Monday, June 30, 2014

Special Occasion Card Collections

I love giving cards. There's a little thrill when I find the PERFECT card fitting that person and their situation.  I definitely get this "skill" from my mom.  Somehow she always finds a card that says it all.  It takes time to pick out such a card, and sometimes luck.

But besides finding a card that says it all, I love writing in cards.  I'm old fashioned in that I prefer letter and cards to email.  It's just so special, and it's always fun to get fun personal mail instead of the typical bills and junk that fill our mail boxes.  Am I right?  Whenever I write a card, I tend to use all the available blank space and even end up writing on the card back.

I also love getting cards and then keeping them to return to that special feeling and memories the card brings.  Looking back at the comments always makes me smile and serve as a reminder of that important time whether it was birthday, first communion, graduation, wedding events, etc.  I used to keep them in a box, but they'd get jumbled and out of order.  The solution was to organize the cards into collections of special events.  Recently married I had lots of touching, funny, clever and pretty cards I wished to preserve, and this was the perfect opportunity.

All you need is metal clasp rings, large enough to hold the bunch of cards.  The rings I used I found at Walmart.  Use a 3 whole punch to punch 2 holes into the cards and then loop the rings through the cards.  For the cover I chose a card that best represents the occasion, but you could also make a decorative cardboard cover.  Just be careful on choosing a cardboard piece that would allow enough room for cards. 

Try this method instead of haphazardly throwing your cards in a box.  

Make special occasion collections of your cards and preserve the best memories.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Cantebury Park, MN

A perfect way to spend a day or evening is at the racetrack. What's not to love? With the beautiful horses, American grub, and the excitement of placing a bet and maybe hitting it big, Cantebury racetrack is one of my favorite things to do during the summer.

Cantebury Park in Shakopee Minnesota is open May til Labor Day.  The horse races occur Thursdays through Sundays. So whether you want a whole day activity or just a few hours in the evening at the track, you got options. On a beautiful sunny day I love the weekend races! Saturdays are "All Star Saturdays" and Sundays are "Family Days," perfect if you have younger children. But I gotta say those Thursday "Buck Night" evenings are hard to pass up.  Admission and programs are only $1! So are hotdogs, nachos and pop! You can see why my frugal self loves Thursdays!

I've been going to Cantebury with family and friends for quite some years and always enjoy it.  We actually realized it was great for something else, bridal party celebrations.  My husband and I had our respective bachelor/bachelorette parties, but we wanted to offer something that everyone could do together too before the rehearsal dinner the following day, and Cantebury it was.  Recently graduated, cheap entertainment on a Thursday evening was right up our alley.  The fellas even competed in a "race" on the track to celebrate. I was dying of laughter.  Dave didn't win...but I still married him 2 days later. And he got a free t-shirt out of the deal, WIN!

It really is a good idea for bachelorette or bachelor parties if you're trying to think up some options instead of the typical bar/club scene.  Girls can dress up in cute sundresses, even don some fancy hats if they wish and place some bets. And guys will enjoy relaxing, smoking cigars, the cheap beers and betting.

Cantebury is a fun place for family, teens, college students, and adults.  You gotta check it out if you haven't already.  Make it a cheap evening and attend the races on Thursday's dollar night, but whichever day you pick it's not a huge hit on the wallet. It's definitely an experience to observe the horses and jockeys, place your bets, and root for your choices to win! I haven't hit it big yet, but maybe it'll be in the cards, or should I say in the horses. (sorry couldn't resist)

Riding "horses" on the racetrack

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

M&M Candy Bar

My older brother Matt got married to my best friend from childhood, Mary, around this time last year. Because of their matching first initial of "M," throughout the proposal, the engagement and wedding there was a hint of "m&m" candy theme. One of the many fun ways that they played up the ever popular candy theme was an m&m bar at the wedding reception.

I had the pleasure of working on the candy bar for the happy couple. I started by buying a number of massive bags of m&ms from Sam's Club. The plain and peanut m&ms were the best bang for our buck. I dumped each bag out into a large pan and had a container for each candy color. I made sure to keep the plain and peanut candies separate. After sorting them all, I started the search for some interesting dishes to creative a visually pleasing candy bar table. 

I purchased two wooden "m"s and an "&" from Michaels and hot glued "l"s on the back of each to keep them upright. I then painted each wood piece orange, one of the wedding colors. The result was really cute and the colors were bright and vibrant! We used little dixie cups for people to fill throughout the night. It was a great, simple idea for a candy bar!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Vegetable Crescent Pizza

In an attempt to incorporate more veggies into my eating I thought why not have a raw veggie pizza.  Had heard rave reviews on the idea of a veggie pizza on crescent dough and decided to dive right in.

Definitely a good dish to bring to an event or potluck, not so much a dish for just 2 people.  We were eating this every meal for like 3 days.  It's very filling, and makes me feel like I'm trying to be healthy even though the "sauce" isn't.  More delectable then the typical snack of dipping my veggies in ranch dip.

Customize your pizza with your favorite medley of veggies and prepare to share, because people love the idea of a "healthy" pizza.

Vegetable Crescent Pizza
Prep Time 30 min
Cook Time 30 min


2 (8oz) pkg refrigerated crescent rolls
2 (8oz) pkg cream cheese, softened
1 cup mayo
1 (1oz) pkg dry Ranch dressing mix
1 cup fresh broccoli, chopped
1 cup chopped tomatoes
1 cup chopped cauliflower
1 cup shredded carrots
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Other vegetable options: cucumber, bell peppers

*Note: Our verdict was there was too much dressing (it was pretty thick) so would recommend cutting down to 1 pkg of cream cheese and not the whole pkg of ranch mix.  Also, purchase a 12 oz. bag of Vegetable Medley to cut down on the prep time for the veggies.


1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees

2) Roll out dough onto 9x13 baking sheet and pinch together edges to form the pizza crust.

3) Bake crust 12 minutes.  Remove, cook for 15 minutes without removing from sheet.

4) In bowl, combine cream cheese, mayo, ranch packet.  Spread on crust.

5) Arrange veggies and cheese.

6) Chill for 1 hour, slice and serve. 

Friday, June 20, 2014

Sigma Force Series - James Rollins

From newest to oldest in the picture from Left to Right.
James Rollins has quite a few books out, but the best of his books are the ones in the popular Sigma Force series.  Full of adventure, these thrillers will keep the reader enthralled to the end. With a mixture of science fiction that could very well be possible in our future, Sigma sets out to rescue the world from great threats.  A government defense secret agency, Sigma's operatives risk their lives to save all of ours, at least in the storybook world.

It's hard not to be intrigued by the mysteries each plot uncovers and the workings of the covert operations.  Readers remain interested in the series not only for the plots, but the development of the characters that have you rooting for their survival each time they face a dangerous mission.  James Rollins keeps writing them and readers keep buying them. In the Sigma Force series there are 11 books with the newest book, The Sixth Extinction, coming out August 2014.  For summaries on each individual book check out James Rollins site.  My dad, brother and I have all read the series and don't find ourselves stopping anytime soon, well until Rollins stops writing that is.

Other books by James Rollins I've read are listed below.  These books are definitely for those lovers of science fiction.  A little hokey at times, dripping with unrealistic situations and a little frightening if you have an imagination (got a few nightmares from these books).  They're not bad if you want to dip into a fantasy perspective of our world for a bit. 

Altar of Eden        Ice Hunt       Amazonia           Deep Fathom        Excavation         Subterranean

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Pioneer Pasta Salad

We made this pasta salad for a summer RV trip and it was awesome! Since then we've enjoyed it multiple times this summer. Great to bring to BBQs and get togethers.  Keeps well for a few days in the fridge, which means great lunch and snacking potential.

What made this pasta salad our go to for that category is how basic and flavorful it is.  It's great alone, but can be paired with almost any grilled meat.  Intended as a pasta salad to please kids, it'll surely please the whole crowd.  You can suspect I'll be bringing this to a gathering or two.

Kid Friendly Pasta Salad
By: Pioneer Woman
Prep 15 min    Cook 20 min    Serves 8

12 oz fun pasta (Ex: Radiatore)
8 slices thin bacon
1/2 cup mayo
1/2 cup whole milk
4 tbsp white vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
dash sugar
1/2 cup grape tomatoes (red/yellow), halved lengthwise
1/2 lb cheddar
3 green onions, thinly sliced
ground pepper
24 whole basil leaves, chiffonade

*Notes: Some changes we made - Instead of cubed cheese we used shredded cheese which mixed well into the salad. Also we added a pint of tomatoes to offset the amount of pasta. Turned out great!

1) Cook pasta.  Then drain and rinse in cold water until the pasta is cool.  Set aside.

2) Cut the bacon into 1/2 inch pieces and throw into large skillet. Saute til crisp and drain grease by removing to a paper towel.  (We tend to fry up the bacon and then cut it after it cools, crumbles much easier that way).

3) For the dressing: mix mayo, milk, vinegar, salt and sugar in a small bowl.

4) Stir together the pasta, dressing, tomatoes, bacon, cheddar and green onions in a large bowl.  Add more salt and pepper if needed.  Stir in the cut basil. 

Other great salads to whet your summer appetite:
Caprese Quinoa Salad
Chicken Taco Salad
Italian Tortelini Pasta Salad
Strawberry Chicken Salad
Avocado Corn Salad
Watermelon Arugula Salad 
Broccoli Salad 
Buffalo Chicken Salad

Check out our Market Inspirations for Summer

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Musings about Engagement

When choosing to blog with another person, make sure it is someone who is understanding and who you can be open and honest with. I am lucky to work and write with someone who is both. Marie is a gem... especially with me struggling to find time to write the past few weeks amidst crazy wedding planning and the pressure of a new job. On top of it all, she threw me a gorgeous bridal shower! Check out her beautiful work at the Lovebirds post.

I have been wanting to write a few thoughts about engagement and waiting, since I am living in that world at the moment. Being engaged is a special but odd time in your life. You have said "yes" to forever with someone and still, you haven't quite yet. You are planning a huge party for your family and friends on top of finding a new place to live, talking about merging things bank accounts, navigating a whole new family you are going to be a part of and many other everyday life details. I sometimes find myself frustrated that I am fully ready to move forward...but have a few more months to wait and some important vows to make first.

However, that being said, it is also an incredibly special and exciting time. While my fiance might not readily admit it, there is something awesome about making a bunch of decisions in a matter of hours. Talk about feeling productive! We have had numerous people shocked at how "fast" we are getting married. There will be eight months between the time we got engaged and the time we will be married. My response is, "I don't know how people wait longer!" My sweet fiance's response is, "Well, my future wife is an event planner." Have I said Keeper enough?? This has been a great time to continue to grow our friendship and relationship. There is always room for improvement, growth and continued love.

At the end of the day, each couple does it differently for their own reasons. Just this past weekend, our cousin Megan was married after about a year and a half of engagement. It was beautiful and very much a wedding modeled after the bride and groom. It doesn't get much better.

As I reflect on the times ahead, I am grateful for the craziness. I enjoy being on the go, coffee in hand and calendar at my side. I have learned a lot about myself and my husband-to-be over the past few months of being an engaged couple. Reflecting on the past six years and even just the past six months, I often think about one of my favorite country songs:

We'll look back someday at this moment and I'll look to you and say, 'and I thought I loved you then.'

As much as I have enjoyed "fiancee," I am ready to graduate to Mrs. Murphy in 66 days!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Pink vs. Blue Gender Reveal

My husband's twin brother and wife are expecting! To celebrate the new baby and reveal the gender they had a party for the family, with a Pink vs. Blue theme.

Gender reveals are already fun, but this theme get's everybody into the competitive Boy vs. Girl idea.  If you're looking for other ideas on incorporating blue and pink check out our pinterest page or other Baby Gender Reveal ideas on our blog.  Whether it's colored silly string, paint, confetti or colored desserts, you have lots of creative options to share your news! 

There are so many props and decoration that you can pull together for a gender reveal, especially if you're going with Pink vs. Blue. The options seem almost endless!  My sister-in-law and her mother had some great ideas and applied some pinterest ingenuity to pull off a sweet baby reveal.

First off, guests choose a blue or pink beaded necklace for their guess of the baby's gender.  Their choice aided by the results of some old wives tales displayed on a board.

Blue and pink balloons add pops of colors around the space, and you can even have "It's a Boy vs. It's a Girl" balloons.  Use pink and blue streamers intertwined or separate the colors to delineate spaces.

One of my favorite parts of the decoration was their decision to divide up the main table into blue and pink.  The colored table cloths and dinnerware make a bright statement, and then having the center division accented by pink and blue flowers really pops!  The tray of cupcakes are even sorted between the two colors! Then you have matching colored candy stationed on each side.  Other candy ideas are to use Hershey candy bars and color the "He" in blue and "She" in pink on the candy bars. Colored mint wrappers are also an easy treat to set out and add to the color scheme.

When it came to the reveal they decided to go with cupcakes, the gender disguised in the filling.... 

It's a GIRL!!!!
HOORAY! A new niece to welcome into the family.  
Congratulations Ted and Andrea on your precious baby girl, we can't wait to meet her!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Chicago Hunger Walk

A few years ago Dave and I joined our mutual best friend Charlie out in Chicago for the annual Hunger Walk.  Volunteering through the BVC (Benedictine Volunteer Corps), Charlie worked at the St. Jame's food pantry for the year.  It was in support of the food pantry that we joined the Hunger Walk.  The walk had representatives from food pantries all across Chicago and lots of participants walking to end hunger with all the proceeds going to pantries, soup kitchens and shelters. 

It was a large gathering in Soldier Field.  There were food and drink stands, with a band playing on stage to help set the upbeat mood.  Donning a t-shirt we walked along the lake front on a gorgeous June day in support of the cause.  Lucky for me it was only a 5k walk and not a run, becuase I proved myself to be very out of shape.  In hindsight I shouldn't have grabbed so many goodies that I'd have to cart along on the walk.  But it was GREAT to spend a morning in support of a good cause, and even better when we got to do it with Charlie. 

If you're interested in the 29th Annual Chicago Hunger Walk it's scheduled for Saturday June 21st 2014.  You can donate online or even better, go walk! It's almost always in June so if you can't go this year, plan ahead for the next one.  In fact you with the walk only taking up a portion of your day, you can feel good about the exercise and cause and treat yourself afterwards to some delicious Chicago pizza. 

So join the fight against hunger and participate in the Chicago Hunger Walk. "Do it for Chicago"

For more ideas of activities that my husband and I did in Chicago on our weekend visiting Charlie, checkout Must Sees in Chicago: Part 1.

 For even more, check out Chicago Sights: Part 2, when Lisa and Joe visited the windy city.  

Chicago has so much to offer, don't miss out!!!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Inspirational Kitchen Decor Printables

Making a kitchen homey with a touch of playful personality isn't always easy when on a college student or recent graduate's budget.  Looking for something with color and a smidgen of humor I came across these kitchen printables from Over the Big Moon site. Immediately
I loved the vibrant colors and the witty sayings made me smile.

All I had to do was choose the size I wanted, download, and print the documents.  And after purchasing matching frames these now decorate my once drab kitchen walls. 

Perfect fun for a few years of apartment living before hunkering down on a set style for your home kitchen.  Maybe these even fit your home colors and style and could be displayed over a desk area positioned off the kitchen. 

If you're creative and skilled graphically you could even make your own.  You can come up with your own creative word plays on kitchen items.  Ideas could be "You Spice Up My Life", "Whip it, Whip it Good",

Otherwise if that's too ambitious, check out the site Over the Big Moon for the inspirational printables to liven up your kitchen.

Friday, June 6, 2014

LoveBirds Bridal Shower

Love is in the air!  Bridal showers are a blast, Lisa and I have both attended and thrown some great ones.  But this is one shower that was very close to us both, finally it was Lisa's turn to have a bridal shower, and I got to help host it!!! I felt so blessed to have this chance to honor my best friend, cousin and blog partner.  For someone who always throws amazing parties for everyone else, I set high expectations for Lisa's, she deserves the best!

I thought for weeks about the perfect theme for Lisa's shower, one that was totally her, but didn't leave the groom out.  After tossing around many ideas one stuck, a Lovebirds Bridal Shower!  It was perfectly Lisa, since one of her favorite animals is a peacock, and this allowed us to incorporate peacocks without having a whole shower dedicated just to that one bird.  Plus, the important part to me was it captured Lisa and her fiance Joe's love for each other, and what's cuter than lovebirds?

My aunt and I hosted the shower and together we combined our resources to result in a Lovebird Bridal Shower that incorporated the theme from the decor, to the food, all the way to the games. Our aunts all contributed a tasty dish that fit the theme and together we enjoyed playing some bridal games and getting to celebrate Lisa's transition to a Mrs. 

What's great is all Lovebirds Bridal Shower can also be used for a Nesting Baby Shower.  Kill two birds with one stone, right?! (that was an attempt at a bird joke if you were wondering). So check out how to throw a Lovebirds Bridal Shower with all the details you need right here.

Colors: Purple, Blue, Green & Pink


Lovebirds banner 
  • Our Aunt throwing the shower made 2 banners to hang in different party spaces. One saying "From Miss to Mrs." and another "Joe and Lisa" both decorated with lovebirds.
Hanging Paper Birdcages
Egg Ornaments
  • hang from the ceiling at different heights, place in jars and around party tables
Apothecary Vases
  • Choose vases of various sizes. Can place grass & chocolate candied robin eggs in one, another can have grass & egg ornaments. Fill with fake birds.
  • add greenery to the table by placing topiaries and grass.  We stuck our Berry Patch kabobs into grass!
Peacock feathers
  • Since Lisa loves peacocks and it's tailored to our bird theme we used her peacock feathers on our "featherbrained" game table.
Bird Figurines/Bird Houses/Bird Cages
  •  Scatter these around the party space by clipping birds onto plants, placing in vases, around the food, and on mantles.

Guest Book

 “Sweetest Wishes for the soon to be Mrs.”
  • Guests fill out a wish for the bride and then precede to hang the paper birds from a bird cage.
  • Bride keeps these well wishes as mementos from the shower.

“Blue Jay” Juice 
  • Blue Hawaiin punch, sprite, pineapple juice (nonalcoholic) 
“Cardinal” Cranberry Champagne Cocktail
  • Cranberry juice, champagne (moscato is great!), limes, frozen cranberries


Nuts & Birdseed
  • some munching nuts (cashews, almonds, sunflower etc)
Cranberry Salsa & Mango Salsa -
  • Fruit Salsas are perfect for a lovebirds shower appetizer and doesn't require utensils.  Check out Lisa's recipe on the Cranberry Salsa post.
Berry Patch 
  • Berry Fruit Kabobs – options: blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries
  • Deviled Eggs make a hearty snack. Chocolate eggs make great dessert option.


Lovebirds Nests & Eggs
  • Peeps serve as the lovebirds, with nests being made from rice krispie treats pressed into mini muffin tins and topped with speckled candied chocolate egg.
Nest Sticks
  • Chocolate dipped pretzel sticks with sprinkles arranged in a nest form


Featherbrained Clothespin Game -
I wanted to come up with a specially made game with a bird theme in mind, so simply tailored the regular game.

To make: Purchase medium to large sized clothespins. Glue multiple feathers onto the clothespins, could have a peacock feather clothespin for the bride.

Each guest clips on a clothespin to their outfit. Throughout the shower guests try to catch fellow guests saying one of the chosen buzz words.  If someone says a buzz word you collect their pin, if someone catches you saying one of the words they collect yours.  Which ever guest has the most clothespins at the end of the shower wins!

Great third game to have because it continues throughout the shower, and doesn't take much time to play.

Buzz words for bridal shower: bride, groom, wedding, shower

Lovebirds Trivia 

A trivia game that covers the progression of the lovebirds relationship from the start, through the engagement, including details of the upcomi
ng wedding and the future plans of the couple.  What's great about this game is it allows the shower guests to learn more about the couple and also the details they can look forward to seeing on the big day!

We tailored the questions to fit them as a couple, making it more personal and special for everyone involved.  Some of these questions could be used for any bridal shower trivia game as long as they are altered to the couples situation. 

It was great fun for the guests to partner up and see just how much they knew the lovebirds.

Wedding Charades 

Perfect for a group with some personality, this game can have people dying of laughter once everyone warms up.  I chose a few wedding movies, songs, and of course the typical wedding parts that make up every wedding.
Separated into two teams, guests take turns coming up to act out the card they have drawn.  If your shower is inviting a variety of ages, this can be a great game to accommodate that, even the young kids know "the chicken dance".

Game Prizes/Guest Favors:

Ideas for themed prizes include
-lovebirds salt and pepper shakers
-lovebirds soap pairs
-egg candles
-heart shaped bird seed ornaments
-anything with birds pictured (thank you cards, decorative boxes, frames) etc.

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

Throwing the bride a bachelorette party? Here are our ideas: 
"Wedding Day" Theme
Western Hoedown Theme  
Beauty and the Beast Theme

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

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Flower Pen Bouquets

One of the crafts that's almost become a signature of mine, are flower pen bouquets.  I've made them for years.  I love these bouquets, because of their utility and the life it brings to a space.  These pens are great for a desk. They bring life and brightness without the work of maintaining them.  It's nice to always have a pen nearby and handy.  And a plus of having flowers attached to your pens is no one will accidentally walk away with one.

I've gifted these to family and friends to brighten their lives as they do to mine.  I gave all my bridesmaids and attendants one as a small part of my thanks to their support.  I even made my sugar flowers from my wedding cake into a flower bouquet, using a vase from the reception and the same blue gems.  Pictured below, it became a fun wedding memento for me.

The fun part is you can cater to whoever you're creating it for.  For instance, when choosing the container I've used clay pots, glass vases, mason jars and other fun bases.  Also, I typically use river rocks or pebbles, but you can do coffee beans or colored gems too.  And finally the flowers, which are fun to pick and choose, are where the real personality comes to life.

fake flowers     pens         container      green floral tape      base filler         scissors
Flower pens from Wedding Cake


*Note: I make sure to choose at least 2 main flower types, a smaller flower and a filler.  Since you don't want the pens too top heavy when you're writing, you'll be able to make a few flower pens out of 1 flower stem.

1) Fill container with small portion of rocks, or whatever filler you chose.  Reserve most to pour in after the flower pens are completed.

2) Begin by cutting the wired stems, make sure to cut at different lengths to give you different flower heights when all assembled.

3) Then wrap the stem to the pen with green floral tape. Make sure to overlap so it's secure.  As you complete a flower pen use the previous ones to gauge the height for the next one so you achieve a true flower bouquet.

4) Arrange the pens to desired look and pour in the rest of the necessary filler into the base to secure.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Baby Gender Reveal

Just like Save the Dates are a recent trend in the bridal world, baby gender reveal parties are new in the baby world. While some see this as over excessive and a way for the industry to make more money, I think it is fantastic! This is a great way for parents to get excited for not only their first but their second, third, fourth or maybe even eighth child. Since you do not continue having showers after your first child, a baby reveal party is a wonderful way to celebrate with family and friends the newest little life that you are bringing into your family.

My eldest brother scoffed at this idea until their second kiddo was on the way. They went to the ultrasound and had the doctor write the gender on a slip of paper. They had a friend on stand by to color some white frosting either pink or blue before it was piped into the center of a cake. The chocolate cake was tempting us all when we arrived but first, we all had a chance to write down our guesses. My brother and sister-in-law cut the cake and revealed the pink frosting.. "It's a girl!!"

What a fun and thrilling way to find out about my newest little niece! There are some adorable and fun ideas for revealing the baby gender, I have posted some of my favorites below and on our Pinterest page!