Thursday, December 31, 2009

Birthday Dinner

So far the big 3-0 has been a mixed bag. My phone died, which means my alarm clock died, contributing to me being a couple hours late for work. That doesn't really bother me nearly as much as T-Mobile refusing to sell me another pre-paid cell online (apparently I'm a terrorist? or a drug dealer?) because of a "discrepancy" that they will neither elaborate on nor allow me to correct. WTF T-Mobile? They keep insisting that I go into a store, where they are always more expensive. ARGGH!

BUT, on the flipside, hubby gave me two FANTASTIC birthday gifts (details to come), we're spending the evening with friends, and I'm already drooling over my birthday dinner at Fogo de Chao:

Loosely translated, Fogo de Chão means “protein-lover’s paradise.” Brazilian gauchos in pantaloons scamper from table to table, sawing hunks of meat from large skewers onto patron’s plates. Beef, pork, chicken, lamb—there are 15 cuts in all, from rack to tenderloin, plus sides of polenta, potatoes, and a salad bar. ~MN Monthly

I had lots of ups and downs when searching for a dinner reservation for my birthday, though I thought we were aiming fairly early I was repeatedly faced with places that don't take reservations (Old Spaghetti Factory - one of my favorites, but a seriously annoying policy), only had mid-afternoon reservations (Melting Pot - still haven't ever tried them!), or didn't survive the year (The Vineyard - RIP, special salad). I was getting pretty down about the whole thing (my yearly "I HATE THIS BIRTHDAY" rant may have come up a few times), but then on a whim I tried Fogo de Chao, a Brazilian steak house friends had just visited and RAVED about. When they described it as essentially "all you can eat MEAT" I was sold!

I made an online reservation with no problems, but then thought that seemed too easy so I called too - they confirmed, our reservation was good, and they had their normal set up on NYE (no price jacking or mandatory-alternate-super-limited menues, like some places - Melting Pot). I'm so excited! I have a feeling we're going to end up waddling out the door, and I hope we can stay awake for Al's NYE party (don't worry Al, I'm looking forward to it!)

Happy New Year All, may it bring you everything you need and most of what you want.

Except T-mobile, you can kiss my @$$.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Like it's 1999 again...

My parent's named me "Heather Eve" because I had the poor sense to be born on New Year's Eve. I won't whine too terribly long about how annoying it is to try and get a restaurant reservation or how everyone has a holiday hangover this time of year, but since I'm hitting the big 3-0 tomorrow, what better time to reflect on what the past decade has brought me than the eve of the eve?

This is actually kind of fun, going back through my photos and major events. Ten years ago this week I was in Disneyworld with my family. We spent Y2K at Disney's MGM Studios watching Cheap Trick and O-Town, drinking champagne and swing dancing at the Copa Cabana. Some people thought the world would end that night. You could still bring toothpaste, lighters, and pocket knives on an airplane.

The rest of my 20's brought:

- Meeting & marrying my husband

- Renting my first apartment, second apartment, moving away, moving back, renting a duplex, renting a house, finally purchasing a home of our own.

- Changing majors, changing schools, taking some time off, and eventually going back to the first school. Finishing a BA.


- Travelling to Ft. Lauderdale, Washington DC (twice), New York (3X), and back to Disney

- Waitressing, catering, and retail work, finally getting a "real" job, seeing the aftermath when the 35W Bridge fell down outside my office window

- Making new friends, losing old friends, re-connecting with lost friends...starting the Halloween Party tradition.

- Walking 60 miles to fight breast cancer. Then 60 more. Ending up with skin cancer. D'oh. Getting it chopped out. Getting bangs to cover the scar. Hating them. Growing the bangs out.

- Getting a little color. Getting a little ink.

- Starting a blog. Starting a bucket list. Crossing things off of the bucket list.

Hellos, goodbyes, sickness and health - all this, and so much more, in just 10 years. I'm heading out soon for my free birthday meal at Noodles & Co. (they have the best B-day deal, though I also have coupons from Melting Pot, Timberlodge, Campus Pizza, and Famous Daves. Could be a tasty week!). Tomorrow I'm ringing in the new year (and the 3-0) with an AMAZING dinner (details forthcoming) and a cocktail party with friends. Not a bad way to end 29. Or 2009. What did the past decade bring you? What will the next one hold? If you post a similar list on your blog, leave the link in my comments.

What's better than crafty giving?

Crafty GETTING, of course! YAY for PRESENTS! :)

For Christmas my lil' sis made me this AWESOME set of mittens to match my new coat - and they look so great!

She just guessed and looked at photos from my blog to come up with the colors - and they look SO EXCELLENT! Je t'aime!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Resolutions. People are fairly split on the issue. Do you make them? Are you against them? I find I place little stock in resolutions, but aren't they really, at heart, just a great big "to do" list? I love to do lists, so here's mine for the upcoming year:

2010 "Resolutions:"
- Cross at least 6 items off of my Bucket List (that's 1 every 2 months)

- Organize my craft room again, and keep it that way for the whole year

- Take more photos, learn to take better ones

- Keep up with photo albums - within 1 month of events

- Stick to a realistic budget this Halloween, while still having the best party ever

- Develop a career plan. Decide what I want to that I AM grown up...

- File my receipts and bills at least monthly...and catch up with the ones thrown in a box from the past many years.

- Start writing letters. Real letters on paper.

- Pay down debt. Significantly. Maybe even start saving.

- Bring my lunch to work more often. Like at least sometimes :) I'm so bad at this.

- Take a real vacation with my husband. Actually go somewhere, just the two of us. We've been together 10 years (in January), and never had a big solo vacation!

Monday, December 28, 2009

So in love...

So out of reach :)

I shouldn't ever look at this site, but I accidentally saw it when I was looking up my current bracelet, which I had purchased as a huge naughty splurge on my first trip to New York.

Heather Wants.

Heather will never spend $600 on a bracelet though, so Heather will just keep on wanting:) Maybe if my "Minnesota Millionaire" ticket hits big...

More Craftastic Giving: Photo Necklaces

Looking back, I actually did quite a few personalized gifts this year. I didn't set out with any specific idea to do that, it just sort of happened, and I think it worked out really well. Most of these I did through Heritage Makers, and I'm very happy to report that EVERYTHING was well received - the Christmas Cards, the canvas, a calendar for Grammy (post to come) and these great photo necklaces:

The above is a shot of my mom's gift, it's a 3-pendant necklace with photos on both sides. I did a charm for each kid (me, sister, and brother) with a recent photo of us on one side, and a photo of the couples (me & hubs, sister + her new hubs, and brother & his GF) on the other side. It's really adorable! I modelled it as soon as it came:

Another great parent (or grandparent) gift idea would be to do a photo of grown children on one side, and baby or child photos on the other. They're hard to photograph because of the glare and tiny nature of the pics, but they were really cute. Brother's GF also got a photo necklace, a single pendant one with two cute photos of her & my brother together, yoinked stealthily from her facebook page. Since the photos are so small, quality isn't really an issue, and a facebook photo worked just fine.

The chains are very thick, chunky almost, and it was a lot younger and hipper vibe than I was expecting. I like it, and plan to make myself a necklace eventually as well. It'll coordinate well with my treasured Tiffany bracelet.

My mom loved hers so much, she showed it off the next day at another family Christmas gathering. I guess that means it's a hit!

HeatherEve's Holiday Extravaganza: Recap

It was plenty hard to force myself out of bed this morning, but I am actually looking forward to a nice quiet day of work to help recover from our 4 days of Christmas. Four days! The weather actually ended up EXPANDING our celebrations, believe it or not. Here's the brief re-cap

Xmas Eve: shovel 8" of snow. Punch people who say "we didn't get hardly any accumulation." Tell neighbor who plowed our front sidewalk that he is my very favorite person in the world and I no longer care that his dog digs up my yard. Head up to northern 'burbs for Xmas #1, Mom's side. Ate much roast beef, ham, 30lbs of mashed potatoes...Mmmm. Let the food coma begin. Mom says "My plate is so pretty, you should take a picture! I oblige:

Forgot Grammy's super cute craftastic present. D'oh. Watching the snow pile up outside - could those flakes BE any bigger? Drive home = much suckage. 20 minute drive turns into 1 hour +. Visibility poor, roads awful.

Xmas Day: shovel 4" of HEAVY snow. OUCH! Power Shovel proves it's awesomeness. Head back up to northern 'burbs for my immediate family gift opening. Roads total disaster. See 6 cars in ditches, most with people still inside. Somehow make it to destination. Sister & new bro-in-law attend via Skype. Hilarity ensues:

Dad receives TWO Snuggies, dog receives one, and me & sis get giant footie pajamas. Apparently my family is chilly. Dole out our fun craftastic gifts. Receive some fun craftastic gifts. Head back out onto the roads - finally plowed! Yay! Head back to in-laws. Planned meal is re-scheduled as Wisconsin relatives are snowed in. Head to Buca instead. Have a FANTASTIC meal:



Even get a cupcake because my birthday is within a week!

Food coma continues. Hope this will be new tradition. Retire early.

December 26th: Additional Xmas #1, spend the morning wrestling Christmas trees back into their homes, wrapping and boxing up ornaments, trying to sort of create order.

Stubbed every toe, broke pinky nail below the bloodline. Found water seeping into basement. Not feeling very Christmas-ey. Suck it up and head to in-laws for rescheduled Christmas Dinner. Food coma continues:

Turkey, stuffing, twice baked potatoes, scalloped corn, sweet potatoes, cupcakes, cheesecakes...ZzzZzzZzz.

Think I might pop.

December 27, Xmas #4: Head up to the great north for Dad's side. Roads fine till last 8 miles. Trucks don't realize they can't stop on ice either - fly past me at 70 mph+. Fear for my life. Make it to grandma's! Biggest cheesecake I've ever seen, in a FULL SHEET PAN. Oops, haven't uploaded those photos yet :) Give grandma traditional gift of dog treats (also a sweater). Laugh at how fat "Bubby" is (that's the dog, not the grandma). Declare Christmas over. Head home to watch "Pawn Stars" marathon.


Hope you all had very happy holidays, welcome back to the real world :)

Sunday, December 27, 2009


Yesterday, AKA Christmas day III, I had some time to myself in the morning and used it to wrestle the beast back into its cage(s). See you next year (maybe), you beautiful mean tree.

Classic Cupcakes for Christmas

I'm still struggling with indoor shots and balancing light/shutter speeds, but dang if my new camera doesn't take the prettiest dessert photos:

Mmmmm. This was a last-minute addition to our rescheduled Christmas Day meal, finally held last night when our Wisconsin family was able to battle through the weather. It was definitely a hit with hubby's two cousins, age 2 and 5. Claire in particular (the toddler) found it amusing to individually remove ever sprinkle and eat it separately. At last count she had 3 cupcakes for the evening.

These were just vanilla with chocolate and vanilla frosting, white sprinkles on the chocolate and multi on the vanilla. I love the look of a classic, simple cupcake.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Craft: The Gift that Keeps on Giving

Momma and Papa Craftastic really came through with some wild gifts this year, which are sure to lead to numerous future posts and hours of crafty fun:

That's me with my brand new portable workbench and scroll saw! I knew something unusual was in order when the first gift I opened, this little beauty:

held safety goggles and particulate masks :)

It's doubly amazing because my parents both cringe every time I pick up a knife (such as when I was cutting brownies Christmas Eve - they actually took it away from me and dad cut them instead!), so encouraging me to use a saw probably took some consideration :) I did once slice open two fingers with a very sharp knife while working an Easter buffet. Six stitches and a few fainting spells later, I feel like I'm a more careful cutter (it was brownies then too, come to think of it!) but apparently my parents disagree. I've been told I'm only allowed to use it when someone is home to "supervise" me. Have I mentioned lately that I'm less than a week from 30 years old?!?!? Ha ha. But of course, mom and dad, I'll be sure to have a chaperone ;)

I'm excited about the possibilities this creates - I'm thinking of doing some wild shaped mosaics, maybe trying something like this. And Halloween is certain to bring lots of uses, I'm thinking I'll finally try to make that coffin I've been wanting to try, and maybe some decorative signs & other pieces.

Hope Santa was good to ya' all too :)

Friday, December 25, 2009

Nestled all snug in my bed...

My family really likes the movie "A Christmas Story." So much, in fact, I gave my parents a leg lamp for their anniversary one year. A "real" leg lamp:

They keep it up year round, and put it up in the front window for a few Christmasses. So this should come as NO surprise :) Remember when Ralphie's mom makes him put on the bunny suit his deranged relative sends for Christmas?

Well, look what my parents bought me:

It's actually super cute, and very warm. My feet are now nice and snuggly :)

I'm thoroughly exhausted from all the shovelling and white knuckle travel, so I'm hunkered down early and plan to hit the hay shortly. I hope everyone had a safe & happy holiday. Ours is actually stretching out two more days with weather changing the schedule a bit, but it's been great so far. Merry everything!

More Craftastic Christmas Gifts - The Newlywed's Canvas

It is truly the technological age when my sister opens her gift halfway across the country and I get to watch via Skype :) Well, sorta watch. The connection on her end was a little fuzzy, so it could have been sock puppets for all we know, but we could hear them okay. And it was a good thing she opened it when she did, or she might have missed the gift card and Christmas ornament floating amongst the packing peanuts! But the "main event" was this beautiful canvas photo, gallery wrapped and ready to hang, that I made for her through Heritage Makers:

Isn't that GORGEOUS?!?!? It doesn't hurt that they're both statuesque and my sister is practically a model, so the photo was really great, but the canvas texture and gloss just really make everything pop and I'm so happy with how it came out. It was my first time making a canvas through them, and the quality is just outstanding.

I added their names and wedding date in red to match her lipstick and rose, and it all came out really pretty. It's definitely one of my favorite creative gifts that I've ever given, and I'm so glad it arrived safely.

Hey sis & my new bro-in-law, Merry Christmas and I hope you love it!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Single Serving Cheesecakes

I was charged with bringing a dessert to the in-laws' on Xmas day. I went with a slight twist on an old standby - cheesecake! This time I used the single serving "ready crusts", which come in packages of six. I made a double batch of my classic cheesecake recipe, which is SUPER easy and makes a dense, creamy cheesecake.

Double batch:
4 pkgs of cream cheese
1 1/3 cups sugar
4 eggs
4 teaspoons vanilla
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Beat the cream cheese till fluffy (room temperature cream cheese works best). Add sugar, vanilla, and lemon juice, beat until smooth. Add eggs one at a time until well mixed and creamy. Lumps will taste sour (in my opinion - I don't like cream cheese solo) so make sure it's smooth. I used a 1/4 cup scoop to fill each cup with slightly less than that - be sure to leave room for the cheesecake to rise while it cooks, or you'll have a mess.

I baked them at 350 for 15-20 minutes, until set. That's fairly arbitrary, but they puff up and get sort of solid when they are done, and then fall a little when they cool. Over cooking results in cracking, but you can cover that up with toppings pretty easy :) Voila! I think they look really pretty all cooling on the stove.

The double batch made 24 individual cheesecakes AND one slightly over-full "regular size" cheesecake.

I plan to top them with strawberries in heavy syrup, but prefer to wait to add the toppings until they are served. They'd look more sophisticated with thin slices of fresh strawberries, or a few fresh raspberries, but I really like the sugary syrup taste :)

Pretty Packages Tied With A Bow...

It's a White Christmas for sure, but I'm really hoping we can still fight through the weather and make it up to my parents' for Christmas Eve. I'm so anxious to give my gifts this year, and to finally be able to blog about them!

My sister's gift is set to arrive at her home today (according to FedEx, fingers crossed!), which is absolutely perfect since we all know she has no patience and cannot possibly receive a package without opening it immediately. All throughout our childhood she was the one who would secretly open and then re-wrap gifts because she can't abide a surprise. So I can probably share the AWESOME gift I got her by tomorrow for sure :)

I'm also excited to use my new camera for an actual event! Woot woot!

I am not even slightly looking forward to shovelling six times in the next three days, ugh and drat! at least I can sleep in every day :)

Happy holidays everyone! Safe travels too.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Seriously, who says "snowmageddon?"

We're apparently expecting the sky to fall over the remainder of the week her in the Twin Cities, with snowfall estimates running anywhere from 2 inches to 2 feet. is calling it the "Holiday Snowmageddon." Seriously, who can say that with a straight face?!?! It's just snow people! I remember getting 2'+ snowfalls all the time when I was a kid, we'd have it plowed up so high in the yards you couldn't see around corners at intersections, and when my parents were young that apparently happened all the time. Nobody panicked the way we do now. Sigh.

So one Xmas celebration has already been moved, and against my better judgement I will have to head to the grocery store sometime today to grab a few "just in case" necessities - we were looking forward to gorging ourselves at various relatives' homes, and therefore have ZERO food in our own house! I seriously considered chancing it and weighed starving vs. dealing with the crowds at Cub, and only slightly chose to face the crowds. I'm still planning on baking my desserts tonight & tomorrow in anticipation of being able to make it to our destinations, and I'm definitely hoping this is all a bunch of hoopla over nothing.

I just spent 27 minutes in line at the grocery store. Not shopping, that was just the time I spent IN LINE waiting to check out! SERIOUS mess in our little Rainbow Foods, the lines were a total clusterf!@# and snaked halfway through the store. So far people were taking it pretty well though, including me, which I count as my good deed for the day since my natural inclination would have been to hate them all. Also, updated their story title to "Snowpocalypse." I can't make this stuff up. But apparently "journalists" can. And yes, mom, I'll got the pop for Christmas Eve. And wine coolers. Because I have my priorities. :)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Craftastic Gifts: Custom Cake Ornament

I am just DYING to share some of the creative gifts I am giving this year, and I can barely restrain myself from spilling all the beans right now! But I will do my best to preserve all surprises until they are received. Even though it is sooooooo hard!

I have one dear friend who I never intend to exchange gifts with, but always end up finding something delightful that I just cannot pass up for her. This year was no exception. She just got married this past August, and we had several discussions about "Our first Christmas" ornaments, and how there just weren't that many cute ones around this year. Or the ones that were just said "our first Xmas TOGETHER," which is not the case. As I was poking around Etsy one afternoon (danger, Will Robinson! Wallet damage likely!) it suddenly hit me.

Backtrack some - this is the couple who had the amazing polka wedding, in which I was a bridesmaid and helped with some of the decorations. Let's call them Mr. & Mrs. A.

Mrs. A & I talk pretty much every day, so I got to have a front row seat to all of the wedding planning, and that made the whole thing just so immensely fun, I felt like I was such a part of it all. As an engagement gift, I had given the couple this adorable little set of wooden German people:

Which the bride fell in love with as much as I had, and decided to put on her cake. The cake was a little non-traditional - a cupcake tower, with big bright pretty cupcakes and a small plain cake on top for the couple to cut.

Well, it was supposed to be plain. A plain white round cake, with a blue fondant ribbon. This is what she got:

She refers to it as a semi-wreck, since the ordered vs. received is so far off. We both laugh about the little small town baker (a 60-something man) looking at the cake and saying "I know they wanted plain, but I just have to add some SPRINKLES!!!!" The shape is a mystery to me, and even the fondant band is crooked! My mother would say "it has character!"

It was still really cute though. And I never fault too many sprinkles, they're like glitter you can eat :)

So anyways, what better icon to symbolize your wedding than your one of a kind half-wrecky, half ADORABLE top tier of your wedding cake? And I knew just the person to immortalize it as an ornament!Remember Kyotosong, who made my little clay mushroom key chains for Halloween? I was really happy with her quick turn around and final products, and I approached her with a proposition to re-create the tier and toppers. She is just AMAZING. Again, she went to work IMMEDIATELY and had the ornament to me in about a week! That is just crazy, especially this time of year, I fully intended to be giving this as a late gift. Instead, I even gave it early!

Tah Dah!

How cute is this little bugger? I've been giggling ever since I ordered it, sometimes finding the perfect gift for someone is just the best way to get in the holiday spirit. And when that gift is a one of a kind and intensely personal, it just feels magical! Originally I had intended to pass this off as her hostess gift for the NYE party they're throwing, but when it came so early I just could not wait to see her open it, and rushed over today on a break. Hope you love it and laugh about it for years to come, A-Family :)

Monday, December 21, 2009

Leprechaun Triathalon

I'm in absolute love with these Garmin commercials. I've watched them 10 times today and it still hasn't gotten old:

Squirrel Version

One for a Knight, off to a fight
Go slay a dragon in a station wagon
No time to lose, free traffic news
Trouble ahead, this way instead
For a leprechaun triathalon
Sight to behold, go for the gold
One for a Yeti, hikes with a teddy
Photo mark the site, come back tonight
One for a Scot, lines up a shot
Swing for the pin
Tiny mandolin
Give a give a give a
Give a garmin
Give a give a give a
Give a garmin

Nutcracker Version


Turn off the light, closed for the night.
Go hit the town, real scary clown.
Boots to the gas, on over pass.
Nuvi on its perch, Google local search.
Find the cafe, opened yesterday.
There on the right, go grab a bite.
Local event, curling tournament.
Sweep til it burns, follow the turns.
Back to the store, a fuel efficent route.
Yikes there's the clown, on a round-a-bout.
Give a, Give a, Give a, Give a Garmin
Find local trips, at Finger tips.
Garmin (dot) com
Garmin (dot) com

Costco Photo Collages

Hubby and I had a super romantic Costco date this weekend, but it was actually really beneficial. We picked up the last of our holiday gifts, some socks that go above his ankles (long story), and I picked up four photo collages that I made up for Gloria's memorial in January. They turned out SO NICE! I don't have a photo yet, but here's an example I found on google images from some stranger's website:

These are SUCH a good deal! A poster size print is just $8.99. The quality is absolutely amazing - since I was using old scans of Polaroids and nearly 90 year old prints, I didn't expect nearly the quality I got - I give all the credit to the Heritage Makers' scanner, which must have really preserved a high quality image of each photo. Most of them are actually blown up even LARGER than their original size, but they are reasonably clear still.

You don't have total freedom to customize the Costco collages - you select a range of photos, and they randomly lay them out in some mathematical configuration that works for the sizes and orientations you included. You can add borders and a title, and choose portrait or landscape, and if you hate the computer's layout choice you can shuffle them a few times till you get a prettier poster. They actually have a wide range of sizes and price points available, and I've made lots of the smaller ones for everything from craft fair applications (showing pics of all my aprons) to documenting service projects for my philanthropic groups. I highly recommend the Costco photo centers, they're the #1 reason I maintain my membership - I love being able to upload all my photos from home/work and have them ready when I get there. They're editing is easy to use and I've always had good quality prints.

Williams Sonoma Pie Crust Punches

I got these adorable little pie crust cutters from Williams Sonoma as a hostess gift on cookie exchange night. How cute are they? They're little spring-loaded cookie cutters that allow you to punch out designs, or use the punched pieces.

I think they're like a tool & a toy in one :) The reviews on the Williams Sonoma site are OUTSTANDING - they're getting 4.9 out of 5 stars, and that is with over 8 pages of reviews! Sadly, they are no longer available, so you'll have to look through ebay or some other route to acquire them.

I've never yet attempted a pie, but I'm really looking forward to using these little guys! I'm actually thinking about trying one for Christmas, where I'm charged with bringing desserts. I'm thinking for my first attempt I'll cheat slightly and use frozen crust (also known as: good time management :) but if I dress it up with these little cuties, nobody will care!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Tree #4

This is the final tree I got up this year, I promise :) It's the twin tree to #3 from the previous post - we inherited it from hubby's grandmother, and it is completely decorated in her ornaments.

There are no lights, because it's set on a wall with no outlets. The garland is wooden and has a retro feel, and the angel is definitely old, but I honestly don't know the stories behind most of the ornaments yet.

A few of my favorites are the red wooden lobster, and the wire lobster trap that I do know symbolize Gloria's childhood home in Maryland. Her father, Captain Riley, was actually a lobsterman himself.