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Sweets Day

February 14, 2010

Valentine’s Day has never really been my thing, which is weird because I LOVE pink, chocolate, going on dates, my husband, pink, and chocolate.  It’s the forced part of V-day that really gets me – the girls demanding flowers, gifts, elaborate dates, etc.  Anyway, a few years ago my husband reminded me that Valentine’s Day is just another excuse to do something fun together…not that we need an excuse, but I’ll take it 😉

So far today has been a pretty ideal Valentine’s Day for me.  We started the morning with coffee and cinnamon scones (from Immaculate Baking Co. – I love their products).  Then we headed to mass at the church where we got married 2 years ago.  After service got out at noon, we went to Omaha’s Old Market area and walked around in the snow before lunch/all-day happy hour at one of our favorite sushi restaurants.  Two martinis each and four rolls later and we headed home where I crashed on the couch in my sweats to watch Sex and the City Movie.  I love the characters and the ultimate story in this movie, but gosh, it’s sad!  If I let myself, I could cry about five different times.

I think I could get used to this Valentine’s Day thing…


Get it together

January 15, 2010

I have visions of being one of those people who has their life super organized and streamlined, gets things done on time – in advance, even , are 5 minutes early for everything, always has a tidy house decorated for the season, and just generally has their shit together. I, however, am not one of those people. I might appear organized with my Moleskine planner and all of my lists, but I will inevitably leave one of those things to the very very last minute and along the way make something more difficult than it needs to be.

Take this weekend for example. In 5 hours, my husband and I will be on a plane on the way to St. Louis to visit some friends and for me to attend a baby shower on Sunday. I have known about this shower for, oh, 3 months at least. Buying a gift for the shower has been in the back of my mind that entire time, but why would I buy the gift early? No, no that would be too easy. I had visions of myself showing up for the weekend with a beautifully wrapped small, flat, but incredibly useful gift. Some bedding for the crib, maybe a book, maybe a travel changing pad.

And then along came this week. On Tuesday afternoon, I headed straight to Babies R Us after work to buy this perfect gift. I printed out the registry and wandered around and around the store. I was planning to check an extra duffle bag for some of the items I need to bring to help host the shower, so my gift didn’t need to be too tiny, but realistic enough to put in a duffle bag. After flipping through the pages of the registry over and over again, I realized that most of the “good stuff” had already been purchased. The only things left were a bajillion bottles and the nipples (hehe) that go with them. Come on, this is a dear friend, I can do better than an empty bottle for her first born child! And then I found the gift that even a DINK like me knows every mother and baby loves – the Bumbo seat! Perfect for sitting your adorable baby in while you do something else with your tired arms and let him or her see what sitting up feels like. Of course, I had to ask someone to help me find it (the organization of that store must magically make sense once you have a bun in the oven). I stared at the boxes and surveyed if this was the right gift to pack to fly on a plane. Hmmm, it’s a little bigger than I thought…and what an odd-shaped box. But the babies on the box are having so much fun, this is just the perfect gift. I will make it work.

I did find a duffle bag that the Bumbo would fit in (albeit much larger than the one I originally planned on taking), so I figured I was good to go. Fast-forward to last night – the night before we are to leave – around 10 p.m. and I’m finally getting around to wrapping this thing. I fought with the wrapping paper for a good 20 minutes. A hexagonal box?! Really?!?! As I was struggling to cover every inch of the box with pastel paper covered in little arks and baby animals, it finally hit me. WHY am I trying to pack and take this large awkward-shaped seat to St Louis? Will my friend like me any less if I get her a different gift? Will no one else buy her this seat at the shower she has next month?

So now I am anxiously counting down the minutes until I can leave work, not only because I’m ready for the weekend and to see my long-lost friends, but so that I can dash off to Babies R Us again (GAH!!) to exchange this seat for something like a thermometer and a pack of white onesies. Which I will then rush home to wrap in the remaining ark paper before packing the rest of my things and heading off to the airport.

But, you know, I have all of this written down in my planner, so my shit is together. J

Trying to be a yogi

January 14, 2010

For the past 8 years or so I have been pretty committed to running, cardio in general and a little strength training here and there.  I truly enjoy working out and love what it does for me both mentally and physically.

Before all of that, I danced.  I loved to dance with all of my heart and poured myself into 4 hours of classes a week and 5 or so hours of dance team practices a week during the school year.  Like lots of ladies I know, I stopped dancing when I went to college.  Why I stopped and why I haven’t taken it up again…gosh, I don’t really know.  Those are thoughts for another post. 

One of the things I loved about dancing was the focus and challenge it required.  When I was in a ballet class, I was using every ounce of brain power to make sure my feet, ankles, legs, hips, torso, neck, head, arms, fingers were all in the right place.  There were always new things to try and master – turns, leaps, or just improving my technique in something I could already do. 

For me, dance is the mental opposite of running.  On a run, I don’t have to put too much thought into putting one foot in front of the other, so my mind can wander and wander.  I can work through problems, plan my day, brainstorm or just plain old daydream.  I love running because of this, but lately my mind has been needing more engagement.

I recently started taking an awesome yoga class (hot power yoga- vinyasa style).  I enjoyed the first class and left with a satisfied feeling I hadn’t had in a while.  The next class I took, it clicked – yoga takes the brain focus and concentration that dance does.  My mind feels at home when I practice yoga.  And the challenges – oh, the challenges!  There are so many things ahead of me to master!  Last night I did crow for the first time and a headstand – leaning on the wall, but I got up there on my own.  And, oh, it was lovely!  I can’t wait to go back and see what my body and my mind can do.


Bookworm: Julia’s Chocolates by Cathy Lamb

December 30, 2009

A couple months ago, my book club read The Last Time I Was Me by Cathy Lamb.  I really enjoyed this book and fell in love with the characters.  As soon as I finished that book, I looked up Cathy Lamb to see what else she has written and found Julia’s Chocolates, which was actually her first novel.   I loved it just as much as The Last Time I Was Me, although it definitely had some darker themes.

Synopsis:  At the beginning of the story, Julia is fleeing from an abusive relationship and seeks refuge at her quirky (an understatement but I can’t think of a word stronger than quirky) aunt’s home in Oregon.  Julia starts the process of healing from a life of abusive relationships and makes strong new friendships in the people in her aunt’s community in Oregon.  On top of all this, there is a studly man in town, some giant painted pigs, and, of course, chocolate.

My review: I loved it!  I fell in love with the characters as much as I did in Lamb’s other novel.  Have you ever finished a book and felt a little sad to see it end because you liked the characters so much?  And maybe wished it was a series so you could find out what they did next – because of the characters, and not from some cheesy cliff-hanger at the end?  That’s how I felt about this book.

Bookworm: What I’m reading

December 30, 2009

I really really like to read and go through phases where I will plow through at least one book a week.  This is probably why about a month ago I checked out a book from the library and started to read it only to realize I had already read it.  Oops.  I’m going to start logging the books I read and my thoughts on them right here to hopefully prevent this in the future!

Snow Day Baking

December 8, 2009

“Snow days” are a time-honored tradition here in the Midwest.  As a kid, I remember the joy at waking up naturally – without an alarm clock or my mom’s call – to realize that school should have already started and there was a blanket of white outside.  YESSS!  A snow day! 

IMG_1979Rarely do we get such a treat as adults; usually forced to pile on the snow gear, shovel the driveway, and risk our lives getting across town to work.  This morning, with three inches of snow already on the ground and another 6-10 predicted during the day, the Air Force base where my husband and I work is closed.  So we are warm and dry!  I worked from my laptop for a few hours (and got way more accomplished than I’m sure I would have in the office) and then shut-down to practice my own personal snow-day tradition.

Stuck inside with only daytime TV and books to keep us company, my sisters and I always used to celebrate snow days by baking a batch of cookies.  I didn’t have cookies in mind today, though.  One of my favorite places, Jason’s Deli, has delicious mini gingerbread muffins on their salad bar.  They are not too sweet and very moist.  I had been looking for a recipe to re-create them…but then I came across this recipe for Mini Pumpkin-Gingerbread Cupcakes.  It was close enough and – bonus! – includes pumpkin, one of my favorite ingredients.  IMG_1976

I’m usually way too lazy to make frosting, but I gave this Maple Cream Cheese Frosting a try since I had half a brick of cream cheese in the fridge that needed a use.  Unfortunately, I am out of maple syrup and I don’t think I’ve ever had maple extract in my cupboard, so I subbed agave and vanilla extract.  It’s not nearly as sweet as traditional cream cheese frosting – which I appreciate – and is more cream cheesey…I don’t know if everyone would like it, but I do!  

These cupcakes/muffins (what is the difference really?!) are delicious with or without the frosting and with or without a side of winter wonderland!

Patience and Granola

November 19, 2009

At a very young age I remember my mom telling me I needed to be more patient.  We always talked about certain traits as things we waited in line for, as if God lines up everyone that is to be born and doles out certain traits.  So when my mom told me I must not have been in the right line for patience, I replied “yea, that line was too long.”  Yes, I was a smart ass from an early age…

I ran out of my favorite Bare Naked granola last week and, with a 9 lb. box of Quaker oats in my pantry (told you I like to buy in bulk), I decided to try to make my own.  I have made granola once before and it was only so-so, but I was determined to master it this time.

I’ve had my eye on Sarah’s recipe for Suite Apple Granola for quite a while, so I tried that on Monday night.  Sarah’s recipe calls for baking the granola at 250 for 90 minutes.   I should have tried that…but instead, my impatient side reared it’s ugly head and I turned the oven up to 300.  I figured it’s still a pretty low temp and I would only bake it for 60 minutes.  Somewhere in between stirring it at 30 minutes and at 50  minutes, my granola got quite crispy.  I  threw out some of the really dark pieces along the edges and put the rest in a container, telling myself that it was just crisp and would be fine in yogurt.  Two days later and I have come to terms with the fact that I burnt the crap out of that granola. 


This morning Tina from Carrots n Cake posted a recipe for her homemade granola.  This one only bakes for 15 minutes so it seemed more up my alley.  I mixed it up and put it in the oven and about 13 minutes later, I had this:


Pretty!  But it was still a little soft and I like a good crunchy granola.  So I mixed in the raisins, and let it sit on the baking pan.  I left the kitchen to do something else because everyone knows watched granola never cools.  Came back 15 minutes later and it’s perfectly crunchy and delicious! 

Maybe someday I’ll have the patience for 90 minute granola, but until then, 15 minutes in the oven and 15 minutes on the counter is all I have time to wait in line for 🙂