Tag Archives: greater swiss mountain dog

To Finn, with love

I’ve tried my best to fill this blog space with happy moments, decent recipes and bad jokes over the years, often leaving out some of the more serious sides of life for in-person updates in an effort to keep this space upbeat and positive.

But last week we lost a part of our family and key content contributor so I’d be remiss if I didn’t spend a little time sharing the update with you as he played such a big (and often loud) role in our lives.

Last Thursday we said goodbye to our sweet Finn. For those of you who didn’t know or who hadn’t visited our home to see the Grandpa-sized (no offense Grandpa) day-of-the-week pill sorter that we used, Finn was diagnosed with canine epilepsy (seizures) when he was just over one year old. And while he lived a seemingly normal life (see posts about all the things he ingested-namely the cashmere scarf) in the four years since he was diagnosed, we knew this was a progressive disease that would likely end his life earlier than any of us had planned.

greater swiss mountain dog sad dog diary

I could spend hours updating you on the specialists, medications and treatment of epilepsy in dogs, but if it’s ok with you, I’d rather just focus on the love and laughter he brought to everyone who spent time with him over his 5 years and all the adventures we had together.

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

The truth is, I probably don’t need to spend a lot of time telling you about Finn. He was my number one blog content contributor, by far the most photographed and overgrammed member of our family and the topic of many conversations with both strangers and friends.

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

He started out as ‘my dog’ just a few years after Matt and I started dating, but he quickly became ours as he won the heart of a former ‘not so sure about big dogs’ guy in Matt.

He spent his puppy years in Chicago learning to pee on command on a 3-foot-by-3 foot wood chip pile outside my one-bedroom condo and frolicking in the snow through polar vortexes. His teenage years were spent trading snow for sand and air conditioning during our time in sunny Sarasota. He was just as uninterested in squirrels as he was armadillos but give him a doorbell (on tv or in real life) and he pretended to be the toughest dog on the block.

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

He shared my love for loving people, almond butter and brushing off clumsy encounters with sidewalks, door frames and tables as if no one saw them. And he shared Matt’s strength, stubbornness and ability to look photogenic no matter the situation.

greater swiss mountain dog puppy simply social blog

He was a stage-five clinger, an expert napper and the most narcoleptic car rider I’ve ever seen.

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

He helped Matt and I announce just about every life change we’ve experienced over the past few years, which looking back now is quite a few.

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

And while he wasn’t quite sure the extent to which our family was beginning to grow, he made sure to stay as close as possible lest we’d leave him out of this important milestone.

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

For now, the house is deafeningly quiet but it will soon be filled with welcome noise again when the baby comes in just a few weeks. And while we had visions of the two of them together over the next few months or maybe even years, we find peace in knowing Finn decided it was time for him to go ahead of this big life change we are about to encounter.

If you’re looking for a way to give back this holiday season, I encourage you to consider donating to your local shelter or to one that’s close to our heart, PAWS Chicago. Finn was a huge fan of sharing (mostly in the form of anything we were eating or drinking) so we’re honoring him this year by helping out those dogs and cats who weren’t as spoiled as he was.

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


hello autumn

Happy first weekend of fall! In case you missed it, yesterday we celebrated the autumn solstice with record heat in St. Louis.

Because nothing says autumn like leaves just giving up and falling because they are too dry to hold on any longer.


But there’s hope for your weekend, still. Here are a few ways to make the most out of the new season even if summer won’t loosen it’s death grip just yet:

Step 1: Crank down your thermostat to 65.

Step 2: Wrap up in your giant blanket scarf and watch College GameDay.

Step 3: Boots still look cute with sleeveless dresses. Just don’t forget deodorant.

Step 4: Be thankful there isn’t a pumpkin shortage because both you and your dog are going through 2+ cans a week.

pumpkin apple muffins, pumpkin, baking, fall recipes, pumpkin muffins, fall, autumn, breakfast, dessert

Pumpkin Apple Muffins with Streusel Topping (Makes 18)

  • 1 C unsweetened canned pumpkin
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 C vegetable oil
  • 2 C peeled and chopped apples (Pink Lady or Honeycrisp)
  • 2 1/2 C flour (I used half whole wheat, half all-purpose)
  • 2 C sugar
  • 1 TBL pumpkin pie spice mix (cloves, ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Streusel Topping (because streussel makes everything better)

  • 2 TBL flour
  • 1/4 C brown sugar
  • 1 TBL oats
  • 2 tsp butter


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk sugar, flour, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice mix, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In a stand mixer, blend pumpkin, oil and eggs together.

Add dry ingredients into wet and mix until just combined. Add apples.

Scoop into prepared muffin tins and fill about 2/3 of the way.  Top with 1 tsp streusel topping per muffin.

Bake for 30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

pumpkin apple muffins, recipes, breakfast, brunch, baking, fall, streusel topping, apple, pumpkin

I make these nearly every year on repeat. They are a great excuse for a mini carb-load anytime of day and they freeze well if you’re afraid you might eat them all in the first few days.

Not that Matt and I would know what that’s like or anything.

pumpkin apple muffins, recipes, breakfast, brunch, baking, fall, streusel topping, apple, pumpkin

Happy fall!

greater swiss mountain dog, finn, swissy, gsmd,

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

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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

valentine's day cookies, m&m cookies, baking, cookies, holiday

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.

All the fall things

I’ve been meaning to write this post for several weeks now but the truth is I’ve been too busy taking 1,000 photos of trees with changing leaves to get around to it.

5 ways to fall in love with fall, fall, midwest, st louis, greater swiss mountain dog, swissy, katy trail, st charles, running, pumpkins, halloween recipes, mummy oreos,

That’s what fall will do to you after a few years away.

It’s science.

And judging from the physiological reaction I had the first time I smelled a bonfire this season, consider me well-conditioned.

I realize that not everyone shares my love for crunchy leaves under their feet and nearly every iteration baked goods containing pumpkin you can squeeze into a few short months, so I thought I’d share a few of ways you too can fall in love with fall this season.

1.Check out a local fall festival. We were fortunate to get into town just in time for the 30th annual St. Charles Oktoberfest, complete with commemorative beer steins, traditional dancers and some of the best latkes I’ve ever tasted.

5 ways to fall in love with fall, fall, midwest, st louis, greater swiss mountain dog, swissy, katy trail, st charles, running, pumpkins, halloween recipes, mummy oreos,

2. Go for a brisk fall run. Or in my case, train for half of a half marathon while living in Florida, get one magical long run in where it was 60 degrees and then try not to melt on race day when temps reached the mid-80s. (coming soon: a fall running tour of the katy trail)

katy_arch3. Get into the Halloween spirit. (coming soon: oreo mummy recap. Pumpkin muffin recipe can be found here.) oreo_pumpkin

4. Buy a pumpkin. Or two. Or Seven.

5 ways to fall in love with fall, fall, midwest, st louis, greater swiss mountain dog, swissy, katy trail, st charles, running, pumpkins, halloween recipes, mummy oreos,

5. Make a big batch of chili. And eat it as you begrudgingly delete all of the leaf and tree photos on your phone. (solid vegetarian chili recipe here.)

5 ways to fall in love with fall, fall, midwest, st louis, greater swiss mountain dog, swissy, katy trail, st charles, running, pumpkins, halloween recipes, mummy oreos,

Bonus points if you have a dog that just so happens to perfectly match all things fall and loves the weather so much he happily sits on the front porch to feed your fall habit.


Happy fall y’all!

Seasonal Changes

Pop quiz.

Where’s home to the one of the most successful franchises in baseball and soon two Zalewskis and a Finnegan Murphy?

Hint for Cubs fans: they have 11 World Championships so Chicago is out.

Site of the 1904 World’s Fair.

The first American city to host the Olympics.

Hometown to Jackie Joyner Kersey, Maya Angelou and perhaps most importantly, hip-hop artist and new country breakout, Nelly.

Batter up. The Zalewskis are taking our talents to St. Louis this fall.


But why on earth would you leave Sarasota, home to the best beaches in the country, year-long sunshine, arts, culture and the most laid-back dress code you’ll ever encounter?

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Decent Wednesday evening.

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A. Because we really miss gray winters and snow

B. Because alligators, fire ants and Trump supporters

C. Because we just love everything that goes into packing boxes and moving across the country

D. Because we were offered an earlier-than-expected opportunity to finally put down roots in a community we love, closer to friends and family and just in time to enjoy the best season the midwest puts on each year (insert all the I love fall hashtags here).

fall colors, springfield illinois, simply social blog

If you answered “D” (with a sprinkle of “B”) you’re correct.

And while we are sad to leave Sarasota and everything never having to wear coats and closed-toes shoes has to offer, we know this is the right move for our family in the long run.

bears football, chicago, greater swiss mountain dog, halloween, Chicago Bears, Florida

Besides, since the Rams left town we won’t have to worry about standing in our driveway doing the SuperBowl Shuffle every Sunday.

You may be asking what our only sits under the AC vent, lover of the beach but not the water, greater swiss MOUNTAIN dog may be thinking about heading back to the midwest?


Well, he loves car rides and cooler temps so we can only imagine he’ll love it as much as we think he will.  

There’s at least one family member who will be pumped for a snow again after 3 years of 80-degree Decembers.

So that’s that. A little life update for you. My apologies for only using the blog for the occasional recipe and huge life change announcement.

You can rest assured that as soon as I come to grips with the fact that we just moved into a new house 4 months ago and have to do it again in less than 5 weeks, I’ll be back with more of the good stuff.

Until then we’ll be soaking up all of the sunsets and August humidity we can before heading back “home” this fall.

Sarasota, lido beach, florida, beach, sunset, lido key

Cookies and Catch Up

Great news, guys. The Murphalewski Bed and Breakfast just wrapped four straight weeks of out-of-town guests. That means 7 midwesterners are entering the winter season a little bronzer than usual and many local restaurant staffers here in Sarasota are actually starting to think I have friends. It’s a win-win!

Now you may be asking if I’m glad the four-week rush is over. Truth is, I loved having our friends and family stay with us. Each visit came with a reminder of how blessed we are to have friends and family that love us enough to leave crappy weather behind and sit on the beach all day. We realize our location may benefit us this time of year but regardless, we appreciate the time and effort (and flight delays) spent coming to visit.

So what have I been doing with all my free time since the last houseguest left on Sunday? Baking cookies of course.


It seems like the only thing I have to show for the last 4 weeks, aside from the slightly increased body fat percentage, are pictures of cookies long ago eaten by co-workers.

It’s not like me to leave you hanging over a holiday weekend without some sort of ode to a sweet treat on the blog, but I’ve been sidetracked. You see, I’ve been trying to come to grips with the fact that our entire shopping district has been lit up like Rockafeller Center on Christmas Eve since October 24th. I’ve been wrecking my brain trying to figure out in what world this is acceptable but then I remembered a saying my dad always says this time of year.

You know, this might be the last nice day we have to put the Christmas lights up so we better get to it. 

Wait. I’m sorry. He usually waits until an ice storm is in the vicinity around December 20th to say that. And they still live in Illinois so…

So in spite of the extremely prematurely lit palm trees and unseasonably hot temperatures, I thought I’d share a few photos from the last four weeks to catch you up.




but how about that sweet lady in the background?

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IMG_5484sugar cookies, royal icing, baking, breakfast at tiffany's cookies, bridal shower, dessert, tiffany blue sugar cookiesIMG_5482sugar cookies, royal icing, baking, breakfast at tiffany's cookies, bridal shower, dessert, tiffany blue sugar cookiesAnd now you know what my photostream looks like. I’ve got two weeks until Thanksgiving and our next visitors so if you need me I’ll be either running or napping in preparation. Happy Friday!


Of these things, I’m fairly certain

There comes a point in a thirty-something’s life in which the random things she’s heard, learned, experienced, seen, tasted and smelled over the first third of her life finally start to stick with her. After all, you rarely hear a twenty-something referred to as ‘set in his or her ways.’ No, this art takes years to perfect. If you don’t believe me, go ahead and call up your grandparents for a lesson. Don’t text them. Don’t email them. Pick up the phone and call them. Heck, by now your parents should be as set as a Ronco Showtime Rotisserie Platinum so you might as well ask them while you’re at it.

What was I getting at again?

Oh yes. Life lessons.

Up until this point, you’ve let these observations float in and out of your life without taking any ownership of them. Sure, you’re brand loyal to a degree, but you’re a millennial for goodness sake and you better believe that you are going to be flexible and adapt to the ever-changing world around you, right? Kind of like the way you’ve shifted every time Apple launches a new iOS or Facebook changes their newsfeed.

And then you turn thirty. And all of a sudden the phrases you use to utter in your 20s like pregaming or late night bars are replaced with let’s just have everyone over for a dinner party or do I have to put on real clothes or can I go in this? 

So today I present you a list of things I’m fairly certain of:

  • That I will never get all of my personal identification documents to have the same last name again. Ever. This weekend I nearly had to provide a retinal scan at The Gap to pay with a (new chip-encrypted) card that still listed me as Murphy because it sat in my wallet next to a drivers license that lists me as Zalewski. Meanwhile, my handsome yet mute in these types of situations husband waits patiently as I toss two debit cards, two credit cards and a blood donor card at our friendly cashier to prove I’m not a spy.

  Oh you have a Costco card? That will work just fine.

  • That there’s no way our dog proves my hypothesis about animals taking after their owners. Nope not our guy. So different, he and I.


  • That a landscape that includes pumpkins and palm trees will always be weird, but never having to wear socks will always be awesome.

  • That heckling is an art form maybe moms are just too sweet for it.

  • That if pumpkin obsession is a real addiction affecting basic girls everywhere, you can crown me pumpkin princess of autumnville. I actually felt a nervous swell when I realized I was down to my last can of pumpkin this weekend for a french toast recipe. And when my audible gasp was met with a side eye from Matt, I yelled, ‘there’s a shortage, you know!’ 

So I’ve got that going for me.

And because nearly everything I’m certain of this time of year relates to pumpkins, I’ll leave you with a recipe for pumpkin french toast sure to satisfy your cravings. That is, if you can get your hands on the limited supply!

pumpkin french toast, recipes, pumpkin recipes, baking, brunch, breakfast, french toast,

Pumpkin French Toast (recipe adapted from Cooking Classy)

  • 3/4 C almond milk (I didn’t have regular milk but by all means use it if you have it)
  • 1/2 C pure pumpkin
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 TBL brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 6-8 slices multigrain bread (or challah or texas toast)
  • Butter (for griddle)

pumpkin french toast, recipes, pumpkin recipes, baking, brunch, breakfast, french toast,

Heat a cast iron skillet to medium heat. In a large bowl, whisk almond milk, pumpkin, eggs, brown sugar, vanilla and spices together. Set aside.

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Prepare skillet with butter. Dip bread into pumpkin mixture until saturated. Cook on both sides until browned, repeating butter before each slice.

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Serve with maple syrup or honey and dust with powdered sugar.

pumpkin french toast, recipes, pumpkin recipes, baking, brunch, breakfast, french toast,


Wedding Snapshots: the details

When it comes to wedding and party photos, I’m a sucker for detail shots. And if you’re a sucker for detail shots then we should be best friends. Which is pretty much what our photographer and I became as soon as I looked at her work and saw that she appreciated the little details just as much as I do.


There’s just something in the details. Don’t get me wrong, you may not get the same emotion with a detail shot as you do with a candid, but I love the way that the details give you a feel for the entire day. As if the theme (if there is one) is all wrapped up into a pretty little detailed package.


So without further ado, here are some details from our wedding day taken by the talented Wright Photographs out of Champaign.
zalewski_bk_0031zalewski_bk_0075 zalewski_bk_0113 zalewski_bk_0138 zalewski_bk_0159 zalewski_bk_0333 zalewski_bk_0343 zalewski_bk_0454zalewski_bk_0453zalewski_bk_0455zalewski_bk_0464 zalewski_bk_0466 zalewski_bk_0468 zalewski_bk_0469 zalewski_bk_0470 zalewski_bk_0476 zalewski_bk_0483 zalewski_bk_0508 zalewski_bk_0554 zalewski_bk_0555 zalewski_bk_0558 zalewski_bk_0559 zalewski_bk_0639

Super Spring Break

If you couldn’t tell from my overgramming last week, my nephews (and my sister) came to visit us to celebrate their spring break. Unfortunately I spent most of the week at work, but I’m grateful for the afternoons and evenings I spent brushing up on my toilet humor, identifying fire ant hills and avoiding getting jinxed.

Days were spent punching water spouts at the splash park and evenings cheating at mini golf. We even managed a second attempt at the beach since the first time was ‘too boring.’


On Thursday, we celebrated Jake’s 5th birthday the only way Jake prefers to celebrate, with superhero masks and store-bought cookie cake.

IMG_4663IMG_4664IMG_4669IMG_4670IMG_4671Friday we had a picnic at the beach and then spent the afternoon drop-kicking waves to cap off the trip. And is it just me or did we do so right next to a Nana lookalike? IMG_9943



We miss them already but we’re soaking up the quiet and resting up the busy months ahead.

Caption This

It’s this little game I like to play when I’m running short on time but feel badly that I haven’t talked to you in a while. I call it caption this.

It’s simple really. In fact I don’t even force you to participate. I’ll do all the work for you.

You’ll see.

florida sunset, sarasota, florida, winter, sunset, palm trees

Aloha Sarasota


They say couples start to dress alike after some time together. I wonder if the same thing could be said about how they smell?


Murf spotting in Naples

florida sunset, sarasota, florida, winter, sunset, palm trees

If this is winter, I don’t need to see spring

greater swiss mountain dog, swissy, finnegan, finn, greater swiss, puppy,

I always feel like somebody’s watchin’ me

kirkland, costco, shopping, event planning,

it’s a tie between #chamberlife or #liquiddiet


wedding wire, hashtag generator, wedding planning, social media



florida sunset, sarasota, florida, winter, sunset, palm trees

this photo makes me forget about the bug I inhaled shortly after snapping it


greater swiss mountain dog, swissy, finnegan, finn, swiss mountain dog,

just putting the vibe out there ladies


lolita tartine, french pastries, sarasota,

remind me again how the French stay so skinny?


greater swiss mountain dog, beach, venice dog beach, sarasota, florida, swissy, finn

March lions are pretty tame down here


feeling nerdy with a side of renewed confidence for street sign visibility