The End of 2014

Oh my goodness – 2014 is just about over and 2015 is about to begin. I love the start of a new year since it feels like a fresh clean slate. Although that really isn’t true because life just keeps going, it still provides a great opportunity to reflect on the last year and perhaps make some goals for the new one.

I’ve been battling a fabulous cold that arrived on Christmas Eve, but finally got a decent night of sleep last night. I decided to head out of the house this morning and be productive while Justin was at work. I ended up heading to Walgreens to restock on cough drops and kleenex, dropped off another five bags of items at Good Will (I’m in full on nesting mode), and then headed to brunch…alone.

I’ve been interested in trying The Buttered Tin for awhile now, but the wait is typically really long. I tried one time with some girl friends only to find another place to eat due to the wait. I decided to try my luck this morning, especially since I really didn’t have anywhere to be and hoped to finally cross it off my 3o Before 30. And. I. Did!

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The set up in the restaurant is a little different. You order your food at the counter and then wait until a table opens up. Once a table becomes available they seat you and put your food order in. In my mostly gone man voice, I order The Buttered Tin Hash and a cup of green tea. Then, I waited. From the moment I arrived to the moment I was seated I probably waited less than 30 minutes.

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I ended up being seated at a “community style” table since I was a lone diner. It felt kind of nice since finding time to dine at a restaurant alone is probably going to be a little more difficult in the future. I waited less than 10 minutes and my food arrived.The food looked amazing just as I suspected. I tried to take my time but it went down pretty quick and baby was excited about the spicy red aioli sauce. Mmm. All and all, I am super glad I went and enjoyed my alone dining experience.

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Blurry since I had to sneak this photo so I wouldn’t be judged by others at my table. 🙂

After The Buttered Tin I figured I should swing by Cupcake on Snelling and Selby. It only made sense that I track down some gluten free cupcakes to enjoy for dessert on New Year’s Eve, but I also wanted to spend a little more time in St. Paul. I ❤ St. Paul! I left with the Aretha Franklin and the Carol Brady for Justin and I to split. Yumm. I can’t wait.

I write this now in Kowalski’s after enjoying a latte (no flavor, doing my best to cut out extra sugar…oh wait, the cupcakes).The internet is barely working so I assume this post will go through later, but I am going to pick up some lobster to make for Justin and I to bring in the new year as a family of three (don’t forget Selby people) since soon we will be a family of four! Oh, and we will also probably reminisce about our engagement night as well. Has it already been six years?

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French Silk Pie

I’ve been burning through projects lately but none of them having anything to do with my 3o Before 30 list. The baby prep has really started to take over and she wasn’t even on the 3o Before 30! Thanksgiving presented the perfect opportunity for me to complete #16 – Bake a Pie From Scratch.

I decided to wait until my family’s Thanksgiving which is celebrated the Saturday after. I haven’t subjected my in-laws to my random baking experiments yet. I am sure they would be more than willing, but I know I will get very honest feedback from my parents, brothers, and sibling-in-laws.

With that said, I set out to make a gluten-free pie from scratch yesterday and settled on a French Silk Pie. I have never been a huge pie person, mainly because I am not a fan of the crust or baked fruit, so I figured as long as the filling turned out it should taste decent, right?

I did my research, and by research I mean I pinned a few recipes for gluten-free pie crust and then Googled French Silk Pie in the grocery store on a whim to make sure I had all the necessary ingredients. Then I just went for it and here is how it turned out.

I followed this recipe and this recipe for the crust. I used the Namaste All Purpose Gluten Free Flour, a stick of butter, five tablespoons of ice water and a small spoonful of sugar.

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Butter, Flour, and Sugar

 

I mixed everything by hand which made quite the mess, but I don’t think it would work very well otherwise. Especially since you are using cold butter. Most of the recipes I checked out recommended that I refrigerate the crust for at least an hour and many did it overnight. I didn’t have the overnight option (hello, procrastinator) so I refrigerated for just over an hour. Most recipes also recommended you take it out for about 10-15 minutes before rolling.

 

 

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Roll Out!

The rolling out was a little difficult and required a little more effort since the dough wanted to fall apart. I rolled it out more than once and then re-balled with my hands to make it feel like a more consistent product. Eventually, I made it look semi normal.

 

 

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Not Very Professional

I sprayed my glass pie pan with coconut oil just to ensure the crust didn’t bake directly to the pan. I wasn’t sure if I should have but did anyway. I also didn’t have a pie weight or any other fancy pie baking tools many of the recipes called for. I just rolled the crust on a counter top full of gluten-free flour.

Once it was baking at 350 degrees I watched it closely. I first set my timer for 10 minutes and then an additional 10 minutes. Once it appeared to be done (it wasn’t very golden brown but when I poked with a tooth pick it seemed done) I took it out and let it cool. Then I started the pie filling.

Following a Taste of Home recipe things came together quite well. Heating up the eggs and sugar turned out to be a longer process than expected, especially since I became nervous that it actually reached the recommended 160 degrees. Luckily I do have some  food thermometers and was able to confirm that it did reach 160, but I also don’t know if it exceeded it and was overdone. It probably was, but I get nervous about foodborne illnesses. 😉

In the end, it actually looked like French Silk Pie filling. I had Justin test it and he said the filling tasted great!

Ready to Refrigerate
Ready to Refrigerate

 

I put it in the fridge until we were ready to go to my parents and then left it outside (yay for MN becoming an outdoor fridge/freezer) until we were ready to eat it. I topped with Cool Whip and shaved some frozen Dove Chocolates over the top before serving.

Ready to Eat
Ready to Eat

Everyone who consumed it said it tasted great. I totally agreed with them too. Even my picky little brother who is also gluten-free liked it! And I think I saw my husband having one of the few leftover pieces for breakfast this morning!

If you are interested in trying a pie from scratch for the first time I would highly recommend you start here. Most of the ingredients I already had and it really didn’t take that much time to make but be sure to plan a little ahead. It will help. 🙂

Did anyone else try some fun recipes for the first time for Thanksgiving?

The Blue Door Pub

While we should be prepping for our first child to join us in about 22 weeks (is that for real?) we have also been focusing on making sure I complete my 30 Before 30 bucket list.

Last weekend Justin and I decided to check off a restaurant on my list that we have both been wanting to go to. For lunch we headed to St. Paul to eat at The Blue Door Pub.  They are known for their Blucys, their version of the ever so popular (in MN) Jucy Lucy. We have often heard how quickly the small pub fills up and there is almost always a wait. We went shortly after it opened for the day and there was a wait by the time we got our food, but luckily we were seated right away. When you go, go early or have enough time to wait a bit before being seated.

Justin had the Breakfast Blucy with tots and I had the Luau Blucy with fries. We were both super happy with our decisions but later heard the Jiffy Blucy is definitely the way to go.

If you're curious, I removed the bun. #GF
If you’re curious, I removed the bun. #GF

If my counting is accurate, I have complete 5 out of 3o. I better get moving!

Trip Out West

I thought I’d spend a little more time this morning highlighting some of the other great aspects of our trip last week. In my previous post I shared our Bottle Feeding Experience at Yellowstone Bear World. It was awesome! That came early in our trip though and we spent three days in Montana afterward.

Our time spend in Idaho Falls was quick. We flew in to a fairly small airport, especially compared to MSP. The flight was just over two hours and was pretty easy. I was slightly nervous about flying, well, I am always nervous about flying, but this time around due to the fact that I still have a little nausea every now and then. It is very minor, but who wants that on an aeroplane? Not me!

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Seriously, where is everyone?

Once we made it towards our hotel we decided to stop for lunch since it was about 11:30am and we were both pretty hungry. We stopped by a place called Snake Bite. They had amazing waffle fries (obviously! It is Idaho after all.) and I enjoyed shrimp tacos made with fresh corn tortillas. Yum. Justin started out vacation right with a flight of local beers. Lucky.

Snake Bite.
Snake Bite.

After lunch we strolled through a local farmers market and then went to check in at our hotel. We ended up using our points and stayed at Marriotts while on vacation so nothing too crazy to report there. We are always happy with Marriotts and know what to expect which is nice.

Before heading back for a quick nap before dinner we stopped by the Museum of Idaho. They were featuring, The Race to the End of the Earth exhibit. It was a nice exhibit and we learned about the first two groups to make it to the south pole, which has nothing to do with Idaho. 😉  We had dinner at a recommended spot, Jakers. They had a separate gluten-free menu which I was happy to see, and I had a massive baked Idaho potato and was happy as can be!

Before heading to Bear World the next morning, we stopped down to the falls that give Idaho Falls its name.

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Really gloomy, but pretty falls.
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First of many selfies.
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Gimme all the potatoes.

Bear World is recapped here so after our eventful afternoon we drove to Bozeman. Unfortunately we did not stop for any pictures on the beautiful drive. Not even through Big Sky!!! That is our one regret, but both agreed we would be back and spend more time in Big Sky. The drive was amazing and took about 3.5 hours. We had dinner at Montana Ale Works. We shared a gluten-free spinach dip with tortilla chips, and I enjoyed some fish tacos and a pomegranate No’jioto! Our waitress also is also dating a guy from Afton, MN. I haven’t cracked open my yearbook to find him yet, but talk about a small world.

Cheers to Bozman!
Cheers to Bozman!

Waking up and seeing mountains out the window is by far one of my most blissful ways to wake. For our first full day in Montana we decided to head to Livingston. It had a nice and quaint downtime with a beautiful view. It was labor day so perhaps that is why it seemed like it was also an empty town. We did some walking around though and then enjoyed lunch at Rib and Chop House. They were donating part of the proceeds that day to the Wounded Warrior Project and we couldn’t pass that up. They also offered us 25% off since Justin is in the military. How awesome! They also had a separate gluten-free menu. Wins all around.

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Downtown Livingston.
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Can’t get enough bear time.
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Sacajawea Park.
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Paradise Valley.

Before heading back to Bozeman we drove through Paradise Valley which is on your way to an entrance to Yellowstone National Park.  It was amazing. Once we returned to Bozeman we took a nap (such a great vacation theme) and went to the Museum of the Rockies.

Museum of the Rockies.
Museum of the Rockies.

In an effort to wrap this post up before it gets way too long, I will end with our final full day in Montana. We decided to head into Gallatin National Forest and hike to the Palaside Falls. I researched it ahead of time and it was only about a half mile hike to the falls. Nice and easy for this newly pregnant lady.

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Gallatin National Forest.
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Palisade Falls.
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We made friends with wildlife.
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Top of the falls. 
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Trees for miles and miles.

Hiking at that elevation while pregnant turned out to be slightly more difficult than I expected. It took me awhile to catch my breath, but it was a fairly easy pace and we brought plenty of water and snacks. Justin made a nice chipmunk friend and we really enjoyed the view. On our way back to Bozeman we stopped by a little river since we didn’t feel ready to leave the beauty of it all. While we were sitting there having a quick snack, Justin noticed some black animals coming out of the woods. His initial thought was black bears, but we were happy to see they were just friendly cows looking for a bite to eat.

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Cows. Not bears. Phew.
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Peaceful.

As we left the forest and received cell service again, I messaged my parents to let them know we’d be in a tent by the river and they should start driving out with Selby. We LOVED it there. The Gallatin National Forest was about 25 minutes outside of Bozeman and offered other hiking trails as well. It was gorgeous.

For the rest of the afternoon we toodled through the shops in downtown Bozeman. The rest of the evening was spent just relaxing and taking in the last few hours of our vacation. We got a lot of reading done (I finally finished Wild and LOVED it!), took plenty of naps, enjoyed the company of each other and of course, enjoyed the beauty that is Montana. We are already talking about when we will go back and what we will do.

Bottle Practice

Justin and I just returned from a trip out west and it turned out to be one of the most beautiful vacations we have ever been on. We debated driving out west for quite a while but when realized how long it could take we decided to fly. I need to really focus on saving my PTO days for the spring!

We ended up starting our trip in Idaho Falls to try to complete an item on my 30 Before 30 list. Really, this was the sole reason for our vacation. #6, hold a baby bear, is kind of an odd bucket list item, but I was bound and determined to get as close as I could to completing it. As it turns out getting someone to let you hold a baby bear is kind of difficult, but I do believe it is possible. However, I didn’t think at this point, with a baby on the way, it was going to happen before the big 3-0 came along. So, I decided it was ok to settle and found a place in Idaho that would allow us to bottle feed cubs. We flew in to Idaho so we could visit, Yellowstone Bear World.

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And for those that don’t know, I will provide a very brief back story about why this item was even on my list to begin with. When I was a young kid at Lily Lake Elementary I repeatedly checked out the same book from the library. It was a book about bears, my favorite animal, and inside had a picture of someone holding the cutest and cuddliest baby bear. Ever since then, I have always dreamt of holding one myself.

On Sunday morning we checked out of our hotel in Idaho Falls and drove about 25 minutes or so to Rexburg, Idaho. It was a bit rainy, but all in all, it was the most prefect day to bottle feed some baby bears. We got there about an hour before feed time, which was recommended. We had some time to kill after checking in so we bought some gifts from the gift shop, including baby Bradshaw’s first teddy bear, and spent a lot of time watching the bear cubs play before their feeding.

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I probably wouldn’t survive, but look, I still fit into my jeans!
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The cuteness was overwhelming.
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Playing and rolling around.

 

The bears were born in late January/early February so they were already about 70 – 80 pounds. Picking one up at this point in the year was clearly not an option. I have trouble with my 40 pound goldendoodle, so a seven month bear cub would have been real tough. I was still beyond excited to get up close and personal during feeding though.

They brought about 10 of us into the first enclosure that had three cubs. Unfortunately we weren’t able to take any videos or photos while we in the enclosures because it tends to distract the bears from the task at hand…eating! The youngest person in our group was four and a half, and the oldest was probably in his 50s. They allowed us to feed the bears a half bottle each to hopefully allow each person to meet and pet all of the cubs.

Once the handlers got the bears situated, they would invite us forward to hold the bottle and pet the bear’s adorable little heads. Some of the bears would just stare right up at you, while others had their eyes closed as they quickly downed their bottles. Once the three went through their allowed ounces, we moved to the next enclosure with three more cubs.

By the time we got next door the bears were crying and pacing. They were definitely done waiting for us and wanted to be fed immediately. They were so loud and much closer to us in this enclosure, but still staying behind the wire. Some of the bears, in both enclosures, were quite aggressive with their bottles and made it hard to hold sometimes. The handlers were sure to remind us that they weren’t being aggressive in a mean way, but rather they were just trying to get the milk to come out as fast as possible. One bear, Zeus, looked like he was foaming at the mouth because he was drinking so fast.

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Justin with Zeus.
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Me with Jake.

Once all the bears were fed we had a few moments to ask some more questions. As a woman who sees breast-feeding in her nearish future, I was interested and terrified by the way the bears were treating the nipples on the bottles so I asked if they were that aggressive with the mama bear. The answer…yes. :/ Poor girls. I also found out that mama bears can have babies from multiple fathers in the same litter. As I was told this, I was petting Ziggy, whose half twin brother is Zeus and said, “You’ve got yourself a scandalous mama, Ziggy.” The reason behind this is the mama bear hopes the papa bear will remember mating with her and not kill her cubs. :/ Again, poor mama bears.

As we finished up, the bears were all nooking and getting ready for a nap. Nooking is simply sucking on the arms of the handlers. They were making purring noises like crazy as well. Once we left the enclosures all of the bears kind of cuddled up and took a nap. So sweet.

The pictures came with the feeding experience so once we received those we drove around the park which takes about 3o minutes or so. There we saw the bigger bears, moose, wolves, and a few other animals roaming around.

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We both felt like the experience exceeded our expectations. Everyone on staff was so friendly and helpful and the bears were very well-behaved and beautiful. If you ever find yourself in the area, and you have a thing for bears, I would recommend stopping.

 

An Active 4th of July Weekend

Anyone else wishing today was not Sunday? I am not ready for the long weekend to be over yet! It has been a lot of fun and Justin and I have really enjoyed not having an agenda all weekend.

Of course we had a few places to be, but they didn’t feel like an obligation and they were all in the name of fun! We’ve spent a lot of time on our bikes, which is a summer favorite of ours. Friday morning we biked to Downtown White Bear Lake, about four miles from our house. Every Friday they have a Farmer’s Market, but we can rarely make it since it only goes from 8am – Noon. We picked up a few goodies, had brunch and picked up a belated Father’s Day gift for Justin’s Dad. In the process of picking up the gift, we met a local writer, Julie Kramer. Sometimes it is fun to make a point to read a local author so I am going to add her to my list!

The 4th of July is a favorite holiday of mine so after a quick nap after our biking adventure, we headed to my parent’s boat for dinner and to watch the fireworks. Stillwater always puts on a good show and rarely disappoints.

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Justin & I
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My Mom (right) & her BFF
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Captain Betty!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After a chilly night on the boat we wanted to continue to enjoy the outdoors the next day. It was warmer than the day before but pretty windy. After our morning walk with the dogs (we were dog sitting the neighbor pooch) we headed back to Downtown White Bear to check something off my 30 Before 30 list. I recently revised the list and this was a newly added item, #23 – Try Stand Up Paddle Boarding.

We went to Tally’s Dockside, and there was about an hour wait for the paddle boards (we did not call ahead so we considered this wait time lucky!) so we ordered lunch from C.G. Hooks which is the BBQ joint located at Tally’s. If you like BBQ & pulled pork (or pulled anything as they have chicken and beef as well), this place is a must. Plus you get to eat outside and watch the sailboats on White Bear Lake.

Once it was our turn we headed down the dock with one of the nice kids who run the show. Talk about the best summer job ever! He gave us some quick tips, took our picture, and sent us on our way!

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We spent about an hour on the choppy lake but had the best time! We started off on our knees, as suggested, which was great way to get the feel of things and at least get ourselves out of the marina. Once we reached a slightly calmer bay, we stood up. I knew stand up paddle boards provided a great core and upper body workout, but holy. It works you from your shoulders all the way down to your toes. Literally, our feet were exhausted.

We both decided that once we have the money (stand up paddle boards are not cheap!!!) we wouldn’t mind owning two. We live near three lakes, and my parents have a boat on the St. Croix so we know they would get used. And just think of the toning that happens while you have fun in the sun!

After our adventure on water, we decided to bike around another nearby lake. The wind certainly picked up and after the paddle boarding and the bike ride, I was exhausted. But we cleaned ourselves up and went to a backyard BBQ to celebrate my cousin and his wife’s one year wedding anniversary. They didn’t have a big reception so that is why they decided to have this party a year later. It was fun to see them and to finally meet their baby girl.

I hope that your holiday weekend has been just as fun as ours. Now, here is to a semi-productive Sunday as we get ready to head into a new work week.

30 Before 30 Update

Happy Summer!!!

I am WAY overdue for a 30 Before 3o update. First, I have to admit, I revised my list. I found that some of my items were too broad, and I wanted to make them more actionable. I also found that some would not be accomplished no matter how hard I tried. I mean, there was no way I was going to read 30 books while going to grad school.  With that said, here is the new list.

 

 

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  1. Read Little Women
  2. Take a Photography Class
  3. Go on a Cruise
  4. Eat at the Butcher and the Boar
  5. Have Dinner With Each of my Immediate Family Members Individually
  6. Hold a Baby Bear
  7. Write a Letter or Send a Package Once a Month
  8. Write More – Blog, Journal, etc.
  9. Make Homemade Ice Cream
  10. Finish Justin’s Blanket
  11. Go to the MN Zoo
  12. See a show at Lakeshore Players Theater
  13. Eat at the Blue Door Pub
  14. Go to a Water Park
  15. Unplug for a Whole Weekend
  16. Make a Pie From Scratch
  17. Learn About Spices and Herbs
  18. Be Able to do Push Ups on my Toes
  19. Learn Calligraphy
  20. Attend a Cooking Class
  21. Take an InDesign Class
  22. Spend a Weekend in Duluth
  23. Try Stand Up Paddle Boarding
  24. Complete a Sewing Project
  25. Clean Out my Closet
  26. Organize my Craft Area
  27. Eat at Manny’s Steakhouse
  28. Eat at the Buttered Tin
  29. Take a Trip With The Girls
  30. Have the BEST 30th Birthday Party Ever!

As far as accomplishments go, I still have a LONG road ahead of me. Good thing my birthday isn’t until spring 2015.

Completed:
#3 – Go on a Cruise. We took a quick, three night cruise over Valentine’s Day 2014. Since it was our first cruise we kept it short but it brought us to two islands in the Bahamas.

IMG_1148#14 – Go to a Water Park. Now, I have been to water parks before, but it had been a long time. During our February 2014 vacation we were able to hit up two water parks. We visited Typhoon Lagoon at Disney and the mother of all water parks, Atlantis!

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Typhoon Lagoon

 

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Atlantis!

I have some others in progress, but I am more concerned about making sure the ones that need to get completed this summer don’t get missed!