Monday, February 8, 2016

Superbowl Sunday + A Forgotten Blogaversary!

How is everyone surviving Monday? I personally am sad to see the weekend be over. I love catching up on sleep and quality time together. 

This weekend, we had a blast making our own pretzels for Superbowl Sunday. We followed the recipe in this month's Martha Stewart Magazine. Like many Martha recipes, this one was no joke and definitely not easy. We joked that there could be a SNL skit called "Married Before Martha" in which couples break up over trying to make Martha's recipes. Real dialogue: 
Me: What does it mean for dough to be tight? I just assume that means it stays together, but the dough should also be "elastic," so am I wrong? 
Brendan: I don't know.
Me: Google it. Oh my gosh, should I keep this mixer going or not?! 

In the end, our dough turned out great. We refrigerated over night and started our pretzels the next morning. We cut the dough: 

Shaped it: 

Simmered it: 

Then baked it: 

Then cooled it: 

Then ate our delicious final product with friends at a Superbowl Party. We also made the glorious, glorious mustard recipe to go along with it. 

All told, it was hours in the kitchen, but honestly neither of us feels like that is a bad place to be, so it worked out nicely. 

Okay, I now owe my blog a little apology. You see, I forgot my own blog's birthday on February 1st, which marked 5 years of blogging. 

I can't believe I've been sharing our lives for 5 years. I truly enjoy blogging; it's a great stress reliever and a way to stay connected to family and friends. 

Here are some of my favorite posts from over the years in a bunch of different categories. You can find more favorites here

June 2011
Lola and Zoe's Adoption Story <Adopting my cats was one of my best life decisions. 
The first donate your birthday post <I still do this every year, and I think it's an awesome tradition to start for yourself. 

September 2011:
How to Live With Your Parents as an Adult <Brendan and I did it (successfully) for six weeks! 

November 2011
Stress Free Holiday How tos <The title says it all. 

February 2012
On Being Young and Doing My Job Well < Addressing and dealing with ageism in the workplace. 
Advice For Couples Moving In Together< Written after we lived together 6 months. Still true today. 

May 2012
Reflections After a Year of Adjuncting <What I learned still shapes my career today. 

June 2012
The Greatest Ever Relationship Advice < This comes from my mom, and her advice is awesome. 

July 2012
How to involve husband-to-be in wedding registry< simple ways to make sure you BOTH get what you want. 

September 2013
I recapped our wedding reception. <This is probably my favorite post to look back on. 

October 2013
I recapped the last stage of The New Rules of Weightlifting for Women. <This was such an awesome program, and my results were spectacular. I'd do it again.

November 2014
16 Things I learned From Mimi<The wisest person in my life gives advice. 

January 2015
Month 9.75: Walk Throughs Begin < It's fun to remember the first time that we saw our house finished. 

August 2015
Home Tour, 7 Months In< I'm proud of our home and how we've made it our own. 

Happy Birthday, Blog! 
In celebration of the blog's birthday, please tell us your favorite post or share it, or tell us how long you've been reading. 
Thanks for being here! 

Saturday, February 6, 2016

World's Most Amazing Hummus

When I was a teenager, my mom bought the infamous magic bullet (as seen on TV). One of the first things she made was hummus, and she was so proud of it.

"Isn't this hummus great?" she would say, and I, like most teenagers, couldn't even just give her this one thing.

"We could just buy hummus at the store" I said, crushing the part of my mom's soul that had just paid $39.99 for our very own magic bullet.

We all continued on in life, and years later, I married a hummus maker. What an awesome, novel concept I thought while enthusiastically eating his hummus. Then I thought, or is it really novel? 

Sorry, mom. It turns out, I just wasn't ready for the awesomeness that is homemade hummus. Brendan has been making it for over two years, but I forgot all about your efforts to convert me to homemade hummus back in the day. Now, this is one of our favorite Friday night dinners:

When we are tired from a long work week, there is nothing better than throwing some veggies in bowls and serving it around hummus dip for dinner. Last night's spread was more than we could actually eat, but it included: Pita Chips (HEB brand is the best), celery, cucumber, broccoli, carrots, peppers, tomatoes, four types of cheese (Parmesan, Cheshire, Raclette, Reading), and for dessert: raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, and two type of chocolate (dark with orange and dark with sea salt/almonds). I repeated the concept for lunch today, and it was so good.

Without further ado, here is Brendan's top secret (until now) hummus recipe. You will need:

1/3 cup tahini
1/3 cup olive oil
2 cans chickpeas (reserve 1/4 cup liquid and drain the rest)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon cumin
1-2 cloves garlic
salt (to taste)
Sumac (for topping)

Combine all ingredients, except for sumac, in a large bowl. Blend with an immersion blender (a blender or food processor would work as well). Don't over blend! A little lumpiness makes for the perfect texture. Sprinkle Sumac on top of the hummus. Enjoy!

Now you have the best Friday Night dinner secret IN THE WORLD, or a way to be the most popular person at tomorrow's Superbowl party.

Like me as a teenager, Zoe remains unimpressed:

Happy weekend!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Too Many Cooks

Brendan: Oh, you've gotta stop it honey, I can't take anymore. 

Why don't you make it through this video. I'll see you in eleven minutes approximately.


Wait, what is happening? Oh yeah, this is my blog.

We had a nice weekend and a good end to January. I met all my goals:
Make at least 3 inspiralized recipes--I made more like 6.
Attend 17 barre classes--did it!
and organize my clothes according to The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up (I gave away about 6 bags of clothes to Goodwill. It was hard to let go of some of it, but I'm ultimately glad that I don't have a closet full of things I don't wear). I wrote at the beginning of the year that I was going to set 6 goals, but that number was pretty arbitrary, and 3 goals felt manageable, so I'm sticking with that for February.

Saturday night, I made this delicious salad to take to a potluck. It had a Sherry Shallot Dijon dressing from Inspiralized, but for the salad, I just tossed together spring mix, spinach, spiralized red onion, spiralized granny smith apple, pecans, died cranberries, and parmesan cheese.

Sunday was 77 and sunny, and we enjoyed every bit of the unseasonably warm weather with a walk at the nature preserve. Unfortunately, it didn't last. It's still sunny, but not nearly as warm. 


We ended the weekend with this

Honestly, so delicious! 


Sorry, I'm trying to regain control. 

Last night, I was INSANELY tired. I went to sleep at 9:00PM to wake up at 6:15AM. I'm not sure what was going on, but I must have really needed the rest. 

Today was better. I was like super wife. I went to work, came home and made dinner and put it in the crockpot (2 hours on high if you want to do it that way). I even made these Onion Ricotta Muffins from Family Circle. Then, I went to work out. Unfortunately, these muffins took forever to cook and were not the right texture, so then I didn't feel as super! 

Wait, did someone say cook?

Okay, if you figure out how to regain control of you mind now that you have heard that song, let me know! Also, when I was a child, I spent a lot of time thinking about what I would like my TV credit intro song to be like (ala Full House, Seventh Heaven, etc.) 


Friday, January 29, 2016

Ready, Set, Weekend! (Plus a White Plum Discount)

Greetings, friends.

It's been a productive week! There was a lot to do for work and for life, but we did take time to celebrate our year of homeownership last night with homemade (get it?) ramen noddles. I saved a recipe from Food Network magazine, and Brendan made it while I was at barre class. There's even a poached egg in there. We both went back for seconds.

Today, I tried out something new to me: morning exercise! My alarm had to be set for 5:00am (gulp), so I needed to get into bed by 10:00pm. Unfortunately, someone had other plans. 

I was a little restless last night (kind of how you are before you need to catch a morning flight), but I woke up at 5:00am feeling well rested and refreshed. I jumped in the shower because I knew there wouldn't be time after class. After my shower, I half blow dried my hair, ate 1/2 a grapefruit and 1/2 a cup of low fat cottage cheese, dressed for class, and re-set the alarm for Brendan (who, along with Zoe, slept through all of this). I made it to the studio about five minutes before 6:00am. It was just enough time to get set up. I thought I'd be exhausted, but I had tons of energy, and everyone else was cheerful and talkative too. I attended Natalie's 5:45PM class last night and her 6:00AM class this morning. Natalie is a fellow teacher (fourth grade), so I felt like we were in it together as I made it through another challenging class. I made it home at 7:15AM (the drive was dark both ways) and had just enough time to make green monster smoothies (I added a drop of vanilla extract and some ice to the recipe) for both of us, finish blow drying my hair, put on make-up, and dress for work. I pre-selected my outfit last night, which helped save me time this morning (thanks to my college roomie, Lauren, for that life lesson). I made it to work just in time for my 8:00AM office hour, and my verdict is that I would definitely do it again. I've always been an evening exerciser, feeling quite intimidated by early wake up calls, but today, I learned there is nothing to fear. How about you: would you exercise at 6:00AM?

Speaking of outfits, I'm excited to share my new discovery White Plum.  I saw other bloggers writing posts sponsored by White Plum, but I never gave it much thought. Then, it occurred to me that my winter work wardrobe isn't that comfortable, and I frequently wear four different things per day (work clothes, lounge at home clothes, workout clothes, pajamas). I wanted some leggings and long sleeve dresses, so I could be both warm and comfortable in winter. Mission accomplished. 

I love my three pairs of leggings and two dresses. Everything I got is super, super soft, and I love the variety in all the prints they have leggings in. Hey, just because I like you, I'm sharing my discount code that came with my order. Use: JANUARYJOYS to get 25% off any order (expires Sunday 1/31/16 at 11:59 PDT). Note: White Plum didn't pay me or give me anything for free, and this is not a referral code; I just like their clothes and am a happy customer!

After work, I got a much needed manicure. 

Then, I came home to this: 

Is Lola trying to send me a message? 

Look Lola, it's still my pillow. 

Happy weekend! 

Thursday, January 28, 2016

A Year of Homeownership

It's hard to believe, but so true: a year ago, we closed on our home.

There have been high and low points to homeownership, but mostly it has been a wonderful experience. We are really happy in our home and about ten times more comfortable here than we were in our apartment. We both lived in apartments for over ten years before becoming homeowners, so it was a big change, but one we were definitely ready for.

I've only been a homeowner for one year, but I feel like I've learned a lot. Here is my advice for anyone considering taking the plunge into homeownership:

1.) Make sure you are really prepared to commit to the area for at least five years. Good questions to ask yourself (or yourselves) include: is my job stable? Do I like my job? Do I like this area? Is it possible a better opportunity will come up for me somewhere else? If so, will I be alright turning it down? The financial loss that you would take if selling too soon after purchasing is real, so commitment to the area should be definite.

2.) Don't look at it as an financial investment. Look at it as an investment in your comfort and quality of life. I know what you read, and it's true. If the market does well, you CAN make a ton of money off of a house when you sell (if the market plunders, you can lose a lot of money too). But I would strongly advise not to think of your home as a plan for making a lot of money. The true incentive for buying should be quality of life issues like privacy, space, a garage, a backyard, a larger kitchen, more storage, etc. Expecting to make a huge profit is setting yourself up for disappointment. Enjoy living in your home. If you make a profit, see that as a bonus.

3.) Save, save, save, and save some more. We felt financially ready for a house when we bought our lot in April 2014, but we had nine extra months to save due to construction time, and that turned out to be great. This past year was the most expensive of our lives. Moving into a new home, you instantly have more space, but not furniture for it. Landscaping is not cheap. Property taxes and home insurance are also new expenses, and unfortunately, the tax breaks you hear about for homeowners don't seem that substantial. Of course, your down payment and closing costs are the obvious expenses, but try to think well beyond those when preparing to buy a home. I would never suggest buying above your price range. We were approved for loans far larger than what we agreed would be smart to spend. Remember, the bank just wants your money. Just because they will give you a certain size loan, it doesn't mean it would be a good idea to take it.

4.) You'll know what you want when you see it. Brendan and I looked at three houses before we bought our lot and decided to build. When we saw an option that was new construction, a floor plan we liked, close to work, and in our comfortable price range, we took it. Remember, you are never going to find 100% perfect (I wish our laundry room and extra bedrooms were a little bigger, for instance), so stop expecting to. When you see mostly perfect, make an offer. If you are looking for 100% perfect, it may be a sign that you aren't actually ready (and thus, you will second guess houses that are actually a great match). Being decisive can save you a lot of time and torment. This advice applies to a lot of things outside home buying, and I wish it was advice I could always figure out how to take!

5.) The actual move and first few weeks will be stressful. I think I expected the whole process to be all romantic and Pinteresty (you know, we'd order pizza to the empty house and eat it on a picnic blanket with champagne). In reality, though it was exciting to move in and there were romantic moments, there was also a lot of stress. I wish I had known to expect that. Any move is a major adjustment, but the change between being a renter and an owner is really anxiety provoking. Also, your house doesn't feel like a home at first. It takes time to feel settled.

6.) Yes, it does make a big difference. I never knew how happy our house would make me until I got here and got settled. It truly is wonderful to come home to a place that is all your own and to not share walls with anyone. Decorating our home and designing our backyard has given us a fun and meaningful project to work on together. We no longer deal with many of the inconveniences that were a result of renting, like hunting for parking spaces, having to defrost our vehicles in winter, carrying gallons of water and groceries up three flights of stairs, going outside to do laundry, etc (I realize every rental experience is different. That was just ours). On a daily basis, I truly feel happier and more relaxed because of our home. It has even made a difference for Lola and Zoe. They seem more content now that there is extra space for them to roam.

If the timing is right, getting the keys to your new home is one of the best feelings.

Here's to home.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Hello Friends

Hello Friends! 

How was your Monday? Mine was super productive. I put spinach in our smoothies, and I think it got us off to a good start. 

Backing up, we had a great weekend. We did not have the wintery weather that the rest of the country has been enduring: it was nearly 70 and sunny in these parts, and we enjoyed it. Friday, we ate delicious Thai food out and watched TV at home. Saturday, after barre, Brendan made us breakfast. Then, I organized the pantry, and he did some work in the yard. I started a book I'm really enjoying called However Long the Night, sipped on tea, and loved cuddling with Lola and Zoe. Saturday night, we went and saw the new Star Wars movie. I thought it was awesome, and it's safe to say that it made me an official fan. I went to bed at a decent hour while Brendan stayed up making his own ginger beer (more on that to come). 

Yesterday, we attended a birthday brunch where our host made us the most delicious Challah Bread Creme Brulee French Toast. It was as good as it sounded, and I enjoyed three mimosas to go with it! We sat outside and soaked up some sun since it was unseasonably nice out. Once home, we really didn't do much outside of laundry and some class prep. Thanks to my cousin, Amanda, I had Sunday night dinner on the table super fast. She made this pesto back in September and froze it. Last night's dinner was every bit as delicious as the batch we ate fresh. Thanks, Amanda! 

This morning, there was an exciting addition outside my office door. I wondered if they thought my students would be lining up for office hours? No such luck, but it was a great teaching day. This week, I seem to have all my old energy back (maybe more energy than my students wish I had). I even wrote a letter of recommendation during my office hours in addition to my other work. All my cylinders were fired up (but maybe it was the leftover pesto I had for lunch).

After work, I waited in line (not nearly as fancy as the one outside my office) at the post office to mail back some ski clothes we borrowed. Once home, I submitted our last warranty AND filed our 2015 taxes (I honestly enjoy doing taxes, and I usually file the day our W2s come out. Even though we never get money back anymore and always owe, I still find filing taxes satisfying...note: this does not apply to doing other people's taxes, sorry). Then, I went to barre class. After that, Brendan and I ate dinner and watched X-files in our pajamas. Brendan says I have asked him a dozen times why the return is only a six episode special. X-files is too fun, and I wish it could go on and on. Bring it back forever, FOX! 

I got a new coat today (I'm sure there will be a picture of it on here soon, unless the weather stays so warm), but tragically, I broke my sunglasses of five years. I will definitely need a replacement. Any ideas? 

We hope your Monday set you up for a great start to the week, 

Friday, January 22, 2016

Friday, Friday, Friday OHHHH!

Do you guys remember this? The video is the inspiration for today's title. It was so bad but so good.

I am feeling so joyful and relieved after just learning that my Mimi is being released from the hospital today. Suddenly, the world looks a lot brighter now that I know she is okay.

The rest of our week went by super quickly.
On Wednesday night, I made Vegetable Root Stew (in the newest issue of Family Circle) in the crockpot, and it was so tasty.

Every time I see a recipe in a magazine that looks good, I buy the ingredients and immediately make it. If it's good enough, I save it in a recipe box and keep it in my growing repertoire. Crockpot recipes always win extra points with me because I can throw the ingredients in when I get home around 2pm and dinner can be ready around 7pm when we normally eat.

Last night, Brendan whipped up Inspiralized Apple and Cheese Buns for dinner with salad. We could not get the apples and potatoes to stay in bun form, so it was more like hash brown consistency, but that was fine with us. We ate the leftovers for breakfast this morning with fruit (so good!) I don't know about you guys, but I have a serious addiction to grapefruit. Anyone else? I could eat multiple grapefruit per day and never get sick of them. How do they taste so good?!

Today after work, I came home and did workout videos at home while Brendan played basketball. These 3 videos made a nice 30 minute workout:
Total Body Tone Up
Holiday Hustle 
Movie Night Workout

I like the Tone it Up workouts because they are free, easy to follow, use little or no equipment (other than a mat), have a lot of variety, and use some of the same moves from my barre class.

I have now worked out everyday this week due to the videos today, Barre class Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday, and yoga on Wednesday. I really enjoyed Wednesday's yoga class because it was all about tree pose. I appreciate any chance to work on my balance, and this class had me feeling calm and meditative by the end.

I'm very much looking forward to this weekend. Tonight, we are eating at my favorite restaurant, and I'm watching my Friday night line up (Master Chef Jr. on Fox and Shark Tank and 20/20 on ABC). Call me boring, but I love staying in on Friday night and relaxing. Other than that, the weekend brings barre class Saturday, a friend's birthday party Sunday, and time to catch up on laundry and organization.

We hope everyone has a great weekend and something to be thankful for today.

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