and all that. And then they receive appropriate vaccinations during their appointment if it is time. They pick out a sticker and a lollypop, and we all head home.


There. Done. I hardly even had to think about all of this. I even had my iPhone remind me 30 minutes prior to the appointment so I wouldn’t forget.

So far, so good. Each year the doctor has deemed my boys perfectly healthy. Aside from the occasional cough or stomach virus picked up at school (or at Walmart, or at the mall), or some stitches from one of the many times my guys have tried to ignore the laws of Physics, my boys really haven’t had much go wrong in their lives.
I tend to think of all of this as being “normal” – an average experience for an average family…IN AMERICA.
I was startled to learn that 1 in 5 children in the world DIE from a vaccine-preventable disease. PREVENTABLE. Why? There are a number of reasons, but the bottom line is that these kids don’t have access to vaccinations. I’m a big believer in the idea that all kids are the same everywhere – all kids deserve the same shot at life as every other child.

We need to get vaccinations to these kids! Shot@Life, UNICEF, the GAVI Alliance, and other organizations are all working hard to make this happen. The United Nations Foundation has made childhood health a priority, and people like Ted Turner and Bill and Melinda Gates have all put large sums of money into this issue.

You don’t have to give a billion dollars to change a child’s life. Did you know that $20 will cover vaccinations for four diseases for one child? Measles, pneumonia, diarrhea, polio – all can be prevented. 1.5 million lives could be saved each year by people like you and me. $20 to save a child’s life.

You can also sign up on Shot@Life’s webpage: Lend your voice to those who need to be heard! Or put your information here so that your congresspeople will hear about how important global health is to you, their constituent.

What are you willing to do for a child today?

Emily, Doer of Stuff


My Food Network Thanksgiving

As a foodie, I am usually quite excited to plan out a menu for a major holiday. It is not uncommon to find me sitting, weeks prior, at the dining room table with twenty cookbooks surrounding me as I furiously scribble notes about what I might want to cook, what recipes can be thrown together the day before, what dishes can be baked at the same time in the oven…. On occasion I get lost in my pursuit of NOM and wind up planning Christmas dinner as well with all of the “extra” dishes that I’ve way-over planned for Thanksgiving.

This year was a little different. Because I have been traveling recently, I had not given much time to thinking about Thanksgiving dinner. My ‘Food & Wine’ Thanksgiving edition sits unread, my seasonal cookbooks still have dust build up from the past twelve months. And while I have been fixing Autumn dinners for my family this year, they have been the quiet, old standards – easy to remember, tasty without fuss.

This year I chose to rely soley on internet recipes. Quite a change for me. I even took things a step further (since I like a culinary challenge) and limited my dishes to recipes that had been featured on TV (for what reason, I don’t know; too much caffeine that day, I suppose). I eventually settled on choosing from the Food Network mostly because that’s where I thought to start. I found some fantastic recipes right off the bat from some of my favorite chefs with a simple search of key ingredients that I had already chosen for this meal.

Here is what I served my family this year….

1. Roasted Winter Vegetables
‘Barefoot Contessa’ Episode “Friend In Need”

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2. Cranberry Wild Rice Dressing
‘Semi-Homemade Cooking’ Episode: “Cabin Fever”

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3. Homemade Applesauce
‘Barefoot Contessa’ Episode: “Halloween for Grownups”



4. Cranberry Orange Sauce
‘Tyler’s Ultimate’ Episode: “Ultimate Thanksgiving”




5. Sweet Potatoes and Sweet Potato Balls
‘Food Network Specials’ Episode: “Paula’s Southern Thanksgiving”

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6. Date and Walnut Loaf

by M.S. Milliken and S. Feniger, 1996

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The table:



1. If you suddenly realize that you don’t have a zester, you can always get all handy and grab a keyhole saw (normally used for drywall). Works well. WASH IT FIRST.


2. Sometimes if helps if you have Batman as your sous chef.


And here are some changes that I made to the recipes.

1. Roasted Winter Vegetables: While the recipe called for drizzling good olive oil over the veggies prior to baking, I also added a tbsp. of butter and a couple squeezes of honey for good measure. What sounds better to you: “Roasted”, or “Honey Roasted”?

2. Cranberry Wild Rice Dressing: I made significant changes to this recipe. Outlined as a “Quick and Easy” dish online, I switched out the instant rice with a long-grain wild rice mix from Minnesota. This meant that the cooking time was about an hour longer than what the recipe suggests. I also added some ginger and some curry powder, and I sautéed some leeks prior to toasting the rice as well.

3. Homemade Applesauce: I’m not sure what the reason is for leaving 2 apple’s worth of red skins in the recipe, but the red apples I got from the store were a little bruised, so the peels didn’t really look all that great. I threw them in anyway, to what effect, I don’t know.

One thing to really think about with a recipe like this (or others that require zesting) is that you really want to scrub the skin of your fruit thoroughly with soap and water since who knows what kinds of pesticides and dirt may reside thereon. For this specific recipe, I bought organic red apples, just to add one more level of safety. I realize that buying organic can be expensive, but choosing your use of organics wisely makes a lot of sense to me.

4. Cranberry Orange Sauce: I didn’t change the recipe at all, though I would suggest adding a little more sugar. This dish came out a bit tart for my personal taste.

5. Sweet Potato Balls: I made these as suggested, only I set aside a portion of the mashed sweet potatoes because I have one anti-marshmellow family member. The recipe makes enough mashed potatoes for both dishes.

6. Date and Walnut Loaf: Made as intended. This is a wonderful bread! I plan on making a lot more of this over the winter. Everyone in the family liked the texture. I was tempted to throw in more walnuts initially, and this would have been fine, but I have to say that the finished product was great with the amount suggested by the recipe.

7. That’s right, no turkey.

Go. Do. BAKE.

Emily, Doer of Stuff

“Get a Shot, Give a Shot” – How Walgreens and Shot@Life Work Together for Your Health

Anyone who has ever read back through my blog posts probably realizes that Shot@Life, a program of the United Nations Foundation, is very close to my heart. I’m going to talk about Shot@Life again, but this time for your personal benefit.

Shot@Life has partnered with Walgreens in order to bring vaccinations to more people. How does this work? You are already planning to get your seasonal flu shot, right? So go get it at Walgreens through October 14th, 2013 and Walgreens will donate a vaccine for another person.

How do you benefit? Well, first off, you now have your flu shot…so you won’t get that nasty coughy-hacky lungish flu this year. Awesome! Who wants that nonsense anyway?!?

Next, you don’t have to make an appointment ahead of time, so you can get your shot when you have the time – no messing with your already busy schedule. Most insurances are accepted, and you can even receive 500 Walgreens points for each immunization you and your family receive.

And finally, you can feel great knowing that another person in the world is going to receive a vaccine that will give them…a Shot@Life!

[Editor’s note: Did you know that one child dies every 20 seconds from a vaccine-preventable disease? Why does this happen? Because not every child has access to vaccines. In fact, 1 out of every 5 children in the world doesn’t receive the very vaccines that our kids in the United States can easily get. I’m not just talking about the flu shot here. I’m talking about Measles, Polio, Pneumococcal Disease, and Rotovirus – all vaccine-preventable diseases. 1.5 million lives can be saved each year if these children receive vaccines.]

Do you ever read fine print? There is some pretty cool fine print at the bottom of the page that outlines the partnership on Walgreen’s site. It reads: “Donation limited to $500,000 which is the value of 1.35 million polio vaccines and 1.35 million measles vaccines.” Look at how many millions of vaccines Walgreens is willing to donate! Talk about putting your money where your mouth is. Thank you Walgreens! And thank you Shot@Life for continuing to make sure that the least of us are receiving a shot at…another birthday! …being a best friend! …going to school! …learning how to ride a bike!

Respectfully submitted,
Emily, Doer of Stuff

Emily Paints and Decorates

It’s been entirely too long since I posted here. I have been incredibly busy of late and have been too tired at the end of the day to write anything coherent or worthwhile.

One of the projects that have kept me busy has been the redecorating of Thing1’s bedroom. Before these pictures were taken, there were bland off-white walls and lighthouse wallpaper – not exactly a kid’s dream come true.

My oldest boy has a wild brain that already understands how electricity and circuits work. I asked him what he wanted in his room and he said he wanted circuit boards on the walls and video game posters. So, here is what I came up with, minus the posters because those didn’t go up until recently and I don’t have a photo at the moment.

Here is the wall mural, from Wallmonkeys:


Here is another Wallmonkeys mural on the bedframe headboard:


We went for an industrial look here with outdoor grade outlet covers from Homestead Do-It Best Center:


I picked this light switch cover up at Lowe’s Home Improvement Warehouse for $5.97.


I picked this One Way sign up at an antique store in Chamberlain, SD on one of my summer adventures along the Missouri River, only $15:


Thing1 picked out the colors. I think he did a great job! This green wall now has five video game posters on it:


So now my Mini-Super Scientist Inventor Guy has a room that will help inspire him to continue to dream big dreams and DO STUFF.

Emily, Doer of Stuff

Geography Awareness Week

I am a Geographer.

In fact, I am currently serving as the Geographer In Residence for the Children’s Museum of South Dakota, but that is another wonderful geo-related story that I will have to tell later on. 🙂

Do you know what Geography is? So many people have it in their heads that Geography is all about memorizing states and capitals, or being able to name all of the major rivers in South America. (Editor’s Note: By the way, the Amazon River is not the longest river in the world – that’s the Nile River in Egypt. The Amazon, however, does carry the most water by volume of all rivers in the world)

Geography includes the people, the land, and how the two are related spatially, and how the two interrelate with one another. Geography teaches people critical thinking skills and allows people to make educated decisions based on their analysis of the world around them.

As a Geographer, I go to conferences where I can learn more about the field and how to share my passion with educators and students that I encounter with my work. This time I attended the National Council on Geographic Education [NCGE] meeting in Denver, Colorado.


I went a day early to attend a day-long training regarding Geography Awareness Week (November 17 – 23, 2013). This year’s theme is “Geography and The New Age of Exploration” which goes right along with celebrating National Geographic’s 125th Anniversary. What other group of modern-day explorers are as notable as those associated with National Geographic? We are getting away from specific themes, like last year’s “Interdependence”, and others from the past like water, individual continents, and so on. We are getting back to the real nuts and bolts of what Geography is at its essence.

As the Operations Manager for the South Dakota Geographic Alliance, I put together as much as I can to celebrate Geography Awareness Week. I work with grad students from South Dakota State University’s Geography Department who go into local classrooms to teach kids about Geography, I meet with elementary school kids and do some fun stuff in their classrooms, and I try to bring in a notable guest speaker to SDSU to speak to the public. Each year I try to add something different from the year before, and I’m currently in the process of putting this program together so that there are a number of Geography-related offerings in South Dakota that week.

[GAW 2011: SDSU Geography students created the “Wheel of Geography” trivia game and set up in the Student Union to quiz their fellow students.]


There are a ton of Geography Awareness Week resources online that are free and easily incorporated into the classroom. I used the “Global Closet Calculator” interactive game in classrooms over the past year – a game that has students look at the tags in the back of their shirts and other clothing items to teach them where their clothing comes from. There were some surprising reactions in the classroom – many kids had no idea that their clothing doesn’t come from the United States – after all, their clothes come from the mall, or Walmart, right? This program maps out the class’ clothing right there in the classroom. I had some classes that didn’t have a single garment from the U.S. I have used this game with 2nd and 3rd graders, and they really get into this exercise.

There is also a great link called “10 Ways to Give Your Students the World”. This page features all kinds of links and ideas that will help educators bring more Geography into the lives of their students. This page asks the educator if they are giving their students enough to live in our increasingly global world, and encourages us to tap into our student’s natural curiosity about the world in which they live. There are suggestions like having a Geography Family Fun night at your school, or creating a Geo-Club for students. There is a lot to think about on this page.

Then there is the Mission Explore website where the theme is “It’s an Adventure…But Not As You Know It”. This site is full of missions that are great for students, classrooms, and families, and are all about exploration. Pick a mission, go explore, and collect points to unlock rewards. This website is AWESOME!! If this won’t interest your students, I don’t know what will.

These are just some of the ideas that we talked about. The beauty of Geography Awareness Week is that each state, group, school, classroom, WHOEVER, can do whatever they want. Exploration is all about discovering new things about the world in which we live. National Geographic and others provide a ton of tools to help you learn more about Geography. Go. Explore. DO STUFF.


Doer of Stuff