It’s almost the 4th of July!!

This is PRETTY MUCH my favorite holiday. I mean, it’s obviously tied with Christmas, because nothing can beat Christmas, but THE FOURTH OF JULY. OH man…how I love it. Please take a few minutes to browse through my past 4ths, and you may understand why…

It’s always a little bittersweet when I can’t get back to my hometown for this classic American holiday, but this year, I’m heading to Nashville to be with my hubster and his family and our friends there, like these guys, who joined us in Wisconsin last year!

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This will probably be a relatively low key weekend, but I will be sure to take some photos to share with you next week. Safe travels wherever you may go!!

Bluegrass Underground {Round 2}

When the hubs and I had been dating a few months, he drove me over an hour and a half, out to the middle of no where, through total boonies, SUPPOSEDLY to go to a CONCERT and I thought to myself places like this do not have concerts OMG WHAT HAVE I DONE.

But then he pulled up to the Cumberland Caverns, and told me about Bluegrass Underground. There were cars and people and signage, and I felt much better about the whole ordeal.

You can read about that first experience here.

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Recently, we went back, and brought a few friends with us.IMG_7917

You guys – it is even more beautiful than I remember! It is NOT a comfy spot to sit for a concert, but it’s worth it for the ambiance. The caverns stay a balmy 57 degrees all year round – I would relate it to going to a hockey game. You’re chilly, but you’re okay. I sipped on apple cider, and all was right in the world.

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Also, the artist was really fun. A unique cellist, with an amazing voice, Ben Sollee was entertaining and relatable. Here is a photo from my iPhone, which is about a million times worse than my friend’s amazing samsung photo:

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If you are ever in Tennessee, like bluegrass music, and are willing to take a bit of a drive to the middle of nowhere, then I HIGHLY recommend it. Nothing compares!

My Summer Reality {TV}

I always say I don’t really watch reality TV, but then I realized that’s a complete lie. In the summer, that is ALL I watch. All of the dramas and comedies I watch all year go off the air, and suddenly I’m left with reality “reality” television. But hey, it’s great background while I work on summer projects and write blog posts.

So a few of my favorites…some because they are actually really intriguing and inspiring, and some because…they are just trainwrecks.

1. The Briefcase

SUCH an interesting concept. The bummer is you can only do it for one season because there is a big ol’ twist. Now that it’s aired, I don’t think they can do it again. The basic premise is that two families in need each receive a briefcase with $100,000 and have to decide if they want to keep it all, keep some of it, or give some of it away to another family in equal or more need. They find out little bits about the other family over the course of 72 hours, but they DO NOT KNOW that the other family is deciding about them, too. Then they have to meet each other and share what they have decided to give. WAY more fascinating than I thought it would be. Check it out!

2. Extreme Weight Loss

I have always loved this show. What makes it special to me is seeing one person’s journey over the course of two hours. Each episode shows us the whole year of weightloss for that person, and it fascinates me to see the emotional and physical struggles that a person has to go through to really truly change their lives. It’s inspiring, challenging, and I feel like it’s an important message to all of us to take care of ourselves!

3. Food Network Star

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I love a good food competition, but this is my favorite – whoever wins gets their own show on Food Network. This year, I’m rooting for the guy from Nashville, Arnold, because I’ve been to his restaurants AND THEY ARE AWESOME. He’s the chef or owner or something at PM, Cha Cha, and Suzy Wong’s House of Yum. He also does drag, which just makes him super entertaining. Go Arnold! Go Nashville!

4. The Bachelorette / Bachelor Pad

THIS IS THE ONLY ONE I’M KIND OF ASHAMED OF. Especially this season, where Kaitlynn is just a huge hot mess. No wonder they keep advertising the movie “Trainwreck” during the show. But whatever…this is the LEAST “real” of the reality shows I watch, by far.

At least I don’t watch the housewife shows??

Second Wedding Anniversary

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Today is the day! Two years since THE BIG DAY. What a day it was, with friends gathered and hashtagging away, and families celebrating their new link to each other. While the last year didn’t bring as much change as the first, I have a feeling that yet again, we have a lot of change on the horizon. Seems like “lots of changes” may end up being an every-other-year theme for us… My “gifts of cotton” were not as creative as last year’s “gifts of paper,” (think: nice clothes from Banana Republic), but hey, we can’t all be awesome year over year, right?

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Everyone says that marriage is hard. But here’s the thing you guys…I don’t think it’s so much that marriage is hard as it is that LIFE is hard. LIFE is really nutty sometimes! It’s stressful, it’s nerve wracking. People get sick and pass away. Relationships of all kinds ebb and flow. Jobs change. Money sucks. NO TWO PEOPLE see things exactly the same way, whether it’s parent and child, roommate and roommate, or husband and wife.

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Sometimes you’re all like, “OMG YOU ARE THE MOST AMAZING HUMAN I’VE EVER KNOWN.”

And sometimes, you’re all like, “bye felicia.”

But isn’t that true of EVERY relationship? Marriage is special, though, because it’s a choice. I’ve chosen to go through all of that stuff WITH YOU. And because of that, no matter how much the years go up and down, neither of us are going anywhere.

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So happy anniversary to the one I love! Two years looks good on you.

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Skinny Eggplant Rollatini {from Skinnytaste}

I make a lot of recipes from Skinnytaste, but so far, this is definitely one of my favorites. The Skinny Eggplant Rollatini is super flavorful and rich, but yet light enough for a summer dinner. The hubs is out of town, so I made myself this nice big pan on Sunday night, so I have dinners ready-made throughout the week. It was also pretty easy. Only took me a minute to slice up the eggplant (I didn’t use my mandolin, so they are a little uneven, but it really didn’t matter…)

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Three minutes to mix up the filling…

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Another three minutes to roll them up, and voila! Just need to bake them!

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Not the prettiest photo, I know, but these were SO GOOD. And that’s four meals or so right there, ready to go.

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I don’t usually go meatless at meals, but I decided to switch it up. You could definitely throw some ground turkey or something into the mix if you wanted to up the protein. I’m sure this would make a great “lasagna,” too, but the cute little rolls make me happy. Enjoy!

State Cookies + Archie Griffin

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Sometimes, you just feel like making cookies from scratch. And you have cookie cutters to represent the states you live in. And so you make state-shaped cookies from scratch.

What?

I tried a new recipe – the hubs didn’t love it, but I did! Whenever you are rolling out dough and using cookie cutters, you need to make sure you are using a recipe that won’t rise or puff up at all, because that would jeopardize your shapes. They are already going to look a little wonky – don’t make it worse!

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I used this VERY simple recipe from Nestle. I ended up drizzling chocolate on them to make them a little extra sweet, but you could also ice them as they show on their website.

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OKAY BUT THEN our department of about 50 people were planning our “Celebrate Archie” day, as Archie prepares for a job transition, which included an Archie “trivia” game with our staff…

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And then an ice cream social, with these adorable balloons…IMG_7834 IMG_7838

And I thought, I SHOULD MAKE OHIO COOKIES! So I made these…some Vanilla Almond cookies with a football cookie cutter, and some of the afore mentioned chocolate chip cookies shaped like Ohio, and with a little extra chocolate love. Also I made a LOT more than six, but I forgot to take a photo, and this is what was left near the end…

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I think he liked them! I’ll miss seeing this face around the building everyday…IMG_7841

A Father’s Day Package

I don’t know about your dad, but my dad is a LEEEEETTLE difficult to buy gifts for. He has everything he needs, and when he needs something else, he goes and buys it. And like most dads, he doesn’t want me spending my money on him. But I still want to find something fun and thoughtful to send to him in WI!

And so, here is what I came up with this year…a fun box of little doodads that I know are right up his alley.
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I made him cookies, and bought him beer socks, a very handy utensil, and a squirt gun. I also bought a plain white mug which I decorated with sharpie and then baked (twice) so he can wash it. There’s a message on the back just for him :)

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Do you and your dad have any fun traditions or things you like to buy each other? Dad has always sent me socks…through college and since. It’s his “thing” because he knows “you always need socks.” It used to be tube socks, but then I redirected him towards athletic ankle socks…and now I really do use them whenever he sends me some! I felt like sending him socks of his own was appropriate.

We also used to have squirt gun fights, which were usually initiated by him getting on the roof of the house and squirting at us from above. This little squirt gun may not have that kind of power, but it’s still a nice reminder.

And the tool? My dad is a fan of handy gadgets. I just thought he would like it!

Happy Father’s Day to all you papas out there…and especially to my own!!

"Mwahhaha I ATE ALL THE CHEEZEBURGERS, DAD!!!"

“Mwahhaha I ATE ALL THE CHEEZEBURGERS, DAD!!!”