… 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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Cranberry Feta Bites

These tasty treats were the only snack I served on Christmas Eve, aside from the popcorn that my very tired and crabby 2-year old requested.  To be fair, there were only 4 adults and dinner was a 9-pound ham.  We were't going to starve.

This concoction boarders on a "dip" and you all know how I feel about dips!

The process is super simple, and about the hardest thing is slicing the dang tortillas - serrated knife is key here.

  • 16 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1 package dried cranberries (1 cup, give or take)
  • 1/2 c green onions, chopped (about 6 stalks, give or take)
  • 1 package crumbled feta cheese (I used Athenos)
  • 4 large burrito-sized tortillas (flour, or any other flavor of your choosing)
Combine all non-tortilla ingredients until fairly evenly mixed.  It's a chunky spread so don't kill yourself over super-even-ness (is that a word?)  Spread only each tortilla, roll and chill, seam-side down for 30 minutes or so.  I wouldn't let this sit too long because the tortilla could get soggy.  

If you were a savvy-spreader, you could trim your tortilla into a square, leaving a perfectly cuttable roll, with no wasteful edges.  But then, you as the chef would have no treats to fuel you as you prepare these yummy treats.  The ends may not be pretty enough to serve, but they sure taste pretty good!

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