December 28, 2012


Reading: The Paris Wife - so far, so good.  I just got a $5 credit for Amazon too, so I plan on loading up on new some books for the rest of my winter... any ideas?

Picture Credit
Eating:  All week, I've been eating left overs from Christmas brunch as well as cookies, cookies and more cookies.  I'm eating the cookies for breakfast though, so I give myself time to burn them off throughout the day - that's the healthy way, right?

That is a picture of the cookies we made at Mary's house with my girlfriends.  Luckily, I was able to get rid of these later that evening when we met up with some out of town friends.  The cookies at my house are the bags that my mom's friends gave me, the tin that Katie brought over filled with sugar cookies and other random plates of cookies that just magically appeared (I think my mom was trying to get rid of her supply.)  Good thing my brother will be around this weekend so I can put them all in front of him.

Listening to:

Bob Schneider - Blues Skies for Everyone... I used one of the lyrics from this song for my senior yearbook quote (you know where everyone uses inside jokes and weird abbreviations)  "Curse the gray skies if you must, but you will find when you're done, there are blue skies for everyone."  I still live every day hoping that's true.

Ray Charles & Van Morrison - Crazy Love - I have been listening to Ray Charles soooo much lately.  I can't get enough.

Oh yeah, and randomly this cheesy 2012 song :)

Watching:  I finally watched the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  I tried reading the book last year, but it was hard to get into and follow in the beginning, so I netflixed the movie.  Wow.  It was really good.  What an interesting protagonist.  I could have gone with less graphic sex scenes, but the story was great and I will probably read the other two books now.  

I also plan on watching some awesome old school movies with my family this weekend... Summer Rental, The Great Outdoors, Grumpy Old Men... you know, the classics.

Missing:  My family and friends that live far away.  Thankfully, with technology, we were able to at least see & chat with them, but it's not the same as giving them a big hug.  

My Uncle, Aunt & Cousins in Maryland via Skype (photo courtesy of Auntie Jen)
My Grandma experiencing Facetime while chatting with my brother who was in South Dakota - it took a few minutes before she had the hang of it.
Anticipating:  MY FAMILY VACATION!!!!!!  My parents decided to book the whole family a ski/snowboard trip in Lutsen to celebrate a late Christmas with my brother & Jen and also to celebrate New Year's.  We are going to play board games and watch movies and cook some awesome meals.  Jen has never been to the North Shore, so we're going to have a quick lunch in Duluth and then head north.  We haven't done this in years, so I think it will be an absolute blast.

Wishing for:  A safe and happy New Year for all my friends and family.  I'm also wishing for some resolution to the craziness that's been happening the last few weeks in our government.  

Drinking:  The last of my holiday coffees... then it's back to my plain old Caramel Drizzle.  As far as my current after work cocktail, I'm thinking about some Rumchata.

Laughing at:  The Best Dad in the World.  Someone sent it to me and I'm dying.  Here are two of my favorite pictures from this story, but check out all at this ABC News website

That kid is going to have sooo many awesome pictures at her graduation party.

Loving:  My Christmas gifts.  I love the 2 new sweaters from my parents as well as my new set of long underwear and the 2 history books I wanted.  

I love the mittens from my sissy and the GENEROUS Disney gift cards from Justin's family - they will help HUGE when we head to Florida in February.  I love all the Christmas cards we received this year.  They are covering our bedroom door and I probably won't take them down for at least another week.  

Last, but not least, I love that my husband tracked down the perfume I wanted without me having any idea and tried sooo hard to find me Caramello bars - WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO THEM IN MINNESOTA?  They are my favorites and neither J nor myself has been able to find them anyone... an explanation would be nice.

Beginning:  A new project.  So many people talk about things they are grateful for and thankful for during the holiday season, but they seem to lose sight during the rest of the year.  I'm going to use my instagram account to document one thing each day that I am thankful for (it will be under #dailygratitude).  My plan is to do this every day from Christmas until Thanksgiving.  I will summarize weekly on the blog.  I urge everyone to remember to include gratitude in your day to day life.

"The secret of happiness lies in taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life." - William Morris

December 25, 2012

My Favorite Things - 2012 Christmas Edition

It's the evening of Christmas Day and again this year, I am grateful for such a lovely holiday with lots of family and friends.  We missed my brother & Jen lots, but we will be celebrating the New Year with them on a family ski trip, so it's totally OK.

Some of the highlights from our Christmas...

Tim Allen Christmas Movies (and a few others) - we start the season with White Christmas and end it with Christmas Vacation, but we throw in all the Tim Allen Christmas movies in between.  I love him in Home Improvement and I love him in Christmas movies.

The FOOD... seriously.  I've been eating the best food every weekend since Thanksgiving.  Even though we don't eat meat anymore, there was not a lack of food for us to eat.  My favorites this year included macarons, smoked salmon, egg bakes, cheesy potatoes, vegetable trays fit for a king and the cookies.  My mom hosts a cookie party every year and thanks to those wonderful women (see below), I am able to eat awesome cookies well into the New Year.

The kiddos help make this holiday so special as well.  It is so much fun watching them figure out what all the commotion is about.  

We helped Nicole "teach" at her church this weekend and the kids we worked with were 3 year olds.  They explained the Nativity and Jesus' birthday with videos, songs and books.  I had at least 4 kids tell me that they had never sinned.  

I was a little sad that we were only able to hang with my nieces for the two hours that they opened presents, but it is fun to see them tear through their new toys.  Having lots of family is a blessing, don't get me wrong, but I do feel like we rush a little bit to get everywhere.  I didn't get many pictures, but hopefully Holly did.  I sat in between Kennedy & Kenzy in their matching dresses.  Maddy seemed to really like the Minnie Mouse kitchen we found too.

Christmas PJ's are another chart topper for me.  I found the funniest Santa PJ's last year that were matching on the top & the bottom, but they only had an XL.  I bought them anyways.  Justin has built up a collection of Grinch PJ's which he loves.  We always sleep extra good on Christmas Eve with full bellies and awesome PJ's, so Christmas morning is always extra awesome in our house.

My dogs are like my children, so including them in the festivities is also quite important.  Our Christmas card is usually the easiest way to make sure they feel the Christmas spirit.  Here is what our card had this year (yes, we wrote a limerick):

They were also included in our Christmas morning brunch with my mom's family and they were quite a hit.

Last but not least is being able to bring a little extra joy to friends and family.  We stuck to a budget this year for the first time ever and it made life a little easier because we planned our shopping trips instead of random splurges.  The only unplanned item was the bagful of St. Paul Firefighter calendars we bought for my girlfriends... it was too hard to pass up.

Hope you all had a very Merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year.

December 23, 2012

The Weekend Before Christmas

It is now officially the weekend before Christmas.  The month of December has been long and filled with holiday parties and get together's, snow storms, exciting moments and little stress...

Until yesterday...

I worked yesterday all day and it wasn't too bad.  There were quite a few people in the office and I bought pizza for my team.  I didn't hear from any customers that their holiday was ruined, so I dodged that bullet.  But for some reason, around 2:00, my head just started pounding.  I truly believe it was a stress headache.  

We are hosting Christmas morning for my mom's family this year and I love making brunch food.  I made a grocery list about 3 days ago and wrote down the last few gifts I needed to pick up and got all my coupons and discounts ready.  I thought that list was my ticket to getting in and getting out and being all done with my shopping, but I knew the parking lots and Target itself was going to be nightmare on the Saturday before Christmas, especially with a pounding head.

I called my husband to see if he would come and give me moral support, but I then remembered that I needed to get his stocking stuffers still and I didn't want him to be right around the corner when I was picking them out.  I made a decision in the car to take 5 deep breaths and enter the parking lot.  Of course, it look me 10 minutes to park and I got the last spot in the lot (at least it was 20 degrees and not negative.)  I walked through the doors at Target and noticed one cart left... and then the best thing happened...  my mom.

My mom just happened to walk into Target at the same time as me and was heading for the last cart.  Remember this was crazy because we don't live in a small town and there are a few Targets in our neighborhood.  We teamed up together and spent an hour and a half walking through Target and crossing everything off our lists (except small candy canes, which we couldn't find anywhere.)  The cashier found out that we had just happened to run into each other and agreed that it was a pretty special moment.  I truly believe she helped me stay sane and I didn't notice my head pounding the whole time I was there.  

The best part was leaving Target because we had one cart to get everything to our cars and we were parked in the same last spot one row apart.  That made life a little easier.

So today, I'm grateful for my mom and how much we are alike sometimes.  I know it seems silly that I was stressed out about this trip to Target, but after working all day, I just wanted to get home and take some medicine and go to bed.  I am now totally set for Christmas morning and all my gifts are wrapped under the tree (and in the guest room... our tree is too small.)  I curled into the couch last night with my little family and watched The Santa Clause 3 and Christmas Vacation.
In the next 2 weeks, I have so many things to look forward to.  We have 4 Christmases to participate in (I might have to watch the Reese Witherspoon/Vince Vaughn movie again for some pointers), 2 ski trips to pack for and enjoy, 6 days of work, 2 friends get togethers and a ticket I must use for an exhibit at the art institute.  

I'm sitting here pre-sunrise on a Sunday enjoying a large cup of coffee and getting ready to volunteer at my sister-in-law's church with the 3 and 4 year olds.  It's going to be a busy day.  

Hope you all have a very Merry Christmas!

December 12, 2012

Music Taste of a Toddler

Have you met my niece, Kennedy?  Did you know she's the youngest Justin Bieber fan ever?

Now you know.

We had a girl's night last night with the kids and made cookies... which means, Nicole made cookies/cupcakes, I attempted to make melting snowmen cookies (which my 4 year old niece SPIT out they were so bad) and Chelsea & Holly provided entertainment.  We didn't just have a Taylor Swift dance party this time, we included Justin Bieber & Carly Rae Jepsen... I thought this was teenage stuff, but apparently it appeals to the toddler crew as well.

Nicole posted this photo to Facebook and I think it says it all.  LOVE you girls.  So glad we started doing this once a month or so.

Happy 12-12-12.

December 10, 2012

When my husband is away...

I take care of business.

My lovely husband was away on business, so when I got home from work, I had to deal with some duties that I wouldn't normally trust myself with.  We had a tad bit of a blizzard yesterday.  It was an awesome day because we didn't really have anything to do so we sat around in our pajamas most of the day and just relaxed.  

Hee Hee - my mailbox

My drive home was a little crazy today because the roads still have a bunch of packed down snow on them.  There were a few stuck semis in my path and it took me about double the amount of time to get home.  I was planning to have movie night with Annika, but after my crazy commute, I didn't think getting back in the car was a good idea.  I put on my favorite hot pink pajamas and my broken in college sweatshirt and settled in to catch up on Bravo... 


That damn blizzard covered my satellite dish and none of the Bravo shows I usually DVR on Sunday nights had recorded... this was not going to fly.  I know that my father usually just hits his dish with a broom, so I decided to try this.  I stayed in my pajamas and put on my boots and headed out to the backyard to take inventory of the situation.  So what that there was about 9 1/2 feet between me and the dish, we were going to resolve this situation.  

I headed back inside and grabbed a kitchen chair and a broom and made the first attempt.  I couldn't even reach the bottom. I went downstairs on a hunt for something longer and grabbed my husband's 6 foot level.  That worked and I was able to knock some snow right into my face.  I went back inside and realized that it wasn't enough.  I headed back down to the garage and found the step ladder which gave me another 7-8 inches and went back at it.  I just tapped it lightly as fast as I could without falling off the ladder.  I can't even imagine what my neighbor's would have thought if they had seen me.  I know I'm not supposed to stand on the top of the step ladder, but I had my phone in my front pocket in case of emergency.  I was finally successful.  It's a little funny that I found something that couldn't be fixed with Duct Tape.

My Tool Kit
I just have to say that I am quite proud of myself and I will celebrate my success with a Moose Drool Brown Ale and a peanut butter sandwich (oops, we have no food in the house.)  And most importantly, I will be able to watch Real Housewives of Beverly Hills... we all know this had nothing to do with my new found independence, patience and persistence   However, I'm proud to say that I took care of business at this household tonight.  

December 7, 2012

Cupcakes are the new Game Gear

I love buying presents.  I love walking through stores with no goal other than to find something ridiculous that has a friend's name written all over it.  I love putting together gift baskets.  I love buying people things they like but would never buy themselves.  I love things in the dollar section and I love nice expensive "treat yoself" kinds of things.  I love wandering through the mall starting a week before Thanksgiving and finding awesome sales on things that my sister-in-law's would just love or getting a groupon for Toys'R'Us and knowing that I can get a little something extra for my nieces this year.  I don't spend a million dollars, I just like taking my time and finding the right gift.  Therefore, Christmas is one of my favorite times all year.

Now, if you know me, you know I LOVE lists... except when it comes to Christmas gifts.  Christmas should be all about surprises.  Instead, people ask for a list of things I want for Christmas and it makes me super uncomfortable.  I know I'm weird about these things, but I just don't like to list out all my wants and expect them to be purchased, wrapped and put under a tree.  I do my best and try & hold out if there are any books or movies that I want to purchase, so that I can give people an idea or two.  I know it sounds weird and people might think I'm being difficult, but I've always been that way.
I think this is just the way that I was raised.

My dad never needed a list.  He has always been good at knowing what fun item would be perfect - he picked out a game gear for me when I was in 3rd grade and it was the BEST gift ever.  He also purchased my letter jacket after I made the varsity hockey team as a freshman (sorry, I was too cool for photos at age 14).

My mom is the only person who has ever been able to pick out clothes and shoes for me and ALWAYS get the right size and pick out something that is totally me.  Seriously, she's amazing at it.  It's fun to have no idea what you're getting when you unwrap your gifts.

Friends always know just what you need as well.  We were surprised at happy hour on Wednesday by our friends, Brady & Kelsey, when there was a shiny silver bag on the table.  I freaking love those two and it's pretty obvious that they've figured out what makes Justin & I happy.

Kelsey has heard me talk numerous times about my favorite bakery, Sweets Bakeshop on Marshall in St. Paul.  It's a little spendy and a little trendy, but they are always on Groupon.  The colored cookie looking items on the top left are their French Macarons (the best flavor is the blue).  And the cupcakes, seriously, they are my favorite things ever.  It was an awesome little surprise to go with an awesome happy hour.

Now I know that when someone asks me what I want for Christmas, one word will do the trick, "Cupcakes"  (although wine, coffee and new socks work as well.)

December 3, 2012

50 Shades of Mustaches (1st Holiday Party of 2012)

It is now December and that means that the Holiday season is in full swing... and it's 50 degrees outside this morning.  I'm not sure what's happening, but I just want a little snow on the ground at Christmas this year.  I thought I lived in Minnesota.

We kicked off the holiday season with a few festive weekend events.

Friday night, I went to Katie & Annika's for a Sweater party, except that they forget to tell anyone else that it was a sweater party.  Smirnoff Ice was drank by almost everyone and we had a small dance party at midnight.  It was quite successful, except that I'm the only one that was iced in a public place... never leave your purse unattended when there's Smirnoff's in the mix.

Saturday, we met the Simon's for lunch in Maple Grove at the old Timberlodge.  The new restaurant is called Malone's.  They had a really good Bloody Mary.

Saturday evening, we went to Holly's annual Naughty or Nice party.  The gifts each year are ridiculous and there are usually some extremely inappropriate items that we make sure we don't end up with (like blow up dolls and almost naked photos of other guests).  The themes this year seemed to be 50 Shades of Christmas (aka anything sexual), sweaters and Mustaches.  We usually try to go the funny route instead of the dirty route.  Here's the loot we brought this year:

Flask from Target $7.99

Holiday Mustaches from Target $4.99

Beer Opener Rings from World Market $6.99

Fifty Shades of Chicken Cookbook from Target $14.99
We usually try not to come home with too much since it's mostly items that we would attempt to regift, but this year we did OK.  I fought really hard for a certain funny hat and lost.  Little did I know, my sister-in-law is so wonderful, she snuck it in our gift box and I found it when I returned home.  We also got paper towels, Twinkies (they are vintage now) and some beer sweaters.

Yes, this hat is real and I love it.  I'll just have to be a little careful where I decide to where it.  Some of the gifts we missed out on included a used chainsaw, a vibrating rubber duckie, Nerf guns, a beer pong set and a sombrero.

This evening is always a blast.  It reminded me again this year how lucky I am to be part of that family.  Not only do I love my new sisters, but their friends are all so much fun to be around.  Holly has a great group of girlfriends and they are all extremely generous - plus they all make running seem like fun and that's a challenge.

As we continue through the holiday season, Justin & I decided we would do something Christmas related each day.  We have lots of holiday movies to watch and treats to make and a few parties to go to.  Yesterday, we finished decorating for Christmas and listened to Christmas music.  Merry December to everyone.  

November 30, 2012

Home for the Holidays

Now that the holiday season has kicked off, we have already seen a few of our favorite out of town friends as they come home to spend the holidays with their families.  Other than my brother, our immediate families are all in the Twin Cities, so we are able to see them often.  Our friends, on the other hand, are located all over the country (and world for that matter.)

Keith & Whitney came straight from Hawaii the weekend before Thanksgiving.  Somehow, we got roped into a Thursday night outing.  Yikes.  We started at Joe's Lowertown apartment and then headed to a few of our favorite Lowertown establishments.  The Gopher Bar was a great choice with the cheap beer and Whitney's music on the jukebox.  We danced and sang songs and took lemon drops.  It is a fun group and even though we usually only get together once a year, it's always a good time.

The next night, we had a girl's slumber party at Kirsten's.  Tido was in town from Colorado and so it was fun getting all the girls together.  I met a few new ladies and we had some cocktails, played some games and ate a taco feast.

Growing up, I always thought I was a guy's girl, but now that I'm older, I don't think that's a real thing.  I think it's an excuse because meeting new ladies is sometimes difficult and uncomfortable.  Guys aren't any easier, they are just different and there's no real competition with them.  I've recently realized that I have so much fun meeting new girls.  This slumber party was no exception.  I don't think I've laughed that hard in a while.

My camera only captured three photos that night, but someone else was able to snag a group photo before things got too out of control.  Oh yeah, and we watched Magic Mike, but just the scenes with dancing.  I think Channing Tatum is attractive, but the dancing isn't really that exciting for me... just entertaining.

Just this last weekend, we were lucky enough to catch up with Andy (in town from Chicago) and Caroline (in town from Washington.)  Andy did his usual get together with his 70 closest college friends.  I was kind of glad I had to call it an early night because usually hanging out with that group leaves me sick for days.  I was happy to see Caroline too and find out that she's home for the whole month of December :)

Just when I think I've heard from or seen all my out of town friends, I receive a FB notification today that Amy has posted a video on my wall.  It made my whole day.  She is currently teaching in South Korea and we only get to see her once a year (if we're lucky) and we'd love her to move home soon, but in the meantime, a surprise note every once in a while will get me by.  Here's what she wrote:
I just posted this same vid on Brady's wall, and I thought... I bet this would make Steph smile.  To be honest, I have no idea if you were ever an NSYNCer, but since we see eye-to-eye on so much else... I thought that this random Xmas tune would start your day off right.

Love her.  I have great friends.  So, for that, I'm super grateful.  I now must pay it forward and find another ridiculous holiday video and post it on someone else's wall.  Happy Friday!

November 27, 2012

30 Day Photo Challenge

I added a few things to my 30 before 30 list that would not be too crazy or expensive.  This was one of them.  It's something I see on Twitter all the time, but had never participated in.  I decided to rope in Annika, Katie & Justin as well.  Annika is the only one that actually finished with all 30 pictures.  The whole challenge was focused around gratitude.  Here was the list:

Here are some of my photos:

Morning Skies
Favorite Color
Inspiring Person
Something Old
Written Words
Best Friend
Where I Sleep
Daily Routine
Self Portrait
So that's that.  It was a fun little challenge.  It's fun to have these pictures on my phone to look at every once in a while.  I think we are planning to put the photos together and put them up somewhere. Helpful reminders to be grateful.  Here is Annika's collage:

And to end today's colorful post, the quote in my calendar today was from "The Buddha":
Set your heart on doing good.  Do it over and over again, and you will be filled with joy.  A fool is happy until his mischief turns against him.  And a good man may suffer until his goodness flowers.