Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving 2009
(L to R: me, Lindsay, Barb, Grandma Marion, Judy, Janie and little Kira in the center)

Last Thanksgiving Andi's mom, sister, aunts and I met over at his grandmas to prepare the big feast. We had a blast and plan to do the same today. Last night I made mashed potatoes, corny macaroni and a few appetizers to bring over too.  

I'm so very thankful my loving husband, my family, faith, and friends. I am truly blessed!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Date Night: Holiday Lights in the Park

Andi and I went on our monthly date night last night. If you'll remember, he gifted me one year of date nights for our anniversary, all planned and paid for by him. So far he's treated me to the Pizza Farm, The Strip Club, Pumpkin Carving and for November, the Holiday Lights in the Park event.

Originally he planned to take me to a new restaurant in Northeast Minneapolis, but at the last minute I suggested we go to the grand opening of the Holiday Lights in the Park which is held at Lake Phalen in Saint Paul every year. I'm a sucker for holiday lights and I saw the opening announcement on the news the other day so I thought this would be the perfect date night idea. Andi agreed; I think he enjoys Christmas lights too (although, probably not as obsessively as I do)! We arrived at Lake Phalen and paid $15 for park admission which included a CD of Minnesota Christmas songs. We were seriously the only car there and I felt so badly for all the volunteers who were standing outside in freezing weather with no business. Although, it was only the first day of the event and not even Thanksgiving yet, so I'm sure it gets busier closer to the holidays. We actually loved that we were the only there because we took our time through the park and stopped and took pictures of all the decorations. Some of the light displays were a little goofy - spaceships and aliens, a pirate ship, sharks - non-denominational? I guess you have to offer something for everyone these days.

After the Christmas lights, we drove back to our neighborhood to get a bite to eat. I wanted to go to Longfellow Grill because I was craving Sweet Potato Fries but the wait was too long so we left. (I was really pushing it anyway for deciding on TWO activities in one night. Usually it's Andi that makes all of our entertainment decisions and I completely jinxed myself by bragging we were doing something I thought of on my own). He suggested Town Talk Diner down the street so we went there. It was not the greatest date night experience - not a place I'd recommend to any of you. I'd been there a few years ago when they first opened and my food was sub-par and service was horrible. Last night, our food was good but the service was still slow and the entire restaurant smelled like urine (Andi and I were looking around wondering why no one else could smell what we were smelling. We even looked under our table to see if it was just near us!). I convinced Andi to order their Frickles (deep fried pickles) which were delicious and understandably, complete gut rot. That, and the cheeseburger we split left us feeling like we had rocks in our stomachs. Popping Tums at the end of a date is never a good sign for things to come.

In summary, the holiday lights were fun and dinner was just so-so but we still had a really great time together. That's the meaning of date night anyway, isn't it?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

My Christmas Wish List

I'm way into the holiday spirit this year. I think it's because I've had a long fall season at work and I'm looking forward to some quality time relaxing with my family. Also, I love to buy gifts. And receiving them ain't too shabby, either!

My "wish list" for the holidays has been rapidly multiplying this year. There's something about having your own house home that makes you want to cook and decorate and entertain. Somewhere along this line, your Christmas list becomes boring and practical. Here's what I have my eye on this year:

1. US Weekly Subscription
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My mom has gifted me a year subscription every year since I was in college because I'm desperately hooked on celebrity gossip. It's like a drug, I NEED this gift.

2. Woman's Day subscription
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.... and while you're at it, I wouldn't mind a year subscription to Woman's Day either. I used to get this magazine and I loved all the decorating craft projects and recipe ideas.

3. Sleep shirts
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I'm trying really hard lately not to dress like a 70 year old women at bedtime. My long-sleeve t-shirt, flannel pants, hoodie, socks, slippers and stocking hat (I kid not!) must be quite the turn on for my poor husband. If I had some cute sleep shirts - with sleeves! - I think I might be more inclined to wear something cute to bed. Oh, and if I could also have this girl's legs, that'd be good too.

4. Roll-Up Makeup Bag
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I really need a new roll-up makeup bag as mine is full of icky makeup and starting to tear. I love the ones Victoria's Secret sold in the past, but I can't seem to find them anywhere. I would settle for any cute makeup bag, really.

5. Minnesota Home Grown Cookbook

Love the idea of Minnesota recipes featuring local ingredients. I still struggle with seasonality in the North and sticking to foods when they're freshest in my neck of the woods. I'm hoping this book will give me some great ideas on what to cook all through the seasons.

6. BUILT Kindle Sleeve
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I've been wishing for a Kindle case ever since I got mine in October. Carrying it around in my bag uncovered isn't the best of ideas, so I really need a fancy case to carry it in. Being the spoiled wife I am, I asked Andi to send back the one he bought me a few weeks ago. I like the BUILT case in Lime Green because it's a) stylish b) protects the Kindle and c) allows the Kindle to be separated from the case. The hard leather cover has a flap like a book and that's what I really love about the Kindle -- that you don't have to fold back/hold the flap while you read.

7. BUILT laptop sleeve

I also want a BUILT laptop sleeve to cover my MacBook at home. I like this one w/ dots because it's colorful and matches my camera sleeve.

8. Kitchenaid Ice Cream Maker Attachment

My mother-in-law gave me a Kitchenaid mixer for Christmas last year and I love it! I'm wishing for the ice cream attachment because I think it'd be something fun to have, but also something I would never buy myself. Actually, I bet Andi would love the ice cream attachment even more than me!

9. Ivory Cloth Napkins

I absolutely looove setting my dining room table and pulling out all my cloth napkins, napkin rings and charger plates every chance I get. I would love a set of ivory or off-white cloth napkins. I think they look fancy and they'd go with everything.

10. Bundt Pan

Because Andi and I had a smaller wedding, we didn't receive seventeen toasters and all the home goods other people probably do. So, I'm still trying to collect all the bundt pans, angel food cake pans, etc. A simple gift, but one I would probably use a lot and wouldn't ever buy myself until I'm elbow deep in batter.

11. Angel Food Cake Pan
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Same goes for this guy ... think of all the lovely Angel Food Cakes I could make!

12. Rolling Pin

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My pool rolling pin was violated with a black Sharpie marker during a party at our house last year. I wouldn't mind a new wooden one with handles on the sides for easy rolling.

13. Pie Plate

I don't have a good pie plate either and I realized this over the summer when I was about ready to bake up a feast for the cabin. I love the Pampered Chef Deep Dish Pie Plate because it's stoneware and matches some of my other baking dishes but I'd really be happy with any.

14. Wigwam Wool Socks

Some of the best socks I received last year were Wigwam brand from my mother in law. They are so warm and perfect for the heart of winter in Minnesota. It always makes my day when the black pair she gave me are clean = happy, warm feet.

15. iTunes Gift Card
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I realize gift cards are boring and no one likes to give them because they seem impersonal and blah, blah, blah. I hear ya. But seriously, I finally have a personal laptop with my own music library so I'd would love a iTunes gift card to buy a few songs I like. Isn't it funny when you'll buy hundreds of dollars worth of stuff at Target but you find it desperately difficult to buy a $1 song on iTunes? For real, that's how I feel. 

There you have it! A laundry list of all the things I'm crushing on these days. Truthfully though, if I never received one of these items and only had awesome Christmas memories with both Andi and I's families, I'd be one happy gal. I'm pretty blessed so any of this is just icing on the cake (which I'll bake you if I can get an angel food cake pan for Christmas - ha!)

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Skinny

While I was in Nebraska this weekend, my mom and I went Christmas shopping. Andi and I are flying home for Christmas this year so my weekend visit was the perfect time to buy as many presents there as possible. Less to ship, after all. I rarely get to spend any alone time with my mom, so we had a really fun time just us two. As we were shopping, she was telling me about the last time she visited the Gap and the incredible sales they were having. And, it just so happened, as we stopped in the Gap on Saturday they were having a 40% off everything in the store sale. Isn't that nuts? 40% is a lot, especially off sale items! It was the perfect nudge to convince me to try on a pair of these:

Skinny jeans.


Yep, I finally bit the bullet and bought a pair.

I haven't been the biggest fan of Gap jeans in the past, but these are so cute. And because they're form fitting, they actually fit my booty (which was the problem with other Gap jeans I'd tried before). At 40% off, I would have been silly not to dip my toe into Fashion 2010. I can't believe how much I like them. Even better? They're jeggings (read: jeans that are leggings). How trendy am I?! Makes me feel like I'm firmly planted in my 20's instead of knocking on 30's door.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Blast from the past

Sometimes you don't realize how far you've come until you visit where you've been.

This week I had the chance to go back to my old college town for a work project. When my boss called a few weeks ago and asked me to go back to Nebraska to do some market research, I had two words: HECK YES. Free trip (a flight, no less!) to Nebraska and a chance to visit my old stomping grounds after seven long years? I'm there.

As I approached Kearney, the Arch greeted me back to town. I remember when this monument was being built while I lived there. It was a pretty big deal, actually. Half the town thought it was silly and a waste of money. The other half thought it would put the city on the map. Whatever the case, you can't miss it when you come to town.

It's funny how some things never change. The city is exactly as I remember. It was like stepping back into a time warp. Same restaurants, same bumps in the road, same, same, same. I met up with Marcie, my roommate and best friend in college for dinner. We had the best night reminiscing about college days and catching up on what's new. A lot is different for us now - we're both married and she's expecting her first baby this summer. As we were driving down the road after dinner we laughed, not too many years ago we drove these same streets discussing how not to get pregnant. Now, here we are ten years later sharing how to's. Somewhere along the line, life happened and we grew up. Still the same though? We laughed just like we did so many years ago.

The home of "Big Ass Beers" and our favorite place to go every Tuesday night.

O Mally's
My favorite bar in town

I worked here nearly every day in college and cried the day I left town. It was my first real job with responsibility and the first place I worked where I felt pride in what I did every day. Good memories.

My sorority
Marcie and I lived shared a room here for three years. We stopped by the house and looked around, then took a picture outside to capture the moment. We have dozens of photos in this very spot.

Sometimes you don't realize how far you've come until you visit where you've been.

Life is good. I'm happier, smarter and more well-rounded because of all those experiences back then. What an awesome blast from the past.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Philly, Baby

Andi and I took a trip to Philadelphia this weekend. My cousin Tara had a baby in August and since I've been looking for an excuse to get out there and visit her, I thought the new baby was the perfect chance.

We arrived into town Friday evening, rented a car and drove to their house in the suburbs. Tara greeted us at the door with Baby Henry and oh my, is he a doll. So absolutely adorable! We spent most of Friday night catching up and getting to know each other. I haven't seen Tara in almost two years and it was the first time Andi and I had met her husband Henry or they'd met Andi. We cooked dinner and drank wine and told stories about our childhoods and our lives in our respective cities. I'm so happy we all hit it off so well.

On Saturday, my Aunt Cindy and Uncle Bob drove up from their town about an hour and a half away. Cindy's my mom's sister and I haven't seen her since she and Bob moved from Nebraska seven years ago. Seven! It's hard to believe it'd been that long. I really missed all of them and enjoyed every minute of Saturday as we hung around the living room, caught up and snuggled little Baby Henry.

Isn't he just the cutest little thing you've ever seen?

 My aunt Cindy, Baby Henry and I

 Big Henry, Tara and Baby Henry

Bob and Cindy

 My hunky husband and I

On Sunday, we ate breakfast and headed into the city to do a little sight seeing. Andi had never been to Philly before so we decided to do a whirlwind tour of the city. I really wanted to see the Reading Terminal Market (a place my Philly work friends always talk about) so we headed there first. It was really neat to see all the food vendors and all the excitement. Andi and I really like stuff like that.

Reading Terminal Market

We also walked by the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, saw the Liberty Bell and the famous Rocky steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, then headed to Geno's for the "best" philly cheese steak in the city. The line was crazy long at Geno's - even at 2pm - so we waited in line and then ate our first cheese steak ever. We weren't all that impressed. Or, that's what we decided after we burped it up for seventeen billion hours afterwards. Ugh. But it's what you do in Philly and we did it.

Overall, we had an awesome time in Philly and can't wait to visit Tara and Henry again some day. Next time we see little Henry, it'll be June and he'll almost be a year old. Glad we took the opportunity to see them when we did!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Europe To Do's

I will fully admit to you: I am Europe stupid.

I seriously Googled "map of Europe" to see exactly where we're traveling next month.

I always get nervous before our trips, I'm not sure why. There's butterflies in my stomach as I think about traveling to a new place completely foreign to my own little world. Thankfully, I have the best travel buddy a girl could ask for and it always puts me to ease knowing he's leading the way. I think I'm actually more nervous for this trip, if you can believe it. We've traveled all over the world, stayed in places where we took a hallowed out boat to get to our destination and it's Europe I'm scared about! Maybe it's because I'll actually have to bring real clothes and look cute on this trip. Usually it's hot and we're at the beach and I don't even use a blow-dryer! This time I'll have to plan and prepare ... or bring lots of hats.

We bought a few travel books and listened to an audio book in the car last weekend. It's going to be a lot of fun! Here's my list of things I'd like to see and do:

  • Visit all the neighborhoods like Notting Hill, Camdentown and Hyde Park. This is the stuff Andi and I love to do - walk around and people watch, stop into cafes for a cup of coffee, buy yummy food, just hang out.
  • Visit the Tower of London. It was mentioned by both my sister-in-law who used to live in London and in a few guide books as a must-see. So, we must see!
  • Shop at TopShop. My sister-in-law raves about it and I always read about stars shopping there.
  • Visit Big Ben and Westminster
  • Ride the Tube ... "Mind the Gap"
  • Walk around and take in all the holiday decor
  • See the Eiffel Tower, of course. I don't really need to go up in it though. I'll be fine to see it, say I did and move on. Maybe grab lunch and find somewhere to sit nearby to take in the sights.
  • ... and visit the Notre Dame Cathedral, Arc de Triomphe and the Louve (if we can handle the crowds)
  • The Pointe of Île de la Cité is a city park where I'd love to grab lunch and people watch.The Canal St-Martin sounds like another cool place to sit and chill
  • Wonder if there will be any ice skating rinks? I've never been ... what better place to learn that Paris?
  • Try to speak French (even a little bit) to a local
  • And Christmas shopping! I might do a little of that in both cities!

What else should we do while we're in London and Paris?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

In the Christmas Spirit

With less than a month until the Cookie Baking Extravaganza, I finally decided which recipes I want to make at the party. Here's what I'm going with this year (barring there aren't similar recipes chosen by my guests. In which case, I may choose something else):

Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

Microwave Oven Peanut Brittle

Cranberry Orange Cookies

Christmas Wreaths

I probably won't make all four of these recipes, but a girl likes to have options. I'm excited to see all the different recipes everyone comes up with. Last year, that was my favorite part. There were several recipes I would have never made myself but looked / tasted fantastic.

So far, I've received about 12 RSVPs to the party and if everyone makes 2 recipes, we'll each go home with 26ish different items. LOVE IT!

Monday, November 8, 2010

I see London! I see France!

Happy life.

Andi and I've seen some amazing places in our years together. Our first date actually was on the beaches of Nassau, Bahamas. We've traveled from Panama to Thailand and all around the U.S. and we've shared some fantastic memories in every single spot.

And next month, we're venturing to London and Paris to celebrate two big milestones: five happy years together and Andi's 30th birthday. We are SO excited.

Funny thing about Europe is everyone's been there. Well not everyone, but lots of people. Usually our travels take us to third world countries so it's strange to listen to people's advice on what to see and where to go. I'm anxious to see iconic landmarks and use my 9th grade French skills (Parlez-vous français?). Okay really, I only remember how to count to ten ...

I'm a little nervous about clothing for this trip. We usually each bring a backpack stuffed with swim suits and t-shirts and for this trip I'll need a coat and boots and pants. Pants, I tell you! How I will fit all of that into a little backpack is beyond me. I have the next month to figure it out!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The beauty of hotels

I'm traveling for work this week and a few things have me just a little un-nerved.

First, somewhere between conversations with other Marketing Managers who travel quite regularly and the recent media coverage of the bed bug epidemic, I've gone and completely freaked myself out about hotel room ickiness. My regional boss went on and on the other day about how she never takes her shoes off in hotel rooms (for the disgust!) and absolutely never, ever holds the remote. What? How do I turn the t.v. on then? I'm all sorts of confused. And grossed out. And now trying to change channels with the remote wrapped in my bed sheet.

And speaking of bed sheets, last night I crawled into the hotel room bed after a long day at work and an even longer evening of travel feeling exhausted. As I laid here for a minute, I swore I felt bugs crawling all over my legs. I jumped out of bed (not without leaping over to my shoes first!) and ripped open the covers to check for bed bugs. Was that a bug or a black piece of fuzz? I moved closer to see. Fuzz ... I think. I crawled back into bed and laid there for a minute only to feel more bugs. Or were they? Don't you hate when the more you think about how something itches, the more it does? I flipped up the mattress to look closer and found nothing. I probably woke up 10 times last night until I finally laid my t-shirt down on my bed and curled up onto it for the rest of the night. I'm a psycho, right?

Tonight, I took a long shower to relax and crawled into bed again. This time I got smarter and laid down a bath towel to lay on. Hopefully this helps me catch a few more winks. Oh wait, my bed is shaking against the wall. The room next door better not be doing what I think they're doing ...