Why I love the Super Bowl

In just a few days, America will be celebrating its biggest sporting event of the year: the Super Bowl. This game is always a little bittersweet for me, as it marks the last hurrah of football season, but mostly, it’s just a lot of fun. How much do I love the Super Bowl? Let me count the ways…

1. Appetizers – “game day” is a favorite among appetizers aficionados, so the the ultimate game day – THE SUPER BOWL! – is the perfect time to pull out the best-of-the-best. Below are two of my favorite tried-and-true appetizers. Both are quick, easy and have been approved by numerous friends and family.

Hot pepper jelly bites

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Do not be off put by these – I swear they are delicious. I usually have to talk people into trying them for the first time, but when they do, 99.9% of the time they LOVE them! The only compliant I’ve ever gotten is that they are too spicy for some. But for me – the more spice the better!

With only three ingredients, they are so easy to whip together. All you need is:

– cream cheese (I use reduced fat, but I would not recommend using fat-free),
– hot pepper jelly (most grocery stores carry at least one brand. I’ve also seen it called jalapeno jelly. I love Reese’s red pepper jelly, but they also make a milder green one), and
– a “vehicle” (I’ve used crackers, Phyllo cups and tortilla chips – all with rave reviews).

One block of cream cheese is about enough for one jar of jelly – but it makes a ton of appetizers (50-60). The best part about this recipe: no measuring required! To make, cut off a piece of cream cheese (about the size of the last digit on your pinkie finger) and put on your “vehicle”. Add as much hot pepper jelly as you’d like (I usually do about the same size as the cream cheese). Set out on a platter and enjoy!

Mini chicken and waffles

minichickenandwaffles

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These are a newer addition to my appetizer rotation. I think mini food is so fun, so I had to try these when I read about them in a magazine last fall (I cannot remember which one I read it in, and I am sooooo sorry for not given credit where it’s due. Because someone deserves credit for these). Another simple three-ingredient recipe:

– mini waffles (I used the round Eggo ones),
– chicken nuggets or chunks (just make sure they are about the same size as the waffles), and
– honey or maple syrup

I used one box of waffles and one bag of chicken chunks – and it was just about right. Just be sure to check quantities on the packages and buy as many as you need. Cook the waffles and chicken according to package directions (this can be done at the same time). Assembly is easy: place mini waffles on a platter, top each with one piece of chicken and drizzle with honey or maple syrup. Inserting a toothpick through the center will help keep everything together. Serve immediately.

2. The Puppy Bowl – I always try to watch a little bit of this game, shown on Animal Planet, but this year I learned something new about it from a dog blog I follow, Marking Our Territory. Besides being an overload of cuteness, the game supports a cause near and dear to my heart: animal adoption. All dogs playing the game are shelter dogs, and Animal Planet provides the adoption information of each dog. Click here to look at the starting line-up.

And the cutest news of all: this year you can pick a “fantasy” puppy team. Here is our team:

puppybowlfantasyteam

August looks just like our Sarge did when he was a puppy. My heart is melting!

3. The commercials. Yes, the game is entertaining, but so are (most of) the Super Bowl commercials! Millions and millions of dollars are spent on these commercials, so it’s no surprise that there are some real good ones every year. I saw this preview of Budweiser’s ad and wanted to share. It made me tear up…but that might have been pregnancy hormones at work.

And here is a teaser of another awesome Budweiser commercial. Can’t wait to see this one!

On a side note, I have come to the realization that Budweiser’s commercials are probably my favorites. This one from last year really got me…

 

4. The “gambling”. I’m not a traditional gambler. The only times I’ve ever been to a casino, I’ve only played the quarter slots, and I consider that a huge risk (I do not waste silver change!). So the gambling I’m talking about is the easy, don’t-really-need-to know-what-you’re-doing kind of gambling – like Super Bowl Squares or just picking a winner and the score of the game. It gives me something to cheer for because, once again, my beloved Browns are not in the Super Bowl. Next year, boys…

5. The actual game! I love football. No, I do not know all of the players – or even all of the crazy rules – but I do truly love to watch the game – high school, college or pro. When the two best teams in NFL are playing each other, there’s a good chance for some excitement. 

Happy Super Bowl Sunday, everyone!

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With a heavy heart…

This past Sunday, two Toledo, Ohio firefighters were killed in an apartment fire. I cannot express the sadness I feel for their families – and the respect that I have for these two mean and for ALL of the firefighters, police officers and military personnel who put their lives on the line everyday to protect us.

My best friend and the love of my life is a firefighter, so I’d be lying if I said this didn’t scare every part of me. These men are true heroes, and I pray for them and their families. 

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Why I love getting old: Saturday nights

There was a time in my life when the thought of staying home on a Saturday night was darn near horrifying. To me, Saturdays were invented to combine friends and fun – and preferably outside of the place where I spent the entire work week. People who stayed in on Saturdays were one of three things:

1. Battling the flu or a cold or some other illness preventing them from having a good time,
2. A loner who hates the company of others, or
3. Old.

Not going out on a Saturday night was something I would NEVER, EVER do. Like, ever.

Fast forward some years later. While I still believe that Saturdays should be spent breaking the restrictions of Monday through Friday, these days I prefer to spend my Saturdays nights in a much different way, even – dare I say –  spending a night or two in the comfort of my own home.

GASP!

My 24-year-old self would be so disappointed in me. But please, give me a minute to explain, sweetheart.

First of all, I’m not saying that I want to spend every Saturday night for the rest of my life on my couch watching Bravo and eating ice cream (although that sounds pretty darn good right now) . As much fun as I have with other people, sometimes I just need a break. A break from going somewhere. A break from doing my hair. A break from having to stay up past the un-Godly hour of 9:00 pm.

The unfortunate fact is: things just wear me out more than they used to. I could try to blame this on being almost 8 months pregnant, but that would be a lie. I’m almost 30, and my priorities have taken quite a shift since my early twenties. I use to LOVE getting dressed up – and taking a long time doing it – every time I went out. I wouldn’t think twice about driving all over Northeast Ohio to meet up with friends. And if I had my way, there’d be no dinner reservations earlier than 8:00.

But now, just the thought of doing my hair makes me want to take a nap. I grumble if we have to get on the highway to go out. And by 8:00 I’m yawning and dreaming of my yoga pants.

As I write this, I realize how sad that sounds. But it isn’t as pathetic as it may seem. Really! My social life has, is and always will be a priority to me. My husband and I are a weird combination of social-butterflies and home-bodies – and so far it’s worked out very well for us. I can’t speak totally for Mr. B, but I think we both are fulfilled with our balance of alone-time, us-time and friend-time. Of course, it really helps that we have some pretty kick-ass friends. They make it pretty easy to have a good time.

But over the past few years, these good times have morphed into more laid-back kind of outings. I’m much more likely to accept an invite for a friend’s dinner party than one for a bar-crawl. I’d much rather chat with friends at a local wine bar than scream to be heard at the newest downtown bar. I can’t even remember the last time I went dancing with girlfriends, but I could quickly name my last 10 coffee dates. Fortunately for me, I’m not the only one: most of my friends seem to be going through this as well. And when we talk about our fast-declining desire to go out, we laugh and explain it away with “We are getting soooo old!”.

I know many people my age – and older – still enjoy wild and crazy Saturday nights on a regular basis, and that’s good for them. Some weekends I wish I had the energy for all of that. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize that as time goes on, it also becomes scarce. Increasing responsibilities take up more and more of the time that I used to spend having a good time. Therefore, I’ve been pickier about what I want to do with this time. So if I want to spend a Saturday night making kale chips and watching the entire first season of Orange is the New Black while cuddling with my husband and dogs, well then I’m going to do just that. 

For me, it’s not the quality of WHERE I’m spending my Saturday night – it’s the quality of WHO I’m spending my Saturday night with. My mom always told me that as I got older I would find I would need less and less friends; instead, the friends I did have – the ones that stuck with me through life’s ups and down’s – would be the best friends I could ask for. She was right, and I think that philosophy applies to my social life as well. I might go out less as I age, but when I do got out, the people, places and activities are of much higher value and substance than they used to be.

And if that’s part of getting old, I’ll take it. Gladly.

Happy New Year!

Welcome, 2014! I cannot believe that another year has gone by. Time seems to be going by faster and faster as I get older. Anyone else feel like that?

Ryan and I spent yesterday reflecting on the past year – and all the crazy ups and downs that we experienced. A few of the many highlights:

– I ran the Nashville half-marathon – and hated every second of it.

–  We both made it through 3 surgeries (one for Ryan, two for me), which is a big deal for two people who have never gone under the knife before.

– We suffered heartbreak not once but twice this year. Our hearts will never be the same….

– …but neither will our marriage and friendship. I can call 2013 the year that formed a truly unbreakable bond between us, and as horrible as the road was, I’m so grateful that we traveled down it together.

– Ryan graduated from paramedic school. He worked hard for 12 long months!

– We welcomed our second dog, Gunner, into our house. It’s been an adjustment, as he is so much different from Sarge, but we could have not asked for a more loving, sweet-natured dog.

– We both participated in the National MS Society Pedal to the Point. I did the 30-mile leg, and Ryan did the full 150-mile route. We had an amazing team – and I can’t wait to do it again next year!

– My family welcomed another nephew this past November!

2013 was by far the hardest year of my life – but it also brought us the biggest blessing we could ask for: becoming pregnant with our son. And in February 2014, we’ll welcome our little man into our home! We could not be more excited for the day we finally get to hold him…and kiss him….and spoil him…. I know that I’m going to love him so much that no woman will ever be good enough for him! hehe 🙂

But as much as we are looking forward to our newest addition, from what we’re told, babies change just about everything in life. So today, as I was thinking about what I wanted my “word of the year” to be, I asked myself: What do you really want to accomplish this year? The first thing that came to mind was that I just wanted all parts of my life to be in harmony. I know from experience that my life will never be “perfect” by others’ standards, but as long as my home, religious, work, social, financial, fitness and health “lives” are all working together in harmony, I will be more than happy. I will NOT strive for perfection – I will instead work towards balance.

harmony

 

I’m working on a post with my specific goals for the next twelve months, but for now, I want to know: What is your word of the year going to be for 2014? Happy New Year, everyone!