Thursday, December 20, 2012

Snow Day

I get as excited now about snow days as I when I was a kid.  (And thanks to my mom, I even have the appropriate attire for them, as seen above.)  Nearly everything in the city was shut down today, (including canceling final exams at UW!), and the news showed the roads as virtually empty, yet treacherous.  

I took advantage of the day to start work on some wedding centerpieces for Tyson's cousin, whose wedding takes place a week from Saturday.  Most of the work will need to be done the day before, but I was able to create some cute heart tags.  I also had time to clean out the refrigerator, start packing for going home on Saturday, and catch up on some Top Chef.

I tried to take some pictures through our window, but it was hard with all of the glaring whiteness.  It was a little easier as it got darker.  The Christmas lights on our deck look pretty, buried under all of the snow.

It was kind of nice to have an extra day to hunker down, especially since I was able to get a few things done before leaving Saturday for our Christmas travels.  And to sleep in a bit and relax.  And to be able to make a chocolate mug cake for hubby and I to share.  Unfortunately, having this extra day is going to make it even more difficult to venture out into this winter-y wonderland tomorrow...

Saturday, December 8, 2012

A (Couple) of my Favorite Things

I took a couple of evenings this week to do some of my favorite Christmas activities-sending out Christmas cards and wrapping presents.  This year I used a Living Social deal for my Christmas cards.  They came shipped so cute in an adorable little box, and a note saying that they enclosed two extra cards and envelopes, in case I was still adding to my Christmas card list, which I thought was a nice touch.  I also like that you can personalize the back of the card, as well as the front, and manipulate the colors, font, and text.  The address stickers I love, which were leftover from last year, and I used them to seal the back of the envelope.

Christmas presents consist of kraft paper tied with different types of red and green ribbon.  The kraft paper gives everything a uniform look, and the ribbon makes it festive.  I also bought gold washi tape, which glams it up a bit. It doesn't stick as nice to the kraft paper as I'd like (I actually had to secure the folds with clear gift-wrapping tape first), but I still enjoy the overall effect.  Most wrapping paper, especially at Christmas time, is too garish and busy for my taste, and I'm happy with the simplicity of this year's gifts.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like...

Since yesterday was December 1st, that meant I could officially break out Christmas decorations and music.  It also meant that hubby thought it would be a GREAT idea to wake me up yesterday morning by blaring Christmas music in my ear.  This did not start my day off in a jolly way.  However, by evening, I was so freaking festive it was ridiculous.

Mugs filled with hot drinks are essential for setting the appropriate Christmas decorating mood (hot chocolate + marshmallows for Tyson, coffee with real cream for me).

Tyson doesn't look like he's having that much fun but I think he secretly is.  How could you not be with that glowing ball of light behind you?  He's my designated Open-and/or-Unwrap-All-the-Ornaments-and-Put-a-Hook-on-Them-and-Then-Put-Everything-Back-in-the-Container-Just-Like-You-Found-It Boy.  Everyone needs one of those at Christmas decorating time.

You can't tell from the picture, but I am wearing a top absolutely blinged out in sequins.  Clearly festive.

I come down hard on the side of fake in the real vs. fake Christmas tree debate.  I know that people who prefer real trees go crazy on the experience of going to pick one out and they smell so good and yadda, yadda, yadda, but I just don't think you can beat a fake tree.  One that looks like it has just a dusting of sparkling snow on it.  And that has lights already on it, saving you at least an hour of tinkering-with-the-lights time.  And it doesn't need it's water levels maintained since there isn't any.  Honestly, there's enough to think about at this time of year instead of worrying about watering a tree indoors.  How silly.  I love our tree.

I also loved our Thanksgiving sign so much that I couldn't resist making another one today.  The shelf looked so lonely without one, but now it is festive and happy again.  Merry, even.

Sunday, November 25, 2012


Wedding china and silverware have been inaugurated.  Thanksgiving dinner has been eaten, and then eaten again, and then broken down into leftovers, which have also been eaten.  Family has been here and gone.  China and a few decorations await being put away, to make room for new.  

It's crazy how much thought and planning go into these single days, and then suddenly they are over.  I almost like the planning and the thinking and the dreaming part more than the actual holidays themselves.  Now looking towards Christmas, it's not even the day itself that I'm really excited for, at least not yet.  I'm excited for the wrapping, and the envelope addressing, and the tree put-upping, and the Christmas music listening, and the peppermint mocha drinking.  But not yet.  December 1st is the date for beginning my own personal Christmas season, but not before.  (Ok, I may indulge in a peppermint mocha or two in the meantime...)  I don't see the need to rush out and decorate in red and green and Nativities and candy-cane stripes and start listening to the fa-la-la-ing right away the day after Thanksgiving.  Thanksgiving deserves it's own time and space, and I like the idea of taking a break between the two, even if it's just for a week.  There's too much pressure otherwise.  I like to step back and take a breath and do some of this dreaming and planning in my head, without having to actually dive into it all right away.  

Today I took a break to do some cooking and baking, not because it was necessary, but just because I wanted to.  Breakfast was pumpkin pancakes and sausages.  I accidentally thinned the batter out by adding too much milk, but I really enjoyed the end result.  The pancakes were almost crepe-like, thin and light without being too bulky.  

Then I moved on to cranberry crumble bars and banana bread (not shown).  I used homemade cranberry sauce from Thursday to form the middle layer of these bars...I'm not a big fan of cranberries on their own, but in these bars, they are delicious.  I look forward to eating them for breakfast all week.  And for dessert.  And maybe for a snack in-between.  Ok, so maybe they won't last all week.  I impulsively sprinkled some nutmeg and cinnamon on top before baking, which gave them some nice color and a smidgen of extra flavor.

Here's to one last week of the Thankgiving "season", before diving into the next one.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Thanksgiving Readiness

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  I love that it's a celebration of fall, and food, and family, and there are no presents to worry about (except my brother-in-law's birthday gift, but that's okay), and the food, and the fall, and the leaves, and the colors, and the food...and it's awesome.

Tyson and I are hosting Thanksgiving this year with his family, so I've been menu planning, decorating, china washing (okay, drying, Hubby did the washing), and grocery shopping.  It's been fantastic.  

Our wedding china and silverware is all ready and waiting, prepped for it's inaugural use.  It's also currently taking up the majority of space on our dining table...waiting for me to get up the energy to find a proper spot in our kitchen cabinets.

The designer in me had to take a trial-run of the place settings the other night.  Clearly, the $4.99 roll of burlap that was an impulse-buy from Michael's has come to good use.

The napkin rolls have sparkly letters with each person's initials on them, too (kind of hard to see in this image).  The final napkins have a leaf attached to them, and you can see the initial better.  I live for this kind of stuff.

Happy Thanksgiving sign.  Hello again, sparkly letters and string.  Yes, the sparkles were an impulse-buy, too.  

I made this simple leaf garden with a perfect template from here.  I simply cut out the leaves from the template, and outlined them with metallic markers.  These are also the leaves that will be added to the rolled napkins. It's hard to tell from the image, but I printed the leaves and the Thanksgiving banner on sparkly paper left over from our wedding invitations and stationary, which looks makes them a little more elegant.

I love how everything looks.  The best part is that it looks like I tried really hard to get everything to coordinate, when really I was just working with a really small budget.  Meager budgets = more streamlined design.  It's like impossible to go overboard when you're trying to spend $15.00 or less.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Beer + Cabbage (Flowers)

My mom and aunt came to visit this weekend.  We made the most of our time by visiting the farmer's market, touring one of my favorite breweries, driving around campus, and checking out some of mine and hubby's favorite places to eat.  

The New Glaurus Brewing Co. has some seriously fantastic beer.  I enjoy being in Wisconsin where we have access to these local places.  AND we got to keep the glasses.  What more can you ask for?

Oh wait, these.

Cabbage flowers.  And eucalyptus.  Arranged together.  It smells fantastic.  This was my favorite find at the farmer's market.  For $5.00.  I'd never even HEARD of a cabbage flower before, so I bought it at the first vendor I saw.  Then as we were walking around I saw almost every single vendor with bouquets of these babies.  So...yeah.  Not as original as I thought.

It's purple.  And green.  And awesome.  Except I just picked up what I thought was a dead leaf bit on one of the flowers, and it turned out to be squishy.  And move-y.  So I shrieked and threw it back in the flower.  Cuz I'm brave like that.  Some sort of caterpillar thing?  I don't know, but it was terrifying.  And now it's still living in my flower arrangement.  Picking up something you expect to be not in any way alive and then finding out that it IS something alive = not cool.

They still look awesome though.  And are supposed to last for 3+ weeks.  Caterpillars and all...


I was worried that when I flung Mr. Caterpillar back into the flower I had hurt him.  Never fear, when I checked a little while later he was crawling around inside.  Now hubby has rescued me (and the caterpillar) by putting him outside where he belongs.  Except now hubby tells me that we didn't do the caterpillar any favors.  He will probably be eaten by a bird.  Or freeze to death.  Whatever.  My flowers are now caterpillar-free (hopefully) and Mr. Caterpillar is back with his own kind (also hopefully).

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Stuffed Green Peppers

 Made this for deliciousness tonight.

It's a perfect fall food.  Hearty and filling.  Oh, and cheese-y.  Melted cheese is very important.  So is what you pair with it.

Like crusty bread and a smooth local beer.  These are crucial elements.  Something about this meal screams for a brew to go along with it.  At least to me.

The key to making this dish is in melting the mozzarella on top for just the perfect amount of time.  Enough that it's good and gooey, and just crispy around the edges.  Too much longer and it becomes an unappetizing blob.  Nobody wants that.  It also helps when you're able to pick up some hefty peppers from the farmer's market.  No puny peppers allowed.

Stuffed Green Peppers

This is what I normally use.  It's one of those meals that is easy to adapt.  Mushrooms would be a great sub for sausage.  Other spices work as well, such as basil or thyme.  I've even used red or yellow bell peppers when I can't find 4 green peppers large enough, which makes for a slightly sweeter dish overall.

1 cup rice (I prefer Jasmine, but I've also used Basmati.  Brown rice would probably work here, too.)
4 large green bell peppers
1 sweet yellow onion
3-4 tsp. olive oil
2 links Italian sausage
3/4 tsp. ground fennel
3/4 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
Grated Mozzarella
Salt and pepper to taste (I usually use garlic salt...which I tend to use in everything)

Cook rice according to package directions.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Coat 9x9 baking dish lightly with oil.  Trim bottoms and caps of bell peppers; remove seeds.  Place hollowed peppers in baking dish.

Dice pepper caps, bottoms, and onion.  Heat 2-3 tsp. olive oil in large skillet.  Saute peppers and onions for 5-6 minutes, until soft and onions are translucent.  Remove mixture and add 1 tsp. oil to pan.  Remove sausage from casing and cook until browned, crumbling as it cooks.

Add pepper-onion mixture back to pan, add fennel and oregano, and cook for 2 minutes.  Add cooked rice and Parmesan, cooking until mixture is heated through and cheese is melted.  Add salt and pepper, and additional spices (if needed) to taste.

Stuff peppers with filling mixture.  Bake for 20-25 minutes.  Remove and top with mozzarella.  Return to oven for 5-7 more minutes, until cheese is melted and edges are crispy.

Monday, October 8, 2012


Hubby told me that he thinks I've been happier lately.  I told him this can be attributed to one thing.


It's a season where there are just too many good things going on to not be happy.

This, for example.

Yup, hubby and me at the apple orchard.  Also it looks all casual, like we were in the middle of blissfully picking apples on the fancy apple-picking ladder and everything, but in reality we were walking in the orchard and all of a sudden there was this vignette of a tipped-over box of apples and a 3-legged ladder.  I ignored the sign next to it that probably said not to touch anything, and promptly turned this opportunity into a photo op instead.

Also this.

Yup.  That photo was already taken two years ago.  Two years and six days ago, to be exact.  And since the second year was loads better than the first, that makes me all kinds of happy.  Not to mention we went away for a cuddly get-away this weekend.  Shopping in Galena (where I picked up this beaut and this deliciousness), a cozy overnight stay in Dubuque, and a massage to finish it all off.  Plus we spent our time resting (after shopping, and before going out to dinner) by watching Hercules.  The Disney version.  Clearly we know how to celebrate.

This, too.

I made creamy sorrel spinach soup last night.  It was an overall meh, and my favorite part was that I got to eat bread with it.  Until I warmed up the above for lunch today.  Totally.  Different.  Soup.  Some sort of magic must have happened in my refrigerator last night, because I ate two big bowlfuls of it.  And more bread.  It was amazingly good.  And it thickened up overnight, turning into a rich, veggie stew-like bowl of yummy-ness.  Note to self: make the day before consumption.

And the last thing that's making me happy: the hot apple cider I am drinking right now.  So good.  This place clearly knows their way around cider.  I was all sad earlier because I didn't want to make coffee and didn't have any tea, but wanted something hot to drink.  So I moped around for awhile until I remembered apple cider in the refrigerator and it turned out to be exactly what I needed.  Cheers.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Good-bye, Old Friend

It is a sad day.

My constant companion of the past five years has gone to sleep for the last time.  

My dear design school laptop.

We went through everything together.  My first design project.  My last design project.  Every project in-between.  Countless late and sleepless nights.  We planned parties together.  Played games together.  Planned a wedding together.  Created surprises together.  He played music and videos for me, constantly and uncomplainingly.  And in the end he was just worn out.  Three power cords and two batteries was just getting to be too much for him.  I don't blame him.  He worked so hard.

One of our first projects together.  You can tell we've been there all night due to my lack of makeup and any attempt to do anything with my hair...

And junior year.  Who could forget our office project?  I guess it's a miracle he lasted this long, considering that I never spilled anything on him, even though I had drinks such as that extra-large-vanilla-latte-triple-shot-whatever next to him so very often....

It's kind of amazing, actually, all of the things that have happened during the past five years or so, that this laptop has been a part of. Things that he enabled me to do.  I am sure going to miss my design school laptop.  

But in the meantime...
I have a new friend to get to know.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Free Time

So far with the extra free time I have had (from not having an evening job) during the past month, I have...

  • met friends for coffee
  • started yoga again
  • felt free to go back home for an entire week for support and love following a family tragedy
  • had friends over for dinner
  • finally taken advantage of Restaurant Week
  • begun projects for the apartment that I have been waiting on
  • spent more time reading my Bible
  • had more time with the hubby
  • painted my nails
  • been able to cook and bake much more often

so, so far...

free time rocks.

In fact, I think free time is fantastic.  Before, when I would be doing just-because-I-like-doing-them things, (i.e. cooking, design things, catching up on my  Real Housewives, etc.), I would feel guilty.  Guilty that I really had other "more important" things that I should be doing.  Things that were related to work.  In fact, sometimes doing these things that I enjoyed doing almost felt like chores.  Self:  "If you don't bake these cookies right now you won't have any other time to do it.  You like doing this, remember?  Now bake, dammit!"  But now my free time is just that.  My free time.  (Ok, if you want to get technical, it's actually God's time, but it's kind of like He is giving it to me, so then it is sort of like my free time again, right?)

Being raised in a world and culture where everyone is all "go-go-go" and a mark of success--even badge of HONOR--seems to be having NO free time, this is nothing short of a revelation.  The culture I was raised in looked DOWN on those who had free time.  They were dismissed as slackers.  It has honestly taken me until now to not look down on people whose time is not filled up with work and activities.  

Obviously, I have never really had free time.  Not in high school, when extracurricular activities and homework took up my after-school hours, not in college, where work and design projects dominated my time, and not even post-college, when wedding planning and work literally took over my days, evenings, and weekends.

Not until now.

This is amazing.

Also amazing?  My gold-tipped nails.  Which I was able to do myself.  Because I have free time.  Win.

Nothin like puttin a little extra bling in your day.

***I think it is important to note that while I now have extra free time, it is NOT idle time.  It is time to build myself up, while pursuing activities, interests, and relationships in my life.  Yup, even while watching the Real Housewives.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


Jeffrey McBride 
"Beff"  "Bird"
July 1, 1987-January 14, 2012

I had all of these different things to write about.  The trip to Boston that Tyson and I took earlier this month.  My birthday adventure, on January 13th.  I was even going to write about a delicious "instant" chocolate cake recipe that I found.

Instead I am writing about something I never, ever anticipated.

We unexpectedly lost my cousin, Jeff, on January 14th, 2012.  

There are really no words.

Both Tyson and I still have all of our grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc., etc.  Everyone is even relatively healthy.  This was definitely something that rocked our-and everyone's-worlds.

One of the hardest things for me to wrap my head around is that Jeff will never be 25.  You have to understand, we grew up and were only 6 months apart; we were always the same age, experiencing the same things at the same time.  And I turned 25 the day before he passed.  It is unreal to me that he will never be 25.

People talk about grief.  Well let me tell you, I have never seen grieving before last week.

People also talk about love and comfort.  I have also never seen love and comfort like I saw last week.

"God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way, and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea."
-Psalm 46:1-2

January has been a very long month.

And Jeff, I hope you have figured out what the heck ballboarding is by now.