Monday, December 30, 2013

Nail and String State Art

I have seen these DIY canvas and wood projects all over Pinterest and have been wanting to try one for awhile. But since I never frequent the hardware store, it took some time to get a couple packages of small nails. It did, however, give me a great excuse to shop around at the most dangerous store for my wallet (*cough Michaels). This was a fairly quick project and you can customize it in so many ways! 

I went for a smaller surface place and used my college colors for the string (University of Minnesota - Go Gophs!). You can color the background, nails, and string in any way that you want to. And you can even use the nail and the string in any pattern you'd like! I am planning on making a few more of these with some different designs and string patterns. This made a perfect Christmas gift for someone and the wood plaques make interesting, textured wall art.

Minnesota Nail and String Art
Prep Time (Paint): 20 minutes
Nails/String: 75 minutes

- Wood Plaque in desired size
(Found mine at Michael's for $3!)
- Package of small nails
(I grabbed a package at Home Depot for $1.75)
- Acrylic paint in desired color
(Found at Michaels, set of 10 for $5)
- Set of colored string or thread
(Found at Michaels, set of 10 colors for $6)
- Hammer
- Paper print out of desired shape

1. Start by prepping your wood piece. Paint at least one coat of your preferred color. I used two coats of black paint followed by a coat of gloss finish spray for some shine.
2. Taking your desired shape, mine was MN with a heart around Minneapolis, line it up on the dried, painted wood.
3. Begin by outlining the shape with a few nails until the paper is secured and won't slip around.
4. Fill in the rest of the shape with the remaining outline nails.
5. Pull the piece of paper off the canvas so just the nails remain.
6. Begin wrapping string pieces around the nails in the pattern you prefer. I tried to space out the string by wrapping evenly around the center heart nails.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Picture Perfect Ornaments

There are so many options that you can do with this idea.  You could make a bulb every year and choose one photo that summarizes the best thing, whether it be a vacation, family outing, birth, engagement, wedding, graduation, I mean the list seems endless.

All you need is a bulb, plastic or glass, whatever floats your boat. A picture of the memory you want to preserve (I printed a 2x3 picture).  And the filler that fits with the theme of the picture.

The photo on the right is an ornament that I made for our in-laws who celebrated their honeymoon this fall.  I went for simplicity. The colors match the blue decorations on their Christmas tree and represent the pretty blue ocean they experienced on their honeymoon. Now if it weren't winter and I could get my hand on some, sand would also be a great bottom filler, or shells would work great too.  If it's a winter photo adding fake snow, sugar, salt or pine needles is an option.  You have to be careful how much you add since you don't want the bulb to be too heavy when you hang it.  You can add more details on the back like the location, year, etc. using a marker, glitter stick etc.

Depending on the time in your life, it will guide your ornament making.  For example, right now people my age are getting engaged, married, honeymoons, having their first child, and first home.  Lots of firsts.  So these are a thoughtful and money savvy way to show your support for the couple as they go through their BIG life changes.


Thursday, December 26, 2013

Nutella Sandwich Cookies

The chocolate-hazelnut spread both flavors the batter and serves as the filling for the sandwich.  This recipe my mom found and tore out of a Cooking Light Magazine, November 2011 version.  Now my mom and I are not known for our baking, something always goes wrong.  So when these chocolate babies came out as pictured and tasty we were relieved, as were the other family members.  Definitely recommend this with some hot tea or milk due to the crunch cookie and the Nutella that sticks to the roof of your mouth, a problem I am okay with having.  I even ate these for breakfast, apparently Santa wasn't as hungry as we thought.  If you're a Nutella fan try this consider adding this recipe to your holiday cookie list.

13 oz jar Nutella
2 tbsp unsalted butter, room temp
1 extra-large egg
1 1/4 cups self-rising cake flour

1) Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchement.
2) Beat together 3/4 cup of the Nutella, the butter, and egg.  Slowly add the flour until a wet dough forms.
3) Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead gently, adding more flour if necessary; the dough will be sticky.  Divide the dough into 18 pieces and roll each into a perfect ball, flouring your hands as you go.
4) Place several inches apart on the baking sheet.  Bake 12 minutes, until firm. 
5) Cool 10 minutes on the sheet. 
6) Using a serrated knife, split each cookie in half horizontally.  Spread each bottom half with 1 tsp Nutella. Place the tops, pressing lightly. 
Makes 18 cookies.

Note: We put more like a tbsp of Nutella on each cookie, one because we are chocaholics and two they need it and why not put more on the cookie, otherwise we'd be forced to spoon feed the leftover Nutella from the jar directly into our mouths.'s that good.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

We Wish You A Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas from us girls at Twins in the Cities!!

We wish you a safe, warm and happiest of Christmas' filled with cookies, sparkles and family fun!

Enjoy each moment of peaceful quiet and each moment of noisy, joyous family laughter.

And never be too old to frolic in the snow!

<3 Lisa and Marie

Photography by Jim Brickweg

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Eve Traditions

Christmas is all about family traditions.  For me, Christmas Eve is one of my favorite nights of the year! There is nothing better than spending the night with family, then going to bed and waking up early for Christmas, the one morning of the year that I'm actually a morning person.  Everyone has their own traditions that they hold dear. Lisa and I thought we'd share ours with you. To the hope that no one gets coal in their stocking, Merry Christmas Eve!

Brickweg Family Traditions:

The crazy Brickweg clan puts a lot of stock into family traditions. We have a whole array of traditions that we have tried to keep up through the years. Some of my favorites are our Christmas Eve traditions.

Many years ago, we started a routine of getting Cripsy Cremes from the Mall of America location every Christmas Eve morning. The donut shop has since shut down and this tradition has now warped into getting breakfast or coffee at the MOA followed by picking out a puzzle (that we all agree on, of course). A puzzle to work on throughout Christmas break is also one of our long standing traditions. Nowadays, many of us don't get a Christmas "break" anymore. But we work on it when we can and the end result is then glued together and framed. My mom will switch the different frames around the house throughout the year. We learned that we don't prefer the puzzles that have been quick and easy but we, my dad and sister especially, love the ones that have taken weeks! The 5000 piece war ships puzzle (pictured) is still one of our proudest puzzle accomplishments.

While we are at the mall, we usually have a few people needing to grab that one last Christmas gift. We split up into groups and have a meeting point for a bit later. You always have to be careful to not let your advent angel see which store you saunter into. After coffee and puzzle shopping, we head home to get the table set, begin cooking and prepare for the rest of the evening. It's nice to have a few hours to get some things done before the evening commences. We then head over to church for evening mass, to participate in what Christmas is really about. Mass is always peaceful and beautiful.

After a delicious Christmas dinner together, we shed our nice church clothes for much more comfortable pajamas. Then we get ready to exchange advent angel gifts while creating what's known as the "Christmas Nest." While it varies by year, people grab blankets and pillows galore and throw them either by the tree or in front of the fireplace. We all snuggle in to spend the rest of the night together. While the pile of siblings usually results in foot fights, wrestling and arm punches, it is fun and warm and silly. It may sound cheesy but these days, the best gift of all is just being together. The evening then finishes off with some board games or a movie. We stay up much later now than we did when we were young. But since many of us older siblings now spend some portion of Christmas with a spouse's or significant other's family, we have to cherish every moment together! 
Walmsley Family Traditions:

In the Walmsley household we have a hard time straying from our Christmas Eve traditions, down to  the same food for our Eve meal each year.  Here's what can be expected at the Walmsley house over Christmas.  We always attend Christmas Eve mass, then come home and devour our meal.

*Filet Mignon : pricey but the best juiciest succulent steak you can get, but it wouldn't be true Walmsley style without melted butter to dip it in. This tradition gave Dave some pause when he first attended, until he realized just how serious we were about a delicious steak.
*Bread - always gotta have whether it's french bread or rosemary bread from Kowalskis
*Snow peas, Asparagus or Green Beans with Bacon - my brothers request each year
*Potatoes - grilled scallop potatoes or baked go perfectly with the meal

Stuffed, we build a fire in the fireplace and relax by listening to Christmas music (George Winston, Burl Ives Rudolph, Amy Grant, Josh Groban).  Just like the Brickwegs, my Dad pulls out a new puzzle to work on every holiday.  We then usually open 1 Christmas gift, which is a true measure of restraint since all those pretty gifts under the tree are hard to resist. We then test our skills and play a competitive, but friendly board game. Finally, finishing the night off with some dessert and lingering in the family room enjoying the Christmas tree, decorations, and fire before heading off to bed.

Then next morning, bright and early we unwrap presents which usually takes a few hours since we take turns going around opening 1 present at a time.  This year we are straying from the norm in one area, the present opening.  We decided to open ALL our presents on Christmas Eve! CRAZY I know. We'll see how we like this, since it gives Dave and I more opportunity to spend it with his family and maybe it'll become a new tradition for a while.  That's the fun with traditions, you can always add new ones to the old.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Hot Cocoa Bulbs and Nutterbutter Reindeer

As mentioned in my previous post, I was all about finding creative gift ideas this year. These two treat ideas were the goodies that I made for my coworkers this Christmas. Both projects were quick, easy and cute!

Hot Chocolate Ornaments

There are so many ways that you could have fun with this. Whether a cup of hot chocolate or another fun recipe in the ornament, you can customize this in some interesting variations.

- Empty Christmas Bulb (I found plastic ornaments at Michaels for $1 a piece)
- Hot chocolate powder
- Candy canes or mints, crushed (Large red sprinkles would look great too)
- Mini chocolate chips
- Mini marshmallows (Mine were a bit too big, I'd suggest getting the hard little marshmallows)
- Funnel 

1. Pour in powder through the funnel into the ornament.
2. Scatter in the mini chocolate chips.
3. Add in the crushed mints.
4. Top with marshmallows and cap the bulb.

NutterButter Reindeer Pops

This is another one of my many Pinterest finds. I tackled Rudolph and his friends with my lovely mother! I was skeptical about these would turn out because after doing some research, I found that most people's did not look nearly as cute as the first image I had found. We had a few that looked like grumpy reindeer but most of them turned out adorable!

- 2 packages of NutterButters
- Almond Bark or melted chocolate chips
- 1 bag of red and green m&ms
- White tube of hardening frosting
- 1 bag regular pretzels
- Mini chocolate chips
- 1 box of Popsicle sticks

1. Put Popsicle stick into a NutterButter using the dipping chocolate. Let sit outside (in cold temps) or in the fridge for a few minutes to secure the stick in the cookie. Then dip the whole cookie in the melted chocolate. Lay on a wax sheet.
2. Break pretzels as desired to look like antlers. While chocolate is wet, insert the pretzels in the top of the NutterButter using a little extra chocolate.
3. Allow chocolate to set for a minute. Then dip the back side of a red m&m in melted chocolate and attach to the front of the NutterButter for the Rudolph nose.
4. Using the white hardening frosting, create eyes and add the mini chocolate chips. 
5. Allow all pieces to set before packaging.
Note: We used both dark chocolate chips (which we thought tasted yummier) and almond bark (which set quicker). 

Friday, December 20, 2013

DIY Marry Christmas Ornaments

There are times in life when being a sentimental "stuff" person really pays off. I believe this trait comes from mine and Marie's grandma Patricia, who we dearly miss. And I know that this habit may forever drive my own mother nuts (clearly she didn't inherit this trait!). But I save anything that has even the smallest sentimental value. I also have always loved giving gifts, especially around the holiday season. 

This year, I didn't have a lot of extra money to spend on presents so I had to turn to some out of the box thinking. I found some cute Pinterest DIY ornament ideas and thankfully I came up with my own creation since I had saved some key materials! I call them Marry Christmas Ornaments as the main thing you need is past wedding invitations and/or programs.

- Wedding invite and/or program 
Note: You can also use baby or graduation invites!
- Scissors and paper cutter
- Glass or plastic empty ornament (I found a set of four glass project ornaments at Michaels, on sale for $4!)
- Tinsel or any other objects desired for the ornament
- Ribbon to hang the ornament on the Christmas tree

1. Using paper cutter or scissors, cut the wedding invite and/or program strategically so that you can read the key words while looking at the ornament.
2. Using the scissors, carefully curl each strip of paper. Some programs are thinner than others, be cautious to not rip the paper strip.
3. Begin inserting the paper strips into the bulb one by one. Add any tinsel or other stuffing desired. 
4. Fill the ornament and then replace the top. Cut a ribbon at medium length and enjoy!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Catching Fire Movie

The Hunger Games saga continues! Those of us who've read the books have been anticipating the release of the second film.  If you already read my post on "The Hunger Games Series" under the Bookshelf tab, you know just how excited I was for the movie.  Good news, Catching Fire didn't disappoint.  I was happy how closely it followed the book, especially since they had so much good material to already choose from.  Yeah, they left some parts out, but I would have rather had the parts they did include, then the ones they didn't. Plus a 2 1/2 hour movie is already long enough.  Not that I didn't soak up every minute of it.

Also, I loved the creativity they put into the setting, the props and the wardrobe.  Part of what makes the Hunger Games series interesting is its realism mixed with the outrageous.  I walked out extremely happy. My husband (who hasn't read the books) greatly enjoyed the first movie and thought the second was entertaining, his only complaints the cheesiness that occurs in all movies.  I got a lot of sideways looks at those points, but me, I like that movie predictability mixed in with the unexpected.  He's also not a fan of the fact that they explain the obvious, even though you inferred as much already.  In the movies defense that's how the books are too, mainly because they are written for a juvenile audience and they may not come to the important conclusion she's trying to make.  Not everyone's a math wiz. Or prone to logic.

Overall though, the action was top notch, the romance made me feel like a school girl, and the tearjerker portions made my eyes tear up (ya I'm a sap).  It finished and I wanted to watch it all over again to absorb even more details!  Guess I'll be adding this to my DVD purchase list.

So check out the movie before it leaves theaters, it's impressive on a big screen.

And in true Hunger Games form, may the odds be ever in your favor.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Denver at Christmas Time

It was this time last year that I took a short trip out to Denver, CO for a work event. Luckily, Joe was able to join me for the trip since it was a few days before Christmas. Denver at Christmas time was a blast!!

The view of the snow capped mountains was breathtaking and the city was all decorated in lights. We loved exploring the city in more depth and were sad to leave. 

Here were the top three highlights:

16th Street Pedestrian Mall

Very trendy strip that we enjoyed walking each night. It is lined with shops, restaurants and clubs. There were numerous horse drawn carriages that were all done up with bells and holly for the Christmas season. We loved window shopping in between dinner or drinks and listening to the outdoor piano players.

Dinner at Willie G's Seafood and Steakhouse

We loved the steak bruschetta! Both of us had delicious drinks and entrees. The restaurant atmosphere was warm and fun with their red lighting and interesting decor. It was a great place to grab some dinner before heading to our next destination.

Broncos NFL game

Denver has a number of sporting facilities but this one is cool. From inside the suite, we could see the football game and the mountains. The main seating bowl is outdoors and besides the mountains, everything else you can see is blue and orange. The view made the game that much more interesting.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Glitter Canvas Art

Christmas Craft : Glitter Canvas
Prep Time: 30 minutes 
Paint/Glitter: 30 minutes

Every couple of weeks, I get an itch for a new project. With the holiday season upon us, I thought it was time for a more festive creation. I had a couple of canvases waiting for some inspiration. This was my first attempt at a glitter canvas and thankfully my lovely friend Mary C. helped me pick out a shape to start with. I got the idea from an adorable Pinterest glitter canvas of a reindeerThe project only took about an hour and the result was cute! You could make a canvas for any season and it would make a great gift!

- Canvas
- Paint (For canvas and to give a base for your shape)
- Glitter
- Stencil or cut out of desired shape
- Glue
- High gloss finish spray

1. Paint your canvas the background color of choice. I used gold as a base color. I used a previously painted canvas so I had to do two coats.
2. Chose a stencil or cut out a shape. I used a Cricut machine to cut out my holly. (If you don't have a Cricut and you enjoy crafts, scrapbooking or cards, it's an amazing tool!)
3. Tape the stencil to the dry canvas and paint into the areas as needed. I used green and red for my holly leaves and berries.
4. I let the paint dry a bit and then brushed some glue into the painted holly areas. I then quickly covered the glue with the corresponding glitter color.
5. After it dried, I used shine spray to set the glitter in place and give the holly a little more of a pop. I also sprayed a bit more gold to give the background a little texture.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

La Sagrada Familia

Translated it means "The Sacred Family," referring to an architectural masterpiece located in Barcelona, Spain.  I saw this grand edifice during my spring 2010 study abroad term in Spain.  Our college group headed to Barcelona for a weekend and it was there that we visited this world renowned creation.  I was surprised something like this hadn't been created for the Holy Family already. That was until I realized what a massive undertaking it was! This project has been in the works for many many many years.  It looks big in pictures, but you don't realize the enormity until you're standing next to it.  It's very very very tall and I realized just how tall when we traveled to the top (did I mention I'm afraid of heights) and then down many spiral stairs with questionable hand railings.  For those of you who don't know much on the construction of "La Sagrada Familia," I thought this holiday time was the perfect opportunity since it focuses on the Holy Family.

The goal of La Sagrada Familia is to be a welcoming place for prayer and reflection, a place to express the love of God and men.  The church is still under construction due to the many donations from around the world.  The process started in 1874 (WOAH!) with the goal to dedicate a church to the Holy Family.  The project was undertaken by Antonio Gaudi, a famous architect in Barcelona and known for his unique style.  Gaudi spent 43 years on this church and his plan is still being put into action today.

Passion of the Christ
When we visited in 2010 they were near completion of the interior portion with the prospect of holding services there until the full project is completed in 2030.  It is a symbolic landmark of Barcelona.  At present the church has two facades dedicated to the Birth of Jesus and the Passion of the Christ.  The Nativity facade represents the birth of Jesus.  Gaudi finished it so that those who would continue to work on the church would be aware of the important and scale of the project.  The Passion facade represents the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus.  Once it is complete, the third facade will refer to the Glory of Jesus resurrected.  It will also have 18 towers; 12 dedicated to the apostles, 4 to the evangelists, 1 to the Virgin Mary and another, which will rise to a height of 170 meters, to Jesus.

Nativity Scene

Background on the architect:
Antonio Gaudi (1852-1926) had a great interest in shapes, colors and geometry of nature.  Gaudi understood architecture as a complete art form, for which reason his creativity extended to each and every one of the elements in his work, all the way down to the doorknobs.  He set a precedent that would later influence the study of architecture.

Here are some other famous pieces by Gaudi that we saw in Barcelona.
Photos: First row - Parque Guell 1886-1888
Photos: Second row - Casa Vicens & Casa Mila "La Pedrera" (1906-1912) exterior, rooftop, interior



Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Raise a Glass of Holiday Cheer

One of my favorite holiday traditions is getting together with a few girlfriends for homemade libations and goodies. The holiday season is a time to celebrate and relax with good company. And yummy drink recipes are great for this festive time of year!

Cranberry Candy Cane Cocktail

This is the perfect girlie holiday drink! This cocktail is fruity with a hint of seasonal peppermint. Just watch out, they are deceivingly sweet!

Ingredients (1 Ser Size):
- 1 candy cane, crushed (for glass rim garnish)
- 2 ounces raspberry vodka
- 4 dashes white creme de menthe
- 2 1/2 ounces cranberry juice
- Ice cubes

1. Place crushed candy cane in a shallow dish. Wet the outside of the glass rim. Hold the glass by the stem and rotate the rim to coat with candy.
2. In a cocktail shaker, combine vodka, creme de menthe, juice, and ice. Shake until well mixed. Strain into the prepared glass. Serve immediately.

Hot Chocolate Bar

I was so excited to try this idea out. Especially because it is enjoyable for adults and kids alike. Grab your favorite toppings and serve traditional hot chocolate but with a new and exciting twist!

- Milk chocolate
- Dark chocolate
- Mint chocolate
- Chocolate covered spoons
- Whipped cream (vanilla flavored and regular)
- Marshmallows
- Wafer cookie straws
- Andes Mints
- Caramels
- Peppermints
- Cinnamon
- Cheyenne Pepper (For spicy hot chocolate!)

1. Use a hot pot in order to keep the water warm.
2. I used Fiestaware dishes in red and green to keep in the holiday spirit.
3. Set out some goodies and toppings and have fun making different hot cocoa creations!

Cranberry Candy Cane Cocktail ------- Christmas Bulbs for added decor

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Keep Christ in Christmas

As Christmas rolls closer it's hard to not be swept up into the bustle and forget the true intentions of Christmas.  The religious holiday of Christmas has become a favorite holiday for more than Christians, but in its growth of popularity the focus of Christmas can be lost.  So I implore you to try harder this year to keep Christ in Christmas.  I too fall victim to the fun of shopping for an exorbitant amount of presents, indulging in treats and adorning the house with decorations galore.  I believe that most of us do try and put forth the effort in the holidays to give back and share, whether it be our time or money.  Here are some ideas about how you too can share this holiday season.

*Donate at a Blood Drive - whether you volunteer your time to help at the event or give blood to save some lives this is a great opportunity to do a bit of giving that can save a life.  One donation can save 3 lives! During the holiday times it's harder for the Red Cross to find volunteers so take a look at their website and find the nearest blood drive

*Write a letter to a soldier -This is a fun and simple task to do with your family.  There are many soldiers overseas and away from their families.  Although some may receive letters and packages, who doesn't love getting a genuine thank you in the mail. Take a look at the cards Lisa's group of little girls made for the soldiers. 
Cards for Soldiers - Lisa's group

 You can start off simple and only send letters, or you could get a group to contribute towards sending a package or two.  You can choose which branch you'd like to send it to: the army, marines, air force, navy, coastguard.  Then pick a specific unit based on state, location overseas, start or end date, etc.  Depending on which unit you choose they may be requesting specific things based on their location and resources, but if you have no idea what to send the Any Soldier website has some basic ideas.  So maybe send some stuff, but mainly your support, as we thank those that give us the gift of time with our families.

*Food Pantry -donate items from your cupboard or purchase gift cards at grocery stores to give to the food pantry in your area.  Especially during this cold season a lot more people are seeking out aid from pantries to help keep their cupboards stocked.  A great way to give more is donate money when a grocery store is matching the amount donated.  For example, our church pantry had worked it out with Meijer that a certain weekend for every $10 donated, Meijer would donate $20. Dave and me donating $20 that weekend meant the pantry actually received $60!!! Pretty neat. Keep your eyes open at your own grocery stores for such giving opportunities.

*Animal Shelter - It's not only people that need aid during the colder months of winter, the cages at Humane Societies are flooded with animals.  There are many ways to get involved with an animal shelter this holiday season.  Here are some ideas, but be sure to see a shelter near you for specifics.
 -Give a gift from the shelters Amazon Wish List. This way you're gifting exactly what they need.
-Pet Photos with Santa! For a $ donation you can take your animal to get a picture with Santa.
-Volunteer to help clean cages, walk dogs, be a cat cuddler and other necessary jobs for the shelters success
-Adopt! Rescue an animal! Not everyone can do this, but if you're looking for a furry friend now is a great time to rescue!
  • Dave's family rescued a cat they fittingly named Frosty, due to the frostbite he suffered before Dave found him on the side of the road, and were rewarded with a fetch playing kitty.
  • And last year Dave and I found a black kitten at the grocery store and because the shelters were too full and wouldn't take the little fella, we worked together with some friends to transfer him a few states away to someone willing to take him. Clearly Dave has amazing Kitty Radar, plus I think cats know he's a catlover when they see him.

*Salvation Army - give change to those bell ringers braving the cold or become one yourself and volunteer. My family and I growing up had some fun memories singing carols and bell ringing.  It was when we were stationed outside of Menard's that we'd get the most moolah :)

*Toys for Tots - It's not too late to get involved whether it's at work or church with buying presents for families in the area in need. It can be fun to go shopping for someone you don't know, and get them exactly what they want, knowing how thrilled they will be to open it on Christmas.

I know, I know, with so many great ideas it's hard to take your pick!  Luckily you still have a few weeks before Christmas to give back, and who says you can't continue giving with the start of the year.  It's very fitting to share what God has blessed us with throughout the year with others during this holiday season, in acknowledgement of those gifts.  It's great to enjoy the decorations, cheer, treats, presents and time with family that we're granted over Christmas.  Just remember that it feels even better when you keep Christ in Christmas.  Happy Giving!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Fiddler on the Roof

My family was looking for a fun activity to do over the Thanksgiving weekend. Especially since my two older siblings and their spouses were not joining us this year, we had a bit more flexibility with pricing and timing. I did some digging and found out that from now until late February, the Chanhassen Dinner Theater is putting on a production of Fiddler on the Roof. We grew up watching this movie because our lovable dad was in the play in high school. We had decided to check it out and we LOVED the whole experience. 

The theater asks that you arrive two hours before your show time in order to leave enough time for lunch/dinner beforehand. We saw a matinee show so arrived at 11:00 a.m. for our 1:00 p.m. show. The entree price is included in each ticket and while the menu selection wasn't wildly extensive, the food was good. We were able to talk and enjoy each other's company before the show began.

The show was fantastic! The singing and acting was very professional and the story is a classic. Many scenes had us laughing hysterically and the next would be heartwarming and emotional. The actor that played Tevye was incredible!! Since his character makes or breaks the whole story, it was great to have such a strong and engaging actor. The rest of the cast was wonderful as well!

If you are looking for something to do around the holidays or looking for a fun Christmas gift for someone, Fiddler on the Roof at the CDT is a great choice!!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Birchbox Review

Birchbox was started by two young women entrepreneurs who saw a space in the market and worked their way to great success. The idea around Birchbox is that each month, you receive a box in the mail with different beauty samples in it. The samples are based off your online profile and consist of all sorts of brands and products. The monthly subscription cost is $10 a month. Each sample is available as a full sized product and you receive points on each full size order to use toward a later purchase.

For me, getting my monthly Birchbox is like Christmas morning. While there might be a product or two that doesn't catch my fancy, the samples make great gifts and I have found some beauty winners already. Each full size product is reasonably priced and Birchbox is always sending out monthly deals. Since you never know how your skin is going to react to something, having a sample size is the most efficient way to start. I love that I can try different beauty products without having to pay full price. It also is exciting to get beauty products that are timeless or trendy or just make a morning routine better.

Pictured are my last few Birchboxes, the pink highlights some of my treasured finds!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Chocolate Peanut Krispies

These tasty chocolate peanut and rice krispie clusters are easy and hard to put down.  Although the rich quality means you may only want to eat a few of them, trust someone who had a hard time limiting herself.  Not only does this produce a number of treats, I made 75, but with the leftover ingredients you have just enough to make a pan of Rice Krispie Bars. Tried them out on our friends and they scarfed them down. So here I give you 2 very simple and utterly delicious recipes to enjoy.

(White) Chocolate Peanut Krispies
-2 cups Rice Krispies Cereal
-2 cups dry roasted salted peanuts
-2 cups mini marshmallows (1lb bag gives extra for Bars)
-1 cup peanut butter
-2 pounds white chocolate chips
 (need 2 12oz bags + 1 1/3cup OR 1lb bag + 2/3 of 12oz bag)

1) In a large bowl combine the cereal, peanuts and marshmallows.
2) In a microwaveable bowl melt chocolate and peanut butter on HIGH 1minute then 30 second intervals until melted.
3) Stir chocolate into cereal mix. Mix well. May be tad runny and seem like too much chocolate, it's not.
4) Drop by tsbp on wax paper.
5) Firm for 2 hours, store in airtight container when dried.
*Note: You can refrigerate for 1 hour to speed up process.  However, preferred 2 hrs firmed at room temperature. 

 Rice Krispie Bars 
Kellogg Recipe
-3 tbsp butter or margarine
-1 pkg (10 oz) regular marshmallows
 4 cups mini marshmallows
-6 cups of Kelloggs Rice Krispie cereal

1) In large saucepan melt butter on low. Add marshmallows and stir til melted. Remove.
    In microwave heat butter and marshmallows on HIGH 3 minutes. Stir after 2 minutes. Stir til smooth.
2) Add rice krispies, still til coated.
3) Coat a 9x13 dish with cooking spray. Using buttered spatula or wax paper press rice krispie mix into the pan.
4) Let cool before serving. Recommend cutting with buttered knife.

*Note- Best served same day.

Monday, December 2, 2013

New York! New York!

I'd like to think that most people have an ongoing list in their head of places they want to visit in their lifetime. It's good to have goals! Since some of these destinations could be ridiculous dreams that will never come to fruition, it's helpful to keep one list that's more realistic. My own is a list of U.S. cities. I love traveling and it's motivating to have some reasonable vacations in my future sights.

This time last year, I was able to check New York City off that list. We found out that my sister and I had the opportunity to meet up with my dad at the tail end of a business trip and quickly booked flights. Thrilled, pumped, ecstatic are just a few words that come to mind. I think you could spend years in NYC and not see it all!

We flew into NYC just after Thanksgiving and a few weeks before Christmas. The shops and office buildings were DECKED out in Christmas lights and holiday attire. I could not get my fill of lights, sparkles and twinkling. The city felt just magical.

                    Ten New York City Must Sees

Times Square
This is classic NYC, what you see in the movies and on TV and in books. Lights, endless noise, the never sleeping city. But again, its magical. You feel like a small, small person in a big world! It is fun people watching, shopping and we loved all the different characters walking around.

FAO Schwarz
Life sized toys and goodies as far as the eye can see. Every kid's dream!

Madison Square Garden
We took a trip to Madison Square Garden mainly because my sister wanted to see the One Direction pop up store. While my dad and I cringed a bit, this was the one thing she requested. The store itself was a sight... girls' signatures all over the walls, life sized images of the One Direction band members. Holy cow. The silver lining was that we were quickly ushered into the store because they were filming a movie outside. We were able to watch from the front windows as Vince Vaughn did two takes of a scene!

Top of the Rock - Rockefeller Plaza
Gorgeous view and definitely worth the $25 ticket to ride up to the top. There was a bit of cloud cover but again, it was worth seeing. The window displays in Rockefeller Plaza and the short holiday video on the side of the Saks building across the street were also incredible!

9-11 Tribute
This was the one activity that we had to stand in a long line for. I can't imagine what it might be like in the middle of summer! The memorial was somber and very beautiful. While there isn't a ton to look at, the memories of the things that passed there are enough to give you pause to be thankful for the people important to you.

Statue of Liberty
When we visited, Ellis Island was closed. However, we still made the trip to see Lady Liberty and ended up taking the free Stanton Island Ferry. The view was great and we didn't have to shell out gobs of money for it!

Madam Tussaud's Wax Museum
We loved this place. We took a ton of pictures next to historical figures, celebrities and professional athletes. Our two favorite moments? First, when us girls came back from the bathroom to find my dad sitting stone faced while two people sat next to him taking a picture. They got quite the scare when he started cracking up! The second was when we created a line, waiting for a photographer to finish taking a picture of the Spice Girls. Turns out the photographer was a wax figure too..

Central Park
We took a brisk walk around with one of our many cups of Starbucks and enjoyed some nature in the big city.

St. Patrick's Cathedral
My dad really wanted to hear Cardinal Doland say mass at this iconic church. Because of how large the parish is (New York is the second largest Catholic community and archdiocese behind LA), they don't advertise which priest is saying each mass. When the Cardinal was walking down, my dad whispered excitedly, "he's here! It's him!" The mass was wonderful!

Broadway (Lion King)
We wanted to do at least one Broadway show and this was one that all of us wanted to see! Lion King was a favorite childhood movie and the show just happened to be celebrating its anniversary. A day before our show, we got to walk through an exhibit that showed the different costumes and sets. It made it so cool to see the show and understand how the lion heads and other set pieces worked. The show itself was marvelous!!

One of many beautiful window displays              Times Square with some characters                             Rockefeller Plaza

                    J.T. at the Wax Museum                                                    One Direction Pop-up Store at Madison Square Garden