Category Archives: crafts

Mummies, Monsters and Sweet Little Pumpkins

You may be wondering where this post is going based on the dichotomy of a title, huh?

Me too.

Don’t worry we’re all in this together.

I sometimes wonder what it’s like to plan out blog posts. To have them be strategic and organized versus a brain dump of the tiny elements of creativity or life updates I’ve managed to throw together last-minute in an effort to get them out of my head and onto your smart phone.

In reality it would take far more monetization of this blog and likely the hiring of an assistant to ever get to deliver you the content strategy you deserve.

In the meantime (aka always and forever) you are stuck with my random frequency and rogue content. Chances are if you’ve stuck around this long, a small part of you may even appreciate them.

Moving on.

If there’s one thing to get me back on track with blogging it’s a holiday. There’s a voice in my head in the month leading up to said holiday that starts to whisper:

“So, what are you going to make for Halloween this year?”

Soon, the whisper turns to a normal speaking voice that says:

“Only a few weeks left to decide. Better get some supplies just in case.”

It’s not my fault that this voice comes out more frequently whenever I’m near the baking or holiday aisle at Target. It just does.

By the holiday week, the tone gets an attitude and says things like:

“Well you might as well pack away all those new Halloween cookie cutters and sprinkles you bought for this year because there’s no way you have time to make spiders and cauldrons and headstones now. Don’t blame me, I’ve been bugging you for weeks to decide.”

And then, like most things in my life lately, I decide to throw something together last-minute after Matt suggests we just “buy some cookies at the store or something.”

“Blasphemy. Doesn’t he know we have a reputation to uphold?” 

So in the spirit of upholding reputations as we enter into another holiday season, I present a simple way to make a “homemade” Halloween treat fit for kids and adults alike.

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Mummy & Monster White Chocolate Oreos

  • 1 package oreos
  • 1 package vanilla almond bark
  • green gel food coloring (I used wilton leaf green)
  • candy eyes (wilton-baking aisle)
  • Edible food marker (black)

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In a large ceramic bowl, melt half of almond bark brick in microwave at 50 percent power for 2 minutes. Stir.

Using a wax paper covered cookie sheet as your landing spot, dip Oreos into white chocolate until covered and set on paper. Once all are dipped, place candy eyes and then put cookie sheet in refrigerator to set chocolate.

In a separate bowl, melt the other half of almond bark until creamy. Add a few drops of gel food coloring (water-based food coloring will stiffen your chocolate) and mix until you get your desired monster green.

Repeat chocolate dipping process on another wax paper covered cookie sheet. Add eye and sprinkles or any other monster features you see fit. Or add another eye and now that I look at them you have a pretty close resemblance to a Ninja Turtle.

Cowabunga.

While green monsters are cooling in fridge, pull white mummies back out and use remaining white chocolate to make mummy wraps. This works best if the chocolate has slightly stiffened but feel free to re-melt in microwave for thinner gauzing.

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So now that we got the spooky stuff out of the way, let’s randomly transition to the sweeter side of the season where pumpkins are growing and so is the size of my belly.

Last weekend we were fortunate to get together with our Chicago/Zalewski side of the family for a shower celebrating the upcoming arrival of Baby Z.

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All fall-themed decor credit goes to my sister-in-law and mother-in-law who created an adorable shower for Matt and I. Would you just look at those cookies?

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little pumpkin baby shower, baby, party, little pumpkin, gender neutral baby shower

little pumpkin baby shower, baby, party, little pumpkin, gender neutral baby shower

little pumpkin baby shower, baby, party, little pumpkin, gender neutral baby shower

It was so nice to get together with everyone ahead of the holiday season. We can’t wait to celebrate with the rest of the family in just a few weeks.

 

Hello Spring. 

So how do you survive your first winter back in the Midwest after living in Florida?christmas in florida, holidays, florida,
Don’t blog about it and it’s like it didn’t even happen.

Not sure whether there is a joke or an excuse in there, but I needed a transition so take it for what it is.

Truth is our first winter back has been pretty mild. And only in terms of temperature.

But if you’re gauging it on social engagements and work schedules, it’s been red hot. Most likely from a combination of living closer to friends and family, low housing inventory and increased demand for local athletic training services.

I’ll save you the apologies for my absence in this particular corner of the internet and instead bring you up to speed with photo montages and random things our dog has eaten (and had surgically removed) since we last talked (spoiler alert: it’s my favorite cashmere scarf).

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Super Bowl Sunday

valentine's day dessert, yogurt covered strawberries, ombre strawberries, dessert,

Galentine’s Day Brunch

St. Louis Blues Hockey, Blues,

First St. Louis Blues Game

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Visiting Flowers at Whole Foods

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Saeger Gender Reveal Tassel Garland

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A Valentine’s M&M cookie recipe not worth sharing

Finn, greater swiss mountain dog, finnegan, swissy, gsmd

Watching my favorite show on T.V.

Finn, greater swiss mountain dog, finnegan, swissy, gsmd

Showing off my new belly scar

And since I’ve had this draft for several weeks now, it seems like as good a time as any to do a St. Patrick’s Day recap of recipes I used to make when I was fun.

April Showers

It’s wedding season! Doesn’t it seem like just yesterday we were all getting together for bridal showers and bachelorette parties every other weekend?

Truth is it’s been a while since we all got together to celebrate a wedding. That’s why Matt and I decided to be the last. You know, to build the suspense and excitement.

And to give our friends a chance to go out for a night and leave their kids with grandma and grandpa.

We ventured home last weekend for a weekend full of wedding festivities and Easter celebrations. After a brief pilot strike, new flight schedules and a detour in Chicago, we made it to Springfield around 1 a.m. Saturday morning. This was our third trip home that we arrived after midnight so we’re hopeful that by the time the wedding comes, the travel gods smile down on us instead of pouring their flight delays and traffic jams all over us.

Travel woes behind us, we spent Saturday amidst family and friends and if you ask me, there’s no better way to spend a weekend day. It meant so much to us for both sides of friends and family come into town, something I appreciate so much more living thousands of miles away from them.

My mom and sister handled all of the planning and execution of the shower so while I can’t take credit for any of the details, I did manage to snap a few photos to share with you. I think we both know I’m good for little more than photo posts at this point so here’s a mash-up of the weekend.

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wedding shower, bridal shower, babies, wedding season, spring bridal shower, champagne bar, wedding cake

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wedding shower, bridal shower, babies, wedding season, spring bridal shower, champagne bar, wedding cake, save the date cookie

wedding shower, bridal shower, babies, wedding season, spring bridal shower, champagne bar, wedding cake, save the date cookie, family

wedding shower, bridal shower, babies, wedding season, spring bridal shower, champagne bar, wedding cake, save the date cookie

wedding shower, bridal shower, babies, wedding season, spring bridal shower, champagne bar, wedding cake, save the date cookie, family

wedding shower, bridal shower, babies, wedding season, spring bridal shower, champagne bar, wedding cake, save the date cookie, family

wedding shower, bridal shower, babies, wedding season, spring bridal shower, champagne bar, wedding cake, save the date cookie, family

wedding shower, bridal shower, babies, wedding season, spring bridal shower, champagne bar, wedding cake, save the date cookie, family

We had a great Easter celebration and are continuing the party this week with the boys visiting Florida for their spring break. You’ll have to excuse my delay in posting as a certain spunky younger brother is turning 5 tomorrow and I’ve got some decorating to do but I’ll leave you with a few shots from Easter Sunday.

Easter, brothers, boys, photography, easter sunday, family, kidsEaster, brothers, boys, photography, easter sunday, family, kids Easter, brothers, boys, photography, easter sunday, family, kids

Can you tell they’re brothers?

 

 

Love Languages and Christmas Cookies

It’s hard to believe another Christmas is already upon us. A chance to look back on the past year and celebrate your accomplishments. A chance to look forward and make resolutions for the coming year. And a chance to visit that familiar self-induced hell of cookie decorating.

Just kidding. Kind of.

They say people fit into one of five different love languages. That emotionally, they need things like acts of service or words of affirmation to feel loved. And that receiving love is incredibly important to your relationship with others.

What does this have to do with cookie decorating you might ask?

Well they also say that you should tailor your love showing to the specific language of those you with which you have a relationship.

But because I think assuming you like physical touch would be the wrong choice in this scenario, I decided to settle for another year of holiday cookies.

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I’ll admit I was a little disappointed when I over-thinned my white icing just in time for Santa’s beard. The result? Santa Dog. Coming soon to a dog park near you.

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holiday cookies, christmas,  sugar cookies, royal icing, christmas cookies, baking, iced cookies

holiday cookies, christmas,  sugar cookies, royal icing, christmas cookies, baking, iced cookies

I was a little disappointed until the boys and I had our annual Christmas cookie decorating party and the two of them showed me artistic skills I can’t even begin to compete with.

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Look at the depth and layering. The color quality and sparkle. The heavy use of sprinkles.

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I must admit I prefer the boys’ cookies to my own and I have a feeling it has a little to do with the quality time and acts of service involved.

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Merry Christmas!

What music do mummies listen too?

Wrap Music.

This Halloween joke was brought to you by Brent J. from Upper Arlington, Ohio

Thanks Brent!

I apologize for my blog infrequency but you know I’m not one to miss a holiday so it’s only fitting that I bring it back for one of my favorites.

I love Halloween. I would say it’s my favorite holiday but I say that about every holiday so I doubt you would believe me if I did.

Halloween is totally my favorite holiday.

I’m the kind of girl who gets into the spirit by making an entire batch of chocolate covered pretzels 7 days ago only to find out that Halloween was not for another week.

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Speaking of spirits.

Why do ghosts make good cheerleaders?

Because they have a lot of spirit.

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I found these googlie eyes a few weeks back and couldn’t get the idea of googlie-eyed ghosts out of my head ever since.

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If you were ever wondering where I get ideas for things to make, the above statement about sums it up. There’s really no planning involved. An idea comes out of nearly nowhere and once it’s in my head I can’t get rid of it until the sugar cookie dough has set, the royal icing has been mixed and the googlie eyes placed. It’s a blessing and a curse really.

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I won’t get into the recipes as I broke them down in this post, but just know that if you want a soft and chewy royally-iced goblin, you are going to need a few hours of outlining time.

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And outlining time takes away from what the heck are we going to dress up as this year time so I’m off to figure that out.

What do you call a ghost’s mother and father?

Transparents.

Farmer’s Market Strategy

One of my favorite things to do with my mom on Saturday mornings was to head downtown to the farmer’s market and shop for produce. I love to social aspect of it, the people watching, the beautifully lined vegetables, the music.

sarasota downtown farmer's market, produce, vegetables, farmers market, spring, tips for making the most of the farmers market

Isn’t it amazing how the things you absolutely dreaded as a child have become some of your favorite activities as an adult? I can picture my sister rolling her eyes right now, making some reference to how much I’m turning into our mom, but I’m ok with that. My mom is a subject matter expert when it comes to farmer’s markets. She knows all the vendors. She knows what’s in season and what’s priced appropriately. Not that the price matters. I’ve never seen someone throw around cash more than she does on your average Saturday morning. But when your cash is supporting local business, it’s worth it. Bottom line is if you need a crash course in farmer’s market strategy, consider letting my mom accompany you to your local farmer’s market. You’ll be a pro in no time.

Unfortunately I didn’t have my mom with me when I visited the downtown Sarasota Farmer’s Market on Saturday, but based on her lessons and my experience, here are my five tips to make the most of your local farmer’s market:

Step 1. Survey the lot before you buy. Chances are there are at least 2-3 stands with the produce you are looking for. See what’s out there before you commit to anything. Most farmer’s markets take cash so you don’t want to spend it all at the cookie bar when you really came for peaches and cucumbers. Not that you shouldn’t spend a little at the cookie bar because well, it’s a cookie bar.

sarasota downtown farmer's market, produce, vegetables, farmers market, spring, tips for making the most of the farmers market

Step 2. Consider what’s in season and stick with that. We are very fortunate to be living in a place where fruits and vegetables that might not regularly be in season are. Find out what was recently harvested in your area and plan your meals around those foods. It makes the seasons fun!

sarasota downtown farmer's market, produce, vegetables, farmers market, spring, tips for making the most of the farmers market, peaches

Step 3. Talk to people. Farmer’s markets don’t work the same way grocery stores do. Show up with your headphones on and your head down and you may lose out on a great experience. Not only did I meet two people from Chicago and one from Green Bay Wisconsin on Saturday morning, but I got a free dinner and several local recommendations for restaurants in our new area. I was also asked if I was getting married in Siesta Key that afternoon by an older gentleman who was absolutely convinced I looked like the bride. Don’t get me wrong, I hear it’s a great location for a wedding but any bride who is shopping hydrangeas solo at 10 a.m. the morning of her wedding is straight up crazy.

sarasota downtown farmer's market, produce, vegetables, farmers market, spring, tips for making the most of the farmers market, art, painting, flowers

Step 4. Bring cash. This should probably be step 1 but let my mother be an example for you to load your pockets and purse with small bills before heading to your farmer’s market. It’s a busy place so the key is to make the transaction as quick as possible. No one wants to see your AMEX or $100 bill when all you have is a pint of tomatoes in your hand.

sarasota downtown farmer's market, produce, vegetables, farmers market, spring, tips for making the most of the farmers market

Step 5. Slow down. Farmer’s markets offer a rare chance to take a break from technology and talk to people. For once you not only have the chance to find out where your food came from, but to talk to the person or business owner and learn a little about their story as well. And it doesn’t just stop at food. These markets are a great chance to hear good music and survey the local arts.

sarasota downtown farmer's market, produce, vegetables, farmers market, spring, tips for making the most of the farmers market, peaches

Do me a favor and go check out your local farmer’s market this spring. Most should be opening soon if they aren’t already. Order a cup of fresh-squeezed lemonade and be sure to say hello to my mom when you see her.

 

Farewell Chicago: Feeling Fortunate

As our moving date approaches, I’m becoming increasingly aware of just how fortunate I am. I guess leaving a place after six years will do that to you. By now most everyone is privy to the big changes on our horizon and as much as I try not to think about saying goodbye just yet, the goodbyes are already being said to me.

sweet home chicago banner, farewell tour of chicago, chicago skyline banner

It’s a good thing, really, to be spoken highly of and told you how much your presence will be missed around the office, neighborhood or nearby Nordstrom Cafe. It’s a really good thing, but it forces to you realize how much of that day-to-day interaction you take for granted.

I’m going to miss the fact that the manager at the Nordstrom Cafe now knows me by first name thanks to my love of half cilantro chicken salads and scones.

source

I’m going to miss the friendly waves and the ‘what did Finn eat this week’ my neighbors and I exchange each evening as we walk around the park.

swiss mountain dog puppy, west loop, chicago, mary bartelme park

And I’m going to really miss the association family I’ve built over the past 5 years at NAR. If you think about it, you spend more time with your co-workers than nearly anyone else and I’ve been very lucky to have built a lot of friendships with my co-workers along the way.NAR_group

When I moved to the city, I was so worried about getting caught up in the pack. Of being just another face in the crowd. Little did I know just how small-town this city can feel. In walking Michigan Avenue over the years, I’ve run into college friends, Kelsey Grammar, best friends, baseball players, cousins, country music stars, friends of the family and more furs and plastic surgery botches than I care to count. OK so those celebs are not exactly small-town types but cool nonetheless.

It’s only in saying goodbye that I truly realize how thankful I am for the relationships this city has helped me build.

One coping mechanism I’ve found very helpful is to jam every free moment with social events and time with family and friends up until the night before you leave town. You should try it. I’m off to a great start. Granted, I have yet to pack and don’t have any free time for that in the foreseeable future, but you better believe I’m going to max out on the quality time until we go.

This weekend my parents are coming up to visit and I’m helping to host a baby shower for one of my closest friends. I’ll hopefully have a wrap up post later this weekend but here’s a sneak peek at some of the details. I’ve been itching to do a gender neutral shower after a flurry of boys then girls so I can’t wait to celebrate little baby King!

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Have a great weekend!