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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!

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… .. .

Three Days of Thanksgiving

It’s been raining cats and dogs around here and I’m excited for what is forecasted to be a much nicer day today – with temps back up into the 50s! WOW Wouldn’t that be a fun treat? Now that Thanksgiving has wrapped up, we can all say goodbye to the insane amount of pumpkin spice (I think every food item had a pumpkin spice version this year) and start thinking more about peppermint instead.

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While it wasn’t popular, we successfully navigated separate days for Thanksgiving. It was just insane to eat a big meal around 1/1:30 and then another at 5pm. We started the alternating days last year and it worked so well (for Ben and me) but I can tell it’s still a harder sell for some of the family.

This year we spent the actual holiday with my family. I made the usual sweet potato casserole and Ben tried a recipe he found for corn mixed with onions, garlic, bacon, and sour cream. We arrived a little before mealtime to help prep and then to play some board games. I love all the dishes at Thanksgiving and it feels like you can only take a little bite of everything – when you want heaping piles of food – because you know you won’t have room to eat it all. 🙂

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We had our “usual” spread – brined turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, homemade stuffing, pumpkin knot rolls, sweet potato casserole, and broccoli for Alex.

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We made barely a dent in the overall food (leftovers!!!!) and then Ben and I left to try some black Friday on Thursday shopping. I know, it’s ridiculous. JCPenney opened at THREE on Thanksgiving. THREE. I remember when I thought 8pm was early. Anyway, the last couple of years I’ve gone when they open to snag one of the free $10 coupons. I bring Ben, we each get a coupon, we grab our two pre-planned items, and are out the door 15min later. It’s actually not too bad because we don’t meander around and can get in and out before the crazy lines.

Silly me – I was thinking most people would be home enjoying food with their families, so we got there just 30 minutes before they opened…

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It was cold for us standing out there in the wind and I felt sorry for all the underdressed little kids that had to wait. We veered off course a little and snagged some wood wick candles that I’ve wanted but am too cheap to pay full price for (they are really $$$) so it took a little more time but 18 minutes after entering we were headed back outside and all the coupons were gone. Whew!

Our plan was to hit ShopKo next – which didn’t open until 4pm. More waiting around so Ben took me for a loop around Lambeau Field where there are a zillion Ingress/Pokémon Go stops. We loaded up on inventory and then drove to ShopKo just 2 minutes before they were scheduled to open. There are three entrances to ShopKo and you can see the lines for two of them here (I didn’t even get the one entire line in the shot!).

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We parked the car just as the back of the line hit the front doors and coasted in with absolutely no wait. Oh yeah! The ad misrepresented one of the items we had planned to get, so instead we loaded up on Keurig K Cup deals and random impulse buys. The check-out line was INSANE but we lucked out and had a lady in the eye care department check us out.

The next stores we were interested in didn’t open until 6 and there was no way we were hanging around that long, so we drove back home for dessert and more family game time.

Mom made an apple pie and then a sweet potato pecan pie too. I’ve never had sweet potato pie before. Have any of you? It looks like pumpkin but has an incredible light and airy texture that’s not overly sweet. It was really, really good.

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We left the family around 8:30 and decided (Ok I decided and Ben came along for the ride) to try and brave some more shops thinking that since places opened at 6 and it was much later, most of the crazies were gone. We hit Walmart and that was pretty empty and then went back into the main heart of shopping land to check out BestBuy (picked up one item, saw the line, put the item back and left) and Dicks Sporting Goods (got a bunch of running stuff for Alex, stood in a LONG line, discovered every last thing I picked out WASN’T on sale!!!). What?? Don’t get me started on that one.

We hit a couple other places on Friday along with another trip to JCPenney to return the candle I bought the day before. It wasn’t packaged and when I placed it on the counter it completely shattered the glass. Mom served us up a bunch of leftovers so we didn’t have to do any cooking on Friday, which was awesome.

Saturday we spent over with Ben’s family. I made yeast rolls. I can’t remember the last time I ever made some and I used yeast from Trader Joes that I think had a much different taste to it. I wasn’t really happy with the end result. The taste was off and the texture was not what I wanted it to be. Try again next year! Then we sat and watched the family watch the Badger football game and got all caught up on the news.

We slept in a bit every day over the long weekend and they stayed up a little too late watching the Packer game last night. I’m tired! But I’m hoping I can steal a few minutes over lunch to get outside for a quick walk. If it really is 50 degrees today, I want to make the most of it!!

Have a splendid day!

Wishing You… a Wonderful Christmas

Merry Christmas!!!

I read one of those little things on Facebook about typical spelling mistakes people make about the holidays – and apparently capitalizing the “M” in merry is wrong. So you should write “merry Christmas”. Guilty – I always capitalize the letter M and I probably always will.

Christmas trivia:

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We’re sitting on history in Green Bay. It’s officially the first Christmas I’ve EVER had without snow on the ground. We had a tiny sprinkle of flurries several days ago and then a ton of rain and, most recently, crazy amounts of wind.

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There is something festive about a white Christmas but heck, it was over FIFTY yesterday. I’m not turning up my nose at that!

Every year at work the Christian employee network does a display by the front atrium and has several gorgeous Christmas cactus. The lady in charge bought them a few weeks in advance and they hung out right across from my cube so I got to see them bloom each day. Soooooo pretty!

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Christmas cactus is something I’ve never been able to make work. I always over-water or under-water or something but they drop their buds and months later huge chunks of the plant itself fall off. I still like to try so every now and then I’ll buy an itty bitty one and see if I can make it grow.

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Holiday delights…

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As I’ve mentioned a little, it’s been a weird couple of months. We’ve been juggling the list of Christmas to-dos so everything gets done in time. Mom made two batches of cookies last week so the family would have some cookies before Christmas and we took an impromptu picture to coax Ben into coming home early from work that day…

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Delicious!!

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Yesterday Ben and I went to an afternoon showing of Star Wars and tried out our cinema’s new “dream loungers”. They are these big leather recliners that give you all kinds of leg room. OMG I don’t think I can go back to regular seating. This was amazing!!!! We felt like high-rollers, ha ha. This picture is terrible but I didn’t want to use the flash and still wanted to show you how much space there is:

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We loved the film and loved the seating. It was wonderful. I wasn’t a fan of the last batch of Star Wars films but this felt like the old ones and had that epic grandeur I loved when watching the original 3 when I was a kid.

We volunteered to pick up a little extra on the baking front to help out so today has been jam-packed with flour, sugar, and butter galore. We’re all done now (finally!) and are enjoying a few quite moments relaxing before we meet up with family to drive around town admiring the Christmas lights.

Our presents are all separated out so we know which ones to pack for which side…

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And then there’s nothing left to do except make a little cocoa and enjoy a festive movie tonight.

I’m wishing you all a very merry Christmas. May peace and joy surround your homes and hearts and thank you for your friendship on my little blog.

~Ali

 

Twas The Week Before Christmas

AND the countdown to Christmas is in full-swing! We’ve been busier than Santa’s elves around here. There’s been a lot going on in the family and we’re scrambling to adjust schedules, combine errands, and help make sure everything gets crossed off the list before the 25th.

I’ve never been quite so thankful that I got a lot of things done early because I was able to get everything wrapped and tucked under the tree and can now focus on other things.

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I went with a wrapping paper “theme” this year which is new for me. Normally I have a bunch of different paper and a colorful assortment but this year I found these cute snowflake wraps in alternating colors and decided to do a red/white theme. I think it looks fancy. 🙂

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I love it!!!

We found the radio stations on TV that play non-stop Christmas tunes (a good mix of classics along with new hits) and I settled down with a mug of double fudge hot cocoa and wrapped/sang all day long.

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The Christmas station had little “Did You Know?” facts that were displayed on the screen and I thought they were a lot of fun. Here’s one for today:

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I just have to get through work today and then we can settle down and finalize Christmas cookie baking. I have a zillion things I want to try but need to narrow it down to a reasonable list. Normally I’d say you can never have enough cookies but my waistline would disagree. 😉

Excited for Christmas!! It will be here before we know it!!

Random ornament:

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FOUR DAYS!

Multiple Thanksgiving Merriment

Whew – was it just me or was that the FASTEST week ever? Maybe it was because we were racing to catch back up after vacation combined with the short work week and the hectic weekend, I don’t know, but it felt like I barely had time to breathe the entire time!

Trip recap will pop up this week but I thought it would be more fun to discuss Thanksgiving food. Ever since Ben and I have been together we’ve done dual celebrating on Thanksgiving – with Ben’s side for “lunch” and mine for “dinner”. The result is a whole lot of delicious food and absolutely aching tummies afterwards. Besides, even if you only put a tiny scoop of your favs on your plate, we all know how all those tiny scoops add up!

This year my parents offered to do their dinner on Saturday giving us a nice spread. We went over to Ben’s folks for Thanksgiving on a cold and rainy day.

Food:

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We brought my maple sweet potatoes – as usual and then had chicken, un-stuffing, corn, and mashed potatoes. Ben’s mom makes her potatoes with cream cheese AND sour cream. They are as deadly as they are delicious. I was already more than full with this heaping plate so skipped the sugar-free jello along with the brown-and-serve dinner rolls.

All to save room for apple pie…

Ben scored a last minute free ticket to the Packer game so after leaving his parents we ventured down by the stadium and decided to hop into JCPenney to shop sales and kill time. I scored 2 $40 items for $5 each. Not shabby. We then navigated to a closed bank drive-up window so Ben could put on his rain gear and boots while staying out of the pouring rain. I dropped Ben off and then decided to brave the mall (what was I thinking?) It wasn’t too bad but I had no game plan and bought stuff that was on a good sale only to find those same things cheaper elsewhere. I now have a TON of bags by the front door that all need to go back. Ugh!

I got some shopping done and made it home in time for kickoff. What a game! I really thought the Pack was going to win on that last drive… I stayed up for the whole thing, shopping more online and finding things cheaper than in the store! Geez. Ben was soaking wet and hoarse when he got home but happy he went. It’s not every game they retire a Packer legend.

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We didn’t go to sleep until midnight and then I was up at 6am to meet the folks for Black Friday shopping. We don’t do a lot and normally don’t head out until 10 or 11am but Dad had to get some work in so we went earlier. Let me tell you – Walmart at 7am on Black Friday was EMPTY. I think everyone had shopped there earlier. What a breeze! It was so wonderful I texted Ben telling him no one was out … and would he mind stopping at Menards for a new deadbolt on sale??

I sort of, kind of, forgot Menards wasn’t open on Thanksgiving… and got a few text messages from Ben. Whoops. Here’s the back of the line wrapping all the way to the back of the store and coming back to the front…

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And once you made it that far, it looped around the long side of the building all the way across to the checkouts…

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You can’t even SEE the checkouts from the turn – the line was that long. Poor Ben!! But hey, he did pick up a few fun things he saw while he was in line so I think he forgave me. 🙂

Saturday I whipped up another batch of sweet potatoes and then we went over to my family’s house for Thanksgiving #2. All my favorite foods were there including my most favorite: mom’s homemade pumpkin knot rolls. To. Die. For.

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If they weren’t a ton of work I’d make her make them more often!! But these yeast rolls have spoiled me from anything not piping hot and freshly made.

My next favorite thing is stuffing and it’s a family favorite so Mom always has half stuffed in the bird and half in the oven that she mixes all together in the end. Oh how I love mom’s stuffing. Why does anything your mom make always taste so wonderful? It’s the same way for Ben. 🙂

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All ready to eat!!

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My delicious plate:

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And I saved room for mini pieces of both apple and pumpkin pie!

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I’m thankful Thanksgiving is only once a year – I don’t think my waistline could handle this!!! 🙂

To wrap up a wonderful weekend, we watched Alex run the Noodelini 15K Sunday morning. He set a new personal record and was first in his age group!

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It feels like a lot and my list of things to accomplish this coming week is extensive. I have a TON of things to return and want to finish up all my remaining small purchases so I can spend a weekend leisurely wrapping. This girl doesn’t like to wait until the last minute and we all know December seems to go by so quickly!!

How was your Thanksgiving? What’s the single BEST thing you ate??

Celebrating in the Rain

You know what the best thing is about getting into the office on a Monday morning?

When that Monday is really a Tuesday. But you still need coffee!!

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What a fabulous long weekend. Aren’t Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends just fantastic? I never take a Monday off unless it’s a holiday… but now I’m re-thinking that because no work on Monday is plain awesomeness!

Our fun weekend shenanigans began on Thursday though with a dinner out with my family. We checked out a restaurant my brothers had never been to and got there early enough to snag a great table by the window (too sunny for pictures but great for viewing). I was dying for broasted chicken which came with a delicious salad. nom nom

009 010On the way home it began to rain. This is quite common around Memorial Day weekend. One of the suburbs of Green Bay has all kinds of concerts and festivities throughout the weekend and the joke is that it always rains and turns the festival grounds into a muddy pit.

014 015Saturday morning I got going fairly early because I wanted to get in a 4mile walk before it got too hot out. Last week I walked 3 miles and thought I was going to fall over, so I got up earlier and it worked out pretty well. I’m breaking in my new shoes but I’m still battling really wet feet. I usually put baby powder in my socks before a long walk, which helps, but doesn’t completely solve the issue with hot points on the balls of my feet, so still working on that issue. There was more rain Saturday evening so we stuck inside.

On Sunday our day was jam-packed. We were celebrating my dad’s birthday and I volunteered to tackle the cake baking. A couple years ago Dad requested a lemon cake – which turned into a dismal failure – so I decided to try making one myself. I ended up combining two different recipes to make a lemon cake with raspberry filling topped with a lemon meringue frosting.

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I’ve always loved how silly my family is. ❤ Here’s dad – ice cream scoop in one had and cake cutter in the other!

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The cake turned out really, really well. I’m not sure I personally am a big meringue frosting fan (plus, it was a pain to cook) but Ben really loved it because it wasn’t as sweet as other frostings. The raspberry definitely made the cake! Delicious and bursting with intense lemon flavor. Mmm-mmm

We had a delicious dinner of Texas taco bake and followed it up with Cranium. I also inhaled mom’s flowers – lilacs and lily of the valley are soooo beautiful and smell insane. I want both at our house!

032 033 031 030It rained most of Sunday so we skipped the evening fireworks. Monday morning we went down in the drizzle to watch the parade. Alex just put in his notice and is starting a new job soon, so this was his last parade. Too bad because it’s nice having someone on the inside to chuck the good candy towards me. 🙂

038 039Happy Memorial Day!

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And what parade would be complete without a random photo of the ground… and my foot?
042It drizzled through most of the parade but there was never enough rain that it was worrisome. We left the parade to tackle some Memorial Day sales at the furniture store. It’s time we removed Ben’s falling apart furniture from the basement!

It felt like we were constantly on the move all weekend and yet there’s a pile of dirty clothes begging to be washed and a very dirty kitchen that still needs cleaning. I guess that’s my job for tonight!