Having a Bad Day

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I’m in a funk. Work is crazy right now with University classes starting up soon so my stress levels are out the roof, and my kids are getting ready to head back to school so they need uniforms and school supplies. (LOTS of school supplies…)

But that’s not all. I have a boot on my foot from surgery 2 weeks ago, so it’s slowing me down quite a bit. I can’t partake in any outdoor activities (AKA stress relievers) on the weekends like hiking or paddle boarding, and I can’t do yoga or my beloved BodyPump.

There’s more. Our air conditioner broke 2 weeks ago, and it cost an insane amount of money to get it fixed. Plus my car broke down  last weekend when I was visiting my sister in New Jersey. I had to leave it there to have a new transmission put in (expensive!), and luckily my Grandpa is the best guy ever and let us borrow his truck until it’s fixed.

Maybe the Universe is trying to tell me something, because with all this going on, my 40th birthday is just around the corner, and I’m not too happy about that little event. It’s weighing me down like the boot I have strapped to my right foot.

This morning I was getting ready for work while the rest of the family left the house. A few minutes later I heard the back door open, and Henrik walked in calling for me. When he found me, he said, “I forgot to tell you I love you, and I want you to have a good day”. He gave me a hug and a kiss and ran back out to Mark.

I’m not sure what I did right to deserve him in my life, but he sure helps me put things into perspective. As this bad day happened, I thought of him saying that this morning, and it made the day much more bearable.

I hope that you all are having a better time than me, dear reader, and most of all I hope you have that one person in your life that can help you out of your “funk”.


Book Review: Lilac Girls

When we stopped in New Jersey for a pit stop on our way to Norway in June, my Grandma gave me a book to read while on vacation, and I just finished it last night. More specifically, I took a pain pill (I had surgery on my foot last week) and read until the wee hours. It was glorious… I can’t recall the last time I stayed up late because I couldn’t put a book down.

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Lilac Girls  by Martha Hall Kelly is the story of three women in entirely different circumstances during World War 2. The story surrounds a real-life character, Caroline Ferriday. She grew up  privileged in New York and Paris. During the war she spent much of her time helping children, but was introduced to a group of women known as the “Rabbits”, who spent WW2 locked up in a women’s concentration camp know as Ravensbruck. Kasia Kuzmerick is one of the Rabbits- the Nazis performed horrible experiments on her during the war and she eventually meets and gets help from Caroline. The third woman in the story is Herta Oberheuser, a young female doctor who gains a position at Ravensbruck, and actually performs operations and experiments on some of the girls at the camp, including Kasia. It was so interesting to read a book with 3 very different point of views on the same subject.

Growing up in Norway, we discussed WW2 in school a lot, and I can actually remember marching on the 50th anniversary celebration of the end of the war. It was a big part of the history there, and older people have stories of the Nazis occupying their homes (including my Grandpa!). Despite all that I learned, I had no idea that the Nazis did this to young women- ruined their lives just to perform experiments on their bodies. To know that Caroline Ferriday was an actual person who helped them made the book so real. If you get a chance to read this one- I highly recommend it.

I’m seeing a trend here. I tend to LOVE books where the main character was a real person in history. Some of my favorites?

Circling the Sun by Paula McClain

The Paris Wife by Paula McClain

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Ann Fowler

Have you read any fiction books about a non-fiction person that you can recommend? I’d love to read more!

Rafting Down the New River

Last Saturday Mark and I were able to join the Huntington Ski Club on a special day trip rafting down the New River. I have been talking about organizing a trip like this for the club for a long time, and this summer we were finally able to get it together and actually go.

There are several white water rafting companies to choose from, but we used Adventures on the Gorge since they are the most well known. I called about 1 month in advance, set the reservation date and time and all I had to do was call them as the date got closer and update them on the number of people coming. Easy Peasy. As most things like this go, we had people sign up, change their minds, decide to go, or show up at the last minute. Typical, right? Adventures on the Gorge made the whole experience painless. We were able to give a final count the day before the trip and pay the balance the morning of the trip. It was great!

Adventures on the Gorge is about a 2-hour drive from Huntington, so it was easy to get to and drive home after. After a brief safety presentation, we loaded on to a bus for a 20-25 minute drive to the entry point on the river. This, I have to say, was the worst part of the day. Being on that windy road in wet PFD’s (personal floating devices) was just BARF. Our guide made several jokes on the way and made the situation better, but I was a hot mess on that bus.

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As soon as we got there we headed down to the water’s edge and all my bus sick cares melted away. The river is beyond beautiful.

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The whole trip took about 4 hours, and our guide, Ella, was sure to get us all on the same page right away so that we would be able to work together to get our boat safely down the river. We practiced strokes with our paddles, leaning towards the middle of the raft (in case of rocks) and learned what to watch for as we entered and maneuvered through rapids.

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There were several opportunities to get out of the boat and float down river on our backs through some light rapids. The water temperature was perfect, and I felt true relaxation as we splashed around. Beats being in an office any day.  We also stopped a couple places for cliff jumping, which was a blast. Adventures on the Gorge really made it a full day of fun with a little bit for everyone. They also provided a great lunch with lots of options, so if you are thinking of going, food is covered.

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Summer is a great time to raft the Lower New River, which is what we did. We are not experts, so Lower New is perfect this time of the year. The minimum age to raft this part of the river is 12, so it’s difficult enough for adult beginners, but easy enough that we never felt unsafe.

If you go: you will need shoes that tie on your feet, like swim shoes or light sneakers. You will also need to put on sunscreen before you go, wear a bathing suit, shorts and a T-shirt. The guide has a dry bag where you can keep what you need, but you can’t get into that every 5 minutes. I brought a dry bag for my phone (I found it at Marshall’s last year, similar one here), which was awesome because I could take pictures while we were out there. It did a great job of keeping my phone dry, and I had it hanging around my neck the whole trip. Keep in mind that each raft usually tips their guide, so bring some cash to pool together. We also had a videographer with us who made an awesome video that you could watch and purchase, and they took a group picture that you could buy as well. There are shower4s when you get back, so bring dry clothes to change into. Also- like any great activity, there was beer at the finish!

Have any of you been rafting before? I’d love to hear about your experience!

Norway in Pictures

I was very lucky to be able to visit Norway for 2 whole weeks this year, a luxury I have not had since the summer of 2014. I love my life here in the Mountain State, but there is a constant longing in my soul for a life in that rock pile called Norway. One of the problems with “coming from” two places so far apart is that you never really feel quite at home in either one of them.

I have this snapshot in my head of my hometown in Norway- the way things were when I left almost 18 years ago. But time has changed my little town. It’s growing, houses are popping up all over and all the people I knew back in school have moved away or I have lost track of them. I still expect to walk down the street knowing everyone I pass, but that is no longer the case.

One thing is certain. I was able to make new memories with my family. Here are some pictures from our trip that I have chosen to share with you. Enjoy!

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Maren Jumping

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Strawberry

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I hope all of you have great vacations this summer!

Nordstrom Anniversary Sale

Hey guys! It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, but I have been on vacation and I am planning an epically long post with a ton of pictures.

I wanted to stop by and tell you about the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale going on- I am lucky enough to be in New Jersey at the moment and was able to stop there yesterday to pick up a few things. (I have Early Access, the sale opens to everyone on July 21st.) Check it out:

Ruffle Sleeve Tunic Dress by Bobeau

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If there is one look I noticed all the Norwegian girls were rocking, it was casual sneakers, specifically old school all-white Reeboks. I have a thing for white shoes, so I thought this dress would be perfect to pair with my Nike Cortez. Added bonus that it’s super comfortable, and it has pockets.

Contrast Piped Keyhole Blouse by Vince Camuto

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Vince Camuto has been one of my favorite designers for a long time. I love the edgy designs and the use of spikes! Feminine, yet badass. I picked up this black top and loved the fact that the arm holes are smaller than they look, keeping the shirt snug on the sides. Winner, winner.

Lush V-Neck Tee

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Everyone can use a basic navy tee, right? Well I saw this one in the store and knew I had to have it. Super soft, sexy v-neck and the slits up the side dress it up a little more than your basic tee. I have a bunch of the Madewell Basic Tees, but I feel like this one kicks it up a notch. Love!

KUT from the Cloth Donna Ankle Skinny

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I am always in the need for some nice pants to wear to work, but I hate wearing dress pants, and the best part of the week is Fridays when I can wear jeans. These pants from KUT from the cloth are ponte knit (no knees!) so they look nice and are comfortable as hell. The best of both worlds in classic black.

The sale goes on until August 6th- you don’t want to miss it!

It’s great to be back-see you guys soon with my recap of our trip to Norway!


Wine in a Can

Yeah, you read that right. I wanted to check in today just to tell you guys about some wine that I am loving lately that comes in a can. I know this blog centers on beer, but sometimes there is nothing better than coming home from work, throwing on some Sylvan Esso and a pair of sweatpants, cracking open a can of red, and cooking up dinner. So relaxing.

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Underwood from Union Wine Company is delicious wine in a chic can. Not only great for travel, these bad boys are awesome because I can open one without guzzling an entire bottle by myself on a weeknight. When I do this, 2 things happen: I’m hung over at work and I eat a gross cheeseburger to get over said hangover.

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As soon as I eat it I regret everything. The wine, the hangover, the food…why do I do this to myself?

Thank you, Underwood. Thank you for making my wine drinking dream come true on a weeknight without all the nasty side effects.

Note: I bought my Underwood at Jungle Jims last weekend, but you can buy it online here.

Have a great week!

Geeking out with Star Wars

On Sunday, Mark and I drove up to Cincinnati again for a day of Father’s Day fun. With the kids being off in Norway for a month, things are quiet around here, and Father’s day with no kids is a little sad.

After brunch at Taste of Belgium, our favorite breakfast spot, we drove over to the Cincinnati Museum Center to check out Star Wars and the Power of Costume. The exhibit will be there until October 1st, so if you are in the area you may want to give it a whirl. Mark and I are big Star Wars fans, but we aren’t fanatics about it. So what if we FORCED the kids to watch all the movies….? They would be lying if they said they didn’t like them.

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The exhibit hold 60 costumes from all seven Star Wars movies and shows all the intricacies of planning so many costumes for characters from all over the galaxy. It’s hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that George Lucas wrote the saga and had all these details in his head that he made come to life. The walls of the exhibit were covered in drawings of all the versions of costumes they came up with for each character before settling on the final version. Incredible.

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My favorite part of the exhibit by far was “Padme’s Journey”, simply because the dresses were a princess’ wardrobe on steroids. (And can I just mention how tiny Natalie Portman was when she made those movies?!) They had a short film playing of her talking about the dresses she wore and I was mesmerized by all the thought that went into every scene. There is one in particular where she does nothing but pack a suitcase while talking to Anakin, and it took weeks to make the dress she wore for just 1 minute of screentime.

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Mark and I also loved the end, where the tour ended in a gift shop (what else is new) but they had displays of all the old Star Wars toys and figures. We found quite a few that we used to own when we were little and the displays included the lengths kids would go through to get some of the ones that were hard to find. Does anyone remember collecting the proof of purchase off of cereal boxes? I sure do.

If you go: the tickets were a little on the pricy side ($48 for 2), considering we only got tickets for the Star Wars portion and skipped the rest of the museum. It was however, only $3 more to get the ticket for everything. The exhibit is only there until October 1st, so catch it before it’s gone forever. Also, portions of the museum are off-line right now due to extensive renovations to the building. Check their website to be sure one of those areas aren’t the one you are dying to see. For example, Henrik would freak out if we went all the way there are he didn’t get to see the dinosaurs because it was closed.

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We left the museum to do some shopping at Jungle Jim’s, then went to Rhinegeist to sit on their rooftop beer garden and enjoy the beautiful weather. The last stop was at a restaurant called Nada where we feasted on Mexican. The guacamole was outstanding, so I completely inhaled it and then couldn’t finish my dinner.

What a great day. I hope all of you got to do something awesome with the important men in your lives. Have a great week!


Ice Box Cake for Father’s Day

Because of the fact that I lived in Norway, I tend to migrate towards the Norwegian side of my heritage, but my Dad’s side of the family is Italian. Growing up we called our spaghetti sauce “gravy” and waved our hands around a lot when we talked. Oh wait… I still do that.

My Dad tells me stories about my paternal grandfather sometimes, and one of the stories are about when he was a milkman. Apparently they had a lot of milk during that time, because my grandmother used to make a no-bake cake called Ice Box Cake. I have recently brought this cake back into my life, and despite the ingredients being something I would not normally eat, when you put this all together, its weirdly amazing.

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What you’ll need:

1 box of Graham Crackers

1 box chocolate pudding (Cooktop – not instant)

1 box vanilla pudding

1 box butterscotch pudding

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That’s it! Here’s what you do: Use a 3 quart glass or metal dish with high sides, add a layer of graham crackers on the bottom. Cook the butterscotch pudding according to the package directions. Pour it over the graham crackers. It’s OK that it still hot, that will soften the graham crackers and make it better! Clean out the pot, and cook the vanilla pudding next. Add a layer of graham crackers and pour the vanilla on top. Repeat this step with the chocolate. Crumble a couple of graham crackers and sprinkle them on top of the chocolate layer to make it look nice (this cake is not very pretty..) and pop it in the fridge. Don’t knock it till you try it, this cake is the bomb! Plus, you don’t have to heat up your kitchen in the middle of summer by fooling with the oven. It’s a winner.

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This cake is so easy, Maren made the entire thing. Then she ate it.

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Happy Father’s Day! Since the kids are out of town, I am treating Mark to a day in Cincinnati full of beer and brunch. He deserves it for being such a loving Dad to our kiddos. I am also thinking of my Dad, Mike (this cake reminds me of him), my grandpa Lou and Mark’s Dad, Dick. We love you guys!

Father’s Day Gift Guide

Buying gifts for Father’s Day is so hard. I tried to take some of the guess work out of it this year and came up with some items your Dad, Husband, Grandpa or Father-in-law may enjoy.

1. Himalayan Pink Salt Slabs

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Mark sent me a link to these in an e-mail recently and said the guys at his work were talking about how awesome they are. Apparently they are great for foods that cook very quickly, like seafood or thinly sliced vegetables, chicken, or beef. They also provide a mild salt flavor to the food without adding any extra salt. They can be used anywhere like a grill or stove, the trick is to heat them up very slowly. He can step up his grill game with these bad boys.

2. Son of a Tailor T-shirt

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I bought a gift card for a Son of a Tailor T-shirt (the name is awesome, right?) for Mark for Christmas, and it’s a pretty badass gift. I got the gift card that includes a tape measure so that you can take the measurements specified on the website, pick the style, color, and details of the shirt. Voila! A couple weeks later you have a personalized T-shirt sewn to the specifications you entered. They even put your special fella’s initials on the tag. It’s the personalized shirt you know is going to fit!

3. Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream

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For those of you that have a Dad that is especially hard to buy for, I recommend some ice cream. Everyone loves Ice cream, right? Jeni’s is taking it to a whole new level with a Father’s Day collection of flavors ($55) like Butterscotch Cocoa Nibs, Sweet Cream Biscuits & Peach Jam and Salty Caramel. This is sure to please any Dad! Note: Jeni has partnered with Stone Brewing to bring us Mocha Black Cherry – it incorporates the bitterness of Stone’s Imperial IPA, and they blend it with sweet/sour cherry sauce. Sounds like a winner to me.

4.  Barrel Aged Coffee Beans

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We are big fans of coffee at our house and since we grind our own beans, we love to find fresh roasted beans to liven up our morning cup. Barrel aged beans bring together our love of coffee with our love of beer and other spirits. There are several coffee roasters out there using bourbon and whisky barrels to bring us some amazing morning joe, here are some that I found that you may want to check out:

Dark Matter Coffee For $45, you can get Dad a “bean flight” of 4 bags of delicious beans.

Death Wish Coffee Rum or Bourbon flavors available!

Spaceship Earth Coffee/Prairie Artisan Ales Collaboration I got this for Mother’s Day and I can tell you it is outstanding.

5. Bobonos

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Half of Mark’s wardrobe is from this on-line store (they have very few brick and mortars) and the quality of the clothing is awesome for the price. He especially loves their shorts and T-shirts. You can get shorts there that are a reasonable length- I feel like shorts for men are super long, not a look to go for guys! Note: They offer 20% off to new customers, and you can get 1.5% cash back on Ebates right now. (If you don’t have Ebates, I seriously don’t know what you are doing with your life.)

Enjoy the day with your Dad, and stay tuned, I have a recipe for a great “Dad” cake to make for his big day. Enjoy your weekend!

Quick Quinoa Salad

A while ago I did a search online for food that is good for your skin. My skin wasn’t feeling very bright, and instead of polishing, cleansing, masking, etc. I decided to eat my way to a brighter complexion. I stumbled across an article that talked about foods that might help, so I put them together into this bright, colorful salad. The best part? The quinoa can be made in advance so you can throw this dish together quick and be on your way!

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Ingredients:

1 1/2 cup cooked quinoa

1/4 cup cherry tomatoes or 1 small tomato (chopped)

1/4 cup chopped bell peppers

1/4 cup pumpkin seeds

1 tsp minced garlic

1/4 cup black beans

1/4 cup olives

Chopped parsley

1/2 tsp cumin

1 tbsp lemon juice

2 tbsp olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Cook the quinoa according to package directions. Chop the tomatoes, peppers, parsley and add to the  cooked quinoa. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Recipe notes: The great thing about this is that you can eat it right away while the quinoa is still warm, or you can whip it up, stick it in the fridge and eat it later. I also add a half squeezed lime juice to it, as I like the sourness of the lemon and lime together. I also omit the olives- I’m not a fan. Add what you like and take out what you don’t. ENJOY!

Heard this at Rhinegeist this past weekend and had to share with you guys: Today’s Jam