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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Lessons learned: Door-to-door salesmen and looking like a kid

On Monday someone came to our door (during dinnertime, no less) trying to sell us new siding. For free! “Minus your insurance deductible,” he kindly whispered.

We tried to ignore the knocking but after he came on the porch and saw me through the window our cover was kind of blown. First thing he says to me?

“Hi. Is mom or dad home?”

I guess I look somewhat young, maybe? But young enough to ask if my mom or dad is home? I’m not so sure about that, sir. Someday I will probably be thrilled to me mistaken for being younger than I am, but this time it sort of irked me.

His smooth-talking way with words (and his virtually silent sidekick) should have been the cue to close the door with a simple, “no thanks.”

Sure enough these fellas got us thinking, and we agreed to let them come back to take a closer look at our siding. We had a large hail storm in the summer of 2010 so several people on our block are having roofs and siding replaced. We’ve toyed with the idea, but haven’t given it too much serious consideration.

After they left Sean immediately took their business card and looked them up online. According to the Better Business Bureau, they had several complaints filed against them and a big red warning that the company is no longer in business anymore. Huh? Sure looked like they were (at least pretendng to be) in business to me.

After a little more research (and a lot more mostly negative reviews), we made up our mind. We may consider residing our house, but we won’t be doing business with these guys.

I called their office and let them know they didn’t need to come back out after all. “We’re just not in a position to have the work done right now, sorry,” I told them.

But it got me thinking about a couple of things.

First of all, the benefit of having places like the BBB and other review sites to rely on. If it weren’t for those, we probably would have trusted them openly. And would we have been let down? I don’t know.

In my job, we talk a lot about word-of-mouth marketing. It goes to show how powerful it can be, in both positive and negative ways. What happens if the majority of the people that speak out are actually the minority? It certainly helped us form an opinion about this company, but what if it’s not accurate or fair? I feel a little more compelled now to make more of an effort to leave reviews for companies or products we use—good and bad.

I also started thinking about whether I should’ve been more honest with them. The truth really is that we aren’t in a great position to get new siding (even if it does only cost us our deductible). We have a wedding to pay for! But if it weren’t for the information we found—particularly the BBB info—we probably would’ve at least heard them out. Should I have explained that to them? Do they have a right to know that this information is out there? Even more, should I have let them know that we did do our homework and that we’re not just going to sit by and let someone do work on our house without a little background first? 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Sometimes & Always

Linking up again with Megan!


Sometimes: I agree with Sean when he gets super bummed that the weatherman was wrong (again!) and we won’t be experiencing a snow-pocalypse.

Always: I’m completely OK with not having to deal with the mess or breaking out the snow blower 3 times in 24 hours.

Last winter's storm - just one of many
Sometimes: I complain about going to bed because I want to stay up later.

Always: I’m the first one to fall asleep.

{Via}
Sometimes: I watch Say Yes to the Dress or other wedding shows and worry that I didn’t get the “right” wedding dress.

Always: I look at pictures of it and remember that I love it.

Sometimes: I think I worry too much.

Always: I really do worry too much.

Sometimes:  I wish we could plan our honeymoon right now.
{Via}
Always: I’m happy to wait while we can cross all our crossables and say prayers for Sean’s job.

Sometimes: I want to get an iPhone.

Always: I talk myself out of it.
Sometimes: I give Oliver table scraps (bad mommy!).

Always: I can’t resist this face!

Always a fun linkup - thanks Megan!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Bedroom redecoration?

I’m craving a bedroom makeover!

Since I was a teenager, I’ve had more bedspreads then I can even count. Why, you ask? Because I am indecisive—and as soon as I find something I like, I’m already on the lookout for something new.

Its’ come in handy in some ways because my brother, sister, and my mom have all been lucky recipients of practically brand-new comforter sets (not to mention the spare bedrooms we’ve been able to furnish and the Goodwill donations we’ve made over the years).

I’m pretty proud of myself because I’ve had the same duvet cover for more than THREE YEARS! Seriously, that has to be a record or something.

So clearly you can see why I’m itching for a new one, right? Of course, my indecisiveness hasn’t changed, so I’m struggling.

Some of my favorites (of course, some of the Pinterest ones I can’t actually find elsewhere):

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I
 think I’m having the hardest time deciding on a color scheme. Clearly grey and yellow are the frontrunners, but I'm having a hard time figuring out whether that's just a phase or if it could legitimately look good in our bedroom. Why must decisions be so hard?

What do you think?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

On tradition - and breaking it

I tend to be somewhat traditional, especially when it comes to sentimental things. Take, for example, our wedding.
  • I want an even number of bridesmaids and groomsmen.
  • I want the white dress, the dramatic veil, the whole shebang. And I want it to be a surprise to the groom.
  • I want the full mass, followed by your standard dinner and dancing reception.
  • I want a special moment—caught on video and camera, of course—when my groom and I see each other for the first time that day (since our church requires us to take pictures before the ceremony, we won’t be able to go until the ceremony without seeing each other).
  • I want a cake, even though I do think cupcakes are adorable.
  • I'll be sure to have something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue.
But the funny thing is, as much as I like following tradition, life isn’t always traditional. It’s not a fairy tale. It’s not prescriptive. And it’s for that reason that it was important to me—to both of us—to break tradition, too.

So…
  • My mom will be walking me down the aisle. Lots of girls dream of having their daddy on their arm. For me, it's always been my mom I pictured there beside me. My best friend. Two parents in one. The reason I am who I am. There's not a single person I'd rather have next to me.
  • With too many little ones to choose from (most of them boys), and not wanting to hurt anyone’s feelings, we decided not to have a flower girl or ring bearer at all.
  • Just before the ceremony begins, Sean will walk his mom to her seat, accompanied by his 2 brothers, and the 4 of them will light a candle for his dad. Among all the excitement for the wedding is one very big disappointment—that his dad can’t be here with us. At least this way we know he’ll be with us in spirit.
  • And because Sean’s brothers will be up front with him already, we’ve decided to have them both serve as co-best men, standing beside their brother in the nerve-racking moments before the ceremony begins. (And 2 maids of honor then, too. Or, a matron of honor and maid of honor anyway.)
  • No father-daughter dance or father-of-the-bride toast. (And that’s OK!)
  • I’m wearing purple shoes!
  • The groom will toast with apple juice (hey, he doesn’t drink).
Because in the end, our wedding is a celebration of our love for each other, the people we are, and the family and friends who have supported us with their friendship and love. It should be a reflection of our lives. If honoring those things means going outside the norm and creating our own tradition, then that’s exactly what we’ll do.

And it’s exactly how I’ve always dreamed it would be.  

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Recipe: Enchilada Casserole

I was feeling rather ambitious on Sunday so I decided to try out a new recipe for dinner. I went on the hunt for something a little different than the usual meals in our weekly rotation. We’ve also had to adjust to a few different diet restrictions in the last few weeks (to try and nail down a root cause of some issues), so our options have been fairly limited.

I had been in the mood for Mexican, so I was excited when I found an enchilada casserole recipe that met all these requirements.

Here’s what you’ll need (with my alterations and notes included):
  • 1 ½ pound ground turkey breast (we used 1 pound, and it was perfect)
  • ½ cup chopped onion (got home from the store to discover I’d forgotten the onion, so I improvised with a few dashes of dried, minced onion instead)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano leaves
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 can (29 oz.) red enchilada sauce (our can was 28 oz. – close enough!)
  • Salt
  • 12 corn tortillas (6 in. wide) (I think mine were smaller than 6 in., so I used about 14)
  • 2 cups shredded reduced-fat cheese (we used cheddar)
  • Chopped fresh cilantro
Start by stirring the turkey, onion, garlic, oregano, and cumin in a skillet until browned.

Then stir in 1 cup of the enchilada sauce and add a dash of salt to taste.
While the meat is cooking, cut your tortillas in half.

Arrange about 7 of them evenly over the bottom of a shallow casserole pan, overlapping to fit (7 worked well for my pan, you may need to adjust depending on the size of your tortillas and the size of your pan).
Sprinkle about ½ cup of cheese evenly over the top of the torillas, and then add a third of the turkey mixture on top, followed by about a half cup (slightly more) of enchilada sauce.
Add another layer of tortillas, cheese, meat, and enchilada sauce. Then, do it one more time! Top it off with one more layer of tortillas and then the remainder of the enchilada sauce.

Cover with the remaining cheese (maybe even a little more, if you love cheese like we do).
Bake at 425 for about 20 minutes—until cheese is melted and it’s hot in the center. (22 minutes was just about right for us).
Sprinkle with chopped cilantro, serve, and enjoy!

So what was our take on it?

Let me preface it by saying we don’t do spicy. Black pepper about the extent of how wild and crazy we get. We can handle a bit of kick from time to time, but generally try to avoid it.

So it’s not terribly surprising that this dish was a little too spicy for us. I’m pretty sure it was the enchilada sauce I chose. We enjoyed it, but only served alongside tall glasses of ice cold milk and water. I’d definitely make it again, but would need to try a different sauce for sure.

So if you like spice, you’re golden. You could even add more! But if you’re anything like us and prefer to stick to mild tempered food, I’d definitely recommend playing around with this a bit.

(I’ve also seen some tasty-looking chicken enchilada recipes all over Pinterest, so maybe we’ll try that next time!)

Monday, February 20, 2012

Weekend Recap

I’m battling a terrible headache this morning. So I think I’ll keep this short and simply share some highlights from a very wonderful weekend, where I:
  • Had a lovely dinner with my mom, Sean, his mom, and his uncle
  • Crossed 3 more things off the wedding to-do list
  • Got a great workout in with my new heart rate monitor
  • Turned another year older
  • Bowled a 180 (including 4 strikes in a row—not sure how that happened!)
  • Spent hours with some of my favorite friends
  • Had my first Shamrock Shake of the season (spoiling myself a little on my birthday)
  • Succesfully completed the grocery shopping without crying this time
  • Took Oliver for a much-needed haircut
  • Became hooked on Modern Family
  • Tried a new recipe (coming tomorrow!)
I know many people are still enjoying the weekend today thanks to the President’s Day holiday.

Until tomorrow….

Friday, February 17, 2012

Friday inspiration

Happy Friday friends!

I’m feeling especially chipper this morning. Maybe it’s because it’s the eve of my birthday and I get to celebrate with family tonight. It could be because I (finally!) slept like a total rock last night.

Perhaps it’s because my work calendar looks like this today:
I can't tell you the last time it's ever been so empty. Bring on the productivity!

Or maybe it’s because earlier this week, during a team meeting, we talked about this video (I highly recommend it for a little laughter and a lot of inspiration):



After watching it, we all realized that we could stand to be more deliberately happy in our lives.

The next morning I had a little red notebook on my chair—with a challenge.
For the next 21 days, each of us (on our team of 8) is going to journal daily about 3 things we’re grateful for and 1 positive experience we've had that day. We’re also going to make an effort to do at least 1 random act of kindness each day.

I’m excited to see how these activities can help bring positivity to our lives and our work. We’ve had a lot of change and transition over the last year. A shift in thinking may be just the inspiration we need to get back on track.

And if nothing else, what a great opportunity to take a moment at the end of the day to look past the exhaustion, forget any frustrations, and reflect on the inherent good in your day.

Only 2 days in and I’m already feeling inspired.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Lessons learned this weekend

We’ve all heard the old wives tale that bad news comes in 3s. Turns out good news can, too. Congratulations to some friends who have exciting things ahead!

I remembered why I don’t do our grocery shopping at Cub Foods (at least the one near our house; your Cub may work great for you). I left there practically in tears, and with a significantly lighter wallet. Next week, it’s back to routine.  Never doubt your instincts.

Practice makes (closer to) perfect. I’ll never be a professional photographer, but every time I make an effort to go out and try new things, I get a little better at it—and I fall in love with it even more! I just need to be sure to devote time to the hobby, too. A couple friends asked me to take some informal engagement shots for them (they’re getting married in another state, where their real photographer is as well). I was pretty happy with how they turned out and excited to try some new thing with my camera.

Frozen waterfalls are pretty incredible.
Nothing compares to Pine Sol and some good ol’ elbow grease. We tend to rely on our Swiffer Wet Jet more than we should, but after getting down on our hands and knees and cleaning the floors the old fashioned way, they’ve never looked better!

Waking up at 7 a.m. on a Sunday isn’t as bad as it seems when you stay in bed for another hour, and then only get up to move to the couch for a 4-hour movie marathon. LAZY!

And the same lesson I learn every single weekend – Mondays come much too soon.

How was your weekend?

Friday, February 10, 2012

A happy birthday is due

Sean and I have been together for 7 years and counting. That’s kind of a long time…but I guess it’s all kind of relative.

But have I ever told you that I actually knew his mom first, 4 years before I even came to know (and ultimately fall in love with) him?

True story.

I started working at a child care center my junior year of high school. His mom was a pre-school teacher there. We often chatted when I came in for my afternoon shift (just as she was finishing hers). Four years later, I transferred to a college closer to home, returned to work at the child care, and met her son who had started working there. The rest is history (in the making).

My point is, I consider myself pretty darn lucky that I have a soon-to-be mommy-in-law who I was friends with before I even knew we’d one day be family.

See, Sean’s family is part of the reason it was so easy to fall in love with him. They were so welcoming, so sweet, and so much fun to be around. I attended my first family birthday dinner before we were even dating (his youngest brother’s) and while I was apprehensive at first, I instantly felt comfortable and at home.

And his mom has an awful lot to do with that. I’ve always been able to tell her anything. I can ask her opinion and know she’ll give me an honest answer. She is incredibly patient (I think you have to be with 3 boys), strong, and kind. I would just as much spend my Friday night hanging out with her as I would with any of our other friends. And let’s be honest, not everyone can say that about their in-laws.

So I have to say, I’m feeling especially blessed to be entering this family, most especially thanks to her.

And why am I telling you all of this? Because tomorrow is her birthday! She’s been through a lot these last few years and deserves nothing but the best for her day.
{Sean's mom (left), me, and my mom at a friend's wedding}
Holly, we love you so much and can’t wait to celebrate with you! Thank you for all you do for us – and for being you! I can’t wait to officially become your daughter in just 4 short months!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Things that make me go "hmmm..."

How is it that the 2 hours at the end of the work day seem to go on f-o-r-e-v-e-r but the 2 hours between dinner and bedtime are over before I can say, “What should we watch on TV?”

Two different people at work told me how they kept thinking yesterday was Wednesday. I did the same exact thing! Maybe it’s the full moon?

Why do I turn down the radio when I’m driving and not entirely sure where to go?

I’ve been SO tempted to steal a little piece of the leftover cheesecake in the fridge at work (it’s there for the taking), but I’m battling the war between feeling guilty and being spotted. Two questions: Who cares if someone sees me and why must sweets be soooo tempting?

I can come up with a handful of reasons to go to the gym every morning and 101 excuses to skip it. Yet, somehow the handful wins (at least most of the time). Why can’t I get those kind of odds when it comes to resisting yummy food (ahem, like cheesecake!)?

Why doesn’t money grow on trees?

How can Pinterest be so addicting and yet make me feel so inadequadelty creative at the very same time?

I get the same amount of sleep—or less—on weekends as I do during the week but still feel more tired during the week. Why does waking up to an alarm make it so much harder to get out of bed?

Ahh, the random musings going through my head today. It’s hump day, so I don’t have much more to offer than that.

What makes you go, “hmmmm?”

Monday, February 6, 2012

Winterfest 2012

A couple summers ago a good friend of ours invited us and several other friends up to his family’s cabin for the weekend. Instantly a tradition was born.

This weekend, we extended that tradition a little further. We finally took a winter version of the trip—something we’ve been talking about doing since our first summer there. We were lucky enough to have a great turnout (14 adults and 1 baby), mild temps (mid-30s), and even some wintery surroundings (since we’re not used to seeing snow around home these days).

We spent countless hours laughing, playing games, making food (our friends' famous chicken wings especially) and watching bits and pieces of some classic movies (Hook and Top Gun? Awesome!). Have you heard of the Logo board game? It’s all about popular brands and consumer culture. We abandoned the formal rules of the game and spent hours sitting around the living room reading from the cards and fighting each other for the right answers. Competitiveness—especially when it comes to pop culture—runs rampant in this group, so this was an especially entertaining way to pass the time.

It was also Winterfest, a series of activities and events throughout the small northwoods town. So on Saturday we bundled up and made the rounds to several local establishments. Each place had a different soup you could try out (in your commerative mug, of course). Most places also had an activity going on, like car and snowmobile races on the lake, vintage snowmobiles on display, and even helicopter rides (we chose not to do the helicopter rides; my nerves thanked me).

As it almost always does, Sunday arrived way too soon. Before we knew it, we were back in the car and making the trek home. It was the perfect escape from winter boredom—and a great time to get away from routine and re-energize for a few days.

Already looking forward to summer-fest 3.0 – just 6 short months away!


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Birthday ideas - Part 2

Last week I shared some (mostly) wedding-themed items I’ve had my eye on lately.

Just so you know I’m not completely consumed by the impending nuptials, there are a few other things I’ve got in mind as potential birthday gifts.

Blog redesign

Try as I might, I just don’t think I’ll ever learn the ins-and-outs of blog design. The few, very small things I am capable of just aren’t cutting it. So I threw out the idea to Sean—what about a blog redesign for my birthday?? His reaction: “A what??” ::Sigh:: Well, it was an idea. I’m just SO ready for something that looks a little more put together than what I’ve got going on these days. (Anyone have someone to recommend?)

Spring outerwear
I tried this coat on over the weekend and fell in love. I’ve always been a fan of yellow but can never quite pull it off. Surprisingly, this one didn’t look too terrible. I love the idea of a bright spring coat. It’d certainly be different than the blacks and neutral tones I tend to stick to most often. Even better? It’s less than $40 at F21. I almost bought it on the spot, but decided to at least think about it a little while longer to make sure it’s a “must have.”

And since spring is getting a little ahead of myself…

Mittens
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I tried these on this weekend, too. They’re nothing special, but I’m digging the color (rhubarb) and they seem pretty warm. I talked myself out of the purchase because I don’t really need them. But I live in Minnesota—a girl can never have too many mittens, right??

Heart rate monitor
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I’ve wanted to get one of these for a while. I think I can get so much more from my workouts if I get a better idea of how hard I’m working (or how hard I’m not working). There are so many options out there I wouldn’t know where to begin, but I hear Polar ones are great. Anyone have any other recommendations?
So there you have it. See, I can think outside the box. What have you been eyeing lately – I’d love to hear what other fun things are out there that I should check out!