Category Archives: valentine’s day

On Valentines

Happy Ash Wednesday everyone. Seems sort of awkward to be celebrating today but what else do you do when this shows up on your front porch?

IMG_9390.JPGThat’s right. Years of Catholic school didn’t stop my dad from scheduling my Valentine to arrive on Ash Wednesday.

Typical Murf.

I shouldn’t be surprised really. I mean this is the same guy who included yogurt-coated dog treats a few years ago before Finn was even in the picture. The same one who probably giggled at the exact time my faced flushed as the intercom blared that I needed to come to the office to accept a flower delivery from a ‘secret admirer’ in 7th grade.

The guy who still thinks his best year yet was the one in which he delivered my sister and I leopard print high-heeled shoes made completely out of chocolate.

And while I poke fun at the scenarios, I realize I’m very lucky.

Lucky to have grown up always celebrating love and thankful for the first guy that showed me what it meant.


Everything is Awesome

My apologies for the delay in posting and for getting this tune in your head for the rest of eternity.

I traveled home this weekend to see my family and pick up my pooch. I was supposed to pick him up the weekend before but the roads were bad so we pushed it off a week. By this point Finn had been vacationing at Nana and Papooch’s palace for nearly three weeks. They insist that he was ‘no trouble at all,’ but 100 pounds of bark and fur surely takes its toll on empty nesters after a while. So on Friday, under sunny skies and cool temps, I headed south to Springfield.

Everything was awesome until I hit Bloomington.

winter road conditions, bloomington, winter weather, accidents

I like to think I’m pretty comfortable driving in the snow but this was some of the worst conditions I’ve ever experienced. The whiteout hit so fast that it caused miles of pileups and accidents. I think I heard on the radio once I was through Bloomington that there were at least 40 cars involved. Fortunately my self-talk and yoga breathing helped me through the worst of it and I only added an extra hour or so to my trip. It could have been much worse.

I made it home and was greeted by this crazy dude shortly thereafter.

Wet puppy kisses. Awesome.

Since it was Valentine’s Day, we celebrated with the boys that evening. Apparently there is way more candy involved in the holiday than I remember as a child.

valetines day candy, boys, valentines day

Please note the Pease’s box from my dad. Awesome.

We kicked off Saturday with a gymnastics class for Jake at a new gym in Springfield. Jake was pretty pumped to try it out, especially after Owen told him you got to wear sweat pants to class each time.

jake gymnastics class, little gym springfield, simply social blog

Sweat pants and hanging apparatuses? Awesome.

Each class the kids work on basic skills like log rolling, hanging on the bar and listening to the teachers. Jake spent most of his first visit attempting an unsupervised back flip on the rings and running into the wall and falling for laughs from the audience.

Watching Jake in a gymnastics class. Really Awesome.

After the class we grabbed lunch and then went to see the new Lego movie, hence the theme of this post. My sister and I laughed just as much as the boys did, especially when they used subversive adult jokes and mispronunciations of common human items like golf balls, band aids and super glue.

On Sunday I spent the morning playing in the snow with this guy. I know one dog who is going to be very sad when his unlimited supply of snowball snacks have melted.

swissy snow, greater swiss mountain dog, finn, puppy

We headed back to the city later that afternoon in time to celebrate the birthday of the last of the baby season girls, Ella. Well not really. She was asleep by the time I got there and I just wished her a happy birthday from the door and then snuggled up on the chair until her parents got back home from the JT concert.

ella first birthday, simply social blog

photo credit Leanne Benkso

Birthday cake and Justin Timberlake. Awesome.

By now you should have sung the “Everything is Awesome” song in your head at least three times. If not go ahead and click play again and I’ll leave you with one more.

greater swiss mountain dog

It’s supposed to break 40 degrees today. AWESOME!

Have a great week!

Hearts and Love and Mushy Stuff

Let’s talk about love.

On second thought, let’s not. Let’s talk about making the most of a holiday that celebrates love by whipping up some sweet treats for friends and family.

Valentine’s Day is here and that means restaurants everywhere will have a chance to jack up menu prices just by throwing in a chocolate dessert and printing a special couple’s menu. A chance to draw people in with a holiday special? It’s what us marketing folks live for.

But Valentine’s Day is so much more than that. It’s an excuse to show someone, anyone a little love.

Whether I’ve been single or attached, I’ve always had a positive view of Valentine’s Day. It could be due to my longstanding love of crafts, baking and themes, but I’d like to believe my parents had a lot to do with it too. I grew up with a dad who made Valentine’s Day special for my sister and I no matter what age we were. He embarrassed me in middle school when they announced over the intercom that I had a flower delivery in the office and his praises were sung each February in college when he sent my roommates and I Pease’s candy boxes.

Valentine’s Day is fun. Please excuse me for a moment while I put the finishing touches on my 3-D shoebox with heart-shaped pink LED lights.

OK I’m back.

This year I attempted these cookies from Martha Stewart for Valentine’s Day. And while I should have realized this in my other failed attempts, I am now certain that Martha Stewart recipes are the pre-Pinterest, Pinterest fails. She cannot be human. And neither can anyone she works with. Her edges are so clean. Her filling so smooth.

valentine cookies, valentine sugar sandwich cookies, martha stewart recipe, chocolate sandwich cookies, pink cookies

It could be that because I couldn’t find small heart cookie cutters anywhere, I just squeezed the edge of my shamrock one until it formed something that looked sort of like a heart. Or the way that the chocolate dough rolled out so crumbly that I gave up and used a biscuit cutter to make them bigger so I could go to bed. It could be that. Or just maybe, all sandwich cookie recipes should come with a warning label that after 4-plus pans in and out of the oven, you will only end up with like 10 completed cookies to show for it because they each need two sides. Seriously Martha. I know it seems obvious but a girl needs to be warned about these things!

valentine heart sugar cookies, cream filled sandiwch cookies, heart shaped sandwich cookies, martha stewart recipes, heart sugar cookies, pink cookies

Sugar Heart Sandwich Cookies

  • 2 C all-purpose flour, plus more rolling
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 C unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 C sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Pink gel-paste food coloring
  • cream filling

In a large bowl, whisk flour, baking powder and salt. In a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add egg and then vanilla. Add dry ingredients into wet.

Refrigerate dough for up to an hour.

Divide dough into two. Mix in drops of pink food coloring and knead through dough until you reach your desired color. Roll onto floured mat. Use shamrock or heart-shaped cookie cutter. Place on baking mat and bake for 12 minutes or until edges are firm. Let cool.

Make cream filling. Place small amount of filling in center of two hearts and let dry.

chocolate sandwich cookies, valentine sandwich cookies, valentines day, martha stewart recipes

Chocolate Sandwich Cookies 

  • 1 1/4 C all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
  • 3/4 C unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp coarse salt
  • 5 TBL unsalted butter, melted
  • 2/3 C packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • Cream filling

In a large bowl mix flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt.

In a stand mixer, blend brown sugar and melted butter. I just realized I never melted my butter hence the course texture of my dough. Add egg.

Refrigerate dough.

Roll onto floured mat. Cut into desired shape. Place on baking mat and bake for 8 minutes or until edges are firm. Let cool. Add cream filling. Roll edges in sprinkles right away.

valentine heart sugar cookies, cream filled sandiwch cookies, heart shaped sandwich cookies, martha stewart recipes, heart sugar cookies, pink cookies, iced heart sugar cookies

I hope you have a very happy Valentine’s Day! I’m looking forward to getting home to spoil my nephews and reunite with my pup!

Have a great weekend!

Workout Wednesday: learning to love your body

Happy workout Wednesday. And an especially exciting one at that because it falls just before Valentine’s Day.

workout wednesday, valentine's day, learning to love your body, love your body workout

Let’s talk about loving your body.

Not to discount my oh-so-loyal male readers (ahem Dad), but this week’s post is dedicated to my girls.

As women we are often our own worst critic when it comes to our bodies. As a society, we are more comfortable brushing off compliments from other women than accepting them. Does the following scenario sound familiar?

Friend or stranger: I like your hair!
You: Oh really? I totally need a haircut and my roots could really use a touch up.

That’s a cute dress!
This old thing? It’s from Target like 4 years ago. You can have it if you want.

You look great! Have you lost weight?
No chance. I just ate an entire sleeve of thin mints. Yay for Girl Scout cookie season.

Thanks to two very nurturing parents who kept my sister and I active and never critiqued our bodies, I have always had a strong sense of self confidence. And yet I still find myself more comfortable giving out the compliments than taking them. I often wonder why our society supports that? Have you ever tried to just say thank you when a woman compliments you and leave it right there? It’s not easy! I’m trying to work on it myself but sadly, it’s as though our culture has caused us to see that as a sign of arrogance.

It shouldn’t be.


I saw this sign today in a women’s bathroom and smiled. My first thought when I saw the sign was the same as when another woman compliments me though. I immediately thought,

Oh sign, you probably say that to all the women in here regardless of how amazing they look.

And then the sign said, Duh.

And then I realized I was having a conversation with a piece of paper.

The bottom line is we can’t just blame society for this issue. Often times it starts with us. If we stop focusing on the things we don’t like about our bodies, our “problem areas” if you will, we can learn to love the whole thing a little more.

So this Valentine’s Day, let’s start to love our bodies. Let’s love them as they shift in size and elasticity throughout our lives. Love the squishy parts in your tummy because you grew a small human for 9 months. Love the thickness in your thighs because you did the squats and lunges to build them up. Love the dimples in your butt because your mom has the same dimples and the fact that you know that your mom has the same dimples means you’re pretty close with your mom and that’s pretty cool. (note: mom, I’m not saying you have dimples in your butt) Love your body because it’s yours and you guys are going to be together for a very long time so you might as well make the relationship enjoyable.

Disclaimer: I am still learning to love my body so selfies make me very uncomfortable. Especially gym selfies as they go against my rule of well, no gym selfies. That being said, it’s in the effort of full disclosure that I share a gym selfie with you.

positive affirmations, love your body, workout wednesday, workouts for each part of your body

I’m not recommending anything specific today workout-wise, but rather a few exercises I do to target the areas I want to show a little more love to.

Shoulders=push-ups, chin-ups

Biceps/Triceps=bicep curls, bench dips, chin-ups

Abs= planks, yoga

Quads=bosu squats, lunges, wall-sits

Hamstrings/Glutes= bosu squats, lunges, fire hydrants, clamshells

I invite you to change your perspective when it comes to your body. Challenge yourself to take compliments from other women with a polite thank you and no watered down responses after. I know I am going to make a strong effort to do so too. Together, we can shift the perspective of how we view ourselves.

Tell me! What body part do you love best? 

Workout Wednesday: Vacation-style

It’s workout Wednesday, vacation-style. It seems only fitting to talk about workouts in warmer climates in the midst of yet another winter snowstorm doesn’t it?

magnificent mile, winter storm, chicago, michigan avenue

I thought so too.

workout wednesday, simply social blog, workout tips, exercises

Now I’m not saying you have to exercise on your vacation. Some people prefer to use it as a recovery period and that’s fine. If you’re like me though, you see vacations as an anthropological opportunity. Translation: an opportunity to eat and drink anything and everything the local culture is known for. In excess. This is truly the only way to experience a new culture. Man I love anthropology.

Even if you’re not into cultural assimilation, there’s a good chance you’ll be indulging more on vacation than you normally do. Getting out for a few workouts are a great way to make room for the next meal, liquid or solid. Plus, your body could some movement after sitting on a plane for 3 hours.

So let’s go through some workout tips while your traveling, shall we?

Seek water and run alongside it. Oceans are great. Lakes are cool and rivers work too. Chances are if there is a body of water in the area you are visiting, there will be some sort of bike and running trail also. Lace up your running shoes and enjoy the scenery. No equipment needed!

san francisco, bay bridge, sunrise, sunset

San Francisco

running, austin, texas, lady bird lake trail


bradenton florida riverwalk, winter vacation, simply social blog


la jolla, sunset, la jolla beach, california

La Jolla

Pack the right gear. Yes you would need to pack various sets of workout clothes if you decide to exercise on your vacation. And no, it’s not like that one pair of jeans you can wear 3 times during the week. These are one and done outfits. Fortunately workout gear does not take up that much room and doesn’t wrinkle easily. In an effort to save space in my suitcase, I pack my running shoes in my carry-on. Most running shoes are light and you can use the extra space for other essentials like:

  • Flipbelt. The front pouch is perfect for your hotel key and cash. Put your phone in the back for music, photos and emergency Google mapping.
  • Watch. To chart your distance and time.
  • Sunscreen. You don’t just need it for the beach.
  • Dryer sheets. Put one in each shoe and save a few more for your dirty laundry bag on the way home.
  • Headphones with a speaker. To better communicate with your sister when she calls you during her commute (and your run). Safety Tip: When running alone, only put one earbud in so you are aware of your surroundings. 
  • Running Hat. Protect your face from sun and sweat.

Read more about my go-to running gear here.

Make the most of your surroundings. It’s not often that you run out of trail to run on but in some cases you just don’t have the chance to run safely for very far. In my case last weekend, the riverwalk I was running on only lasted about a mile or so. Knowing my motivation wouldn’t support repeating the sequence multiple times, I opted to use it as a warm-up and try some other exercises using what I had around me.

vacation workout tips, pier to pier sprints, workout wednesday

If I’m being completely honest, I ran past this pier multiple times before considering using it for sprints. As I ran past it the final time I considered the distance and view and thought,

Huh. I bet you could do a quick sprint workout on that fishing pier.

And then I continued running.

The end of the path is right there, Sarah. What are you going to do now go back to the gym and get on a treadmill? It’s February and you have a chance to be outside all morning. 

I turned around and considered how far I’d actually be able to sprint without landing in the water.

Ok. Maybe just a few. It’s been a while since I let my legs go fast. 

I only did 5 sets. Each were maybe 50 yard sprints at best. As a result, my quads still feel like knives are cutting them two days later. It felt good to let my legs go fast. I haven’t done sprint work in a very long time and I forgot how different it is.

vacation workout tips, travel workout tips, bench workout, park bench dips, workout wednesday, simply social blog

Did you know that these two benches work the exact same way for dips and push-ups? Sure you would look silly sitting and tossing bread at the ducks in the gym with the one on the right or grunting and attempting to lay flat on the one on the left, but when it comes to simple exercises, they serve the same purpose.

The key here is to find an empty bench in either location. Otherwise you just look arrogant. Work your triceps with 3 sets of 12 dips and flip around and continue with push-ups.

Then wash your hands.

Don’t forget to stretch. One thing I’ve always struggled with when working out while traveling is making time to stretch and foam roll. It’s easy enough when you’re at home in the gym with no immediate plans, but when I travel I am constantly hopping in the shower as soon as I’m done to get ready for work or the next activity. For that reason, I was thrilled to be greeted with this little gem when I arrived in Florida.

triggerpoint foam roll, travel size, workout wednesday, valentine's gift

Isn’t she cute? And though she be but small, she is fierce. Perfect size for travel and small enough to bring with you to the gym if yours doesn’t provide foam rolls for use. So fellas, if you’re looking for a Valentine’s Day gift for your lady, nothing says I love you like a foam roll to the piriformis.

Have a great workout!

Conversation Heart Cookies

I apologize that I embargoed my Wednesday post until Thursday. But holidays trump blog schedules and I highly doubt any of you were waiting at your computers for that recipe to come through.

(Sigh) Maybe someday?

Plus, our last baby season baby was born this week. Hooray! I shared Ella’s shower in the baby season post in case you want to check it out. She’s beautiful, healthy and came just in time for Valentine’s Day!

If you didn’t already assume by this whole blogging thing, I’m a communicator. I like to talk. Let’s get serious, silence makes me uncomfortable. I believe in the power of the spoken written word.

And because I like to engage in social conversation, every year leading up to Valentine’s Day I bribe my co-workers  fill my candy jar with a supply of Sweet Tart Hearts with the hope that sweets will lead to a friendly hello, a restaurant suggestion or even just a brief life-update. And I make sure they are the Sweet Tart versions because I think we all know those chalky ones won’t do the job.

making co-workers feel uncomfortable one heart at a time

My candy dish is out of sight this year and after low traffic in the first week, I decided to move it into the open space to let go of the inventory. So for the remainder of the holiday lead-up, I was left to merely yell hello across the wall as I heard the ting of the lid each time someone dug in. And you’re kidding yourself if you think that ‘someone’ would announce who they were. Pshh. They were off just as soon as that powdery sugar substance hit their veins.

One thing I did learn is that people love them some sweet tart hearts. So while contemplating ideas for what kind of treat to bring in the office on Valentine’s Day, I decided to stick with the theme and whip up a batch of conversation heart sugar cookies.

Can I have a moment for a brief aside on what I am calling the ‘flash’ flood of February holidays this year? (there’s a bead reference there in case you missed it) Anyone else think it’s kind of cuckoo that Mardi Gras and Valentine’s Day are happening in the same week? Talk about holiday treat idea overload!

valentine sugar cookies

So back to those cookies. You may have seen a sneak peek of these cookies in my earlier post about finding balance. Well after gearing up to make these cookies late Sunday night in time for Valentine’s Week, I decided take my own advice and postpone the decorating until the actual day. Fortunately both the cookie recipe and royal icing keep very well for up to a week.

I tried a new recipe this time around and while the jury is still out for taste, they seemed to cook to the proper consistency and shape I wanted. Typically I do a yogurt or sour cream and traditional sugar dough but the powdered sugar in these makes them puff up nicely.

Sugar Cookies
1 C butter
1 C powdered sugar
1 egg
1 ½ tsp. almond extract
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. salt
2 ½ C sifted flour

Cream butter in mixer on medium speed. Add powdered sugar. Mix in egg, almond and vanilla.

In a separate bowl whisk dry ingredients together. Slowly add dry ingredients into wet. Place dough into plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour. Flour rollpat or counter top

Roll dough to desired thickness. Cut out cookies with floured cookie cutter and place on baking mat.

heart sugar cookies

Bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes. Cookies will not turn golden but should move from the pan when touched. Cool for 2 minutes on pan and then transfer to cookie rack.

heart sugar cookies

Want to try the original? Recipe adapted from Annie’s Eats.


Royal Icing

2 C powdered sugar, sifted
1 TBL meringue powder
3 TBL water (add more to get desired consistency)

royal icing recipe

While dough is chilling, combine powdered sugar and meringue in a stand mixer. Add water. Mix on low for 1-2 minutes. Then increase speed to 3 or 4 until stiff peaks appear on paddle. (up to 10 minutes)


Divide into bowls and add gel coloring (gel works better as food coloring is water-based and can thin out icing). Add water and stir until icing pours smoothly but isn’t runny. This is the best icing for outlining (piping). Pipe outlines around hearts and let stand until dry. Add more water to icing to create fill and then ice as if you are coloring in a picture.

royal icing heart sugar cookies

apologies for the bad lighting


Let base layer completely dry before piping on the letters. I wasn’t patient enough with mine (story of my life) so they are a little messy. Don’t be afraid to add more powdered sugar or water to get your icing to the desired consistency.

And don’t be afraid to have fun with the messages. I kept it pretty PC this year although the later it got in the night the more I felt the urge to write blasphemous things. Ah, Valentine’s Day. Initiating awkwardness every February.
valentines conversation heart cookies
What is your favorite childhood memory of Valentine’s Day?
Mine was circa 1993 when I got a box of chocolates, a gold necklace and $25 from 3 separate boys in my class (it was a small school.) I can still see the look on my mother’s face when I burst through the door and I told her that one boy gave me $25!
I mean chocolates and jewelry are nice and all but $25 Mom. Isn’t that awesome!
My excitement was quickly doused as I was instructed to return to school the next day, thank the young boy for his contribution towards my life savings but inform him that I could not accept cash gifts.
Aw, Mom!
Hmmm, maybe I should have just brought cash into the office today.
Happy Valentine’s Day!

Dreamy Valentine Desserts…


A girl can dream, right? 
Maybe someday I will have the talent to be able to show off creations like this for Valentine’s Day. In the meantime I’ll just share a few “wow” treats I’ve been drooling over this week as I search for inspiration. Stay tuned for next week to see what I actually come up with for the holiday…so many options!

Heart Cake by the I am Baker Blog

 Valentine’s Day Cookies by Tidy Mom Blog
Rose Cakeby the I am Baker Blog