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Eight Maids a Milking

Ben sprung on me late last night that he had an ugly sweater contest at work today and wondered if I happened to have any ugly sweaters lying around. Why yes, I just happen to have several drawers filled with ugly clothes on the off-chance you’ll need something </sarcasm> ha

Luckily friends of ours went to an ugly sweater party last year and had a couple solid contenders. We went over and had Ben model the choices.

Love the sparkles, it was a little short though…

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And the winner:

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There are little gift tags dangling down from all around the sweater. It also has shoulder pads which Ben thinks make him look “more manly”. It was funny watching him try and button it though – I don’t think he knew women’s shirts button on the other side.

We got home and settled into watching “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”. It’s Ben’s favorite Christmas movie and I bought him a copy the first year we were dating. We have 4 gifts left to purchase and the present wrapping count is at ZERO. We’ve baked nothing and haven’t even come up with a plan on what we will bake. Do I really only have 8 days to go??

BUT

We have our decorations up.

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Ben wrapped some garland on the staircase and I added a few poinsettia for color.
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Our Black Saturday tree from last year is decked out in the festive flowers too.
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I bought this little guy last week and I love him!
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My Beanie Babies are back out. I have a TON from when I was a kid and now I pull out the holiday ones and strew them about…
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Ben’s mini tree:
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Here’s a funny item. When I was young, my mom would take us to a lady’s house out in the country. In her basement she ran a pottery business. You could pick out a piece of pottery, clean it, sand it, and paint it. We made glazed flower pots and all kinds of things. Some of my earliest pieces evidently were this hodge-podge of Christmas angels and baby Jesus. There are a lot of missing angel wings. :)
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And finally, Ben’s new BAR sign. Not at all Christmas-y but he turns it on along with all the other lights in the house. I thought it was funny how the camera flipped the green bottle and blue glass and captured their upside down shadows in the picture.
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Soooo….. we probably need to buckle down, check our lists twice, and get that holiday shopping done! Down to the wire. I think this weekend will consist of non-stop wrapping, baking, and Christmas tunes.

Oh what fun!

9 Ladies Dancing

Bwahahaha

Is it really bad that I typed in “9 Drummers Drumming” for the title and then sat staring at it FOREVER wondering why it looked wrong somehow? Apparently that’s the one song I haven’t heard on the radio this season yet. Ha!

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I remember my Freshman year of college. My original roommate moved out and I had about a month where I was living in my dorm room by myself. Probably not the best thing for a lonely girl who got homesick a little too much. Our dorm floor had a contest to see who could come up with the best decorated dorm door. I decided to make a “12 Days of Christmas” theme and designed (poorly, I’m no artist) all 12 different scenes along with a big sign, wrapping paper background, and handmade candy-cane striped paper chains all around the perimeter. I won first place. :)

Last night we made tacos. In an effort to add in some additional veggies, we split a bag of mixed vegetables too. I love tacos. It’s probably one of those foods I could eat every single day.

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Ben and I have been extremely excited because Netflix added back a subset of Chopped episodes for us to watch. Hurray! Chopped was one of our favorite shows when we used to have cable. It’s a cooking competition where 4 people compete over 3 rounds (appetizer, entrée, and dessert) and the judges “chop” one person each round before declaring the winner. The random bit is they all have to make their dish using a basket of mystery ingredients…of which they never usually seem to go along. They’ll have some kind of meat, say Cornish hens, and a vegetable and then usually one or two totally random things like marshmallow fluff or licorice candy – something that you have to work into the dish without it being weird. Anyway, we love watching it and so we’ve been making dinner and then curling up in front of the TV to watch an episode each night. It’s great. (And it doesn’t take much to make us happy)

I’m getting to crunch time on the Christmas shopping which means I need to finalize my game plan while I still have time to order gifts online and have them arrive in time. How did I get so behind this year?? :-)

Anyone else have shopping left to do? I can’t be the only one, can I?

10 Day Countdown

Were talking just 10 days until Christmas folks! I don’t know about you, but we’re all dressed and looking mighty festive around here…

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Oh yeah, now that’s fancy stuff. ;)

We got a nativity set for our wedding and I was excited to get it all spread out on our sofa table. I think I need to do some more shopping to find a better table runner though. I think the bright red is pretty cheerful but doesn’t go so well with the set.

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My Christmas carnations are looking pretty good – even after a few weeks. Ben doesn’t know a carnation from a baby’s breath but he knows that “whatever those are, they last a really long time”. So, they are Ben’s flower of choice. For me, heck I just love getting surprise flowers. :)002 003

We went over for dinner with my folks this weekend. Mom made a batch of chili and it feels like forever since I’ve had some (certain dishes your Mom makes you can’t pass up), so we stopped over for dinner and some card games.

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Mom made lazy daisy cake for dessert – it has a broiled caramel coconut frosting on top. Mmm hmmm

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And then we all settled down for “Get Your Neighbor” and “Cheat”. Evidently I always win so I started goofing off a bit more to let other people beat me. Humph – I may do well playing Cheat but I finished 4th out of 5 in Get Your Neighbor.

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Matt was keeping a steady stream of Christmas tunes going at the table and a great evening was had by all.

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We’re planning on some more games and shenanigans for Christmas Day too. I can’t wait!! We left a lot later than I expected and I completely crashed last night. We got up early (well, “Sunday Early” – meaning 6:30 am) to go grab the early bird breakfast special. We are trying to make this our new Sunday morning tradition and although I like having the ability to sleep in, I admit it is AMAZING hitting the grocery store at 8:15 instead of 9:30 with all the crowds of people!! Just make sure I have adequate coffee first!!!

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I’ve been trying to rehab my leg and am slowly back walking on the treadmill. Take a couple of months with no real exercise and add a bunch of unhealthy food and you’ve got an Ali who is not all that happy with the scale. I used to have so much leg pain I could barely walk to the end of the road and back but I’ve been able to manage a full half hour on the treadmill going a bit over 3mph. Not fast at all but even with a little incline it still gets me moving. Hopefully I’ll be able to work on increasing that speed and duration without the pain coming back. So far so good!

For unknown reasons I’ve been exhausted this past week. Three nights in a row I came home and fell asleep on the couch right after dinner. Today we ate lunch and then I settled in to watch the Packer game (ouch, not a great game!) and fell asleep through the last half. Then I woke up, got the final score, commiserated Ben, and fell back asleep for ANOTHER two hours. How can I be that tired?! I know it’s been a really stressful couple of weeks but whoa.

This girl is definitely counting down the days until Christmas vacation!

I hope you had a FABULOUS weekend. Anyone do anything awesome???

Finishing the Registry

Today I get to talk to you about one of my favorite subjects: coffee

I’m excited. Maybe it’s the combo of waking up – bleary eyed and groggy – and having the enticing aroma and coffee steam coat my face in a delicious fog. MMmmm…

My recent coffee interest was piqued just this past weekend. Because Ben and I created a wedding registry from Bed, Bath, and Beyond, we got invited to their quarterly “completion” event for newlyweds to shop the store and purchase any items that they still have left on their registry (or just whatever they want in the store) – all for 20% off.

Now I need to back track even more. One of my dear friends purchased a beautiful set of cookware for us from our registry. He’s a guy, doesn’t ever shop at BB&B (they don’t have one where he lives), so he had no clue about the 20% off coupons that exist. So, he purchased my set of cookware for full price ($399).

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Through some interesting conversations I learned that not only did he not know about the coupon, but his store also wasn’t running a couple of fun promotions ($50 gift card plus an extra $189 everyday pan). So, we went back to the store with a coupon and got the adjustment made, along with the gift card and pan. The pan has since become Ben’s favorite thing in our entire kitchen. Go figure! A few months later, they ran a short-term promotion where the cookware was 15% off. I took my receipt back yet again and got the price adjusted. I was starting to collect quite a nice pile of store credit! But the gift didn’t stop giving. Because a few other Calphalon items were purchased for us, we made the $500 gift registry bonus and got yet another pan mailed to us along with a 7″ cutting knife. What a load of fun stuff!

Armed with our pile of gift cards (both from the cookware credits as well as wedding gifts), we went shopping with a childlike enthusiasm neither of us had experienced before. It’s pretty strange and really fun to walk into a store with the idea that you’ll fill in some registry gaps and then just find some stuff that looks cool.

They had cookies and bottled water when we arrived and we grabbed our registry list and started walking around. We already knew a few things we wanted to get and had agreed we’d just have fun and each find a few things that were random.

And now we’re caught back up to the coffee. A lady was doing a demo of the Tassimo coffee maker. It’s different from a standard Keurig because reads a bar code on the top of the coffee and can make a variety of different types of drinks.

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I chose the cappuccino and Ben went with a Swiss hazelnut. My coffee required two small pods: the first was the milk for the cappuccino and the second was the actual coffee.

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It was pretty good! It definitely felt more fancy because of the cappuccino foam. We looked around at the Tassimo cups though and, not surprisingly, they are even more pricey than regular k-cups. Anyone with a Keurig knows the two main problems with Keurig machines are the cost of the coffee cups and the fact that you only get one cup of coffee at a time (with a lot of packaging waste). We buy a lot of 8 o’clock coffee for our Keurig and also have one of the refillable cups where you can add your own coffee grounds and save some $$. Lately we have switched to making pots of coffee over the weekends to cut down on the cost. Ben’s also been drinking a lot of tea – another cheaper option.

Since we had $$ to burn and we both love shiny new things, we were drawn to the Keurig 2.0 machine. Have you seen it? It gives you the option to either make a full pot of coffee or use the single-serve method.

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I won’t lie; it looked pretty swank. The motor on our machine is starting to sound a bit strangled… Then the research set in. And this is the point of my post: I’m sharing some info for those thinking of buying of gifting the new Keurig for Christmas this year.

A 16 count box of 8 o’clock coffee costs us $9. The Keurig carafe requires a larger k-cup that is sold in a box of 8 for $14.99. That part doesn’t seem too bad – especially if you plan to serve a group of people. The real kicker is the new k-cup technology. Keurig’s patent on the cup technology has expired, so now they added a new feature which looks for the white label & ink around the rim of the k-cup indicating it’s a Keurig-brewed brand. Those are the only ones that you can brew in these new machines!!

Up close on the new labeling:

new cups

I am a huge Amazon shopper and just looking at the variety packs makes me weary. You can see that you could be buying flavors that won’t even work. Evidently if you put one of the non-Keurig labeled cups into your 2.0 machine, you get an “oops” message and nothing happens.

A hodge-podge variety pack – some converted and some not:

old and new cupsBottom line is just to be aware of this. I had heard you can go online and get a fake white rim that you can affix to your cup before brewing. That seems like a lot of hassle though. For the meantime, we’re sticking with our old one.

So we bypassed the coffee makers and sipped our drinks while giggling and picking random things and tossing them into the cart. We got napkins and placemats off our registry , way too many tablecloths (why??), a Zero Water filtration system, a super snuggly new blanket, a “Bar” sign (guess who picked that!), and a variety of other things.

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While we stood in the checkout line waiting for our items to be rang up, we were announced as a door prize winner! We scored two latte cups (ironic, no?) as well as a blue apple that you put in the fridge and it keeps produce fresh longer. I’ll tuck that away for garden season!

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All the couples also received a crystal ring holder. I love it!

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Wow that store is dangerous. We threw things into the cart only to watch our eyes get bigger as the bill began to creep up. It didn’t seem like that much stuff!! LOL Oddly enough, when all the gift cards and discounts were processed, the total left to pay was… 45 cents. How does that happen!? I doubt we could have hit that close again if we tried. We are definitely feeling excited about all our new loot. It’s like Christmas came early this year! :)

Question of the day: Did you know about the restrictions for the Keurig 2.0? Would that affect your decision to buy one?

Five Short Years

In the past couple of months since Ben and I were married, I’ve spent more time than usual thinking about how we met, our first dates, and the early parts of our relationship. We met in December of 2009 and right from the start I wanted things to be casual so neither of us had to worry about unnecessary dates and drama. For example, we skipped giving each other anything for Christmas that year (not even a card) and on Christmas Eve we just went out for breakfast before parting ways for the rest of the holiday.

We never did one month, 3 month, or any of those silly anniversaries… but for some reason when one year of dating came by, I thought it would be fun to do something. Not surprisingly, Ben had no clue it was Anniversary #1. Red-faced and apologetic, he opened his card and said he’d never forget it again. I got flowers the next day. :)

Now here we are, December of 2014, celebrating anniversary #5. I’d always thought once we got married the whole “anniversary of the first date” thing would probably go away. My parents still celebrate it (Ok, my Dad always seems to remember the day, my mother never does) so maybe more people do than I think. Or perhaps it’s just fun to have more things to celebrate and look forward to, especially things that aren’t Hallmark-driven.

I get home after another long day of work and find a little pink card propped up on the kitchen table. You can tell my brain hasn’t been all there lately because my immediate thought was “oh, how nice. Ben knows I’ve been working ’round the clock lately and he’s getting me a card”. Even though that makes no sense; Ben hates cards.

Anyway, I open it up and started to cry. It was an anniversary card and this time I had forgotten.

Ben says that makes us even for Anniversary #1. I think it makes me overworked and stressed. lol

We had time to finally celebrate this weekend. We drove to Appleton and had a leisurely dinner. The restaurant was all Christmas lights and holiday cheer. I loved it.

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For whatever reason, we were both STARVED when we got there and each ordered a cup of soup. It’s good we did because it took a long time to get our food and I think Ben may have gnawed on the table leg if he didn’t have soup to tide him over.

Ben digging with gusto into his baked potato soup:

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I love baked potato soup too but they had beef barley also on the menu that night. Do you know how hard it is to get good beef barley soup that isn’t swimming with mushrooms?? I almost fell over in good luck! It was just as delicious as I thought. Mental note: make beef barley soup at home some time.

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Our entrees were a beef brisket sandwich for me and country fried chicken for Ben:

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I ended up not eating the bun because I preferred picking out the meat from my sandwich instead. :) After a delicious dinner, we drove over to the mall and walked around looking for any interesting gift ideas. Oddly enough, we left empty handed but relaxed and very happy.

In honor of our 5 year anniversary, I thought I’d post the first picture of Ben that made the blog:

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It was just a few years ago but I think he looks like a baby. :) ha ha

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Happy Anniversary <3

Catching Up but Still Behind

Hey everyone!

Gosh, I’m terrible. Every time I think about putting together a blog post, it’s usually when I’m no where near the computer and I’m snapping away at pictures thinking “Oh, this will be fun for the blog” only to never actually post anything. It’s been one of those random and crazy times at work where everything is moving way, way too fast. I had settled into a nice pace for wrapping work up and then coasting into my almost 2 weeks of vacation over the holidays. Instead, I’m swimming in a boatload of emails, meetings, and work to help hit an out-of-the-blue and completely unattainable timeline (but you have to try to know it’s unattainable, apparently) – which means long days. I’m coming in early (hence no time to blog over coffee), leaving late, and working evenings as well.

But enough of all that. What I want to say is: I miss all of you! I’m behind on catching up on my blog reading too. While I’d love to say I’ll be caught up soon, I’m not making promises I am not sure I can keep! :-)

We had bought a bag of apples for making pie but I ran out of time and decided to make crisp instead. How can anyone in the world not be crazy about cinnamon and sugar dusted apples?

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I promised Ben that one of these days I would make him a real pie though. He’s as crazy about pie as he is about football (speaking of which, Goooooo Packers!!)

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Ben went to hang the lights out this weekend and noticed that sections of every single strand of lights we had were not working. How does that happen? All of them worked fine when we took them down last year!! So we punted and tried some new ones we had stored away… We’re a strand short for the roofline and debating whether or not we should get one more of just leave it as is.

The tree is up and finally decorated properly. We have a fake tree and hang those Scentsicles on the tree. I absolutely love the new Holly Wreath scent. The box generally says to use 4-6 but the smell is pretty strong so we start out with 2 and then will add one every week or so. Then after Christmas, I hang them in one of my fake trees and they make the room smell great all year. I’m in love. :)

I’m trying (unsuccessfully) to get some much-needed organization done. I thought I would try and clean out some paper and misc stuff from the kitchen – and all I have now is a kitchen table littered with odds and ends.

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Those full-sized candy bars we bought for trick-or-treaters last year! I think I can safely throw those out now.

We’ve been dining on meals that last for several days. It’s better than making poor Ben do all the cooking while I’m clanking around the computer working. I made another big batch of chicken and wild rice soup and this time we left the roux out so it was a bit healthier. It was still really, really good. Ben bought some cook and serve biscuits and I am really itching to find a good biscuit recipe so I can try and make them myself sometime.

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Just a lot of stuff going around here but I’ll do my very best to get on here more. Like I said, I miss all my blog peeps.

I hope you’re enjoying the Christmas season. I have the non-stop Christmas song radio station programmed into my car now. Hurray!

Have a great day everyone. :)

Too Much Food x2

Wheeew, I just took a breath. :)

Isn’t it amazing how one minute you can be leisurely strolling through and the next minute you’re flying around like a crazy person?? That’s me. I was settling into the end of the year wrapping up projects and looking forward to using up a LOT of vacation time (use it or lose it by year end!). Late last week my boss hit me with a surprise new project that has no real scope, an unrealistic timeline, and requires a lot of people who also do not have time and have a ton of vacation. That means I’ve been walking around trying to put pieces together and see what we can come up with. Long hours and not a lot of down time.

I’m a bit behind in wrapping up Thanksgiving for you, but I still want to because we had some delicious, delicious, delicious eats. I always love the Holidays in blog-land because you get to peek into the traditions and love of different families and see how people come together to celebrate. It’s magical for me.

Thanksgiving morning (I still remember a couple of years ago when it was so warm Ben hung the lights in a sweater):

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I was on the list to bring the usual pecan sweet potato casserole and despite PROMISING myself that I would peel and cut the sweet pots the night before, I found myself frantically peeling a huge pile two hours before we needed to head out the door. Oops.

022I was determined to take pictures of the process this year… and then the time and chaos in the kitchen got in the way. Another oops! Lots of things going on at once to maximize the time.

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One pan would be immediately cooked, one would be stored in the fridge, and the third would stay on the counter so it would take less time to heat later. I had my biggest stockpot brimming with potatoes and I was feverishly working on the delicious topping. Once the pan went into the oven, it was off for a quick shower in between the 15 minute window for uncovering the dish.

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In the end we ended up with a large pan for my family, a medium pan for Ben’s family, and a tiny pan for Ben and me.

Plus a large pile of dishes!!

025 Tis the season. :-)

We started with meal #1 with Ben’s family. All the usual trimmings. It’s hard to remember to pace yourself because there’s another big meal just hours away!

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Four hours later we were on the way to meal #2 with my family and another plate of delicious food!

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When you look at my plate that doesn’t seem like much – but double it to count the first meal and add on a slice of pumpkin pie – and one of apple too!

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I ate way too much and was uncomfortably stuffed. It’s so hard because it feels like you’re only getting a nibble of food you waited a whole year to eat (hello stuffing). :-)

Alex ran the Turkey Trot 5 mile run that morning and plowed through a ton of food. He burns it off as quickly as he eats it. The roads for the race were terrible though – lots of ice – and people were falling along the course. Alex eased up quite a bit so he wouldn’t wipe out mid-stride and risk hurting himself.

We love seeing our families but there’s no doubt the two meals are really hard in one day. We had tried to separate the events but that didn’t go over so well… so we’ll have to see what we can do going forward. I’m not as young as I used to be (ha!).

Hope you’re having a fabulous day everyone and that your Thanksgiving celebrations were relaxing and tasty. Off to work I go!

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