Saturday, March 31, 2012

Chocolate & Peanut Butter Chip Pretzel Cookies


Hi Friends!

Ready for my new favorite cookie? Holy-Moly!  These chocolate and peanut butter chip pretzel cookies are THE BEST!   I spied these cookies over on the olive tree and knew I was going to have to give them a try.  I mean, really?!?  Milk chocolate + peanut butter + pretzels?  That has YUM written all over it!  I whipped up a batch of these last Thursday night to bring down to Chicago last weekend and they got rave reviews.  Two thumbs up, all-around!  Turns out the original recipe came from Sarah over at Sugar Cooking.  Sarah--YOU and YOUR COOKIES completely ROCK!  Give these cookies a try--you're going to love their salty/sweet goodness!


Recipe: Chocolate & Peanut Butter Chip Pretzel Cookies
Recipe from Sarah at Sugar Cooking
Makes 24 cookies

Ingredients:
  • 1 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. of salt
  • 1/4 tsp. of baking soda
  • 1/2 cup of butter at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup of tightly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup of granulated sugar
  • 1 egg (beaten)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup milk chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter chips
  • 1/2 cup broken up pretzel pieces
  • Pretzel Salt or Sea Salt
Directions:
  1. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  2. In a larger bowl, beat the butter and sugars together on medium speed until light and fluffy (about 2-3 minutes). On low speed, slowly add the beaten egg and vanilla extract. Beat to combine, scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  3. Add the flour mixture and beat just until there are no more streaks of flour. Stir in the chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, and pretzels. Cover and refrigerate for an hour.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Scoop out well rounded tablespoonfuls of the dough and sprinkle with pretzel salt. Leave about 2 inches between each ball. Bake for 10 minutes. If you prefer crispier cookies increase the baking time by 1-2 minutes. Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes before removing.
Enjoy!
XO,
Vicki

Friday, March 30, 2012

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Homemade Granola

Hi Friends--

A couple of years ago, my friend Amy taught me how to make homemade granola.  My family pretty much flipped over it.  Over the years I have made lots of batches--it's become my go-to recipe for easy teacher and coach gifts.  I love that it's made with all natural ingredients--it's the epitome of simple goodness.  We mostly eat it straight out of the jar, but John loves it sprinkled over ice cream, too.

Amy’s Super-Duper Granola
3 C. Old-Fashioned Oats
1 C. Slivered Almonds
1/4 C. Melted Butter
1/4 C. Brown Sugar
1/4 C. Honey
1/4 tsp. Cinnamon
1 C. Flaked Coconut
1 C. Golden Raisins
Mix together oats and almonds in a 15×10 pan. Set aside. In a small bowl, mix honey, butter and brown sugar. Pour over oat mixture, stirring well to combine. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Spread mixture evenly in pan. Bake uncovered at 250 for 30-35 minutes. Remove from oven, stir in coconut and bake 45 more minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. Remove from oven and stir in raisins. Let cool in pan. When cool, transfer to tightly covered containers and store at room temperature.

I usually quadruple this recipe--it never goes to waste! 

Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy!

XO,

Vicki

PS  I am happy to report that I made HUGE progress on the basement yesterday!  (And yes, Amy, I ended up donating the Mickey Mouse costume [even though I totally wanted to keep it!].  You're right;  some other little kid is going to LOVE getting to dress up like Mickey.)  I've always been sentimental--it's hard for me to give up some things.  But I'll always have the pictures, right?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Random Wednesday


1.  Jack has been a maniac on the trampoline.  He and his gang of buddies spend hours on it every day after school.  This makes me irrationally happy.
2.  Maddie wore a new skirt to school today.  She wants me to get her "Spanks" to wear under it.  Not to hold in the jiggles (she has none), just because that's what everyone is doing.  I wonder who started that.
3.  I am going to make a big batch of homemade granola today.
4.  I have not touched one single item in the basement since I posted that Hoarders picture.
5.  I am in full-on shower planning mode.  We stopped at Ikea on the way home from Chicago this weekend and I found THE PERFECT thing to decorate the walkway.
6.  Yes.  I am going to decorate the walkway for Christy's shower.
7.  I have not been to the gym since last Wednesday.  I am in a slump. 
8.  I wish John was home.  Life seems tilted without him.
9.  I am out of concentrated cherry juice.  I can definitely tell.  I need to go to GNC today.
10. One of my students wrote a process paragraph on how to take a temperature rectally.  That's a first.
11.  I am weirdly disappointed that they left out the part where District 11 sent Katniss the bread in the Hunger Games movie.
12.  The other day Maddie and I went to the grocery store.  While we were checking out, she thanked me for all the fabulous food that was in the cart.  The cashier said she doesn't think she ever thanked her parents for food when she was growing up.
13.  Buster has been sleeping on Jack's bed.  This makes both of them very happy.
14.  I have no teams left in my NCAA bracket.  None.  It was not my year.
15.  I can't wait to get out in the boat.
16.  I just sent out letters to my summer swimmers.  I can't believe it's already time to be thinking about summer swim season.
17.  There are 852 pictures of Emily posted on Facebook from her trip to Chicago this past weekend with Drama Club. 
18.  Maddie had solo and ensemble contest yesterday.  Her solo was rather melancholy.  It was lovely.
19.  Jack finished his Magnet testing yesterday.  He loved solving the puzzles.  He must get that from John.
20.  We have not watched the Golf Channel once since John left. 

XO,

Vicki


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

And Now For Something A Little Lovelier


Hi Friends--

I thought you might appreciate some lovely photos today.  Aren't those tulips gorgeous?!?  I couldn't believe how green and fabulous everything was down in Chicago this past weekend.  These pictures were taken in Michael's backyard--his tulips and daffodils are up all over his yard. 

Everywhere I looked things were blooming.  I loved it!  I think we're at least a couple of weeks behind Chicago -- I can't wait!

Are the flowers blooming by you?

XO,

Vicki

Monday, March 26, 2012

Like a Hoarders Episode


Hi Friends!

We are back after our lovely weekend in Chicago and I have so much to share!  Unfortunately, I have no time to blog today because I have an Arts Festival committee meeting at my house in 2 hours and my basement looks like something out of an episode of "Hoarders".  I wouldn't care, but see that door in the background (behind the big down comforter thrown over the stacks of boxes?)...well, that's the door to my office where we meet.

I made a promise to John that I would clean out the basement storage area while he was in Peru.  Needless-to-say, there was a lot of stuff in the storage room.  Now the storage room is empty (and quite lovely I might add...), but the sitting area is so full I had to make paths so that Jack could get to his room and the bathroom.

I have to confess that I do watch Hoarders every now and then.  It just sucks me in.  I just marvel at how much stuff people accumulate--so much stuff that it ends up affecting the way they live.  Poor souls.  Then I dragged everything out of my storage room and discovered my own mess.  Holy cow.  Talk about a wake-up call!  Time to make some trips to Goodwill.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go do something about that mess before the ladies get here.*

Have a fabulous day!

XO,

Vicki

*On second thought, I think I'll hold my meeting upstairs this time... 

Friday, March 23, 2012

Off to Our Happy Place

Hi Friends!

I've got my bags packed, and I'm ready to go!
The kids and I are heading down to Chicago to spend a little time with Auntie, Grandma, Grandpa, Tommy and Michael.  Yay!  We're going to squeeze in lunch with Grandpa, a pizza party, The Hunger Games, some shopping, a Bridal Shower meeting (!), and a little (belated) celebration of Christy's birthday.  I can't wait!

Have a fabulous weekend!

XO,

Vicki

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Irrational Fears


Hi Friends!

Whew!  I just got back from safely delivering Jack's string bass to his school for his weekly lesson.  I'm not going to lie--that's not my favorite chore.  I have this incredibly irrational fear that one day I'm going to unload it from the back of my car, turn around with it and then fall on it.  I just know if I land on that instrument I am going to smash it to smithereens.  I'm not sure how much a new string bass costs, but I'm guessing it's a lot.  Like a whole lot.  Each week I load it in the car, drive it over to the school and thank my lucky stars when I successfully get it to where it needs to go in one piece.  Then I reverse the process in the afternoon.  Thursdays are definitely my most stressful day of the week, as I'm sure you can imagine.

I have plenty of other irrational fears.  Take squirrels, for instance.  Just searching through the Google image results for a picture of squirrels made my heart race.  They scare the you-know-what out of me.  I'm pretty sure if I ever encountered a gang of squirrels like the one above, I'd surrender all my possessions and flee in terror.  For real.  My fear of squirrels began in college.  Squirrels were everywhere. And unlike me, they were fearless.  Fearless!  One time I threw something out in a trash can on the Quad and a squirrel flew out at me.  I've never been the same.

I also have a fear of knocking out my front two teeth.  Strange, but true.

Buster is afraid of empty WalMart bags, but that's a subject for another day.  : )

How about you;  do you have any irrational fears?

XO,

Vicki



Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Love/Hate



Helllooooo!
Today I'm going to introduce you to one of my very favorite table games:  Love/Hate.  I play this game all the time when I go out to eat with groups of people.  The object of the game is simple:  each person in the group gives a topic, for each topic named, the rest of the group has to name something they love, and something they hate for that category.  This game is a great way to get groups to learn about each other.  I play it a lot with my swimmers when we go out to eat (right, Emily?).  Here we go:

1.  Food--Cottage cheese/Brussels sprouts
2.  TV Show--Big Bang Theory/Televised golf tournaments
3.  Movie--Shawshank Redemption/Nacho Libre
4.  Chore--Ironing/Emptying the dishwasher
5.  Holiday--Thanksgiving/Valentine's Day
6.  Sport (to play)--Swim/Bowl
7.  Sport (to watch)--Football/Baseball
8.  Band--Dave Mathew's Band/Anything Country
9.  Summer--Boating/Mosquitoes
10. Flowers--Tulips/Marigolds
11. School Subject--Writing/Math
12. Beverage--Club Soda with Lime/Coffee
13. Sports Team--Chicago Bears/New England Patriots
14. Color--Orange/Brown
15. Animal--Dog/Hyena
16. Exercise--Bike/Run
17. Day of the Week--Friday/Wednesday
18. Smell--Johnson's Baby Shampoo/mildew
19. Store--Vintique/Sprint
20. Cartoon Character--Mulan/SpongeBob
Feel free to play along in the comments--I'd love to see your love/hate lists!

XO,

Vicki

Monday, March 19, 2012

Hopping on the "Project Life" Bandwagon


Hi Friends!

Did you have an awesome weekend?  We sure did! The weather here has been unbelievably fantastic.  There was plenty of jumping and reading outside and just a bit of get-the-beds-ready gardening. Of course, I'm not foolish--I know this weather is probably not here to stay (hello--this is Wisconsin!), so I can't even think about planting anything yet, but it sure is fun to dream about summer strawberries (our third season--should be a bumper crop!), vine-ripened tomatoes and fresh basil. 

Anyhoo!  This week I am on Spring Break (yahoo!), so I have the whole week to play!  I plan on getting out on my bikes (both my road bike and my vintage bike), and starting on my Project Life album.  I decided to jump on the Project Life wagon after seeing it in action on several of my favorite blogs.  I used to scrapbook all the time.  Each of the kiddos has several of their own Creative Memory albums.  But you know what?  It just stopped working for me for some reason.  I fell behind and got completely bogged down with feeling like every page needed to be an artistic masterpiece.  The entire premise behind Project Life is keep it simple.  Live life and record it.  It's not about a page with $12 worth of embellishments surrounding one photo.  I like the less-is-more premise.  I like that I get to record a week's worth of memories on a 2-page spread.  It seems to work for lots of my favorite bloggers, so I decided to give it a try.  I decided to go with the Clementine album (hello, orange, I love you) a Core Kit,and some pages.  That's all I need to get started.


The only other thing I bought were some completely cute flair buttons from Ormolu, because I know myself, I'm going to want to add a wee bit of dimension to my pages along the way:

And that's it.  I've never kept a family album before, so I'm pretty giddy about Project Life.  I know I'll still make some mini-albums along the way, but for now, I'm going to focus on keeping my Project Life album completely up-to-date.  Are you doing Project Life?  Want to join me on this adventure?  I'd love to have some friends do this with me!

Want to learn more about Project Life?  Click here.

Have a wonderful day!

XO,

Vicki

Friday, March 16, 2012

Totally In Love


Confession time:  I am completely in love four men who are not my husband.  Like my husband, they are all incredibly smart science guys.  Unlike my husband, I am not attracted to them...at least physically. But I'm not going to lie, lately I've been thinking about Sheldon, Leonard, Raj, and the one who wears the weird hoochy pants all the time.

Do you watch The Big Bang Theory?

It's awesome.  Seriously.  The entire Terlap family is obsessed.

Big Bang Theory has recently eclipsed Elf in the "we quote it all the time" category.

We've got it bad over here.

XO,

Vicki

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Recipe For A Perfect Day












Hi Friends!

Yesterday was just about the most perfect day, ever!  It was 77 degrees and sunny in March (in Wisconsin!)!  The kiddos had a half-day of school, and we took full advantage of it.  They wanted to put up the trampoline, so I made a deal with them:  be my "poop spotters" and once we are done, they could jump all day.  Is there anything grosser than the first big spring poop pickup?  I think not.  Four full WalMart bags later, the kids and I were done.  Yuck!  Putting up a trampoline involves a big bunch of teamwork--stretching all those springs in place is not easy.  After a quick group picture, the jumping began.  I settled in on the deck with Mockingjay-- and snapped a few action photos.  The kids would jump for a while, take a break, and then head back out to jump some more.  I love it!  Dinner was voted on by the kids:  chicken braid, it was.  Yum!  All-in-all, a fabulous day!

I just love spring, don't you?

XO,

Vicki

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Random Wednesday


1.  I never carry Kleenex, but I'm always thankful when the person I'm with has one.
2.  I do not like the way lipstick feels on my lips.
3.  I never paint my fingernails, but my toes are always painted.
4.  I have been wearing the same type of underwear for my entire married life.
5.  I can't squat down and sit on my heels anymore.  Not sure when that started.
6.  I love black jellybeans.
7.  I hardly ever eat hot dogs, but when I do, I eat them the way my dad does:  mustard, onions, salt & pepper.
8.  Sometimes I forget I am over 40.
9.  I am funnier when I am around Christy.
10.  I admire people who are good at letting things roll off their backs.
11.  I hate emptying the dishwasher.
12.  I love loading the dishwasher.
13.  I could have sworn "hot dog" was one word.
14.  I never realized how many weird grammar rules there are until I started teaching grammar.
15.  There is a portion of 294 on the way to my parent's house that smells like new book smell.
16.  One time I had a dream that my grandma and I were at Orange Julius together.
17.  I think my grandparents would have gotten a kick out of my kids.
18.  I am afraid of squirrels.
19.  My new glasses feel heavy on my face.
20.  The kids have a half day today.  We are going to make a batch of monster cinnamon rolls.

What's up with you today?

XO,

Vicki

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

So Not A College Student Anymore

Hi Friends--

Whew!  I am dragging today. I kind of/sort of might have pulled an almost-all-nighter last night.  Today I was completely reminded that I am no longer a college student.

As you know, John is out of town.  When John goes out of town, a few things usually happen:

1.  I sleep with the fan on (even in the dead of winter).
2.  I leave the light over the sink on all night (so I don't have to come downstairs in the dark).
3.  I tend to stay up reading much later than when he is home.

All three of these things happened last night.

As it turns out, I am kind of a fan(atic) of The Hunger Games series.  Who knew?!?  My girls have been obsessed with these books for forever, but I really had no interest in reading them.  Then my friends started reading them.  Like all of my friends.  Every time I turned around, one of my friends was reading The Hunger Games.  Really?!?  The last straw was when Denise visited last month.  She went on and on about how great the books are.  I finally gave in and bought the first book.  It sat on my hope chest for almost a month.  This past weekend I ran out of books in my "to-read" pile, so I decided to pick it up.

The first book, The Hunger Games, caught my attention.  I enjoyed it.  When I finished it, I went to WalMart to buy the second book, Catching Fire.  It was Catching Fire that ended up sucking me in.  Yikes!  I couldn't put it down last night.  There I was all sprawled out in bed, enjoying my fan, just reading away.  Ten o'clock came and went.  Then 11:00 pm.  Then midnight.  About that time I decided to put a note on Emily's door letting her know we were not going to go to the gym.  I knew that I was probably making a big mistake, what with Tuesday being my longest teaching day of the week and all, but I just couldn't put down that darn book.

Needless-to-say, I was not happy when the alarm went off this morning.  And I may-or-may-not have stumbled over plenty of words during my morning class.  By my afternoon class, I had one of those all-nighter stomachaches, the same kind I used to get in college.  Don't ask me how I managed to get through the afternoon.

Now I'm just trying to stay awake long enough to go to bed.  I'm not even going to open the third book, Mockingjay, until tomorrow.   Better safe than sorry.  I know two all-nighters in a row would probably kill me.  : )

Is it bedtime yet?

XO,

Vicki

Monday, March 12, 2012

Far, Far Away



Hi Friends,

They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder.  But really?  I'm already pretty darn fond of John--I don't need him to go away for me to realize that.  I already miss him, and he's only been gone for one day.  I think it's going to be a looong 3 1/2 weeks. 

I miss you big bunches, John.

XO,

Vicki

Friday, March 9, 2012

A Little Bit Obsessed//Mason Jars

 Hi Friends!

Confession time:  I may have a little problem.  Well, more like an obsession--with blue mason jars.  I can't help it--I just love their simple beauty.  I find them all over the place--at garage sales and thrift stores and antique malls.  I never spend very much on them, but when I find a good deal, I tend to buy them all.
Blue mason jars are all over my house.  The little grouping above lives in my office.  The one below is in my dining room:
 I have some on the left side of my mantle:
And another one on the right side:
 Here's one in a corner of my craft room:
 And here's a couple I used for a simple centerpiece:
I even use them at parties.  I used these to hold toppings at Jack's birthday party:
So what do you think?  A little out of control?  Perhaps.  But unlike my Diet Coke addiction*, at least this one isn't bad for my health.  : )

XO,

Vicki
PS  I'm coming up on my 2-year anniversary of being "clean" from Diet Coke!  Yahoo!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Midwest is Best

(source)

Hi Friends!

One thing I know for sure: you can take the girl out of the Midwest, but you can’t take the Midwest out of the girl. After growing up in the suburbs of Chicago and then going to school in the cornfields of Illinois, I am about as Midwestern as they come.  Oh, sure, I’ve lived a bit in other regions of the country throughout my marriage, but the Midwest always calls me home. I love the seasons, the variety of people and the genuine friendliness you can only find here. Midwesterners come in all shapes and sizes and have different ideas and political points of view, but it’s all good. I love my Midwestern values, and I’m glad John and I are raising our kids in the heartland.  (Although I’ve got to admit the coasts are wonderful places to visit!)

Hope you’re happy wherever you live!

XO,
Vicki

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Life's Other Great Lessons



Life’s Other Great Lessons

1. When painting a room yellow, choose carefully–even the lightest yellow on the color strip can be shocking!
2. If you’re given the chance to study abroad–do it–it’s a luxury that may never come around again.
3. Unless you are a morning person, scheduling a Monday-Friday 8am math class in your first semester of college is probably not a good idea.
4. Keep a journal.
5. It’s okay to change your mind–don’t be afraid to say, “I thought this was going to be perfect for me, but it’s really not working out.”
6. Tell people how you feel about them–I have never regretted telling someone I care about them, but I have regretted NOT telling someone.
7. Thank you notes are important.
8. Every now and then, weed your friendship garden.
9. VOTE
10. Learn how to cook.
11. If you dream of living abroad, joining the peace corps or doing a mission, do it while you’re young. As soon as “adult life and responsibilities” pile up, it’s harder to work this in.
12. Dream BIG.
13. If you are given a choice between receiving a “thing,” or an “experience,” try the experience.
14. Don’t wear uncomfortable shoes.
15. Good posture and good eye contact are more important than what you are wearing or what your hair looks like.
16. Being overly emotional is okay–just as long as it’s overly happy when you’re in public. Save overly angry for a more private venue.
17. It’s not always the destination–sometimes the journey is the very best part.
18. It’s always worth taking the extra time to be kind or helpful.
19. Sometimes it’s better to keep your mouth shut.
20. There’s no shame in asking for help.

XO,
Vicki

Monday, March 5, 2012

I Love Black & White Photos


Hi!

Check out the new grouping that hangs over my couch!  Isn't it fabulous?!?  Thanks to a little bit of shifting in the family room, I ended up with a really long wall to do a grouping on--perfect for all of my black and white photos!  The whole family was involved in this little project.  There was all kinds of mat cutting and photo swapping and scanning in of photos involved.

The end result is exactly what I was hoping for--my own little gallery.  The best part is that there is still lots of room on either side so I can add on to this grouping.
Now that I have my new fancy camera, I'm planning on taking some updated photos of the kids.  Look how little they are in those photos!  I don't think I will replace them (I love those photos), but I plan on adding some current photos into the mix. 

Hooray for using pictures as art!

XO,

Vicki

Friday, March 2, 2012

Little Happy Moments//Sneak Peek

 Hi Friends!
Want a peek at what's going on in my craft room right now?  Emily is working on her fabulous, colorful quote canvas (pictures soon!), Dave Matthews Band is playing on Pandora, and I am working on my "Happy Little Moments" class.  So far I've only finished the front cover--but I'm loving the way it's coming out.  I don't usually buy kits with classes, but I couldn't pass up the fabulousness of this kit:
The class involves taking an old book and turning it into a one-of-a-kind scrapbook that captures some of my very favorite special little moments.  My personal challenge is to only use the materials that came with the kit.  Later, I might make another one using some of the supplies I already had on hand.  When you take a class like this, you can copy what the instructor does, step-by-step, or just kind of go on your own way.  I'm kind of doing a hybrid:  I did my own cover, but I plan on copying some of the inside ideas.  I'll be sure to post pictures of the completed album when it's done.

I'm off to work on the inside!  I am loving today!

XO,
Vicki

PS  R.E.M. on Pandora!!!

Quote Love

Love this!

XO,

Vicki

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Don't Forget To Be Awesome

Hi Friends!
Have I mentioned that I have a huge crush on felt?  Well, I do.  I adore felt.  When I spied these fabulous pictures on Pinterest, I knew I had to try to make one of my own.  This project is super-easy, but I'm not going to lie--cutting out all of those letters took several hours.  On the plus side, I caught up on all of the early episodes of this season's Top Chef Texas.  : )  This quote just makes me grin.  I just love it. 

Here are the super-easy directions:  grab some fun felt, a sharp pair of scissors, some letter stencils and a fine-point Sharpie.
Flip over your stencil and trace your letter on your felt.  I know the picture shows a pencil, but that didn't end up working.  In the end, I used my extra-fine Sharpie and just dotted around the stencil.  Then I just connected the dots as I cut around the felt.
 If you checked out the original link, you'll notice that the artist sewed his/her letters onto material.  I wanted my art on a canvas panel, so I just used a little Tacky Glue and stuck them right on.
That's all there is to it!  Fun, colorful art with a great message!  You can't beat that!

Now go out there and be awesome!

XO,

Vicki