The Colors of Fall

Day 10 of “Fall”ing in Love posts – and I’m having a great time! I love posting about my favorite things of my favorite season. Today is going to be a short post. I just got done working (tax deadline on Monday!), and I’m pretty wiped out. But I didn’t want the day to go by without posting one of my most favorite things about this time of year: the beautiful colors.

We are so fortunate in the Northern parts of the country to experience the awesomeness that is fall. There is just nothing like nature’s color palette of reds, oranges and yellows. There are countless images of spectacular fall tree scenes online (just try googling it – TONS of them!), but some of my favorite scenes are right out my door.

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This is our street the first year we moved in. I love our neighborhood for so many reasons, and how beautiful it looks all year long is one if the main ones.

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Ok, this one isn’t technically in my backyard, but it holds a special place in my heart: The Pumpkin Show in Circleville, Ohio. I have very fond memories of this place, made even sweeter by the family members I’ve enjoyed it with. I hope to take J down there this year. Here’s another picture of all the pumpkins:

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And of course, who loves cooler air and lots of sunshine more than dogs? My guys love this weather- and running through the leaves.

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Friday Favorites – Wedding Pictures

In about an hour, I will be leaving to drop off my baby boy at the sitter’s house for our “practice” day. I set this up so he would get used to being at the sitter’s instead of with me all day…but now that the day is here, I’m pretty sure this practice day is more for me than for him. Tear.

So to distract myself, I looked up something that always makes me happy: wedding pictures. I’ve really got weddings on the brain right now: We went to my cousin-in-law’s wedding this past weekend, one of my favorite people in the whole world is getting married in Chicago at the end of June, and my dearest friend Katie just got engaged last week!! Wedding excitement all around!

With all the weddings going on for my loved ones – and all others out there – I wanted  to post my favorite wedding pictures. These are from Pinterest (of course) and include couple shots as well as group ones. Because weddings just aren’t about two people coming together; it’s about two lives coming together – and all the lovely, wonderful, crazy folks you hold dear.

I love the bride’s smile in this one – so happy! And candid photos are truly my favorite.

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The toasts are often one of the highlights of the reception for the bride and groom. Be sure your photographer gets an action shot or two! Do you recognize the bridge and groom in this pic? 🙂

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This is hilarious! I wish we would have thought to do this with our groomsmen.

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Beautiful. Again, love those candids.

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I didn’t have a dog when I got married, but if I did, this would be a requirement!

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How precious is this? The emotion on the dad’s face pulls at my heartstrings.

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The smiles. The sparklers. Magical.

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You must take a fun pictures with your bridesmaids at least once during the day. You MUST!

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However, no  matter what you do, please don’t involve firearms in your wedding pictures. Don’t. Just don’t.

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I mean, really? Nothing says love like rifles (that’s what those are, right?).

Happy wedding season, friends!

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Taking Stock

How was everyone’s Memorial Day weekend? We spent the entire weekend surrounded by family and friends. It was perfect!

I saw this on another blog over the weekend and loved the idea. What a great way to “take stock” of what is going on in our lives right now. No frills, just us.

Making: Nothing right now, but I hope to start this little project soon!

Cooking: Anything on the grill! Ryan is a master griller, so we have been taking full advantage of the sun and warmer weather.

Drinking: Coffee, coffee and more coffee. The little guy isn’t quite sleeping through the night yet, so java keeps me going through the day. I can’t wait to have a glass of the Sophie that Ryan got for us. It’s Goose Island’s “fancy” beer – and one of our favorites.

Reading: I just finished Life of Pi. Great book – loved it. I’ve decided to alternate between fiction and non-fiction this year, so I’m now reading Country Music Broke My Brain as my non-fiction book. So far it’s…eh.

Wanting: Time to STOP. I go back to work next Wednesday, and it seems like time has flown by the past couple of weeks. I can’t believe I won’t get to spend all day everyday with my little guy anymore. 😦

Looking: For a name for a blog my sister and I want to start. My creative juices really need to start flowing…

Playing: Not sure if this means games, sports or music…so I’m going with music. I’m playing country, of course! I love Florida Georgia Line’s newest song, This Is How We Roll.

Wasting: Time. But like my boy Brad Paisley once said, it’s “time well wasted”: taking naps with all my boys, hanging out outside, sitting around talking with J.

Sewing: Haha, seriously? I’m sewing nothing. Ever. Sorry, Mom.

Wishing: I could follow my passions and find someway to make money doing so.

Enjoying: My son. Now that he’s more interactive, he’s a bundle of fun!

Waiting: For the night when J sleeps 8+ hours! We’re working on it…

Liking: The slight tan I got over the holiday weekend. I always feel better with a little bit of glow!

Wondering: How I will ever balance my work, family and social lives…

Loving: Summer. And everything that comes with it!

Hoping: My poor puppy’s tail feels better. We think Gunner strained his tail over the weekend while swimming. For everyone who knows Gunner and how much that dog wags his tail, you know how much this has to hurt him. Breaks my heart 😦

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Marveling: At all the things my sweet baby does everyday.

Needing: A coffee date with my lovely (and newly engaged!!) best friend Katie. Tomorrow morning can’t come soon enough!

Smelling: Charcoal. Love it!

Wearing: My favorite maxi dress and sandals.

Following: Cooking blogs. I have the itch to cook lately, especially meals I can freeze.

Noticing: That people have no boundaries when it comes to parenting advice. Complete strangers love to give me their two cents on child rearing. Just nod and smile. 🙂

Knowing: That I’m doing my best. And that’s going to have to be good enough.

Thinking: Of gift ideas. We have a ton of summer birthdays coming up!

Feeling: Stressed. Big changes coming next week.

Bookmarking: Sleep schedules for babies according to their age. And summer cocktail recipes.

Opening: Our back door about 1,000 times a day. Our dogs cannot get enough of the sunshine!

Giggling: Along with J. Loving his little laugh!

 

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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

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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:

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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!

It’s a Winter Wonderland – But Not for Pets

It’s a snowy, white world out there for half of the United States. Hopefully everyone is taking the necessary precautions to protect themselves and their loved ones from the harsh winter elements. And hopefully our furry friends are included in the definition of “loved ones”.

Animal neglect is considered a misdemeanor in all 50 states and Washington D.C., and in several states, those charges jump to a felony if the animal dies (source). All legal consequences aside – leaving an animal outside when it’s this cold is just plain cruel and awful. So, PLEASE – protect those who cannot protect themselves. The Humane Society has some great tips on how to protect your pets from extreme outdoor temperatures.

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Our pets trust us to keep them happy and safe – and that means being INSIDE with you!

Advent Calendar – 2013

Christmas time is officially here! I couldn’t be more excited for my favorite holiday and all the wonderful activities that go with it. Last year, I posted our Advent calendar, and while it was a lot of fun, I changed it up a little this year. This is mostly due to my more realistic idea of our “free time” during the holiday season, but it’s also because some of the activities (ice skating, winter beer tasting, etc.) cannot be done while I’m pregnant and on moderate bed rest. No worries – there are still plenty of fun Christmas activities to do while taking it easy!

The actual calendar I created turned out so well! At least in my humble opinion. Every day for the first 25 days of December, we will open a bag from the Advent calendar. The bags are hung on tension rods I wrapped in glittery red and gold ribbon, and each bag contains instructions for the day, as well as a little gift / trinket / other goodie to help with the activity. For example, for our Starbucks date night, the bag contains a $5 gift card; for our Christmas Vacation “drinking game”, the bag contains the recipe for a yummy Christmas cocktail (virgin of course!); and for our family picture in front of the Christmas tree, the bag contains an ornament that we’ll hang on the tree.

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It was quick and easy to make, and the total cost was under $10. The bags are just paper bags from a craft store, stamped in gold with a round design and in dark red with different numbers. Easy peasey!

Of course, the $10 cost doesn’t include the cost of the daily “goodies”, but I didn’t spend more than $25 on those. Use what you have – the more random the object, the funnier it will be.

Ok, enough talking about it. Here is our Advent Calendar for 2013:

Dec. 1 – Watch The Grinch Who Stole Christmas” in our Christmas PJ’s, while sipping hot chocolate

Dec. 2 – Take a family picture in front of the Christmas tree

Dec. 3 – Shop for our giving tree family

Dec. 4 – Pick out an ornament that describes our lives right now

Dec. 5 – Design and order Christmas cards

Dec. 6 – Order take out and play Wii Winter Olympics

Dec. 7 – Cookie exchange with girlfriends (Whitney only)

Dec. 8 – Drive around and look at Christmas lights in our area

Dec. 9 – Make lattes (decaf for me!) and watch a Friends holiday episode (“I’m the Holiday Armadillo!”)

Dec. 10 – Send a Christmas card to a soldier overseas (here is the information if you’re interested)

Dec. 11 – Play Christmas Vacation drinking game – with “mocktails”

Dec. 12 – Address and mail Christmas cards

Dec. 13 – Girls night with my Heidelberg girls 🙂

Dec. 14 – Double date for Trans Siberian Orchestra

Dec. 15 – Brunch with my godmother and goddaughter

Dec. 16 – Each pick out our favorite Christmas book for our son to enjoy someday

Dec. 17 – Warm up with our favorite Starbucks drink: salted caramel hot chocolate

Dec. 18 – Movie night out! A holiday movie is recommended, but not required

Dec. 19 – Happy hour with work friends

Dec. 20 – Wrapping party! Get all remaining gifts wrapped and under the tree

Dec. 21 – Annual Love Actually screening / Girls night with Katie and D

Dec. 22 – “Snowman pizza” night

Dec. 23 – Relax with the dogs. That’s it.

Dec. 24 – Make paw print ornaments for each dog before heading to my parents’ house

Dec. 25 – Before Ryan leaves for work, eat breakfast together on Christmas Day and open our presnt to each other.

Hope you all enjoy every second of the holiday season!

Happy Black Friday!

The day after Thanksgiving can only mean one thing: It’s Black Friday!

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I’ve taken part of Black Friday shopping once in my life, and the experience was enough to last me a lifetime. Black Friday combines some of the things I try my best to avoid: waiting in lines, crowded places and crazy bargain shoppers who are not afraid to throw elbows. Therefore, I will be spending my Black Friday far, far away from any mall.

Just because Black Friday shopping isn’t my thing doesn’t mean that I don’t have plenty of loved ones out there braving the crowds to get great deals on gifts. To all of you – have fun and be safe!! And watch for those flying elbows.