Monday, December 8, 2014

New Mexico: Part Two

This might come as a shock to some of you, but Andy and I are extremely unhappy in Wisconsin.  We truly thought that we would be making this location our forever home, but after just a few months we knew that this state was a not a good fit.  To be honest, we don't think the Midwest is a good fit anymore.  About six months in one of Andy's old co-workers contacted him regarding his old job telling him they were finally planning on replacing him.  He jokingly asked if Andy wanted to come back .... we didn't think twice.  We love everything about New Mexico and miss it very, very much.  Andy was officially offered his job back in October, we are to relocate this January.

Fortunately, within this time I was able to land a job as well.  I will be working for the first company I worked for when we originally moved to Santa Fe, an Ameriprise Financial franchise.  I am their newest Financial Planning Assistant.  They offered me a job immediately after I told them I was moving back.  I'm very excited to work with them again.

We don't regret moving back to the Midwest however.  Wisconsin was supposed to happen.  Here we were able to focus on our relationship, figure out how to budget more effectively, and map out our future, hopes, and dreams.  We are very grateful for the time we spent here, the people we've met, and the visitors we've had.  We understand this announcement will bum a lot of people out and we are sorry for that.  But please understand this is something we need to do.  This is what we want for our future.

We will be home for a week over Christmas so contact us to say good bye/good luck.  AND please feel free to come visit us whenever you have the extra cash and time.  We have rented a gorgeous house over looking two mountain ranges in the country, you won't want to leave!

With love,

Sandy and Andy

Our new home. 




Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato Bucatini with Garlic Bread Crumbs

It has been way too long since my last recipe blog post.  Actually, it's been a while since my last blog in general.  Life has been a little crazy here in Wisconsin and finally I have some time to sit down and share one of my favorite recipes.  Enjoy!

Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato Bucatini with Garlic Bread Crumbs
Printable Version 

1 clove garlic
1 cup bread crumbs
1 tsp olive oil
2 strips bacon, diced
1 c halved grape tomatoes
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 c thinly sliced leeks
1/4 c dry white wine
1/2 c chicken broth
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
4 oz dry bucatini or spaghetti
1 c fresh spinach leaves
1/4 tsp minced fresh thyme
salt and pepper

Heat oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat; add crumbs and toast until golden, stirring often.  Season with salt and pepper, set aside.

Cook bacon until crisp.  Remove with a slotted spoon to paper towel lined plate.

Caramelize tomatoes and sugar in bacon drippings over medium heat until golden brown.  Add leeks, sauté until wilted.

Deglaze skillet with wine; simmer until liquid in nearly evaporated.  Add broth, vinegar, and pepper flakes.  Simmer until reduced by a third.

Cook bucatini in boiling water according to package directions.  Add the spinach, thyme, and cooked bacon to the tomato mixture.  Transfer cooked pasta from cooking water to skillet with salt.  Divide pasta among plates and sprinkle with bread crumbs.


Monday, September 8, 2014

Anniversary / Camping Trip

It has been almost one month since Andy and I celebrated our four year anniversary.  We spent four days camping at Twin Lakes State Park, a small campground near Houghton, MI.  We decided to drive to the U.P to celebrate because that is where our marriage began.  During the first few months of being newlyweds, we lived in Hancock, MI.  It was so great to see how much the area changed, to visit the women I used to volunteer for, and to eat and drink at our favorite restaurants in the area.  We were also able to see my Uncle T, Aunt Gina, the girls, and even Andy's cousin, Travis.  We did some hiking, shopping at the Michigan Tech bookstore, and of course enjoyed each other's company.



This past year has been a hard one.  Moving across the country and expecting a different experience has been a bit of a struggle.  Due to this, Andy and I have grown so incredibly close and have had multiple chances to reevaluate our life mission together.  I have become more connected to him in more ways than one that I could have never imagined.  I thought I knew everything about him.  I thought there was nothing more to learn.  I cannot wait for the next years ahead to continue being surprised and to continue our growing relationship.  I am incredibility thankful for him and can't picture my life any other way.  I would have not experienced what I have the past four years without him and am so happy he is the the one that is next to me through it all.

To many more.


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Ice Bucket Challenge - Make a Wish

My lovely mother nominated me to dump a bucket of ice water on my head or donate to ALS research. Fortunately, I do not know anyone directly suffering with ALS. I do however, know two amazing young girls full of life who are affected by Cerebral Palsy. These two little ladies are my cousins who embrace the challenges they're handed with ferocious positivity.

In the beginning of the year my cousins were given the opportunity to visit Disney World, something my aunt and uncle thought they were never going to be able to do. After seeing the photos and hearing about the trip I knew I needed to be a part of giving to a family in need. The ice bucket challenge has reminded me of this thought. So today, on behalf of Eliza and Gwen Gort, I am donating to Make-A-Wish Michigan. They gave my cousins the chance to experience a family vacation unlike any other, I am very grateful of this organization.

For more information, visit michigan.wish.org.


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Couch to 5K

Nine weeks ago I decided to try the impossible and start running.  Well ... walking and something like running ... OK more walking than running, really.

Nonetheless, after a week of trotting around the neighborhood, Andy decided to join me and my courageous want of being a runner.  I am not ready for a race, but I do feel great and can see improvement every time my sneakers hit the pavement.  This hobby truly has allowed me to surprise myself by accomplishing things that I honestly thought were impossible.

Running isn't hard.  The idea of moving in a fast motion placing each leg in front of the other for a long period of time is quite simple actually.  The part that is hard is getting into shape.  I thought I was in shape.  I participated in a bootcamp and hiked often when living in Santa Fe.  I continued my yoga practice and subscribed to Daily Burn when I moved to Wisconsin.  I truly thought I was in "good enough" shape to start running.  I was sadly mistaken.

The key is to start slow.  I downloaded an app that's guided me through the beginning stages of running.  It breaks nine weeks down into intervals, three days a week.  I have repeated multiple weeks knowing my body wasn't ready to progress.  I have turned a nine week program into twelve, but I am ok with that.  I am happy to announce that I can run a total of ten minutes without stopping!

The first couple weeks were the hardest.  First, I had the worst shin splints in the world and my calves felt like they were on fire.  I had to stop in between intervals and stand on the edge of street curbs while balancing on Andy's arms to stretch out those muscles.  Second, I woke myself up one night with the awfully dreaded runner's knee.  A pain I thought would never go away.  I started building more exercises to my warm ups before each time I ran and it began to slowly decrease.  Lastly, just last week, I was told by the running shoe store associate I was the worst runner she's ever seen due to massive supination.  I am apparently one of few people who runs and walks on the very outside edges of their feet.  She was amazed that I've been trucking through this new adventure, put me in new running shoes, and wished me luck.

My goal is to run a 5K.  The last time I ran I reach 1.84 miles in 23 minutes.  I have a long road ahead of me (no pun intended), but am excited and ready to see what more I can do!


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Indian Lake Camping Trip

It is true what they say, when you get married, you marry your spouse's family as well.  I am very lucky. I love my in-laws.  We get along perfectly.  I truly feel like a part of their family in more ways than one. Every moment we spend together is full of love, laughter, and ..... well ..... alcohol.  But, seriously, we have so much fun together.  

This past weekend Joe, Deb, and Natalie met us at Indian Lake Campground.  We spent five days doing exactly what I just mentioned above.  We also did a little Michigan sightseeing, tried some amazing hot dogs at Johnny Dog's in Munising (and Piggy Fries!), and relaxed in the most comfortable hammock ever.  The weather could not have been better and the company was just what I needed.



Kitch-iti-kipi - Michigan's largest natural freshwater spring.
The Manistique Boardwalk 


Miners Castle / Pictured Rocks
Munising Falls



Saturday, July 19, 2014

Younique 3d Fiber Lashes

I don't have full lashes at all, not like my brother's.  (Why do guys always have nice, long lashes?!)  I've been trying to find a mascara that gives me great results for a while now and last month I finally found it!  I've been using 3D Fiber Lash Mascara by Younique since the beginning of June and am very happy with my lashes.  I am not a huge girly girl and don't wear much make-up, but someone told me when I first started "primping" to never leave the house without mascara or blush.  I have remembered this rule ever since and now I have found the perfect mascara to pair with this principle.

I was shocked with the difference and really do not think I will ever go back to normal mascara.  I love that it is completely natural, hypoallergenic, and waterproof.  For work, I take a lot of photos using a DSLR and always had problems with my make-up smearing.  Not anymore!  This product does NOT smudge.  (Finally!)  AND it comes off easily in the shower or with eye make-up remover.  Overall it is a fantastic product!  See my result below.





Monday, April 28, 2014

Rain by Shel Silverstein

The past few days here in Wisconsin have been pretty wet and dreary and the forecast for the rest of the week looks the same.  Today was truly one of those I want to stay in bad all day days and I could totally feel the weight of the weather at work.  After looking at my computer for 6+ hours, then the rain running down the front windows of the office, I was reminded of my daycare days and the poem I copied below.  I was immediately saddened and recited this poem to myself over and over.  I've never felt this way before due to rain, but the last few months in Wisconsin have been rough, especially coming from 360 days of sunshine.  I guess what I am trying to say is this weather has really put a toll on me and I CAN NOT wait for summer (even with the humidity!).

Rain

I opened my eyes
And looked up at the rain,
And it dripped in my head
And flowed into my brain,
And all that I hear as I lie in my bed
Is the slishity-slosh of the rain in my head.

I step very softly,
I walk very slow,
I can't do a handstand--
I might overflow,
So pardon the wild crazy thing I just said--
I'm just not the same since there's rain in my head.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Buffalo Salmon and Blue Cheese Salad

I've been dying to try a new salmon recipe for some time now, but am always nervous due to the high cost.  We found a good deal and a recipe in a Food Network Magazine I had held on to, but like always, I switched a few things around.  We had homemade blue cheese dressing in the house, cut down on the butter, and added more heat.  Our changes must have been good ones, because I seriously loved every bite and wanted to eat the entire fillet.  (I knew if I did I wouldn't have any leftovers for lunch tomorrow!)  The side salad was just as delicious, peppery, sharp, and a little earthy.  I added our homemade dressing recipe below as well.  Enjoy!! 

Buffalo Salmon and Blue Cheese Salad
Printable Version

2 skinless salmon fillets (1 in, 5-6 oz)
1 tbsp butter
4 tbsp hot sauce
1 tbsp maple syrup
1/4 tsp paprika
1 package baby arugula
3 stalks celery, thinly sliced
2 carrots, thinly sliced
vegetable oil
blue cheese dressing 
salt and pepper to taste

Combine butter, hot sauce, maple syrup, paprika and a pinch of salt in a small bowl, microwave until butter melts. Whisk to combine. 

In a large bowl, toss arugula, celery, and carrots.  Set aside.  (don't toss with dressing yet) 

Heat cast iron with little vegetable oil.  Season salmon with salt and pepper. Fry, brushing with sauce, until slightly charred and just cooked through.  (save your sauce)
Toss salad with dressing, add a pinch of salt and pepper, and serve with salmon and remaining sauce.

Blue Cheese Dressing

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup sour cream
1 tsp garlic (or garlic powder)
1 tsp onion powder
6 oz blue cheese crumbles
juice of half a lemon

Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl with a whisk. Chill in airtight container or jar for 2 hours before serving.  (Seriously the best blue cheese dressing ever!!)






Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Mushroom and Bacon Soup

As I mentioned once before in my blog, I have been quite obsessed with soups lately.  Each week Andy and I try a new recipe or two and a few weeks ago we made this.  The earthiness of the mushrooms, the spice from the Sriracha, and the saltiness of the bacon are perfect flavors to indulge in during this blistering winter.  I found the original recipe from chow.com, but like most recipes I tweaked it to compliment my palate.  

Enjoy! 

Mushroom and Pancetta Soup Recipe
Printable Version 
   
2 ounces shiitake mushrooms (I do believe any mushroom would work!) 
4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1/2 cup dry white wine 
1/4 lb bacon, small dice 
8 ounces fresh spinach, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons dark sesame oil
2 tablespoons Sriracha
2 scallions, ends trimmed and thinly sliced 

Marinate mushrooms with one cup of vegetable broth and dry whine in a bowl.  Set aside.

Heat a cast iron pan over medium-high heat and cook bacon until golden brown and crisp.  Remove with slotted spoon and drain on paper towel.

Combine remaining three cups of vegetable broth and two cups water in a stock pot over medium heat. Once simmering, add mushroom mixture and bacon.  Stir in sesame oil and Sriracha, adjust seasoning to taste.

Add spinach, garnish with scallions, and serve.





Sunday, February 16, 2014

Vegas, Baby!

In the beginning of the month Andy and I were fortunate enough to take a short vacation to Las Vegas, Nevada.  I was grateful for this trip due to all the stress of moving, being unemployed for awhile, and starting a new job.  It was the perfect way to slow down and refresh.  I believe having something to always look forward to brightens your life a little more.  The main reason we took these few days off was to celebrate the union of our best Santa Fe friends Shelly and Marek.  We were honored to be a part of their special day and I can honestly say it was the best wedding I have ever attended.  We started the weekend going our separate ways.  It was Bachelorette/Bachelor Party time!  I will spare the details of our individual experiences that night, my brutal morning breakfast at The Cosmopolitan explains how much fun was had. So that morning we recovered from our eventful nights and proceeded with a small agenda of wedding festivities.  The ceremony was held at The Graceland Wedding Chapel, a delicious reception dinner at Firefly, and we ended the night at The Bar at Time Square where we enjoyed dueling pianos play through the night.  BEST WEDDING EVER.




On our last full day Andy and I decided to venture the strip, see a show, and eat SO much great food.  My top two sightseeing experiences was seeing Dale Chihuly's Gallery and The Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay.

Dale Chihuly's gallery in the Crystals is a small one, but honestly that didn't matter.  Chihuly's talent is represented in every inch of that storefront.  Actually, one of Chihuly's most famous pieces is the ceiling sculpture at the Bellagio, Fiori di Como, which we saw later that afternoon.  At over 50,000 pounds, Fiori di Como is the largest glass sculpture ever made!  Andy told me about this piece of art after his first Vegas visit and seeing it in person was just as as amazing as he explained. Walking into the lobby of the Bellagio and seeing the Chihuly sculpture suspended from the ceiling is breathtaking, truly an unforgettable experience.


Equally as awesome was the Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay. We were a little skeptical at first since the last aquarium we visited was a let down and the price at the Reef was quite high, but  I am SO happy we checked it out.  I guess the main tank is over a million gallons and is one of the largest in North America, which seems crazy to me since we were in the desert.  It took us a little over an hour to enjoy this small aquarium, but we took our time and snapped a few amazing shots.  I could see this exhibit to be just jaw dropping for little ones (if you brave taking them to Vegas).  The facility, however, IS amazing and displays numerous species, a section where you can PET the stingrays, and it features a shark tunnel that is a little trippy at first, but really, really cool!





Overall my first Vegas experience was great, too short, but really fun.  I was able to relax with Andy, see my closest Santa Fe friends for the first time since we moved, and I even won $9 playing roulette!!! 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Sweet Potato Peanut Bisque

I have been quite obsessed with soups lately.  There is something about a nice, big bowl of warm soup hovering in your hands.  Andy and I have tried so many new soup and chile recipes since the temperature has plummeted below zero here in Wisconsin.  But tonight's is my ultimate favorite thus far.  Sweet and spicy - the perfect balance of flavors on a cold winter night.  I found the original recipe from eatingwell.com, but like most recipes I come across I tweaked it to compliment my palate.  Enjoy!

** I figured out how to create printable versions of my recipes.  Simply click on the link under the name of the recipe and print!! Let me know if it doesn't work though :) 

Sweet Potato Peanut Bisque
Printable Version

2 sweet potatoes
olive oil  
yellow onion, chopped
garlic clove, minced
3 cups tomato juice
green chiles (We still had some New Mexican chilies, but I know you can buy diced chiles at the grocery store.  Remember a little goes a long way!)
2 tsp ginger, minced 
1/2 tsp allspice
vegetable broth, to thin the bisque
1/2 cup peanut butter
ground pepper, to taste
fresh cilantro leaves for garnish

Pierce sweet potatoes with fork and microwave until cooked through, set aside.

Heat oil in large skillet (we used our cast iron) over medium heat.  Add onion and cook until lightly brown.  Add garlic, stir in juice, green chiles, ginger, and allspice.  Adjust heat and let mixture boil gently for 10 minutes or so.

Meanwhile, cut the sweet potatoes in half and spoon out the insides into a blender then add onion mixture to blender.  (You might have to do this in batches.)  Depending on your preference of thickness add a little broth and the peanut butter, puree until completely smooth.  Add more stock and reheat in stock pot if needed.  Season with pepper and garnish with cilantro.

We had a small dried out baguette that I turned into croutons for an additional topping.  I simply cut cube like pieces and tossed them in a little oil and seasoned them with salt and pepper.  We cooked them at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes.  So good!!  






Wednesday, January 8, 2014

2014

Last year one of my New Year's resolutions was to blog once a month ...... I blogged exactly twelve times in 2013! I will try to keep up on that goal for this year too, but there are a few things I want to focus on that are more important to me. The main reason I originally started blogging was for me and my constant feeling of homesickness.  It has helped me greatly and has allowed me to feel the connection of home from far away. Family is very important to me, and it was difficult to leave when we did.  However, I am appreciative of the opportunities that have come my way.  Due to these opportunities, I have met many people who have helped shaped me into the person I am today. I believe that family consists of more than just those related by blood; I have a few friends that I am closer to than my own family. This year I vow to keep in touch with all of the people I love and care for.

In addition to continuing my blog, last year I also vowed to change my life style to be healthier. As you all know I love to eat and drink and I do not believe in dieting, but I have been eating healthier and working out on a regular basis (with the exception of a few weeks during our big move). I joined a bootcamp class in Santa Fe and was very dedicated and learned to love it. Living in Wisconsin it has been a little difficult to find motivation, but I finally found it and have dropped a pant size in just a few weeks. In addition to working out more, I've been eating a lot healthier. Andy and I love to cook together and now we pretty much make everything we eat fresh from scratch, we hardly ever buy processed foods and never go out for fast food (unless I've been craving pizza!). Last week we even made our own blue cheese dressing! I might not look different, but I feel great and won't go back to my old habits.


This year I have added an extra item to my resolution list .... I vow to save more money!! Andy and I want to buy a house and start a family within the next few years, but I started reading up on all the responsibilities of those huge life changing steps and realized there is no way we can afford these changes with the budget we currently use. We've reevaluated our finances and have promised to stick to it until further notice. If we want these big things to happen we have to be serious and take action.


Soo ... this year I will continue to live my healthier lifestyle, keep in touch with the people I am the closest to, and I vow to increase my savings account for future changes. IF I can do all these things this year, I feel I will be prepared and ready for the next chapters in my life.


Thanks for reading and sticking with me - m
uch love.