2017, what a year!

To say 2017 was an exciting year would be a major understatement.

We started off the year purchasing our first home together

My husband graduated with his Master’s degree.

We sold my husband’s first home.

My husband decided to go back to school to earn his teaching certification.

We took our first cross country (well 1/2 country) road trip and Canada together.

We had the excitement of my younger sister’s engagement. I had my graduation from college with my master’s degree Then I had two more months before I was officially finished!

We had two foot surgeries and recoveries, one currently.

We celebrated our first year of marriage running around Chicago cheering on our sister Elisabeth in the marathon. The day of her first marathon was when my husband first gave me his phone number, so we enjoyed his company this time in person.

We hosted our first holiday, my favorite, THANKSGIVING.

We had many laughs, we’ve had to tough it out and work hard to get the end results, we’ve had disappointment and pain, we’ve had much happiness and celebration.

I am ready to turn the page and discover what the year has in store. A fresh start, despite writing 2017 til about March (it happens every year!).

Here’s to 2018, let’s laugh louder, love deeper, speak kinder, walk slower, and live happier.

2018, you’re getting my best self! How about you?

Sibling Christmas

In October, my older sister started planning our sibling trip to Chicago. We knew it would be a bit dicey with my husband in a boot and a week and a half after surgery but it’s always fun when we all hang out so we forged ahead with our plans. We ate, drank and were merry. Enjoy some pictures from our weekend!

Dinner at Quartino

Brunch at Corridor Brewery & Provisions

White Christmas at the Music Box Theater complete with a sing a long

Happy Birthday Papa!

About a month ago my Nana was cleaning out some things in a closet when she found this Italian cookbook. She started paging through it and found a menu written and taped inside. The handwriting was that of my Papa. He had studied the cookbook created a menu to eventually have. No one knows when he wrote it, but this gave my Nana the idea of having a dinner in his honor on his birthday.

My Papa died in 2008 very suddenly. It was devastating to us all. My grandparents had just returned to Wisconsin a year earlier after having lived in Georgia for many decades. I was a freshman in college and it was a challenge for me being so far away. We were pals, number 2s as he’d call us as we were both middle children. As a kid I enjoyed their visits to visit us there were ear nibbles, Dairy Queen runs, donut runs, and so many memories. I enjoyed my visits to Georgia, mostly because it was fun with the two Anthony’s and two Emily’s. My dad is named after his dad and I’m named after my dad’s mom. That only really became complicated once they moved back to Wisconsin but we all thankfully have our own middle names!!

Birthdays are always celebrated in a big way in our family and the same went for Papa last evening, complete with singing happy birthday, with FaceTiming our family out east to join in! The food was delicious and the company was even greater.

I found this photo from their first Christmas back in Wisconsin, and it just made me smile. Wishing you were here, but I really think you knocked that coat rack over after dinner last night 😉.

A weekend to be thankful for

Those that know me know that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday! Don’t get me wrong Christmas is great and all, but there’s way too much stress with finding gifts for others, hoping they like it, worrying about spending too much money, etc. that kind of takes the “magic” out of it. Thanksgiving is about family, friends, thankfulness, and food! While there’s lots of fuss over cooking food, turkey poundage and thawing times, and oven logistics, there’s little else to worry about.

This was our first Thanksgiving in our home and we have been looking forward to hosting since last year when we knew we would have a home for next year’s celebration.

Parties have always my mom’s thing. She’s just awesome at throwing and hosting. I’ve had lots of years of watching and practicing and this was my final exam! I started preparing, planning and purchasing in October because it’s never too early. Thanks to Google Docs planning was easy with my other contributors. The week leading up to Thanksgiving was full of preparations and Wednesday was a full day of cooking, baking and mulling (more on that later), and a whole lot of excitement!

Thanksgiving always begins with attending mass. It’s one of my two favorite masses in the year- it’s not an “obligation.” People come who want to come and the congregation brings non-perishable food and monetary donations for the St. Vincent de Paul in town. It’s amazing watching everyone bring their bags up at offertory.

Preparations began after church and we were in full swing prep mode. Jeremiah helped me spatchcock the turkey. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you should look it up and give it a try. It’s our second year in a row doing it and it turned out delicious! Not to mention we cooked a 22.96# turkey in three hours flat. I’ll never cook a turkey any other way. You carve the thing before it goes on the table anyways so who cares if it doesn’t look like a turkey.

I had to use some innovation at times! We kept my sister, Erin, out of the hot zone of raw turkey so she could assist in other ways. I forgot to preheat the oven- I’ve never been good at remembering to do that, so I had to use some crazy moves to do so.

We served appetizers downstairs in our basement and were able to prepare the rest in the kitchen. I made a cranberry cosmo punch where the cranberry juice had to be mulled ahead of time. It was a strong and tasty drink. Thankfully, I was short two cups of vodka and added two more cups of cranberry juice or else I would have had guests sleeping in my living room over night.

No need to bore you with the details of our Thanksgiving as they are much the same as yours but we had a wonderful meal with family and soon to be family.

Friday we gathered with my mom’s side of the family to celebrate the November birthdays. My grandpa played his accordion for the first time in 50 years. He said he didn’t remember anything but he did remember some. The cousins gathered at Erin’s after and watched some gems from family videos.

Saturday was our annual ravioli making. We’ve been making them for more than a decade and then they are frozen until Christmas Day. It’s always a fun but exhausting day! The evening meal is always homemade pasta and sauce. So we get to taste part of the fruits of our labor.

After dinner we had our third annual beer tasting. The best part are the comments we make about the beers. The person who rates each beer the highest then gets to bring the rest home.

It was a successful weekend to say the least. I’m still exhausted and I slept past 6:30am, which is a rarity.

And in case you are wondering, I received at A+ on my party planning final exam. Now to start planning my next party…

FNCE 2017

So I may have mentioned this before, but I’m a Registered Dietitian and five years ago in my previous job I was able to attend the Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo (FNCE, as we call it) in Philadelphia and had a blast and was completely overwhelmed as I was a “first timer” and knew I wanted to go again.

I found out about a year ago that FNCE was taking place in Chicago, which was pretty perfect as it’s so close and I knew I had to go! I was the solo dietitian from my job attending but knew that I would be seeing some of my former coworkers and friend. I’m an eager beaver and love to learn! I printed out the schedule two weeks in advance to see what sessions I wanted to attend. Thankfully they had an app that I could use to keep track of what rooms and sessions to go to. Five years ago there was a giant book I had to lug around. I think at these types of conferences you have to go in with an open mind and realize that not every session is going to be as interesting as you had hoped for. I think when you attend conferences it’s important to try and pick sessions pertinent to your job but also be a bit selfish and pick sessions that help you grow as a professional and individual alike. I mean, let’s face it, if you don’t grow as an individual how does that help you professionally?

Over the course of four days, I attended 15.75 hours of sessions, 2 hours at a symposium on portion sizes, 5 hours at general sessions (more on those in a minute) and 3.5 hours at the Expo, where I worked my arm muscles from carrying my “haul” of goodies.

I enjoyed many sessions but some of my favorites included:

  • The opening session where Dr. Sanjay Gupta gave a great presentation on media and its influence on healthcare. If you were asked who you would invite to dinner, he’d be on my list. He had such a conversational tone, easy to listen to and provided such great information. I was so engrossed with what he was saying my notes for that session is blank. He told a story about operating on Jesus in the desert when he was on assignment in Iraq and the surgeons wanted his Neurosurgery expertise.
  • I attended two sessions that Second City presented. One was on creating inclusive environments and one on improv for effective and adaptive communication. Best three hours of conference.
  • Fear boot camp was also a great session. We worked through the stages of fear in order to do what you’re afraid of. Nope, not gonna get a dog, but it was a great exercise and fun speaker.

Because FNCE was in Chicago I was able to be my sister’s roomie for three nights!

I was excited to see and spend time with my friend and former coworker Allison over the past four days. We haven’t seen each other in a while so it was fun catching up. Of course when in the city, you have to have delicious food. Elisabeth took me to Quartino and we had the best orecchiette EVER! Allison joined us for dinner at Little Goat Diner. My love for Stephanie Izard runs deep and have been to her restaurant Girl and the Goat.

Here’s some of my pictures from the expo!

This was the hottest exhibit in the expo. The line was ALWAYS so long. Sadly, I didn’t get to partake.

I’m wet from three days of rain, my feet are sore and my eyelids are heavy! Here’s to public transportation to get me home!

525,600 minutes (of marriage)

No one can predict the future but I knew that the life with Jeremiah would be bright. It’s safe to say that this past year, our first year of marriage, was nothing short of spectacular. We bought our first home together, sold Jeremiah’s condo, survived the stress of BOTH of us graduating with our Masters degrees, survived a cross country road trip together and many other things.

We began our weekend of celebrating Friday evening with tickets to see the 20th Anniversary tour of RENT. Paper is after all the first anniversary gift- but the wave of technology took some of the fun- I “put” them in my Apple Wallet. RENT is special for me and I’ve seen it twice now. It was my first time seeing a show on Broadway, had second row seats with my cousin, Grace, and I just fell in love with it. I knew Jeremiah would like it too, so off we went. Fifth row seats was the best I could do, and yes, you can still see spit from the actors mouths that close up! I laughed, cried and got all the feels. Jeremiah enjoyed the mooing the most!!!

Saturday evening we enjoyed dinner at Ashlings on the Lough. Exactly one year before we had our rehearsal dinner there. As many know, it’s the restaurant where our story really began three years ago. We celebrate all our special moments there. It just kind of feels like our home.

We arrived home to have some anniversary cake. There was no freezer burned cake waiting for us, Jeremiah ordered us a fresh “wedding” cake from Gooseberries in Burlington where our wedding cake came from. Our cake was so good it didn’t make it to November last year!

Today is our anniversary. It began with an early wake up call! It’s Chicago Marathon day! Some may know that prior to picking our wedding date my sister, Elisabeth, told me I could pick any date besides October 8, as she was planning to run the Chicago Marathon the next day. Well luck would have it that it was the only available Saturday in October. So it was fitting that we were there to cheer her on today to make up for her missing it last year.

Elisabeth ran a PR in the warm weather and I couldn’t be happier for her. I was there for her first half marathon and was happy to be there today for her. She said to Jeremiah that she was glad he was there in person this time, instead of a man on my phone texting me the entire day three years ago.

Looking forward to the next 525,600 minutes of life, love and marriage with my hunky!

Grandkid Brigade

Just a word of warning, lots of pictures in this blog. Today was the day of the grandkid brigade. There was a mix up between my grandma and my cousin Megan on when they were going on their annual trip to Fox Hills Resort with my grandma's siblings. Megan hasn't been home since Christmas, she was looking forward to seeing grandma and grandpa and thus began the plans of the grandkid brigade, that's what I've decided to call today. Jeremiah was our trusty driver. We picked up my grandparents from their apartment and headed to Oak Creek to pick up Megan and Erin.

Our trip up was uneventful. It also happens to be my grandparents' 67th Wedding Anniversary. We were all happy to be able to spend part of their day with them. Megan and Erin were inquiring about their wedding day. According to my grandma, "The weather was much like today. Although not as hot." It is in the mid-70s today. My grandma said the dresses back then weren't that pretty, compared to today's wedding dresses. Erin who is planning her own wedding wondered about their hair. No, they didn't go to a salon to get their hair done. The girls got ready at my grandma's parents house.

We stopped for lunch at Kurtz in Two Rivers. My grandma recommended it as they usually go every year. The food was good, and the beer would have been delicious, if we would have ordered any. Of course there was ice cream to finish the meal, just like when grandma and grandpa would have us over for dinner.

We finally arrived at the Fox Hills Resort that we've heard about so much. The mysterious place they have been going to for 35 years on vacation each September.

We said our goodbyes hoping they all have a great vacation!!

The brigade came back to Oak Creek and did our thing. A group shopping venture to Meijer for dinner rations.

The bearded bros had some usual shenanigans while grilling dinner. No shock there!

Not having seen my Egan (that's what I call her!) since December, it's been so much fun. We've done some awesome cackling until we cried and caught up on life in general. We've been needing some Egan-Mily (that's what she calls me) Time in our lives lately. Just like that, we are back to our childhood days, minus a few years of aging and now we get to drink margaritas while we enjoy our time together.

And like every meal at grandma and grandpa's, this one ended in chocolate malts.

"A family together, never apart. Maybe in distance but ever at heart."

#3- Sibling Trip

This was the year of no camping trip. The rest of the family would be in Italy over the Fourth of July when we would usually go, Jeremiah's foot surgery wouldn't make a trip in August feasible. So sadly, it was something we had to accept. And then, there's Elisabeth…

She calls me one day at the end of July and says, lets go camping over Labor Day weekend. The last time the two of us went camping was in 2012 (I think). I lived in Madison, she lived in Chicago. We reserved "our family's" site at Devil's Lake, my then co-worker and her sister joined us and my co-worker did her first triathalon there. It was COLD! We had some "Darn Good Chili" that almost killed us in her two person tent. So when I received this phone call I was a bit hesitant. I started searching for a campsite and I booked New Glarus Woods State Park- we were motivated by beer.

Menu planning has evolved- thank you Google Docs! In the end, it seemed easier to just have one person buy all of the food ingredients, or so I thought. I haven't had a cart that full in a LONG time. I searched and searched the grocery store for 1. Bacon Bits and 2. FFO's (French Fried Onions). I went up and down the aisles so many times passing the stocker of the store numerous times. He didn't ask if I needed help and I didn't ask either. But I don't really buy FFO's outside of Thanksgiving time and they are so BAM in your face you can't miss them.  Grocery list- Check!

We made it to the very tiny campground, pitched our brand new tent that Elisabeth gave us for our wedding! Everyone should have to help set up the tent they give newleyweds! Thanks E! Jeremiah had been to the campground before. But I didn't ask about showers and flush toilets. Big mistake. We all thought James was joking when he said he went to the bathroom in a pit toilet.

We woke up to 43 degree temps and made a fire to keep warm. This is not a normal camping occurrence! We headed into New Glarus for lunch at our cousin's restaurant, Tofflers Pub & Grill.

After an order of cheese curds were devoured, Jeremiah, James, Erin and E all ordered the special Loaded Baked Potato Mac n Cheese. I was the odd man out and ordered the pulled pork sliders. The meal was absolutely delicious. I highly recommend a stop there if you're in the area.

Next came New Glarus Brewing Co. We had a great time sampling some beers. Elisabeth and I have a new favorite-Staghorn Octoberfest. I also decided I don't like Cherry fruit beer.

The rain came just as we were starting happy hour back at the campsite. I drank my first alcoholic beverage in a car shielded from the rain while E snoozed in the backseat. Erin was in her car and the bearded brothers shielded the already started fire.

Our wood supply ran low and we went searching for more. The smallest campground has a part time park ranger and the office was closed. New Glarus is very small, we hoped we could find more wood!

Roy's Market saved the day with wood!

We decided to cut our trip short by one night and had a sibling night at our house. Complete with Oven Baked S'mores and time in the hot tub. We capped off a great summer! Until next year…

#2 My 3/4 Pound Cake Adventure

My parents invited us for dinner last Saturday night. We all had a taste for my mom's signature burgers- Karla Burgers. Sorry for all those hoping to get their hands on her highly coveted recipes. That recipe shall never be typed…I had to wait 27 long years and get married before I was able to have that recipe along with a few others. She's STILL holding out on me with a few.

Earlier in the day I stopped by their house and was looking through this magazine she received in the mail. She has no idea where it came from, "they just started sending it!" Being invited for dinner isn't an odd thing nor a rareity, so as I'm looking through these magazines I decided I would make an appetizer and dessert. I found this recipe from Ted Allen a year or two ago and bust it out every so often. I mean who doesn't love some ricotta cheese, arugula and prosciutto on toasted bread? I'm glad I picked a simple appetizer.

I have enjoyed baking for a long time. I secretly wanted to bake as a child to lick the bowl after my mom would make brownies. I don't do this anymore. It TOTALLY freaks me out. I mean you've heard of salmonella right?!?! But nevertheless, it began a love of baking!
On a total side note that mixing bowl pictured above is my all time favorite bowl. I was very excited when my mom gave it to me. I use it so much.

Back to my dessert! I decided that I wanted to try something completely new. This is my year of adventure and I can make cream puffs in my sleep, or cupcakes or brownies, but those are kind of boring. So after searching through multiple magazines I stumbled upon a cream cheese pound cake recipe. Apparently if there isn't a pound of butter it's not really a pound cake. This recipe had 3/4 # so it's my 3/4 pound cake. I purchased all of the needed ingredients and decided on a lemon pudding to top it. I didn't start the cake until a bit before 4 and learned my lesson- it too 100 minutes to bake. I guess I really should have read the entire recipe before I decided to make it.

The pound cake was SO much better then next day. My mom told me I found my signature dessert, my husband called me the queen of pound cake. Hey! I'll take it. So invite me over and I'll bring my pound cake with me! I just need to some advanced warning!

…to Grandmother’s (and Grandfather’s) house we go…

My grandparents recently decided to make the move out of their home into an apartment. It's much less work for them and much smaller than their home. In the weeks leading up to the move there have been lots of trips down memory lane for the granddaughters, in particular.

We decided that most of our memories are stored in the basement. If only those walls could talk…more on that later.

My grandparents moved into their house in 1989, the year my cousin and I were born. So we literally know no other house. G & G's house was where you were quickly handed off on the way to work when we were sick. My older sister recalled the old brown coach and watching Fantasia. She said, "for the record, is the worst movie ever! I know it's a landmark movie and big Disney accomplishment. But it's awful. It made me sleep!!" Our mom said that was the point.

In 7th grade, I switched to public school which was walking distance to their house. I'd have a snack before I was picked up. Anything that was opened was fair game to eat.

I ate lunch at my grandparents house every other day my junior year of high school because I had a release from school. My lunch instructions would be waiting for me. Which was usually soup and a sandwich to make. Sometimes they were there but usually they were busy. I'd make my lunch, do homework then set a timer for a quick nap and head back to school.

There a millions of little memories, but we spent the bulk of our time in the basement at our restaurant. We loved that place! We would save food containers for to go boxes, pie boxes to sell pies in. We bought French fry baskets for serving food. And of course the fridge where we served our "guests" actual beverages. We had menus, order tickets and a cash register with real cash. One Christmas after we were much too old for our restaurant anymore my grandpa handed us all an envelope with a very random amount of money in it-the reminder of our cash register money. I
guess you could call that our profits.

One Easter my grandma let us throw hard boiled eggs over the roof to our partner. No idea why, but it was fun. We used to race the mechanic sleds (if you call it that) down their driveway, with helmets on.

I could go on and on because we have so many memories. But on to the next place for more memorable moments.

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