Sunday, December 16, 2012

Let's Get Awesome: Tear Off Sheets

I am doing my best to put some thought, right now, into my new years resolution and how I might motivate myself.

Let's Get Awesome!

I am not trying to lose a specific amount of weight and I am not training for a particular race.  I just want to exercise more.  I have been reading about Blue Zones and it strikes me that the one place I fall down is not walking everywhere.  I am not in a position to relocate my life all to one walkable work/life location right now, so I want to at least get up reasonably and walk or run or bike or do some yoga or whatever.

Enter my new idea: Tear Off Get Awesome Sheets.

Me and my son crossing the finish line at a 5k
I really can exercise!  Seriously!
The thing is, I have a hard time making the choice to go run for a half hour when I could be sitting around or baking cookies or doing something else.  In an effort to motivate myself, I have entered into a pact with one of my friends.

The Get Awesome Gift Pact

  1. Find a friend and set a budget
  2. Buy each other a specific amount of presents (we are doing 6) during the post-Christmas holiday sales
  3. Wrap the gifts super tight so that your friend cannot tell what you got her and exchange gifts
  4. Print out your tear off sheets linked to this post, or make your own!
    1. Pages has a template for flyers.  I assume MS Word does as well.  
  5. Cut the bottom little flaps so that you have 10 easy-to-tear-off strips of paper and post it somewhere you will see it.  
    1. I'm putting this on my fridge or maybe my calendar. 
  6. Every time you exercise or do whatever life affirming activity you are doing, tear off a strip.  When you get to 5, open a present!  
For my sheets, when you get to five, you get a present. am doing 3 sets of sheets, with 10 items on each sheet.  This is ENTIRELY because I use Pages (the Mac document creator) and there's a template that has 10 tear off strips on the bottom, and I like getting a perk halfway through.  We are going to do 6 gifts each so that we can print 3 sheets.

My friend is not sure if she wants to exercise or do something else, so I am including two templates.  One for my exercising.  Each unit is either 30 minutes running, 45 minutes biking, or an hour of yoga.
The other is for life affirming activities.  For some people, that might be "getting out to coffee without my kids" or "going on a date with my husband" or "taking my car to the car wash because I love it" or "spending an hour crocheting that blanket I've been working on".  Whatever works for you.  

Get Fit

I think this is fab for a few reasons:
  • There's no time limit or constraints.  
    • If you wanted to run on Thursday but Thursday ended up sucking, take a break.  Run whenever you have some time that weekend.  Your reward is waiting for you.
  • After Christmas sales are awesome and full of cute little things to gift each other.
  • You are helping a friend.     
  • It's motivating and fun and mysterious.  
    • What is in that little cylindrical one, anyway?  Man, I have to know!  I'm going to run four days this week.  
If gifts are not your thing or you and your friend are strapped for cash, you can give your friend cards with permission to do things for herself. I know it sounds silly, but being able to say "hey, Connie told me I got to have a 20 minute bubble bath today" to your partner or kids totally works.   I authorize you one trip to the library and get a new book.  Permission to paint your toenails hot pink with black polka dots.  Whatever you think she'd like.  

So that's my crazy idea.  Thanks to Pages for having an easy to edit flyer template and thanks to Vintage Printables for having free clip art I used for the flyers linked here.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Peppermint Pretzel Bark

You guys, I made some awesome candy bark thing!!!

I was reading a magazine of Christmas Cookies, on account of how I am addicted to buying magazines and then mucking up the recipes.  But anyway, my mom is allergic to nuts, so I was looking for recipes without nuts and there was a Thin Mint Bark recipe, but that wasn't quite what I wanted, so I doctored it up to be Peppermint Pretzel Bark!  It was super easy, too.

Here's (most) of the cast of characters:

MISSING: Some milk chocolate chips, see below
  • 1 bag of Hershey's mint chocolate chips
  • 1 bag of Sharfen Berger semisweet chocolate chips
  • about 2 cups of pretzels (I like the ones that are little squares kinda)
  • about a cup of peppermint candies - pulsed in the food processor.  
    • If you don't have a food processor, you can also put them in a zip top bag and crush them with a rolling pin
  • half a bag of milk chocolate chips 
You can also add a bit of shortening to the chocolate if you like, when you're melting it.  It makes it shinier, but I kinda didn't care so much about that.  I did use some butter to coat the bottom of my jelly roll pan.

Line a jelly roll pan with foil and rub it down with butter or spray it with nonstick spray, then cover with a layer of pretzels.

In 3 separate bowls, microwave each of the bags of chocolate chips for about 2 and a half minutes on high, stopping to stir every 45 seconds or so.  At some point, you'll still see a bunch of the shape of the chips but they'll melt when you stir.  When you get to that point, you have another 15 or so seconds to go and then you're done.

btw - if you can't find mint chocolate chips, you can stir in about a teaspoon of mint extract to 1 of the bowls of chocolate, but do this after it's done microwaving.  Don't overdo it.  

Start by glopping the dark chocolate onto the pretzels, kinda randomly.
see, kinda randomly?

Then do the mint chocolate.  Same thing, but try to get a good coating.
see?  at this point, I realized I needed more chocolate, so I bust out the milk chocolate.
So then do the last chocolate.
This looks pretty well coated.

At this point, you are going to take a thin spatula and start to smooth it all out, so you are completely covering the pretzels.  It's OK if you don't get it all the way to the edges.  It will taste fine just the same. 

When you get it all spread out, sprinkle the candies on top. 
The mints give you some idea what it's going to taste like.  Delicious, that's what.  

Cute!  Now chuck it in your fridge for about a half hour. After that, start breaking off little bits of it and eating it.  Mostly I did this because my son was bugging me like crazy to try it so I caved.  So take off some chunks to get your family to leave you alone and leave the rest in overnight.

Then take a big knife and start chunking it up.

At this point, if you have a blog, you set up kind of ludicrous pictures to make a cute thumbnail so you can pin it on pinterest.

OK I totally had to have my 5 year old hold up the corners of this towel because I don't have a good background.  I should figure that out over the Christmas break.  



Sunday, December 2, 2012

Geek Christmas

I love it when a plan comes together.

We are having a relatively geeky Christmas this year.  To start with, I made these:

Yes, we are apparently Spiderman, The Incredible Hulk and Ironman this year for Christmas.  I'm obviously the Hulk.  Thomas wanted to be Spidey, and Jeff said he'd be Ironman.

I saw the felt cutouts of superheroes on Pinterest.  To be honest, I have no idea how I got to them, but that's basically the joy of Pinterest, you know?   

I have them hung up by the chimney with care.  You know, right next to the infant stages of our Lego Christmas Village.  (Thanks Jeff!!)

I especially like the juxtaposition of Santa and the punk concert.  

We have them on both sides of the fireplace.  Someday, when I can figure out how to take adequate pics of my fireplace, I will show you.  Here's the other side.

Jeff decorated up some Harry Potter with blinking lights.
 I really don't have much content in this post, other than the geeky Christmas bits and to tell you that I am OBSESSING over getting a teeny miniature girldog schnauzer.  A lot.  So much so that I actually was looking at webkins schnauzers to see if they were adequately cute.  (They are not.)  I found one on petfinder that I have been referring to as the upcoming cause of my impending divorce, on account of how if I brought home a 3rd dog, Jeff would leave me.  I have a husband, a son, and 2 boy dogs.  I just want something to dress up in little dresses, you know?  Testosterone, yeesch.

So, to stop obsessing, I decided to dress up the dogs I have.  That's them in little matching hoodies.

To be honest, Dogma's is *way* too small.  (He's the red hooded dog, and he's a big guy.)  Karma's fits great, but Karma is also all skin and bones.  I am worried about him.  Every since we came back from Thanksgiving, you can see each of his ribs and vertebrae.  When I went out to buy the hoodies, I got them some kind of granola bone chews and that fake dog bacon.  He also got Thomas's grilled cheese ends.  Hopefully, he'll put on some weight, but he is 12 years old, which is kinda old for labs.  This is all kinda sad, and I'm not really getting a little mini schnauzer in a pink dress.  

I will just try to be happy with our superhero Christmas stockings.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Reverse Keg Ride!

I turned 29!  Again!  It's like the 7th anniversary of that or something.

Local Beer is Delicious!

I had a really great weekend.  I occasionally get irritated at blogs where everything is always rosy and happy; that's not realistic.  In this case, however, we have had such a great October, it's hard not to post all sorts of happy stuff.

black eyed susans are totally happy

Yesterday, I walked to South Hills Power Yoga for a morning class.  (I took the day off, since there's really no good reason to work on your birthday if you don't have to.)

I talked to the instructor a bit before class, because I have some physical weirdness with my shoulder and she gave me some tips.  The whole class went awesomely after that, and I left feeling happy.  Hot Yoga!

(Basically, if you want to take pressure off your shoulder, stay on your knees in plank.  Seems simple, and works like a champ.)

From there, I headed to the Sugar Cafe for some thing kind of like lunch.  I asked for iced tea, but only if I could pick the tea.  The nice guy behind the counter recommended something called Cinnamon Sunset with ginger syrup.  It was fantastic, but not as good as the apple-butternut-cranberry turnover I had for a post-yoga snack. I have heaps of winter squashes and apples and I am determined to make something tasty out of them.  Sorry, no pictures.  You'll just have to head to Dormont for some of your own. :)

Walked back to my house and lounged around drinking coffee and watching TV shows that I legally downloaded from the internet for a small fee.  We are IN THE FUTURE, people.  If you happened to miss 2 episode of Rizzoli & Isles, the Apple TV is here for you!!!

Jeff came home so we dropped the little one off at meemaw's house and went out for dinner.  He slept over, in preparation for our big bike outing this morning.

Basically, the deal is this. My birthday is around Halloween.  That means every year on my birthday weekend, there are too many things to do, most of them involving costumes and probably involving lots of loud people.  I am not super into loud.  Jeff could not decide between the Terrifying 10k or the Reverse Keg Ride this year, since they were both today.  I basically said "hey, we're doing the keg ride, because I don't want to do a 10k on account of how I'm lazy and don't like to exercise, but I can totally bike to where there's beer".

You can read more about it at the link, but basically some folks tow a keg of beer from point A to point B, and when we get to point B, we drink some!  You know, for charity!  This year, point B was East End Brewing's soon-to-be opened brewery and growler shop, which is also a coffee roaster.  roastery?  Place in which coffee is roasted, I guess.

I am not in shape, so it was a pretty long ride for me.  There was fine.  Back was harder, but we went faster and stopped at the old brewery, so it was an extra mile.  I am totally hurting between arthritic yoga, walking 2 miles, and a 13ish mile bike ride in 2 days.

I won't gush anymore, but I will leave you with some pretty pics.


Saturday, October 20, 2012

A Perfect Fall Day

Today was basically perfect.

To start with, it's fall, which is obviously the best season.  This morning, Jeff let me sleep in and lounge around, which was fab.  Eventually, I got up and we all got cleaned up to go to soccer.

He kicks!

After soccer, we went to the Original Pancake House with my mom and dad.  Someday, I will get there before we are starving and we will order the Dutch Baby and the huge Apple Pancake.  They ask for an extra 30 minutes to make those, and I am never ready to wait 30 minutes.

We split crab cakes benedict and cinnamon apple pancakes.  The boy had rainbow pancakes and hot chocolate.  They were yum.

A friend recommended that we go to Triple B Farms in Monongahela, PA and I've been wanting to go.  It's about a 40 minute drive from our house, which is not too bad, but certainly a commitment.

As soon as we got in the car it started raining.  It rained.  And rained.  And kept raining.  I told Jeff that I was POSITIVE it would stop raining when we got there and it'd be double awesome because it wouldn't be busy, since everyone would have bailed due to the rain.  It was a foolproof scheme!  The guys looked pretty skeptical, but we kept going anyway.

Pretty Farm
I swear, as soon as we parked the car, the rain stopped.  By the time we paid and got inside, the sun came out.  It was like our trip to the farm was blessed by whichever higher power you prefer.  The rest of the day seemed pretty amazing to me after that.  It was sunny.  And warm.  And not crowded.  (That last part is especially important for us introverts.  Crowds make us super cranky.)

We went through a rope maze and a haunted house and down a cool tube slide. We water-raced rubber duckies by pumping a hand pump.

I got to see plenty of goats.  I <3 goats and gnomes.  I also <3 lilacs and coffee and pumpkin pie and tea from that Teavana place in the mall.  

Is this a goat? Yak?  Something?
This is totally a goat.  Love the rectangular pupils.

The guys used a ginormous slingshot to launch tennis balls over towards the apple orchard.

Jeff claims that I have no idea how fun this is.
Jeff is usually right.
We got hopelessly lost in a corn maze.  Last year, we went to a different farm and the maze was basically a path with a lot of turns.  Not so, with this maize maze!  We spent about a half hour wandering around before we found our way out.

 Seriously, it was the only annoying part of the day.  It went on forever.  Also, when you let the five year old make all of your decisions, you don't start out with a plan.  Then Jeff insisted that he wrote a program in college that did this and we could just make all lefts and get out.  The maze was full of loops, however, and that was not an efficient exit strategy.  

Our kid does not want to miss out on *anything*.  When he found out that we could pick apples, we were basically required to do that.  I did manage to get us on a hayride first.  I don't think I have ever been on a hayride so I was pretty jazzed about it.  

 I was surprised how fun picking apples was.  They are easy to see because they are so shiny red.  When you get high enough up in the orchard where the apples aren't picked over, it's pretty easy to fill up your bag.  Jeff and I went berry picking last summer with a friend and her and my little boys.  Jeff was kind of whiny about it because he said he detests berry picking.  Turns out, berry picking out in the country where Jeff grew up consists of "hiking for an hour into the woods to pick berries from a big wooded mess of berries".  Picking berries (or apples) from a farm you pay to get into consists of going on a hayride up to where the nice wide rows of apples are, and then moseying down a path leisurely filling your bag.  Totally different experience.

We picked our five dollars worth of apples and realized that the rain was probably coming back.

Ominous Skies in the Apple Orchard

One thing I failed to take a good picture of was the cider doughnuts.  We wandered into the, er, dining barn?  Not sure.  The covered place with food.  Our friend from New York is always talking about how good cider doughnuts are, and Triple B is the only place in Pittsburgh that has them, from what I can tell.  The whole drive out, I was thinking "it will rain, but at least I can get a cider doughnut, and stop caring about those.  They can't possibly be as good as I keep hearing.  How could they possibly compare to those doughnuts full of chocolate whipped cream?  That's just crazy talk."

Friends?  I was wrong.  Cider doughnuts are AMAZING.  We got 3 and some hot cider and sat down. About two bites into his, Jeff said "we should have got a dozen".  I pointed out that we could get some before we left and he said "wait here, I'm getting a dozen".  Hah!

On the ride home, we determined that the deal is this: Cider Doughnuts are amazing in a completely different way the doughnuts full of pudding or chocolate whipped cream.  They are effectively a completely different kind of pastry.  A delicious, delicious pastry.  If you have them, get them now.  They might be the best thing you can buy for 75 cents a pop.

It was a perfect day.  We bought some fudge and picked our pumpkins and drove home.

I love fall.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Lunch systems: Adorable. Functional. Easy to care for. (pick 2)

It is amazing how one purchase can spiral your shopping out of control.

I have been saving up for, and finally purchased refurbished, an 11" MacBook Air.  It is ADORABLE and so far I am really loving it.  (Previously, I was using an older netbook running Ubuntu, which was surprisingly adequate, but just didn't have the full toolset I wanted.)

But now that I have my super portable laptop, I needed an appropriate bag.  My other laptop bags had laptop compartments that were huge and I did not want my fancy new teeny laptop floating around in there.  Enter, the Timbuk2 bag designed for the 11" air
Perfect Bag.  So far, mostly sold out everywhere.

I did my normal thing where I obsess about it for about a week, spending every evening online paying half attention to TV while making myself nuts trying to decide and obsess about colors.  But so far, I am really loving it.  It fits my laptop, my wallet-onna-string that holds my cell phone and wallet stuff (but I can use it as a teeny purse), and my makeup bag, sunglasses, charger.  I am really loving it.

Enter the problem: The Lunch Bag.  

Jeff got me a really awesome little lunch tote a few years ago for christmas, but it's purple and pink!  It will kind of class with my adorable new laptop bag.  So I am investigating new lunch bags. I have found some pretty cute ones, too.

Lately, I have been freezing stuff for lunches in these little glass containers I got off amazon.  They are pretty fab, so I need my tote to be kinda damp-proof since stuff comes out of the freezer and gets a bit wet.  (The main reason I don't want it in my laptop bag.  It totally fits.)  


Lots of cute stuff.  I haven't even gotten started on the thing where all my coats are pink and purple, so I may want to replace those as well.  Oops.  

Well, in any case, it is very easy to obsess about the PERFECT lunch containment system.  Maybe I should perform a requirements analysis.  Perhaps that is too much like work.