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Things I Love |

10 things

Basically, I can’t write lately. I start posts in my head, oftentimes I finish them, but when it comes to actually sitting down and hitting the publish button, well that’s not an option.

If I was to post, it would be negative. This winter has sucked a big one (and I typically love winter, honestly), but anyone that has ever dealt with seasonal depression or anxiety would understand that I’m basically at the end of my rapidly fraying rope. I’m ready for spring to come quickly, but with the arrival of spring also means we are just a few months out from moving to Belgium. Guys, I’m overwhelmed with the details. Drowning in the “holy cow I really need to think about that”. Like, how my cats will pee/poop/eat during a cross-continental flight.

Don’t take pity – I know you won’t take pity. I’m a first-world train-wreck right now and I’ll be the first to admit it. Enough whining. Instead, I present to you 10 things I’ve/the kids have been up to.

1. For Valentine’s Day I made shrimp pad thai. Most everyone loved it, only my historically least picky eater Piper didn’t approve. What did I get Michael you ask? A custom box of See’s Candy – all white chocolate pieces. I personally think of white chocolate as the “fake” chocolate, but he loves it. I also got him Lonely Planet’s Europe on a Shoestring book. My guy likes frugal, so frugal European travelers we will become.

2. Last week all 5 of my family members had the stomach flu-like. Somehow I escaped, and I pretty much should have bought lotto tickets to celebrate. I feel that lucky.

3. My mom is coming this week to help me “deal” with the 1/2 cow I bought right before we decided to move. We’re making lasagna, pizza casserole, beef stew, taco meat, beef barley soup, everything! Also on the agenda: banana bread, bran muffins, beef stock, freezer pancakes, fresh mozzarella, hydrating beans.

4. I just completed my first week of 1/2 marathon training. Old ladies like me shouldn’t just start running 17 miles in one week, my shins are killing me. But I will run on…

5. I’m really into reading books set in Europe. Last week I read Anna and the French Kiss(modern day Paris!), The Girl You Left Behind ( WW1 Germany/France) and Under the Tuscan Sun (modern day Italy). If you have a favorite book set in a European location – let me know.

Sitting to my right is a husband white-knuckling it through very limited visibility. I, on the other hand, just finished a very lovely story.

6. Have I ever told you about my (cheap) favorite pair of jeans? I’ve been wearing them for years, and have them in every color (and also a few sizes, if I’m being honest). Levi’s you guys, highly recommended. And at only ($40, watch for the sales) they are a total bargain. Buy a size up (they’re jeggings for goodness sake) and get them from Zappos because you then get free shipping both ways.

7. Earlier this week my younger sister gave birth to a little baby boy, which makes me ridiculously happy. And if the snow ever melts between here and the upper peninsula of Michigan, I’ll finally squeeze that kid.

8. Everyday Piper picks a new French “word of the day” for our family to learn. Today the word is “wedding”, last week it was stuck perpetually on cold.

The word of the day has turned into the word of the week, possibly month.

9. Last weekend we visited Chicago for an overnight, as part of our immigration paperwork. We ate some Garret’s popcorn, ordered deep dish pizza from the hotel, swam in an indoor pool, went to the Shedd Aquarium, and drove home in a blizzard.

You should have seen Gage's face-o-horror. The ocean is now forever wrecked.(I see the shark’s belly button) (that’s a belly button, right?)

10. My youngest sister is getting married this spring, which is beyond exciting. I’ve been searching for a coral colored dresses like it’s nobody’s business. I currently have about 10 dresses en route to my house, ranging from $35 to $300. Let’s pray the $35 wins.

11. New words for the winter of 2014: Snoverit. Snowmagawd (snOMG!). Snojoke. Snowonder. Snowbegone. Snowhere. Snownami. Snowverkill, Snowverload, And my favorite, Snowtorious B.I.G.

You guys, so many great things are happening. And I never thought I would be one of those people who didn’t have time to blog, but life is busy. I think about publishing thoughts all the time, and only about 5% of the time does it actually happen.

Bear with me? I have stuff to say. Eventually…

*these days I’m much more active on Instagram and twitter than on the blog. Follow me there to keep up!

I walkie-walkie, they aparently talkie-talkie. (sponsored)

*Over the next couple months I’ll be blogging about my fitness journey thanks to my ambassadorship with Smooth Fitness. While these posts are sponsored and I received a super sweet treadmill in exchange for my story, I’m taking this opportunity to get in shape extremely seriously. OK, mostly seriously anyway…

I love electronics and tech devices. But I loath learning how to use them. Like, it’s a huge first world chore. And typically, when I finally do “understand” how the thingamajig works, I only really understand around 50% of it’s capability.

Not joking at all, I know very little about the hardware on my computer. And I still don’t know how to turn the music off on my phone. You guys, I don’t know how to fire up Pandora on the TV, and I’ve never recorded a show on our DVR because I simply cannot figure it out. My 9 year typically turns Netflix on for me if I want to watch something. I know, it’s embarrassing.

So it should be no surprise to me that the treadmill I’ve been using for the past 4 months has a built-in heart rate monitoring program that I only found out about last week.

How did I find this out you ask? It was because I finally bit the bullet and bought with some Christmas money a Polar Heart Rate Monitor I’ve been coveting for what feels like eternity. I thought it might be helpful knowing exactly when I’m in that target workout “zone” (mine is between 120-158 bpm), and how many calories I’ve burned while running or doing a cardio class at the gym.

So the story goes, I took the monitor out of the box, plucked in all my stats (height, weight, sex, age), strapped on the chest strap, and hit the treadmill.

You guys, the monitor on my wrist and the treadmill display synched up immediately, and it pretty much freaked me out.

heart rate monitor on treadmill

(Look ma! The 124 on the dash is my bpm – and it matches my heart rate monitor. Also – the 512 number is the amount of calories I’ve burned in 44 minutes. Not too shabby…)

I knew this treadmill was something special, but I’m continually impressed each and every time I use it.

So how did it go? Was my workout better or enhanced because of keeping track of my heart rate?

Um, yes. Yes a whole lot. I’m actually surprised how less-hateful the workout felt. Typically I try to run around 3 miles going at a pace of around 10:30 mi/hr and I curse every single minute of the workout. Oftentimes, even have to slow the machine way down just to catch my breath and grab a swig of water and swear.

But this past week, when I focused on staying in optimal heart rate range (120 – 158 bpm), it feels like I’m getting a much more rewarding experience. I’m running slower (more like 12 mi/hr), but can last so much loooooonger because I’m not sucking so much wind.

It’s like I’m listening to my body or something and it’s working – a totally new concept for me.

Kids, my 12 week half marathon training starts tomorrow. I might not be the fastest 35 year old pounding the pavement, but at least I’ll be a 35 year old pounding the pavement. Which is way more rewarding than pounding nachos. Although I offer not hate to the nachos. I love nachos.


and I will (run) 500 miles. (sponsored)

*Over the next couple months I’ll be blogging about my fitness journey thanks to my ambassadorship with Smooth Fitness. While these posts are sponsored and I received a super sweet treadmill in exchange for my story, I’m taking this opportunity to get in shape extremely seriously. OK, mostly seriously anyway…


Almost every single morning I start my day at my kitchen table with a cup of coffee, a scrap piece of paper, and a fine-point Sharpie, and make a list for the day. Things I need to do around the house, things I need to do for work on the computer, and any errands/appointments I need to get done. I follow the list throughout the day, and I take more pleasure than I probably should checking items off the list once completed. In fact, I’ve been known to add things to the list retroactively, just for the satisfaction of crossing it off.

And yes, if I plan on exercising, it goes on the list. I only run 3 miles a time, and while I hope to start increasing my distance soon, I’ve been having a hard time finding motivation.

So I signed up for the Indianapolis Mini Marathon in May, which is a nice short-term goal to check off my to-do list, but what about the rest of the year? After the mini marathon, then what?

500 miles. That’s what. But not all at once, instead over the course of 2014.

Breaking it down, it’s only 10 miles a week. I can do that.  I figure if I increase my distance just a wee bit, I’ll still only have to run 3 times a week. And at the end of the year, 500 miles which sounds like a super large number.

I can do this.

You can do this too.

500 miles

Are you with me? Please, be with me.

*I keep track of my runs with the free app Run Keeper. I’ve set the 2014 goal at 500 miles, and it starts today.

2013: the year of the cheeseball (and what you need to know about beginner cheesemaking)

Earlier this year I was sent a Mozzarella and Ricotta Cheese Making Kit as part of a sponsored Indiana Family of Farmers campaign. I’ve always wanted to start making my own cheese, or at least mozzarella, so I was super excited to give it a whirl. I mean, how hard could it be?

Um, not real hard. But hard enough that if you’re attempting to make it during dinnertime, which just happens to be “shirts optional” spaghetti night, while your husband is out of town – it might feel hard.

Admittedly, my first batch was a total flop, and I’m not not even sure we ate it all. I completely blame the cheesy sadness on the milk I used (Oberweis, just staying transparent), it was too ultra-pasteurized to produce a nice and stretchy cheese ball.

Since my flop, I’ve experimented with a few different brands and types of milk, and in fact have become quite a milk snob along the way.  I basically only use raw milk (we recently bought a cow milk share so we’re all legal and stuff) – but if I don’t have raw, Trader Joe’s Organic whole milk has proved to be a nice substitute. The general rule of thumb is not to use ultra-pasteurized because it simply won’t provide a nice curd.

So making basic mozzarella and ricotta cheese is super easy if you know how to follow a simple recipe. If you want an all-inclusive go-to kit that has everything (but the milk) you need, I highly recommend the kit I linked to above. But if you think cheese might be your thing and you want to go ahead and invest in some ingredients – here is what you need to get started:

Homemade provolone, dudes. Check it (me) in 3 weeks ....

Basics items you need to get start making soft cheeses (mozzarella & ricotta):

Home Cheese Making: Recipes for 75 Homemade Cheeses by Ricki Carroll ($13). Yes, it’s by the same folks that created the kit I linked to at the beginning of the post. I personally think the book’s recipe for mozzarella is better than the one that comes with the kit – so there’s that. Also – I’ve looked at a ton of cheese making books over the last 6 months, and this one is by far the best and easiest to follow and is packed full of helpful technique, supply and recipe info.

Citric Acid – aids in coagulation.

Lipase Powder – an enzyme that is added to the milk to give it a stronger flavor.

Liquid Animal Rennet – helps create the “curd”.

Cheese Salt – because salty cheese is goooooood.

Other helpful supplies (you probably already own):

Large Strainer – to aid in the separation of  the why from the curd.

Stainless Steel Stockpot – to cook the milk that will eventually become cheese. This pot should be able to hold at least a gallon of milk, or a Superbowl Sunday’s worth of chili.

Knife w/long blade – part of the cheese making process is “cutting the curd”, which you do after the whey has separated. You’ll need a knife with a really long blade. It doesn’t have to be super high quality or even sharp, I use my bread knife.

Cotton Cheesecloth – many cheese require hanging the curds to drain in cheesecloth.

Digital Thermometer – when making cheese, keeping track of the temperature of the milk is essential. You must have a waterproof kitchen thermometer next to the pot at all times. I prefer digital – because I’m lazy like that.

If it was me getting started all over again, I’d buy the kit (because it has everything you need at a really great price, less than $20, give or take a few) – and then pick up the book too because it has a TON of really helpful information in it, not to mention lots of  hard cheese recipes if you ever decide to go down that rabbit hole like I have.

Tonight Michael and I waxed our first hard cheese, a Farmhouse cheddar. I’m crossing my fingers it turns out – because it wasn’t without effort!

Cheese waxin' and relaxin'.*this post contains affiliate links.



Favorite things :: running edition (sponsored)

*Over the next few months I’ll be blogging about my fitness journey thanks to my ambassadorship with Smooth Fitness. While these posts are sponsored and I received a super sweet treadmill in exchange for my story, I’m taking this opportunity to get in shape extremely seriously. Mostly seriously anyway…


Running – they say it’s an inexpensive sport. All you really need to run is a pair of running shoes and the open road. And the rest is just a bunch of one foot in front of the other.

This, my friends, is completely true. Shoes. All you need is shoes – and these days that’s even debatable. Barefoot running? Nope. Never.

But the thing is – I’m more motivated to get out at do it (thanks, Nike) if I have good gear. No, I don’t need the best most expensive gear ever, just a few pieces of nice gear.

A few of my favorite things when it comes to running:

running must haves

1. Treadmill. Granted, this is a sponsored post by a fitness company that’s provided me a treadmill – but I’ve wanted a treadmill ever since I’ve graduated college, and I can honestly say that so far (which has only been 3 months), I’m using it a ton. It’s freezing here in Indianapolis, making it miserable to run outside or even get to the gym with little kids in tow. To be able to hop on the ‘mill during nap time is a real indulgence.
2. Athleta Relay Capri. If it was socially acceptable to live in one single pair of pants, these would be it. They’re perfect for running and bumming around the house getting things done. Man, I love everything about Athleta – except for their price tags (total splurge!).

3. Under Armour Ponytail Hat. Like I said, I don’t run a ton outside when it’s cold out. I’ve never been that hardcore, and probably never will be (especially now that a have a sweet treadmill). But when I do attempt a quick cold weather jog – this hat is so awesome. It has a ponytail hole – FTW!

4. Nike No-Show Socks. I know it sounds really silly to be specific about something as trivial as socks – but I’ve had tons of running socks, and for whatever reason, these are my favorite. Although I would like them better if the had a little pom-pom on the back heel.

5. Yurbuds. It took me what felt like years to find a pair of headphones that worked for running. In the past, they either wouldn’t stay in place and would fall out – or they would kill my ears. Listening to music while running is essential for motivation, and these little Yurbuds are the only thing I’ve found to work. I’ve had the same pair now for about 18 months and I highly recommend them.

6. Nike Tempo Shorts. My sister turned me on to these shorts a couple years ago, and now I probably own 10 pairs. I wear them when running, and I wear them when I’m not running. Truth be told, I’m probably a Nike Tempo Shorts abuser. I mean really – they have built-in underwear.

7. Chica Bands. I don’t know if my head is weird shaped or something, but before I discovered Chica Bands, I had yet to find a sweat band that would stay on my head. Or maybe my hair is just too soft, I dunno. All I know is that I now have 4 of these sparkly Chica headbands, and I often wear them from sun up to sun down.

8. Moving Comfort Jubralee sports bra. Lady friends – don’t even attempt to go running without a really great sports bra. My favorite is this here Jubralee (sing it with me now!). She’s supportive, doesn’t dig into my shoulders, and washes up nice. Keep an eye out on Zulily (my favorite flash shopping site) – Moving Comfort is often sold there on deep discount and all their gear is pretty fantastic.

9. Contigo Autospout Water Bottle. When treadmill running, I oftentimes keep two water bottles at hand in the cup holders. My absolute favorite bottle is the Contigo Autospout because it’s slender enough to actually fit into the cup holder, and has a handy dandy silicon drink spout which is super convenient while literally on the go.

Ok – that’s a whole lot of favorite gear for a sport that essentially only requires sneakers. If you’re a running – what is one of your favorite things? You know, in case I missed something I need to have…

*this post contains affiliate links.


It’s a Dansko sneaker! Introducing the Santa Fe Collection (+ giveaway!)

I started wearing Dansko clogs when I was pregnant with Nola over 7 years ago. And since then, they’ve become my go-to shoe on days I know I’ll be on my feet for long hours.

When I was introduced to Dansko all those many years ago – I would refer to them as “that company that makes those cute clog shoes”. Today, that’s not the case at all. Sure, they still make the cute clogs, but whooooa girl, how they’ve successfully branched out with new and exciting non-clog styles.

Favorites include the Franka, the Carol, and those awesome boots, the Tabitha.

Kid shoes!? They have kid shoes now! And they’ve become Piper’s go-to school shoe, assuming they always continue to come in fun colors.

And now this. You guys, DANSKO HAS LACE UP SNEAKERS. Yes, that warranted full caps shout-y.

Let me introduce you to the Santa Fe Collection:

The important details:

  • The shoe has an ergonomically contoured, multi-density (removable) footbed. Amazing shock absorption, so they’re perfect for long hours on your feet.
  • Made with stain resistant leather and mesh-uppers.
  • Durable, slip resistant outsole.
  • And the best part – they come in 5 super fun colors.


I’ve been consistently wearing my pair almost every day for the past month or so. Mostly around the house and while running errands with the kids, any time I need to be “on my toes”, so to speak.

Last week I even ditched my running shoes and tested them out on the treadmill – to see how they would do as a true “athletic” shoes. I  laced them up, and walked on a small incline for a few miles.


While they’re not running shoes, (if you’re a runner – stick to true running shoes), they are amazingly comfortable for “power” walking.

Confidently, the Santa Fe is hands down the most comfortable shoe I’ve ever worn, and I don’t say that lightly. I can, and have, worn them all day from sun up to sun down with happy feet at the end of the day.

They’re a bit on the pricy side, running around $130 a pair – but the saying rings true, you totally get what you pay for with the Santa Fe. If you’re looking for a high quality sneaker that will treat your feet right, these are the shoes for you.

Ok, have I sold you yet?

I wish for Christmas I could gift each and every one of you a pair, they’re just that great. The good news is, Dansko wants to gift ONE of you a pair of Santa Fe sneakers in the size and color of your choice. Enter the Rafflecopter below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*I received a pair of Santa Fe’s in exchange for this review. All opinions are my own, and I do honestly love these shoes.