Friday, February 19, 2016

Stubborn as a Moscow Mule

While this is a bit past due (from Christmas!), I like to think that you don't need a holiday to give a gift! It seems that unless the 'gift-ee' has very specific hobbies, it's typically difficult to get the right gift for someone. 

I'm personally a big fan of creating something with a smidgen of flair. This doesn't always go as planned, but it's the thought that counts, right? 

My hubs and I were having a devil of a time finding out what to get for his parents, but with Moscow Mules becoming all the rage lately and my mother-in-love enjoying a fun twist to the typical, we thought a Moscow Mule gift set would be perfect! 

If you want to do something similar, grab the ingredients for someone's favorite drink and throw in some drink ware. This specifically had vodka, two bottles of Ginger beer (which I didn't realize is typically non-alcoholic), two copper mugs and some limes. 

Put it all together in a cute box or basket- perhaps adding some string for flair! 

I also added a recipe card for fun. I think it really pulled it together and gives the recipient a good reference point so they know how to use their gift.

This was a blast to plan out, not to mention that this one really didn't break the bank at all. Definitely a plus for me! 

Have a fantastic weekend, all! We're enjoying 60 degree weather today (which is awesome for Iowa in February), so I'm getting lots of packing done with the windows open. Love the fresh air! 

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Say Cheese!

As a native of Des Moines, it has been pretty cool to watch the city grow and add new opportunities and entertainment over the years. Our downtown alone used to be empty and vacant when not in use for a concert. Now we have an arcade bar, top-notch restaurants, eccentric coffee shops, a high-end shopping district, and one of my favorites: a new jazz club. 

There are unique start-ups, pianos ready for playing on the street corners, and bikes placed around town to rent for convenience as you try to fit all these things into your schedule. (I'm suddenly excited for spring!) 

Outside of downtown, the possibilities are endless. I've been here my whole life and am still trying new things and going to new places. 

One such place is The Cheese Shop of Des Moines. As a fellow cheese lover, they have some of the most incredible cheeses in store, as well as plenty of foods and drinks to go with them. The price isn't always for the faint of heart, but since my hubs and I had a gift card- we were thrilled to splurge a bit for valentine's day. 

With zero experience in creating a cheese plate (but plenty of experience consuming them!), I am pretty proud of our assembly:  

We already know the types of cheeses we liked, so we selected a 10-year aged cheddar, a ridiculously smooth bleu, and a mild, but delicious swiss. Pair that with the baby gherkins, a prosciutto paste, raspberry jalapeƱo jam and olive oil crackers- we were all set! We even topped it off with some Chocolate Storybook treats from my lovely mom. 

Valentine's Day rocked, to say the least. Snuggled at home, watching a movie and having some of the best cheeses with my hubs- fantastic! 

Does anyone have any favorite places to go in Des Moines? 

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Happy Valentine's Day!

Today is the final day! I know it's just a day, but I'm always excited about Valentine's Day. 
I get a little giddy and everything seems a bit sweeter. 

And family night for V-day was a blast. We even made Wookiee wear a festive scarf, which didn't last very long. This was legitimately the manliest scarf I had. Poor Wooks- he's a good sport! 

After church and running some errands today, the only thing on the schedule is to lounge around at home. Later on, we are making up a *hopefully* amazing cheese plate and watching American Sniper. No, this is not my idea of a romantic movie, but my incredible and wonderful husband has been in the Army National Guard for 10 years today! I'm so proud of him, and watching this movie with him is the least I can do. (I've been refusing to watch this movie since it came out!) 

He has yet to get his valentine today (he will get it as soon as he opens the fridge at some point!). You can use sparkling juice, champagne, wine or whatever trips your trigger. I personally wanted something to go with our cheese display, so I got the first champagne we ever had together. 

I hope you all have a fantastic Love-Day! I know I will. :) 

Saturday, February 13, 2016

You Blow Me Away

Now I will be the first to admit that this is a very bizarre valentine, but I got a huge kick out of it! It's just the right level of cheese to make me happy. I have yet to give it to my hubs this morning and I'm sure he will find it sufficiently weird. :) 

See what I mean? Weird. But I love being married to someone who will appreciate this and embrace my weirdness. I'm sure we'll have plenty of fun with this thing in the weeks to come! 

I'm so excited for tonight's Valentine's Dinner with the family, but before we go to that, today will be full of running around town to get some last minute needs for our move in a few weeks! Crazy to think it's right around the corner. I'm so excited, but overwhelmed with how many boxes will be used! I would say I have moving tips coming your way, but this is my first real move, so I'm just along for the ride and taking the backseat to my hub's organization. :) 

Off to have some Whoopee Cushion fun! Have an amazing Saturday! Any fun Valentine's Day plans tomorrow? 

Friday, February 12, 2016

I Loaf You!

If you're anything like me, you have a love/hate relationship with bread. I LOVE to eat it, but I hate to bake it. It's something about the time involvement, but mostly because I have a difficult time with getting yeast to work. I literally have to use my husband's meat thermometer to get the water to the right temperature or it doesn't get frothy. (Don't worry, I clean the meat thermometer first!) 

Alas, my dad got my mom got an amazing bread maker for Christmas. So using that was WAY easier! It did all the rising and kneading for me *queue angel chorus*. 

The part that took so long was the starter. I have never attempted sourdough bread before (because I think it's disgusting), but my hubs loves it. So I began slowly adding water and flour to a sealed bowl for the last 7 days before actually making the bread with my momma yesterday. 

I have to admit, though. The flavor of the bread is pretty good- even for sourdough. 

Check out that nice crusty top! I wish it weren't sourdough so I could have a slice! 

And when it comes to bread, nothing should overshadow it, so I made the card nice and simple, using my metal stamps to indent the letters. 

Only two more to go, and tomorrow's is especially weird, so stop back to check it out!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

You're All That...

As 80's kids who truly grew up in the 90's, I can appreciate this valentine! I have to admit, I'm not a huge fan of Doritos (or most chips, for that matter). I'm usually pretty careful to cook healthy and not buy the junk food, but every once in a while, there is something glorious about having some delicious  snack that is good for nothing but flavor and crunch. 

My hubs, however, would eat Doritos probably any day! I suppose if I could get away with it and still look awesome, I probably would too. :) Needless to say, today's valentine will vanish soon!

I'm off to tackle my first cup of coffee (not literally). Freezing cold winter mornings are perfect for a great cup of coffee and a good book! 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Stud Muffin

Valentine's Day is one day closer, and that means one more valentine for the hubs! Since he's really really really ridiculously good looking, I had to let him know that he is a stud muffin. :) He was pretty happy with this one since it involves taking food to work. Who doesn't want that? 

And even though I adore celebrating V-day with my hubs, I have always loved February 14th, regardless of "relationship status." We celebrated as a family as long as I can remember. Mom made it extremely special. As soon as we were a bit older, we even had a candlelit dinner as a family. In fact, we are doing it again this year on Saturday! It makes it about so much more than romance (although I love that part as well)!

And this has nothing to do with Valentine's Day, but with a beautiful snowy day, the pooches were having a ball. Wookiee has apparently never seen flakes this big and was jumping to chomp flakes out of the air. 

I had some pun fun outside of the valentines as well! Each year since junior high, I have remembered to celebrate the birthday of one of my teachers. He is an incredible teacher and a godly man that I have looked up to through the years. Another student and I affectionately reference him as the Muffin Man, so typically I bake him some muffins for his birthday. 
This year, he turned 60! And since he loves fishing, I went all out with the card and created a fish-pun masterpiece. :) 


In case you can't read the text too well, it says: 

Good things come to those who Bait!
You're a 'Reel' Great Teacher
You're O-fish-ally Amazing!
I hope your birthday was 'Fin'-tastic!
'Seas' the day!
May all your 'Fishes' come true! 

It was great to see him again to catch up, and he loved the card. :) Hopefully it inspires you a bit as well! 

I hope you're all staying warm and having a beautiful Wednesday. Before I'm off, I wanted to share another example of God's amazing timing in showing me a verse at the perfect moment: 

"Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord."
Psalm 27:14

It may sound basic, but I REALLY need basic verses to get through my head sometimes! :) 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Valentines like coffee... on the dark side!

My hubs and I are major Star Wars nerds, so of course we saw "The Force Awakens" on opening night! I think I had heart palpitations when the music began. 
This would explain why I have to have at least one Star Wars themed valentine each year. 

If you haven't seen the Force Awakens, this probably doesn't make a ton of sense, but if you have- hopefully you enjoy it as much as I do. And while I'm not much of an artist, I was pretty happy with how it turned out! 

The Kylo Ren bubbles not only reinforce the Kylo reference, but we will have lots of entertainment later as our 85 lb. lab/coonhound pooch LOVES to attack bubbles. :)

Day 2 down and some random fun to come! I'm getting giddy already!

Monday, February 8, 2016

My Funny Valentine

My hubby and I will have our 4th anniversary this fall! A lot of people keep telling me we're still in the newlywed phase, and they must be right, since I'm crazy about him every day. It's as if everyone assumes that for a couple to truly be happy, they must have not spent much time together. 
Thankfully, I know this is not true after watching my parents show each other completely selfless love every day, and they have been married almost 35 years! 

I aspire to have a marriage like theirs that is not dependent on perfection, (even though they both pretty much are!) but on God's grace and unconditional love. I love working toward that with my hubs each day. One of the ways I really enjoy showing him love is through gifts. Nothing crazy, but small little somethings. 

Since our very first year together, I have spent the week prior to V-day sending my hubby a punny valentine each day. I try to mix them up to involve a variety of topics each year and he likes getting all kinds of fun little things- or maybe he just enjoys seeing how my weird mind works!

I thought I would give you a glimpse into his week of valentines this year. I'll be posting one each day up until Valentine's Day and check out below to see some of the past four years of valentines. They aren't meant to be overly romantic or eloquent, but to be goofy and fun! 

This year, for instance, he has really been wanting some vitamins. I kept acting like I forgot to get them (which is not out of the realm of possibilities for me) so I could use it for this morning's valentine! 

And he ended up loving it. Obviously vitamins aren't ideal for everyone, so try filling a pill bottle with candy and putting a special label on it as an alternative! :) 

Four years ago, I didn't think to take nice photos of my little puns, and for some, I took no photo at all! So below are some of the random puns I have used: 

For the above, I'm sure you can guess most of the gifts that went with these, but here is the list: 
"You're Dino-mite!" - toy dinosaur
"The Biggest 'Perk' in my Life is You!" - a Starbucks gift card
"I'm a sucker for you!" - a sucker (not the most unique one, but I mix in some really basic ones since I plan on doing this a LONG time and don't want to use up all the good ones first!) 
"You Really Float my Boat!" - a Root Beer Float basket (including ice cream, root beer, cups, straws and a scooper)
"I Know"- a Han Solo figurine! (We're both Star Wars nerds)
"We Make a Great Combo- see the image below! 

Last year, I splurged a bit on the gift above: Bath & Body Works has some awesome scents for men, so I picked out a few and he loved them! He's not much for wearing lots of lotion, but LOVES having his feet rubbed with it, so it was kind of a gift that kept giving!

I loved this gift, but the tutorial I followed wasn't tested very well, apparently, and my sharpie wore off pretty quickly. I would recommend a protective layer over the sharpie since baking it did nothing!

the Dynamite stick was filled with a tube of Rolos. :) 

I loved this squeeze toy with the pop-out eyes and had to incorporate it! The dogs had a blast with this one later! 

I know there are plenty more that are packed up for our move this month, so hopefully I can scrounge them up for another time! 

I try to make these useful, but it's pretty easy to rationalize pointless toys when we have dogs in the house. Any toy becomes entertainment as the dogs tear it apart moments later. 

I'll be back tomorrow with a new valentine, so stay tuned! 

Friday, February 5, 2016

Pinecone or Waffle Cone? THAT is the Question.

Sadly, there is nothing about waffle cones in this post, although I'm kind of craving one all of the sudden. Rather, I have a very quick tutorial on the pinecone garland shown in the "Baby, It's Cold Outside" baby shower post here. 

The instructions aren't overly complicated, but it definitely took longer than expected! 
I purchased a bag of pinecones from JoAnn fabrics. (link here) They were on sale for about $3 a bag, although as I check out the link now, they are $1.20! Not a bad deal for about 15 pinecones. 

The only downside is the smell. The cinnamon smell was crazy overwhelming, so I poured them out into a basket to let them air out for a few weeks. I highly recommend this and it helped immensely! 

You can do this project in a few ways, but I found this to be the easier and more sturdy of routes. You'll want to start by prying away some of the "scales" at the top of the pinecone so you have somewhat of a flat area. There is a nub (scientific term is apparently peduncle) that we don't want on the top- so take a pair of pliers and snap that off! This was frustrating since it didn't always snap how I wanted it to. So get a few extra pinecones! 

Then I about gave up on the whole thing while trying to insert an eye screw into each pinecone. The dastardly things did NOT want to cooperate. But I prevailed! I legitimately just stuck them into the area where the peduncle was removed, then pushed and turned as hard as I could. 

The worst was finally over and painting them was super easy! I've seen people use glue as well, then sprinkle glitter over it for a sparkly snow vibe. 

Then grab a spool of twine or string and tie them at your desired interval before hanging! At the end of this month, I will actually have a fireplace mantle to decorate, so I'm pretty jazzed to hang stuff like this! 

Let me know if you have any questions or if you tried this yourself! 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Baby, It's Cold Outside!

This past weekend, I had the incredible opportunity to host a baby shower for my sis-in-love. She and my bro are expecting a sweet little girl in March! I'm pretty jazzed to have a little niece and already have an affinity for pink, so it pretty much decorated itself! :) 

The biggest thing to figure out was location. Since we were expecting around 35 people, our house wasn't going to be big enough (which worked out well since there are moving boxes everywhere!) So we decided on my dad's dental office (It's not a typical dental office). 

Baby B will have a pink nursery, so I went with a wintery rustic vibe with plenty of pink. Here's a quick look at the invitation I designed for the event.

I had my doubts about the end result, but the office really ended up transforming well! It really was a blast to plan and there were so many small details that I could do myself, like these twine-wrapped mason jars below and the craft runners for the tables: 

These pine cone garlands weren't exactly what I would call "fun" to make, but I'm pretty happy with the way they turned out! It really pulled the winter vibe into all the pink decor.  (I'll give this its own tutorial later.) 

Instead of a typical guestbook, we had everyone highlight their favorite encouraging Bible verse for Baby B and sign their name next to the verse. I love the thought of her having this years down the road- with all the encouraging verses from tons of people who have loved her since before she was born!  

 After highlighting their verse, everyone was invited to write a note to the new dad and mom, which I will snail mail to them at random points once Baby B is born. My aunt did this for my bridal shower and it was SO fun to receive encouraging letters during the first few months of marriage! 

Once everyone was finally inside, they were welcome to mingle and enjoy some sugar (ironic for a dental office!) 

My favorite aspect were the DIY s'mores. I hand-painted each skewer (bamboo kabob sticks) and placed them in a milk bottle for presentation. There were three sternos (placed in a bowl with glass beads) for roasting the mallows. I was surprised at how well they roasted! 

 There were heart-shaped pink marshmallows as well, but nothing beats a regular s'more for me! For kicks and giggles, there were mocha, sea salt and dark chocolates available. 

And I finally figured out a use for the artichoke lanterns! They were a great addition to the entrance, along with the polka dot paper garland draped across the doorway. 
You can find the tutorial for the lantern here, and the tutorial for the paper dot garland here

 And even though it ended up being a balmy 45 degrees in Iowa for the shower, we still went through quite a bit of coffee, hot tea and hot chocolate! (What is hot chocolate without whipped cream and toppings?) 

And don't even get me started on the sparkling grape juice and petits fours! Oh my goodness! Those little almond cakes were SO good. Unfortunately, there were a few leftovers, so I had to eat a few more the next day. :) 

While I'm not usually one for games at parties, it is so much to get everyone involved- especially when there are grown men who will participate in a baby bottle chugging contest! 

We also had some great sports for a "feed the baby" game, where both people in each couple were blindfolded, but had to feed each other applesauce with a baby spoon. 

And finally, we had a game for everyone present- Guess the baby items (really creative name, right?)
My mom picked out seven random items that ranged from easy to difficult to identify. Everyone had a note card and pencil and had to feel inside the bag (without looking) then try to identify each item in only 30 seconds. 

The moms in the room definitely had an advantage in this game! 

As we wrapped up the games, my dad (and a grandpa-to-be) prayed for my bro, sis-in-love and little niece. 

Then, of course, it was time for gifts! Just to add a special touch, I pre-addressed thank you notes and gave them to dad and mom-to-be at the end of the shower to make it a little easier in the chaos of preparing for a new baby! 

It was such a fun experience. We have an amazing family (and honorary family), so it is pretty easy to have a great time hanging out with everyone. Plus, it's such an honor to host for the first Brady baby in the family! While it's a truly bizarre feeling to think of my brother as a dad, I know they are both going to be absolutely amazing parents. 

Have a wonderful day, everyone!