greener grass

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Is there somewhere you feel absolutely comfortable and at ease?  For me, that place has always been smushed between my brother and my sister.  The three of us have a similarly silly sense of humor, and coming together always means lots of laughter, inside jokes, and secret languages.
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My mom’s best friend (aka her sister) started having children when my brother, sister and I started elementary school, and our cousins quickly became like younger siblings to us.  Before they could question what was normal, we shared our silly secrets and expanded our trio to an incredibly happy sixsome.
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You can tell fate brought us Jon (my husband) and Daniel (my sister’s husband) because their quirky personalities make them a natural fit for our family. Where am I going with all this?  The eight of us got together for the Fourth of July, and the entire weekend felt like home.  I know, I know, a weekend can’t feel like home, right?  But the thing is, being with them – no matter the location – feels like home to me. photo (66)
Making something ‘feel like home’ is a pretty important task.  I grew up in Phoenix, went to college in New Orleans, and then lived in Mexico (volunteering), Chicago (graduate school), Wisconsin (husband’s job) and Minneapolis over a period of 5 years.  During that time, my parents moved to Washington DC, my brother graduated school in South Carolina, and my sister bought a home in Phoenix.  Jon’s family lives in Wisconsin and my grandparents and best friends are in Chicago.  Can you see how spread out my heart is?  The people I love are dispersed all over this wonderful country.
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I wish I could convince my nearest and dearest to buy homes on the same street as me, but it’s probably not written in the stars.  Instead, I find all kinds of happiness by bringing everyone together.  That picture above?  A little bit of the greatness – my sister’s husband, my sister, me, Jon, and my baby brother.

Where do you feel most at home?

Graphic made with the Rhonna Designs app.

something for nothing

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Tip more than you should. Be kinder than necessary. Remember what matters most. Simple truisms for good living, but lately I’ve been caught up on the “it’s what’s inside that matters most.” It applies 100% if we’re talking about people (The Little Prince says, “Beauty cannot be seen with the eyes — it must be felt with the heart,” and I couldn’t agree more) but what about when we’re talking about cream-filled cupcakes, books, gifts, and/or buildings?
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I mean, doesn’t the outside count at least a little bit? I don’t like cream-filling, I know I won’t like a book about bondage or vampires, pretty wrapping paper always helps, and good architecture makes me soon. So there. I feel a little guilty about this confession but it’s true: sometimes the outside really does matter.
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We’re visiting my family in Washington DC for the Fourth of July, and Jon’s parents are watching Kinzie for the week.  I wanted to thank them with something festive and sweet, and so I made firecracker rice krispy treats.  My own invention, simply dip rice krispies into white chocolate and cover with sprinkles.  A gift is even sweeter when you get to enjoy some of it, and so Jon and I snuck one (err 4) before giving the batch away.  I definitely recommend making these for others (errr yourself).
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Speaking of making something for yourself — I found vintage spice tins at an antique market, and I decided to make them into magnets.  A super easy project with three steps: 1) paint the tin 2) decorate with stickers 3) add a magnet.  Voilà!
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We’re flying out tomorrow, and it will be the first time Jon and I have seen fireworks together.  Can you believe that?  Every other year we’ve gone to his parents cabin where the fireworks are whatever we light-off the dock 🙂

Something for Nothing image made with the Rhonna Designs app 🙂

happy firsts on the fourth

everyone is excited about celebrating the fourth, but I’m stuck in the sunshine reflecting on the importance of the first – as in, the first time that something special happens.  there can only be one first, and so these precious moments also fall into the category of “one and only.” when you’re caught in a happy moment, and you realize it’s a “one and only” kind of thing, you feel obligated to soak it in – take the moment for all it’s worth (even if everyone else is thinking about the fourth).

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today, that special moment was watching jon teach kinzie how to swim. okay, okay – realize i’m one of those girls who waxes on and on about her puppy, but seriously, watching her swim around with jon was incredibly precious.  a very happy first on the fourth:

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cabin hopping tradition

we left many of our dear friends in chicago when we moved to minneapolis but, luckily for us, some of them have cabins in minnesota.  what that translates to on fourth of july weekend is what I’m dubbing “cabin hopping.”  jon and i are planning to zip up and down the land o’lakes to  swim, grill, and light sparklers with our northwoods friends.

the trip got me thinking about appetizers and desserts, and what sort of snacks i should bring when we visit our guests – a number of dishes raced through my mind, but nothing sounded that appealing.  it got me thinking about what i loved best about my mom’s best dish – true love cake.  now, true love cake is some sort of pistachio, cherry, chocolate concoction that is probably a little heavy for a summer bbq.  and, to be honest, i’m not sure i like the cake that much (don’t you dare tell) despite requesting that she make it for almost every single birthday.  and then it hit me: what i liked about the cake so much was the name, and the tradition that we attached to it – a true love cake for all our special occasions.  so, to jazz myself up about baking, and to begin some traditions of my own, i made “meet the parents asparagus” and “freedom sticks.”

“meet the parents asparagus” is so named because it is the dish that i made the first time.. you guessed it.. i  met jon’s parents.  it’s simple, delicious, and even without any cooking experience, you can’t mess it up: just wrap asparagus in blue cheese and bacon, and then cook on the grill for 10 minutes or so, or until the bacon is crispy:

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now, “freedom sticks” is more of a fun holiday treat that i envision making with my kids every year on july 3.  also a simple recipe, you simply cover marshmallows in white chocolate, and then place them on kabobs with strawberries and blueberries.

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definitely husband-approved– jon started eating them as soon as he got home from work. hopefully some of them make it to the cabin:)

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red white & you

afternoon art club (another group that i’ve joined — can’t seem to help myself) spent the afternoon painting clear glasses into master works of art.  i decided to use the opportunity to create a fourth of july centerpiece for the table.

the studio:

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the process:

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the finished product:

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