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Lots of Chocolate

Good morning on a very early (and warm) Monday morning!

Ben had an early flight to Texas this morning so after I dropped him off at the airport, I realized I had some time before work. I stopped off at a new-to-me coffee shop a few miles from the airport and am sipping on the latte of the month: chocolate covered strawberry and munching on a warm blueberry muffin. Morning power food!

I’ve been working on quietly wrapping things up at work. The plan is to put my notice in next week. In the meantime, you’d be surprised (at least I was) of the stuff I am trying to get done ahead of time. You never know if they’ll just walk you out when you give notice, so I’m cleaning out my inbox of emails, savings things like recipes and home emails of friends, and doing some serious purging of files (both on my PC and in my cubicle shelves). You’d be shocked at how much stuff you accumulate after 8 years! It’s bittersweet. I’m actually not feeling my anxiety lift yet. The past couple of days I think maybe this is adding stress because I’ve had really weird heart palpitations. Bleh Anyway, I think once I’m done with this I can just work on mentally healing and then figure out what the next chapter will bring.

Since we know we’ll be dropping down to one income for an indeterminate time, we’ve been trying to cut back on things… It’s gone well in some areas (Internet/Cable and cell phone bills) but then there’s the random funny thing. I told Ben not to buy me expensive flowers for Valentine’s day because I wanted to save the money.

Then I went out to a chocolate store I’ve never been to before to see if I could find just a little something sweet for my sweetie. This place was to die for!

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It was a tight fit for all the love birds in the store (I imagine Christmas is ridiculous) but they had so many fun things. Oh – and the ceiling! I just love the tin pattern some of these historic buildings have. You don’t see much of this in the Green Bay area anymore (at least in such good shape).

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The prices were a little ridiculous so I just started grabbing “two” of a few different things for us to try. Two caramels, two mint truffles, two sea salt caramels…

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And of course, wouldn’t you know by the time I was done my “small” purchase was a $30 pound of delectables. Ha!

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But I didn’t want to put anything back. You know how it goes. I had my purchased wrapped and paid at their amazing cash register and then after picking up a card, I was set!

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So then a few days later Valentine’s Day rolls by and imagine my surprise when I get a call at work that there’s a delivery for me at the front desk. Well, Ben took my message to heart and did NOT get me flowers.

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Chocolate covered strawberries instead! We’re swimming in chocolate now!

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Sharri’s Berries are being advertised a lot lately so I was excited to unwrap and see what they look like. I received a dozen in 3 different combos. They looked a little beat-up when you unwrap them and several weren’t in their little tray locations and had to be moved back into place. They don’t have any stems so you can literally take one and pop it right into your mouth.

In case anyone is thinking about ever ordering them – here’s my unbiased opinion. Save your money. There’s a good ratio of berry to chocolate, which I liked, but the chocolate with chips was not great and several of the berries weren’t red and ripe like the one below. Instead, they were white and pretty under-ripe. Not what you want when you’re paying a premium. We actually much preferred the dipped berries we get from the supermarket in Milwaukee.

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But – it was still a really sweet (ha, no pun intended) treat from Ben. Now we’re rolling in chocolate goodness.

Ben made me a delicious Valentine’s dinner with steaks on the grill and baked potatoes. Mmm Hmm

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This past weekend we got hit with April/May weather. It was in the MID FIFTIES yesterday! Ben and I went for a 3mile walk around the neighborhood and I hung our sheets on the line. I remember doing that a few years ago in March wearing snow boots and a winter jacket but yesterday I was in a t-shirt and sneakers. I think we’re all feeling a little spoiled at the moment. Looks like this weather will continue until Thursday and even hit 60 on Wednesday. Be still my heart.

Ok, time to get packed up for work. Have a terrific day!

A Little Back and Forth

Hey there blog world!

It’s been a while and quite a month too. The weather has been as unpredictable as I’ve ever seen for January. Usually, we’re experiencing super-cold temps and a boatload of snow but we’ve run the gamut. There’s been some single digit temps but then we had warmer weather and tons of rain leaving a ridiculously icy mess.

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Not only did driving over that stink but WALKING across a huge parking lot to get in and out of work was treacherous.

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Everything was melting away during a streak of 32+ weather until yesterday when we had another winter storm and 5 fresh inches of white making it look like Winter in Wisconsin once again.

With the Packers out of SuperBowl running now, the weekends aren’t filled with the pre-game excitement anymore. We’re heartily rooting for Atlanta but I’ve yet to decide if we’ll actually watch the game. There was SO much excitement when we hosted the play-off game a few weeks ago though. That’s the kind of buzz that fills an entire town. Ben and I were driving around Lambeau and stopped to see some of the fun snow carvings/sculptures they were making in preparation for the game:

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(I could totally make that)

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(This? Maybe not so much… Love the little carved G on the side and the spikes in the shoes. Fun details!!)

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I’ve been having a very difficult time at work. It’s been challenging for the past 2+ years since we hired a new boss for our department and I’ve been killing myself trying to do a good job. Sometimes it’s hard to see patterns when they are happening to you but looking back over time I’m seeing how my manager has been stripping away my confidence over time. I don’t feel like I can do my job anymore. I don’t feel wanted either.

It’s hard because I’m not a person who relishes change. In fact, I loathe it in these types of circumstances – especially when my confidence is a zero – but I’m realizing that it’s causing me so much anxiety, depression, and misery. I need to do something. I’ve been looking for new jobs to apply for but honestly, I don’t feel like I can do anything and I don’t want to do anything right now. So we’re balancing finances with maybe taking a little break from everything to figure out what I want to do when I grow up.

So that’s been a large part of why I’ve been MIA. I come home and, on a good day, make dinner and manage to get something done around the house. More often than not it’s been cuddled up on the couch in tears dreading going into work the next day. I’m a good, hard-working employee and a rational part of me knows I’m a valuable asset that companies would want to hire, but the emotional part of me fears failure and not actually being as good as I think I am. Definitely some mental work to do!

I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth – I’m just working on hanging in there a day at a time. I’m hoping for good things in 2017 despite a rough start but it’ll take courage and grit to get there. Wish me luck!!! 🙂

Freezing for Fun

Brr, it’s been a mega-chilly week around these parts. I don’t think it’s just the cold (although there’s been a few days when we were lucky to get into the single digits) but the WIND has been ridiculous. It just rips right through you and you’re chattering and shaking in seconds. Even the short walk across the parking lot into work each day is brutal. I’m wondering why I never purchased remote start for my car.

Ben and I took an abbreviated trip to Kenosha/Racine over the weekend. It was supposed to be two nights with some time baked in for sight-seeing, but I got a last minute call from a dear friend (who was in town from NY) so we cut it short a day. It worked out well though, because we failed to plan ahead and all the local tours and attractions we thought about viewing were full. Everyone must have had the same idea!

We finished up one of our Ingress game banners and then worked on another one down on the Kenosha waterfront. Let me tell you, it looked beautiful but it was absolutely freezing…

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(looks like spring doesn’t it? No snow in sight!)

So much of the snow seems to have melted away and it appears like any old Spring day – with grass and all – but we took turns bundling up, grabbing both phones, and dashing out to hit the locations we needed while the other kept the car running and the heated seats on high. The very last place we had to go was way out to a lighthouse on the pier.

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After checking my phone battery (84%) I doubly secured my coat hood so it wouldn’t blow off and we scuffled as quickly as we could along the pier. There was absolutely no wind block, poor lighting, and patches of the pier were icy and slick so we stepped carefully. The worst thing was having to pull off our chunky mittens so we could work the phone screens, but we were done quickly and then I suggested to Ben a quick picture while we were at the edge of the pier. I clicked the button and POOF – the screen went black. My battery died from the cold. Ugh!

Scampering back into the cold and shaking with our hands placed over the car heaters, we laughed, plugged my phone in, and decided we needed some food. We checked into our hotel and at the suggestion of the hotel rep, made our way across the street to a local pasta place. Evidently all their pastas are made from scratch and it’s “beyond excellent”.

What was “beyond excellent” for me wasn’t the food at all – but the insane Christmas dĂ©cor. I have never seen a restaurant so decked out for Christmas. It was amazing.

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They had trees decorated with twinkle lights, bulbs, bows and tiny ornaments, strings of lighted garland, a HUGE Santa, and even reindeer flying in the air…

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We were seated next to the fireplace, where they had a string of red twinkle lights

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We ordered salads and then waited for our main courses to arrive. The salad was pretty basic but there were a few pieces of spinach. The blue cheese dressing was more like just sour cream – not a fan.

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Ben is a sucker for any kind of alfredo so it wasn’t a surprise when he selected their chicken & broccoli alfredo pasta.

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It was amazing but so rich. I don’t think I could have eaten an entire plate of it. But you could definitely taste the parmesan and cream.

My entrĂ©e was a trio of two ravioli, a “small” piece of lasagna, and then half a plate of gnocchi. It looked bare without a sprinkling of cheese on top. Don’t they know this is Wisconsin?? 😉

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I have ordered gnocchi several times because I keep thinking that I “should” like it. You know what? I just don’t. I’ve never had it were it wasn’t slightly gummy or rubbery and that’s just not my thing. I ate three and left the rest on my plate.

As we were walking back to our hotel, we spotted a lot of people walking around down by the waterfront again (what? in the cold?). We hopped back into the car to explore only to learn it was a breeding ground for rare PokĂ©mon. There must have been 50 people shaking in their shoes and wandering around catching PokĂ©mon. And then Ben and I did it too because we’re crazy. LOL

On our way back we saw this amazing building next to the civil war museum. I’m not sure why the purple but it was soooo cool!

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Our hotel room was amazing. We were at the very back of the building facing the water AND had access to two Ingress portals / PokĂ©mon stops. That meant every 5 minutes we were hacking and getting additional gear. I almost didn’t want to stop to go to sleep. Hee Hee.

The view from our room. There’s a long sidewalk wrapping around the water and then behind it you can see the rows of townhouses. Can’t you imagine living each day with such a view?

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Christmas Vacation

What a week it’s been! I’ve been enjoying the time off from work and taking that mental pause on anything that hasn’t involved family and relaxation.

Our Christmas was not as hustling and bustling as year’s past – hurray! Usually we bounce back and forth between our families all day long but this time we were able to convince families to alter traditions (both of our families are Christmas morning celebrators). Ben and I got up on Christmas morning and didn’t have to race out the door. Instead, we had a moment to relax, enjoy our Christmas tree, and then actually head out for Christmas breakfast! Unreal and so wonderful.

Our Christmas tree! Everything gets packed up and put into the car to be transported to our loved ones. I LOVE getting gifts for people and get really excited anticipating them opening them up. It’s one of my favorite things about Christmas. 🙂

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After breakfast we went to spend the morning with Ben’s side of the family. We opened presents and enjoyed Christmas music, plenty of cheer, and a delicious meal.

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In the early afternoon we said goodbye and went to see my side for another round of festivities.

Our stockings were waiting for us…

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And then we had a good laugh about my parent’s tree. They have used this super-old fake tree the last couple of years to keep the dog out of the ornaments, but I think she’s plenty old enough now to stay away (and the tree is a little “Charlie Brown Christmas”). I think maybe we’ll get them a new one as an early present next year.

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Last year we had less than two dozen gifts under the tree (for 6 people) and I guess everyone did the same thing I did. Instead of one large gift (or a shared gift), I ended up doing a lot more little things instead. Way more wrapping involved but a LOT more fun to open on Christmas Day. Mom joked that we should keep the small tree because the trunk it is on makes it look like there’s even more presents. Maybe she’s right… Ha!

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Cheery people…

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I wonder what’s in there?

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It was a really nice Christmas.

We finally found a good day this week and went to the botanical gardens for the horse-drawn wagon ride through the gardens. There wasn’t a snowstorm this time BUT there was insane winds that froze all of our faces off! That’s part of the experience though. We were all squeezed tightly on the wagon and I brought along my car fleece blanket which I wrapped over our laps. Then we just held our mittens over our faces to block out a lot of the wind. We’re Wisconsin winter professionals.

Views from the bumpy wagon:

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After our ride we quickly ran around for a few photos:

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It works better with the flash.

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Inside the “caterpillar”:

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I’m. So. Cold. My. Lips. Are. Frozen.

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I took zero pictures of food this year. Odd, I know, but this year was a little scurried in the prep and a little lazy / relaxed on the holiday. Besides, Christmas isn’t about the food, is it?

It’s about 90 minutes from New Years as I’m writing this. Ben’s downstairs flipping back and forth between the various holiday TV programs and I’m trying to decide if I am going to stay awake or go to sleep right after I hit the “Publish” button on this post. Right now, I think sleep is winning. 🙂

Happy New Y… Zzz… zz… z… .. .

Feliz Navidad!

Merry Christmas & good tidings to all!

We’re getting ready to load up our presents and head over to celebrate the day with our families. But first – I wanted to share a quote I saw recently that I just love.

“One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas day. Don’t clean it up too quickly.”

Andy Rooney (1919-), American writer, producer

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Enjoy!!!

Baking Bonanza & Tying up Loose Ends

Merry Christmas Eve!

I hope all your presents are wrapped, your baking is done, and you’re now able to relax, enjoy, and CELEBRATE the holiday with your family (or enjoy the weekend if you aren’t a Christmas celebrator).

Unlike years past where I have every fancy bow tied and tucked under the tree at least a week ahead of time, I spent the first half of the Packer game wrestling ribbons, bows, and paper in a frantic chaos to get everything done. Whew.

As we did last year, Ben and I celebrated our final working day of the year by having an extremely early breakfast and the little coffee shop by our house. I start my day in the office at 6:30, so we were outside as soon as they opened at 6am. Early, early start!

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But that meant we could enjoy a quiet breakfast and good company. It makes me feel spoiled when we have a special breakfast like this together.

And it doesn’t hurt when we can catch special Pokemon while we eat!

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My boss never does anything special for our department during the year. There’s no activity or free pizza or anything like that, which really stinks. But I planned a food day so at least we could get together as a team right before the holidays. We had lots of really creative and delicious food: homemade chili, chicken curry salad with grapes and cantaloupe (so good!), taco dip, a Christmas veggie tree, homemade spicy pecan cheeseball, cranberry cream cheese tortilla pinwheels, jam bars, and cucumber flower sandwiches.

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Sometimes it can be a pain to have to bring a big dish of stuff to work but it’s always a lot of fun sampling everyone’s favorite dishes.

Yesterday was our official start of “Christmas Vacation” and we did a quick trip to the store for baking items and then hunkered in with Christmas tunes blaring as we baked up a storm (while the actual storm passed through outside).

2pm – about 2 hours into the storm. hard to see on camera but note the accumulation on the branches

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4pm – again, note the branches on the trees:

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We had originally planned to go to the local botanical gardens to see their Christmas display but the roads looked terrible so we opted to just snuggle in at home.

We tried a new eggnog cookie this year: eggnog snickerdoodles. The recipe made a HUGE batch, which means plenty for sharing! Ben has been a nutmeg snob ever since grating his own fresh nutmeg on our eggnogs last Christmas. This was no exception – Ben grated all the nutmeg for every recipe.

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He’s also my official hug-unwrapper!

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Ben also made the caramel puffcorn – which is now becoming the tradition of what we’re expected to bring for Christmas every year.

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I worked on the toffee and just like last year, managed to get a tiny speck on my finger. Ouch! I’ve got quite the red welt now and even a day later, it really hurts. Just before Thanksgiving our grocery store had a mega sale on organic pasture butter (84% butterfat – supposedly amazing for baking). Usually it runs about $4 for the equivalent of two sticks of butter – so it’s something I VERY rarely purchase. But with the sale and in-store coupons, I snagged every single package they had for just $1.50 each. Boom!

I made the toffee with this butter expecting it to be this wickedly luscious and rich tasting melt-in-your-mouth treat, but it never fully incorporated into the sugar. Instead, I had this thin layer of grease (butterfat?) on the top. Luckily when it cooled it absorbed right in and was indeed delicious and buttery, but there was definitely some panic wondering if it was going to work out!

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Another tradition of ours is to have breakfast on Christmas Eve morning and either A: leave the waitress a ridiculously large tip or B: secretly buy someone’s breakfast for them. we ended up leaving the big tip this year and enjoyed massively large specialty pancakes along with eggs, sausage, and hash browns.

Ben with his dark chocolate peppermint pancakes (so outrageous):

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My eggnog pancakes with a luscious eggnog filling:

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We didn’t finish our cakes. They needed to have been half that size. 🙂

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So now that I’m done baking and wrapping, I’m enjoying a little lull before all the hustle and bustle begins. My family is due over in a bit and then we’re off to drive around looking at Christmas lights. Tomorrow morning we’re heading to Ben’s family in the morning and then my family in the afternoon.

Whatever you’re doing, enjoy it!

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Bailey – and I’m not talking about Irish cream

Hello! Did everyone in the Midwest survive the latest winter storm? The snow started falling here on Friday morning and I was getting antsy because I had a Groupon massage scheduled on the other side of town with plenty of slick & icy city driving to get there. Luckily the snow fall was consistent but light most of the day and I made it there and back with only one tiny little slick moment. For a girl who lives in Wisconsin, one of these days I need to get over my fear of winter driving!!

Friday night we did a quick pass of shoveling and hunkered in to wait out the worst of the storm… only to wake up Saturday morning and find that there were only flurries and maybe an inch or two more snow overnight rather than the 6-8″ of snow forecasted. Well – ha! I jumped into overdrive to wrap presents for our out-of-town friends and got the packages ready for the post office. Then we hopped into the car and decided to see how long the wait would be to mail a box on the last Saturday before Christmas Eve (answer: super short line! I think people were afraid of the snow).

After the post office and a trip to ShopKo for more gift wrap tape, we began spotting all these special Santa Pikachu in Pokemon Go and spent another hour driving around town hopping on gyms and collecting new Pokemon. We had our winter boots on and it was a good thing too, because a few times we had to traverse around piles of snow to get to gym locations.

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It was a bit ridiculous since we were trying to beat the rest of the storm but it turned into a hilarious trip with Christmas songs blaring on the radio, my flannel blanket over my lap, and game playing interspersed with a special trip for egg nog brickle ice cream at the local custard store. Yummm!

The snowfall began to pick up so we went home and spent the rest of the day doing a gift-wrapping and Hallmark channel Christmas movie marathon. Those Hallmark movies are definitely Christmas-y but they feel very redundant (as in I thought I was watching the same exact movie over and over).

LOTS of snow came down on Saturday and this morning we woke up to the final damage of 9.5″. The sun was out today which will help clear the roads a bit before work tomorrow BUT the high temp today was -1. That’s right, not even a high in the positive degrees. Ben bravely bundled up to snow blow and pick up groceries but then we spent another day inside the house.

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I’m excited that I have all my family Christmas presents wrapped. I got started on Ben’s gifts when he was out but I’ll have to finish another time. My Christmas cards are also done and ready to pop into the mail tomorrow. I’m finally feeling on top of the Christmas list. Hurray – better late than never!

Ben made a really fancy dinner for us tonight – chicken carbonara. I’ve never tried it before and was a little nervous about the eggs in my pasta sauce (sounds weird) but it tasted really good.

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I like it when we get a bit more adventurous in our cooking. Ben’s really blossomed in his cooking acumen and is no longer nervous about trying new recipes. He loves it!

Time to get ready for bed but I wanted to show you our fun purchase when we were out shopping yesterday. My grandma made a ceramic Christmas tree and my parents have it in their house. I’ve always LOVED it. It’s one of my favorite Christmas decorations. Anyway, ShopKo had this miniature mock-up (not quite the same color) so we picked it up for our house. It makes me so happy. 🙂

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Here’s to a GREAT week before Christmas!!!