Currently, I am:

The last episode of Orange is the New Black.  I can't believe that I didn't time this better because season 2 doesn't start until June!!

Nothing.  I lost my Kindle power cord somewhere between our hotel room in the Dells and home, so unless isn't a trashy gossip mag, I haven't been reading in longer than I'd care to admit!

{listening to}
Lots of Adele and ZZ Ward.  The girls have taken a much-welcome shift to more REAL music, and not so much Disney and DJ Shuffle.  Thank the Lord.

New felt banners that are so stinking cute I can't stand it.  I want to hang garlands all over my house, but I don't think it would fit with all of the decor I've got going so far.  Get yours {here}

Defeated.  Avery has shifted from a happy kid back into an evil baby again, and it's hitting me harder than I thought.  I'm trying to parent with some love and logic, but it's coming out more like screaming and crying.

When I can get a haircut and a wax.  Not enough hours in the day!!

That spring seems to have started here in Minnesota.  Granted, it snowed last May, so I'm not getting too excited, but I did buy a new pair of Toms sandals yesterday just in case it really does hit 70 tomorrow - I am so letting my hot pink polished toes SHINE!


Bottom's Up!

We had our first taste of a near 60-degree day here in Minnesota over the weekend.  I can't help but dream of flip flops, sprinklers running and sweaty drinks in my hand.  Of course, they're talking about accumulating snow coming again this week, but the door to pandora's box has been opened!  I need spring.  I need SUMMER!

You may have seen these adorable, and oh so clever coffee mugs that I started selling at the beginning of the year.  These babies fly like hotcakes, so you know they're amazing!

So, to scratch the itch, I'm super excited to add insulated tumblers to my shop.  These are perfect for driveway happy hours and days on the boat (minimal spilling and breaking!)

See some you like?  Have I got a deal for you!

Purchase any three mugs or tumblers and I'll send you a fourth for FREE*!  And this deal can be doubled, or tripled up (thinking there are some bachelorettes looking to make some noise this summer season!)

Shop now and use code:  FREEMUG to get your freebie!

I love creating custom designs, so if you've got something in mind, just ask!

*  Free mug/tumbler valid with purchase of any 3 additional mugs/tumbler, not valid on previous purchases, can be combined with additional codes you may have (contact seller for custom listing, Etsy only allows one code per transaction.)


Petite Promises Lead to Clean Laundry

**Mom, Dad, in-laws, please skip this post.  If you read it, do it at your own risk and know that you've been warned.**

Back in January, I made some promises to myself to try to do more of the things I love.  Yoga.  Reading.  Sex.  Yes.  I am a married woman and I'd like to have more sex with my husband.  Who knew?

I have since read three books, working on the fourth.  I have gone to more yoga classes, and started running more (even signed up for the Color Run here in Minneapolis in July) and yes, had more sex.

I asked Nate if he was comfortable with my talking about this, to which he scoffed, "Let the world know that we're doing it more?  Yep.  Totally on board with that."

This post is not to toot my own horn, so to speak, but to encourage those wives out there who might be stuck in the same place I was before I decided to make the effort to be more intimate with my husband.  I get the excuses we all give:  too tired, feeling fat, too bloated, might be getting my period, the kids might wake up, what if he doesn't enjoy it, what if I don't enjoy it.

We as women are very good at putting up road blocks for ourselves.  I say I make the effort.  It wasn't that I made the decision to do the sexy-time more often and all of a sudden those voices shouting excuses were quieted.  Even after knowing the end result will *ahem* be exactly as I'd like, it still takes a little internal-self-pep talk to get me to make the suggestion.  But the pep talk is always worth it.

I have said before: sex is (sometimes) like going to the gym.  You get all excited; it sounds like an amazing thing to do for yourself and your body and then when it comes down to driving over to the gym, finding parking, getting the kids checked in, actually exerting the energy and overcoming all the other roadblocks you put in place, you risk talking yourself out of a really great experience for yourself.   Get over it.  Rip the bandaid, make it work, just do it.  Your efforts will be rewarded.

Oh I almost forgot the other huge plus with this promise!  Laundry.  Mountains and mountains of clean laundry.  And dishes.  And an awareness of clutter (though that could still use some work, maybe add an extra night into the rotation - HA!)

Funny thing:  more sex for me makes me feel good, happy, and more connected with the hubs - turns out, it does the same thing for him!  Happy husband, happy life - it doesn't have the same cute rhyme as the female counterpart, but the sentiment rings true.  A happier husband is almost always willing to go the extra mile to make more time in your day - probably so you've got that extra time to lock the door and lose a few articles of clothing, but who cares about his motives.  From where I'm standing it's all a win win!

I'm not telling you to whore yourself out to get a load of laundry done.  I'm encouraging you to consider the benefits of the occasional toe-curling experience PLUS not having to fold a load of tiny socks and princess undies.  And I would be willing to bet money, your husband will be super supportive of this new method of checking off some of the household cleaning to-do items.  Promise.


one moment.

A single photo  - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.


Gluten-Free: Four Weeks In

This Sunday marks four weeks since I made the decision to cut gluten from my diet.   My body feels better, I haven't had to pop Advil for pain or soreness, my tummy feels better, my pants fit better, I feel like I have energy (though I'm still mommy-exhausted, I don't see that changing with diet!)

I haven't been able to remain 100% gluten-free.  I knew traveling would be tricky and I did eat a hamburger bun (it was heaven) and drink beer with my family.  My heart didn't stop and my stomach didn't explode, but I could tell something was off - more than the late nights of playing "Cards Against Humanity."  It's funny that before I ate whatever I wanted and just felt "normal."  Now I can tell when I eat something that doesn't agree with me.  It's not enough to level me for the day, but enough that I feel gross and tired.

Enough to make me want to stick with this.

And I'm not expecting people to change their ways just because I've changed mine.  Nate can eat a Jimmy Johns sandwich and I only get a little jealous.  The girls can snack on goldfish crackers and PB&J all day long.  In fact, Liv thinks she's "special" because "I can eat whatever I want.  And mom, you're special because you can't have gluten.  We're all special."

Dinners will more than like default to gluten-free just because that's the time when we all eat together, so if I can't easily leave the breading off a baked chicken breast, we're probably going to have gluten-free pasta or rice for dinner.  If we eat out, I can find something to eat.  If we eat at someone's home, I can find something, or if worse comes to worse, my manners will always win and I'll have my courtesy bite.  This is my choice, I'm not expecting someone to try to stock their pantry to feed me one mean (gluten-free ingredients aren't cheap!)

Come summer, hot dog buns and cold beer might win when I'm poolside, but at the rate this winter is clinging on, I've got some time to make that decision.

Read more about my gluten-free journey {here} and {here}


Super Soft Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Cookies

Potato chips and vodka are always gluten-free, but some times I want something sweet.  I am committed to being as gluten-free as I can, but I still can't swallow the hefty price tag of gluten-free flours for baking and cooking.  Luckily, Bisquick has a gluten-free version (and Aldi has an even cheaper version!)

The most irritating thing about these cookies was chilling the dough so they didn't spread like mad while baking.  As you can see, I probably didn't wait long enough because even though my dough went in to the oven with those cute little fork-cross-hairs, they came out pretty smooth.

Who's got two thumbs and doesn't care, just wants to eat cookies?
That's right, this girl.

{adapted from Betty Crocker and Bisquick}

gather up:

  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 1/2 c packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 c peanut butter (I used smooth, but you could use chunky for more texture to your cookie)
  • 1/2 c butter, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1-1/4 c gluten-free Bisquick (or other quick-mix alternative)
Normally I would encourage you to preheat your oven, but this dough needs chilling, so you can wait on the preheating, unless your home is cold - in which case, enjoy the added warmth!

Start by creaming together your sugars, butter and peanut butter.  Add in egg and mix well to incorporate.  Stir in salt and gluten-free mix.  Cover dough and chill for 2 hours until firm (this is where I went astray and tried using my freezer to speed the process.  I still ended up with amazing cookies, but not exactly Martha Steward photo-worthy. #sorryimnotsorry)

When you're ready to bake your dough, preheat your oven to 375 and spoon small 1 to 1-1/2" mounds onto a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet.  Press down dough with sugar-dipped fork to create a criss-cross pattern and bake 9-10 minutes.  Cook slightly before removing to cooking rack to cool completely (or until your tastebuds can't stand it anymore!)



Currently, I am:

Frozen.  On repeat.  I can't wait for another kids' movie to come out so I can get new songs stuck in my head.

US Weekly and the Food Network magazines that I'm two months behind.  They make me sad and hungry and miss real pasta and bread!

{listening to}
Frozen.  Did you miss that one before?  It's all the kids sing, recite, want to listen to in the car.  I have to play mean mom and demand that we listen to something OTHER than "Do You Want to Build a Snowman?" for the 1,897th time.

Lots and lots and lots of wine mugs!  And I have new acrylic tumblers that will be out just in time for those spring picnics and summer soccer games!  {buy yours here}

Like I miss real bread and pasta.  Staying strong with this gluten-free thing, and my health has improved but I'm a little sad when I have to say "I can't eat that."  I just want a damn sandwich from Potbelly's!!!

A weekend night away from my kids.  Whole night.  Date night.  Trying to convince the hubs we should get a hotel and make a night of it downtown.  Happy wife, happy life, right?

That Liv is back in school and we're getting back to a normal schedule.  Spring Break was awesome and I loved having her home with me, but it's very obvious our family thrives on somewhat of a routine, even if we're not always very good at sticking to it!



Ever wonder what everyone else is doing with their days?  Maybe I do because I'm constantly internet stalking bloggers and people on Instagram.  Anyway, in case you were curious about little 'ole me…

Currently, I am:

Smutty reality TV like Being Farrah and Survivor.  PS, Farrah is the biggest adult-sized brat.  She is so rude to her parents and demanding of her daughter, it makes my stomach hurt.

I am thisclose to finishing When I Found You.  It's so sweet, and I want to finish it before tomorrow so I can borrow a new, free book on my Kindle.  Sidenote, I may have a slight addiction to Amazon Prime.  Time to scour my {reading list} for the next one!

{listening to}
"New" kid friendly songs, like "Happy" or even "Wrecking Ball" (Avery does a great job belting out the chorus!) that do not include the soundtrack to Frozen being on permanent repeat in my car.  Love the songs, they're amazing.  I am hearing them in my dreams, and I have to draw the line somewhere!  Oh and a lot of ZZ Ward to prep for her concert we're going to on March 22nd!

Chocolate chip cookies for our weekend away that I can't eat.  Gluten-free has done me some good, and it's be a worthwhile sacrifice, but sometimes you just want a damn cookie, ya know?

Anxious about the watermark this weekend.  Olivia will be amazing, I have no fears for her.  I am worried that Avery will panic, not want to participate, just sit on me the whole time.  Or the other side is she has a blast and forgets to use the potty and we're the family that closes down the watermark because she pooped.  I know, I'll bring swim diapers, but what if she doesn't want to wear them?  Then there's that fight to have.  Basically, she's been in such a great mood lately (mostly because she HAS been pooping in the potty) and I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop.  Fingers crossed...

A 3-night trip at the Kalahari.  As of now, the girls are packed.  Nate and I are not.  But Nate brought up a good point, money aside, we could leave our house with absolutely nothing and stop at the Wal-Mart just a few miles down the road from our resort and get everything we need.

The promise of a little family-time away.  This winter has been dreadful and cold and I am looking forward to some warm, clement-controlled fun!

linking up with Ot & Et and Harvesting Kale; theme inspired by Craft Interrupted

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one moment.

A single photo  - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

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Bringing Down the Wall

Nate and I have living in our home for over six years.  When we first moved in, it was perfect, obviously.  But then, as anyone who's owned a home knows, we quickly found imperfections to change and update (read: ways to spend grown up, boring money)  Living in a split level, we always struggled with two main living spaces to fill and never a good way to do it.  The upstairs always was favored because of the kitchen and proximity too food, but there was this silly little wall separating the living space from the food.

No more!

And in tearing down the wall, we also replaced the disgusting carpeting that had seen better days before kids, dirty feet and even a dog for a time.  I'm still getting used to cleaning a wood floor, but I'll adjust.  Small price to pay!

After several weeks waiting for our flooring to arrive, hundreds of staples pulled, and a constant battle with dust, it's done!  Finally!!  Well mostly - there are a few touch ups to complete and a wall to paint, but I'll take it as 99% for now.

Take a look at these before and afters!

Feel free to lavish compliments at will….

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Gluten-Free: Cravings

So far, I've been "gluten-free" since Sunday.  It's been pretty easy and I haven't gone "without" except for the leftovers of my previous life that exist in my fridge.  Delicious, leftover pizza from Friday night. Now before you correct me, I know I can make gluten-free crust, and even bought a mix today at the store.  But there's something about the convince of it all that I want.  It's just RIGHT THERE.  Waiting to be eaten.  *sniff*

On the plus side of my need for delicious, familiar, comfort foods - I did get to eat Jimmy Johns yesterday for lunch, Unwich style and still down a bag of salt and vinegar chips like I was mad at them.

My stomach is considerably less bloated and I'm wishing that I'd taken a "before picture" though I'd NEVER show you guys!  Yucko no.  It would just be for me, and then I'd delete it after awhile in case my phone spontaneously decided to send out embarrassing pictures.  It could happen.

I'm like an addict in that I'm thinking about all the things I'm going to miss out on - cold beers poolside, Juicy Lucy burgers this summer, and delicious Napoli-style pizza at Punch Pizza, but really, I'm just telling myself one day at a time.  I might be able to "cheat" on occasion and not hate myself too much for doing it.

Or I'll just have to bring my own gluten-free beer and smuggle it into the Kalahari Waterpark.  Certainly would not be the first time we've smuggled contraband in, and I guarantee it won't be the last!!

So being that this "fad" might stick, I want to know your favorite recipes and places to buy things.  The GOOD things, not the I've tried this bread but it really tastes like sawdust crap.

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Gluten-Free: First Days

I have decided to try eating gluten-free.  After doing some reading on the adverse reactions that gluten can have on a body (bloating, joint pain, potty-problems) eliminating gluten seems like an easy way to see if that helps with my issues.  Well, those health issues.  I have other issues that only date-nights and a tall drink can help.

Also, I'm trying this (sadly) as part of the health food fad that gluten-free diets have become.  Considering that most of the unhealthy items that I tend to indulge in (aside from wine and vodka) all contain gluten.  Trying to avoid gluten, I can then avoid those unhealthy things.

I have no idea if this is going to make one lick of difference, but it's worth a shot.  And it gives me something to write about, because I've hit a bit of a dry spell lately.

I started Sunday, and made a little pack with myself to try it for one week.  Easy enough.  If I feel better, great.  If I don't - no harm, no foul.

Sunday went well.  I absent-mindedly ate two vanilla wafers in the church nursery and a bite of Liv's chicken nugget at dinner without even thinking, but I did pretty well.  We had tacos for lunch (Rusty Taco in Minnesota in case you're wondering and they're delicious!), and ate the corn tortillas instead of flour ones.  At dinner, I was able to eat the soup we made with our friends, and avoided the corn muffin.  I again, forgot and grabbed one, started to unwrap it and then quickly slid it on to Nate's plate.

The real question - how did I feel Monday morning?

Not too shabby.  And I even indulged in a bit (OK a lot) of wine with our friends over Cards Against Humanity, and still didn't feel tired, achey or sick to my stomach.

I've had energy, went and did some yoga and felt super strong.  The strength may have been because I was the youngest person in my class by about 25 years.  But who cares, I felt great!  Meals have gone well - I have rice chef for breakfast, quinoa for lunch and scrambled eggs for dinner.  To be fair, I intended on making chicken and risotto tonight, but Nate is this close to finishing our floor - thus giving me my house and husband back!

Tomorrow is another day, but I'll be at work with lots of ladies who are also gluten-free, for legitimate health reasons, so I'll have their love and support there!

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Valentine's Milk & Cookie Snack

Want to make a super-mom snack with very little effort?  Me too!

I'm not a super baker or anything, but there's usually chocolate chip cookies in our house, and they make a perfect after-school snack for Olivia.  Look at me, little Becky Homecky!  I don't even have a post for them on my blog because my secret receipt is Nestle Tollhouse.  Don't mess with a good thing, you know?

But I can make this snack a little sweeter with a silicone mold, milk and some food coloring.  Being that Valentine's Day is right around the corner, pink hearts make perfect sense, but this is a treat that has lots of legs - and needs no holiday to celebrate!

I used 1/2 c of milk and several drops of food coloring, then carefully poured my milk into the mold.  Place in freezer for a few hours, until set (I did this during nap and the cubes were good to go 3 hours later.)

Perfect snacks for these two sweethearts…

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Mama's Having a Day

Time for some hard truths.

Avery is almost 3-years old, which means:  Hooray, she's out of her terrible twos, and Boo, into the even shittier threes.
I am having harder and harder days with her.
She's not the happy baby she once was.
She fusses over every little thing.
She's becoming a horrible eater.
She won't poop, she's back in diapers and refusing the potty (which mind you, she was about 80% trained only a few months ago.)
Olivia is asked to concede a lot of things to appease her crying sister (and graciously she does.)
I can't properly get mad at Avery, so I get mad at everything else.

I've hit a point where through the course of my day, I go one of two ways:

Become screaming, mad mom who can only get anyone to listen by shouting above the noise….


simply shut down.  I sit on the couch and try to block the noise (and if you've heard Avery scream, she's liable to bust an eardrum one of these days) I just let the waves of helplessness wash over me.

I don't know why she's so angry.  Why she's so sensitive.  Why she refuses to poop for days at a time, even in a diaper or pull-ups.  Why she won't eat something unless it's cheese or green peas, oh and cookies.

And if I don't know the cause of the problem, I'm even further from finding out how to fix it.

We were leaving the gym a few days ago, and of course, Avery was losing her mind over having to put socks back on.  Seems reasonable cause for a meltdown.  I'm trying to play it cool and comment "this age is just so fun, isn't it" to the girls working at the child center.  The workers laugh along and one says "You know, the same hormone that makes girls crazy as teenagers is the same thing going through their bodies when they're three."

I almost cried right there in the middle of the Lifetime Fitness Child Center.

I'm smart enough to know that in another seven years or so, Nate and I are going to have our work cut out for us with teenage girls, but please, please, please don't tell me it's going to be more of this.  Of this Avery.  About the only thing that I can say to comfort myself as the sadness crushes my lungs is: this is just her age, it will pass, right?

What if it doesn't?

What if I can't handle this?
Surely I am not a total failure because I've managed to keep her alive, so basic needs are being met.
But I am failing her somehow and it's breaking my heart.
What if she can tell that I'm angry?  What if that's what's making her sad?
I've always said that Avery picked me to be her mom, but what if she was wrong?
What if she ends up hating me because of it.

And I have another child - what if I screw up two for the price of one?
I'm sure I'm doing better than most, but it doesn't feel like it from my cheap seats.
And it sure doesn't meet the expectations I have, and let's be honest, I don't think I'm setting the bar out of reach.

Give me the strength to power through, without drinking myself stupid before she's four.

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Silly Monsters

Olivia's absolutely favorite thing in the whole world right now is, in her own words:  creating.

She loves to draw, paint, color - anything artistic that get this little hands moving.  Works for me!  And while I cannot possibly keep every masterpiece she creates, this one might get to stick around for awhile.

I saw this on Pinterest awhile back, but I went back to find the original to give credit to, but alas, I could not.  So while this was not my own invention, Liv sure thought it was, so I'm a hero to her and that's all that matters!

A very simple, but fun way to let your little one express themselves.

A piece of paper, some googley eyes and markers or crayons…..

…. and them go nuts!!!
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one moment.

A single photo  - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.  {inspired by Soule Mama}

Love these little ladies.

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… I am reading more, but I am disappointed with my first choice (Serena by John Rash).  It's OK, but it's very much a historical piece too with lots of men sitting around a lumber camp talking.  I've got less than a third left and it's finally getting exciting.  I'm much more excited for John Green's The Fault in Our Stars.  Anyone read it yet??

… I have been enjoying more vodka tonics than wine.  I know, I'm as shocked as you.  Maybe it's the fresh lime, or the ice, but this winter has been brutal and I need some brightness in my life right now.

… I am counting the days until we head to the Wisconsin Dells and let the girls run around inside with no shoes on and splash in the pools.  There's something very satisfying about walking through skyways  in flip-flops, surrounded by snowy windows.  We're at 34 days, in case you're wondering.

… We watched Klondike and it only made me angry that A.  We've still got months before Game of Thrones comes back on and B.  That the "Red Wedding" happened.

… Nate is gone for the night, and I'm trying to stay positive - not thinking about how I'll be outnumbered with two wild girls who are best friends and worst enemies.  We're going to have a girls-only pajama party.  Girls-only by default, but it will be fun all the same.  #fingerscrossed

… I am very, very happy that we signed up for Amazon Prime.  Free two-day shipping, can't be beat!  Well worth the $69 if you're considering it!

… I am so happy that we tore down our kitchen wall (check out pics on my Instagram).  More than happy - absolutely thrilled!  Our home now has a ton of light, instead of being where light goes to die.  Did I mention that our floors were delayed two weeks, so we're walking around on plywood subfloor?  Less dreamy, but I try to imagine how amazing it will be when we're all done!

… Because of that stupid polar bullshit, I didn't go to yoga all week - between the cold and having to work, there just wasn't time to get to a class.  All the more reason to hate this winter.  On the plus side, I do have a new yoga outfit coming my way from Fabletica - first outfit was $25 with free shipping.  Can't say no to that one!

… They're talking about another polar vortex bullshit hitting our fine state.  I quit winter if that happens.  I don't know what that even means, but I quit.

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Caramel Bacon Popcorn

Snacks - remember how I said I was trying to go do more yoga?  Well, even with that, I am still finding it hard to abandon my salty snack habit.  Sure, hummus and edamame are delicious but it isn't a Dorito. So, while this should enter anyone regular food routine, it's a fun way to watch a movie or, in my case, end two very long days home, inside, avoiding the 40 below zero temperatures with my two kids.

I adapted my take from {zakka life}

Gather up:

  • 4-5 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 1 bag microwave popcorn, prepared as directed
  • 1/4 c butter
  • 1 c brown sugar
  • 1/4 c corn syrup (I used light)
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat your oven to 200, or as low as it will go and line a baking sheet with tin foil or parchment paper.  If you're making more than one bag of popcorn, prep two pans so you're not spilling popcorn all over your oven.  Put popcorn in a large bowl and set aside.

Melt your butter in a saucepan over medium heat and then mix in your sugar and corn syrup.  Whisk and bring to a boil - then leave sit and let boil for two minutes without stirring.  Seriously, don't touch it.    When your two minute timer dings, mix in your baking soda, vanilla and bacon.

Now's time to work quickly - pour your caramel mixture over your popcorn and toss gently.  Don't worry about getting an event coating at this point - you'll have a chance for that when it starts to get gooey in the oven.

Pour popcorn mix onto your baking sheet and let it go for 15 minutes.  Give it a little stir and then another 15 minutes in the oven.  After a total of 30 minute, you should be good to pull it out and let it cool before eating.  If you've still got parts that need better mixing, you can let it go awhile longer, but be careful not to burn your caramel.

BACON TIP:  I found my bacon liked to stick together as a group making for some amazing chunks of popcorn, and some a little sad and bacon-less.  Next time, I may sprinkle to bacon on after my 1st "toss on the oven" to help spread things out a little better.  Or just add more bacon.  Couldn't hurt, right?

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one moment.

A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.  {inspired by Soule Mama}

she rocks my world to the core on every level imaginable.

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Snow Day Crafts

Love is in the air and little fingers are full of energy!  I'm not sure what the weather is like where you live, but we are on the dawn of the 3rd or 4th school closing due to temperature.  Not snow, but COLD - double digits below zero.  Why do we live here again??  But anyway, we're not moving anytime soon - so let's put our big girl panties long-underwear on and make the best of it.

I pinned {this} craft from My Craftly Ever After and knew this would be a great thing to keep Olivia busy.  I will admit, the strings do get a little complicated for little hands, so unfortunately this isn't one that you can just put on auto-piolet and turn on The Price is Right, but it's fun all the same.

Super cute, right?  And perfectly adaptable for other holidays and seasons.  So in case this winter lasts until May again, we've got options *groan*

Gather up:

  • 8" embroidery hoop (or your desired sign)
  • pipe cleaner
  • pony beads
  • yarn, string or twine

Start by stringing up beads onto your pipe cleaner.  As many or as few as you'd like, just make sure to leave room to bend into a heart shape (if that's the look you're going for.)

Bend into your shape, but don't worry about it being perfect.  It'll get a little bent as you try to "hang" it in the hoop so you can smoosh it back how you want it when you're all done.

Start by tying off your yarn at some point on your hoop and then wrap a few times before starting to "hang" your heart.  I recommend double wrapping each anchor-point on the hoop so it doesn't slide too much. 

Keep wrapping, mixing the yarn if you're so inclined.

Things to keep in mind - the original poster had this listed as a "toddler' project.  Maybe Avery needs to work on her fine motor skills, but there is no way she would be able to wrap the yarn on this puppy.  Even with Olivia, I helped hold a finger on the edges while she double wrapped the yarn to pull things tight.

Looking for something the littles can easily do???

Just use the pipe cleaner and pony beads - kink the end so the beads don't all slide off the end and let them string up something.  You can still bend it into a heart or circle to hang in a window.  Work on that hand-eye thing!

Dear God my windows are FILTHY!  But we're in the middle of tearing down a wall and redoing the floors, so I'm going to use that as an excuse for at least another week (or more!)

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Ranch Pretzels

This house is a snacking house, and sometimes we don't always reach for the carrots.  I know we should ALWAYS go for the health but sometimes I want something salty and fatty, not an apple.  If you're in the mood to indulge in a little bit of salt without going totally overboard, these pretzels are perfect to have on hand!

I adapted my recipe from some I found on Pinterest.  The main difference is that I don't use an popcorn oil, but real butter.  I figure if I'm going to use something "bad for you" I better use the real deal!

Start by getting your oven to 250 degrees and lining two large baking sheets with parchment paper.  You'll want at least these many sheets and you may need to bake them in batches so you have even layers of pretzels.  A ratio of 2 sticks of melted butter to 1 packet of ranch dressing mix to 1 large bag of pretzels works great.  If you want to make a smaller batch, just adjust accordingly, but who wants LESS snacks in their world??

Melt the butter in a microwave safe bowl, or on the stovetop if you're so inclined.  Whisk in your seasoning until well incorporated.  Start by mixing the pretzels with a little of the delicious buttery-ranchness.  I do not have a mixing bowl that will allow for proper mixing of an entire bag of pretzels so I worked in batches.  Don't worry about being too precise if you're dividing in halves or thirds - these are seasoned pretzels, not a wedding cake.

Bake at 250 for 40-60 minutes, stirring about every 20 minutes or so.  You want to dry out the butter, leaving a gorgeous, light crust of ranch on each bite!  This is where your parchment paper comes in very handy!

Let cool and store in an airtight container.  I wish I could tell you how long these will last - in my house, about 3 days, but that has nothing to do with them spoiling or going bad - more about going into my family's bellies!


Petite Promises

Almost three weeks into the new year - has your resolution lost steam already?  Huge, overarching goals are hard to achieve and if a person isn't constantly reminded and motivated.  And there it is:  your common, everyday life gets in a way, and you fail.  Even thought it's not really a failure; you're just settling back into the person you're comfortable being.  But even that thought is somewhat unsettling.  Same.  Boring.

I have grand, overarching goals that I'd love the achieve, but instead, I'll shoot a little lower.  Low expectations lead to high success rates, right?  And these things may seem grand, but notice how I don't really qualify any of them - any change can be considered a win then, right?

{do more yoga}
Going the gym is almost always a daunting task in my mind, but no matter the workout, whenever I'm done, I always feel really good.  I often think to myself "bottle this feeling and remind yourself of it the next time you drag your feet at the thought of walking in here again.  And yoga, for me, is amazing.  I'm not much of a runner, or a jazzercise kinda gal.  I've found some Vinyasa classes that kick my ass and make me sweat.  I tried my first Barre class on Wednesday and I still can't walk a straight line without limping.  Somehow, I feel like that's a good sign.

{more fun-mom stuff}
When I first started staying home, I feel like I was super passionate about engaging the kids and staying busy all day.  Boy, that got tiring.  I had all of that "fun" plus the house, and showering, and trying to engage me in things I wanted to focus on and enjoy.  I can't aim to be one of those moms who's always got something "fun" planned, but I can surely try to do more than a bowl of dried beans while I fold the laundry.

{read more}
As of late, my reading as been limited to Facebook, some Twitter, blogs and my weekly US Weekly.  I want to read books again!  I have a new Kindle Paperwhite, so my goal is to read at least 1 book a month - I get a free book from their library, and while it's not the latest selection, that and borrowing library books gives me no excuses.  I do have a my reading list made that should last me until the fall, so I think I'm good.

{more sex}
While keeping this somewhat G-rated, this is something that can always happen more (if you ask any dude, he'd totally say yes!)  And without needing to quantify things, just know that this is something that I have let slide within my marriage due to a number of parenting-, job-, life-stressors (or excuses).  I need to remember this is a lot like the gym:  I may not always have the energy and excitement for it, but once I'm done, it was well worth the trip! (And oh my god, my parents read my blog!!)

{more friend time}
This goes for both Nate and me.  Having found an amazing group of moms that I can talk with has been a godsend.  I have always been blessed with the girls I call friends, but expanding the circle is even more amazing.  And I know that having guy-time is also beneficial to Nate, so even though the jealous "what about me, don't you want to stay home tonight" might try to come out - I need to know that a happy wife, happy life, doesn't always have to be "wife."  It just makes for a better rhyme.

{more me, less guilt}
Perhaps the least measurable, but most important promise.  Being busy doesn't mean being better.  Being focused on everyone else doesn't mean that everyone is reciprocating back to you.  Taking time for yoga, reading, friends and my marriage - this is all really for me, even if others can reap the rewards for my new calm, state of Zen.  Taking care of me means that I'm going to be less crabby to everyone else.  Sounds like a win-win to me!

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Sixteen Minutes of Pure Panic….

If you've followed me on Facebook or Instagram, you know lately life with my girls is more than a little trying.  I have a very smart, 5-year old who tests the limits and a 2-year old who is following suit.  Some days a very VERY hard for me.  Maybe I need to read a different book on parenting to cope, but I have days where I am fed up. I question my success, my decision to become a mom, daydream about running away to somewhere warm and not looking back….  You know, the normal meltdown kind of stuff.

Before I tell you this story, know ahead of time that it has a happy ending.  It's long, but important…..

Friday morning, I experienced the longest, most terrifying 16 minutes of my life.  Without exaggeration, I've never been more panicked, scared, upset, worried… an array of emotions, none of them happy and good.

Olivia's bus picks her up down the street from our house and around the corner.  Friday morning, she wanted to walk to the bus stop, rather than have me drop her at school.  The subzero temperatures had warmed to a balmy 25, so I said sure.  She's walked before.  I watch her turn the corner and all is well.  This morning, however, I was getting Avery ready to go run errands so Olivia walked out the door and I reminded her to stay to the side of the street, watch for cars, all the safety things you tell a kid.  I didn't do my normal mom-watch.  It was fine.

A few minutes later, Avery and I loaded into the car and off we went.  I stop at the corner and looked right to the bus stop to see a bunch of kids, but none of them were mine.  She wears a BRIGHT pink jacket, so she's easy to spot.  Thinking maybe she was standing in the garage with the girls who lives at the house where the bus stops, I drive down there and ask the boys there "Is Olivia here?"

"No, she went that way," pointing the other direction away from the bus stop.

Not panicking yet, I figured maybe she went to the next stop where her friend Sophia's stop.  She talks a lot about her little bus buddy.  Searching the next block for that bright pink jacket, I drive the next stop and ask the kids standing there, "Is Olivia here?"  Blank stares.  "Little girl with a pink jacket?"

"Have you seen her??  Did she walk by??"  Starting to worry….

Oh my God.  Where is my child??

We live less than half a mile from school, so maybe - just maybe, she decided to just keep walking.  Driving the streets, I figure I'll see that jacket at any moment.  She left only a minute or two before we did, right?  She couldn't have made all the way to school yet, right??

Look down the street.  No jacket.

I turn around, and drive back through the neighborhood thinking maybe she came back home?  Maybe she went to another bus stop?  Would she have walked with some other neighbors to school??
Where is my daughter?!!?  Maybe she's somewhere other than where I feared she was.  She wouldn't get in a strangers car, right?

Now I'm crying.  A lot.  It's the kind of emotional outburst that I can't control.

I pass the bus in the neighborhood, slam on the breaks and chase after it.  I tearfully ask the bus driver, shaking "Is Olivia on the bus?"  He calls her name.  No answer.  "Olivia Brown, your mom is looking for you, are you on the bus?"  No answer.  He starts asking the kids if they saw her - again, the boys from the bus stop say she went the other way.  Bus Driver radios to base, asking if anyone's called anything in.  Nothing.

I ask "What do I do?"  Is it time to call the police?  Get ahead of this before more time passes?  He makes the suggestion to go check at school.  It isn't far, she could have made it on her own.

I get back into the car, and speed through our neighborhood and head towards school.  Tears still flowing, Avery notices my panic and asks "Where is Vivia?"

I don't know, baby.  I don't know.

I screech into the parking lot, park as close to the door as I can, in a place that I'm sure is not a parking spot, but I don't care and I race into the school.  I'm trying so hard not to cry.  There are kids everywhere, parents, teachers - I make it to the office and as the words bubble out of my mouth "My daughter wasn't on the bus.  I don't know where she is," the tears quickly return.  Ignoring the proper check-in protocol by scanning my ID (which I left in the car anyway) she nods and says "Go to her classroom…."  There may have been more words, but already I'm running through the halls.

I turn into her classroom, looking for that pink jacket…

There it is, being hung into her cubby.
She's there.  Pink cheeks, hair standing on end from the static in her hat.

I rush over, stepping around other kids, crying, asking "How did you get here?"
"I walked!" She answers proudly.  She's not scared or worried at all.  She didn't know she was lost.  She knew where she was the whole time.
Through my tears, I say how scared I was, how she can't walk without telling me, that I'm not mad, and I'm so, so, so happy to see her.

I turn to see her teacher there, tears in her eyes.  A mom herself, I have no doubt my display was only a reminder of how quickly things can change.  She says she's going to hug me, and I laugh and say, "I'm going to have a shot."  I leave, go to the car, and now tears come again.  A relief washes over me I have a good cry.

My kids are tough.  Maybe not compared to some, but some days, man.  Then I have a moment like this, where all of those bad things are meaningless, and what really matters was brought into the light.  I really do have some pretty great kids.  They aren't great all the time, but when push comes to shove, like it did for me that Friday morning, I wouldn't change any of it.

That's not to say that two days later, I was back crying over the tantrums and feeling that familiar Mommy-doubt.  It doesn't make me a bad mom, it makes me normal.


random thoughts

I am absolutely addicted to Breaking Bad.  I was totally fine without in my life and then AMC hosted a marathon and I taped them all.  All 62 episodes.  It initially started as something to watch in the evenings and then trickled into my day and then was all consuming.  I have less than seven episodes left.  I don't know what I'll do when it's done.  Probably start reading or looking on Pinterest again.  But mostly at Heisenberg.

I deeply apologize to my mother for every time she screamed "get in bed" or "stop thumping."  I hate bedtime.

I went out for a girls night and foolishly imagined I would come home after one.  I quickly realized it wasn't even bedtime yet, and my dear friends convinced me to stay.  What's the point in putting on lipstick if you don't get to enjoy it?!

I used to love the idea of Christmas Break, but two weeks, plus 3 days due to FREEZING COLD weather…  I am so ready to get back to a regular schedule where my kids and me can get out into the world.  *yesterday we may not have even gotten out of pajamas*

One of Avery's "poop in the potty" rewards was to go and see Frozen.  She's asked to go again.  I'm not at all opposed to it.  It's right up there with Tangled and Brave - I'll watch that movie more than once, even without the kids in the room.

Our carpets upstairs have sucked for a long time.  Replacement has always been on the horizon, so a dropped pasta noodle or gooey paint brush hasn't really ruffled my feathers.  We now have an immediate plan to replace the flooring - have mercy on the cleanliness of my home until that happens.

After missing playgroup last week, I was reminded that the group is 80% for me, 20% for the girls.  Not going is not a good punishment for them and the moms there won't judge me for my demon children.  They'll just pour a bigger glass of wine.
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Dockers Game Day Khakis

I am no sports nut,  but I can always get excited about University of Minnesota Gopher Basketball.  My parents have been season ticket holders for a very long time, and the games at The Barn are always very fun (especially when we're winning!)  

It just so happened I married a Big 10 Rival, the other University that claims to be the U of M - Michigan.  Not to be confused with Michigan State - goodness, don't make that mistake.

Nate and I have had a friendly rivalry, and every year when Michigan is playing in town, we go to the game - me in my Gopher gear, him sporting that awful blue.  This year, he got to wear some new Dockers Game Day Khakis, with a cute little "M" on the back hip.  I have to say, even though the "M" was the wrong color, they are pretty cool.  And the perfect gift for the dude who has far too many t-shirts and hats as it is!

The Dockers® brand has announced the US launch of its Game Day Khakis collection, a new line of khaki pants specific to 10 college partners including Louisiana State University, University of Minnesota, Oregon State University, Texas A&M University, University of Georgia, University of Illinois, University of Kentucky, University of Michigan, University of Missouri and Washington State University.

The brand’s first collection of licensed college apparel will consist of two different khaki styles that incorporate the college colors, logos and mottos. Blending the rich traditions of college sports with the versatility of Dockers® signature styles, Game Day Khakis give fans the ability to express team pride through their everyday wardrobe.

The Dockers® Game Day Khakis collection features two of brand’s quintessential khaki styles: the Game Day Alpha Khaki, for a modern slim and tapered fit, and the Game Day Classic Khaki, which offers a more classic silhouette. Each product is available in traditional British Khaki and the schools official color for a bolder look. Customizable options and the tasteful incorporation of the team colors and logos are features which help to differentiate this collection of college-themed pants. The back right pocket features an embroidered school emblem and printed inside the internal waistband is the teams rallying cry. Dockers® Game Day Khakis can easily be dressed up for higher stake events, dressed down for more casual settings and worn to almost any occasion.

Dockers® will support the campaign across the brands social media channels at www.facebook.com/Dockers and @Dockers with #GameDayKhakis. 

I was provided product for this review, but all of the opinions are my own.

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Reading List for 2014

updated 3.30.14

One of my (many) goals for the year is to read more.  This proves to be difficult because I:

  A.  Have two small children who like all of my attention.
  B.  Have a home that seems to produce mess and clutter spontaneously and exponentially.
  C.  Really, really like to take naps and get to bed at a decent hour.

Nevertheless, I wanted to keep a list, if only for myself, as a reminder of what I wanted to read when I get the chance.  PLUS - for Christmas this year, I got one of the best gifts:  cash.  And with it, I purchase a Kindle Paperwhite.  Thanks to Amazon Prime, I can borrow a book a month, which is probably more than I'll actually get the read, but dream big, right?

(no particular order)

  • 50 Shades of Grey, by E.L. James
  • Enders Game, by Orson Scott Card
  • The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak
  • Serena, by Ron Rash (Abandoned, too slow.  I fear the movie I was so excited for will be the same thing.)
  • Divergent, by Veronica Roth
  • Reconstructing Amelia, by Kimberly McCreight 
  • The Silent Wife, by A.S.A. Harrison
  • Orphan Train, by Christine Baker Kline  (loved it, finished it in three days!  A must read!)
  • Those Who Save Us, Jenna Blum
  • The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (Devoured in three good chunks, and could have done it faster if nappers cooperated better.  Good, kinda like a Jodi Picoult or Nicolas Sparks book, grab the predictable, but wonderfully loving Kleenex for this one.)

I made my list by the help of Facebook friends, {this list} of Books to Read Before Hollywood Ruins Them, and What Should I Read Next?

Not sure where to start… pretty sure Nate is voting for 50 Shades...

For the record, books that I did read and would totally read again are:

  • Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn
  • The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
  • Sarah's Key, by Gilles Paquet-Brenner
  • Memoirs of a Geisha, by Arthur Golden
  • Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen

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