Moving Forward | 2017 Resolutions

Another year has come and gone.. while 2016 had it's fair share of ups and downs (for real - have you been watching the news/reading the media articles?!), I am thankful for every blessing I've received.

By the way, if you're feeling particularly down about any (or all) of the events that happened in 2016.. just check this out (seriously, please click on it! I promise you won't be disappointed). Someone posted it on Tumblr and I think it is the best thing I've read throughout all of 2016.. I think it can give everyone some hope for the future!

The main reasoning for this post though is to put my New Years Resolutions down. in writing. so I will be more inclined to follow them. Because if everyone knows what they are, well then I guess I have to follow through with them! I'm looking to better myself as a person, so here they are...



Read More Books | I think this is on many people's resolution list. I love reading. Seriously - I just love it! Once I start reading a good book I have a hard time putting it down until I have finished it. So any and all book recommendations - hand 'em over!

Recycling | Okay, I admit it - I suck at recycling! This is partly due to the long walk down to the recycle bin and it's just easier to throw something away and forget about it - whoops. Definitely not proud of this. But I will be buying a special garbage can just for recyclables and really working to fix this bad habit!

Give More Grace | So easily I can get caught up in the drama and gossip that completely defines traditional girl talk.. so I will be working on easing up on others and giving them more grace - including myself!

Get a New Job/ GRADUATE! | This one is exciting, because as of August 2017 I will have my Master's degree! I have been in school for the past 19 years and I am excited to finally be DONE and to get a job in my field doing what I love (and the salary increase won't hurt either).

Build a Professional Wardrobe | This comes along with getting a new job. I need more business casual clothes that can be easily transitioned. I will be working on this ASAP.. because I won't be able to wear leggings to work forever (I wish!). 


Overall - 2017 will be quite the year! We have trips to both San Francisco and Asheville, NC in the books. 3 weddings to attend, hosting a bachelorette party, wedding shower, AND baby shower, moving into our new place, getting our puppy (we are officially on the list for next summer's litter!), welcoming my best friend's sweet baby girl in May, graduating from my Master's program, and just simply enjoying every second with our family & friends as we celebrate all of these blessings together!

Happy 2017!!! Now pop a bottle of champagne! 
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Loving Lately | Skin Care Products

Winter has arrived in Minnesota once again, and won't be leaving until March/April/maybe even May?? To say we have long winters is an understatement. Although I love the beautiful snow covered pines, hot chocolate, and sorrel boots just as much as any other Minnesotan girl - there is one thing that never fails to irritate me every year: what it does to my skin! I feel like I'm slathering lotion on all the time (seriously, there are three lotion bottles at my desk to prove it). So today I'm popping in to share my favorite skin products that have done wonders thus far. And if you have any more recommendations, send them my way!



ONE | Rodan & Fields Multi-Function Eye Cream

I dab this around my eyes every night (the regimen suggests twice a day but I'm trying to make it last). It prevents wrinkles, puffiness, dark circles, you name it! I struggle with puffy eyes when I'm tired, and have found that this reduces that puffiness immensely in the morning


TWO | Bontanics Rosewater Toner

Okay, I'm having a minor freak out because this was all on clearance at Target this weekend and now when I'm searching for a link to share - it says product is no longer available on Ulta/Target/Sephora.. I really like this product, but it appears that it has been discontinued.. sigh..

Botanics brand works super well for me! I use this toner every morning to freshen up my face before applying my makeup. I'm bummed it's no longer available, but here is another well-liked toner. It's actually cheaper too!


THREE | Garnier SkinActive Micellar Cleansing Water

I use this as a makeup remover because it's super gentle on my skin, makes it feel super soft, and doesn't make my skin feel greasy. Plus a little bit goes a long way, and I can easily see the bottle lasting me awhile. Added bonus - you can't beat the price ;)


FOUR | Clarisonic/Gentle Hydro Cleanser

I was using this every night, but have since gone down to every other night as it was a little too much for my skin. This cleanser plus the clarisonic makes my skin feel so soft and clean, and really works to remove every bit of makeup that has been built up that my cleansing water didn't remove.


FIVE | Hempz Lotion

This lotion has a cult following, and I admit that I have joined. It smells sooo great, and has become my favorite all-over moisturizer. I even caved and used a little on my face last night, and it softened up a dry patch very well without feeling greasy. Tip: do not buy this from Ulta/Sephora/a makeup store. You can find it on amazon or at TJ Maxx for half the price! I just ordered another bottle yesterday.


Other favorites include Lush Face Masks, Apricot Skin Scrub, & Baby Lips Chapstick (gotta keep those lips smooth too!)

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Christmas 2016

Looking back on my photos from this weekend, I realized that I barely took any!! Whomp... but I can fully say that I enjoyed not taking a zillion pictures of everything. It was nice to just spend time with my family and soak in every moment. Andy went back to Wisconsin to spend some time with his family, and although I was missing him every second this weekend - we are looking forward to making our own Christmas traditions in our place next year!

Friday my mom and grandma picked me up and we went to dinner and to see White Christmas at the Ordway in St. Paul. It was such a great play and the music/dancing was incredible! Still wondering how those women can tap dance in heels..




Awkward picture a worker took for us.. oh well :)

We tried a delicious drink while we were there.. cake vodka, pineapple juice, and cherry grenadine. So kind of like a pineapple upsidedown cake?? Whatever it "officially" was - it was heavenly.

Christmas Eve was spent finishing up some last minute details and relaxing. My family always does Christmas presents on the 24th.. this way we can fully enjoy sleeping in and lazing around the house on Christmas morning.

Some of my present highlights this year: Clarisonic Mia 2, Sonicare toothbrushPioneer Woman Mixing Bowls, Naked PaletteUnite Hair Products (love this brand), and Daisy perfume (!!!!)

I received a ton of personal care items this year, and I was in heaven organizing all of my new products on my bathroom counter last night. I picked up a small little storage shelf at Target to display all the new pretty bottles & tools and it turned out great!

We celebrate Christmas Eve by going out for our annual dinner at Buca in downtown Minneapolis.. their chopped antipasto salad and Chicken Marsala... there are no words!! We then attended Midnight Mass at the Basilica which was just lovely. Worth not being home until 2:30am ;)


Selfie outside the restaurant! 





Yes - we got to worship here!! Isn't it breathtaking?

Christmas Day we woke up to our traditional breakfast of homemade biscuits and gravy, fresh fruit, and cream cheese pecan coffee cake.


Fun fact: our table cloth is from Russia! My brother brought it back this spring and it is perfectly festive for Christmas!




We then spent the day with family at a Christmas Party.. where we devoured even more good food!

To say I'm carrying around a food baby is an understatement.. the gym (and my new veggie spiralizer) are calling my name tonight!!


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Christmas Rambling

Oh my gosh - tomorrow is Christmas Eve!! Am I the only one who thinks this Christmas season has completely flown by?? I am determined to cram as much Christmas-y things into these next three days. 

Andy and I exchanged presents this week and I can honestly say that, once again, he really won at Christmas this year. He always goes above and beyond and makes me feel so completely loved.. He gave me a beautiful white and gold Apple Watch (which I have been completely obsessed with), some bluetooth Beats headphones, and a gorgeous framed map of the entire world - complete with pins to mark where we adventure to. You guys, he is the best! 




We even made some pretty delicious Moscow Mules in the new cups he got for his birthday from my parents.




Speaking of birthdays, we played hookie on Tuesday and headed over to the Mall of America to experience their newest attracted - "Smaaash USA". They have a bunch of fun virtual reality games/rides (they feel so incredibly real!), arcade games, a multi-level gocart track that is super fast, 2 bars, and a restaurant. We enjoyed ourselves so much! It is such a cool addition and I really would recommend it to anyone who loves a little adrenaline :)



Also, this week I received my new Rodan and Fields Eye Cream and am so excited to see my results after a few weeks! I've heard awesome, awesome things about this company. My cousin is a rep for them and she swears by these products.


Looking forward to all the festivities to come this weekend. Merry Christmas to you and yours!


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Cookie Baking 2016

We had the best time this weekend baking cookies, drinking wine, and hunkering down during the winter storm/outrageous temperatures up in Crosslake, MN. We ended up baking around 800+ cookies! It was a blast and I'm already looking forward to next year.




My aunt feeds these four deer every day.. they are so beautiful and fun to watch!



Fueling for cookie baking with a delicious breakfast - a yummy french toast bake, eggs, bacon, & fruit


& lots of coffee!!








Break for some spicy bloodies :) and a photobomber in the background!


We did it!!





SO. MANY. COOKIES.



My "cookie" this year - Maple Walnut Fudge




Little Ana taught me all about the social media I'm "too old for" ;) first time I've heard that!



Ending our last night with some wine and a good ole game of Cards Against Humanity


and with my 90 year-old grandma... now that was an experience, ha!


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Happy Birthday Andy!

Today this handsome man turns the big 24! 



Andy - I love everything about you. You bring my heart so much pure happiness and joy every single day. I am blessed to have such a hardworking and kind man, who always has the best words for any situation. My life was forever changed the day you came into it. We have so much to look forward to in the year to come, and I know it will be the best one yet! 



Happy birthday to my partner in crime, my fellow adventurer, my personal chef, my comedian, my rock, and the love of my life!

Poor guy has to work tonight.. but we both have the day off Tuesday and I have some plans up my sleeve ;) 


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Up North We Go!



I won't be joining the weekly link-up this Friday as I am braving the winter storm and heading up north for our annual Cookie Baking Weekend. Wish us luck on the roads! I'll be back Monday!

Stay warm to all my midwestern ladies!
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Favorite Christmas Cookies

There's no doubt that one of the best things about Christmas is the never ending flow of sweets from friends, family, yourself, ect. Today I'm popping in to share my very own favorite Christmas cookie recipes that will be making their way (if they haven't already) into my mouth soon.

Every year the women in my family get together in December for a weekend of intense cookie baking. We each make about 7 dozen of 2 different kinds of cookies. That's a lot of cookies guys. Thankfully my aunt has the kitchen of dreams with plenty of room for everyone to get their baking on. On Friday we're all heading up north for this annual weekend, and I'm sure there's going to be lots of fun, new memories made! and lots of cookies eaten :)



Peanut Butter Blossoms

1 3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 tablespoons milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
Sugar
Hershey kisses brand milk chocolates, unwrapped

Heat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, brown sugar, baking soda, salt, shortening, peanut butter, milk, vanilla, and eggs until stiff dough forms.

Shape dough into 1 inch balls; roll in sugar. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets. 

Bake at 375 for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Immediately top each cookie with 1 hershey kiss, pressing down firmly so cookie cracks around edge.




Butterscotch Haystacks

1 2/3 cups butterscotch chips
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
8.5 oz chow mein noodles
3 1/2 cups mini marshmallows

Line tray with wax paper. Microwave butterscotch chips in a large, uncovered, mircrowave-safe bowl on medium high power for 1 minute. Stir. Continue microwaving until melted, but be careful not to burn. Stir in peanut butter until well blended. Add chow mein noodles and marshmallows. Toss until all ingredients are combined. 

Drop by rounded tablespoons onto prepared tray. Refrigerate until set.





White Chocolate Dipped Molasses Cookies

2 1/4 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp salt
12 tbsp butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup molasses

12 oz white chocolate chips
1 tbsp. veggie oil


Preheat oven to 375 and line two baking sheets with parchment paper

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, allspice, pepper, and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the butter with brown sugar and white sugar until light and fluffy. About 4 minutes. Beat in egg yolk and vanilla until combined. Beat in molasses until fully incorporated, scraping down beaters and sides of bowl as needed.

With mixer on low, slowly add flour mixture until fully combined.

Roll the dough into 1 inch balls and place on prepared baking sheet, leaving 2 inches between them. They will spread a lot. Bake until cookies are beginning to set around edges and tops are cracked but still puppy and soft - about 10 minutes. They will seem underdone in the center but this is how you want them.

Transfer to a wire cooling rack and let cool completely.

Slowly melt white chocolate chips in 15 second increments in microwave, stirring every time. Add vegetable oil until reach a melted and smooth consistency.

Dip each cooled cookie halfway into the white chocolate and place on parchment lined sheets. Chocolate will firm after awhile. 



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Oven Roasted Chili Lime Salmon

I'm not a fan of fish.. I will eat shrimp and that's about it. So I was skeptical when Andy bought some salmon for us but this turned out fabulous! We will definitely be incorporating salmon into our meals more often.



Oven Roasted Chili Lime Salmon with Avocado Salsa

Chili Lime Salmon:
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 clove garlic
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 tsp. chili powder
1 1/2 - 2 pounds fresh salmon fillets
Salt & Pepper

Avocado salsa:
2 avocado, pitted and diced
1 1/2 cup fresh tomatoes, diced
1/4 cup cilantro
2 tbsp. red onion, finely chopped
1 small jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
lime juice, to taste
salt & pepper

Directions:

* Tip: soak your salmon in milk for 8 hours prior to cooking. It really takes away that "fishy" taste and brings out the flavors you marinade/season it in better.

In a food processor, puree lime juice, olive oil, garlic, cilantro, and chili powder until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

Place salmon in large ziploc bag and pour the marinade over the salmon. Marinade for 30 minutes in fridge

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place salmon onto baking sheet and bake for 12-17 min or until easily flaked. 

In a medium bowl, combine all avocado salsa ingredients and toss to mix. Top baked salmon with salsa.



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Weekend Review - snow, snow, and more snow

Excuse the lack of pictures on this post today.. I went into the weekend thinking of all the good pictures I was going to take and then Monday comes in like 3 seconds and I realize I barely took any. I really need to work on this..

We had a really good weekend that included lots of relaxing and trying some new places. Friday Andy and I went out for a yummy dinner at Pizza Luce and then checked out a brewery in Roseville called Bent Brewstillery. We scored a Groupon deal (the $20 deal included two pint glasses to take home, 2 beer flights, and an extra $10 worth of beer money - yes!!) and it was so worth it. I'm not a huge beer fan quite yet but they had a great sour on their menu and also had some "beer cocktails" that I didn't get the chance to try, but they looked good!


Saturday morning we started out with some homemade biscuits and gravy for breakfast, and then headed out to run some errands for the day. This included stopping by Andy's work, doing some Christmas shopping at the mall, grabbing lunch at The Meet Market, and grabbing some drinks. We had plans to go to the Holidazzle downtown that night, but the snow and freezing cold left us relaxing in bed with Netflix and some popcorn.






Speaking of which, we started a new series on Netflix called Captive. It tells different stories of people who were held hostage. Super interesting and a little freaky! I highly recommend it though if you're into those kinds of documentaries.



Sunday we braved the horrible roads and ran more errands as we were having friends over for dinner. I cooked up a batch of Beer Cheese Chili (good, but nothing outstanding) and a cast iron skillet Bacon Jalapeno Cheesy Cornbread from my Cravings Cookbook. Definitely did not live up to expectations as it was wayyyyy too spicy for anyone to really enjoy. Oh well, not every recipe can be won :)

At least the chocolate chip cookies were successful!


Our friend Megan made these and they are so delicious! Something about that salty sweet combination...


The only picture of our faces we got all weekend.. ah well :)

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These are a few of my favorite things

Without further adieu, to end my Holiday Gift Guides, I'm presenting MY 2016 Christmas List today. Hoping to find a few of these under the tree this year :)



Happy weekend! 


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Chocolate-Peppermint Trifle

I had to pop in to share a drool-worthy dessert recipe I made for Thanksgiving. This was the perfect dessert after a huge meal. It was still rich and sweet, but had some hints of peppermint that made it easier on the tummy.

Trifles are my favorite thing because there are so many combinations, and they are so hard to screw up! They always look great too and you don't have to be nit-picky about any decorating.

This would be perfect for a Christmas Party dessert, or simply for you and your family to enjoy over the holidays.




Chocolate-Peppermint Trifle

1 package family size brownie mix, baked in a 9”x 13”pan, according to directions
3 cups cold milk
3 packages (3.4 ounces) chocolate instant pudding
About 1 teaspoon peppermint extract
1 container (16 ounces) whipped topping, thawed
A few drops red food coloring
2 cups crushed peppermint candy or candy canes

Cool brownies and cut into 1-2 inch cubes. Mix chocolate pudding and milk together until pudding begins to thicken. Add mint extract to pudding and combine. 

Mix red food coloring into 3/4 of the cool whip until it has reached desired color. Put the uncolored cool whip back into the fridge for later.

Line the bottom of a trifle dish with 1/2 the brownies. Add a layer of the colored cool whip. Add a layer of the pudding. Repeat layers until ingredients are gone. 

Refrigerate until ready to serve. Before serving, add remaining cool whip (I forgot to do this) and sprinkle with crushed peppermint candy.
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Greek Stuffed Burgers

We love trying new burger recipes. There are so many different combinations! Especially when you throw stuffed burgers into the mix. Plus Minnesota invented the "Juicy Lucy" sooo we're probably the best go-to when it comes to these delicious things ;) and if you've never had a juicy lucy before then shame on you.

We tried Greek Stuffed Burgers last night and made them "healthier" by substituting turkey for beef and having them on wheat buns. A great way to satisfy that burger craving and avoid feeling any guilt for devouring the whole thing!



Greek Stuffed Burgers
 
For the yogurt sauce:
1/2 cup nonfat greek yogurt
2 tsp. olive oil
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. chopped dill
Salt and pepper to taste

For the burgers:
2 tsp olive oil
1/2 small onion
2 cups lightly packed baby spinach leaves, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 tablespoon chopped dill or 1 tsp. dried
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 1/4 pounds lean ground turkey breast

Optional toppings:
Cucumbers
Tomato
Lettuce


In a small bowl, combine yogurt sauce ingredients and mix until creamy

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in skillet. Add onion and cook until soft. Add spinach and cook until wilted. Remove from heat and mix in feta, black pepper, and dill.

Make 8 round patties (4 burgers total). Put 2 tablespoons of the spinach-feta mixture into half of the patties. Top with remaining patties working the turkey around the edges to seal them closed. Season patties with salt and pepper. 

Grill burgers until cooked through.

Place burgers in buns and top with 2 tablespoons of yogurt dressing, cucumber & tomato slices.

Enjoy! :)

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Holiday Gift Guide: Stocking Stuffers

It's always difficult to find a variety of little items between $1-$10 to include in stockings.. unless of course you're buying for a child because you can just rip apart the dollar section at Target and walk away with enough stuff for the next 4 years.

But, buying small stuffers for adults is a little harder! So I compiled a small list of some clever items that won't break the budget!

Happy shopping :)



Measuring Cups // They have cute ones at Anthropology (these are a little bit more on the expensive side) but you can simply do a google search and find a huge variety!

Magazine Subscription // This is usually decently cheap. My personal favorite is the allrecipes magazine.

Bath & Body Hand Sanitizer // Great for men or women! They have a huge variety of scents, and are typically under $3. I have one in my gym bag and in my purse!

Bottle Opener // Again, great for men or women!

Car Freshener // Bath and Body wins again with a great selection of holders, and the scents smell wonderful. They are great at making your car smell ah-ma-zing without being over powering.

Colorpop Studs // Charming Charlie has a ton of different colors! I love these because they look like Kate Spaded knockoffs.. and the price can't be beat! $5!

Essential Oils // Peppermint and lavender are great go-tos.

Bottle Caddy // Target also sneakily put some of these in their dollar section.. it would be great to give someone with 6 different beers in it

Luggage Tags // My mom got me a fancy bedazzled one before I set off for Italy a few years ago and I loved it! It made my suitcase easily distinguishable at baggage claim. I know there are several stores on Etsy where you can order these customized.

Whiskey Stones // Keep your drink cold without watering it down, because who wants a watery drink? ;)

Texting Gloves // I need to buy a pair of these. Too often I sacrifice warm hands so I can easily access my phone.

Penzey's Spices // My friend Lisa has some of these and they are yummy! The pizza seasoning one would be a great gift!

Lush Face Masks // You should probably stick with the ones that don't need to be refrigerated. Just make sure to buy them close to when you are gifting them because they have expiration dates!
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Weekend Review - Christmas cookies and Chinese buffets

Another great weekend for the books.. but this one (thankfully) was slightly more relaxing than the past ones!

I was craving chinese food on Friday night so Andy and I took a little trip to the local chinese buffet (classy, I know) and it's safe to say that we will never be eating there ever again! I think we both maybe ate about one plates worth of food and left. Greasy, nasty, yuck.. not a fun way to start our weekend out.

However, we made up for it with spiked eggnog and catching up on our shows in bed. Has anyone tried eggnog & peppermint schnapps? I'm hooked!


Tired faces and thankful to have a "night in" :)


Saturday I spent the day cleaning, Christmas shopping, and baking a few dozen cookies. I settled on some traditional peanut butter kiss cookies (and found the best recipe yet!) and some sugar cut-out cookies.



Sunday my parents picked me up and we headed out to lunch at Grumpy's - a fantastic restaurant in Roseville that has thee best burgers around! We also spent some time exploring the mall and I finally upgraded my phone (iPhone 7 plus! It's huge and I love it!)

The last night my two best friends and I met up for dinner at Biaggi's and then concluded the night with exchanging presents and having lots of girl talk.



Cookie boxes packed and ready to go to friends!

A perfect weekend well spent.. and today would normally be just like every other Monday but it's not!! My best friend Chelsea finds out this afternoon if her little bundle of joy is going to be a he or she! Cannot wait to find out.. and to start a little shopping ;)
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