by erin

Today, I am thankful.

Ten years ago, I was home from college for the weekend to see friends and go to my high school's Christmas musical. I was downstairs in my bedroom when my mom came in to ask me if I felt okay. "Dad can't stop throwing up," she said, "and I'm worried it might be food poisoning." None of us were sick, so they figured it was just a bug. Dad went to sleep, hoping whatever was ailing him would pass by morning.

He's lucky to have survived the night.

When he didn't feel better the next day, Mom took him to urgent care. When the doctors began to suspect what was really wrong with him, things started to happen fast. He was transferred to one hospital and then taken by ambulance to another on the University of Minnesota campus, with my poor, panicked mom following behind, getting lost, and calling us frantically to help her navigate to the hospital (this was well before the days of iPhones and GPS). He underwent scans and tests and then Mom heard a scary, scary phrase: brain aneurysm.

It turned out that he had an aneurysm on the right side of his brain that had sprung a leak. It was near his vomit control center (that is apparently an actual medical term) which is why he had been so sick. And he, and we, were very, very, very lucky that the whole thing had leaked instead of just rupturing.

Because if it had? That would probably have been it for my dad. I wouldn't have had him proudly tearing up as he watched me sing or give speeches at my sorority formals. He wouldn't have been at my side at UND hockey games or biking the MS 150. I wouldn't have had him cheering me on as I graduated from college or when I got into law school. My husband wouldn't have been able to ask him for my hand in marriage. And I wouldn't have had my dad to walk me down the aisle.

The next morning, my dad underwent emergency surgery to place a coil inside the aneurysm and prevent it from rupturing. He eventually made a full recovery. Thankful.

In the days and weeks that followed, I was blown away by the outpouring of love and care we received from those around us: the meals, the cards, the calls, but also the bigger things. Like the family friends who brought a Christmas tree into our house and put it up in our living room while my mom was at the hospital. I was back at school finishing my finals, but my mom told me that she and my younger sister, upon discovering the tree, had simply laid under it, exhausted, and just cried and cried. Or my bff who worked at the hospital and went into the operating room to check on my dad's progress during his initial surgery and kept us apprised of all hospital-related matters. And all of the love we got when he had to have a follow-up surgery a year later.

I can't imagine life without my dad and I am so, so, so glad I don't have to.

So today, I am thankful.


Cyber Monday

by erin

I've never been a fan of Black Friday. After a day full of family, food and wine, I much prefer sleeping in and being lazy to dragging myself out of bed at an ungodly hour and being pepper sprayed or trampled or whatever.

But I do love a deal, so when Cyber Monday became a thing a few years ago, I was right on board. My credit card has already gotten a workout this morning (as I sit at home in my pajamas), and there is still much damage to be done.

A few of my favorite deals so far:
50% off all full-price items at The Limited (code: CYBER)
50% off everything at Ann Taylor Loft (code: SHOP50)
Lots of stuff on sale at Drugstore.com (Clarisonic Mias are only $95 today - the best price I've seen!)
And you know how I love a Kate Spade Sample Sale...

and I'm just getting started.

Whether you are a regular online shopper or you are just online today to celebrate Cyber Monday, you should definitely be shopping with Ebates. Today they are offering double cash back on all purchases, which means that I earned 12% back on my Drugstore.com purchase, for example. It takes awhile for your savings to add up (those people in the commercials who say they get thousands back from Ebates are either liars or have major online shopping addictions) but, I figure, if I can save even a couple of dollars with literally no work at all, why not?

Happy shopping!


Spicy Black-Eyed Peas

by erin

During my most recent trip to Texas, we decided to skip our usual outing to Rudy's Barbecue and try something different by going to Black's Barbecue in Lockhart (which, we later learned, has been declared the official barbecue of Texas by the state legislature.)
As a vegetarian, barbecue obviously isn't my favorite thing in the world. But I fell in love with Black's as soon as I tried their delicious black-eyed peas, and I came home determined to recreate them. I think this recipe came pretty close.


Spicy Black-Eyed Peas
 (adapted from this recipe)
  •  6 cups of water or veggie broth (I used water + 1 tsp of Penzey's vegetable soup base)
  • 1 pound dried black-eyed peas, rinsed and sorted
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 jalapeno, diced
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika (the original recipe called for bacon and ham, so it's important to use smoked paprika here to mimic the smokey flavor of the meat)
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper

Put everything in a slow cooker and cook on low for 6 hours, or until the beans are soft. Add more salt and pepper if desired. This is good as a side dish or on its own with some crusty bread or over greens.


Friday Favorites

by erin

It's been awhile since I've done one of these, so let's go for it.

Glade Apple Cinnamon candles
I buy these every fall/winter and burn them pretty much 24 hours a day. Well, not really, because that would be irresponsible. But seriously, I love this candle. It makes my house smell so warm and delicious. I can't get enough.

I received my first Birchbox shipment last week and I can already tell that this is going to be a long and happy relationship. I love getting mail, and I love beauty product samples, so it's pretty much perfect.
If you're interested in signing up for Birchbox, I would love it if you'd use my referral code! 

White Noise app
I've heard a lot about the White Noise app but, like so many things, I was tragically late to the game on it. I finally downloaded it a few days ago and have already been incessantly nagging my friends to download it, too. Love at first listen.

Have a wonderful weekend!


healthy recipe round-up

by erin

I just got back from my annual Austin vacation to see my sisters and to attend Wurstfest, an annual festival of sausage and beer in New Braunfels, Texas (I confess: I meat-cheated just a little. Don't judge me.) The trip was really fun, and it was wonderful to spend time with my sisters and family. 

Ryan and Kate with two of the ELEVEN pitchers of beer the seven of us drank. We were pretty proud of that number, to be honest.

Alison and I cheers-ing to Wurstfest!

Dad, beer, sausage.

And the delicious barbecue we had the next day, as if we hadn't consumed enough greasy food... 

But like all Texas trips before, this one consisted of too much beer, queso, chips, tacos, and ice cream, and I left for home feeling pretty sick. So this week I'm rebooting with lots of vegetables and very minimal cheese. Here are a few healthy recipes I'm pulling out of my Pinterest archives to help get me back to normal.

Slow-Cooker Vegetable and Chickpea Curry
Source: myrecipes.com via Erin on Pinterest

Risotto with Butternut Squash, Leeks and Basil
Source: epicurious.com via Erin on Pinterest

Creamy Broccoli-White Bean Soup

Creamy Quinoa Primavera

Sweet Potato Cakes with Sour Cream and Black Bean Salsa

Spinach and Artichoke Pasta

Herbed Pea and Quinoa Pilaf

Two-Tomato Pasta with Mozzarella, Basil and Pine Nuts

Have you tried any new healthy recipes lately?



by erin

Happy Halloween from Levi!

Ryan is out of town tonight (on what I believe is his last work trip ever, hooray!) so it'll just be me and my skeleton pup at home handing out candy. Levi completely loses his shit whenever someone knocks on the door so I'm hoping tonight will serve as some sort of immersion therapy for him. Wish me luck.


minty fresh

by erin

While shopping at the Mall of America a few nights ago, I decided to stop in to Lush. I had read about their bar shampoos and, in my ongoing efforts to switch to a more natural beauty regime, wanted to give them a try.

Well, I bought the shampoo, but of course that wasn't all I left with. I also found this lip scrub and have since declared it one of the greatest beauty products I have ever owned.
Lush's Mint Julip lip scrub is an all-natural, sugar-based lip scrub that is flavored with peppermint oil and chocolate. It smells amazing, and the best part is that you get to eat it when you're done scrubbing. No, really. That is what you are supposed to do. And it is delicious.

As promised, a (not very) brief recap of our wonderful Seattle trip:
At midnight on Friday, September 9, Ryan and I boarded the Amtrak Empire Builder at the St. Paul train station and headed west. We had never taken the train before, but we have always been a little enamored of the idea. It seemed so quaint and old-timey, but also a really awesome way of seeing parts of the country we'd never seen. It did not disappoint, despite the 36-hour train trip each way, the shaky tiny bathrooms, and the questionable food.

We didn't spring for a sleeping car, so we didn't get too much sleep that first night (or any night). The train was freezing and we just weren't able to get comfortable. But that was okay, because before long, it was morning and we were in North Dakota.

the sunrise, somewhere between Grand Forks and Devils Lake

We made our way to the observation car, drank coffee, and watched North Dakota fly by.
 Soon, we were in Rugby. It was a refueling stop, so we were able to get off the train and stretch our legs.
Because it had been dark when we began our trip the night before, this was our first chance to see the train. That sucker was long.
"All aboard!" (yes, the conductors really do yell that)

Then it was back on the train. We spent the morning traveling through North Dakota, and then hit Montana that afternoon. I had never been to Montana before, and it did not disappoint: vast prairies with mountains in the background, and, yes, a very big sky.

 We spent most of the afternoon and evening drinking wine in the observation car, listening to trail guides from the "Rails to Trails" program talk about what we were seeing out the windows. Then we hit Glacier National Park and lost the sunlight. We went back to our seats and tried to sleep while the train took us through Idaho and Eastern Washington.

We woke up to this:
This is where I stopped taking pictures. There was just no way that my camera could capture the mountains and the water and the beauty of Washington, and I just wanted to take it in without trying to take pictures (cue John Mayer's "3 x 5").

The train took us through those mountains, through completely untouched wilderness, and there are really no words for how beautiful and awe-inspiring it was. This part of the trip, alone, made the sleepless nights and awkward conversations with retirees over dinner worth it.

And then, at about 11 a.m., we arrived in Seattle! We weren't able to check in to our hotel yet, so we dropped our bags and took our tired, unshowered selves and wandered around the city.

We ate fish tacos on the water:

made our way up to the Pike Place Market:

 saw the gum wall (so gross):

and the original Starbucks.

 We then walked back to our hotel (we did a LOT of walking on this trip), showered, went to dinner at a fabulous French/Cajun restaurant nearby, and slept for about 14 hours.

The next morning, we headed to the monorail, spotting an awesome fountain and the Space Needle on our way.

We monorail-ed and walked over to Pike Place Market, where we had lunch and delicious beer at the Pike Brewing Co. We loved it so much we bought some to bring home, and now I'm dying to find it somewhere in Minneapolis (help?)

We got touristy and did the Underground Tour (which was actually really cool), had dinner and pumpkin beer at Elysian Brewing, and then headed over to Safeco Field to watch the f-ing Yankees stomp all over the Mariners.
 birds up high at Safeco
The next morning, we boarded the ferry to Bainbridge Island.
We had a delicious late lunch on the island, did some wine tasting, and walked around and window-shopped. The island was adorable and I kind of want to move there.

The next day, we went to the Experience Music Project.
 I remember seeing this on MTV when it was built, and thinking that it looked OMG SO SUPER COOL. Well, it was. They were running a special exhibit on Nirvana to commemorate the 20th anniversary of "Nevermind" which was really cool and also incredibly sad.

The next day was our last day in Seattle - our train was scheduled to leave at about 4 that afternoon. So we hiked the long, long distance over to the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle to find the troll that lives under the bridge.
We had lunch, browsed in some of the shops in the neighborhood, headed back to our hotel, got a cab to the train station, and said goodbye to Seattle.

As our train drove east past Puget Sound, the sun began to show through the clouds and shine off the water. It was gorgeous, and a very fitting farewell after a wonderful stay in Seattle. 
During the train ride home, we played travel scrabble, watched movies, and spent more time in the observation car drinking wine (duh). And, 36 hours later, we pulled into the St. Paul train station at about 8 a.m., sad that our trip was over but happy to see our little Levi.

The title of this blog post comes from Bon Iver's "Holocene", which felt like it was especially designed for long train trips through the moutains. I listened to this song and the album it comes from on repeat during the train ride, and now I can't hear it without remembering the trip, which is actually pretty great.



by erin

a few of my recent pins...

the very definition of "pretty things"
Source: None via Erin on Pinterest

a chalkboard coffee mug for morning love notes

a handmade cupcake gift set

I need this outfit. and then I need somewhere to wear it.
Source: polyvore.com via Erin on Pinterest

chickpea chili with green olives. I KNOW.
Source: myrecipes.com via Erin on Pinterest

have a lovely weekend!


nailed it

by erin

I'm totally in love with the fancy nail polish trend that is making its way around the Internet.

A few examples...

and my own feeble first attempt at fancy nails...
which I achieved using two colors of nail polish, sticky labels, and a hole punch.

Have you tried any nail polish tricks lately? In general, I don't have the patience to paint my nails at all, let alone attempt a fancy design. But these photos make me want to try!