Friday, January 31, 2014

It's That Time Again... 5 on Friday!!

Give me an "Amen" if you're glad it's Friday!!  Hallelujah!

I can't lie and say I've had a stressful week, but I'm just so ready for another great weekend!

Putting in a full 5 day work week is tough, especially after being closed down because of the weather again last week.  Thankfully, I've made it and brought me to another 5 on Friday with Natasha, Christina, April and Darci

One of my favorite agvocates, who also can rock a great lipstick and some J. Crew, Crystal Cattle co-hosted a 'Beauty Swap' last week.  She paired up women from across the country, we spent some time getting to know one another and then you're supposed to send your partner a box of goodies!  I'll post more about what beauty products I sent and received next month!

In effort to put together a great 'Beauty Swap' box, I did some research and knew I wanted to make a trip to Ulta. Not having been before, (I swear I don't really live under a rock) I scoped out their website. In addition to some things for Kellie, I really wanted to get the Naked2 palette by Urban Decay. Sadly, it was out of stock in store!  Instead, I left with a stater pack of bareMinerals and the UD make-up setting spray.  I'm excited to try both items and I'd venture a guess, this won't be my last trip to Ulta...

I'm still enjoying leftovers from this recipe!  If you are a fan of root vegetables like sweet potatoes, carrots and parsnips you won't be disappointed. 

Hmmm... What is number four?  Grr. I have four things to write about, but I'm saving the best for last.  Does this ever happen to anyone else?

Okay, so after resorting to going through my calendar, I noticed that my Whole30 challenge will be up on Saturday.  Just in time to do come celebrating for Super Bowl Sunday!  GO BRONCOS!  Of course, after not eating dairy, grains, sugars and what not for a whole month I know better than to go hog wild or else I'll spend the whole night in the ladies room!  TMI?  I will definitely be indulging in some wine though!  I've missed wine.  And margaritas.  And vodka-tonics.

Five, yea!! Five!

Next Tuesday, I leave for Puerto Rico!  One of the best friends I made in college, Allis, has a week long work conference in San Juan and I'll be joining her for the last five days of her trip.  To say I'm 'looking forward to it' is an understatement, I've had my suitcase and summer clothes laid out in our guest room for almost 3 weeks!  I also added San Juan as a 'favorite' on my Weather Channel app so I can easily check in on the temperature and predicted forecast.  I'm ready to be lounging on the beach while I read The Book Thief, canoeing in the bioluminescent bay and adventuring through the city!  I won't be blogging while I'm away, but expect a full report when I get back!

Cheers to the weekend!!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Paleo Slow Cooker Balsamic Beef Stew

Hey there!

I want to share with you a super filling and very tasty beef stew that I made for supper last night.  The original recipe comes from Family Feedbag, but I made some changes so that the stew qualified as both Paleo and Whole30.  I also adapted the recipe to use a slow cooker, which made it super convenient after coming home from a long work day!

During these long, cold winter months, I love eating soups and stews.  They just warm my soul!  This stew is very hearty thanks to all the root vegetables, which makes Matt a very happy camper.  He isn't a fan of 'brothy, fancy' soups... must be a boy thing!?!  The fresh herbs and spices, along with the addition of the balsamic vinegar, provide a great punch of flavor in this tasty concoction!

It's even better as leftovers the next day!

How much do you love your slow cooker?  Do you cook hearty stews to get you through the winter?

Paleo Slow Cooker Balsamic Beef Stew
Serves: 6
1 lb. stewing beef
2 heaping tablespoons tapioca flour (or AP flour if you're not Paleo/Whole30)
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
splash olive oil or coconut oil
4 cups sweet potatoes, washed and chopped into 1 inch pieces*
2 cups carrot, washed and chopped into 1 inch pieces*
1 cup parsnip, washed and chopped into 1 inch pieces*
1 onion, diced
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
3 cups beef broth
1 cup balsamic vinegar

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. 

Combine the tapioca flour, paprika, salt and pepper in a shallow bowl.  Using a spoon, stir the beef and distribute the flour and spices evenly.

Heat the oil in a skillet over med-high heat.   

Add the seasoned beef to the skillet and sear on each side.  Once the beef in browned, place in a 6 quart slow cooker.  

Pour the beef broth and balsamic vinegar into the skillet used to sear the beef and bring to a boil.  As the mixtures comes to temperature, stir to loosen all the particles that have accumulated on the bottom of the pan.  Remove from heat.

Add the chopped sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips and onion to the slow cooker, along with the rosemary and thyme.  

Pour the beef broth and balsamic vinegar mixture into the slow cooker and stir to combine.

Cook on low for 4 hours.

*I chose to not peel either my sweet potatoes, carrots or parsnips for this particular recipe.  You could absolutely peel them, I was just rushed for time when I was making this yesterday morning!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Weekend Recap

As always the weekend flew by too fast for my liking, but what else is new!?!?  Our weekend was pretty low-key and I'm not complaining! 

Friday night: 
We met my sister and some friends at a bar in Champaign to celebrate her birthday.  Originally, we were supposed to meet everyone at 10pm, which was going to be a challenge!  We don't hang with the college crowd much anymore and are usually in bed around then, even on a Friday night!  Matt was incredibly thankful when I clarified with Meg about the details for the evening:

Getting to the bar at 8:15 is much more manageable for us 'old folks'!  The band that was playing, Brushville, actually played at our wedding in 2010 and they are awesome!  They actually have a single, Bar Star, out on country radio right now.  They are local boys, just living the dream!  Pretty cool to say we knew them when...

 Matt went ice fishing early Saturday morning and was up and gone with the sun.  Bella and I slept in.  I did get a Jillian Michaels workout in, with a side of laundry and dishes.  That night we met up with a group of people and went out for supper and to a benefit concert for victims of the tornado's that went through Central Illinois back in November.  It was a great event with 10 different bands playing throughout the day and into the evening.  Since I'm in my last week of Whole30, I was the designated driver and really enjoyed all the antics of those who were drinking!  

Was gloriously lazy!  I woke up and made Matt and I this breakfast pizza.  I made it last week too and am still trying to perfect the 'runny' yolk.  Matt headed out shortly after breakfast to go ice fishing and rabbit hunting with some buddies.  I watched an episode of The Chew that was on the DVR and then headed down to the barn to visit with Louie.  The rest of the afternoon was spent curled up on the couch reading 'The Book Thief', which is our book club selection for next month.  Towards the end of the day I made a pot of chili for supper and get everything ready for Monday night's meal... Stuffed Acorn Squash, yum!

Did you do anything spectacular this weekend or was it more low-key like mine?
Linking up with Bella and Lisa
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Friday, January 24, 2014

Highlights of the Week

It's time for another 5 on Friday link up with Natasha, Christina, April and Darci.  This week has both flown and crept by!

1-Snow Day #3.
Monday was a designated holiday for me, but Tuesday morning I got the call that we weren't to report into work because of the weather!  More frigid temps and blowing snow.  That made for the THIRD snow day since the beginning of January.  Thank you, Polar Vortex!  I was already up and moving so rather than climbing back into bed, which Bella would have preferred, I got cracking on some projects. 

2-Operation Pantry Revamp. 
Over Christmas break I pulled a lot of partial boxes and bags out and started organizing everything.  I have a collection of old hinge top Ball jars left over from our wedding and decided to make use of them as storage containers.  With the snow day I took advantage and spent the morning putting a fresh coat of white paint down and lining the shelves with some pretty contact paper.  While it's still a work in progress and there's still canned food, dog biscuits and whatever else scattered some things laying neatly in piles waiting to be returned to their new home.

3-The New Girl. 
Are any of you fans of The New Girl with Zoey Deschanel?  I don't want to ruin it for anyone who may not have seen it yet, but this week's episode (Jess's birthday) was so great!  As a girl who's had her share of birthdays that literally make the 'womp, womp' sound, it makes me green with envy.  I fully realize it's a TV show and easily romanticized, but Matt may have to step up his game for my next birthday... It is the BIG three-oh!

4-Frontier Airlines and Ronell, the customer service guy.
Next month I'm heading to California for a weekend of romping around Disneyland!  Side note: I've obviously lived under a rock here in the Midwest because I didn't know that Cali was the original.  I stand corrected!  I was searching third party sights for flights and found a great option flying Frontier.  After struggling with figuring out how to pay for my carry-on bags (I know, weird, right?) I called Frontier's customer service.  After speaking with Ronell, he wanted to know why I wasn't booking directly with Frontier?  "Um, it's almost $200 more expensive!"  It was then he walked me through Frontier's Best Fare Guarantee service.  Long story short, I had to buy the flight through Frontier's website, but will be reimbursed the difference in the two ticket prices, didn't have to pay for my luggage or to select a seat and got a $100 voucher for future travel with Frontier all for submitting a short claim on their website.  #winning

5-Pineapple Bacon Poppers
These little buddies are so... AUH-Mazing and Paleo friendly!  I found them on Stupid Easy Paleo and they really were wonderful.  I made them Sunday when we had friends over for the AFC/NFC games and everyone loved them!  I will definitely be making them again for Super Bowl Sunday or for no reason at all...

Happy weekend!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

28 Weeks, 3 Days...

You may or may not have noticed that one of the 'Pages' on my blog is a 30 x 30 list.  I wrote this list several years ago and decided to own up and post it on here too when I first started blogging.  I had hoped it would keep me accountable and moving towards completing the goals that I set for myself to do before turning 30!

While I've checked a fair amount of the tasks off the list and there are more that are 'In Progress', it's the one's below that I'm not sure what I was drinking when I wrote them:

Compete at Congress. 
A lofty goal for any horseman.  Sure, entering is easy, but having my ass handed to me doesn't sound like much fun!  I know Louie is a nice horse, but I'm not sure that we can compete with some of the 'high-rollers' with their trainers, gazillion dollar trucks and trailers, etc.

Ride a five-gaited Saddlebred.  
As a girl who was raised on stock horses, I don't think I even know anyone who has a five-gaited Saddlebred.  That could be a problem...

 Go to Greece with Matt.
This was a major pipe dream! I didn't really factor in Matt not having a desire to travel internationally, hunting trips to Canada aside!

Start the "Dave Plan" and contribute annually to my mutual fund.
Wowzers.  Boring.  Grown up?  Yes... but so so boring!  It's not like we're living hand to mouth, we don't have credit card debt and I do 'feed the pig' every paycheck so that's got to count for something!

Learn Photoshop.
 Oy vey!  That sheet is complicated.  Instagram and PicMonkey are much more simple!

As I look back over the list, I'm realizing that some of the goals were pretty lofty and some I'm not particularly concerned with completing.  Perhaps I'll reevaluate since my birthday is a mere 28 weeks, 3 days, 6 hours, 36 minutes...away!!

Do you have a 30 x 30 list?   Have you been successful in crossing items off? 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Countdown Flag Tutorial

Hey there!!

Last week I mentioned having a craft tutorial for you and here she is!  To give you some background, my friend Kira and her now husband declared themselves 'officially' dating at my wedding back in October of 2010.  They are the cutest ginger couple you ever did see and they have two adorable ginger kiddos too!  Both Kira and her honey are in the military and he will be leaving soon on a deployment overseas.  To help Kira and the kids pass the time, I made a 'Countdown Flag' to literally count the days 'til their soldier returns home!

Countdown Flag Tutorial
Okay so here's what you need:

3 - 2x4's cut to approx. 9"
2 - 2x4's cut to approx. 5.5"
2 - 2x4's cut to approx. 3.5"
Acrylic Paint (I used cream, maroon and dark blue)
Paint Brushes
Painters Tape
Chalkboard Paint Spray
1.5" Yellow Ribbon
Ball Point Pen
The words 'Days 'til our soldier comes home!'*I created mine in Word and printed them out.

The first thing you'll need to do is cut your boards to size.  I had Matt cut the wood for me out of some scrap 2x4's we had from our shelving project in the basement. 

Make sure you go back and paint the whole board!  Didn't get a picture of that...

After I had painted three coats on each piece of wood, I was able to move onto 'etching' the wording on each board.  I learned this method via Pinterest, but now I can't find the specific pin.  I'll keep looking and once I find it, I'll link it up to this post.  Here's the gist: Cut each separate word out and tape it to the wood.  Using a ball point pen, push down and trace around each letter until you've finished each word.  When you remove the paper, the word is 'etched' into the wood!

Once you've completed all your tracing, you will go back and paint inside each letter.  There are several methods you could use if you didn't want to use a brush.... paint pen... Sharpie... Whatever.

After filling in each word, I taped off the blue square and sprayed two coats of aerosol chalkboard paint on to it.  Once the paint is tacky, you will remove the tape and let it drive completely.  I let mine dry for about 5 hours.  After the chalkboard paint is completely dry, you have to 'prime' it.  Priming is necessary so the first thing you write on your chalkboard isn't there permenantlyy.  I rubbed my chalk on a scrap piece of felt and then rubbed the felt over the chalkboard.  You may find it necessary after this step to touch up your blue paint if the aerosol paint bled or you can't remove the excess chalk dust entirely.

The final step is to stack the blocks in the flag shape and tie it up with a yellow ribbon.  The yellow ribbon signifies that they are supporting and praying for the safe return of a family member who is serving in a branch of the US military.

Remember to be thankful everyday for the men and women who fight to protect our freedom!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Five on Friday!!

Hooray!!  We've almost made it through another work week!!  I'm really looking forward to a relaxing (with a side of house cleaning) weekend at home.  We don't have much planned which is quite unusual for us, but I'm going to take full advantage.

With out further adieu...

Five on Friday!

1-The Whole30 eating plan is going well.  Matt has fallen off the wagon, but I'm still holding tight!  Even before I started eating Paleo, I was a 'meal planner'.  I find it so much less stressful to figure out what we're eating and when we plan to eat it before I get home from work or the barn.  I know it's not everyone's jam, but it works for us!  And yes, there are days when things don't go according to plan, but they are few and far between.  Anyway... One of the recipes for this week was Paleo Tex-Mex Casserole and it was BANGIN'!!  Matt and I literally fought over the leftovers!  We ate it over chopped romaine and topped it with jalapenos, black olives, homemade guac and salsa.  It was literally the best frickin' thing I've eaten since we started Whole30.  And to boot it was filling and healthy because it's chalked full of veggies!  Even if you're not Paleo, GO TRY IT!! 

2-So after going on about meal planning, here is what we're eating next week:

Butternut Squash Lasagna with lettuce salad and veggies
Herb and Citrus Oven Roasted Chicken served with a lettuce salad and roasted broccoli.
*minus the vegan sausage.  we're meat eaters!

I only meal plan suppers, we eat lefties for breakfast and lunch.  The weekend meals are a crapshoot, but that pizza looked too good not to make for Sunday morning breakfast!

3-I've been working on a super cute craft project for a friend and I'm finally getting together with her on Monday.  I hope she likes it!  She may or may not see this post, so I won't post pictures until next week.  There may even be a tutorial!  Oh, the suspence!

4- Any football fans out there?  Sunday afternoon is the AFC Championship game!  Peyton and the Broncos are playing the New England Patriots.  Can you say "Re-match"?!?!  The last time these two played one another it didn't go so well for my Peyton.  The Broncs were at one point up by 24 points, but eventually lost to the Pats by three in overtime.  It was a sad day!  We may have a few people over for the game and I'll try to keep it classy by only yelling at the TV a few times.  No promises on the amount of 'Happy Dances' I do though!!  I've got skills... they're multiplying...  Name that movie!

5-If alcohol wasn't off limits during my Whole30 I'd totally be partaking in some beverages during the game because Monday is a holiday for me... 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

My Vintage Treasure

This past weekend I had the opportunity to spend some 'down time' with some of my favorite co-workers.  We'd decided a few months back that the four of us were going to get together and go explore Peoria and some of it's surrounding communities.  Saturday morning the four of us headed to Delavan to a local antique shop.  My cousin (who's also a co-worker) has been there in the past and said it was more of junk shop, which we were all fine with.  We're all junkers, crafters, thrift store shoppers and bargain hunters, meaning we'd definitely find something that we all couldn't possibly leave with out!!

I wish I'd taken photos of the actual store, but I was really worried about successfully navigating the booths and aisles without knocking something 'valuable' off.  I'm telling you it was packed in there.  Anyway, the building was huge!  The variety of items for sale was incredibly eclectic too!  It was a dark, cramped, sorta smelly paradise...

It was after successfully covering the first floor that I happened upon a treasure upstairs!  I was at the end of one hallway and it was at the other.  Ignoring all the booths between us and hot-footed it down for a closer inspection...

On the dress form was a long sleeve, cowl-neck creation in pink paisley with pops of blue and yellow.  I initially just stood there gazing at it.  I did unzip the back and look for a size, but was unlucky in that department.  Thankfully though, the dress form was adjustable and the measurements seemed to be close to mine.  With that, I stripped the dress form and threw the dress on over the top of my sweater and jeans!!  My friend Diana wasn't too far away from me at this point so I motioned her over and had her act as my mirror.  I love the vintage patterns and styles that are in right now and I wasn't sure I could pass this dress up!

I asked her, "Am I crazy to think this is cute?"

We both decided that it was totally adorable, fit me well and was worth spending a whopping $7.00 on!

When I got home Sunday afternoon, I tried the dress on and was so happy with my purchase!! 

Upon further inspection, I noticed several tags just inside the collar.  The dress was made by Andrea Gayle, which was a clothing line from the 1970's.  In addition, it also has a small tag with the logo for the 'International Ladies' Garment Worker's Union'.  This union, founded in the 1900 was one of the very first US unions to have a majority of it's members of the female persuasion.

With that, I'll wrap up today's history lesson and me gushing about my 'old' dress!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Five on Friday

Hola friends!

I'm joining in and participating in my first ever Five on Friday link up.  I've read Carolina Charm for a while now, but since I'm trying to consistantly blog and grow an audience I thought I'd pony up and do it!

1-I have been cooking and eating Paleo for a few months now.  It's not been easy, but it is far from the hardest thing I've ever done.  I fell off the wagon a bit over Christmas and New Years, but Stupid Easy Paleo put out a challenge to 'detox' for 30 days using the Whole30 program.  So far so good.  Matt is even doing his best to follow along!  This weekend will be a test of my resolve and determination though! Which bringing me to number two...

2-Saturday and Sunday I'm spending with some gal pals from work.  The plan is to eat and drink our way through some cozy, quaint and delicious wineries and restaurants around Peoria, IL.  All the food and drinks will be paired with some shopping, of course!  I've already scoped out the menu's for the restaurants and figured out what I can have easily modified to stay on track with the Whole30 program.  The gals also know my weekend intention of 'being good' and that because I'm not drinking in NO WAY means I'm pregnant!!

3-With all the snow and negative degree windchill's we've experienced here in Central Illinois, my work week has been all outta whack!  I should have went back to work on Monday, after two glorious weeks off for the holidays, but I didn't have to report in until Wednesday.  Most of our days we're spent lounging around, but I did get some cleaning and organizing accomplished.  Bella really made the most out of our time at home!

4-After a holiday hiatus, my book club got coordinated this week and selected 'The Book Thief' as our next read.  We missed the movie release, but I'm hopeful the DVD won't take too long to come out!

5-Matt and I were starting to go stir-crazy shut up in the house with the snow, so he decided to build me some shelves in our basement.  I have lots of holiday and seasonal decor, plus a good amount of extra home decor for when I get bored with what is out upstairs.  All that, coupled with the kitchen gadgets and party supplies, the ONE shelving system was a big mess.  The new shelves have been designated to hold just kitchen overflow (extra slow cookers and thermos') and anything we may use for entertaining (cupcake stands and drink dispensers).  Which make it way easier to see what I have when I need it!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Midweek Confess Sesh

I don't really like the term best friend

I tend to use it regularly, but always feel icky when I do. 

To be described as someone's best friend is very special.  It's a term of endearment, but how many people can really be classified as your best friend???  Can you have more than one?  Who get's to decide?  Me, I guess?

It can get super confusing, probably more so in my head than anywhere! 

I've developed  relationships and remained close with several people throughout my life and would consider them my best friends.  Yes, plural.

These friends are from way back, think high school... not so long ago, can we pretend I didn't graduate college in 2006... and now.  

These best friends are the ones who:
you're able pick up right where you left off no matter the time apart
it's just easy to be around
you call and make supper plans with when you don't want to cook
can read your mind when you're people watching
tell you like it is
will totally 'get' the hysterical, sappy, bitchy, sappy or sarcastic e-card you're sure they made just for the two of you

Okay, so do you have just one best friend or multiples?  Do they know about each other?  Does it get awkward when your talking about one to another?


Sunday, January 5, 2014

Negative WHAT?!?

The three of us here at The Purple Front Door are all snugged up under blankets, watching movies and doing some baking to try and offset Winter Storm Ion that is raging across most of Illinois today.  Since Friday all the news outlets have been talking about all the snow, wind and life threatening temperatures we are going to experience from this latest weather system. 

Currently, TWC is still saying we could get anywhere from 6-9 inches of snow today.  Many of the local churches cancelled services this morning and I've already heard of several schools that have called off school for Monday.  It's not so much the snow that everyone is worried about but the frigid temperatures...  It's been forecasted that with the wind chill it's going to feel like -45F!!  BRRRR! 

In addition to the wind chill advisory, here on the plains of Illinois we have to deal with 'blowing and drifting snow'.  Basically all the roadside ditches fill up with snow and cause roads to drift shut.  Then the blowing snow makes for hazardous conditions because no one can see where the roads should be!   It's super fun!  Let me tell you....

I'm thankful that Louie and the other horses and cows at my parents house are tucked safely inside out of the storm.  I'm also very glad that I hit up the grocery store yesterday morning, when there wasn't a run on bread and milk!  Speaking of that, have you seen this video yet?

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Highlights of 2013

I very much intended to reflect on 2013 and get this post up yesterday, but cuddling on the couch with Matt and Bella while we watched bowl games and Friday Night Lights took precedent.  Is anyone else out there a big fan of FNL??  I freaking loved that show! 

I'm very thankful for what a wonderful year 2013 was to me.  Many fabulous memories were made, but these were the highlights... most of which didn't make the blog because I got lazy was too excited living them and never got around to posting about them!

Top 5 of 2013:
I co-hosted a gender reveal party for my BFF and her husband this Spring.  The theme was "Tie One On For Baby Peters" and we asked the guests to wear a hair bow or a bow tie to signify if they thought Jill would be having a girl or boy.  There was tons of food, fun games and drinks for those who weren't preggers...  To actually make the reveal the soon-to-be parents popped the cork and to everyone's excitement poured out PINK champagne!!!  It's a girl! 

One of my goals for the 2013 horse show season was to exhibit Louie at an Illinois Paint Horse Show.  It might not seem like much, but going to a breed show is kind of a big deal.  There are exhibitors there with fancy trucks and trailers, trainers and LOTS of money!  To be clear... I'm not one of those people!  With the help of one of my good friends, we hauled to the show and entered in several classes.  We had a very successful day, coming home with ribbons and state and national APHA points in most of the classes we entered!  A few days later, I was blown away when I received an email saying we were the "High Point Novice Amateur" at the show.  I'm so blessed that this horse has come in my life and helped me achieve my goals!

This summer I finished my master's degree in Agriculture Education from the University of Illinois!  This was one of the items I wanted to accomplish in my 30x30. Check it off the list!  Now to really get cranking on that list since I only have a year to finish....

One of my favorite memories from this year was packing up the car and road-tripping with Matt and Bella to Ft. Collins, Colorado to visit one of my very best friends!  We spent four days seeing and tasting the sights of Ft. Collins.  If you visit, in my opinion a stop at Blind Pig Pub and Grub is a must, as is Odell Brewing Company!  Both were two of our favorite spots.  We also went up to Cheyenne, Wyoming for a day at the Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo.  In addition the rodeo, we also got to see Jason Aldean and Jake Owen in concert!

In December, Matt and I went to Las Vegas with friends to attend the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.  We overcame airline delays, battled unseasonably cold weather, mastered the Monorail, shopped 'til we dropped, saw a new arena record in the barrel racing set by rookie Taylor Jacob, watched the fountains at the Bellagio and saw a bunch of rodeo celebs!