Friday, January 30, 2015

Project Life, January 12-18, & 19-25

 Hi Friends!

I am so happy to be back on track with my Project Life!  Keeping up with it every week forces me to take more pictures.  I love looking back through each week's pictures and planning out my layout. I realized that the "c" in "celebrate" is missing once I saw these pictures.  I actually found the "c" stuck to something and didn't know what it was.  I hope I didn't throw it away.  : )
 My favorite part of this who spread is the little Five Guys gift card in the paper bag sleeve.  So cute!
 This is the 2-page spread from our trip down to U of I to cheer on Kenzie.  It was such a fun trip!!
 I had to sneak in a little bit of Illinois on my spread--I still can't believe I wore another school's colors on my beloved campus!
 Here is last week's layout:
 I love the little picture of the ugly Packer troll.  I was so excited to give him back to Karen last week!

 I also did a little OLW update:
 I've got to get back into the habit of taking people pictures again.  I don't have a single picture of a person from all of last week.  : (  I ended up just putting a few of my favorite quotes in the pockets.  It's all good!
 I love this MLK quote:
On to this week!



Five for Friday

Hi Friends!

It's Friday and the sun is shining in Wisconsin.  Life is good!  Here are a few things that caught my eye this week--check them out!

1.  I'm thinking of doing this minimalism challenge in February.  I like the premise behind it, and I think some of the days would definitely be a challenge for me.  I know John would be happy about a few of the days, specifically the ones involving being offline.  Number 7 seems ridiculous to me--streamline my reading list???   Anybody want to do this with me?

2.  I am definitely NOT a NASCAR fan, but I am a HUGE Parks and Recreation fan.  This NASCAR commercial is brilliant, especially if you are a fan of Ron Swanson.

3. I have been checking Cubical Refugee's Tumblr page  for years.  There's something about the way she puts the images together--grouped by color--that really appeals to me.  

4. Like so many of you, I loved Serial.  I didn't want it to end, and when it did, I thought it would be easy to find something just as riveting to listen to.  Sadly, it has not been easy to replace.  This chart gives me hope.

5.  My kids are too old to need teacher gifts, but this Emergency Kit is all kinds of cute.  I think it would be fun to send as a going-back-to-college gift.  Random side note:  Emily used to carry a tiny suitcase emergency kit when she went to babysit.  It was adorable.  If you're ever in need of a band-aid, or a pair of scissors or a thumbtack, ask Emily.  She's always well prepared for any emergency. Another random side note:  my mom packed a gorgeous emergency kit filled with everything I might possibly need on my wedding day.  I didn't use a single thing in the kit.  When John and I arrived in Jamaica for our honeymoon, I realized I didn't have any of my makeup--because it was all in the emergency kit. : )

Have a great weekend, friends!


Thursday, January 29, 2015

Amy Brings Me Joy

Hi Friends!

There's a whole big bunch of JOY in my craft room these days. Literally.  Amy was feeling a need to get in touch with her crafty side, so she made me a big marquee JOY sign!  Isn't it awesome?!?!?  "Joy" is one of my all-time favorite words (hence the name "Joyful Whimsy").  I believe that joy is something worth looking for in each and every day.  Sometimes joy comes in little, quiet moments, and sometimes it comes as a love gift that lights up an entire room. 

Handmade gifts are the best.  Handmade gifts that entail pulling out power tools and playing with electrical cords are even better.

Thank you, Amy, for adding so much JOY to my life each and every day.  I am blessed to be your friend.


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Book Report: End of December 2014/January 2015

Hi Friends!

Remember when you went to the library and checked out a book, and you had to pull the card out of the back pocket, sign your name and get the card stamped by the librarian?  I kind miss those days, don't you?  I loved looking at the library card to see who had checked the book out before me.  It was always a bonus if I actually knew some of the people on the card.   I remember thinking that being a librarian had to be the coolest job because they got to use a roller date stamp everyday.  (True story).


Here's a little recap on what I read at the end of December (books I read after I made my Top 15 list) and this month.

Not My Father's Son, Alan Cumming (3 1/2 stars).  Do you know Alan Cumming?  He's played a lot of quirky characters (my first memories of him are of the strange evil guy he played in the Spy Kids movie), but you probably know him from The Good Wife.  He's awesome on that show.  His memoir is awesome, too--well-written and filled with suspense and drama.  I'm not sure how I can arrange this, but I totally want to be friends with him.
Dept. of Speculation, Jenny Offill (4 stars).  I am a sucker for language.  I love it so much, I majored in it...twice.  Jenny Offill is a master at using just a few words to convey a whole bunch of feelings. Even her shortest sentences are filled to the brim with meaning.  This is a brilliantly written novel about marriage and love and all kinds of emotions.
Family Life, Akhil Sharma (4 stars).  Oh my gosh, friends!  This book!  It still haunts me.  It's about family and parenting and our dreams for our kids.  It's about grief and healing.  It is so, so good.
Wonderland, Stacey D'Erasmo (4 stars).  You know when you read a book and it is so well-written that it takes you to places you don't have a single clue about but the descriptions are so vivid and real that in the end you feel like you do know a bit about it?  That's how Stacey D'Erasmo's Wonderland was for me.  Stacey D'Erasmo can write.  I did not plow through this book--her sentences were just too good to just speed through, and the subject matter (once-famous Indy singer trying for a comeback) was too foreign.  I loved slowing down and entering Anna's life.
The Arsonist, Sue Miller (2 stars).  A million years ago I hosted a monthly book club.  One of my favorite books from that period of my life was Sue Miller's While I Was Gone.  I thought it was brilliant.  I keep reading Sue Miller's books hoping to find that love again.  Sadly, this isn't the book. The Arsonist is just okay.  I couldn't help feeling like it could have been something special if she just tried a bit harder. (And yes, I know that makes me sound completely snobby).
Some Luck, Jane Smiley (2 1/2 stars).  Here's what I have to say about Some Luck:  it's fine. It's not great, but it's not bad.  The truth is, not a whole heck of a lot happens in this book.  Or rather, a lot of things happen, but there's no real tension developed around the things that happen.  I spent a lot of time flipping back to the family tree at the beginning of the book to see which of the characters would end up getting married and which of the kids was the last one.  Jane Smiley plans on making this the first of a trilogy, but there wasn't enough action to make me want to see what comes next.
The Rosie Effect, Graeme Simsion (2 1/2 stars).  I really enjoyed Simsion's first book, The Rosie Project, especially its Sheldon Cooper-ish main character, Don Tillman.  Don is back in all of his odd glory in this book, but this time I just wasn't as into him.  Don makes a whole lot of bizarre choices in this book, even weirder than the ones he made in the first book.  This is a fun, quirky read, but it's a stretch sometimes.

Have you read anything good lately?  Please leave me your recommendations in the comments!



Friday, January 23, 2015

Five For Friday!

(photo from here)

Hi Friends!

Hooray!  It's Friday--my favorite!!  This week has kind of been a mixed bag--some good moments and some not-so-good moments.  I'm ready for the weekend!

Here's some things I came across this week that are definitely worth checking out--enjoy!

1.  I'm pretty sure I'm not going to make it to any of these places in 2015, but it sure was fun to look through this list and dream a bit. Side note:  Cleveland made the list.  Cleveland?  Also:  Tulsa. Interesting.

2.  Jordan wants to host 52 dinner parties in 2015.  She's pretty much my entertaining hero, so I'm looking forward to seeing how she does each one.

3,  You've probably seen this Jimmy Fallon/Nicole Kidman interview already, but if not, it's worth watching.  Cutest and most awkward interaction between two celebrities, ever!

4.  I loved this post Lisa wrote about Loving Each Other in the Mundane.

5.  One of my favorite artists, Kal Barteski, worked her script magic on a few cakes.  I love the results.

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!


PS  I know it's only January, but I am already dreaming about getting out on my bike.  Spring fever is a real thing for me right now.  Conversely, I'd love it if we had a gigantic snow storm.  Either one would be great.  Please and thank you.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Project Life 2015!

Hi Friends!

I am so excited to be back at it for another year of Project Life!  This will be my fourth year doing PL, and I am very excited about capturing all of life's big and little moments. Last year was filled with lots of big life moments. I ended up making a lot of scrapbooks for other people, which definitely affected my own books.  Over Christmas break I printed out hundreds of photos from 2014, and I managed to get them all into my album.  This year, I'm going to try not to let anything get in the way of my Project Life albums, but I'm also not going to stress if I don't have a layout for every week.  I'm planning on doing a hybrid book--some weeks' layouts will capture the entire week, and sometimes I'm just going to capture a big event that happened during the week.  I think the flexibility of this plan will help me stay on track in 2015.  The most important part for me is getting my pictures off of my computer and into my albums.

I started 2015's album with pictures from the New Year's Eve party, since the party extended into the start of 2015.
 The girls took a whole big bunch of photos, so I had plenty of good ones to choose from.
 Some highlights from January 1-4:
I also did a page detailing my One Little Word for 2015: Progress.  I decided not to do a separate album for my word this year, I'm going to just weave it into my PL layouts every now and then.
January 5-11 included Maddie's birthday and GG's big party.  I printed out the blog post I wrote for Maddie and included it next to the one and only picture I took of her on her birthday.  That week was also the week I resigned from my job as assistant coach at the high school.  I included a copy of the letter I sent to the team.
 John came home from Israel that week, so I included a portion of his airline ticket.  I wanted the actual ticket from Israel, but he didn't keep it.  I've got to remember to tell him to save all his future tickets!
I am working on last week's spread right now.  It is almost entirely made up of photos from my trip to Champaign last weekend.  It was such a great trip.  I will write about it in a separate post.

Hooray for Project Life!



Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Uncle Ken Cooking Challenge 2015: Rustic Italian Tortellini Soup 2/52

  • Hi Friends!

    I love, love, love week two's recipe--Rustic Italian Tortellini Soup.  I love it so much, in fact, that I've already made it twice in 2015.  There's something about the tortellini and all that garlic and the sausage and basil that makes this soup so darn good.  I also love the little kick from the crushed red pepper.  This soup will definitely warm you up on a cold winter's night!  Here's the recipe:
  • Rustic Italian Tortellini Soup
  • Ingredients:
  • 3 Italian turkey sausage links (4 ounces each), casings removed
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cans (14-1/2 ounces each) reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1-3/4 cups water
  • 1 can (14-1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 package (9 ounces) refrigerated cheese tortellini
  • 1 package (6 ounces) fresh baby spinach, coarsely chopped
  • 2-1/4 teaspoons minced fresh basil or 3/4 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • Dash crushed red pepper flakes
  • Shredded Parmesan cheese, optional


Crumble sausage into a Dutch oven; add onion. 
  • Cook and stir over medium heat until meat is no longer pink. 
  • Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer. Stir in the broth, water and tomatoes. Bring to a boil.
  • Add tortellini; return to a boil. Cook for 7-9 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally.
  • Reduce heat; add the spinach, basil, pepper and pepper flakes. 
  • Cook 2-3 minutes longer or until spinach is wilted. 
  • Serve with cheese if desired. 

Enjoy!!  As always, let me know what you think if you try this recipe!



Recipe from Taste of Home.

Monday, January 19, 2015

A Perfect 100

 Hi Friends,

A couple of weeks ago John's grandma turned 100 years old!  All of us who have been blessed to be loved by her gathered to celebrate her amazing life.  One hundred years is a long time, and I can honestly say that John's grandma (we all call her "GG", which stands for "Great Grandma") has made the most of them.  She has touched so many people throughout her lifetime.
GG lived with John while he was growing up, and he will be the first to tell you that his life was better because she was a daily part of it.
 (GG with her four kids--John's mom is on the far right)

When I first started dating John, GG immediately welcomed me to the family.  I had an official family Christmas sweater by the first Christmas John and I were together.  I still have it and still wear it.  Fun fact:  my Christmas pattern matched the one she made for herself.  You can see it in the last picture of her on the cake.
 It was so fun to see all of John's side gathered together to celebrate GG.  Check out this picture of GG with all of her great grandkids:
 And I love this one of my three:
I think a lot about what I will be remembered for.  When I think about GG, I think about her card playing skills, all the loaves of fresh-baked bread she baked, clipping coupons, handmade sweaters, hats, and scarves, and the world's best pasta salad.   She taught us about the importance of putting family first.  Everything she does revolves around her family.  That's the best legacy of all, isn't it?
Happy Birthday to an amazing woman.  I love you, GG!



Saturday, January 17, 2015

Just a Peek

 Hi Friends!

Thought you might want just a little peek at what just walked out the door here tonight--aren't they all stunning?
 They are headed to Cotton Club--a dinner dance at the high school that has a vintage theme.
My girlie-girls are gorgeous, aren't they?!?!?



Words to Live By


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Uncle Ken Cooking Challenge 2015: White Balsamic Chops with Roasted Potatoes and Peas (1/52)

Hi Friends!

My #1 blog fan, Uncle Ken, drew my name for this year's stocking gift exchange, and I received the best gift, ever:  a loaf of his to-die-for pecan bread.  The bread was every bit as amazing as he said it was--chewy and nutty and sweet.  Every bite was perfection.  Unfortunately, he told me he can't share the recipe until he dies (for real).  Secret family recipes are only fun when you're the one who has them.  To make up for it, he also gave me a whole magazine filled with yummy recipes:
He said he knew I liked to try new recipes and write about them on the blog.  He's definitely awesome like that.  Of course, I got all excited and decided I needed to name a blog segment in honor of him, and the Uncle Ken Cooking Challenge 2015 was born!  Originally I thought I'd stick to just creating all the recipes in that one magazine, but I've decided I am not going to limit myself that way.  I'm just going to try and post a new recipe once a week, each week, on Tuesdays.  Play along with me, and we will end up trying 52 new recipes in 2015.  If we're lucky, maybe one of them will become our own secret family recipe.  Of course, since I'm posting mine on the blog, they won't be a "secret", but I don't want to be as mean as Uncle Ken, so mine will all be shared (just kidding Uncle Ken!). 

I wasted no time at all selecting my first recipe:  White Balsamic Chops with Roasted Potatoes and Peas:
Oh, my!  This meal was amazing!  The kids and I loved it so much, we made it again just last night so that John could try it (he was in Israel when I made it the first time).  He liked it, too!  There are so many yummy flavors in this dish.  It could definitely be a company meal!  I did everything just as the recipe instructed, except add the cipolline onions.  I went ahead and used the fresh rosemary and thyme--it is definitely worth it to use fresh herbs instead of dried when you can.  Ready for the recipe?  Here you go:

White Balsamic Chops with Roasted Potatoes and Peas

For the pork:
1/4 cup plus 1 TBL canola oil
1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar 
3 medium cloves garlic, minced and mashed into a paste
1 1/2 tsp. minced fresh rosemary
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
4 1/2-inch-thick boneless pork chops
3 TPB cold unsalted butter, cut into 3 pieces

For the Peas and Potatoes
4 slices thick-cut bacon, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch strips
1 lb. baby potatoes (any color; golf-ball size), quartered
6 medium thawed frozen pearl onions
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup thawed frozen peas
1/2 tsp. minced fresh thyme

Marinate the Pork
In a shallow glass or ceramic dish wide enough to fit the pork chops in one layer, whisk the 1/4 cup oil with the vinegar, garlic, rosemary, and red pepper flakes.  Add the pork, turn to coat, and leave at room temperature, covered with plastic wrap, for about 20 minutes, turning once.

Cook the Peas and Potatoes
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375.  Put the bacon in a heavy-duty 10-to-12-inch ovenproof skillet with 1 Tbl water and set the skillet over medium-high heat.  Once the water evaporated, stir constantly until the bacon is crisp, about 6-8 minutes, total.  With a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain;  reserve the fat in the skillet.

Heat the reserved bacon fat in the skillet over medium heat.  Add the potatoes in a single layer and cook, undisturbed, for 1 minute.  Stir the potatoes once, and then add the onions and bacon.  Cook, undisturbed, for 1 minute.  Stir to coat the onions with the fat, and then season with 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper.  Transfer the skilled to the oven and roast until the potatoes are tender, about 25 minutes.  Stir in the peas and thyme to heat through, season to taste with salt and pepper, and keep warm.

Cook the Pork
Remove the pork chops from the marinade and reserve the marinade.  Wipe the marinade off the chops and pat dry with paper towels.   Lightly season the pork with salt and pepper on both sides. 

Heat the remaining 1 Tbl of oil in a heavy-duty 12-inch skillet over medium heat until shimmering hot.  Add the pork the chops in a single layer and cook, flipping once, until browned on both sides and slightly firm to the touch, about 6 minutes total.  Transfer the pork to a platter, cover, and keep warm.  Discard any oil remaining in the skillet.

Add the reserved marinade to the skillet and bring to a boil over medium-high heat;  boil for 1 minute.  Lower the heat to low and whisk in the butter.  As soon as the butter is melted, remove the skillet from the heat, season to taste with salt and pepper, and pour the sauce over the pork.  Serve with the potatoes and peas.

Enjoy!  Please let me know if you end up trying this recipe!



Monday, January 12, 2015


Excited that John is home safe and sound from Israel. Life always feels better when he's around.

Watching way too many episodes of Parks & Rec on Netflix.  I'm pretty sure I am the last person on earth to start watching it.  Parks and Rec is a brilliantly funny show.  I want to be best friends with Leslie.  For real.

Working out with Emily every day in the wee hours of the morning.  We are having way too much fun together at 5:30 every morning.

Cooking new recipes from a magazine Uncle Ken gave me for Christmas.  I'm going to share an amazing recipe tomorrow--be sure to stop by. 

Hoping that Maddie sails through her finals this week.  It seems so weird to have finals after Christmas break, doesn't it?

Super Happy that we all got to celebrate John's grandma's 100 birthday on Saturday afternoon. 

Looking forward to heading down to U of I on Friday to cheer on one of my favorite swimmers.

Wishing we'd get a big 'ole snowstorm.  I want to go snowshoeing! 

What's going on with you?