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!

Things Making Me Happy Today

As the title suggests, there are some things that are making me smile THIS BIG today!

1. Our new puppy, Gunner.

After many (many, many, many) talks about getting another dog, my husband finally won and convinced me we “need” another dog for Sarge. While I much prefer to adopt adult dogs rather than puppies, when a friend’s dog became pregnant (surprise!) with mastiff-mix puppies, it seemed like the perfect fit. Enter Gunner: the 8-week old, 17-pound addition to our family.

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Even though taking care of a puppy is a TON of work, we love having him. He seems to be fitting in just fine – and we hope that Sarge eventually warms up to him. He’s getting used to him…slowly…but for now, Sarge is happy just playing keep-away from Gunner.

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2. Making gift baskets.

I wrote about doing this for a friend’s baby shower last summer, but I just want to say it again: I love making gift baskets. I really should do this more often for people, because it really is a ton of fun. Plus, a basket full of gift that costs $25 looks waaaaaaay nicer than a $25 gift card. And in my opinion it’s a much more thoughtful, personal gift.

Anyway, a few months ago my friend Deanna asked if I would make a gift basket to auction off for a fundraising event she is helping organize. I jumped at the chance, and even got another friend to make a basket (which wasn’t hard to do at all – she is SUPER great at making these things!). I decided on a “Happy at Home” theme, and kept the color scheme red and white.

The basket includes:

* The book Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin (I haven’t read it but have heard it’s great – and it’s what the “Happy at Home” theme is centered around!)
* Two “Keep Calm and Carry On” mugs, one red and one white (sort of like this, but a little fancier)
* A wintry soup mix, to fill bellies on cold winter days
* A bag of Joe coffee (Love the bright red bag this coffee comes in!)
* A yummy smelling candle
* Milk Chocolate Lindor truffles (These are my absolute FAVORITE! And it was such a shame that the entire bag of truffles wouldn’t fit in the basket. I took one for the team and ate the extras. It’s called sacrifice, people.)
*Aloe-infused socks (sooooo soft)

The basket itself is actually a black canvas tote with a pretty damask design on the inside. Topped off with a sparkly red bow, the basket is complete! I love it – I wish I didn’t have to give it away, but since it’s for a good cause, I guess I will. 🙂

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And here is the adorable “Tea and Biscuits” basket Katie made:

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3. Ideas!

About a year ago, I started this blog, not really knowing WHAT I wanted to do with it, just that I wanted to DO it. I’m still trying to nail down this whole blog thing, but I’ve had so much fun with it over the past 12 months – it’s amazing what a little idea can become!

I’ve had a few more ideas sprout recently, and I can’t wait to see what they grow into. A few projects with my sister, a book club with my co-worker-turned-good-friend-and-wine-buddy Amy and combining two of the things I love into a volunteer opportunity. Great things to look forward to!

4. Joining a running club

I resolved this year to be committed, but I’ve also resolved to be committed to those things that hold one or more of the following:

1. It is for / important to someone I love;

2. It improves my health, brings me happiness and/or contributes to making me an overall better person; or

3. I just really, really want to do it.

Today, I’ve committed to joining the Summit Athletic Running Club (SARC) with my abovementioned friend Katie, and I couldn’t be more excited! The club sounds like a wonderful group of people, and I’m looking forward to using it as a way to stay motivated to run after the Nashville half is over. Speaking of the Nashville half…

5. The Nashville half is getting closer!

Yes, April 27 is still well over 2 months away, but it’s getting closer and closer! I definitely need a little trip away from real life, and I’m so excited to be spending time in my favorite city with my husband and some good friends.

Plus, since my old running shoes are, well, old, I’ve decided to get a new pair. It’s all in the name of pain-free running! These lovely gals have grabbed my attention:

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Those are the Asics GT-2000 in Electric Melon and Turquoise. Love ’em.

6. Some new country music

There are some new songs out right now in country music that just make me JAM! I’ve especially been rocking to these two fine tunes:

I love how music can just totally improve your mood. These two songs definitely do it for me!

Have a great weekend, everyone! Hope there is plenty to make you happy today and all weekend.

Our Favorite Breed is Rescued

Sarge (about six months old)

Every morning I wake up to those same brown eyes. His breath might stink and he is pretty hairy, but his big smile makes up for all that: my heart is his. And with a big kiss, he lets me know the feeling is mutual. “You’re my favorite,” I whisper to him.

“I heard that,” my husband, Ryan, jokes next to me. But I know he’s thinking the same thing: in our house, Sarge is number one.

In case you haven’t read all the other posts about my baby, here’s some background: Sarge is our two-and-a-half year old bull mastiff-boxer mixed breed dog. Ever since he came into our lives in the summer of 2010, our world has centered around that little guy. I’ve come to know what it’s like to ask yourself multiple times a day, “What did I ever do without you?”.

When conversations about getting a dog first started, I let Ryan know one thing: I don’t buy pets. I know and love many people who do, however, it’s just something I do not do. While I adore all animals, my heart longs to help those that are having a hard time being given away for free, let alone bought for hundreds (or thousands) of dollars. So, we turned to a local rescue and found our Sarge.

Rescuing animals can get a bad rap, but the truth is, there are many advantages to getting a pet from a rescue. First, it’s easier on your wallet: rescuing is usually much less expensive than buying a pure breed dog. This is especially true if the dog is older and has already been neutered or spade. For example, we paid $200 when we rescued Sarge ($100 to get him neutered, plus a $100 donation to the rescue), however, pure-bred bull-mastiff puppies sell for anywhere between $700 – $2,000 each. Boxer puppies can cost as much as $1,200. Sarge did not come with any official papers, but we have no plans to show or breed him, so those papers aren’t worth the extra $1,000. And Sarge is so cute that the photographer we hired to take his pictures two years ago used his sweet little face on some advertising materials:

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I might be biased – but this proves it: mutts are adorable!

Secondly, if you rescue a dog, you are not supporting puppy mills. Puppy mills are evil, “factory style” facilities that care more about making money than they do about the actual dogs. These dogs live in poor conditions, are not given the proper medical care and are deprived of human companionship. Sadly, many of the puppies sold from puppy mills have health and behavioral issues, which cannot always be treated. When you get a dog from a rescue, you know they are coming from people who love and nurture them. And because they are loved…

…Rescue dogs will unconditionally adore you. Dogs are pack animals, and when they do not have that bond with an owner, they are very eager to deeply and completely get that bond. According to the Humane Society of the United States, most animals in shelters are not from abusive homes or haven’t done something “wrong”. Usually the reason these animals are given to shelters is for “people” reasons – a move, divorce or financial hardship. The result is dogs from rescues are more than ready to have a family again.

We are so thankful this Christmas (and every single day) that Take Me Too dog rescue gave us the best gift ever: Sargie. He has brought so much happiness, so much love and so much laughter into our lives. So much that ever since we rescued him, we often wonder “Who rescued who?”

Doggles

Surprisingly, I have not yet introduced my dog, Sarge. Which means I have yet to mention my husband’s and my “slight” obsession with Sarge. Almost two years ago, we adopted a bull mastiff-boxer mix puppy from a litter that was left on the side of the highway. As much as animal cruelty angers me, I’m so thankful that a heart-less person had no consideration for these animals, because without their neglect, we would never have had Sarge in our lives.

I’m sure I’ll have plenty more on Sarge in future posts, but today I wanted to share my latest purchase for our spoiled pup: Doggles.

A couple of weeks ago, my husband mentioned his concern about the safety of Sarge’s eyes when he has his head out the car window. Like I’m sure everyone who is reading this article is doing right now, I laughed at the absurdity, but the more I thought about it, the more worried I became. I had a new (but very real) fear of a rock, stick or bug getting into Sarge’s eye. One visit to Amazon.com and $20 later, Sarge had his very own pair of Doggles. Which he hates. Yes, I know it was logically a ridiculous purchase, but the Doggles have brought so much joy and laughter to our house. And when you see Sarge in them, it’s pretty easy to see why:

 
Sarge, wearing his new Doggles

We took him for a drive in them, and while he kept them on the entire time, he kept “accidentally” knocking them off-center every couple of minutes. We’re going to keep attempting to get him used to them, but even if he never wears them again, seeing him in them (and seeing the faces of the people in the cars next to us), made the Doggles worth every penny.

 
Oh, by the way, my Academy Awards losing streak is over: I guessed 9 Oscar winners correctly, while Ryan only guessed 3! I think our major downfall this year was not seeing either “Hugo” or “The Artist”. Anybody else guess better than 9?