Habitat for Humanity ReStore

So... Guess what I'm learning about this whole buying a house/moving situation? It is EXPENSIVE. We're talking, like, thousands of dollars. Can't I buy a house for $100 like I do in Monopoly? For real - I'm not even buying on Park Place or anything!

So, in order to lighten the load, it's important to shop around and find the best deals you can - think thrift stores, consignment shops, garage sales and Craigslist. And if your options get exhausted through any of those platforms, you can always check out your local Habitat for Humanity's ReStore.

I had no idea the ReStore even existed until Eric mentioned it a couple months back. Here's how they describe themselves and what they sell:
The Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity ReStore recycles overstocked, discounted, new and used building materials donated by manufacturers, stores, contractors and individuals. The items are sold at a fraction of the retail price to the public. The ReStore helps fund Habitat’s mission of building affordable homes and is staffed largely by volunteers. The ReStore helped keep over 730,000 pounds of trash out of landfills in 2009.
Pretty cool, huh? And to make matters even better, last weekend the Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity ReStore was holding a huge Earth Day Super Sale - everything in the ReStore was half price! We weren't exactly sure what all we'd be able to purchase at the ReStore, but for those savings, we were willing to go find out.

When we walked in, I was surprised just how much was in the store - the large warehouse was filled with used furniture from slipper chairs to filing cabinets to wardrobes and more. There were kitchen appliances, a huge selection of interior and exterior doors, light fixtures, bathroom vanities, sinks, carpeting, laminate flooring, tools for painting, and all sorts of little metal nuts, bolts and all those things I have no idea what they're for. And while many things there were definitely donated for a reason, there were plenty of diamonds in the rough just waiting for someone to give them a home.

So, I'll admit, I have a weird thing for old doors. I love the shabby-chic look, and I love a good, beaten-up door that could be used indoors to create a special focal point in a room. There have been plenty of times I've seen an old door sitting on the curb that I wanted to load into my car and take home, but I was sure Eric wouldn't be up for that idea.

Until, when we were shopping last weekend, he said he loved the idea! I was so excited he was on board - and almost instantly, as I glanced over to the doors section of the store, I found this little treasure:

Now, remember, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. All it needs is a good rinse from the hose and it will be perfect! I envision putting it in the little "seating area" of the master bedroom, and setting a padded, patchwork stool I've had for a few years next to it - a cute space for sitting down and putting on boots! Or something.... because everyone needs a "putting on boots" area of their bedroom.

I had a really fun time just seeing what all was available. Aside from some paint rollers and handles, paint brushes, paint trays and other necessities, we didn't really walk away from the store with a ton, but we did sae a lot - our total price was only $8.50! There were a few things that really caught my eye, but I had to walk away from - I simply couldn't think of a place in our house where they would fit!

Like this old mail slot organizer. I am a little more than obsessed with the idea of putting and old library-card catalog in my house, but the ones I've found online are grossly overpriced. This thing is the closest I've come to, for super cheap. I would love to top it with some reclaimed wood and use it as a side table or hallway table.... except it's a little too tall to be a side table, and a little too short for merely sitting on the ground. Plus, I'm not sure where it would go in our house. But if I do think of someplace, I'm definitely going back for this bad boy!

My most-coveted find was this mammoth work-bench-type thing. It was this beautiful, beaten-up seafoam green color, and I instantly envisioned it as a shabby-chic kitchen island. Except it has essentially the same square footage as our future kitchen - so obviously it was out of the question. Eric scoffed at my love for this table, saying it looked like a "rotting piece of junk." OK, sure, it's nicked and faded and worn, but I guarantee you a floor designer for Anthropologie would snatch this up in a second and use it to display sweaters and necklaces. My heart breaks that I'm not able to call this piece my own.

I also was strangely attracted to this chair. Actually, it was a group of these chairs - about 10 of them, priced at $10 a pop (but would be $5 each at the register because of the Super Sale). Again, they were a little worn, but they had great potential, and I kicked myself when I went back to look at them before we left and someone had already bought the entire lot.

I also had my eye on a couple of brass chandeliers that I'd love to spray paint a bold color and hang above our future dining-room table (which does not exist at the moment), but decided to wait until we're actually in the house to make that purchase. (Almost two weeks until closing!)

It was a fun adventure to rummage through everything they had. And, with all that was there, I think Eric's favorite area was the toilet section.

But, really, if you're looking for cheap, not-perfect items for your home, I'd definitely recommend checking out your local Habitat ReStore! Not only will you find items at huge discounts, but you'll also be supporting  a really fantastic organization - it's a win-win for all!

Do you have a favorite thrifty place to find cheap home goods? Aside from a new couch and love seat, I'm thinking the rest of our home purchases will be made mostly at thrift stores, garage sales and flea markets - I love the treasure hunt!


Peeps 'n Baseball

Hi gang! I hope you all had a spectacular Easter weekend - if you're someone who celebrates Easter, that is. Last year, my birthday was actually on Easter, which was not exactly conducive to my "It's my birthday - look at me!" habit. Restaurants were closed for dinner, friends were out of town... it wasn't a party.

But this Easter, being so late in the month, was wiiiiidde open. We weren't able to get home to either of our families, but Eric and I had a pretty great holiday, just the two of us.

Things kicked off in the morning when we woke up and discovered the Easter Bunny had left baskets of goodies for both of us! Our baskets were filled to the brim with tons of candy, and I even got a special surprise in mine:

I must admit, I am a sucker for anything "As Seen on TV." I've never actually ordered from a commercial, but I love scouring the AS Seen on TV section at most drugstores. Seriously - the stuff is so cheap, and they're basically guaranteed to change life as you know it. Every time I saw the Chef Basket on TV, I'd exclaim to Eric how I thought it was such a fabulous kitchen tool - a strainer, steamer and basket all in one??? WHERE DO I SIGN??? I had to laugh when I saw this under my Easter basket, but I can't wait to give it a whirl! The Easter Bunny knows me so well.

After the sophisticated pairing of coffee and Reese's Peanut Butter Eggs at home (you know, to cleanse the palate), we headed over to Trocadero for Easter brunch. Trocadero is one of my favorite brunch spots in Milwaukee - their menu is incredible and I always have the hardest time deciding what to get!

Yesterday, I opted for the Crab Cake Benedict, which was served alongside Trocadero's rosemary potatoes and a delicious yellow curry sauce. It was amazing - I nearly ate the entire thing!

After Trocadero, we were feeling pretty stuffed. We went home to relax, call our families and chill out before the big event of the day: An Easter-Sunday game at Miller Park!

The Astros were in town, and the Brewers were in need of a win if they were going to take the series that day. We got to the game early and took a walk around the Kid Zone, which is always a blast to watch. They've got tons of photo-ops with life-sized models of Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, Bernie Brewer and the Racing Sausages. But my favorite thing is watching the kids "race" a cut-out of Corey Hart that rolls on a track - they've always got such a look of determination on their faces!

Yesterday also happened to be John Axford bobblehead day! Axford is the Brewers' closer, who's notable for his killer mustache. I have to say, they did a great job with the 'stache on his bobblehead (Please note: that is Eric's man-hand in the photo. My hands are not much larger than those depicted on the bobblehead here):

And, yes, I did pack a baggie of Easter candy to snack on during the game.... This poor Peep never knew what was coming.

Thankfully, the Brewers played really well and ended up winning! They're above .500 and only a half game out of the NL Central right now, so I'm hoping they keep winning series like these. And while the Brewers did have a good game yesterday, a National-Geographic-esque battle between a hawk and a pigeon in the stadium took all the spotlight from the players for a bit.

While there was no Easter ham, egg hunts or big family outings, I'd say this low-key Easter was a success. Only thing is, I'll probably be snacking on candy for about two weeks now..... Rough life, eh?

How was your Easter? Do you have any big, family traditions?


Banana-Chocolate-Chip Bites

I happen to be a firm believer that everyone should have a go-to cookie recipe. One that they know backward and forward, has simple ingredients that are probably already on hand, and that can be whipped up in little time leaving as few dirty dishes as possible. 

It is completely necessary to have go-to cookie recipe because you know as well as I do that sometimes a cookie attack just strikes, and when it does, you'll have cookies on the brain until you get up and do something about it. 

My go-to cookie recipe actually isn't exactly a cookie at all. It's more of a bite... kind of a mix between a muffin and an oatmeal cookie. Muffins are good. Cookies are good. So a muffin-cookie amalgam has to be spectacular, right? Absolutely.

That's where these banana-chocolate-chip bites come in. They are SO simple to make, and an added bonus? They're actually decently healthy, as for as baked treats go. Another plus is that they are super versatile, so feel free to add in any little ingredients your heart desires.

Banana-Chocolate-Chip Bites
2 ripe bananas, mashed
3 Tbs canola oil
3 Tbs maple syrup
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup regular oats
2/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour (the pastry flour ensures these turn out soft and chewy)
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
2 Tbs peanut butter
1/3 cup chocolate chips
Any additional add-ins you like! (personally, I *love* adding in some shredded coconut... but go nuts on whatever else you deem tasty)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 
2. Combine mashed bananas, canola oil, maple syrup and vanilla extract in a bowl, and set aside.
3. In a separate bowl, combine oats, pastry flour, cinnamon and baking soda. Then, add these dry ingredients to the wet. Mix until just combined.
4. Melt the peanut butter in the microwave for about 25 seconds. Drizzle the melted peanut butter into the dough and mix in.
5. Fold in chocolate chips and other goodies.
6. Drop the dough by the spoonful onto a lined cookie sheet. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until lightly browned.

Makes about 18 bites.


My Training Plan

As the time approaches at a frighteningly screaming-fast rate for the Wisconsin Half Marathon (just over two weeks away!), I realize I essentially have said nothing about the race or my training on this here blog. This was not my intention. When I initially decided to revamp my blog, I intended to focus just as much on my fitness efforts as I do my sugar-laden concoctions. I guess, as time passed, I just figured readers would be more intrigued with alcoholic Girl Scout cookies than reading about huffing through mile repeats around a track.

However, I have received a few questions about my current training plan and my experience as a runner. First of all, though I've been running consistently since about the age of 16, I'm no expert. In fact, it wasn't until last year that I ever ventured out of my "safe zone" and ran more than six miles (non-treadmill assisted). And though I don't always love running, I do always love the feeling I have after running - no matter how tough, how bad the conditions or how poorly I think I did.
[Chicago Half Marathon. Sorry for the pixelated photo, but I wasn't about to purchase these for $60. BARF]

That said, I've been struggling a lot with training this spring. I don't know if it's because I didn't give myself a buffer between not running at all and starting training (as in, I didn't give myself time to just go out and enjoy running without a plan in mind), or if I'm just so incredibly fairweather I can't get into running under less-than-pristine conditions. Either way, it's been tough, mentally, for me to get excited about this race.

I reached rock bottom, motivation-wise, about two weeks ago. The weather was ultra crappy, I hadn't seen any improvement in speed or endurance, and I had come to grips with the fact that I might not meet my finish time goal. I wallowed around in my sadness for a few days, then, out of nowhere, something clicked: The following Monday, I went out for a run and felt a spring in my step for the first time in weeks. I bounded down the sidewalks, smiling, and not caring what pace I was running (often, I hate having to stick to an "easy" pace during my plan - I feel so much better when I can just let go). Two days later, I completely surprised myself at the track, busting out mile repeats that were about 30 seconds faster than I was scheduled to run them that day. Without jinxing myself, I feel like I'm back in the game - and happy to be here. I'm hoping this newfound excitement toward running stays with me - at least through May 7th. I may not finish in the time I'd hoped for at the beginning of the year, but I'm going to give it my all either way.

Now that that's out of the way, I'll give a little insight to what a typical week of training looks like, for me. I started an 8-week training plan in early March, which was scheduled for me through Runnersworld.com's Smart Coach program. I used a similar 12-week plan last summer when training for my first-ever half marathon. I had a couple hiccups during the Chicago Half in September, but finished in 1 hour, 58 minutes - not bad for my first-ever half marathon. My training schedule this time around has me finishing in 1:53, but I don't see that happening - and that's OK (I promise).
[Me after the Chicago Half Marathon last fall. Excuse the totally pixelated photo, but I just had to point out that I took EVERY. SINGLE. TREAT. they passed out after I crossed the finish line. Water bottle, granola bars, banana, cookies... my hands were FULL. The photographer and I had a good laugh about my gluttony.]

Because I didn't run, like, at ALL over the winter, this spring's training plan is pretty low-mileage. I didn't want to go from zero miles a week to 25 - that, my friends, is a recipe for INJURY. So here's how I've been running for the past 6 weeks, more or less:

Monday: Easy run! Usually around 3 miles, at a very easy pace (around a minute slower than race pace)
Tuesday: Rest or cross-train. For cross-training, I'll do some weights (nothing too intense), hop on the bike trainer or just take a nice walk.
Wednesday: SPEED WORK. Speedwork is always the toughest run of the week (yes, even moreso than the long run). Depending on the week, I'll either do a tempo run (one-mile warm up at an easy pace, followed by 3-4 miles at slightly-faster-than race pace, ending with another mile cool down) or mile repeats (one-mile warm up at an easy pace, followed by a fast mile - about 45 seconds faster than race pace - then a 800-meter recovery jog, and the mile and recovery jogs are repeated 3-4 times, ending with a mile cool down).
Thursday: Easy run! Again, usually around three miles, at a very easy pace.
Friday: Rest or cross train.
Saturday: LONG RUN. My first long run was 8 miles, then I built up every week (this Saturday, I'll run 12 miles). This run is often referred to as your LSD run (Long, Slow Distance). I run mine at about a minute slower than race pace.
Sunday: Rest, baby!

So, there you have it. If you've ever questioned running a half marathon because of the training, my example above should be a testament that it's not a 10-mile run every single day - I'm only running four days a week! Anyone can do this. In fact, if your goal is just to finish the race, swap out the speed work for a good 4-5 mile run and you'll be golden!

I'll try to keep these running/fitness posts more frequent, as I think it's important to illustrate that I work really, really hard in order to keep eating boxes of Cadbury Creme Eggs while not gaining 50 pounds. 

Any more questions on running or fitness? Shoot 'em my way! This is a topic I could entertain for hours.


Survival of the Fittest

Well, gang, we made it. We survived our trip to IKEA and are living to tell you about it. IKEA trips are tricky animals, because, on one hand: Hey! IKEA! Cheap stuff that is neat!. On the other hand: Ugh, IKEA, screaming children around every corner and half the world circling around you with gigantic carts overrun with pointy boxes. 

Our trip actually went much smoother than I thought it would. I was prepared for the worst, as we walked into the store directly behind FOUR babies being carried in in carriers.... But after some initial grumpiness (After Eric reminded me we'd need actual measurements from the house for many of the things we were looking at, I maybe have thrown my arms up and questioned why we were even at the -expletive- store in the first place). But  Eric was luckily able to calm me down by allowing me to purchase two little tealight lanterns that I swore I would die if I didn't own. (I was only slightly dramatic that afternoon)

We managed to walk away with some great purchases: Three Expedit units (two will live in the master bedroom, one will be fashioned into a record-player stand/record holder), an outdoor welcome mat that will be decorated by yours truly, an ultra-cute chandelier, my necessary lanterns, a large serving tray, some wooden hangers, some things I can't remember, and a 99-cent mirror squeegee that I was convinced would change our world (or the bathroom) as we know it.

We were in and out in just under three hours, which is actually quite an accomplishment! We managed to bypass the ridiculously delicious-smelling meatballs and cinnamon rolls, and instead satisfied our hunger with the Chocolate-Chip Cookie-Dough Larabars. And I must say, they were worth the wait/scavenging. 

I was quite pleased with how the day rounded out. But as we were loading up our flat bed cards with the Expedits, a wave of terror swept over us: These things might not fit in my car.....

I stood with our treasures, waiting for Eric to pull the car around, shaking from nerves (or maybe due to the 30 mph winds, mixed with freezing rain?), praying to all things holy that everything would fit. We put down the back seat and, miraculously, the long Expedits fit juuuuust right, from the back of the trunk, right up to the backs of the two front seats. The short, fatter, Expedit, however? That was a different story. We tried about four different angles to get it to fit neatly in the back, but it just wasn't going to work. Finally, we just bit the bullet and let the front stick out through the front seats.

It made it somewhat difficult to hold a conversation on the 1.5-hour drive home.

The backseat wasn't too pretty, either.

But all that matters is we got everything out of the store, into the car and back to Milwaukee. However, I will be driving around with the two larger Expedits in my trunk/backseat until we close on our house. Sure to be a gas guzzler, but I'd rather keep them in there than move them twice before the big move!

Do you have any IKEA horror stories? Any triumphs? We already know we'll need to make another trip back (after we move in), so sit tight for another tale in surviving it all.


The Holy Grail

You know when you hear about a certain product from a friend, or see something online and you just have to have it? You spend days, weeks, even months scouring stores for this one, special thing, and you won't rest until you find it. Then, once you do, words cannot describe the true elation that swarms upon you, and, chances are, you look like an ultra freak, eyes bulged in excitement, trying your hardest not to break out in a happy dance right there in the middle of aisle 12.

That's how it was for me yesterday, when I finally stumbled upon the elusive Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Larabars I'd been seeing all over the blog world for the past few months.


A SNACK BAR?? Really, Rachel? A SNACK BAR??? That's what you got so excited about???? 

I'm sorry. I'm a nerd. I'm a snack food nerd and I don't care who knows it! But, seriously, Larabars, in general, are a cut above the rest. They are made from completely whole foods, and you can usually count the number of ingredients in each bar on one hand. Yes, they're a healthy snack bar, but they taste so decadent. 

And one of the newest flavors to be released has been the chocolate chip cookie dough bar. I've heard delicious things, and anytime you can squeeze a thing into a health bar that tastes like something I'd spoon into my mouth from a mixing bowl, you get two totally righteous thumbs up, from me.

For months, I've scoured local grocery stores, Whole Foods, and health stores for the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Larabars. I've come across all the other new flavors, but the cookie dough ones eluded me up until yesterday, at Target, when I happened to be looking for Flintstones sour gummy completely adult vitamins and turned around to see a box the bars staring straight at me. I'm almost completely certain I jumped when I saw them, and dumped the box straight into my basket. I succumb to hype, folks. I'm not ashamed of it. I've got Cabbage Patch Kids, a Tickle Me Elmo and about 50 Beanie Babies in my parents' basement to prove it.

So, how are the bars? They must certainly be magical, right? Well, I honestly couldn't tell you. Against all odds I have made it about 19 hours without gobbling up the entire box - nor even opening it! I'm saving my first bar 'til this afternoon - to give me strength, peace and happiness while stepping into the 7th Gate to Hell: IKEA. Don't get me wrong, I love IKEA for its dirt-cheap prices, hip design and Swedish meatballs, but I get flustered when there are too many people in a Subway restaurant, let alone a 5-million-square-foot home goods store with children running around, and four floors of veritable hell for someone with anxiety and complete inability to make purchasing decisions. 

But in that one moment where I'm about five seconds away from crumbling into 5,000 sweaty, short-fused pieces on the concrete floor, I'll bite into that Larabar and everything will be OK. At least I'm hoping that's how it goes.

Wish me luck, folks! Hopefully I'll come back in one piece to update you about important topics like how the snack bar tasted.

What's your "Holy Grail?" What's the one item you've coveted and searched far and wide to find?


The United Stereotype of States

I stumbled across this U.S. "map o' stereotypes" last night and can't stop laughing. Sure, it could be misconstrued as offensive (depending on what state you're from - Sorry, Louisiana), but I find it hysterical. "Mexico-ish?" "Chicago & Grass?" Too funny.

That said, having lived in both Wisconsin and Ohio, I can say that while living in Ohio all I knew about Wisconsin was it had something to do with cheese or cheeseheads or whatever. But I can't say that my mind immediately slips to "Horses, etc." when thinking about Ohio. Corn? Livestock? Underperforming professional sports teams? Something like that.

Also, a friend pointed out that many of these stereotypes are overlapping. For instance, "Dive bars and serial killers" could also be used for Wisconsin (if it weren't for the overabundance of cheese seeping out of every crack From Kenosha to Lake Superior). I also think "Fabulous Unhappy People" could be easily interchangeable with California. But that's just me.

Which stereotype state are you? If you love this map as much as I do, you can purchase it here. I can't think of a more hilarious conversation starter!


Orange-Wedge Jell-O Shots

OK friends, listen up: Do you want to be the most popular person at your tailgate party? Do you want to make a simple, yet delicious treat that will wow the crowd and leave everyone with a tiny, happy buzz? Of course you do. This is where my next "recipe" comes into play.

If your college experience was anything like mine, chances are you've downed a Jell-O shot or two in your day. Heck, you may have even had a pudding shot or two, as well (trust me... sounds weird, is awesome). I mean, to be honest, I have witnessed friends playing beer pong with Jell-O shots.... Let's just say this never, ever ended well.

Needless to say, Jell-O shots are popular because they're tasty, fruity, laced with alcohol and easy to make. However, they could stand to be a little more eco-friendly (no need to waste dozens of Dixie Cups!) and a little easier to take down.

Enter: The Orange-Wedge Jell-O shot.

I can't say I'm the first to make this shot, but I stumbled it across it online and was blown away by the creativity, the ease and - most of all - the cuteness. Those are all bonus points with me - and the end result will be bonus points for you with your friends.

First, round up about 4-5 large navel oranges. 

Slice these oranges in half.

 Then scoop out their innards with a spoon, pumpkin-carving style.

Next, whip up your orange-flavored Jell-O according to box directions, but instead of cold water, substitute cold vodka. I left mine in the freezer overnight to chill.

Now, I bought this Whipped vodka on a whim - it was relatively inexpensive, and I'd heard great things about it from my friends at the bachelorette party the other weekend (these girls know their adult beverages, so I trusted their judgement). Also, I imagined they'd create a delicious Creamsicle taste when paired with the orange Jell-O. I was right. It was such a brilliant combo. I highly, highly suggest you choose whipped cream-flavored vodka when making these treats.

Next, pour the Jell-O mixture in the hollowed-out orange rinds. The easiest, most pain-free way to do this is to place the orange halves in a muffin tin - no spilling!

Then, let it all chill in the fridge overnight.

The next morning (or hours later), slice each half into three wedges, as you would with a regular orange.

Then serve, and enjoy!

I'm sorry I don't have the finished-product photo (except for the one above, where my friend Abby and I are stuffing our faces), but, trust me, they turn out something like this:
I've also seen/heard of variations with lemons and limes... but reach for the sky! I may be secretly dreaming of a way to making this with a small watermelon...

Just make sure you store them in a cooler if serving them outside! Otherwise you'll end up with lukewarm Jell-O Vodka Soup.... which, take my word for it, is not as refreshing as it sounds.


Opening Day Funtimes

Happy Saturday, everyone! After my super-fun weekend in Ohio, it took me until this morning to really feel like I'd caught up with my sleep. Despite the dreary weather, I'm in a fantastic weekend-morning mood! All ready to squash my 10-mile run this morning. I've had a less-than-stellar week of half-marathon training, so I'm all geared up for a great run today.

As I mentioned before, I spent my 26th birthday on Monday at the Brewers' Opening Day. It was the perfect birthday celebration, as I love baseball, the Brewers and tailgating at Miller Park. Miller Park is one of the very few ballparks where you can tailgate before the games, and people go all out.

Last year, I made a special batch of maple-bacon cupcakes and sent them to work with Eric to share with his coworkers. Apparently, the cupcakes were gone before 9 a.m. and his coworkers have been asking for more ever since. Because we were tailgating with his coworkers on Monday, I thought it'd be the perfect opportunity to treat them to their favorite "meat cakes," as they've affectionately termed them.

Forgive me for not uploading step-by-step directions, but I made the cupcakes immediately after my flight home at 9 p.m., so I wasn't feeling like being too photo-detailed. You can find a similar recipe here, and I definitely recommend you make these sinful treats - you will immediately become the most popular person at your next gathering.

Aside from the beer drinking and cupcake-inhaling, there was also, you know, a baseball game that day. We totally lucked out and have an amazing friend who was able to secure fantastic seats for us, so we were right up close to the action all day!

Miller Park just installed an amazing new HD scoreboard, which is GIGANTIC. I never thought I'd be so in awe of a big screen, but it really was sort of mesmerizing. 

And, because this is Wisconsin, some of the Super-Bowl-Champion Green Bay Packers were there to throw out the first pitch!

Honestly, I think some people in the crowd were more excited about seeing the Packers than the actual game!

Sadly, the Brewers lost that game. It was a heartbreaker, but I still had a fantastic time!

And this kid, THIS KID SITTING RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME, caught a foul ball! It was, hands down, the closest I've ever been to catching a foul ball, and he nabbed it right ahead of me. The little jerk. (Just kidding - he seemed like a good kid, there with his parents, and was genuinely happy about catching the ball).

And today, I get to do it all over again! We're in the midst of a heated series with the Cubs, and I'm heading over to Miller Park again with some friends for another great game and tailgating fun. Make sure you come back to hear all about my tailgate treats I'm making for today - trust me, you won't want to miss these :)

Do you have a favorite sporting event to attend? What are your favorite tailgate snacks?


Celebrations + Obessions

Hi friends! It's been a while, no? Looks like I've already broken two of my goals for 2011: Blog at least three times weekly and get down to my goal weight by April 1st. But, like any not-so-self-aware girl would, I've got excuses for both:

1. As for the weight, I'm in training for my second half marathon, and I simply do not lose weight during training. Reasons for the lack of weight loss are that running more makes you more hungry (duh). Also, I've all but dropped my strength-training routine while in half-mary training, and having less muscle means I'm burning fewer calories at rest than I normally am. I mean, I'm only like two pounds away from my goal weight right now, so I'm not worried. I'd rather focus on increasing my speed and endurance than losing a couple vanity pounds. Running first, weight loss second.

2. As for the lack of blog posts, I have had an incredibly busy seven days! Last Thursday I hopped a plane to Ohio, where I spent the weekend visiting family and celebrating my friend Lauren's bachelorette party. I also celebrated my 26th birthday (or as I call it, the downward slope to 30) on Monday in the best way possible: At the Milwaukee Brewers' Opening Day! I love baseball and I love the Brewers, so this was the perfect way to celebrate.... even though they lost.

So, I mean, cut me some slack, folks. I'm an old lady now thats I'm 26, and I'll be back on target soon.

As I mentioned above, I spent a few days in Ohio over the weekend. I was able to see my family and all my girlfriends from college, so I was one happy girl. My friend's bachelorette party was in Columbus, where I lived for a year right after college. I had mixed feelings driving into the city, because I had both great and not-so-great memories there, but once I arrived in the Short North district, I felt instantly happy to be back.

Columbus' Short North is a totally hip, completely "me" neighborhood. It reminds me a little of Milwaukee's East Side, or even the neighborhood where I'll be moving to next month: Bay View. It's lined with eclectic boutique shops, so many awesome antique/vintage stores, delicious restaurants and ultra-cool bars. I wish I would have taken advantage of that scene a lot more while I lived there!

The Short North is also home to one of the Columbus restaurants I've missed the most since my move (...almost THREE years ago!): Northstar Cafe. I used to frequent that place a lot in my day, and not only does it have some of the best vegetarian fare I've tried, but just some of the freshest, tastiest food, period. Plus, it happens to be owned by someone from my hometown, so that's a great bonus! My hands-down favorite thing on Northstar Cafe's menu is their Sweet Basil Burrito. I've craved that thing since the day I left, so I had to make a stop to eat one before I met up with the girls.

This behemoth of a burrito is served with crisp tortilla chips and super-fresh salsa. I used to be able to polish it all off in one sitting, but it took me a total of three days to take down this bad boy last weekend (And, yes, I ate almost half of it about 5 seconds after I got back in my car).
The tortilla is stuffed to the gills with rice, caramelized onions, sweet red pepper, lettuce a creamy basil pesto and either tofu or chicken - on Friday, I chose tofu. It was a good choice.

After experiencing the bliss of Northstar's Sweet Basil Burrito once again, I went for a walk around the neighborhood. Right next door to the restaurant is one of the cutest little home-goods boutiques I have ever been in: Old World New Home. This place is like someone took a peak at my Pinterest boards and opened a store based exactly on what I love. Essentially, it's like an Anthropologie home shop, but cheaper and more authentic. I was in love, but so, so sad that I flew to Ohio so I couldn't take anything home with me to our new house. But luckily, I was filled with a ton of inspiration, and could easily recreate a lot of what I saw myself - more DIY projects!

Here are just a few things I spotted that I was lusting after (please don't mind the poor-quality iPhone photos):
[Uhhh.... don't mind my finger in the shot, here. DERP.]

[Probably my favorite item in the store - but SOLD. Drat!!]

[Totally stealing this wooden-window-frame-and-fabric  idea]
[The mirrored door, the old trunk, the floor lamp and even that green chandelier in the reflection - love!]

[This amazing buffet would look perfect in our "French" room]

[Farm tables get me EVERY time. So does anything in that beautiful teal color. Swooning over the entire tablescape.]
Sigh.... the store was so perfectly shabby chic and eclectic. 100% my cup of tea. Can someone PLEASE open a place like this in Milwaukee???

I will spare you the down-and-dirty details about the rest of the weekend (what happens in Columbus stays in Columbus - isn't that how it goes??) but rest assured it was a blast, I was exhausted on the plane ride home and it was so amazing to see the girls again - I miss them so much!

So, the rest of this month and next is so incredibly full of fun things I'll try my hardest to keep you all updated on all of them. Spring is always the busiest time of year for me, and just add buying a house to the list, and you can guess just how frantic things will be the next few weeks.... in a good way! :)

Have you moved from somewhere and miss something special where you used to live? What's your favorite thing in your old stomping grounds?



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