My Other More Exciting Self

Farm Raised, Shoe Enthusiast, Turkey Talker, Wine Lover, Mom

Happy Friday, everyone! It’s been a busy and productive week leading up to Christmas and I’d say I have just a few small things to cross off my to do list and I’ll be ready.

Apparently I’ve been a little lax at documenting my week in photos, so I’m just going to write five random thoughts and throw in a photo when possible.

1) I’m the biggest Fixer Upper nerd. Have you seen this show on HGTV with Chip and Joanna Gaines? I love how they take houses that, in most cases, are total and complete pits of despairity and turn them into these amazing homes full of clean, rustic charm and classic touches. I mean, these two are amazing. But the nerd part comes in because I posted on my Twitter account a few days ago how much I am in love with that show and Joanna’s style, and my Tweet was favorited by Joanna! I know, it really doesn’t mean much of anything but it was still so COOL.

2) I am almost done wrapping presents! (Can I get a whoop whoop?) This is a major achievement, mainly because a) I don’t like to wrap, and b) therefore I procrastinate.

3) This brings me to …. I did not get my mother’s gene for pretty wrapping techniques. I have no patience for wrapping and my corners are terrible. Plus sometimes I underestimate the wrapping paper needed for a large box and end up with a bizarre patch job. I saw a hastag the other day – #IWrapLikeAFourYearOld – and that’s me in a nutshell.

Bad wrapping job | via MyOtherMoreExcitingSelf.wordpress.com

4) Completely switching gears, it’s going to be a fun weekend! Saturday we celebrate my niece, Morgan’s, 1st birthday, complete with cupcakes and the cutest birthday tutu a little girl could wear! It also happens to be Earl the Pug’s 14th birthday this weekend, as well. We’re celebrating that with extra naps and extra treats on Sunday.

Earl the Pug | via MyOtherMoreExcitingSelf.wordpress.com

5) I had the privilege – along with two of my coworkers – of helping deliver nearly 300 pounds of turkey to a food shelf in a Saint Paul, Minnesota neighborhood. It’s an annual tradition for the organization I work for, and it always makes me stop and think about the families that struggle to put food on their tables every day. This particular shelter we visited services between 50-60 families each and every day. This is just one food shelf in one neighborhood.

The Neighborhood House food shelf | via MyOtherMoreExcitingSelf.wordpress.com

I’m linking up with Diary of a Real Housewife, The Farmer’s Wife and September FARM today.  Have an amazing weekend, everyone!

P.S. Extra high five for this #FlashbackFriday photo – from Joe’s very first visit to Santa. I still love how traumatized he was! :)

1st visit with Santa | via MyOtherMoreExcitingSelf.wordpress.com

Brown Sugar Pound Cake | via MyOtherMoreExcitingSelf.wordpress.com

Finally.

I did a little baking tonight. And I can feel the stress roll right off me.

Is that weird?

Baking does that for me. It must be the measuring and the mixing and the anticipation of seeing the final product. And perhaps the peacefulness of being in the kitchen. Whatever it is, baking makes me happy.

Tonight I tried a recipe I’ve never made before for Brown Sugar Pound Cake from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook. It’s really a very simple recipe and I decided I couldn’t go wrong with butter, brown sugar, eggs and flour. Plus, the batter tasted divine.

Brown Sugar Pound Cake | via MyOtherMoreExcitingSelf.wordpress.com

Yes, I licked the bowl. Just a little.

That was after I transferred most of the batter to several holiday-themed mini loaf containers that I found at World Market and I’m going to deliver a few of these as gifts tomorrow.

Brown Sugar Pound Cake | via MyOtherMoreExcitingSelf.wordpress.com

And I might keep one at home. Just in case I need something to go with my coffee in the morning. :)

Brown Sugar Pound Cakes

Recipe source: Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook

  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for pans
  • 3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2-1/4 cups packed light-brown sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Butter two 8-1/2 x 4-1/2 inch loaf pans (or up to six 5-3/4 by 3-1/4 inch miniloaves); set aside. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add eggs one at a time, beating until combined.

Add the reserved flour mixture in three batches, alternating with the buttermilk and beginning and ending with the flour; beat until combined. Divide the batter between the prepared pans, and smooth with an offset spatula.

Bake, rotating pans halfway through, until cakes are golden brown and a cake tester or toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean – about 1 hour (or 45 minutes if you are using miniloaves). Transfer pans to a wire rack to cool 10 minutes. Turn out cakes onto the rack to cool completely. Cakes can be kept at room temperature, wrapped in plastic, for up to 3 days.

I was starting to feel the rush of the holiday season last Friday. I had been gone a couple of days for work, came back and was trying to catch up in the office as well as get things done at home. I could feel the stress starting to creep into my psyche and I didn’t like it.

So … I took off early on Friday from work and it was the best thing I could’ve done for my mental health. That extra hour or so wasn’t really all that much, but it allowed me to run my errands, pick up Joe from school, and get us home in plenty of time to get a few things done before Teacher Man arrived. This meant we could just relax a little Friday night and I needed that.

Today (Sunday), we went to Joe’s last Christmas program at church as a Sunday School student. The church was decked out with lights, the sanctuary was full of people, the kids did an awesome job telling the Christmas story, and the short sermon seemed to be aimed right at me (and I’m sure a lot of other folks this time of year): find joy in the season.

Yes, it’s a busy time. And yes, it can feel like I’m in constant errand mode. But there is joy, real joy all around us. I took some time to work out this afternoon and while I was on the elliptical machine (which I readily admit doesn’t  bring me much joy, generally-speaking), I thought about some of the little things this weekend that brought me joy. And there were many!

Hearing (and singing) Christmas carols at church. And having my parents join us for Joe’s final Christmas program as a Sunday School student. Sigh. Time does indeed fly.

What Brings Joy | via MyOtherMoreExcitingSelf.wordpress.com

Saturday night dinner at home with my boys, trying a couple of Hanukkah specialties – beef brisket and golden potato latkes (recipe here).

Golden Potato Latkes | via MyOtherMoreExcitingSelf.wordpress.com

Spending Saturday with my niece, Morgan. Polka dots. And walks in 45 degree weather (in December!) with Morgan and my boys. (Teacher Man was with us too – you just can’t see him most of him in the photo below.)

What Brings Joy | via MyOtherMoreExcitingSelf.wordpress.com

What Brings Joy | via MyOtherMoreExcitingSelf.wordpress.com

What Brings Joy | via MyOtherMoreExcitingSelf.wordpress.com

Surprise box of Christmas cookies from my neighbors down the street.

What Brings Joy | via MyOtherMoreExcitingSelf.wordpress.com

Making my mom’s “Best Caramels” recipe. (Cooling in the fridge now and soon ready to be cut into squares and given out as gifts.)

Best Caramels | via MyOtherMoreExcitingSelf.wordpress.com

Blogging. No picture here – just a simple truth. I love to write and it brings me joy.

What brings you joy? Whatever it is, I hope you find plenty of it this holiday season.

My Mom’s Best Caramels

My mom has made these caramels for years and years – and for very good reason. Delicious. Joyously delicious. (Hint: you will need a candy thermometer to make this recipe.)

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups white corn syrup
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Chopped nuts (optional)

Bring the sugar, white corn syrup and salt to a boil in a heavy saucepan, stirring occasionally until sugar is dissolved. When syrup is very thick (and reaches 245 degrees on a candy thermometer), add the butter gradually. (The mixture won’t stop boiling.)

Next and also gradually, so the mixture doesn’t stop boiling, add the evaporated milk, stirring constantly. Cook rapidly to 242 degrees. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. (Optional: add chopped pecans, about 1/2 cup.)

Pour into a 9-inch square pan lined with non-stick aluminum foil that has also been greased with butter.

When cool*, cut into squares and wrap in waxed paper or plastic wrap.

* Let the pan warm up slightly at room temperature so the caramel is easier to cut into squares. However, if the caramel gets too soft, it becomes sticky and more difficult to cut and wrap.

 

It’s Sunday night and Joe and I have assumed our usual Sunday night positions on the couch: I’m blogging (um, obvi) and he’s watching a show on Netflix on his iPad. Oh, and Earl the pug is content to lay at our feet and snore the evening away while Teacher Man is already upstairs sleeping.

Earl the Pug | via MyOtherMoreExcitingSelf.wordpress.com

It’s the simple things, really, that make me happy.

So our weekend.

It wasn’t overly booked, so I actually got a lot of Christmas shopping done – mostly by shopping local, which I love. My little city has many unique shops, full of home decor, clothing and other goodies. It was “Occasional Sale Weekend” in town, which meant that some of the shops are only open the first full weekend of each month. I spent a couple of hours downtown, walking between shops, and finding unique gifts for a few people on my list.

Buffalo MN Occasional Sales Weekend | via MyOtherMoreExcitingSelf.wordpress.com

Atelier is one of my favorite shops in downtown Buffalo – the owners carry a fun mix of new and repurposed home decor, jewelry and other items – all with a French flair. (I look funny in this photo, but I like my hat.)

Saturday afternoon Joe had his annual Christmas recital, where he played “Linus and Lucy” to near perfection. Joe has a tendency to get really nervous – I mean REALLY nervous – before a recital, but the last couple of recitals have helped him control his nerves a bit and learn how to work through that. If Joe is like me, he will always get nervous before performing (I think it’s pretty normal, yes?) but I hope he’s also figuring out he can’t let it overwhelm him.

Ode to Joe | via MyOtherMoreExcitingSelf.wordpress.comMy boy looks soooo grown up here. Yikes.

Music Christmas Ornament | via MyOtherMoreExcitingSelf.wordpress.com

Isn’t this a fun gift from Joe’s piano teacher? She made ornaments for each of the students with some of the music from the song they played at the Christmas recital. Love this!

After the recital, we went back home to try a new recipe Joe found on Pinterest. Well, he wasn’t actually on Pinterest, but he was watching me peruse Pinterest while procrastinating on his math homework and this recipe caught his discerning eye – Cheez-It Chicken Tenders.

Cheez-It Chicken Tenders | via MyOtherMoreExcitingSelf.wordpress.com

This would seem to combine two of his absolute favorite things in the world to eat, so he’s been begging me to try it. I did, and while it wasn’t a total #PinterestFail, it was more of a #meh experience.  Regardless, it was a fun experiment, which we capped off after dinner with a family viewing of “Elf.” Would you believe Teacher Man has never seen that movie?

I know, that’s just wrong.

And now here we are … Sunday night again and heading into a busy week, which includes a quick overnight work trip to Fargo, of all places. It’s an annual trip our office makes in December, which usually coincides with ridiculously cold temperatures and wind chills well below zero. Seriously – this happens almost every year. The weather forecast, however, looks much better than that for Tuesday and Wednesday. Thank you, winter weather gods, for giving us a break this year.

I leave you with my favorite photo of the weekend. Have a great week, everyone!

Ode to Joe | MyOtherMoreExcitingSelf.wordpress.com

Here’s the thing: if you think my life should get less crazy the week after Thanksgiving, then you would be wrong, actually.

I know, right? This seems to fly contrary to common sense, given I work in communications for the #1 turkey producing state in the U.S. and I just got through what would seem to be my busiest time of the year. (And it is busy, no doubt.) But I am here to tell you, right now, that life only gets busier from this moment forward.

There are many reasons for this elevated state of, well, busy-ness, if you will. I am not, however, going to bore you with any of them. I am, instead, going to share five pictures from this week and tell you – I think I’m a little giddy from getting through this particular work week, actually.

Okay, enough with the funny talk. Here are the photos:

High Five For Friday | via MyOtherMoreExcitingSelf.wordpress.com

Our Monday faces. (#LoveThisKid) Earl the Pug’s is in motion, which is typical for him. I take many photos to get one very still shot of him. He seems to dislike the camera, which is funny to me given how enormously cute and photogenic he is.

High Five For Friday | via MyOtherMoreExcitingSelf.wordpress.com

Aside from my turkey ornaments, these are my new sparkly favorites … a set of three that remind me of my love for all things France, and especially Paris. Which reminds me, when am I going to back to Paris? Sigh.

High Five For Friday | via MyOtherMoreExcitingSelf.wordpress.com

This is my kitchen counter every night after supper. 5th grade math. Which, as you might imagine given my communications background, is not my most favorite thing to assist with. I’m only hoping Joe has inherited even a tiny bit of the math genius that comes from my mother’s side of the family (no offense Dad!). (True: Joe practically aces every math test. But also true: I think he may like math as much as I do. Which is to say, not that much.)

High Five For Friday | via MyOtherMoreExcitingSelf.wordpress.com

We are not doing Elf on the Shelf this year my house. (Insert huge sigh of relief. In other words, I won’t be waking up at 4:30 in the morning in sheer panic that I forgot to move the little bugger.) However, I am in the midst of doing a 32-day photo challenge over on Instagram (#IHeartFaces) and day 2 was “Elf.”  So I dug out Mr. Elf on a Shelf (the only elf I apparently have in the house) and couldn’t resist posing him next to a very unassuming Earl the #pug. It’s quite fun that my dog and my son tolerate my random iPhone camera moments of weirdness. (Follow me on Instagram for more photos – @MNGobbleGal!)

High Five For Friday | via MyOtherMoreExcitingSelf.wordpress.com

And finally … hello weekend. :) Teacher Man’s cousin posted this on my Facebook wall and it still makes me chuckle. And as one of my other Facebook friends commented, “The dog is always home!”

True.

I’m linking up with September FARMThe Diary of a Real Housewife and The Farmer’s Wife!

Have an amazing weekend, everyone!

 

 

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