Monday, January 1, 2018

2017 in Review

When I first thought of doing a 2017 "review", I didn't think there was much that could hold up to the rollercoaster that 2016 was. Boy, was I wrong. We traveled quite a bit, I started a new position at Deere after being in payroll for just over six years, and I turned 30 in October and was so surprised with one heck of a party at Singlespeed. Of course, we had our fair share of moments that would never make a highlight-reel, which lead me to a few quotes I've come to love this year:

- Life doesn't have to be perfect to be wonderful.
- "Life is about balance. The good and the bad. The highs and the lows. The pina and the colada." - Ellen DeGeneres
- Respect is like air. You don't really notice it until it's not there - and then it's all you notice. (Taken from a guidebook through a Crucial Conversations course at work)

Without further adieu, our 2017 in review -

January was a busy month! We celebrated a new year with new babies - a nephew, Liam, and my best friend, Aimee, became a mom to Bowie Jo! We took a trip to Dubuque for Saturday night hawkey and big daddy's and made sure to hit up Five Guys on the way home Sunday. I introduced Josh to Eric Church and we headed to Des Moines to see him in concert - it was AMAZING and we would love to see him again! We met up with Jenelle and Mike for dinner at the Iowa Taproom before the concert, and had lunch at Jethro's with Taylor before heading back home.

In February, we headed north to Minneapolis/St. Paul for a mid-week getaway to see the Blackhawks play the Wild. We stayed at a Hilton in downtown Minneapolis and had fun exploring downtown being just a half mile away from the Hen House Eatery, Hell's Kitchen, and my favorite building - the Foshay building. We visited the 30th floor Foshay Museum and Observation Deck, and later returned to check out the breathtaking views from the Prohibition Bar on the 27th floor. Doug & Gene, my Oregon uncles, were also in Minneapolis and surprised us at Tom Reid's before we headed to Xcel to see my Blackhawks. We had a few cold beverages and tried poutine for the first time. How they managed to know exactly where we were at on a PACKED 7th St. downtown St. Paul is beyond me - but it made my day! We also met up with Josh's family for a great dinner at the Freehouse and had a few drinks with Sara & Curt at the Parlour Bar. This was one of my favorite Minnesota trips [aren't they all?] because of the people we spent our time with.

We ventured west in March with a trip to Vegas - mainly to watch my dad bowl in his "last" national USBC tournament and eat $1.75 beer-soaked hot dogs [Josh chose to put Kahlua on his]. The weather was perfect and the company was even better. Our favorites included the resort's pool, Beer Park, the Piano Bar at Harrah's and Top Golf. DTM is skipping out on Syracuse this year, but I'm hoping for a Vegas reunion next year!

Josh continued to play softball & dek hockey while I continued to be his biggest fan. He switched from forward to goalie and while I like watching him play forward, chirping him when he's goalie is pretty fun too. I was glad to not have a heavy travel schedule for work last spring/summer.

We changed our annual Minnesota fishing trip from August to June and I think it was a good move. I caught the most fish [again], biggest crappie [15" which I did get mounted] and, as always, had the best time. We lucked out with perfect weather the first week in June and I'm already counting down the days until this year's trip! Josh got to captain a boat [he will be taking lessons from DTM this year] and caught the biggest fish [a 32" northern!] while out with our guide, Justin.

July kicked off with our annual camping/kayaking trip, and the John Deere Classic. We celebrated ONE YEAR in our home and are continuously working on things - hopefully starting the process of finishing our basement this year.

August 1, I officially started a new position as Student Programs HR Rep for John Deere Power Systems. While it was bittersweet to leave payroll and the transition was a little more difficult than I expected, I'm really enjoying what I'm doing and how I'm growing. I started at Deere as a Part-Time Student, so getting to attract, develop and retain these young adults who are where I was nine years ago is so gratifying. I love getting to be on campus at UNI and Wartburg for career fairs and mock interviews, and can't wait to experience my first group of summer interns.

We celebrated Josh's birthday in Des Moines with an iCubs game and lots of exploring West Glen and downtown DSM. A couple weeks later, Josh & I took a late-summer day trip to Decorah to visit Jane & Stan - we golfed, laughed, had a few beers, laughed, ate wings that were more like chicken strips, laughed, and checked out Toppling Goliath Brewery. We had our last pool day at Grandma Karen's on September 15th! The next day, on my mom's birthday, we hosted our first fish fry and loved having our family and friends over! Shout out to DTM for making the best fish with a little help from Shorelunch - and me, for catching a lot of the fish. ;)

I turned 30 in October and was beyond shocked to walk into Singlespeed - for what I thought was date night with two other couples - and instead find so many friends and family surrounded in the back of the tap room to surprise me and celebrate! It was the best night and I still don't know how Josh and Aimee pulled it off! The next night, we changed into Doc & Marty for a Halloween party bus. We won first place at Spicoli's and I don't know what we'll do to top that!

We decided to make one last trip north in 2017 the first weekend in December. The Blues were playing the Wild and I found seats right behind the Blues bench - they were amazing! We'd definitely do that again. Scottie Upshall photo bombed us and threw a big smile our way and Josh was in HEAVEN being that close to Jake Allen and Tarasenko. After the game, we met Sara & Curt at Burger Moe's for dinner and checked out the 7th Street Truck Park where Josh and Curt drank out of Stanley Cups and played Minnesota Tri-Wheel [or 'redneck roulette']. Josh took me to Rockefeller, aka downtown Waterloo, to see the tree. We spent some much needed time with family this month that we won't take for granted. We hosted Josh's family again for Christmas and had the best time - complete with OP pizza, a gift exchange, bubble hockey matches, taking turns getting ICED and a night out. 

As I mentioned, we had our fair share of non-highlight-reel moments including an unexpected loss of a loved one, me shedding more tears and doubting myself more than maybe ever and having some tough situations prove that I need to rely more on God and that nothing is more important than family. I'm looking forward to what 2018 brings and I hope to declutter more than just the Christmas decorations and things in our closets and basement. Life doesn't have to be perfect to be wonderful. Happy New Year!

Sunday, February 26, 2017

A Lot Can Happen in a Year...

One year ago today, Josh and I made one of the most serious commitments in our relationship yet: we decided to build a house.  Hopefully not just a house, but a home.  [And after selling my condo & moving twice, I'd be more than content if this were our FOREVER home!]  One year ago tonight, we "signed our lives away" and put an offer on a lot.  It's fun to think back to the 'headaches' that went into the decision-making... Josh is the one to think things through before making any big decision and not that I rush into things, but once I make up my mind, it's hard to change it.  We surprisingly agreed on everything from siding color to cabinets to flooring and lighting.  Josh has let me put a few more holes in the walls now that we're nearing seven months of calling this place home.  The picture of us below is from a spec home in Cedar Falls a week and a half before the big decision - I was over it & he was still excited/thinking things out.  I'm glad he knew deep down what he wanted because the view from the back of our home is my favorite.

Tomorrow is my step-dad's birthday.  His second birthday he's celebrated in Heaven after he passed away just one year and eight days ago.  I don't know that I could find many words to describe the void I've felt in my life since that day, not having him here to see our home or to help me celebrate getting my MBA among many other things & holidays.  I'm thankful to have had him and his love & support in my life for the years that I did.  I've been relying on this quite a bit - "Tears are prayers too. They travel to God when we can't speak." Psalm 56:8

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Life Lately // January Update

How is January two days from being over, already?!  A lot has happened since my last post but it feels like it was just last week!

If you read my last post you know that Josh & I made a 'deal' with each other to have a Friday night date out for dinner if we cooked at home all week, and I'm proud to announce we did it!  I honestly don't even remember what all we made besides spicy chicken tacos & goulash but we rewarded ourselves with trying out the new Little Bigs on the Hill that Friday night for little bacon cheeseburgers, buffalo fries & sweet potato fries.  Oh, and Blue Moons (on special!) and Bud Lights.  We took a little road trip the next day to Dubuque and of course had to make a pit stop at Five Guys before we left. 

On our way home that Sunday, Josh got a text that our new nephew was here!  It was quite the surprise and we (I) was so excited to get to the hospital that night to visit everyone and meet Liam John!

We also [finally] got our TV stand painted, moved upstairs, & hardware & top installed.  We love it!  I'm still rearranging things on top and how to make the DirecTV box 'fit in' better on the top shelf.

The next week was great because it was a two-day workweek for me with MLK holiday on Monday and vacation Thursday & Friday.  We took off for Des Moines Thursday morning and stopped at Homemakers for a quick [two hour] browse before checking into Hotel Renovo.  If you're planning a trip to Des Moines, check into that hotel - the lobby in itself is absolutely gorgeous!  We used Uber for the first time to make our way downtown to meet Jenelle & Mike at Iowa Taproom before heading to the Wells Fargo Arena for ERIC CHURCH! 

It was an amazing concert - three hours of just Eric - and Josh became such a big fan that he stole my CD and put it in his truck when we got home! ;)  After leaving the hotel, we met Josh's cousin Taylor for lunch at Jethro's, then made our way to Five Guys for milkshakes.  On our way there, we passed The Container Store and Josh willingly[!] pulled into the parking lot.  I was in Heaven that day, that's for sure! 

I'm ready for another month closer to spring, or at least some sunshine.  January was a good month with lots of blessings - the most recent being one of my best friends giving birth to sweet little Bowie Jo last Wednesday.  I went up to visit her and Aimee took me into the nicu to meet her.  They went home yesterday and I can't wait to visit and be able to hold her! 

We're looking forward to another fun trip coming up next week - this time we're heading north!

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Meal Prep Sunday // Crockpot Breakfast Bake & Buffalo Chicken Chili

Disclaimer: I am no meal prep pro by any means!  I am, however, pretty proud of myself for having breakfast and dinner done in the crockpot all in one day.  Now, if I could only get in the habit of doing this every week!

I didn't think to take any pictures of the breakfast bake I made in the crockpot, but it is so, SO easy!  And delicious!

2 lbs frozen hash browns
Your choice of meat (I used one package of Jimmy Dean turkey sausage crumbles)
1 doz. eggs
1 bag or 2 cups of shredded cheese (I used Colby jack)
1 cup milk
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
Onion salt (or 1/2 cup diced onions - whichever you prefer)

1. Beat eggs until well blended (I did this with my KitchenAid mixer to save some time).

2. Beat in milk, garlic powder, salt & pepper.  Set aside.
3. Layer potatoes and season each potato layer with a pinch of salt, pepper and onion salt (or onions).
4. Layer in meat.
5. Top with 1 handful (or cup) of cheese.
6. Repeat the layering 2 more times.
7. Pour egg mixture over layers.  For refrigerated hash browns, cook for 6-7 hours on low.  For frozen hash browns, cook for 7-8 hours on low or until eggs are set.


For dinner, we are having buffalo chicken chili and after trips to two different stores this morning, I forgot the bleu cheese crumbles. :)  The original recipe I have is a stovetop one with diced tomatoes so I did a bit of altering the last few times including throwing it all into the crockpot.

Frozen chicken breast (I generally use 2-3 breasts)
2 cans white or northern beans
32oz chicken broth
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced carrots
1/2 cup Frank's buffalo hot sauce
1 tsp minced onion
1 tsp minced garlic
8oz cream cheese
Optional: top with bleu cheese crumbles & tortilla strips

1. Dice vegetables.
2. Place frozen chicken breasts in crockpot and add in chicken broth, minced onion & garlic, beans, celery, carrots and hot sauce.  Place cream cheese on top.
3. Cook on high for 4 hours.
4. Keep lid on and shred chicken breasts with forks & stir in the cream cheese during the last half hour and then turn to low or warm, depending on how long it will be until you eat.

We topped it with tortilla strips and tried shredded mozzarella and gouda cheese.  I think Josh liked the gouda better - he tried both and took gouda to work, I only tried the mozzarella.


I also made a double batch of these granola/energy bites.  SO easy and I filled about 12 snack sized baggies with 3 bites.  I used a cookie scoop today to save my hands from being a mess so they turned out a bit bigger than in the past. 

Breakfasts, lunches and snacks are prepped for the week, dinner ideas are planned, and if we stick to it, we just might reward ourselves with a date night on Friday to finally check out the new Little Bigs on the Hill.  Here's to hoping we really do have willpower to cook at home and can make it through the week!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

New Year // New You -- 2016 Reflection

I've never been one to stick to resolutions.  I'm ridiculously good at starting something and not finishing or following through - workouts, projects, eating healthier, getting up earlier, starting this blog back up, you name it...  I'm a creature of habit, I'm not great at welcoming change, and I'm far too hard on myself.  I'm not sure what 2017 will bring - I'll say that I hope that it's a healthier, more intentional year with lots of travel and lots more time, sweat [and probably tears] put into this home.

2016 was a year of change.  It started in January with a New Years Day trip to Minneapolis, different responsibilities at work, and house hunting - mainly to see what was on the market and what we liked/agreed on.

February was a very painful change with the unexpected loss of my step-dad.  March kicked off with a signed purchase agreement of Lot #19 in Audubon Heights.  In April, Josh started a new step in his career as an industrial mechanic, we made some big decisions on our home and "finally" broke ground on our roots.  I took a leap on listing my condo 'FSBO' after a few disappointing showings via Facebook, and was surprised to get an asking price offer just days before I planned to list it with a realtor. 

May brought more challenges with lots of travel for work, packing, finding a 'temporary home' and moving most of our belongings into a storage unit.  We celebrated my step-dad's life one afternoon at the Lighthouse.  Josh finished school and we celebrated with a small party at Old Chicago.  Challenges continued into June with more travel for work, and a delayed closing on my condo which lead to a rental agreement.  However, June ended pretty sweetly with a trip to Chicago to celebrate the completion of my MBA, and a [COMPLETE] surprise graduation party at Mulligan's & some fun at Sturgis. 

July was a big month with closing on our home on the 29th, and was quite stressful between work - traveling + testing for a new payroll system - and FINALLY closing on my condo on the 27th.  Yes, you read that correctly.  I closed on my condo a day and a half before we closed on our home.  I cannot thank my attorney enough for dealing with the changes and questions I had on an almost daily basis! 

In August, our new payroll system went live and I spent a much needed week away fishing in Minnesota with my two favorite guys - much to my surprise, I caught the most fish for once!  The weather was pretty crappy, but nothing beats those sunsets and the peace that place brings - oh, and me catching the biggest crappie. :) Josh celebrated his 33rd birthday and we became pros at lawn care by watering our sod and new plants. 

September began with an annual camping/kayaking trip on Labor Day weekend and continued with unpacking lots of boxes & totes and finally getting things organized at home. 

October was a fun month - mostly because the Cubs were on fire and we had so much fun having date nights at home watching them on TV.  We took a trip to STL for the Blues home opener and surprisingly, I'd go back in a heartbeat.  We had our entryway/mudroom area & my office done by an old friend of mine and it all turned out absolutely gorgeous.  I celebrated my 29th[!]birthday with a dinner date at the Brown Bottle and a Cubs W.  On Halloween, Josh discovered a dead mouse in his work boot in the garage and we had an unplanned but so, SO fun night on a party bus dressed up as Leo & Michelangela. 

November was a THANKFUL month that started with the Cubs winning the World Series, and Josh & I being emotional wrecks with Anthony Rizzo!  I still can't believe I witnessed a game 7 World Series W!  I had fun decorating our home for Christmas and spent some much needed quality time with family - both in November and December. 

We hosted our first annual holiday party with an ugly sweater party on National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day and had quite a few overnight guests this month.  We hosted Josh's family Christmas on Christmas Eve Eve and our hands, home and hearts were beyond full.  This week between Christmas and New Years was well-spent at home with lots of movies and time to reflect, laugh and cry, and plan for what's to come.

This holiday season was a hard one, and I'm sad to say that it just didn't feel quite like Christmas.  I had more tough moments than I'd like to admit, but again, I am thankful and blessed to have what and WHO I do in my life - on Earth and in Heaven.

Happy New Year, ya filthy animals.