Friday, January 31, 2014

Taco Potatoes

Knowing that I'm big into trying new and easy recipes my parents brought me back a cookbook from their fall trip down to Sedona Arizona.  Full of mouthwatering southwestern favorites, it's a bunch of recipes from Red Rock Country.  For those of you unfamiliar with Sedona it's north of Phoenix and famous for its spectacular red rocks. 

This taco potato recipe I've made multiple times and really enjoyed.  It's a great side dish, or if you're a potato lover like me, its a whole meal.  

Recipe from: Sipapu Lodge
Servings: 6

Ingredients

6 medium Potatoes (with or without peels)
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Chili Powder
1/2 tsp Cumin
1/2 tsp Paprika
1/2 tsp Oregano
1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
1 small Onion, diced
1/4 cup Butter
Garnish: Sour Cream and Parsley


Directions
1. Cube the potatoes and cook with or without the peels, then drain thoroughly.
2. Place the potatoes in a baking dish and combine all the other ingredients, except the items for garnishing.
*Note: I cook the onion in a skillet while the potatoes are cooking and add the cooked onion to the baking dish to cut back on the raw onion flavor.  Also added Red Bell Pepper and it works too.
3. Heat in oven until heated and butter is melted.
4. Serve with sour cream and parsley as garnish.
*Note: I have served it with cilantro as well. And you don't even have to garnish it at all and it's great!


Thursday, January 30, 2014

Glitter Wine Glasses

Two summers ago, I was able to help a friend's sister and husband by being the event coordinator for their wedding reception. The reception was held at the beautiful TCF stadium on the University of Minnesota campus. We set up each table with a mirror, centerpiece bouquet and ten surrounding stemless wine glasses. The wine glasses were the guests' favors and had the happy couple's names and wedding date printed on them. We filled each wine glass with water and then alternated each with a floating candle or a small floating rose. The glasses looked cute with the centerpieces and made fun favors. However, many of the guests did not take theirs home due to forgetting them or not wanting to dump out their contents. The result was a number of extra boxes of wine glasses. I was offered a small box to take home and soon began to wonder what I would do with them. They sat in storage for some time until I recently pulled them out. I decided that I didn't need cups with an old wedding date on them but hated the thought of throwing them out. So I came up with a fun solution: I glitterized (yes I know, this word doesn't actually exist) the glasses!

Supplies:

  • Wine glasses (Stemless or with stems, found at the dollar store or Ikea for $1 per glass)
  • Glitter in desired color(s)
  • Painting Tape
  • Glue (Mog Podge works well)
  • Paint brush or sponge

    Directions:
    1. I began taping around the center so that the printed words would be covered by the glitter. For wine glasses with stems, you can glitter the bottom of the stems, the center or in any pattern you'd like! I used painting tape because it peels right off and doesn't leave sticky residue.
    2. Using a paint brush or sponge, begin gluing in the area desired. I spread the glue within the taped areas to cover the copy on the glass.
    3. Sprinkle glitter in the glued area. Some of my glasses took two coats of glue and glitter to get the look that I wanted.
    4. Allow some dry time before carefully pulling away the tape.

    Note: For a Bachelorette party, I have also accessorized wine glasses with patterned duct tape. The tape goes on smoothly and makes the glasses much more fun!

    Check out some more Pinterest ideas for other glittered and decorated wine glasses. The other awesome aspect of this project is that no one will confuse their wine glass with anyone else's due to the glitter colors!
  • Wednesday, January 29, 2014

    Cedar Cove Series


    Author: Debbie Macomber

    The Cedar Cove series has gained the attention of romance readers!  For those of you who haven't read the books, you may have gotten a taste of them through the Cedar Cove series on Hallmark channel.  What makes this writing different then her other books is Debbie Macomber's decision to have each chapter jump to one of the characters.  Although each chapter switches perspective each book focuses primarily on a family and is titled after their home address!  Meanwhile other relationships and drama are unfolding throughout the book.  As you progress into the series and get hooked by the characters and plot, you stay updated on what is transpiring between characters in the previous books.  So there's no wondering, "How did their situation turn out?"  If you're watching the TV series on Hallmark get your hands on the books, they're better!  And if you haven't read about Cedar Cove, well..... I suggest you head to your library and check it out.



    Series:
    16 Lighthouse Road
    204 Rosewood Lane
    311 Pelican Court
    44 Cranberry Point
    50 Harbor Street
    6 Rainier Drive
    74 Seaside Avenue
    8 Sandpiper Way
    92 Pacific Boulevard
    1022 Evergreen Place
    1105 Yakima Street
    1225 Christmas Tree Lane

    Additions:
    A Cedar Cover Christmas
    Christmas is Cedar Cove
    5B Poppy Lane

    Tuesday, January 28, 2014

    Banana Split Bites

    These little skewers make a perfect pre-dinner or post-dinner treat. You could customize this recipe by using different fruits or creative drizzles. I went for the standard banana split ingredients and the result was an easy, fresh and sweet pop of flavor. And who could complain about the little chocolate drizzle or dip on top?

    Banana Split Bites

    Prep Time: 20 minutes
    Cook Time: 10 minutes

    Ingredients:
    - Banana, cut into half inch slices
    - Strawberries, cut in half
    - Pineapple, cut into half inch chunks
    - Almond bark or melted chocolate chips
    - Toothpicks or small wooden skewers

    Directions:
    1. Cut fruit into desired sizes and amounts. 
    Note: the banana will brown if you prep these too early. To make the recipe more time efficient, cut the strawberries and pineapple but wait to cut the bananas and wait to assemble until right before serving.
    2. Skewer sticks in desired order with the banana, strawberry and pineapple.
    3. Melt chocolate and either dip each skewer into chocolate or drizzle the chocolate over skewers after they are all assembled.
    4. Refrigerate before serving and then enjoy!

    Monday, January 27, 2014

    Circus Themed Baby Shower

    When I found out that my oldest brother and his wife were expecting my family's first grandchild, I was beyond ecstatic. When we found out it was a boy, it became even more fun. My brother has a Jr title since he is named after my dad and he had been telling us for years that he wanted to name his first boy Robert the Third. So we were able to call the little growing person, who we were excitedly waiting for, by his name (RJ) before we had even met him. 

    I was honored to plan a family shower for my sister-in-law and the little mister. I did a little research and found so many cute ideas, it was hard to pick a theme! Good thing there will be more showers to come :)

    RJ's Cirque Du Bebe Shower

    Invite: Circus themed! I used an evite with a little lion on it.

    Colors: Red, Blue, Yellow and Lime Green

    Decor:
    • Yellow feathers
    • Elephant and giraffe figures
    • Baby toy cups on top of the cake and table
    Food: We did a brunch for the shower to keep it low key. However, we used a few cute pieces to spruce up the table.
    • Circus tent napkins
    • Circus tent food picks, used to display the ingredients in the eggs. (Egg Cup Directions)
    • Silly straws in red, blue and yellow
    Favor: We used circus tent paper bags filled with popcorn as favors. Each bag read, "Thanks for popping in!" to tie in the circus theme and the fact that the mother-to-be was about to pop!



    Other Baby Shower themes on the blog:

    - Little Pumpkin
    - Little Man
    - Peter Rabbit
    - Minnie Mouse  
    - Pumpkin Diaper Cakes 
    - Traditional Diaper Cakes
    - Building a Baby Basket

    Friday, January 24, 2014

    Painter & Poet Prodigy - Akiane Kramarik

    https://www.akiane.com/store/
    Prince of Peace
    An artist I am not.  But an appreciator of art I am.  Specifically paintings have always been my favorite medium.  I lean towards the older styles and classics. Something in them fills me with wonder, an an appreciation for someone so talented they can put a moment, a feeling on canvas.  There are some paintings that just stun me when I see them.  The Prince of Peace, Father Forgive Them and many of Akiane Kramarik's works do just that. 

    Akiane is known as a painting prodigy considering she started at the age of 4 and was making pieces each that were true works of art.  At her young age she was also doing something else extraordinary...she was visiting heaven and received a life-changing spiritual transformation.  Although she has blown up in popularity on the media years ago I hadn't viewed any of the exposure.  She's now an internatoinal painting prodigy with her art pieces selling at thousands of dollars up to $3 million.  Guess I'll have to settle for enjoying her pieces on the computer screen. 

    It was when I read Heaven is for Real, a book I'll be writing a post on around Easter (seemed fitting), that this painting prodigy was referenced.  Now some may be skeptical of Akiane's connection to heaven, but once you see her work, it's hard to believe she wasn't blessed with the gift for a reason.  Her parents, originally atheists, have converted due to their daughter's experiences and message of God's existence.  And Akiane continues to try and spread the message through her painting and poetry.  It's incredible to think that at age 7 she was writing poetry, and that even at that young of an age her poems arrive fully conceived.  What a precious gift to have.

    https://www.akiane.com/life
    Father Forgive Them
    https://www.akiane.com/store/
    Mother's Love
    Her Prince of Peace, a rendering of Jesus is the real deal.  And confirmation of this portrayal of Jesus is confirmed by Colton, the boy in the Heaven is for Real book who died at the age of 4, visits heaven, and comes back to share his story with others. WOW!!! Right?!  The Jesus that Akiane painted has some differences compared to typical portrayals of God's son.  There's something so human and relateable about his image yet an aura of importance, of specialty.  Her other one of Jesus pleading to God to forgive us for our sins grabs my heart.  The detail in his hands, his expression and the mood is stunning. Go look at the piece on her website, since the coloring and detail is more pure.  Another fave is Power of Prayer, a scenic painting she made at the age of 10 that she dedicated to all sincere prayers.

    She paints many scenes and people, and writes poems that accompany the pieces well.  I was completely absorbed when checking out her website.  When I see what she created at each age as she was growing up, it's utterly remarkable.  Go look. You too will be amazed!  It's not everyday that you get to feel such a celestial connection through a painting created nowadays. 

    She wants to be an inspiration to others and a gift to God.  Akiane's simple goal is to share God's love and message with others, so help her to pass on the good Word.

    Thursday, January 23, 2014

    Before I Fall

    http://www.laurenoliverbooks.com/before_i_fall.phpThis was author Lauren Oliver's debut novel and boy did it capture everyone's attention.  She gained recognition as a good read from NY Times, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and the list goes on.  Plus, made it onto numerous state reading lists since it supports the common core standards. 

    Why so much hype? Personally I had no idea the book had received so much attention when I uploaded it to my Kindle this summer.

    Sometimes I just browse books and if a cover jumps out at me (I mean look at it), like this did and the title, "Before I Fall"...... (hmmmm sounds interesting) makes me ponder a minute, I'll read the summary.

     If the summary sounds interesting, (a high school girl has a chance at a do over when she unexpectedly dies... hmm... okay I'll take the bait) I give it a try.  This was one of those special cases.

    This book is intense.  In that it asks thought provoking questions about love, death, and how one persons life can affect so many others.  Not nearly enough books do this and help to gain more of an interest in reading for young adults.  A prefect book for high school students since it's easily relateable to that level.  Some of the situations the characters face were not close to my high school experience at all, but for some it might be right up their alley.  At that age many teens are focused on themselves and what is going on in their own life (we all go through it).  They tend to consider themselves invincible, but this book is a reminder that for an unlucky few that isn't the case. A reminder that life and the daily decisions we make are precious.  

    It's one of t-h-o-s-e books.  The kind that after I finished reading I put it down and just laid back staring at the ceiling, deep in thought, unable to do anything but let the book sink in. Not my typical upbeat read, but man it's a doozey.

    Summary:
    Popular High School senior Samantha Kingston believes Cupids Day, February 12th, is one big party.  And it is... until she dies in a terrible accident that night.  The shocker is she still wakes up the next morning. But not only that morning, but the next too, because Sam lives the last day of her life 7 times.  It's then she realizes that by altering pieces of her day she may hold more power than she thought possible. And discover the true value of everything that she's in danger of
    losing.


    Wednesday, January 22, 2014

    Bacon and Egg Cups

    Egg cups are incredibly easy and make typical brunch food extraordinary! I made these last year for a family brunch and again this last spring for my nephew's baby shower. The fun part is that you can make a ton of different variations. Grab some eggs and your favorite ingredients and let's get cooking!

    Ingredients: 
    - Eggs (2 doz = Around 18 cups) 
    - Bacon 
    - Other suggested ingredients: Feta cheese, Fresh Basil Leaves, Sausage, Tomato (Diced), Onion (Chopped), Green Pepper (Chopped), Cheddar Cheese 
    - Salt and pepper 


    Supplies: 
    - Muffin pan(s) 
    - Non-stick cooking spray 
    - Funnel 

    Directions: 
    1. Spray muffin pan with non-stick cooking spray. Take one bacon strip and line the outside of the first muffin cup. Continue with bacon as desired. 
    2. In mixing bowl, beat all the eggs together. 
    3. Using the funnel, fill each muffin cup 2/3 full with egg mixture. 
    4. Add ingredients as desired. (I used feta, basil and tomato in a few cups. Sausage, onion and pepper in another. Etc.) 
    5. Salt and pepper to taste. 
    6. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until the middle is not runny.

    Tuesday, January 21, 2014

    DIY Weekly Framed Calendar

    Busy. Our lives seem always jam packed with things to do, places to go and people to see.  Thank goodness for calendars. How else would I keep my life straight? Well I could probably survive without one, but being able to organize and plan, well it keeps me happy.

    We all have our preferences when it comes to calendars.  Some of us like to plan months in advance, others live from month to month, and others like to display their lives each week.  I showed you how my sister-in-law and I had made our own calendars out of paint chip samples, which you can check out under DIY Paint Chip Calendar posted on January 7, 2014 under the Craft Corner tab.  But I thought I'd offer you another option that you can create yourself, a calendar made for you weekly planners out there.

    A weekly calendar, such as the one my friend Melanie made, is great.  It lets you see what activities you have planned for each day, and even has space for an additional To Do List. I also like how she placed it right in the entry way, so you can't help but notice what the game plan for each day is.  Helps remind everyone in the family what to expect, so that one person isn't left in charge of remembering everything. We all know it happens. That something gets forgotten, and you say, "It was on the calendar" and they look at you like "It was?" "Wait, what calendar?" "We have a calendar? When did this happen?"

    Maybe a weekly calendar is the answer to your prayers. Interested in creating one?  It's simple.  And here is how Melanie says to do it.

    Materials:
    A collage picture frame with 8 slots
    Punch-out cardstock letters or stickers (days of the week)
    Scrap paper for 8 slots (all the same or varied)
    Elmer's Liquid Glue
    Scissors or Paper Cutter
    Dry erase marker
    Eraser

    After you've picked out the look you want to create and purchased all the items you're ready to create!

    Assembly:
    1.  It's best to arrange the paper in the frame openings first to see how the colors and patterns look next to each other and to achieve balance. What's great is that you can make this project fit any decor and it's easy to update if your space's style changes.  
     2.  My papers were a little too big for the openings. A great way to cut the paper to size is to remove the paper inserts that come with the frame and use them as guides to cut around so you get the perfect size.
    3. For the day headings I used cardstock letters made for scrapbooking, but stickers or hand writing the days of the week would work too. I just needed a small amount of glue on each letter. 
    A tip: remember to allow a border on the edges of the paper that will be covered by the frame. Don't glue your letters to the very outside edges.
    4.  I like to include all the original pieces and backings that come with frames, so when assembling, I put in the scrapbook paper, paper insert I used as a guide, and the cardboard before putting on the backing.
    5.  We keep a dry erase marker and eraser in our mail holder on the opposite wall of the entry way for easy additions to our weekly calendar. 
    Note: You could attach the marker with a string directly to the frame if no space nearby to store.

    Congratulations! Now you have your very own, specially made by you, Weekly Framed Calendar.  This should help make your weekly planning easier and aid in organizing your busy life.  Yet, even if you don't get it updated every week, this makes a colorful piece of art for any wall!

    Monday, January 20, 2014

    Three Great Makeup Discoveries


    BB Cream
    I recently discovered the incredible thing that is BB cream. I will admit that I had to read up on the difference between AA, BB and CC cream. It looks like a nasty math problem, I know! BB cream, or beauty balm, is an all in one product that was created to replace everything from your moisturizer and primer to your foundation and sunscreen! For some people, this one cream may all they have time to use in the morning. I don't use this every day but it is perfect in my gym bag for post workout or for a morning that I don't have time or energy for my full makeup routine.

    My favorite brands are Dr. Drandt Flexitone (conforms to your skin color!) and I really love Dr. Jart's Beauty Balm as well.



    Highlighter
    Highlighter is one of my prized finds within the last year. It's a quick and fun way to spruce up any look. Try adding a little to your cheek bones, brow bones and middle top of your lip. The highlighter will allow the light to bounce of those areas and will quite literally highlight those features. It brings a subtle glow to your face. More exciting news is that Elf (Found at Target) makes a great highlighter pencil and cream and they are both under $3! I also received a Chella highlighter pencil in a recent Birchbox that I have enjoyed using.

    Clinique Chubby Stick
    Last week, I walked into Macy's to purchase a refill of my Clinique lotion and found out that they were doing a promotion for their Chubby Stick Lip Balms. They asked that I do a quick consultation, which resulted in a new eye shadow find as well trying one of their Chubby Stick lip balms. I chose the bright "Mightiest Maraschino" color and I adore it! It's the edgy, bright lip color that I have been looking for but with a soft, easy wearing and smooth balm finish. Definitely check these out if you like to play around with lip color. But be forewarned that you may get hooked. They just rolled out Chubby Stick Shadow Tints too!

    Friday, January 17, 2014

    DIY Flower Ball Centerpieces

    Christopher Lee Photography
    This past September, one of my very best friends married the love of her life. Meghan and I met in high school but were not close friends until we found ourselves living across the street from one another at the University of Minnesota. When we were about to become housemates, we decided to room together since we were both in long distant relationships at the time. That was just the beginning!!

    Thomas and Meghan share something similar to Joe and I - long term dating. Meghan and her now-hubby met and began dating in high school. When they finally got engaged and then married, I couldn't have been happier for them. Meghan and I were able to spend one last official roomie night together the evening before her wedding. As we talked about the future, we finalized details and put down the finished touches. One of thing Meghan was excited to have finished was her centerpieces: flower balls.

    I was proud that Meghan wasn't one of those crazy DIY brides who needed to make everything herself. However, she decided to tackle one DIY project, her flower ball centerpieces, and they turned out wonderfully. The wedding colors were purple with a bright green accent. Using crepe paper in these colors and styrofoam balls, the final pieces were beautiful, simple and affordable.

    Supplies:
    - Crepe Paper in desired colors
    - Styrofoam balls (3", 4" and 5" sizes)
    - Glue Gun

    Directions:
    1. Take the crepe paper and cut into 24 inch lengths.
    2. Crumple the strips to make them softer and to give them a little texture.
    3. Take one end and begin twisting. Pinch that initial end to create a stem as you twist the paper into a rose shape, guiding and folding the paper down into the petals.
    4. Once the rose is created, glue the loose end of the crepe paper to the rose for no unraveling.
    5. When you have around 25 roses (for a small flowerball), hot glue each rose in a symmetrical pattern to the styrofoam ball.

    Be forewarned, these did take a lot of time. Meghan filled 32 tables with 2-3 flower balls each. You do the math! Thanks goodness she had a few flower ball elves helping throughout the process!! But in the end, I know that when the blushing bride looked out at her reception, she smiled at how lovely her hard work looked. And they make interesting table decor after the festivities are over!

    If you are looking for more ideas, there are a ton of creative pictures and tutorials on Pinterest for crepe paper roses and flower balls!

    Thursday, January 16, 2014

    Western Themed Hoedown

    Most wedding parties that I have been a part of have had a college student as the Maid of Honor. My future wedding will be no exception! The beauty is that the bridal party is able to be more involved in the planning, especially for the Bachelorette party. I was able to help plan a Western themed Bachelorette Hoedown for a country-loving bride and bridal party.

    Colors: Red and Blue

    Invites: Red paisley paper with brown cowgirl boot cut outs and blue ribbon.

    Music Playlist: Anything Country, of course!

    Wall and Hanging Decor:
    • Western boot, hat and horse shoe cut outs
    • Red and blue streamers
    Drinkware:
    Food:
    • Taco Fixings
    • Chips and Salsa
    Bachelorette SWAG:
    • Red and blue cowgirl hats (tulle for the bride!)
    • Red and blue bandannas (white for the bride!)
    Other Decorations:
    Mpls Country Bar Scene: 
    • Cowboy Jacks
    • Toby Keith's Bar and Grill



    Other bachelorette party ideas: 
    "Wedding Day" Theme
    Beauty and the Beast Theme

    Click on our other bridal shower themes: (more games, food & decor ideas)
    She's Hooked Bridal Shower

    Gifts for Bridal Shower/Bachelorette:
    Bridal Memory Book  
    Family Recipe Binder
    I love you because...message frame

    Wednesday, January 15, 2014

    Market Inspiration for Winter

    It's getting chilly as we continue with winter and this means a new variety of meals we can serve to satisfy our taste buds.  I whipped up a list of some items you'll find fresh at the MARKET to inspire your winter cooking.

    The goal is to find recipes that will make hearty dishes, be healthy, wholesome and fit into our busy schedules.  This is the time to stock up for winter by storing dried goods and other staples to keep in the pantry.  Keep up your spices in your cupboard to have on hand broths for all those soups, stews and braises you'll be making.  Happy cooking!
    apples                                         beets
            broccoli                                      brussel sprouts
    cabbage                                       carrots
         cauliflower                                 citrus fruits  
              kale                                             mushrooms
      pears                                           potatoes
         radicchio                                    sweet potatoes
                                                           turnips 

    Simple Recipe Ideas:
     
    Brussel Sprouts: slice the sprouts thinly, then saute in olive oil and red pepper flakes.  Cook about 6 minutes until tender and sprinkle with lemon juice for a touch of acidity. 
    Cauliflower: Toss in olive oil, seasoning with salt and pepper and then place them in a 400 degree oven to roast for 30 minutes until browned.
    Sweet Potatoes: Mash the potatoes, then add brown butter, chopped sage and grated Parmesan cheese to top them off. 

    Tuesday, January 14, 2014

    The One and Only Ivan

    Newberry Medal Winner of 2013

    Author: Katherine Applegate

    Ivan is a gorilla living at the Big Top Mall, where he is observed by humans through glass walls.  He rarely thinks about his prior life in the jungle and instead focuses on TV shoes, and his friends.  Most of the time Ivan thinks about art and how to capture the taste of a fruit.  His world changes when he meets Ruby, a baby elephant, and see his home and art through new eyes.  This narration in Ivan's perspective is a story of friendship, art and hope.

    You may recognize the name Katherine Applegate because with her husband she wrote the popular series Animorphs.  In this new story for levels 3 to 6, she writes about a gorilla names Ivan that is living at a mall.  What seems like a presumptuousness story is actually based on a true story of a captive gorilla known as Ivan, the Shopping Mall Gorilla.  The real Ivan lived in solitary in a small cage located in a shopping mall for 27 years.  After public outcry he was moved to the Zoo Atlanta.  He is now one of the biggest attractions at the zoo, which houses the largest collection of lowland gorillas in the nation.  Ivan has gained much recognition for his paintings, which he "signs" with his thumb print.  

    A good story to have your young readers try out or to read to your children at bed time. I mean how crazy that this story was actually based on true events! I couldn't believe it! And what child wouldn't be intrigued in a story of an art loving gorilla. 


    Monday, January 13, 2014

    Infinity Scarf Transformation


    While I am biased to the fall season for most things fashion related, each season has a jewel in its crown. And there are also some styles that are transitional through multiple seasons. One classic piece that spans the fall, winter and spring seasons in my wardrobe is the scarf. A friend of mine joked about scarves being my "security blanket" since I wear them quiet often. But what's better than an extra cozy layer of warmth around your neck?

    I have an embarrassing amount of scarves in my closet. But infinity scarves have trumped all others this winter. Since I only have a few infinity scarves, I have been wanting to switch them up without spending boat loads of money. Then I had an idea to use some of my unworn scarves and transform them!


    Supplies:
    - Scarf or even-cut piece of fabric
    - Sharp scissors
    - Pins
    - Needle/thread or sewing machine

    Directions:
    1. Using your scissors, cut a straight line as you cut off any frill or tassels on the end of the scarf.
    2. Pin the cut ends together to make sewing easier.
    3. Hand sew or use a sewing machine to run a line along the two edges to attach them.

    I tried using a classic pashmina scarf as well as a thinner fashion scarf. My mother, the expert sewer, experimented with a French seam. This seam is great because it looks smooth on either side of the scarf. If you don't have an old scarf to use, I have also used pieces of scrap fabric that I got on clearance at the fabric store. Use the scraps and follow the same steps to sew quick and simple infinity scarves. They make great gifts and they are an easy project for all DIY skill levels!


    Friday, January 10, 2014

    Shufflin and Brushin - My Singing Toothbrush

    A singing toothbrush, kind of a weird Christmas gift.  Unless it's the absolute perfect present because it plays Party Rock Anthem by LMFAO (a favorite college song & our wedding party entrance song).  My good friend and prior roommate Jennie sent this to me in the mail. And boy was it unexpectedly brilliant. 

    I unwrapped my new awesome toothbrush and started playing it and dancing around the apartment to this newfangled toy .... yes I realize they are made for kids, but hey, we all gotta brush our teeth so why not do it in musical style? 

    Okay the second awesome thing besides it being one of my all time favorite songs is it also plays Sexy and I Know It, another great tune to jam to while I'm brushing my pearly whites.  But the real kicker is the songs play for 2 minutes each, since that's the dentist recommended brushing time, and personally I struggle to meet that 2 minutes. But now with my new tunes I can dance and brush, well more like slightly bop along since pulling out my full dance moves while brushing could be potentially dangerous, and that'd be a mighty awkward conversation with a dentist/doctor.  Anyways, play one song in the morning and one at night and I'm golden.  I thought about attaching a video of me, but I thought I might never live it down so you'll just have to use your imagination.

    Great gift for kids and friends. This might not be for everyone but clearly it's a very me thing.  Jennie said she saw the toothbrush and just had to get it for me, and based on how much I enjoy it Jennie knows me very well.  So thanks Jennie for a very unique, but useful gift.

    And I'll keep Shufflin and Brushin with my BrushBuddies Toothbrush.


    Thursday, January 9, 2014

    All That Glitters IS Gold : Lisa's Engagement Story

    I am a planner. I like knowing where I am going, what the strategy is and what I need to do to get there. It has been an ever uphill battle to have more patience and trust, especially over the last couple of years. I will be the first to tell you that sometimes, the hardest lesson to learn is that you can't plan everything and can't control everything. Since I am not a patient person by nature, this one isn't easy to swallow. I continually learn that I may make my plans but God also has His own. And no matter what I do, His plan not only wins, but it is better than mine. 

    Why am I sharing this? Well, because I had plans when it came to my dating relationship. While none of these plans happened when I initially wanted them to, I couldn't have picked better timing. I look back and I am SO grateful for the path that Joe and I are walking. But it certainly has had thorns at times and a few stubbed toes along the way. And the beautiful thing is that there will continue to be hills and valleys. Because even after six years together (the story behind all those years will have to come another time), we are still finding ways to love stronger, trust deeper and push each other to be better.  

    Through it all, I am incredibly happy and excited that we are going to be growing in these things together, as husband and wife!!! 

    I had told Joe months ago that I didn't think he would be able to surprise me when he proposed. I really thought I'd see a proposal a million miles away. At the time, I was struggling with the thought, "what is the hold up??" But if there's one thing I know about Joe, it's that he chooses to do things when he's got his ducks in a row and when he's 150% ready to rock. I had to trust in his judgement and stay completely in the dark and unknowing of his plans. As we inched toward December and into the holiday season, I tried to focus on friends and projects, like this blog. My poor family and poor Joe had to endure me reading into everything. Joe could have said that he needed to take his car for an oil change and I would have thought, "what does that mean?? Is it a diversion?"   

    My younger siblings and I had planned to hang out the Friday night after Christmas and Joe was planning on joining us later. Joe joyfully called me that morning to tell me that he no longer had to work. Surprisingly, that was the one thing that I didn't dwell on, probably because I was just excited to spend a little extra time with him. We had also received a text Thursday night from our friends Danny and Lucy, inviting us to go skating with them Friday night. After some discussion, we decided that sibling night would begin with some ice skating. My siblings, Jim and Annie, took off to watch our brother John's basketball game beforehand and Joe endured the last few nerve-racking hours with me before popping the big question. Right before we had to leave for the ice rink, Jim texted that one of their friends was hosting a party after the game that they wanted to attend. I was a bit annoyed that they were bailing on us (typical teenagers) but thankfully we at least had other solid plans. And did I mention that I adore ice skating?  

    Joe told me we were all grabbing drinks afterwards and asked me to dress semi-nice and off we went. We arrived at Centennial Lakes and I was immediately pumped to skate with friends, especially since the area is one of my favorite spots in the Twin Cities. Joe and I have been to Centennial on several dates and being there has always made me peaceful and happy. It was one of the warmest days that we had experienced in weeks. However, I am a freeze baby so I brought a few extra layers and bundled up in the warming house (which in hindsight totally defeated the purpose of Joe telling me to dress semi-nice!). I was told that Danny and Lucy were running late so Joe grabbed me a cup of coffee while we put our skates on. Joe asked that we head onto the rink because he wanted some practice on the ice since he hadn't been skating since our Valentine's Day date in 2009. We took off onto the ice and the next 10 minutes I proceeded to die laughing at watching my darling try to skate. He was able to act natural enough to fire back, "Hey now, I was a wrestler. I was never allowed to do anything winter related!"

    What I didn't know is that the whole time, he was scoping out the perfect spot that was quiet and had some good lighting to propose. At one point, he "slipped" and fell over. He had a smirk as he gracefully he fell over and since I could see he wasn't hurt, I leisurely skated over to help him up. As I did, I noticed two people moving quickly through the snow on the edge of the rink.. my two younger siblings with a camera. It took me a bit to recognize them and apparently I pointed at my brother and said, "I see you!" When I turned back around, there was Joe, on one knee. Cue the romantic music. There was no doubt it was serious when he started with, "Elizabeth Marie."


    It took us a minute or two to realize that in our excitement and celebration, I hadn't looked at the ring nor had he put it on my finger. So he got back down on his knee and put the most beautiful, perfect engagement ring on my finger. We spent the next half hour laughing with Jimbo and Annie, facetiming with our lovely Yeoryia who had sent flowers (and who was laying on the beach in Hawaii?!), celebrating with Danny and Lucy after they got the all-clear and enjoying the view from cloud 9.  




    My sister had brought me a change of clothes and we got all spiffied up and headed to our next destination: dinner at Zelo. This restaurant has great food and is special to us because it was the first serious date that we had back in the spring of 2012, after taking some difficult time apart for a few months. The restaurant reminded us of how incredibly far we have come since that first date back together and how hard we have worked to get here. We spent the whole dinner talking non-stop about the last few months and definitely spilling the beans on all the things we had been forbidden to talk about until that moment. After dinner, we hopped over to the Butcher and the Boar for a celebratory drink with Joe's sister Liz and our very close newlywed friends, Meghan and Thomas.  

    The first of many champagne toasts and a much deserved Guinness!
    I had been telling Joe for months that I hated calling him my boyfriend. He was so much more to me than that. As you can imagine, it feels amazing to FINALLY be able to officially call him my fiance. I am so lucky and grateful and blessed. We spent that weekend celebrating Christmas with my extended families and our engagement with a few friends and family. We are thrilled to see what happens in 2014!! So in love and so pumped to begin planning our future as Mr. and Mrs Murphy!! 

    Two are better than one. Ecc 4:9



    Wednesday, January 8, 2014

    Frito Chili Pie

    This is my husband's new favorite chili compared to the many others we've tried.  The intention is to make it like a walking taco and put the chili in individual Frito chip bags, hence the name of the recipe.  However, we tend to like it served in a bowl with Fritos crushed on top or use Tostitos in replacement of a spoon.  Serving it in the individual bags would be fun for when kid's friends are over, and less mess to clean up.  Also, would be easy tailgating food.  No matter how you decide to transport the chili into your mouth it is good chili, and that's a fact.

    Recipe: Frito Chili Pie
    By: Ree Drummond - Pioneer Woman
    Prep time: 5 minutes
    Cook time: 1 hour

    Ingredients

    2lbs Ground Chuck
    3 cloves garlic, minced
    1 can (12-14oz) tomato sauce
    1 can (10oz) Ro-Tel tomatoes and chiles
    1/2 tsp salt
    1 tsp oregano
    1 tbsp cumin
    2 tbsp chili powder
    1 can (14 oz) kidney beans -drained, rinsed
    1 can (14oz) pinto beans - drained, rinsed
    1/4 cup masa or corn meal
    1/2 cup warm water
    Fritos
    Optional: cheddar cheese, diced red onion

    Directions
    1. Brown ground chuck with garlic in a pot over medium high heat.
    2. Add tomato sauce, Rotel can, salt, oregano, cumin and chili powder.
    3. Cover and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 30 minutes.
    4. Add drained and rinsed beans. Stir to combine, then cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
    5. Mix masa with water then add to chili.  Stir to combine and simmer for 10-15 minutes.
    6. Serve by slicing Frito bags lengthwise.  Pile in the chili and option of adding cheese and diced onion.  Serve with plastic forks.

    Click on the other recipes that have become staples in our home from Ree:
    Chipotle Chicken Chili
    Grilled Veggie Burritos
    Mini Meatball Sandwiches 
    Crash Hot Potatoes
    Buffalo Chicken Salad
    Pioneer Pasta Salad
    Frozen Fruit Cups

    Tuesday, January 7, 2014

    DIY Paint Chip Calendar

    Organizing, making lists and planning makes me happy.  One way to do that is through a calendar of course, and although we all have calendars on our phones now, an old fashioned one has its merits.  We all love calendar pictures of cute animals, pretty landscapes, family made, and the many other calendar options out there.  But I got tired of buying calendars and feeling I was more "grown up" I wanted something a little more sturdy to hang on the wall.  The solution, make my own of course.  Inspired by pinterest ideas I knew I wanted to incorporate color and a way to do that is through paint swatches.  Plus if colors in my kitchen or office change I can swap the paint chips. 

    The Calendar:
    To tackle the project I teamed up with my sister-in-law Andrea, also an organization addict, hoping that with two minds we'd get a great end result.

    We surveyed paint samples at Walmart, and picked out our favorite of the available colors.  We both chose to stick with using the same seven paint samples per column since the color of each strip varies in hues already.  I chose blues and Andrea green for our swatches.  Another option is to choose a different paint strip for each day of the week.

    You'll need dry erase markers to write on the glass. Get colored ones and jazz up your calendar.

    We then picked out white frames at Michael's that already had white mats included.  We kept the background that came with the frame, but you could replace with scrapbook paper to fit your style. Although the paint sample squares are small, the mat border provides additional space to write important info, dates or doodle....I enjoy doodling pictures representing each month. I'm kind of a dork.

    Craft tools that are useful are a paper cutter, and small square scrap booking tape. Now for some reason I've never mastered the paper cutter, although I tried hard for straight edged perfection. Sigh. We also cut off the top paint square from each paint sample strip to create separation for the day of the week labels. Since each strip comes with 6 color swatches and there are only 30-31 days in a month it worked out perfectly.

    Think about investing in a long time calendar, and even if you don't get the satisfaction of ripping the page out at the end of the month, they're a fun way to express your own creativity.  Plus, hanging it frees up my counter space, and my husband actually takes a look at it periodically.  Anyone else have husbands like that?  So if you're like me and want a personal organizational touch to your kitchen or office, create a paint chip calendar.


    Monday, January 6, 2014

    Arizona Wedding Bells

    My beautiful friend Marie got married this past weekend! Some of my family and a number of friends all trekked down to Arizona for the January wedding. It felt amazing to be in 70 degree weather compared to the "feels like -50 with windchill" weather in Minnesnowta! Marie had asked me and my cousin Teresa to be personal attendants for the big day and it was such a blast to help the bride get married.

    The ceremony was in a sweet little chapel and the reception space was breathtaking. The reception was held at The Raven Golf Course in Buckeye, AZ. The hall had massive french doors that opened onto a patio and lawn. The lawn had croquet and cornhole set up on it and had small trees that twinkled with white lights. The lawn overlooked a cobblestone bridge and stream with the mountains in the background. I wish I could teleport back there! It was the perfect place to celebrate the bride and groom and a gorgeous day. 

    The rest of the weekend that wasn't wedding-related was spent sitting outside or exploring the area. Many wedding attendees went to hike Mt. Camelback or one of the many other scenic hikes in the area. We were in the Goodyear area and found some great biking and walking trails that let us enjoy the palm trees, warm weather and a cactus or two. 

    I don't know if I could handle the heat of summer or the fairly mild scenery (other than the mountains of course). But Phoenix was fun and we are already talking about heading back next winter since it was a great place to escape the winter blues. 

    Another fun fact of the weekend, the bride made all of the bridesmaid jewelry herself! I admired her DIY project and the pieces looked great on each lady. Congrats again to Mr and Mrs B!

    Friday, January 3, 2014

    Just a few Minneapolis Restaurants

    Sometimes it's hard to not not take the Twin Cities for granted since I have lived here all my life. I am not a huge fan of the winter season but the rest of the year makes up for it. I recently read an article about how Minneapolis is one of the healthiest, most active cities in America. No surprise to me! People here appreciate being outdoors and staying active. We also have plenty of great restaurants here with delicious, fresh and healthy food. 

    Over the last two years, I have been able to plan and attend a number of dining events in the Twin Cities. This has started me down the path of becoming a "foodie." I have even more come to appreciate good food and fun restaurants. As a result, I have a few new favorite restaurants around town. If you reside in or come to visit the Twin Cities anytime soon, be sure to check one or all of these out!

    Broders Pasta Bar
    I requested to go to Broders for my birthday since I had heard raving reviews about it. Broders doesn't take reservations but it is worth waiting for a table! We grabbed wine at the front bar and chatted until we were able to get a table. The pasta is all homemade and delicious. I appreciated the fact that the menu has many changing dishes based on the season and what is fresh. On my most recent visit, we ordered gnocchi with pomegranate seeds and other seasonal ingredients. Their salads and desserts never disappoint either! It has a simple but romantic ambiance and is perfect for a date night or a special occasion.

    The Bachelor Farmer
    A few friends and I also used a birthday as an excuse to explore this restaurant. TBF prides itself on using fresh ingredients with a daily changing menu. We tried a couple different appetizers and toasts. We loved the popovers and both our duck and roasted pork leg entrees were heavenly. It was a little on the pricey side but great food for a special occasion. The server was very knowledgeable about the wine list and we were thrilled to have such exceptional service.

    Butcher and the Boar
    The first word that comes to mind is manly. Between the decor and food, this restaurant is no sugar coated fru-fru. We ordered a plate of beef, pork and boar sausages to start and they disappeared quickly. We also got adventurous and tried the peanut butter filled jalapenos and the caramelized broccoli, both amazing. We then tackled the pork chop. Everything was incredibly tasty. The bar floor is made of out pennies and the decor was sleek without being snooty. We will be back!

    Other mentionables:
    Bar La Grasse (More Pasta!)
    Corner Table (Mouthwatering Sweet Potato Creme Brulee)
    Capital Grille (Seriously Scrumptious Steak)