Wednesday, December 19, 2012

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas

...or so the weather peeps have been predicting for tomorrow nite!  Quite the wintery storm pelted the West last nite/this morning (Boulder was featured on The Today Show!!) and it is headed our direction.  Rain is expected first, then as the temps drop, snow....however, the scary part is the freezing of the wet roads ruing the transition from one form of precipitation to the next.  This is our first winter storm of the season and, so, there hasn't yet been any salt or other chemicals laid down to, at least, melt some of the ice as it is forming.  This makes for treacherous driving conditons, i.e. black ice.  And it will be dark!!!  I have to admit, I am a bit scared for my drive home from the gym tomorrow nite....and the drive up Ski Hill Road!!!

That said, I still have a few more things to get for our party Saturday and I am saving them for an errand run on Friday's lunch break.  I need to run to Costco tonite to grab a gift card for Chris's parents, which I will do btwn work and the gym.  I also have a couple items I want to snag at CVS, which I will get on today's lunch break!

I hope to find a Yule Log cake on Friday's grocery run, too.  I want to have a little celebration at home.  Don't know about a bonfire b/c all the wood is going to be wet, but we can sit in front of the electric fireplace!!! 

We are both going to be off for 2 weeks after Friday!  Yippee!  I must get a haircut next week, before we leave on vacation!  Other than that and Christmas dinner at my aunt's, we have no set plans.  We hope to meet up with the Stephenses and I will wait to see if our oldest niece contacts us to go out for drinks.  I will hit the gym, Chris will probably run, I would love to make some trips to the beach and we will need to do laundry and pack!!!  It's gonna fly by!  I plan to enjoy every moment!!! 



Monday, December 17, 2012

Little of This, Dash of That

Spent another mostly relaxing weekend at home!  And loved it!!!

We had several plans for Saturday; however, we only kept one!  Well, the last one wasn't our doing...or, rather, undoing.  Our plan was 1) meet the Shoafs for lunch, 2) attend another Christmas concert at VU and 3) meet the Phelpses for drinks.

We met our friends, Beth & Paul, for a late lunch/early dinner at Blackbird Cafe in downtown Valpo.  Haven't seen them since my birthday party and, really, let's be honest, I didn't get much time to chat with everyone that nite.  We were planning to leave at 4:30 to get good seats in the VU chapel.  Before we knew it, it was 5, the time the concert was to begin!!!  We were having such a good time, we really didn't mind missing it.  We chatted until 6:30!  

During this time, I checked my phone to discover a text from Adam saying they had to cancel because he was very ill.  Disappointing, as they live several hours south of us, so we don't have many opportunities to see one another.  Maybe we will make another Bloomington trip and swing by Bedford and Ghostwood Farm next summer!

We also put up (more) window plastic to keep out the chill.  We are deciding which, if any, other windows will get the treatment for the winter.  It definitely makes a difference in the NIPSCO bill, as we did this at our old house.  

Chris took his first hot yoga class Sunday morning (I bought him a 15-class deal from Groupon).  I thought about hitting the gym, but decided to stay home to clean and to bake my cookies for our party this Saturday.  (This is the first time I have frozen cookies for a party...fingers crossed they taste just as good as yesterday.)  

The rest of the day was filled with cooking lunch and dinner, watching Christmas shows and other random things.  I wanted to walk to the beach this weekend b/c I haven't been there since the last full moon, but I didn't do a good job of keeping that on my To Do list!  If we are fortunate, our weather will be mild next week and I can make it several times to make up for my laziness!

Picked up many of the items for Saturday; only a couple more things to go.  I also decided to make a Pumpkin-Cranberry-Walnut bread, which I will put in the oven about an hour before the party is to begin ~~ for the delicious smell to linger and greet our guests!

Another week of workouts is in line, beginning with boxing class tonite.  I doubled up last Thursday for the first time in quite awhile: did the 5:15 boxing class followed by the circuit.  Awesome!!!!  Would love to make it all 5 days this week and there really isn't anything stopping me (besides myself).  Gotta wear more of my crazy socks from The Sox Box!  Already wore my pink "Yay" "Burpees" and my black "Beauty" "Beast" which leaves my green "Yay" "Burpees" and purple "Barbell" "Babe" to coordinate!  Workouts should be fun and productive!!!

Wishing I was going to see my mom, sisters, nieces, grandparents, brother and nephews this holiday season, but that is a fact of life...they live in Florida and we don't! 

Looking forward to our Vegas vacation!  The pet sitter is meeting with Chris tonite!!!  I have been working on my packing list, planning to wear things that layer.  I reserved our airport parking at Park/Ride/Fly.  We have to decide if we want to pay for the New Year's party at "old" Vegas ~~ I think we should b/c we aren't club people and, besides, the clubs all cost tons o'money for NYE!  We also have to plan tix to the Neon Museum.  We are going to hike the Red Rocks, which will require a rental car for a day or two, but we are going to work on that after we get there.  We don't want to be all planned up and not have time to decompress or just go with wherever the day takes us, ya know?  And since our timeshare resort is off the strip, we will be taking taxis, in additon to the airport runs.   The resort offers a shuttle to the Mirage, but only from 10A-11:30P.  Really, it's Vegas, for goodness sake ~~ the city is 24/7!  We will have to get a taxi to take us to MGM (where the UFC event will be in full swing) and after we try to celebrity-spot and walk the Strip awhile, plus after the NYE festivities!  And, I suppose, to and from the car rental spot.  But, we haven't been to Sin City in almost 7 years and we are celebrating both our 20-year anniversary and the New Year, so we are going to just go with it!! 

Hard to believe it is one week until Christmas Eve....

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

12-12-12

A very magical day today: December 12, 2012! 

The next time the trice repeat comes around is January 1, 2101  ~ something I will not be around to experience.

Chris & I attended my (formerly our) gym's first holiday party last Saturday.  Had a very good time!  Food was provided, some members brought baked goods and some sides, beer, soft drinks & water were also provided and we were encouraged to bring anything else we wanted to drink.  That said, Chris brought his own 6-pack of Mike's Margaritas to which he added extra tequila (yep ~ he brought in a big ass bottle of cheap tequila....hilarious!).  The UFC had fights that nite, too, but they were almost incidental background noise.  Members and guests were eating, drinking, chatting and making merry!  

We are working on our own first holiday party, the 22nd.  We did a very small invite list for a "Merry Meet & Merrier Part" cocktail party.  Since we have the place decked out for the holidays, we thought it would be a good time to invite over friends who want to see our temporary pad.  We also invited the neighbors, Ken & Curt. 

The fare:
2 spreadable cheeses for crackers
Celery & carrots with hummus
Pretzels (also for the hummus)
Olives & gherkins
Deli turkey & ham
Hard cheeses
Oatmeal, cranberry, chocolate chip cookies
Apple slices with caramel sauce
Pretzels with chocolate sea salt sauce
Maybe some mixed nuts

Drinks:
Ginger ale & some other pop
Variety of wines
Spirits (vodka, rum, tequila)
Apple Cider bourbon (that can be warmed)
Pumpkin Pie liquor


And, if the weather cooperates, we might start up a bonfire.  I will make hot chocolate, if so, and Chris brought home a sleeve of small Starbucks to-go cups with lids that I can fill to serve.  I will use my pumpkin marshmallows to garnish!!!

We have the music on the mini-MAC that Chris has connected to the TV, where he has also uploaded lots of Christmas images to cycle thru as the screensaver.

I thought I would also bring down the board games I put in the loft, just in case...plus it makes a cute table decoration. 

The last touch will be simmering an orange, an apple, some cinnamon sticks and cloves on the stove for the warm & cozy scent (note to self: remember to keep checking the water level!!!). 

The lighting will be enhanced by all of the lit garland, the Christmas tree, the string of lights in the 3-seasons room (maybe the fireplace out there) and the hanging stars above the couch. 

It should be festive & friendly...just something casual where people can meet and mingle while toasting Kris Kringle! 

 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Living Sincerely

In honor (or perhaps in memory, tho I sincerely hope not) of Vanessa Tiemier.  I am sharing this from a friend's blog ~ thanx, Kari Voorhees, herself a breast cancer survivor!!!  I will do my best to remember this everyday.


I will live sincerely.

I will learn from each person and each day on my journey
and will share ideas and wisdom from my own experiences.

With a grateful spirit, I will acknowledge my need for others  and will in turn be loving and generous,
remembering that every member of a community plays a unique role.

I will remain strong in my convictions
while keeping an open mind to perspectives beyond myself.

Courageously, I will respect each movement of my heart,
through fear and joy, grief and peace.


I will cultivate my passions with delight
and also take time for honest introspection.

I will love the person I am today
while constantly striving towards my best self.

I will keep a healthy balance between the rewards of discipline  and the growth and wonder that spontaneity brings.

I will acknowledge both the marvel and the limitations of my body  and respectfully take care of it the best I can.

Accepting the reality that there are circumstances I cannot change,  I will seize my power to actively change that which I can control  with hope and creativity.

I commit to living each chapter of my story:
honoring the lessons and gifts of my past,
fully participating in the fleeting beauty of the present,
and bravely walking towards the unknowns of my future.


Knowing that life is an enduring but glorious struggle,
I pledge to live each day with purpose.

I will live sincerely.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Looking Ahead

Here we are the day before the last day of November (so hard to believe!!).  This morning, I erased November from our dry erase board and made December.  From the looks of it, we are pretty busy next month.  2013 will be here before we know it!!!

We have 3 holiday concerts at VU.  The first holiday party at my gym.  Lunch with our friends, Beth & Paul.  Gathering at our place and/or heading to The City with my friend, Jenn, who will be visiting her family over Christmas (she lives in Denver).  Of course, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  Then, it will be the 29th and we are off to belatedly celebrate our anniversary and to ring in the new year in Sin City (Vegas, baby, yeah!!!)

We would like to meet with Dave & Sandra for a long overdue dinner double date. 

I hoped to go roller skating again.

We need to meet up with the Stephenses.

Chris will be off the week of Christmas (he doesn't have to use any vacation time) and I may use up my last remaining 2012 PTO to be off, as well.  We will both be off New Year's week.  So, I could end up with 16 days off (that includes weekends) and only have to use 6 PTO days!!!  Chris gets all those same days and only has to use 3 days!  Not too shabby! 

Oh, we caught the full moon last nite!  Awesome!!  We walked to the beach, under a bright, bright moon and, while walking down to the pier and back, we saw shooting stars (Chris 3 and me 2)!  My first shooting star sighting EVER!  It was magical!!!  Thought for sure they were signs that we would be successful in the largest Powerball game, but I guess I was wrong b/c we didn't win a thing...not even our $2 back!  And I think the lunar pull on the water was strong as the waves were crashing onto the shore. 

It was pretty chilly, too.  We were both bundled up in winter coats with hats and gloves.  On the walk back down the beach, Chris even gave me his scarf and pulled the hood of his sweatshirt up.  (My thighs were beet red when we got home...I was wearing jeans and had thought to put on my Cuddleduds and then forgot!!)  I told him that January thru March we may have to drive the few blocks to the beach on full moon nites b/c it will just be too darn cold!  I plan to walk along the beach, for sure, but we might be popsicles if we walked there & back, too! 


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Good Sore





I know I have said it before, but it bears repeating: I have the best gymLA Boxing, Merrillville, is incredible!  We have awesome instructors who will hold you accountable and push you when you think you have no more to give (one more rep!!!).  So, we are usually sore the next day (sometimes 2..with the second day's soreness often worse than the day after classes)!!! 


On one of the walls, there is the day's circuit plus the sign in (& the wait list), as well as many sayings written by some of us.  One of the many our circuit instructor, Nick, has posted is: Sore Today or Sorry Tomorrow!  Sometimes, it's a little of both!  HA!

We had a very leg-intensive workout last nite and I am feeling it somewhat today, mostly in my hips, actually.  I also have a tender spot behind my neck, btwn my shoulder blades, where the Smith Machine bar rested.  

Oh, and I stumbled in Walmart Monday nite ...didn't fall, tho... and I am REALLY feeling that along the outside of my left shin.  Today's choice of footwear, not helping either!  UGH!!!

I am at a crux, trying to decide if I take Amy's boxing class tonite or skip.  I will be right back in the mix for the circuit tomorrow and will go to boxing on Friday, so that I make 4 classes this week. 

Chris and I will be walking to the beach tonite to see the Full Moon (one of my goals for the year we are living in Ogden Dunes is to hit the beach for EVERY full moon...weather be damned!) and while that isn't anything near the workout I get at the gym, it is physical activity.

I don't want to aggravate my leg and then be off for a week or so....

Anyway, my "Yay Burpees" socks are on their way and I can't wait to wear them!  They are more perfect for boxing or kickboxing classes, than the circuit (except when Nick makes a burpee circuit ~~ each exercise ends with a burpee...so tough!!), so I have to pick the right time for their debut wear.


We are getting another lovely fall-like weekend coming up!  Perfect for me to transition my outdoor fall decor to winter, which includes breaking up my pumpkins & gourds for the deer, squirrels, chipmunks to munch on.  A squirrel helped itself to the pumpkin in the birdbath ~ we were cracking up while watching it.  Then, Chris said he saw a deer picking at it yesterday!  Makes me happy...especially since they waited until it was after Thanksgiving to destroy my display...that we can help the critters out!  I plan to strategically place the pieces around  the back to bring the deer where we would like to see them!  Fingers crossed!! 

Hope you can get out tonite to enjoy the Full Beaver Moon!  Bella Luna was gorgeous early yesterday evening as I drove from work to the gym.  She hung low in the northeastern sky with a pinkish hue!  I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE when the moon is out in daylight!!!  It is one of my favorite things in the whole wide world!

    

Monday, November 26, 2012

Long Holiday Weekend

Ahhhhh....I am thoroughly relaxed after our extra-long holiday break.  Both of us were off Wednesday thru yesterday (Sunday). 

Wednesday, we lounged as long as we could before heading out to our spa appointments at Phaze 1 in Highland.  The salon itself could certainly use a visit from Tabatha (Tabatha's Salon Takeover), but our services were pretty superb!  Chris enjoyed his massage and I had a fantastic facial with a chemical peel.  The only downside: I was taken about 30 minutes late and Chris was taken about 15 minutes early, so what I wanted to avoid by booking our appointments simultaneously happened....we both ended up playing the waiting game.  (I got the better end of the wait, tho, b/c it was before my service.  Poor Chris, after being totally chill following his full-body massage, lost some of his euphoria during the boredom.)  I think we would both return to this particular salon/spa IF it were closer to our home or our jobs.  I will check out the pricing (we had Groupon deals) and compare with places closer, but we both need to regularly "indulge" ourselves ~~ it is definitely a health booster! 

As soon as we got home, I began making my 3 dishes.  Within a couple hours, everything was done and cooling or chilling. 

Thanksgiving began for me with a grueling boxing class at the gym ~ ~ perfect way to jumpstart this day where there is usually over-eating!  While I was gone, Chris took off on a walk, to include some new trails around us.  When I got home, he joined me for a walk to and along the beach.  It was going to be a balmy 60-degree day and I wasn't going to let it go by without spending part of the holiday at the water!  We even took off our shoes and waded into COLD Lake Michigan to stand on a small sandbar. 

The rest of our day was spent in a couple places for me and a few for Chris.  We started at my aunt's.  Chris left shortly after eating our meal, so he could visit his parents & have dessert.  I remained to chat and relax.  Chris came back to my aunt's, I ate my Pumpkin Pie Brownie, we made plates of leftovers for the next day and we headed to his aunt's.  So many of Chris's extended family gather at his aunt's, so we spent several hours catching up with many of them.  

Altho we were going from place to place this year, we both enjoyed the entire Thanksgiving day!

Friday found us doing absolutely nothing!  We stayed in our PJs, watched Christmas movies on Lifetime or Hallmark, ate our leftovers.  It was a super windy day, there was nothing pressing that needed our attention and we just felt like taking it easy!  LOVED it!!  We eventually threw on some clothes, made ourselves somewhat presentable and ran to the grocery store to buy a few items and get some cash for the next day's trip to Chicago.  We also stopped for a Powerball ticket (didn't win...darn!) ~~ the whole trip took, probably, 30 minutes.

We took our first train ride from Ogden Dunes to Chicago on Saturday...and our first time on the South Shore doubledecker cars!!!  What fun!  It was so cool to see everything along the way from up high!

We knew it was going to be COLD (temps in the 30's with wind chills much lower ~ BRRRRRR!!), so our first stop was a Starbucks for some warm drinks!  We then made our way to the German market & to see the windows at Macy's (something to do with fashion...not very holiday, in my opinion...I miss Marshall Fields).  We did plenty of walking, had a late lunch/early dinner at Lou Malnati's (yum...pizza!) and found our way to Old Town.  We got back to the Theatre District just after 5, where we got in line at Garrett's to snag our large bags of Chicago Mix, before heading into Macy's to check out the Christmas shoppe.  Then, it was off to the train with no time to spare.  (Unfortunately, no double decker for the ride home.)

Sunday, November 25, 2012, was our 20th anniversary!  We started our morning with mimosas and a smorgasboard of foods.  We cleaned and Chris started laundry, we read one of the papers and then we started watching the Bears game at noon.  After halftime, however, the Christmas decorating began...with our tree.

We hadn't put up a Christmas tree at our old house on Willow for many years, even after getting a slim one, b/c there just wasn't really enough room.  We would have needed to completely block our front door, which would make getting the paper Sunday mornings a real chore, especially in winter with snow. 

The tree is in the 3-seasons room, in the corner adjacent to the slider that leads from the house out.  It is so cozy out there with the lights and the electric fireplace!!  

Chris put out our wooden sled decoration, which is alongside the old wooden skis ~~ like they were made for one another...as a winter display on Ski Hill Road!

We also did most of the indoor decorating.  All that is left is hanging garland from the loft and, maybe, from the valance above the front windows.  This morning, before work, I decorated the valance above the dining room windows with boxes, my shiny pink tree, our Christmas tray, votive holders, a picture of a stocking and a squatty stuffed snowman.  (It is going to look so very bare up there when the holidays are over...)

We didn't exchange any anniversary gifts, but we did buy one another a mushy card!  Chris always writes the best stuff in the ones he gives me, too!!

We finished our day by watching one of our favorite Christmas movies, Scrooge, starring Albert Finney.  So much of it we know by heart and both recite the lines and sing the songs!  If you haven't caught this version of the Dickens' classic, you really should. 


We enjoyed a full, yet still relaxing weekend ~~ exactly as we wanted!  The upcoming weekend is expected to be in the 50's, so I will get out there to transform the flower box and the birdbath from fall to winter, while also putting the finishing touches on my pots full of evergreen branches.  It will truly be a Winter Wonderland at the Loveshack!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Anniversary Brunch Menu

On Sunday, Chris & I celebrate 20 years of marriage!  That is a big accomplishment!!!  We are going to Chicago on Saturday, our usual visit to see the holiday sights, etc.  I am thinking that a somewhat lazy Sunday morning after all the walking in The City will be needed, so I am coming up with some brunch foods that we can pick at all morning...or all day...long. 





Bacon-wrapped Egg Bites

And we will wash it all down with mimosas (finally using the champagne that Ken & Curt gave us when we moved in)!!!  Once that is gone, I suspect we will move on to the Moscato d'Asti...

Cheers to 20 years, Wolfie! 

Recipe Change



In lieu of the Pumpkin Cranberry Bread, I am trying this new recipe!  YUM!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Weekend Roundup



FINALLY...we enjoyed a bonfire!

We made a point of heading straight outside for a fire after returning from errands yesterday afternoon.  The temps were in the mid 50's all weekend and the skies were clear & sunny ~~ perfect for a daytime bonfire!

While stoking the flames and basking in the heat, we enjoyed some meat sticks with cheddar cheese, Angry Orchard ciders and riesling wine.  

The smell on my sweatshirt lingered all nite!  One of my favorite scents!!! 

But I am getting ahead of myself...

Chris finished hanging the garland on the deck railing and added white lights. 

We had our second lunch guests over on Saturday, Chris's parents.  It was also the first time Chris used the built-in gas grill.  We enjoyed turkey burgers, brats, veggies with hummus, chips and spinach salad.  While we made some fresh iced green tea, beverages enjoyed were Angry Orchard and riesling.  My in-laws brought the salad, as well as Moscato d'Asti (which we may drink this weekend to celebrate our 20th!!).  They also brought a box of 48 petite cheesecakes, which Chris insisted they take back to be used at their Thanksgiving dinner.

We practically ran out of the house after they left, however, b/c Starbucks was offering 2 for 1 Holiday drinks from 2P-5P and it was almost 4!!  I got a Gingerbread Latte and Chris a Caramel Brulee Latte ~~ and we splurged for the venti!!  With caffeine and sugar in hand, we headed to our local mall where I needed to get my 6-month jewelry inspection.  I did try on some rings, but decided that I already have more than enough jewelry and there are other things (like a new purse) that I do need and would rather spend the money on.  We strolled our favorite stores and I looked in others for a purse, but we came home empty handed.

Chris was practically devastated last Sunday when I forgot that he wanted to go out for breakfast!  So.....I made sure he knew we were going on Sunday and that it was HIS choice of where.  He picks a truckstop restaurant!!!!!  The Country Pride Restaurant at the Travel Center was our newest gastronimical adventure!  Verdict: we really liked it!  It was clean, the server was very friendly, the food was served quick and was super delish.  Chris got eggs, biscuits & sausage gravy ~~ he said it was better and more flavorful than Cracker Barrel!  The biscuits were crispy and the sausage gravy peppery!  I had french toast, eggs and bacon.  My french toast was crispy and cinnamon-y and the bacon was thick and the perfect amount of crunchy!  The biggest surprise was our server asking if we wanted coffee to go!  Um, sure!!!  We will make a return appearance!  The only negative, and it is surprising, the breakfast menu is small. 

We drove up to New Buffalo, Michigan, yesterday to hit Warner Vineyards' tasting room to buy some Holiberry wine and, maybe, do some sampling.  Unfortunately, they may only be open on Saturdays (or they weren't opening until 3 and it was noon)!  Total bummer!  But the drive along US 12 is serene and scenic, so we weren't devastated.  We turned around to head back to our 2nd destination, Lighthouse Mall in Michigan City.  It was an ideal day for an outdoor shopping trip.  Like our local mall, we have several go-to stores, plus we went to others where I could look at boots and purses.  With our coupon booklet in hand, I got a new purse at Wilson's Leather (one I had seen in our mall, but the last one wasn't in a condition I found acceptable) and we both got new wallets. 


We also stopped at Le Gourmet (where we get to sample dips) and Harry & David's.  Bought some treats for our Thanksgiving hosts, as well as some tea and a snack bag (some wasabi tinted grub ~~ too hot for me) for Chris...also with a discount from our coupon booklet!  Woot!!  It was pretty quiet at the mall, which we loved!!   They do a crazy midnite Black Friday thing....so you know the ridiculous die-hard "I have to spend, spend, spend" folks are just chomping at the bit, lying in wait for the after Thanksgiving lunacy!!!  We made a quick trip to a local butcher, who is super generous in his samplings, where we bought some meat sticks before heading back on the leisurely drive home.

It was both a relaxing and productive weekend. 

We only work 2 days this week.  Chris is off for the holiday beginning Wednesday and I am taking off Wednesday to begin the weekend.  We have our spa appointments Wednesday afternoon!  Oh, how I cannot wait for a facial!!!  And I just know that Chris will be in heaven during his massage.  The beginning of our 20th anniversary weekend...not too shabby!


Friday, November 16, 2012

Thanksgiving Eats


So, we spend Thanksgiving at my aunt's.  I lived with her & my uncle (from whom she is divorced) and my 2 younger cousins for 5 years, beginning in high school, until moving in with Chris.  She has a hodge-podge of guests, to include old family friends of her mom (who joined us until she passed last year), her sister & husband, sometimes another of my aunts and her husband, sometimes my cousins (tho not this year b/c neither live here or near), other cousins if they are in town and us.  It's a tight squeeze in her place, but it is always full of love and delicious food!

We always bring a couple of dishes to the gatherings and this year will be no exception.  Of the three dishes we are bringing, only one will be a new recipe.


 


This is the new recipe.  It is from Diabetic Living and includes sweet potatoes, pecans and lots of yummy fall seasonings!  I love the sweet potatoes topped with the crispy marshmallows, but like to do the non-traditional, somewhat healthier version. 

I also make a Cranberry Walnut Marmalade (it might be an Eating Well recipe)!!  It is so yummy ~~ well, Chris & I think so and it has done well the other couple/few times I have taken it to the holiday dinners.  There are fresh cranberries, dried cherries, walnuts, sweet wine, orange zest.  It tastes great alone as a side, on rolls, with mashed potatoes, with turkey or ham.  You can't lose! 

It is far supreme to the canned, jellied cranberry "sauce"!  And what is the deal there: there are canned whole cranberries ~~ get those if you simply MUST have the can!

For a "dessert", I am making a Pumpkin Cranberry Bread that I tried my hand at last month, I think. 

All three are dishes we will be happy to have leftovers to take back home!  And all have healthy & nutritious elements to them!  With the most important ingredient being....
LOVE!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Buffalo Chicken in the Crockpot

So, over the weekend, we had our first guests and I tried out a new crockpot recipe that I got from a co-worker.  The next time I make it, I won't follow it exactly as given.  Here is the new & improved:

1/2 cup butter
1 bottle Sweet Baby Ray's Buffalo Sauce
2 T oregano
Boneless skinless chicken breasts, slightly thawed

Melt butter in saucepan, add sauce & oregano.  Bring to simmer.
Place chicken in crockpot and pour sauce over.
Cook on low 4-6 hours.
Shred chicken with forks.
Serve on buns (like Italian beef) with blue cheese or sour cream.



The original called for 1 cup butter, 2 T dried onion and using chicken legs.

I mistakenly only used 1/2 cup butter and can't imagine another 1/2 cup in there!!

I didn't have dried onion, so I omitted it and doubt we missed it.

The chicken cooks down so much that it falls off the bone...thus leaving bones that have to be picked out.  And they are easily missed.  I, for one, hate, hate, hate to bite into bones in my meat, chicken or fish.  Grosses me out and I have a hard time eating anymore after!  So, my aunt, who was one of our two guests, suggested boneless, skinless breasts, shredded on sandwiches ~~ and I couldn't agree more.

That said, you can eat the chicken and its sauce on mashed potatoes or rice, too, and that would be a great way to re-serve the leftover!   

Monday, November 12, 2012

Fall Into Winter ~ Our Weekend Update

We had a glorious weekend!  The temps were high 60's, maybe even into the 70's!  A lovely return to fall, which provided time to do some outdoor stuff, like walks along the beach, cutting up an evergreen, changing up the pots and planters and starting on the Christmas & winter decor.  However, a bonfire eluded us again!  Friday nite, the time just got away from us and the rest of the weekend seemed too windy, plus there is much work going at the house next door and we didn't want to smoke them out! 

Here is my updated pumpkin display...with a hint of winter greenery!!! 
And these aren't all:  I have one pumpkin hidden, that is being used to prop up the others, one in the birdbath and one that had to be chucked b/c it was eaten up by wildlife. 



I forgot to get a pic of the bird bath, but the big orange pumpkin is now atop a leafy bed of evergreens!  After Thanksgiving, the pumpkin will be replaced by our giant outdoor ball ornaments.  Just have to figure out how to secure them, so they don't get blown out and down the ravine! 

I put clippings in my big red & white pot, as well as my little terra cotta one. 
 I will add red balls and twine balls (they are on sticks) and some wooden beads that resemble cranberries. 

I still have to craft the flower box and I have "Pinned" some ideas for reference.  I may have to ask around for glass jars to be saved for one of the possibilities.  Or, if the big ornaments won't work in the birdbath, then I will use them in the window box and the glass jars in the birdbath..ya know, now that I am writing it, I think that is exactly what I'll do!  Now, just need to ask co-workers to save me their glass jars.

We started hanging garland along the deck railing, but it started to rain,so we will finish it up this week.  We have about 3 or 4 more swags to attach, then we will go thru and add bits of holly & ivy.  I don't know if Chris wants to do any outdoor lighting..but I suspect we will do a little something.  We should still have our big snowflake lights that would look perfect along the back of the house, above the kitchen windows!  That way, we can enjoy them...and they should be visible from down the hill! 

I also added pieces of evergreen to the wooden, red skis that are part of the house's everyday look (we live on Ski Hill Road...).  Once we put out our wooden sled, it will be the cutest little scene that we will see everytime we use the garage! 

I will be sure to snap pics and share once all is said and done.

We had a lovely lunch with my aunt and her hubby.  They came hours earlier than I had anticipated, however (and forgot to send us a text when they would be headed our way), so we hadn't even gotten ready.  Fortunately, I was making a crockpot recipe and had started it about 7:30!  Whew!!!  The Buffalo Chicken was a HIT!  And is a keeper!  Think I will make it in the future with boneless, skinless chicken breasts ~ mostly to avoid the little tiny bones that have to be picked out.  My aunt says she will make it with the breasts and then serve on buns with blue cheese.  Great idea!!!

I also tried a Sweet Potato Casserole recipe on Sunday!  Super Delish!  Chris said he wants to know where I keep the recipe, so that he can access it when he feels like making it in the evening for breakfast the next morning.  It is good for meals any time of the day!!

Baked some acorn squash, too!  Added some orange juice soaked walnuts and craisins for the final 5 minutes of baking time.  We were pretty stuffed and haven't yet tried them.  My stomach is rumbling, so I think I will be warming up the half I brought to work very soon!!

We took advantage of the weather to also walk the beach both days.  Saturday morning, after some light house cleaning (in anticipation of our guests), we headed out.  I wanted to see how the sand had been moved around after the horrible high winds we experienced a few weeks back.  Then, late yesterday afternoon, we took a hike thru the neighborhood and then to the beach, where we walked east to where the beach ends at a pier and then walked the length of it back.  The water was so very calm both days.  On Saturday, we actually stopped and sat in the sand to just chat and enjoy the calm, soothing sound of the lake. 

We went out late Saturday nite to support our friend in a drag competition (late nite/early morning at Spin Nightclub).  While I didn't take my camera this trip, here is a little collage put together by Sinders.





Friday, November 9, 2012

Shadow of Night


My place in the request line at the library for Deborah Harkness's long-awaited sequel finally came!!!  I have had my hands on "Shadow of Night" for a week now, but haven't been able to spend enough time reading!  I am about halfway thru and have one more week to finish. 

I am loving "Shadow" as much as the first book, "A Discovery of Witches".


In both books, the author painstakingly researches history and seamlessly blends the magical, fantastical and paranormal with the historical.  The tomes are wordy and not for the light-hearted readers!  For those of you who love the written word as much as I do, they are so worth it! 

In "Shadow," the main characters, Diana & Matthew, timetravel back to late 16th century Europe, when much of the New World has yet to be colonized and the witch hunts are beginning...clearly, a dangerous time for Diana, a witch, to be detected and (falsely) accused by anyone who may have jealousy or revenge at heart.

I won't give any details away...let you enjoy all the literary goodness for yourself!


Thursday, November 8, 2012

What's on Tap for the Weekend



Hopefully, tomorrow nite, we will have our first bonfire!  Just the 2 of us!!  We have quite a bit of brush that needs burned ~ so we will be enjoying the fire while helping to clean up the "yard"!  I also have pumpkin (shaped and flavored) marshmallows that I will just have to try roasted over an open fire!!

We will have the first guests to our Loveshack!  My aunt and her husband are stopping by on Saturday for a late lunch and to see Ogden Dunes.  We might take them down to the beach ~ where we haven't been since the nite we went to see the high waves during Sandy.  Coincidentally, they were the first guests at Harvest Moon House, too!

I am going to try out a new crockpot recipe, Buffalo Chicken.  The recipe calls for chicken legs, but my honey bought thighs, so we will improvise!  This is a recipe that I requested from a co-worker's wife.  He brought this to our Halloween party; however, I didn't try them until the next day's leftovers.  Holy, YUM!  Both cold and reheated, they are awesome!  I'll serve some frozen peas & corn, along with either garlic rolls or garlic bread.  Considering buying a dessert, but still toying with the idea of whipping something up from my recipe book...

I made a Cranberry Walnut Bread last weekend that is almost gone (I will enjoy the last piece today).  It is best when sliced and toasted, if you can believe that!!  Don't think I have made this bread before and pretty sure I copied it from one of the mysteries I read.  Fortunately, I had purchased a can of whole cranberries on my last Aldi trip!!  I will definitely make this recipe again!  Could be something to take for Thanksgiving or Christmas.

On Sunday, I plan to try out a Sweet Potato Hash recipe.  If we like it, then it will definitely be one of the foods we bring for Thanksgiving this year!  I love sweet potatoes and really like to have new ways to eat them!  They are so full of healthy goodness!!!

We also have a couple acorn squash I can bake.  I have already made some once this fall, with a new recipe, of course.  Think I might go simple with these: just honey & cinnamon as a healthy side/dessert to go with our Hash.

Our drag queen friend, Sinders Parrish, might compete in her 2nd Dragzilla at SPIN in Chicago on Saturday, but we haven't yet decided if we are making a nite of it.  We want to support our friend and it has to be comforting to recognize faces in the crowd. 

With the Northeast getting slapped with snow yesterday, I know that winter isn't too far off for our neck of the woods.  Looks like we are going to have some Fall weather this weekend!  Yippee!!  I hope it doesn't come with rain, so that we can be outdoors enjoying this, most likely, last hurrah of autumn's warmth!  I think I will see which of the Dunes trails Chris would like to hit Sunday morning!!!  There are several left to tackle and it would be crazy to let the weekend & weather pass without lacing up our walking/running shoes and making the most of the nature that surrounds us!


Thursday, November 1, 2012

It's November....already???

With November being the month that "houses" the Thanksgiving holiday, I find this the perfect time to be reflective & thankful and to express my gratitiude.


In each of our lives, there is always something, no matter the size, of which we can be thankful.  After this week's "Frankenstorm" Sandy that walloped the East Coast, WOW!  All of us not affected should be counting our blessings!  What those people, communities, cities will endure during the cleanup and rebuilding, I cannot imagine ... and hope like hell I never have to experience!!!

While we haven't yet begun our new adventure in Colorado, I am grateful that we can afford to live in our new community for the time being, where we get to live among the trees, with the deer, near the beach ... to be so attuned to nature for the next year!!!  Ogden Dunes is a very good substitute...which could turn into a longer "layover" should we decide to buy a place next year. 

I am so thankful for our health!  We are pretty fitness-focused and I want that to always be our lifestyle.  As a matter of fact, while I will dearly miss my LA Boxing, I look forward to all the hiking outdoors that we will do when we live in CO! 

I am glad that I can try out new recipes and that Chris is willing to eat whatever I make!  Today, I am thankful that the pumpkin cupcakes (new recipe from Pinterest) that I made for yesterday's Halloween luncheon at work are so good and that I was able to snag 2 this morning for a breakfast treat!!  I look forward to trying, at least, one new recipe for Thanksgiving at my aunt's.

I am thankful to have my mom in my life and I want it to be for as long as possible.  I hope for her to finally realize that her health and her life are in her hands and to make the changes necessary to be able to watch her grandchildren, great grandchild, and not-yet-born grandchild (my nephew due in January) growing up.

I am so very grateful that my grandparents, my mom's parents, are alive and that we have been able to enjoy so many good times with them, both during our visits to Florida and theirs up here to visit my grandma's sister and her family.

I am glad that my relationships with my younger sisters are developing and that they are learning to know me (not from impressions but from ME).  I am grateful that their daughters will know me, even tho we live so many states apart.  (I love you, Shyla Lynn & Kennedy Harper!!!)

I am thankful for the friends that we have, both together and individually!  I have a few friends from as far back as I can remember and I am lucky to have some really recent new ones!!  I have friends from so many walks of life!  We respect & support one another's differences and rejoice in our similarities.  I appreciate the real, the 100% authentic, the tried & true, the honest-about-themselves kind of folks and those are the ones who will remain in my circle. 

I am thankful that this year we made it to Ghostwood Farm for their annual open house and that we have gotten to know Adam & Melissa Phelps!! 

I am so glad I laced up some roller skates and joined the Illiana Derby Dames, and another CPHS Class of 1990 alum,  for their Halloween roller skating party!  Reignited my love of roller skating and I hope to hit a local rink a few times this winter with our friends: Dave & Sandra, Kim, Paul, Mahdi & Che and maybe a few adventurous others!

I am thankful for our friends, Bart & Bobby, who have led to our friends, Dino, Tony, Jackie & Nancy.  We have had some of the best times enjoying the Chicago nightlife with most of them!  And I really look forward to many, many more!  Chicago Pride 2013 will be celebrated to the hilt!!!

I am so very grateful that I could visit my Florida family again this year.  Getting to meet Kennedy Harper, even tho she will be too young to remember, was very important to me.  Along with meeting my great-nephew, Casey Isaac, who was only weeks old!!  Spending time with just my mom in John's Pass ~~ a wonderfully thoughtful 40th birthday present.  Spending time with my brother (the grandpa!!!) on my last day.

I am lucky that my nephew Jake had time in his schedule when I visited Florida and then just a few short weeks later we got to see him in Chicago for an evening that included my first ferris wheel ride!!!

I am thankful that I was able to rock out to the 80's for my 40th birthday!  A party I had dreamed about for years and years.  I am so lucky that my honey was willing to DJ to save us a few hundred bucks (and sacrificing his fun) while dressed up as Adam Ant (you make those pants pop, Chris!!).

I am thankful that I have developed relationships with extended family, alot of credit going to Facebook.  While we didn't go together (total bummer), I did get to "share" the experience of a Notre Dame Fighting Irish football game with my cousin, Matt.  And, altho we didn't see them this year, I am so glad for the friendships with my cousin, Nathan, and his wife, Jennifer.

I have lost some "friends" this year, too, which has been difficult, but I am always learning who fits in my life and who doesn't.  It is best to move forward with the BEST.

This month, Chris & I celebrate 20 years of marriage! 
Chris, 22, and Jennifer, 20 ~ Simply Meant to Be

Whoa!!!  Seriously, where does the time go?!?  2012 went by fast....but how about the time between November 25, 1992 and now?? 

I am most thankful for the man in my life!  Chris has taught me so much over our 23 years together and I learn from him everyday!  He is my world and my best friend!  I could not have imagined loving him more now than I did 20 years ago, but the feelings I have for him run far deeper than any other.  I love you, Wolfie!
We are going to enjoy some spa treatments right before our anniversary and then a week in Las Vegas a month later.  And while I had dreamed of spending our 20th in Italy for 2 weeks, I am thankful that we have the ability to celebrate as is planned. 

I know there is more (much, much more) for which I am thankful and I plan to come back here to "write" them down as a reminder to myself how very fortunate a life I live! 

Wishing us all small moments in every day to reflect on what matters.

 

Monday, October 29, 2012

IGT Halloween Party 2012

This past Saturday was the annual Indiana Ghost Trackers Halloween Bash

Mary, the Vampiress, and me, the Frankenstein monster aka Living Dead Girl

With my gorgeous hubby, reprising Adam Ant

Lucy & Charlie Brown ~ THE best!!  And, yes, there were rocks in the bag!!!

Sexy!!!
With the Mareks

Sandra & Dave

Mary & Rich

Dumb & Dumber...the Funniest Costume winners

Dave ~ working his "axe" off!!

Best Female Costume winner!!!


We stayed at this party for 3 hours before heading to Monsterbash Five at Bart & Bobby's, where we remained until the wee hours.  

We just missed Dave winning Best Male costume!  That's 2 wins in 2 years....last year, he won Scariest!!!   


RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars premiere party

On Monday, October 22nd, we headed to our friends' Donatella Isaman and Sinders Parrish's home for a viewing party for RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars.

I tried my hand at a cake....

She has the finish line flags, just like RuPaul in the open to the show!  I made them from some plain white labels!  Colored them and wrapped them around toothpicks (then taped them to her hands)!!  

The cake is Funfetti ~~ for all the rainbow colors, of course!

Donatella

Sinders & ...



Alas, no picture was taken of me...yet I looked FIERCE!  Zebra halter top, zebra earrings, zebra bracelets, lacy black undershorts, fishnets & knee-high white boots!  Perhaps some version will make a return appearance this Saturday when we head to SPIN to see Raven!!! 
 

More Halloween Faves

How could I forget?!?  You can tell 1) I wasn't at home to peruse our DVD collection and 2) that my mind was in 101 million places when I wrote the first list!!

Corpse Bride

Beetlejuice



I know there are, most likely, others that I still haven't remembered....and one new one to add. 

We finished up our Halloween weekend (posts about the parties to come) by catching:

Frankenweenie
Tim Burton...the master, the genius, at work

This will definitely be added to our DVD collection when released!!  

Friday, October 26, 2012

Favorite Halloween Movies

Altho we haven't done so this year, Chris & I do like to watch our favorite Halloween movies every year.  I also like to catch shows aired on the cable networks, too, that have any connection to this, our favorite holiday.

Here are our top faves, in no particular order:

The Addams Family
Gomez & Morticia Addams ~ such a divine couple, aren't they!  We ADORE them!  As a matter of fact, we know so many of the lines in this film and this scene is one of our 2 most faves!  I bought Chris a still of this same shot~ it is black & white and I put it in a matte black frame.

Practical Magic
  
My all-time favorite witch movie!  Doesn't hurt that Chris's "freebie," Sandra Bullock is one of the stars.  From this movie, we own the handmade mug and silver spoon that Gillian magically stirs!  I love the soundtrack, as well!

Hocus Pocus
The kooky Sanderson sisters!  "Amuck, amuck, amuck!"  What a treat this PG movie is!!!  And while we own the DVD, I will always watch it when channel surfing! 

The Nightmare Before Christmas
Jack, Sally, Mayor Maynot, Lock, Shock & Barrel, Oogey Boogey and Sandy Claws!  This stop-motion animation gem is beyond comparel!!!  A true classic!!  Years ago, I bought Chris a gorgeous snow (well, more like glitter) globe with Jack & Sally in front of the moon on the inside and the cast of characters around the outside.

Coraline


Another animated winner, which I believe is also stop-motion!  The cast of characters are so quirky and the story so unique!


Harry Potter


I read all of the Harry Potter books and love the movies (almost) as much!  We were fortunate enough to see the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal two years ago!  You simply must get a Butterbeer and a Pumpkin Juice!




While I am not as big a fan as my husband, because of him I am a fan of the Universal Monsters.  Chris has many of the DVDs (I also bought him some figures many moons ago) and I will sit with him when he watches them.  There is something about the black & white movies (not just horror) and the simplicity of old movies that is rather transfixing.

I am not a lover of scary movies, tho (or haunted houses)!!  I will watch one every now and then and we do own some on DVD (Exorcist comes to mind), but they are definitely not my go-to pick. 

This weekend, we are going to (finally) see Frankenweenie!  Tim Burton's latest release ~ sure to be fantastic!

I read all of the Harry Potter books and love the movies (almost) as much!  We were fortunate enough to see the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal two years ago!  You simply must get a Butterbeer and a Pumpkin Juice!

Ya know what?!  Altho we haven't seen each of these movies in their entirety this year, we did watch parts of all of them when we moved into the rental!  We had no cable or satellite, so we would put in our favorite DVDs when we went to bed.  They were like "woobies" to help send us to lala-land!  (We...well I...always have the TV on when we go to bed, with the sleep timer set for an hour!!)

Monday, October 22, 2012

Kickboxing Meets Roller Derby

On Sunday, I had the chance to relive my youth!  A high school classmate is involved in roller derby, the Illiana Derby Dames, and they were hosting a Halloween skating party at the Lynwood Skating Rink.  I practically grew up at the Roller Crown Skating Rink!  Skating AND wearing a costume?!?  Are you kidding me!?  I am in!

The above image was my inspiration, as I decided to dress as a derby girl!

Meet
Pixie "I Break Hearts & Faces" Longstocking




My friend, Sandra, was the lone person brave enough to join me for this "adventure"!!  And, by default, she became my Couples Only skating partner ~~ we were the hottest couple out there, if I do say so myself!!!

It has been close to 3 decades since I skated (I have inlined a couple of times & ice skated once since, tho), so I wasn't sure how steady on my feet I would be.  It all came back!!!  I could have torn it up!  I was able to spin and skate backwards! 

Sandra was rather nervous abouting strapping on the wheels, but after several turns around the rink, she was doing just fine!  And no falls!!!  Next time (and there WILL be a next time), she will be skating backwards! 

I would love to go back with a somewhat larger group...or, at least, Sandra, her husband, Dave, and Chris!

Not in her derby attire, but in costume, here are me & Anne Bingham (aka Pinky Tuscadero).
CPHS Class of 1990 grads ~ we are FIERCE!


Now, I doubt that I will join the Illiana Derby Dames ~ I am too big of a chicken to get hurt and to get "rink rash" ~ so I can say without reservation this was a highlight of my 40's!!! 

 We hope to catch some of the Dames' practices and their shows.  Who knows?  Maybe I will take on a non-skating role ~ just so that I can hang with these tough broads!  

And a shoutout to Fight Chix...that's where you can get your hands on my tshirt!!!


Friday, October 19, 2012

Entrails, Anyone?? (aka Dining...Halloween Style)

I have been decorating for Halloween in a sort of piecemeal fashion.  We have been so busy since the move (before it, actually) and after getting all of our regular, everyday decor set, neither of us was too keen on replacing it with Halloween.  That said, we couldn't let OUR holiday pass by with no attention!

As you have seen in previous posts, we did outdoors with pumpkins, gourds, our arch & gates, some signs Chris made over the years.

Inside, we have two ceramic lightups that my mom made when I was young: a witch on a pumpkin and a haunted house.  For me, it isn't Halloween without those!!  We received a couple Halloween gifts, which are out, too: the witch legs from my mom and a "Keep Calm & Scare On" sign from our friends, the Stephenses.  Additionally, I have placed a few other items in the living room, bathrooms and, now, the dining area.



Before we moved, I bought these awesome Halloween plates from Pottery Barn!!!  And earlier this week, I stumbled across the black plates at Target...which are perfect as chargers and will be used for everyday after Halloween!!!

Here are 2 of them individually:




I love mixing what we have with a few new purchases!!! 


And how about the adorable green & yellow gourd with the twisty stem?!?  This is the only one of my pumpkins & gourds in the house.  I just knew it would be perfect on the serving tray centerpiece!!

Buon Appetito!!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Our First BIG-time Collegiate Football Game

"We Are...ND!!!"


So, last Saturday, we had tickets that we bought off my cousin for the Notre Dame vs. Stanford football game.  I was really looking forward to it!  The campus would be beautiful this time of year!  We were heading there early (it is an hour's drive east), so we could see the Golden Dome, the grotto & to meander the grounds.  We planned to watch the "Players Walk" and catch the "Trumpets under the Dome," as suggested by my cousin.  We packed up some grub for a little tailgating.

We arrived about noon (eastern) and get out the food to eat before we headed up to the campus for the remainder of the day.  Wouldn't you know, it started to drizzle.  We quickly made 4 sandwiches to throw in my purse/bag and made our way to the shuttle bus that would take us from the parking field to the library.

The.rain.never.stopped.the.whole.day!  As a matter of fact, it more than drizzled!!!  We were soaked to the bone by day's end...before day's end!  And we had an umbrella and plastic ponchos (or garbage bags as Chris kept referring to them!!!)!!!

We didn't get to tour the campus, we didn't make it to the Trumpets under the Dome, we didn't make it to the Grotto! 

We found a cafe in one of the (gorgeous) buildings and got warm drinks, pumpkin spice coffee for me and tea for Chris (he is working hard to give up coffee for digestional reasons).   

We saw the Players Walk and then made our way into the stadium for cover ~~ with another hour & 20 minutes until game time!  We sat on the floor, on our blanket, eating our sandwiches and pretzels and drinking our water. 

We stayed from beginning to end of a game that went into overtime.  Other than a couple/few minutes during halftime, we stood...in the rain...the entire game!!

Definitely NOT the experience I had hoped for...but, I can now cross attending a Notre Dame Fighting Irish football game off the bucket list! 

Watching the student section lift people into pushups each time the team scored, joining in on the chants and cheers and being part of history were all pretty cool.  If only it had been a crisp, clear, sunny & cool Fall day ~~ it was October 13th, for goodness sake ~~ it would have been simply perfect!!!  But, then, I guess it wouldn't have made as good a story, right?!? 

No pics of us were taken (I was not having it since I was a soggy mess!), but Chris got some terrific ones of the game!  He has an awesome camera and is one hell of an action photographer!  ND should hire him!!!




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