Monday, December 30, 2013

Christmas Recap

I apologize in advance for abandoning you, dear reader, over the holidays. I know you thought I had completely forgotten my blog and every reader was hanging on a thread for a new post. No? I'm just making that up in my head? Ah well, pipe dreams and all....

Well, I'm back and I present this Christmas recap post chock full of pictures for your enjoyment.

My parents arrived on the Saturday before Christmas, and immediately regretted their decision due to our cold weather. But they survived, so that's the important take-away point here. Sunday night we did take them down to Duluth for dinner and to see the Bentleyville lights, although it was much too cold to get out so we did just a drive-by.

On Monday we made cookies. The wise idea was to actually make them during Emily's nap and then have her help decorate them when she woke up. I'm not sure who's brilliant plan it was to let a 2 1/2 year old put sugary icing on cookies, but it was messy. Not a total disaster, but definitely messy. Again, we survived and have the cookies to prove it.

Yummy cookies
Part of our holiday tradition is to watch A Christmas Story. It started with the TBS 24 hour movie marathon, and has spiraled out of control from there. I am the proud owner of no less than 3 Ralphie ornaments, 2 leg lamps, and 1 Ralphie bulls-eye t-shirt. Unfortunately, my household has only basic cable so we do not get the 24 hour Christmas Story-palooza. However, we do have it on DVD! Oddly enough, we do get a Canadian channel that played it a few days early. As you can see, my parents were completely enraptured by it.
Luckily, no wine was spilled on my couch.
Finally, it was Christmas Eve! We dressed up in our finest attire and headed off for Bear River Lutheran Church, where the candles are free and singing on key is optional.

Here's Emily looking adorable as always. She's such a ham and loves being the center of attention. Until she has had enough of picture taking.

I know I'm cute. Can we open presents now?
Christmas morning was a 2 hour present-opening affair. There were lots of presents to be opened, and of course Little Miss wants to play with them all right now. She doesn't quite get the idea of more presents. Maybe next year? Her favorites include her Disney Princess Castle & Klip-Klop stable, her Disney Princess costume dresses, and of course the cheapo bracelet and necklace set that Santa found at Walmart. Big love there!
Fashionista is also wearing her faux-Ugg boots. What a statement.

She wants to wear the dresses all the time. Really. All.The.Time. To eat in, to bathe in, to sleep in. Large tears ensue whenever we pry her out of them. But hey, I need to wash them at some point, right?

I have to admit that my favorite gift so far is the book I posted about here, mainly because Hubby came through and paid for the fancy edition with an inscription from the author. True to her word, Ms. Jackson did indeed write whatever was requested. With maybe a little ad-lib in our case.
Funny, no?
So that is the end of my Christmas re-cap for you. The parents got home all in one piece, swearing to never return to Northern Minnesota in the winter (until next Christmas). We're all back at work and daycare today - for one day then a few days off for New Year's Eve. Travis and I are going to pretend we're in the Caribbean when we visit The Whistling Bird for a fancy, kid-free dinner. 

I hope you all had a fantastic holiday, no matter what you celebrate. Here's to all good things in 2014!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Testing, testing

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Admitting Defeat

I've tried really hard to keep running outside this winter. Really, I have. But when faced with the coldest December I've seen since moving here, plus record levels of snow, it's been pretty difficult. Today we're warming up to 24 degrees (heat wave!) just to plummet back down to the single digits until after Christmas.

That's depressing.

I've been running on my treadmill, but it's just not the same when you're training for a race. I decided that I'd just run the 10K instead of doing the half marathon since I've not had the training time I feel is necessary. I also unpleasantly discovered that race organizers changed the packet pick-up time on New Year's Eve, and they seem to be pretty unorganized as a whole. To put it mildly, I've had a bad taste in my mouth for the Polar Dash for a few weeks now.

So I finally decided yesterday to scrap the whole thing. Our hotel was fully refundable, and we'll save on the gas money to get down there and cost of eating out. I'm looking at my $50 entrance fee as a nice donation to the Shriner's Hospital in St. Paul.

Instead, we're going to utilize our planned babysitter (sister-in-law) and go out for a nice dinner. This time of year, I realized that I don't want to be in training mode. I want to be in the "eat all kinds of holiday foods, drink wine, be merry, and work it off on the treadmill" mode. Yes, the treadmill is boring. Yes, I'd rather be outside. But it's not necessary. I'm sure I don't have to rationalize this to you, oh dear blog reader. You probably thought I was crazy from the beginning.

I do plan on hitting the streets again once it warms up a little more. So, maybe March? I'm already signed up for a 5K at the end of April. I won the entry for raising a bunch of money for the same race/organization last year. You can't beat free! There are a couple of other races I'm looking at doing next year, (Grandma's half in June and the St. Louis Rock n'Roll half in October) but for now, I just want to relax a little and enjoy the holidays.

3 more days until my parents get here!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Baby it's cold outside...

Guess what?! It's snowing! Old news, right? But guess what again!? It's going to get above 15 degrees today! Can you believe it!!??!?

Of course, this means we're getting snow. Lots of it. I think our warm temperatures are only here for a few days though, and then we plunge back into the single digit temps. Right around the time my parents fly in next weekend to spend Christmas with us.


No, seriously. I wish it weren't so cold for their visit. It seriously limits the activities we can do. Like going to Bentleyville to look at the lights. This is such a cool place to go during the holiday season. You walk through all the lights, they give away free hot cocoa and cookies, and there's an area where you can roast marshmallows over firepits. The best part? It's all free! We may be able to go after Christmas if the temps warm up a little, but I don't think my parents will be able to appreciate the experience in sub-zero conditions. I did spend some time buying them thermal underwear this weekend though. Maybe we need to test those bad boys out!
See? Doesn't it look awesome?
So we may just go down and drive by the lights. You can see most of it from the highway. But I will be pretty sad if we don't make it at all :o(

Arizona is starting to look really nice right about now. I've started a semi-serious campaign to convince Travis that we should move to Arizona. Either Flagstaff or Prescott, which are both pretty mild in the summer and not nearly as cold in the winter. Whenever something cold, snowy, or otherwise MN related pops up, I say "and that's why we should move to Arizona!" I'm slowly starting to chip away at his resistance. Their current temps are 34 and 47, respectively, and sunny. Uhm yes, I live in the wrong state. Maybe someday!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Cookies, cookies, cookies!

Yesterday, daycare was closed so Emily and I spent the day together at home. I would have planned something super fun for us to do, but with this weather it is easier to just stay at home. We're still seeing negative temps, but it's supposed to warm up a little over the next few days.

So after playing house, tea party, and painting fingernails and reminding Emily not to touch anything for what seemed like forever, it was nap time for her and baking time for me.

My book club (Reading Between the Wines - these ladies are seriously awesome) started doing a cookie exchange last year. Last year I think I had to bake something like 10 dozen cookies. I'm an okay cook, but I'm not a great baker. I can make a serviceable cookie, but I definitely don't loooooove baking. However, I do looooooove to eat cookies (99% of the reason why I run), and my book club ladies are pretty awesome cooks AND bakers. So, for the work I put into my cookies, I get much better ones in return. Seems fair, right?

This year I only had to make 6 dozen, so I decided to try my hand at Peppermint Meltaways from the Taste of Home. They seemed relatively easy, and festive. When you double the recipe, it makes exactly 7 dozen cookies so I had some for home, too. Here is what they are supposed to look like:
OooOOoo, pretty!

So, I got my ingredients all ready while Emily ate lunch and once I put her down, it was showtime! I will say that these were easy to make. I just don't like baking in general. However, I think maybe I'd add a little more butter, or just a teensy bit of milk to the cookie part. Mine are a little on the dry side. Hmm...maybe don't listen to me since I'm not a baker and I really don't know how to remedy this problem. 

Anyway, my first batch got a little too brown on the bottom because I had my oven rack too close to the heating element. Also, I tend to be a bit Scotch in all things, cookie baking included. My first batch of cookies are tiny, and they got a lot bigger towards the end. Ditto with the amount of frosting on each cookie. I decided that the tiny brown ones would be the cookies I kept for home. No wonder Travis thinks I'm a horrible baker.

Here, ladies and gentlemen, are my finished cookies for your inspection:

You can tell that the right side were the first few batches, and they get bigger as you move to the left. Also, I bought candy canes instead of peppermint candies. Buy the peppermint candies. Candy canes are a PITA to crush up. PITAAAAA. So, after breaking them, then beating them with my rolling pin, I decided each cookie was only getting a sliver of candy cane on the top. Not quite like the original picture but, let's face it - my cookies were never going to look that good. I did, however, put all my icing into a zip lock baggie to create a piping bag. That saved me some time and frustration. See? I have skills, and I know how to execute them. But not all of us can be the Cakeboss. 

So, to make things fair, I took two cookies from each batch to make up each exchange dozen. That way there's a good mix of big and little. What I lack in baking skills, I made up for in these cute tubs for each lady. They're reusable, so really, this is the gift that keeps on giving. 

 All things said and done, they are tasty little treats. Even better, they're bite-sized so it's ok to eat two or three. Or all 12 if that's what you're going for. Our book club meeting is tonight, amd I'm very excited to see what everyone else has to exchange!

Monday, December 9, 2013

You think you know cold?

This is what I want to say to everyone. Pretty much the entire country. "You think you know cold?!? You think you're cold!!??! Boy, do I have news for you!"

This weekend was the coldest I have ever lived through in my 4 1/2 years in northern Minnesota. AM temps were -25 and -24, respectively. I can't even begin to describe that to someone who has not lived it. This is the kind of cold where exposed skin is at risk for frostbite in about 5 minutes. It frosts your windows on the inside, and makes your car sound horrible. It's basically weather that you don't go outside in.

I know weather and temperature is a relative thing though. Having lived up here for awhile now, I swear that I will walk around in a t-shirt when it's low 60's, probably even high 50's. If I were still living in Florida, that would definitely be sweatshirt weather. It is here too, but only if I'm going to spend lots of time outside. But then again, maybe not. If it were a sunny day and I was running or being active, I'd probably peel my sweatshirt off.

Just the thought of that has left me pinning for warmer weather...

Needless to say, my long run did not happen...outside at least. I sucked it up and ran 1.5 hours on the treadmill. Let me tell you how much fun that is! Oh wait, no it's not. I managed to get through it by watching a movie on Netflix and putting a towel over the time screen. So the first time I looked at my progress, it had already been 48 minutes! That's awesome! Then, of course, I was checking the time every 10 minutes or so again after that. But that's ok. I did it, and I hopefully won't have to do it again next weekend. We'll see. The only problem with running long distances in 10ish degrees is that my water bottles freeze at the end of my run, just when I need them the most!

I am starting to worry a bit about the Polar Dash, coming up in 3 short weeks. The temps in Minneapolis are supposed to get much warmer in the next 10 days or so (we're talking mid 20's! that's incredible!). I'm just hoping that those temps stick around for the race. Keep your fingers crossed that things warm up a bit for us!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Holiday Greetings!

In a follow-up to Why the UPS man hates me, I thought I'd share our Christmas card with the blogosphere. I typically send about 60ish cards. Not only do I receive, but I give as well! I really am looking out for our mailman, he's a cool dude. Not all are reciprocated, but I love getting Christmas cards in the mail. Who doesn't, right?

Here's our card for this year, with some of our JCP portrait photos:

Aww, aren't we cute? I only ordered 50 from Shutterfly because even though I had a 50% off code, they were still expensive. Then I was worried that I wouldn't have enough, so I ended up making and ordering about 20 more from Walgreens. Surprisingly, I think the Walgreens cards are better in quality. That makes it easy for me to decide where to get cards from next year.

I also put up our Christmas decorations over the holiday weekend. That's a great way to burn off all that turkey! I keep all the decorations in our basement, so it's up the stairs, down the stairs, up the stairs, down the stairs. Uufda!

But, it always comes together and our house looks so nice when it's all decorated. Emily helped us with the tree this year, which was scary and hilarious at the same time. She got so excited, that she would run back and forth between the tree and the ornament bins trying to get as many ornaments on the tree as she could. Of course, most of them were all clustered on the same branch and needed some rearranging later. If she wasn't a fan of a particular ornament, she would just throw it back in the box and move on to the next one. I'm not sure how many times I said "Emily, you have to be careful!". I lost count. In the end, the tree is up, all the ornaments survived, and we had fun.

The tree looks like it's on fire, but I assure you that it is not. Hello, LED lights!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Why the UPS man hates me (the mailman, too)

Right now we're in the middle of a little snowstorm. Little meaning we'll likely get about 18 inches when all is said and done. Fun right?

Here's our parking lot at work with some of the snow. Can you see it flying through the air? We just had a little bit of a lull, and it's expected to pick up again around noon. Travis and the snowblower will be good friends this evening! The snow started yesterday, and we probably had about 4 inches by the time I got home. 

Now, for why the UPS man hates me...I came home to this:

Three large boxes and three bags. Some may have come from the post office, so I'm including the mailman in this as well. They should think of it as job security. Most of this is from my parents, who are coming here for Christmas. They like to send all the presents here, then wrap them up. Closer to their visit we will be getting boxes of their clothes and shoes as well. It's cheaper than flying with it! When I sent this picture to my Dad this morning, he said "and there's still more to come". 

So I apologize to any package delivery person who may have to come to my house. I'm really just looking out for your best interests. The economy has hurt us all, I know. I would hate for you to lose your job, knowing that I did not do my part in keeping the mail system going. We must band together!