Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Weather>32ºF+WFH= Malin gets a walk

I have been blessed to work from home (WFH) one day a week for the last month. So this morning when I woke up and it was a balmy 34ºF and I didn't need to drive to the office, I decided to treat our dog with a walk. (My plan included a treat for me too, a stop at Caribou to pick up a latte.)

This was a first for me and Malin. I have never walked to a coffee shop and left the dog outside while I ordered. When my dog was younger, I thought he would be too crazy and try to jump on every passerby, but now he's 3; he should be able to do this. I have witnessed numerous other people do this with their dogs and I wanted to try it with mine. So off we went. When we got to the coffee shop I tried to figure out how I was going to hook him up and got nervous. My mind started racing with what could go wrong. Malin could easily weasel out of his collar, run off and be lost to us forever or he could jump on an innocent bystander, or get hit by a car parking in the lot, or get tangled in his leash.

I looked around for a place to secure him. There is a sign with three hooks, meant to hook up a dog, but I wasn't sure how to hook him. There was a cement post, but it was too close to the parking spots. There was a railing, but that was too far away from the door. As I was brainstorming how to hook him up, this sweet lady walked out of Caribou and commented on how pretty our dog is. Apparently her son lives in Manhattan and has a boxer and she had boxers growing up. She suggested I try the cement pole, but I hadn't given Malin enough slack on his leash to sit comfortably.

Just before giving up hope, I asked this incredibly kind woman if she would be willing to hold on to Malin while I ordered. She said yes. She was a bit nervous Malin would be too strong and pull or knock her down, but he was good. She told me to have him sit and stay, which I did (and he did). I went in, quickly placed my order and paid. Then I told the Caribou employees about my predicament, and they said they would bring me the latte once it was ready. Oh my gosh! These people were so helpful!!

So it worked and I was stressed and the dog was good. I got my latte, the dog got a walk and we finished it all before the workday started. Phew!!

I will have to try this a few more times, but next time I think Rich will have to come with me. Or I'll have to develop a solid plan before going on the walk. My dog is big and intimidating, even though he is a sweetheart, a licker and a tail-wagger. But now, he's just plain tuckered out.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Spring Cleaning

We are in the midst of doing some serious spring cleaning!! We have an amazing ability to accumulate. It's quite remarkable in a grotesque, materialistic way.

Anyhow, we are sorting, super-savering and donating our way through the house, starting with our closets.

Saturday we went through Rich's closet. Then yesterday I spent the day going through my closet while Rich went through the coat closet.

I feel like I go through my closet with some frequency to weed things out for donation or garbage, but yesterday was like no previous time. I went through absolutely every item, including my big bulky winter sweaters and sweatshirts. I created four piles: donation, storage, garbage and keep.

I *really* wish I would have taken before photos, because it is crazy how much more space we have now. Tonight I'm going to go through our linen closet. I will for sure take before photos!

Also - I'm going to keep track of the number of bags of things I have donated:
2/19 - 3 bags (R's clothing, lamps, candles, candle holders)
2/20 - 2 bags (N's sweaters, bath mat, soap, frame)
2/23 - 4 bags (N's clothing, coats, mittens, hats, scarves, shoes, purses, wallets)

Saturday, February 14, 2009

I ♥ Valentine's Day

I love Valentine's Day! As a kid, Valentine's morning we would wake up to treats, gifts and a card sitting on the kitchen table waiting for us. As an adult, I still get little care packages of treats from my mom. Plus, it is a great reason to remind your loved ones that they are just that, loved ones.

Here is the abridged version of my Valentine's Day:

  • Finished gift for husband: Bacon Ice Cream
  • Made husband Valentine's Day Card & assembled presents
  • Exchanged gifts
  • Played games
  • Showered
  • Got Manicure/Pedicure with Krystle
  • Enjoyed delicious treat, made by Krystle
  • Glammed up for the evening
  • Went to Crave at the Galleria for dinner
  • Returned home - hung out with husband and dog
And the extended version:
I will talk more about the Bacon Ice Cream in a later post... but know this: it's good.

This year, I was drawn to a card at Target and decided to create my own rendition. So, I went home and warned Rich he would receive a homemade card for Valentine's. I bought a sheet of paper from Michael's (red on one side, white w/ little red hearts on the other) and formulated my plan.

First, I burned the bottom of the card.

Then made a book of matches. The book is made of extra paper from the card, and the hearts were crafted using extra paper I had around the house. The black strip is from junk mail and then I used a regular staple for effect.

I wrote on the card and voila -- it was done!!

I set out the gifts I had for Rich, told him coffee was ready and placed his cup next to his presents. Then Rich surprised me! He had me come downstairs and there, waiting, were a dozen red roses and a card. Here's a photo of our goods.

Shortly after our gift exchange, and bacon ice cream tasting, we started playing with the set of books I gave Rich. Before we knew it we were 50 questions in, having a great time and eager for more! I was about to suggest we finish the book when I got a text from Krystle. She was on her way and I still needed to shower. So we saved the rest of the book for later.

Thankfully, I was able to get ready before Krystle arrived and we were off to get our nails and toes done. I was really looking forward to a manicure/pedicure. And while no one sees my feet during the winter, I was still super excited *and* willing to spend the $$. Here we are in the massage chairs getting our pedicures.

And here is the finished product (Krystle's hand and feet are on the left, mine are on the right).

When we got back to the house, Krystle gifted us with some delicious Valentine treats she made earlier that morning. How cute are these? Not only were they incredibly tasty, but the frosting was killer-good.

Thanks Krystle!!
(Rich wanted me to pass along how much he loved them, too!!)

Rich and I changed and got all glammed up for our dinner plans; Rich had made reservations for us at Crave. They serve sushi, among other things, but we only had sushi. It was so tasty!!! And they had really yummy drinks! We ordered Pear/Rosemary and Pineapple/Basil martinis while we made our food selections. Once we told the waitress we were only ordering sushi, she recommended a sake for our dinner. I don't remember the brand or style, but it was the sake-version of champagne, pink and wonderful.

I had planned on taking photos of our food, but only managed to take one of the drinks. So you'll have to trust me without visuals; the food was awesome. They had some pretty creative rolls. The Mexican (fish, jalapeno, cilantro - served w/ two lime wedges) and Minnesota (smoked walleye, celery, green onion) were my favorites!

After stuffing ourselves to the gills, we briefly shopped around the Galleria and headed home. We picked up the books again and finished answering the rest of the questions before I fell asleep for the night.

It really was a wonderful day!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Care Packages (If I bake a batch of cookies... )

As I was writing this post, I thought it was a bit like the book If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.

I have never, in all of my days, sent a care package to anyone. That changed earlier today.

Our friends (Rich's freshman roommate and his wife) had a baby a few weeks ago. I finally* bought a gift for them. Since they live out of town, we needed to mail them their gift. As I was assembling the baby's gifts, I thought the new mom and dad might appreciate a gift of their own. And then I thought about their pup Pancake - who might want a treat, too. So, I whipped up a batch of chocolate and butterscotch chip cookies for Mom and Dad and packed up some of Malin's dog bones for Pancake.

As long as I was baking cookies and going to the post office, I figured I should make a second batch, this time M&M cookies, to send to other friends across the country.** After baking, I packaged the cookies in labeled ziploc bags, wrapped the packages and headed to the post office.

All-in-all the cost was minimal to send the three packages. They were shipped Air, First Class and Parcel Post. I upgraded the shipments on all but one package. I'm not sure why, but that last one was just too pricey and it was only cookies.

I'm excited to hear from the recipients; this should be a big surprise.

*Honestly, I am terrible at remembering to buy baby gifts and *must* get better! I also have no idea what is a good gift, post-baby birth. If I'm going to a shower, that's exponentially easier, I can just go off the registry. But otherwise, my staples are to buy an outfit and book . While I suppose those work, I'm still hoping to find a non-clothing gift that is still fun and useful.

**Now that I think about it -- I really should have sent some cookies to our friend in TX completing his US Army training. My excuse for now will be that I don't have the mailing address, but what a sad excuse!!

Here are some pictures of what the packages USPS will soon be delivering:

Thursday, February 12, 2009


This recipe has been on a number of different sites. I made a few batches for the purse party and then a few more batches for care packages. They are intended to be oversized thick and chewy cookies, like what you would find at a gourmet shop or cookie store. [I don't think I make mine big enough... I should work on that...]

They use melted butter and an extra egg yolk to keep their soft texture. These cookies are best served warm from the oven but will retain their texture even when cooled. To ensure the proper texture, cool the cookies on the baking sheet. [I've not done this, but should...]

Thick & Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
(Source: Cooks Illustrated)
Makes approximately 18 large cookies

2 c. + 2 T. unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
12 T. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cooled until warm
1 c. packed light or dark brown sugar
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1 large egg + 1 egg yolk
2 t. vanilla extract
1 - 1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (can be exchanged for M&Ms, Reese’s, etc)

Adjust the oven racks to the upper- and lower-middle positions and heat the oven to 325 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or spray them with nonstick cooking spray.

Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl; set aside.

Either by hand or with an electric mixer, mix the butter and sugars until thoroughly blended. Beat in the egg, yolk, and vanilla until combined. Add the dry ingredients and beat at low speed just until combined. Stir in the chips to taste.

Roll a scant 1/4 cup of the dough into a ball. Hold the dough ball with the fingertips of both hands and pull into 2 equal halves. Rotate the halves 90 degrees and, with jagged surfaces facing up, join the halves together at their base, again forming a single ball. Try not to smooth the dough’s uneven surface. Place the formed dough balls on the prepared baking sheets, jagged surface up, spacing them 2 1/2 inches apart.

Bake until the cookies are light golden grown and the outer edges start to harden yet the centers are still soft and puffy, 15 to 18 minutes, rotating the baking sheets front to back and top to bottom halfway through the baking time. Cool the cookies on the sheets. Remove the cooled cookies from the baking sheets with a side metal spatula.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Amazingly Productive Weekend

This was an extremely productive weekend.

Here is our list of accomplishments:
  1. Prepare treats, snacks and drinks for #2
  2. Host 1154 Lill purse party
  3. Buy new bedding for loft & spare bedrooms
  4. Paint upstairs loft bedroom
  5. Paint closets in loft bedroom (3)
  6. Paint spare bedroom
  7. Paint side table for spare bedroom
  8. Go through sweaters - sort donation vs. storage
  9. Sort wedding gifts in loft - store and repack into closet
  10. Arrange furniture in loft w/ new bedding
  11. Arrange furniture in spare bedroom w/ new bedding
  12. Reorganize extra items in the gym
  13. Touch up bathroom

This list would not be complete without the help of my husband and mother. Before the purse party, Rich went out and bought the paint and supplies we would need for the weekend. Then during the party, Rich diligently taped and prepped the loft for painting.

Saturday morning my mom came over at 11a, after stopping at Herberger's to pick up requested Euroshams. Together we painted the loft, while Rich taped the spare bedroom. Once my mom and I finished painting upstairs, we headed downstairs to apply primer to the spare bedroom. The three of us divided and conquered - my mom rolled primer on the walls, Rich rolled ceiling paint on the ceiling and I painted the edging first with primer and then with ceiling paint. We were done for the day, to allow the primer to cure.

This morning my mom came over at 8a. Funny... the coffee seemed to taste better today. My mom and Rich painted the spare bedroom. I painted two of the closets in the loft and a side table for the spare bedroom. When my mom finished rolling paint, she helped me sort through some sweaters and then rearranged the loft furniture and put on the new bedding. We then did the same in the spare bedroom. She left at 1:35p to enjoy the few remaining hours of her weekend.

Rich and I spent the rest of the day finishing things up. He touched up the bathroom walls, from a previous project, while I worked upstairs sorting and reorganizing some of our wedding gifts. I used Space Saver bags -- which, by the way, are awesome! I packed up three Space Saver bags filled with extra sweaters I am not donating, two comforters, a throw and set of sheets, and three sets of towels. After I wash our old comforters, I plan on using another bag to pack those up.

All in all - we accomplished a lot during this weekend. I am so grateful that my mom and husband were willing to devote their weekend to these projects. Rich kind of had to - but my Mom gave up a lot to help us - and we really, really appreciate it. If she hadn't come over to help, I can't guarantee we would have finished the loft, let alone everything else!

The sad part is I forgot to take before and after photos; I'll have to see what I can scrounge up...

Friday, February 6, 2009

Craft #2 - Baby Cupcakes

I spied these little baby cupcakes a few weeks ago on Bakerella's blog. I knew I had to make them; it was just a matter of when. I decided a purse party would be the perfect venue - a *super* girly night, just eight days before Valentine's day.

I tried to take a bunch of pictures throughout the process. I numbered the photos; so look for the little (numbers) throughout the instructions to reference the appropriate picture.

Baby Cupcakes
From Bakerella
Ingredients (1)
1 box Red Velvet cake mix (bake as directed on box for 13 X 9 cake) - Available at Super Target; it was not at Cub or Lunds.
1 can cream cheese frosting (16 oz.)
1 package chocolate bark (or candy melts for cupcake bottom)
Colored Candy Melts (for cupcake top) - I bought these from Michaels
Candy Mold, in the shape of a Reese's mini - I also bought this from Michaels
Sprinkles and M&Ms for decoration

After cake has baked and cooled completely, use a fork (2) to crumble into large bowl (3). (The texture should be fine/fluffy) TIP: If the texture is too coarse, you can run it through a food processor.

Add can of cream cheese frosting and blend together using the back of a large spoon. Blend thoroughly. (It may be easier to use fingers to mix together, but be warned it will get messy.)

Roll mixture into 1.25" - 1.5" size balls (4) (make sure they are smaller in diameter than that of your candy mold) and lay on wax paper covered cookie sheet. (I periodically rinsed and dried my hands in between; it gets kind of sticky.)

Put the balls in a tupperware container or cover with plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator for several hours. (I let them chill overnight) TIP: You can speed this up by placing in the freezer for about 15 minutes.

Melt chocolate bark in microwave per directions on package. Using a spoon or squeeze bottle (5), fill each mold cavity with a small amount of chocolate. I didn't measure, but it was enough to go around the edges and coat the bottom of the mold. As soon as you fill the cavity, place one of your rolled balls into it. Carefully push it down until the force causes the chocolate to push up and fill in around the sides of the ball. (You may have to experiment with a couple to get the right amount.) Stop pushing once the chocolate reaches the top edge. (6)

Place the mold tray filled with cupcakes in the freezer for just a few minutes to let the chocolate set. Remove, then gently pull up on the cake ball top to release from candy mold. (7)

Melt the candy melts in the microwave according to the directions on the package. Holding the bottom of the cupcake, dip the top in another color of melted chocolate (8). Decorate. I used pink and white candy melts (9 & 10), various sprinkles and Valentine's day M&Ms.

I set them out on a tray for the party (11) and enjoyed the treats. (12)

The recipe makes about 50 baby cupcakes; I yeilded 60 from my batch. Store in an airtight container and they will last for several days.

Notes: I had expected this project to be SUPER time consuming. And while they did take a some time, it wasn't nearly as tedious as I expected. Also, I was a little nervous they would turn out sloppy and look nothing like cupcakes; thankfully this didn't happen either and everyone seemed to really enjoy them.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Spring is here - in flower form

This weekend, while shopping for Super Bowl supplies, Rich suggested we buy flowers. We picked out two colorful bouquets, one a dark purple mix and the other hot pink, green and violet. Once home I combined them into one jumbo bouquet.

It is just so fun and springy to have flowers in the house. Earlier today I even started daydreaming about flowers we could plant this spring. I suppose I can mull over those decisions though because according to Punxsutawney Phil, we have 6 more weeks of winter ahead of us.

Side note: today marks our 4-year dating anniversary.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Super Bowl XLIII Party

Tonight marked our 4th annual Super Bowl party. We tried some new ideas this year, a make-your-own quesadilla bar and football shaped rice crispy bars; this in addition to the old-standbys of meatballs, little smokies, veggie tray and spinach artichoke dip.

We prepared a bunch of ingredients for quesadillas and placed them in labeled containers on the bar.

Rich also made an awesome sign to go with the quesadillas filled with recipe ideas and a small shout-out to Napoleon Dynamite.

Rich and I ended up making all of the quesadillas. I had thought people would get into making their concoctions, but I suppose it was easier to have them made for you. Plus - that way people only ate one section and got to try a number of varieties. All in all, the quesadillas were tasty! My fave was the buffalo wing-dilla. (I made two.)

The football crispy bars were new this year, too. They were basically standard rice crispy bars, made with CoCo Puffs, in the shape of footballs with white chocolate laces. I used a 1/2 c. measuring cup to pack the mixture and then formed them into footballs. The laces really made them, though. These may make a repeat appearance at tailgate parties to come.

We ended up with a bunch of extra quesadilla supplies and a 9x9 pan of spinach artichoke dip. Suprisingly, the veggie tray went the fastest of everything and even needed to be refilled.

We also walked away with some lessons learned for our next Super Bowl party:

  1. Don't suggest people bring things to share. This really puts a kink in the planning process. It was SUPER nice of everyone to bring something, but now we are left with lots of extra quesadilla supplies. Next time, if you want to suggest people bring something to share - emphasize a drink.
  2. Make an earlier start time. This will allow people to arrive casually but before the game (commercial) begins.
  3. As Rich said - the make-your-own quesadillas idea was a good one, just poorly executed. It was too hard to have people make their own food, when prepared food was ready and waiting. If we were to do this again, the quesadillas would need to be the main event.
  4. If possible, have a bigger space to entertain. This fits nicely in our plan - but it sure would be nice to make it a reality.
All in all - it was a fun party with good friends. Here's a photo of the crew just before the 3D portion of the half-time show.

And because I wasn't in that one - here's one of me and Rich. :)