Crazy Fun Weekend!

20170203_172152 great wolf lodge

It has been a couple of crazy days! I thought about dividing this up into a couple different posts, but I’m just going to cheat and throw them all together into one big compilation of our fun weekend.

On Friday morning I picked up my goddaughter, McKenna, and spent the day with her while her parents closed on a new house. We went to see the movie Sing, which I really liked! Maybe I do like animated movies. 🙂 Then we had lunch at Monk’s, did a little grocery shopping, and I dropped her off at her new house and got to look around for a few minutes. I can’t wait to see it when they’re all moved in! It was fun to spend time with McKenna, though I think I need to do it more often so she gets more comfortable hanging out with me.

I had just enough time back at home to take a half hour nap before it was time to gather everything up for the Dells. Shepard had a cold this week and Greg and I bought caught it on Thursday. Caden caught it on Saturday. Of course, because vacations are always the best time to get sick. 😛 Anyway, we were going into the weekend a little worse for wear, but we made the most of it.

20170203_173545 fireplace

The Dells

For Christmas, Greg’s parents usually give the boys a weekend in the Dells as one of their bigger gifts. We really appreciate the experience gift and it gives us all something to look forward to in the long winter months. This year we checked out Great Wolf Lodge for the first time. We left right after school, had a quick dinner at Taco Bell, and then got settled into the hotel. Our rooms were gigantic and had nice fireplaces and sitting areas. The boys were ready to swim immediately after getting in the room. We all went down for a little bit and explored around the waterpark. Their favorite of the night was the family “hot tub,” which was more like warm bathwater. 🙂

20170203_193828(0)dippin dots

After some time in the water, we explored the rest of the hotel and stopped at the sweet shop to share a container of Dippin’ Dots ice cream. Greg had never had it before (or the boys), so his parents had to buy him some. 🙂

20170203_194636 bear paw

More exploring. I was about to keel over from cold induced exhaustion at this point. But we still had to stop at the game room!

20170203_200056 game room

Just a couple of games before turning in for the night.

20170203_203943 bedtime

Before we got to the game room, Caden was running really fast down the halls and he ran into one of those penny smashing machines. He hurt his arm pretty bad and wasn’t in the mood for any more pictures. Fortunately, they both fell asleep really quickly. It was adorable because after awhile Shepard kept trying to roll over and snuggle into Caden’s arm in his sleep. Caden would start stirring, Greg would get up and move him back to his side of the bed, and then he’d immediately roll back over to Caden. I couldn’t stop laughing. But it was also really sweet.

frog pond

Despite the late night, the boys and I were up before 6. Fortunately I had the foresight to bring some donuts on this trip, so we just ate donuts and played tablet/read for a couple of hours. Then we were back at the pool when it opened at 9. This little bridge contraption is always Caden’s favorite at any waterpark we go to. This time he was honing his skills on getting across without even touching the rope.

caden ball

waterslide

It’s kind of funny to me how we keep going to waterparks, but the boys are mostly just interested in actually swimming. They both LOVED the wave pool this time around. Wave pools freak me out after feeling like I was going to drown in one at Noah’s Ark as a kid. But of course super swimmer Caden kept going as deep as he could and never wanted to leave! Shepard enjoyed going down the lazy river tube slide a bunch of times with Greg, but other than that had no interest in the slides. So Greg and I decided to check out one of the milder slides together. It was pretty fun, but the line was too long to feel like it was worth going again.

20170204_123234a ll the tickets

After swimming, we went back to our rooms for a little while. Steve ran to Culver’s to get lunch to bring back to the hotel. As much as I love going to delicious sit down restaurants, simplicity really is the best when you’re in situations like this with kids. After we ate we headed back to the game room to use up the rest of our points. Caden had some sort of meltdown and went back to the room, so Shepard got to play all the rest of the games and claim the tickets.

ticket prizes

Without any prompting, he spent his tickets buying two of everything, so Caden could have prizes too. He really loved his new purple bracelet and Love ring. 🙂 He also bought a bunch of candy bracelets and tootsie rolls for Grandpa.

20170204_141416 greg and amy

The Ice Castles

It was time to check out of the hotel, so then we headed to our final destination – the Dells Ice Castles.

20170204_141442(0) ice castles

20170204_141521 blue ice

20170204_141556(0) greg and caden

20170204_142009 ice

20170204_142330 cool blue ice

These were definitely quite the thing to experience! It would have been a little more enjoyable if it weren’t so cold or crowded, but we all had fun. Shepard never wanted to leave!

20170204_142521 caden

20170204_143951(0) slide

20170204_144017 slide

20170204_144901 chute

Overall, it was a really fun trip. Thank you, Steve and Cindy! We all agreed that Great Wolf Lodge was our favorite of the waterparks we’ve visited the last few years. I’d definitely be okay with going back again someday.

IMG_0455 dips

Mom’s Birthday

Now on to today! Today we celebrated my mom’s birthday. She requested spinach dip, one of her favorite things I make. When my dad found out, he requested “normal dip.” So – both dips!

IMG_0457 brie

I had another brie in the fridge and some berries that needed to be used, so I made another batch of that brie from earlier in the week. Yummy!

IMG_0458 garlic cheese bread

Pull apart garlic cheese bread.

IMG_0459 potatoes

Roasted potatoes.

IMG_0460 chicken

And Cuban chicken with chimmichurri.

IMG_0464 gracie picture

Shepard drew a picture of Grandma’s dog Gracie saying “Please don’t disappear, Mom!” I have no idea what made him think to write those words. They were equally disturbing and hilarious! I like the dandelion he drew on the front.

IMG_0467 cadens card

Caden also drew a picture of Gracie. Apparently she’s the only of the three dogs that make an impression on the boys.

IMG_0473 new annie

I made her an Annie and pig set with some pig fabric she mentioned loving a few weeks ago. Timmy and Brittany gave her some coveted Lipstick Queen lipstick. Jealous!

IMG_0478 birthday cake

My dad brought a white raspberry cake from Carl’s Cakes for dessert. It was delicious!

IMG_0479 birthday cake

Shepard, the ham ball. He was trying to show off his “blue” lips after he tried on Grandma’s Hello Sailor Lipstick Queen lipstick.

IMG_0482 birthday cake

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Sunday Intentions

And finally, my last segment of this very long post. My intentions for the week are pretty simple – WORK! Last week was fun and crazy, but I didn’t get any sewing done. Even though I almost never get custom orders, last week I got an onslaught of them. Sometimes I like custom orders because they make people happy. But most of the time they frustrate me because I don’t have any time to work on the things I really want to work on. Which right now is a lot! So I need to get those done so I can move on to other things. Next week will be full of Shepard’s birthday related things, so this is my one big work week of the month apparently!

Have a good week!

Valentine’s Party

IMG_0442 valentine

Last night I had a little Valentine’s party with my friends. My Favorite Things party in Christmas was so much fun, I wanted to have another event for friends to gather and laugh and eat and drink. I basically haven’t even seen most of my friends since the last party because it’s been so cold and icky outside. I missed them!

IMG_0447 fireplace

The theme for the party was cocktails and desserts. I wanted to try and keep it simple. For drinks we had a couple kinds of wine and I mixed up a big container of this Valentine Love Martini (with pineapple rum instead of malibu, and peach vodka instead of citron) – it was delicious!

IMG_0449 raspberry truffle

The main dessert was my award winning Raspberry Truffle cheesecake. I don’t think I’ve made it in three years! It was still tasty! And pretty. 🙂

IMG_0452 dessert

I also really wanted to use these mini parfait and dessert cups, so I made tiny strawberry shortcakes and butterscotch pudding.

IMG_0450 salty

I threw in a few easy salty snacks to combat the sweets. My mom also brought some nuts.

IMG_0454 brie

And finally some AMAZING baked brie. I can’t have a party without brie. 🙂 I think this was the best baked brie recipe I’ve tried. I ate all the leftovers for lunch today. So, so good.

Anyway, besides just the eating and drinking, I also asked everybody to bring a $5 Valentine gift to exchange, just because gifts are super fun. Everyone seemed to put a lot of thought into what they brought and it was fun to see what each person received. I gave three fancy chocolate bars from World Market, wrapped in red and pink wrappers. I received a cake mix, Valentine cupcake liners and toppers, and a really cute Valentine spatula. I also gave everybody a gift bag of treats I’ve spent the last few weeks putting together. I wish I could have a career making themed gift bags. I love it soooo much.

It was a great party! Relaxing and special and just a really great time to connect with people again. I think it might have to be another annual event!

Happy (very early) Valentine’s Day!

What I Read and Watched January 2017

Hello! I wanted to start a series this year summarizing what I read and watch each month. I’ve noticed some other blogs that do this and I really enjoy it. I’m always up for more recommendations of books, tv, and movies, so maybe you are too!

BOOKS

the edge of never

The Edge of Never by J. A. Redmerksi
Rating: 4 stars

An interesting YA book that mostly takes place on a Greyhound bus. It’s about character development between the two main characters as they slowly get to know each other and inevitably fall in love.

the edge of always

The Edge of Always by J. A. Redmerski
Rating: 3.5 stars

The sequel is more about trials and challenges the couple faces after their whirlwind romance. It’s about loss and heartache, but ultimately sticking together and becoming stronger. Both books in this series were solid YA novels, though neither were un-put-downable.

a man called ove

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
Rating: 3.5 stars

There was so much hype about this book. Everywhere. So many people absolutely adored it. I did not. I actually found the first 3/4 of this book to be very predictable and boring. I’d rate that portion of the book 2 stars, which is about the lowest I’ve ever rated anything. But I powered through and it got really touching and wonderful at the end. I’m not sure I actually recommend reading it, but if you’ve started, it’s worth finishing.

did i mention i love you

Did I Mention I Love You? by Estelle Maskame
Rating: 3 stars

A story about a girl who spends a summer with her dad and his new wife and 3 sons. Predictably, she falls for her stepbrother. Normally I’d like this story line, but I HATED the main male character. He was pretty much the worst teenage boy you can imagine. So it was a struggle to be invested in their relationship. And yet I kept reading.

did i mention i need you

Did I Mention I Need You? by Estelle Maskame
Rating: 3 stars

This follows the main characters a year later in New York for the summer. They’re a little more mature and likable, but there was just a lot of excess detail and drama that annoyed me.

did i mention i miss you

Did I Mention I Miss You? by Estelle Maskame
Rating: 3.5 stars

Another year later, the story of Eden and Tyler concludes. I liked the character development better in this one, though from the beginning of the series to the end, it’s truly hard to believe it’s the same boy turned man. This series really could have been condensed to a single book. Possibly two. Three was way more than you need.

the night bird

The Nightbird by Brian Freeman
Rating: 4 stars

This was my Amazon Prime pick of the month. I really enjoy reading the occasional psychological thriller, even though it’s not a genre I read regularly. This story was pretty fairly fast paced. The character development did not delve very deeply, but the story line was intriguing. Worth a read if you like psychological mysteries.

the sun is also a star

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
Rating: 3.5 stars

Another book that was getting a lot of attention in my online circles. I’ve been trying to throw in a lot more popular and well talked about books in between my favored YA novels. This was the story of a teenage undocumented Jamaican girl on her last day in New York City, and a first generation Korean American teenage boy that met her that day. They have a worthwhile adventure together and ultimately fall in love, after spending the intense day together. I didn’t appreciate having that obvious deadline looming over the whole book. Why read something when you know they can’t possibly have a happy ending? But I’m glad I read it overall.

too late

Too Late by Colleen Hoover
Rating: 4.5 stars

Colleen Hoover is one of my all time favorite authors. Her books are intensely romantic and fast paced and addicting. This one didn’t disappoint, but it was also very dark and violent. The story centered much more around an abusive relationship than the romance between that woman and the undercover cop who was there to take down her boyfriend. It was certainly a unique story and I couldn’t put it down. But it also made me uncomfortable and sad to see a woman used in such a way, so I couldn’t quite give it her usual 5 star rating. If you like romance novels with legitimate and interesting story lines, though, check out some of her other books! Slammed is one of my all time favorites. November 9 is also really good.

MOVIES

lalaland

La La Land

When I first saw a preview for this movie I wasn’t interested at all. But after it won so many Golden Globe awards and people were talking about it all over the place, I decided to check it out. I thought it was a little bit slow going at times, but definitely a very uniquely put together movie. The ending really threw me for a loop and I wasn’t in a very good head space at the time to appreciate it. But it truly was a wonderful movie.

sing street

Sing Street

We just watched this the other night and I loved it! I’ll watch pretty much anything that takes place in Ireland or has Irish actors. I’ll also watch just about anything with singing in it. 🙂 It was a really sweet movie about a bunch of Irish teens that started a band to try and better their lives. I found it highly enjoyable.

storks

Storks

I’m not usually a huge fan of animated movies. But we were looking for something we could all watch together and this was new at redbox and looked cute. I really liked it!!

honey i shrunk

Honey, I Shrunk the Kids

Caden and I needed something to watch together on the day he stayed home sick. All he wanted to watch were Pokemon things, which I have ZERO interest in. So I found this on netflix. He was not impressed. But he did start “playing invention” that day, so it did help his imagination a little! 🙂

antman

Ant-Man

Another family movie night. My kids used to hate movies, but suddenly this winter it’s all they want to do, if video games aren’t an option. Greg’s been watching a lot of Marvel movies with them, and I tuned in for this one. I’ve seen it before, I like it. But it does have a whole lot of swear words in it, very worthy of it’s PG-13 rating. Oops.

TV

I watch a lot of tv because I can do it while I’m working on an abundance of hand sewing. With doll making there’s a lot of that. Greg and I usually watch one tv episode a night as well.

TV – By Myself:

  • Shameless – I started this maybe in November. I’m just about caught up with all seven seasons.
  • Grimm – The newest (and last) season just started a few weeks ago. Still love this show!
  • Bones – This newest (and also last) season recently started too. Always a good one!
  • New Girl – I stick with New Girl purely for Schmidt, Nick, and Winston. I can’t stand Jess. Seriously, so annoying. And most fake laugh ever.
  • Vampire Diaries – I think this is also the last season for this show. What am I going to watch next year?!
  • Quantico – Still hard to follow half of the time, but I like the second season more than the first. We used to watch together, but Greg got sick of it.
  • No Tomorrow – I just found out about and started this one on netflix. I don’t think it’s one of my favorites, but it’s cute and fun.

TV – Together:

  • The Affair – Still trucking along. I’m not really sure where this show is going. It’s okay.
  • Crazy Ex-Girlfriend – Funny and entertaining and a little bit annoying. I’ve been irritable ever since Greg, my favorite character, left the show. I don’t like it as much as I used to.
  • Riverdale – This just started and we watched the first episode. I think we’ll like it!
  • The Flash – Always a favorite! Love that Barry Allen. 🙂
  • Arrow – Not so much a favorite anymore. But we can’t give it up.

I think that’s about it! With such a cold, icy, gloomy month there’s been a lot of book and tv consumption. I’d love to hear what you’re reading and watching!

 

Sunday Intentions

Well, I thought I was setting myself up for a pretty easy week with my intentions last Sunday. But I epically failed at all of it. I didn’t have any super meaningful experiences with my kids, I read maybe one chapter of Present Over Perfect, and I didn’t give myself a Self Care Day. It didn’t help that Caden was home sick on Tuesday (more of a mental health day I allowed him) and Wednesday was another snow day. I planned to have a self care day on Thursday instead, but I didn’t feel like I could afford to take a day off from everything I desperately needed to work on. Another messed up week and many more days of plans I made for myself that didn’t work out.

This next week is busy. Compared to how quiet our schedule usually is, this next week is insane. It’s a lot of really fun stuff, but I’ve been very stressed out over pulling it all together. Last night I was nearing panic mode over everything I needed to figure out and get done. But today I sat down and made my lists for each day and I know it’s all going to come together. And it’s going to be great, even if it’s not “perfect.”

Top Priority: HAVE FUN!

I’m getting my hair cut for the first time in six months tomorrow. I’m looking forward to actually having a reason to make an effort again.

I’m having a Valentine party with my friends on Wednesday. Desserts and cocktails. I’m really looking forward to hanging out with people after basically two months of not seeing anyone since my last party! Wisconsin winters are hard for the social life. There’s obviously some prep I need to do to get ready for another party, but it’ll be well worth it.

I’m spending Friday with my goddaughter. I’m not sure what we’re going to do yet, but I’m looking forward to getting to know her better. I kind of miss having fun filled weekdays with a kid. It should be a lot of fun.

Then Friday night and Saturday we’re going to the Dells with Greg’s parents as part of the boys’ Christmas present. After this cold and icy winter month, I’m really looking forward to actually doing something exciting and special with everyone. I know the boys will really love having a chance to swim again. It’s been too long since we’ve seen a pool!

And Sunday we’re having a birthday party for my mom. Which will also be a blast.

Second Priority: Cut Myself Some Slack

So that’s a lot of stuff on the calendar. With a lot of cleaning and food prep and packing and planning and wrapping in between. I’m basically assuming I will get no sewing done this week. I’m fortunate I can take these breaks when I need it! Even though a week without working kind of freaks me out. As I mentioned last week, I do a lot better when I stay very consistent! But LIFE is more important this week and I want to enjoy it.

Basically, I don’t want the details to stress me out. Usually I have ONE THING on my weekly schedule – Drumfit. Having things every day in a week sometimes terrifies me. But it’s also been a long and gloomy January, and I’m really looking forward to having some fun in the next few days. Connecting with people again. Seeing my kids laughing and running around without a video game in sight. Celebrating my awesome mom for her birthday. It’ll all come together and it’ll all be great. 🙂

Meal Plans

Monday – Chicken Fajita Soup (I might have said I was going to make this last week, but it never happened)

Tuesday – Valentine Ravioli from Costco

Wednesday – Party food!

Thursday – Probably leftover soup! Maybe pizza…

Friday – Dells

Have a good week!

 

Pizza Night

IMG_0439 pizza

Friday nights are a huge deal in our house. Because: PIZZA. I think we might have started having homemade pizza every Friday night as far back as four or five years ago. And now everyone is so highly invested in the tradition that I’m never allowed to deviate from it. Unless on the very rare occasion we’re not home on a Friday night. Then pizza is required to happen on Saturday nights. Greg and Shepard LOVE pizza. I like pizza, but I love knowing what I’m going to make every Friday for dinner. It’s amazing how much pressure it takes off me even having that one night’s meal planned every single week.

IMG_0380 dough

The majority of the time I use a crust recipe from The Everything Pizza Cookbook. There’s a basic crust recipe and then a bunch of variations. Each crust is supposed to make four pizzas, though I always divide it into three. Most of the time I use the basic crust recipe and add a tablespoon of some sort of Italian seasoning to give it a little extra flavor. Sometimes I add a lot of black pepper, or a cup of shredded cheese, or some fresh garlic. The possibilities are endless and it always turns out great. The dough is basically fool proof and can be ready in as little as an hour if I happen to forget to make it earlier in the day. But I have a pretty set schedule of making a new batch every three weeks and freezing the dough for weeks in between.

IMG_0382 olive oil

I think the most important necessity for making a good homemade pizza is having a pizza stone, pizza peel, and making sure the oven is hot enough to cook it properly. I set my oven at 475 and try to have it (with the pizza stone) heating up for at least half an hour before the pizza goes in. A few weeks ago we had a disaster when I wasn’t feeling well and took a late nap and then Shepard woke me up demanding pizza NOW. Even though I knew better, I put the pizza in way too early and ended up losing half of it when the uncooked dough flopped off the stone. It was not a good night!

IMG_0387 olive oil painting

While the oven is heating up, we roll the dough as big as we can possibly make it while still keeping it on the peel. This is usually Greg’s job. Then Shepard does his favorite task of brushing olive oil all over the crust.

IMG_0394 heavy handed cheese

We always line the edges of the crust with garlic salt and shredded parmesan cheese. Shepard doesn’t usually do this and has way too heavy of a hand with the cheese! Which of course he thought was hilarious.

IMG_0396 cheesy

That’s a lot of crust cheese.

IMG_0400 sauce dancing

I used to experiment with a lot of different sauces and toppings. I have at least three pizza cookbooks with many, many options! One time I made a pizza that had broccoli on it and Greg freaked out. And he loves broccoli. So in the last year we’ve kept a pretty strict rotation between Buffalo Bacon, BBQ Bacon, and Pepperoni. Except recently Shepard decided he no longer likes pepperoni, or any traditionally sauced pizza, which has limited us even more. I fear his wrath over not having one of his favorite pizzas more than I want to risk trying something different.

But for a couple of other ideas, one of my all time favorites is really simple: olive oil, mozzarella, fresh garlic, and honey. It’s not quite substantial enough to be a complete meal, but it’s so delicious. I’ve also tried white pizzas with an olive oil base, riccota, and a bunch of other white cheeses – also delish. Thai pizzas are one of my favorites, but Greg doesn’t like peanut sauce, so it’s something I’ve only made for myself at lunch. Peanut sauce base, cheeses, chilies, sriracha, and maybe a little fresh cabbage salad and peanuts to top it off – yum. I think maybe it’s time to dig through the cookbooks and try to switch things up every once in awhile. I’m getting pretty sick of our standards.

IMG_0410 sauce tasting

But back to tonight’s pizza and the one we make most often. Buffalo Bacon. I realize most people make Buffalo CHICKEN pizza, but having already made chicken to add to the pizza was an extra step I got really sick of doing. So bacon it is. We always use Shur-Fine buffalo wing sauce. Which costs about $1.30 at Woodman’s. I practically buy it in bulk because Shepard uses it on everything. I’m not generally a buffalo sauce fan, but it is good with pizza!

IMG_0418 bacon breaking

Since I can’t vary the actual pizza itself that much, I do a lot of experimenting with different cheeses. A lot of the time I do just use a mix of store bought shredded mozzarella, monterey jack, and occasionally provolone. Greg and I aren’t really fans of cheddar, so we steer clear of traditional pizza cheese mixes. I love adding fresh mozzarella, but I’m the only one that really likes it. I like shredding my own cheese so I have more options and less of that chalky stuff that comes on pre-shredded cheese. One of my favorites to add to buffalo pizza is buffalo jack cheese. I’ve also used buffalo flavored cheese curds. Tonight we used a mix of home grated mozzarella and jalapeno munster.

IMG_0420 testing the bacon

And we can’t forget the bacon! I try to remember to cook up a batch of bacon in the oven every Thursday or Friday during the day. You really can’t beat real bacon. But I always have a bag of store bought bacon bits in the fridge to use in a pinch. There’s one brand that makes peppered bacon bits that are especially tasty.

IMG_0434 thumbs up

The final step is a sprinkling of cilantro. Tonight we just used dried, which basically has no flavor. But for awhile there I was using a fancy container of already chopped and half dried – yet still super fresh and green – cilantro that I found also at Woodman’s. I should really buy another one because the flavor is there without needing to buy fresh cilantro every week.

IMG_0437 spice shelf

I carefully slide the pizza in the oven and then madly spend the next 8-10 minutes getting everything else on the table and finally thinking about what to give Caden, who won’t eat pizza. The pizza is done in 8 minutes if the oven was hot enough, 10 if it wasn’t. As you can see, we’re very dedicated pizza eaters because we have an entire shelf of spicy toppings. I really just like crushed red pepper. Greg usually has grated parmesan cheese and “Pizza” (found at Target). Shepard likes to experiment with everything.

IMG_0438 pbj

Caden used to love pizza and then a couple of years ago he decided he hates cheese. Unless it’s pepperjack… So no pizza for him. Or grilled cheese. Or cheesy garlic bread. He’s otherwise an extremely good eater, so we don’t really put up a fight about the cheese issue. As far as Greg’s concerned, that’s one less person we have to share the pizza with! Caden usually has peanut butter and jelly on Fridays.

IMG_0439 pizza

And there’s our pizza! It had a lot of bubbles tonight, which does not usually happen. But still good. 🙂 Hopefully this post satisfies the people who wanted to know more about our pizza tradition. In much less rambling detail, the crust recipe is below. Enjoy!

Basic Pizza Crust (Slightly adapted from The Everything Pizza Cookbook)

  • 4 1/2 (or two packages) tbs. active dry yeast
  • 2 cups of warm water
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 6 cups bread flour
  • 2 tbs. olive oil
  1. In a large mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in 1 1/2 cups of warm water. Let stand for 5 minutes. Combine all remaining ingredients. Use a standing mixer with a dough attachment, but if you don’t have one you’ll have to knead by hand.
  2. Continue to knead bread for 5 minutes until the dough is slightly shiny and not very sticky. If you’re using a mixer it should come together as a ball, pulling all the remaining dough from the edges. Add extra water if it doesn’t seem to be mixing well enough. If it becomes too sticky, add more flour.
  3. Place dough ball into a greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise 1-2 hours.
  4. Pre-heat oven with pizza stone to 475 degrees. Divide dough into three portions. Roll out one section of dough onto a cornmeal dusted pizza peel or pan. Top with ingredients.
  5. Let oven heat 20-30 minutes. Slide pizza in and let it cook 8-10 minutes, keeping an eye on it at the end. Pizza is done when the cheese is browning and bubbling. Enjoy!

My Favorite Podcasts: Part 2

It’s time for an update on my favorite podcasts! Last month I wrote a post about my current favorites as a new podcast addict. I’ve continued to listen to them throughout my day and have come across a couple of new favorites. I had to share!

Happier with Gretchen Rubin

This is one I definitely listen to every morning. Generally only one or two episodes a day, so I can let the message of each one really sink it. They’re usually only 15-20 minutes long, which I’m finding is my favorite kind of podcast. It’s frustrating when it feels like it takes me an entire day to get through a single episode of a longer podcast. Anyway, this one is by the famous happiness guru Gretchen Rubin and her sister, tv producer and writer Elizabeth Craft. On each episode they talk about a try this at home tip for boosting your happiness. They are all really interesting and useful. They also talk about other happiness related topics and end each episode with a happiness demerit and gold star for things that have happened recently in their lives. Overall it’s a really positive thing to listen to every day, and I think it would be the perfect fit for just about everyone. Most of my podcasts are more niche centered, but this one can be enjoyed by all.

The Lazy Sisters Podcast

I only started listening to this one a couple of days ago, but I’ve been totally binging it. This is a podcast between two sisters, Kendra and Hannah. They just have a conversation about various things, usually centered around pop culture. It’s highly entertaining and SO funny. I only hesitate to recommend it because there are only 26 episodes that end with “A Temporary Farewell” at the beginning of last October. I really hope they pick it up again as I’m sure to be finished with all of the episodes in a day or two! There’s also a Lazy Genius podcast put on by Kendra, that I plan on listening to too. Hopefully that’ll be a recommendation for next time!

Doughboys with Nick Wiger and Mike Mitchell

I’ve realized I really like listening to podcasts about food. I’m just about caught up with my favorite, Spilled Milk, so recently sought out another. Doughboys is a podcast where they review a different chain restaurant on each episode. They always have an extra guest and proceed to talk about the history of each restaurant, what they’re famous for, and then their experiences at each place. It’s funny and interesting, especially if you eat at a lot of chain restaurants! I’m not very far into this, but I’ve found it entertaining. The only downfall is that each episode is well over an hour long.

Well, I thought I had more to recommend and then I realized I jumped the gun and wrote about them in my last post! Besides these three newest I also find myself listening to Spilled Milk, The Popcast, and What Should I Read Next almost on a daily basis. My list of subscribed podcasts is still growing, so hopefully I’ll have more recommendations soon!

Sunday Intentions

It’s been another kind of weird week that has left me frustrated with myself for a lot of reasons. Shepard was sick – again, there was no school on Monday, school was cancelled due to ice on Tuesday, and there was a late start on Wednesday – so it was definitely an off week for having them in a regular routine. Greg was also home Tuesday for weather and Friday because we had yet another plumbing emergency. We had to get our sewer pipe snaked for the second time in five weeks. I also had some fun shopping planned for that day that I had to cancel, which always bums me out. Things always come up on the rare day I actually have special plans for myself. I ran my grocery errands on Wednesday, so I really only had one “normal day” this entire week and it’s hard to cram everything I want to get done in a week into a single day. I spent the earlier part of the week really excited about possibly going on an Ireland/Scotland trip later this year, and then the second half of the week bummed because I just don’t think we can swing it. It would be an irresponsible financial decision when we have so many other things we need to focus our money toward first this year. Like a new sewer line. In between all the chaos, I’ve felt very unmotivated to get any of my real work done and constantly frustrated with my inability to just sit down and focus.

So something needs to change this week. I need to be more open to changes in my schedule and personal agenda for one. I think I have gotten better at this in the last few months since sick kids and bad weather have made me cancel or postpone way too many of my plans. But I’m still internally very frustrated when I can’t go through with what I wanted to do on any given day. Being a mom is supposed to always be my number one priority, but it’s something I’ve really lost sight of as my kids have gotten older and more independent. I don’t want to lose them and our relationships because I’m always too busy with my own stuff.

Priority One: Kids

I’ve never been that great with sitting down and playing with my kids at home. I greatly prefer taking them out somewhere – anywhere. Going on walks or bike rides, having picnics at the park, spontaneous lunches at restaurants, checking out zoos and special places throughout the summer. I love doing those things with them, but have an extremely hard time focusing on them when we’re just sitting at home. And in winter months with horrible weather, sitting at home is basically all we do. I’d just like to be more open to finding the fun WITH THEM during these long months. Last night we had a movie night watching Storks and eating popcorn. It felt like one of the best things I did all week. The boys and Greg have tons of movie nights, but I’m usually doing my own thing. It felt very worthwhile to institute and follow through with it myself.

Priority Two: Self Care Wednesdays

This last Wednesday I saw a couple instagram posts about Self Care Wednesday. I love this idea! A couple of weeks ago I went and saw La La Land in the middle of the day on a Wednesday. It felt like such a luxurious treat! It might not always fall on a Wednesday, but I’d like to start devoting one day a week to doing something that really makes me happy. Maybe with that one special day to look forward to, I’ll have an easier time getting serious about work on the other four days of the week. I can think of all kinds of fun things I’d like to do to focus on self care. Movies, special shopping trips to stores I like to go to just for fun, a few hours walking around the antique mall, reading all day, working on a special sewing project just for myself. The list is pretty endless. I really want to enjoy my life beyond the almighty to do list, and this seems like about the easiest and most fun way to do it.

Priority Three: Read Present Over Perfect

I started this book last night and was shocked and overwhelmed to see everything I’ve been feeling these last few months right there in front of me on the page. I’m not alone! The author, Shauna Niequist, talked about how she made busyness and her to do list accomplishments an idol in her life. She talked about her frustrations with how her husband and kids were allowed so much leisure time and her work could never stop. Chapter after chapter was an EXACT replica to everything I’ve been struggling with so much ever since this school year started when my expectations for myself and my time grew to more than I can actually manage. So I’m making reading this book a top priority for my week. I can’t wait to see what she suggests for moving past this crippling mindset I’ve gotten myself stuck in.

Priority Four: Work

Alas, working is still part of my life now, and I can’t forget it! I started a batch of 24 ornament sized dolls the other day and I need to finish them. A batch of 24 is A LOT. But they’re my best sellers and I need to make them for every major holiday. I’m hoping on Monday and Tuesday I’ll be able to get these done and then on Thursday and Friday I can start something new. Maybe St. Patrick’s Day, maybe spring, maybe Easter. I just need to keep going. Whenever I take breaks I have a harder time getting started again. Consistency is key in this kind of work.

MEAL PLAN

Monday – Hot Dogs (I’m all about easy this week)

Tuesday – Tacos (I’ve been craving tacos like crazy lately)

Wednesday – Chicken Fajita Soup

Thursday – Leftovers

Friday – Buffalo Pizza

Have a good week!

17 Years Together

1st Picture Together

On January 17, 2000, my best friend Dianne and I volunteered to work at the Japanese fundraiser booth at a school event called Share Fair. That single decision set the course for the rest of my life and I will be forever grateful to her for roping me into joining her. 🙂

That evening we arrived at the booth early because we didn’t have anything better to do. That is where I met Greg. I knew who he was because Dianne was in Japanese class with him and she used to have a bit of a crush on him. We’d show up at these fundraisers together the year before to spy on him. Because that’s what 8th graders do. I also had piano lessons after his little sisters and was aware that he belonged to that family. So knowing that he was working the booth before us, we decided to go ahead and join him for the rest of his shift.

My memories of those first few hours together just make me laugh. First of all, I was a total giggly mess. And Greg was doing basically everything he could to brush me off. I remember a big argument because he insisted to me that his mom and sisters, who were across the cafeteria eating, were not actually his family. Even after they walked over to talk to him. I told him that I worked at Cousins and he went into a big thing about how Subway is the only sub place worth going to. We had nothing in common. He was a video game nerd who only wore Dragon Ball Z shirts and never had a girlfriend before. I was coming off a couple month span of being totally boy crazy, with different crushes every week. Oh, and I suppose I should mention that we were both 15. He was a sophomore and I was a freshman.

I also have some very sweet memories from that night. Mainly, Greg refused to leave when his shift was over and stuck around with us for ours. It had to mean something! He also spent a long time continuously retrieving a ball for a little boy who kept kicking it at us. I dubbed him Super Greg at that point, made a little cartoon character for him, and continued to call him SG for a very long time after that.

Somehow after that first night together I managed to get his email address or chat name. I started sending him messages online and also writing him notes when I found him in school. Looking back, I was basically stalking him and really quite bold! But my persistence wore him down and he eventually agreed to hang out with me again. The picture above is the first picture taken of us on February 4, 2000. We were going to hang out at a youth group type hangout place, but it ended up being closed. Instead we went with my family to my little brother’s elementary school dance, where we wandered the halls and laughed at the pictures on the walls. After the dance we went back to my house where I played piano and he sang along with the songs. It was sweet. 🙂

1st Together

The next night, we went on our very first date to the Turnabout dance. It was quite the fiasco getting him to agree to go with me. But it happened!

1st Turnabout

And that was how our relationship began! We’ve always called January 17th the day we got together and continue to celebrate it every year. I don’t remember a whole lot of specifics from the early days, except that we spent as much time together as we could. I’m pretty sure we never so much as even had a lunch period together in high school, but we’d always be writing each other notes and talking in between classes. We spent a lot of time hanging out each others’ houses, went to every dance together, and sometimes spent time at parks, concerts, etc. On February 25th, we had our first kiss. On March 17th, I told him I loved him after watching him at his choir concert. We were basically inseparable from then on.

Around Year 1

I can’t find a picture of our first anniversary together, though I do vaguely remember celebrating it by walking around a mall together. This was still before I had a digital camera, so two years of photos are packed away in a box somewhere. If they even exist. This is as close as I could find, from Greg’s junior prom in May 2001.

2 Years

Our second anniversary in 2002. Greg was a senior and I was a junior.

3 Years

Our third anniversary in 2003. This was a harder year because Greg was in college and I was still in high school. I know we spent as much time as we could together on weekends, but he wanted to experience the college life and we both had separate jobs we needed to be at.

4 Years

Fourth anniversary in 2004. We were much happier here! 🙂 Greg was at UW Madison and I was at Edgewood. It was a lot easier to be together when we were living in the same city. I loved this new stage in our relationship where we were both adults and could start forming new traditions together. My favorites were our Thursday nights. We’d always go out to dinner at Chipotle or Buffalo Wild Wings and then attend Primetime, a Campus Crusade meeting. We were both always busy with college things, but Thursdays were a priority.

5 Years 1

Our fifth and favorite anniversary, January 2005. Notice the ring? 🙂

5 Years 2

At this point, we knew we wanted to be together forever, it was just a matter of feeling ready to move forward. We were 20, both still in school. I can’t remember what else we did on this anniversary date, but it ended with us sitting at our favorite spot, a fallen tree next to Lake Wingra. Greg got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. It was one of the best days of my life.

6 Years

Our sixth anniversary, 2006. This was another kind of tricky year as we figured out when and how to make a wedding happen. Greg was going to graduate and had a job lined up in Minnesota. I had a year left at Edgewood. We didn’t want to put off getting married more than a year and a half after the engagement and we didn’t want to spend five months living apart from each other while I finished. In the end, I decided to transfer to Minneapolis College of Art and Design to finish my Graphic Design degree. I stopped at Edgewood six months before the wedding so I could work full time while Greg finished his final semester. In the end, I wasn’t able to go to MCAD because financial aid fell through. I have a lot of regrets about the decisions we made this year and sometimes wonder about how differently things could have been if I had just finished my degree when I was supposed to. But we were young and in love and NEEDED to be married!

7 Years

Our 7th anniversary, 2007. We were married and living in Minnesota. Greg was working at Thomson West and I was working part time at Panera while finishing up a graphic design certificate at Sessions Online School of Design. Many people say the first year of marriage is the hardest, but I found it to be a whirlwind of fun and excitement. It was great for us to move away from everything we knew, so we could just focus on each other and our new lives together. We had so much fun exploring the Twin Cities. I think back on these early years of marriage as when we were most spontaneous and fun together. I kind of miss it!

8 Years Surprise

Eighth anniversary, 2008, came with a surprise! Actually it was planned, but still very exciting!

8 Years

This was another year of transition as we got ready to become parents. I was also finishing my bachelor’s degree online while working at a church as a Communications Specialist. 2008 was also the year we bought our first house. A lot of change and a lot of excitement!

9 Years

Ninth anniversary, 2009. The year of new parenthood. Life with a baby who never slept and wanted to nurse 24/7. It was an adjustment, but it also brought us closer. We learned how to tackle parenting responsibilities as a team and deepened our relationship with each other.

10 Years

Tenth anniversary in 2010. This is the year we became pregnant with Shepard and decided we wanted to move back to Wisconsin to be closer to family. It was the start of a very hard year of transition and adjustment as we dealt with a lot of issues trying to sell our house. But the struggle also brought us closer as we learned how to deal with things better together.

11 years

Our 11th anniversary, 2011. Just a month and a day before we welcomed Shepard into the world! Besides the chaos of living in a variety of places, dealing with a newborn who threw up five times a day in a house without a washing machine, I remember this as a pretty fun year. Shepard brought a lot of sunshine and happiness into our family. It’s also the year we eventually moved into our apartment after FINALLY selling our house. And the year Caden began his journey with speech therapy.

12 Years Valentines Day

Our 12th anniversary, 2012. Life with two rambunctious little boys!

13 Years

Our 13th anniversary, 2013. Another year filled with parenting and making the most of things.

14 Years

Our 14th anniversary, 2014. These years have not been very exciting to our overall life story. But we were together!

15 Years

Our 15th anniversary, 2015.

16 Years

Our 16th anniversary, 2016. This was our first monumental year in awhile. We also celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary this year. Our biggest event of the year was buying a new house. The crazy process of looking at houses daily, arguing and comparing all the pros and cons of each one, and finally falling in love with the same house for all the same reasons, was quite a journey. SO many ups and downs in like a three week span. But it brought us together and made us realize how align our priorities still are. Sometimes that’s easy to forget when we’re busy with kids and our own interests. When it comes to what really matters, however, we are still a team.

17 Years

And that brings me to today – our 17th year of being together. We’ve been through a lot together and I’m sure we’ll go through much more. But we’re in it for the long haul and I can’t wait to see where life will take us in the next 17 years!

Happy anniversary, Super Greg!

Sunday Intentions

Well, I took a week off from thinking about my intentions and I’ve ended that week feeling supremely frustrated and annoyed with myself and my inability to get anything done. Which isn’t exactly true because I’ve still been working on other things, but I’ve also wasted a lot of time doing nothing. I really need a clear cut plan for myself if I want to go to bed every night feeling like I’ve done enough. When I don’t have that plan in place, I usually end up riddled with anxiety and disappointment in myself. I really want to get away from attaching my worth to how much stuff I GOT DONE, but I’m not there yet.

This Week’s Focus: Sew More

Two weeks ago I was on a sewing roll. I put out 16 new dolls in a week’s time, which is really good for me. And I sold almost all of them immediately, which is a really great motivator to keep going! I was prioritizing it during my day, but also working on it more than I should have at night and on the weekend. But I’ve been so anxious to re-establish myself as a consistent creator. Which in turn led to a little bit of burn out, after only a week. It also meant that after five days of no new creations, I’ve had customers asking me what’s going on and if I’m making more. It’s really hard to keep everybody happy and still live the life I’m hoping to carve out for myself. I never expected working at home could be so challenging. Anyway, my plan for the week is to sew more than I did last week! I want to put in a solid couple of hours every day, which hopefully means maybe two batches of dolls to keep my customers happy and some money flowing in.

Also a Top Priority: Mental Health

I feel like I’ve been all over the place emotionally lately. I’ve been feeling very insecure, sad, stressed out, frustrated, and a little bit crazy. I’ve been hiding out from people and just trying to deal, all while feeling like a lunatic half the time – at least in the world that lives inside my head. I usually draw into myself when I feel like this, which leaves very little left to give my family and my friends. Silence and solitude are my best escape mechanisms.

Today I’ve felt myself on the brink of completely losing it all day long. I told Greg I was going to sew all weekend. He told me he was going to work in the basement all weekend. Neither of us were doing ANYTHING to make progress on those goals and I thought I was going to seriously explode if I didn’t sit down at my sewing machine immediately and get started. I hate feeling like this. But I’ve felt myself just sitting on the edge of explosion all week long, and I need to figure out how to move past it.

I think the best thing I can for myself is figuring out how to fit in daily exercise. When I was walking every day – even just to and from school in the mornings and afternoons – I felt so much healthier mentally. The cold weather and icy sidewalks have really put a halt to that habit. But I can’t give up completely. As much as I hate it, I need to find things I can do at home when the weather outside sucks. I also just need to be better in tune to what I can do in the moment to make myself happier and actually do it. Today that meant sitting at my sewing machine and getting to work. Earlier this week it meant going to the theater to see a movie to escape my reality for awhile. Oftentimes it means reading for half an hour or connecting with a friend. I need to be my own caretaker and realize what I need before I get to the point of explosion. I want my mental health to take be a higher priority in my daily life.

Meal Planning

Monday – Herb Crusted Pork Chops

Tuesday – Chicken Curry

Wednesday – Waffles and Bacon

Thursday – Leftovers

Friday – BBQ Pizza

Planners, Journals, Notebooks, etc.

book1

Today I thought I’d tell you a little bit about one of my favorite little nooks of the house. I start and end every day at this beautiful hand crafted writing desk I bought myself a couple years ago after a successful craft fair venture. My table is tucked in a corner of my sewing room and it’s my favorite space to sit down and get centered.

One of my goals for the year is to become more balanced, and all the books at this table have been awesome tools in getting me started. Granted I’ve only been using a lot of them successfully for the last ten days, but it’s been going so well I don’t think I’ll have a problem continuing throughout the year.

book2

Finding a perfect planner has always been a huge struggle. I’m a little bit obsessed with the hunt, though. Last summer I finally settled on one that felt like the perfect fit for what I needed it for: Bloom Daily Planners. All of the designs are really pretty and they come in various formats. I love the spiral binding so they’ll lay flat. My favorite feature is how it shows a week at a time. I’m much better at planning out my weeks when I can easily see what’s on the agenda for every day and space out my to do lists. I usually take a look on Sundays at what absolutely needs to be done and then add in smaller things each morning that I feel like I can accomplish. I use the empty spaces at the bottom of the page to plan out dinners. I’m not great at filling in the extra sections, but each week has a spot for goals and your main focus for the week. Sometimes I add those in, but most of the time I really use this planner as a spot for my to do’s.

book3

At the start of 2017 I really wanted an additional planner or guided journal that would help me stay focused on my aspiration to be more balanced this year. I stumbled across The Dailygreatness website and their awesome selection of yearly planners. It was really hard to decide which one to get because they all looked great. But I settled on the most all encompassing journal. I’ve only been using it since the start of the year, but I absolutely love it. Each morning you answer a couple of questions about your intentions for the day, a short gratitude list, or various other small journal prompts. You also fill in four “I AM” statements. One of mine every morning has been “I AM worth taking care of.” Writing it on a daily basis has helped me remember every day to make better eating choices and find time for exercise.

book4

At the end of the day you’re supposed to go back to the planner and answer the questions after reflecting on your day. It makes me think about what I did right and what I could do better with. All of the questions are very positive focused and it’s given me a better attitude about myself and how I spend my time. There’s also the obvious section for planning your days, though most of mine are left blank. I have very few actual commitments throughout the week besides school pick up and drop off! But it’s nice to have the space when needed. If I wasn’t using the other planner for to do lists, I’d probably add those in here. But I do really like the weekly format from Bloom. In addition to Dailygreatness’s daily pages, there are also quarterly goal worksheets, and more extensive journal pages. I haven’t had a lot of time to work through those yet. The only downside of this journal is that it goes on a six week format. The seventh day is for overall reflection and planning for the following week.

book5

I’ve enjoyed my Dailygreatness planner so much that I gave in and also ordered their Wellness journal. I haven’t started it yet because I just got it yesterday and want to start at the beginning of the week. But the obvious focus on this journal is taking care of your overall wellbeing. It has journal space for thoughts on your body and health. It has an area to record your daily workouts. And a big section on meal planning. I’m hoping to really use this to keep track of what I eat every day. Hopefully planning out my meals ahead of time, so I don’t succumb to binging on junk food when I feel most hungry. The snacks and meals will already be planned out for me in my journal.

book6

I’ve always been obsessed with pretty notebooks. Always. Last year I jumped on the bullet journal craze, but I just couldn’t get into finding a way to organize my entire life in a single plain looking notebook. So I’ve strayed from the idea a bit, but kind of consider this pile of flowery goodness my own version of the bullet journal. Each notebook has its own purpose and is ready and waiting for when I need to use it. I have blogging ideas in one, a list of happiness tips in another, and Annie ideas in another. The rest are blank and waiting for their purpose!

book7

I love the idea of a five year journal. Which is why I’ve picked up three of them in the last few years! I’ve been really bad in the past with writing in them consistently, but now that it’s part of my nightly rituals, I’m hoping to stick with it. The Q&A a Day book is my favorite because it’s really fun to look back and see how I answered each prompt differently in years past. I use the One Line a Day book to try and write a brutally honest sentence about my day. I want to remember what made me the most happy that day, or what brought me down. I use The Happiness Project for Mothers journal to write something about one or both of my kids. Usually something funny one of them said, but occasionally I write about a struggle we had that day. Besides these short and fun journals that I write in each night, I also have a regular journal that ideally I’d fill up daily. My hand starts to hurt far too often, though, so it’s more of a once a week thing.

book8

And finally, I like to keep a few fun extra books at my desk to fill out when I’m feeling especially bored or contemplative. I really, really like journals, guys. 🙂 These are new for this year because I wanted fresh inspiration at my fingertips. They both look like a lot of fun, though!

And besides all my various planners and journals, I also keep my Bible and a devotional book at my desk to read in the mornings. I know it sounds like a lot, but it’s really been such a better way to start my day than wasting time on my computer each morning. I feel so much more focused and ready to tackle anything, after 10-15 minutes of planning and intention each morning. It’s also really great spending those few minutes at the end of the day reflecting on how everything worked out.

I’d love to hear about any special journals or tools you use to keep on top of your life!