Monthly Archives: November 2012

November Foodie Pen Pals – Reveal Day!


This is the second time I’ve participated in the Foodie Pen Pals program!


Today is Reveal Day.

Q: What does this mean?

A: I reveal what was sent to me by my Foodie Pen Pal. In addition, the person I sent a box to reveals about what I sent.

This month, I sent a package to Chelsea over at Yasha’s Crazy Life. If you want to see what was in her package, be sure to check out her blog! {Teaser: The wasabi almonds were her favorite.}

I received my package from Antonia, who lives in a small town from Tennessee.

The first thing I discovered in my box:

Banana Moon Pies!

My husband said he hasn’t seen Moon Pies since he’s lived down south. Here’s the kicker: He’s allergic to bananas, so these were all mine! Muwhahahahahaha! In addition, these were actually mini Moon Pies, so they were only 110 calories per pie! {I say were because they are long gone.} Antonia says that Moon Pies are a Tennessee tradition. Gotta love that.

The entire contents of the box:

My November Foodie Pen Pal Box

In addition to the Moon Pies I found Peanut Brittle, Cascadian Farms Organic Cinnamon Raisin Granola, Old Timey Syrup with Antonia’s favorite buckwheat pancake recipe, Pocky Chocolate-covered Biscuit Sticks, Quaker Quakes Cheddar Cheese Rice Snacks, Nescafe Memento Mocha Coffee Mix.

Her hand written note described her favorite snacks:

All Foodie Pen Pal Boxes must contain something written – it’s what makes you a pen pal, after all!

I’ve tried everything except for the syrup and pancake recipe. My husband said the peanut brittle is the best he’s ever had! The granola makes a perfect breakfast cereal. I followed Antonia’s suggested and stirred the Pocky into my coffee. Those are long gone. The rice cake snacks were perfect for on-the-go. And the Nescafe Mocha was so easy: Just add hot water. I liked this so much that I’m going to use the coupon Antonia included to get me some more!

Thank you, Antonia, for such a lovely Foodie Package!


If you’d like to participate in the Foodie Pen Pals program, here’s the best part:

You don’t need to have a blog to participate!

Here’s how it works:

1. Sign up by the 4th of the month that you want to participate.

2. On the 5th of the month, you are assigned a Foodie Pen Pal.

3. You communicate with your pen pal about any food allergies or preferences, as well as where to ship the package.

4. By the 15th of the month, send $15 worth of food to your pen pal that may include homemade goodies, local treats or just some of your favorite discoveries that you want to share! The box must also contain something handwritten.

5. You’ll receive a package from another Foodie Pen Pal, who was assigned to you.

6. If you are like me, you squeal with delight when your package arrives.

7. You enjoy said goodies, which you may have never known about otherwise.

8. If you are a blogger, you post about the package you received on the last day of the month – Reveal Day! {If you are not a blogger, you do not need to do anything, but thank your Pen Pal, of course! However, if your Pen Pal does blog, you can choose to write a guest post, if you so wish.}

Now that you know all of this, please note that there has been a *change* for December:

For the month of December only, the Foodie Pen Pals program will be donating to charities set up for Hurricane Sandy victims. Instead of being assigned a Pen Pal and spending $15 on a box of food, participants are encouraged to donate that $15 to the FPP Charity for Hurricane Sandy program. There are currently over 1000 Foodie Pen Pals. Therefore, if we could raise $15,000. Won’t you join us?

As I understand it, the Foodie Pen Pal program will return to its original state in January.

If you’d like to see what I received in my last FPP box, click here.

Did you have a Pen Pal as a kid?


Top 5 Gifts for that Hard to Buy for Person Who Has Everything


Yes, we all have at least one of them on our gift lists. That person that you rack your brains over every year to find them a gift that they’ll actually like and use. If you’re lucky, you might find one that they’ll adore.

Gifts for that Hard to Buy for Person Who Has Everything

Believe it or not, my husband is hard to shop for when it comes to gifts. He thanks me politely and then the gift ends up on the shelf in a closet or in a drawer for an indeterminate amount of time before it disappears. That is so frustrating! The problem is that {as Racheal mentioned here}, when men want something, they tend to just buy it for themselves. It turns out, my attempt to be creative usually backfires on me.

A couple of years ago, I finally found the perfect gift – one that he loves and that keeps on giving:

an iPhone

It worked out perfectly because I am the one that handles our cell phone account. Plus, it was something he never knew he wanted. To this day, he still thanks me for this gift.

However, unless you are buying for your spouse or adult child, you probably aren’t going to buy anyone else an iPhone.

Instead, I’m thinking of those people that you may not know as well or those people who seem to have everything, or people like grandparents who are older and don’t want/need more stuff. With this list, I sincerely hope you find that aha! gift for that seemingly impossible person to buy for on your holiday list. If nothing else, maybe this list will spark an idea for something perfect!

Here are some items I’ve come up with over the years and are in no particular order:

1) Gift Card

  • I know some people who hate giving these. They feel that they are impersonal.
  • However, I love receiving them! I often wait to use them as weight loss or NSV rewards!
  • They are perfect for teenagers!
  • Think iTunes, sporting good stores for athletes, craft stores for the crafty, a unique store online that you found, an electronics store for the techie. Or just think about where your gift recipient often goes.
  • I know teachers who say they love getting $5 Caribou Coffee and Target gift cards that they can actually use.
  • And you’d know I’d accept a gift certificate to any restaurant just to try it out. {The first time we went to Sul Lago, there had to be over a dozen people who came in to get gift certificates. And this was before Thanksgiving!}
  • Not sure which gift card to get?
    • Many grocery and other stores have stands with all different types of gift cards in many denominations. Check out the stand to be inspired with ideas.
    • Do a search on line. Just Google: X {Gift Recipient hobby} + gift card.
  • This is what makes the gift certificates personal:
    • “I know you love to do this/these types of things! So pick out something you really want!” or
    • “I know you love this place and will use this!” or
    • “I thought of you because I love this place and thought you’d like to try it out.”

2) A Photo Canvas {or other photo gift}

  • My friend Stacy swears by the photo canvas deals on Groupon and other daily deal sites. You send in or upload a photo and they convert your photo to canvas. Your favorite photograph becomes a work of art you can hang on the wall. With all the traveling I love to do, I plan to pick out favorite from a trip to canvas-ize.
  • Grandparents love photo memories. A photo book or calendar you either create yourself or online will do the trick. {Note: I am NOT a scrapbooker, so I love using websites like Snapfish.}
  • If you are in to giving ornaments, consider a photo ornament.  I know people who give their children an ornament each year with the year printed on it so that by the time they leave home, they’ve got not only their own collection of ornaments, but also memories. A photo that depicts that year for someone or a memory of the two of you is a great idea.

3) Subscription boxes

  • I know, I’m addicted to these right now. But, really, but who wouldn’t want one?
  • If you love or want to learn more about wine, would you turn down a Wine Club gift subscription? I didn’t think so.
  • Two of my current favorite subscription boxes are:
    • Birchbox – Beauty, grooming and lifestyle products for women and men! Check out my latest box and review here.
    • Love with Food – Gourmet Food Samples. Each month your box ships, a meal is donated to a hungry child. Check out my latest box and review here.
  • Need a gift for a pet or pet parent? Check out BarkBox – my pooches LOVE IT! Latest box and review here.
  • Or how about a magazine subscription? There are so many unique ones out there now. Do a search online. Just Google: X {Gift Recipient hobby} + magazine.
  • There are also gift subscriptions for olive oil. We’ve done this before and have found exceptional quality!
  • And this Wisconsin girl would never turn down the gift of a Cheese of the Month Club!

4) Experiences

  • This is my favorite category! I’m talking things like:
    • Plays or concert tickets.
    • Cooking Classes – Twin Cities peeps: I’d recommend Saga Hill, Kitchen Window and Local D’Lish.
    • Spa Day – I don’t think I know of one woman who wouldn’t want this.
    • Or any experience that makes you think of your recipient! Like the Beer Trolley Tour I’m taking my husband on this weekend as part of his birthday box!

5) Your Time

  • This is one of the best and most cherished gifts you can give.
  • People who love you, but don’t really don’t need more stuff would love to spend more time with you!
  • Get tickets to a play or concert that you both love.
  • Take them to a movie, a trip to their favorite restaurant or do something together that you know they love to do, but don’t get to do that often.
  • Buy tickets for the event, or just create your own coupon that states something like: “Coupon good for: A Trip to Izzy’s Ice Cream”. I suggest putting an expiration date on it so that they will redeem it ASAP. (Although you don’t have to adhere to that expiration, of course.)

What’s the most unique gift you’ve given?

What ways have you given experiences or times to loved ones?

Happy Holidays~

Give a Ticket Around the World of Wine…


I had planned to write a post on the Top 5 Gifts for that Hard-to-Buy-for-Person-Who-Has-Everything. We all know at least one of those and struggle with them on our holiday list every year!

But then I realized I had too much to say about each of these items.

Since it is Wine Wednesday, I’ve decided to talk about just one of those gifts. It’s one of my favorite things to give both those who love wine or who are new to wine – The Traveling Vineyard Wine Club®

It’s the perfect gift for that Hard-to-Buy-for-Person-Who-Has-Everything (or even for yourself).

I’ve looked around and this Wine Club is the least expensive I’ve found out there. It’s only $29.95 per month, plus shipping. Each month the recipient receives two fantastic bottles of wine from different regions around the world {not just domestic wines from one winery}. You get to choose the program that suits your wine lover best:

  • 2 reds OR
  • 1 white & 1 red

Most people have never tasted Traveling Vineyard® Wines. Even if they have been to one of our Wine Tastings before, the wine inventory changes all the time! They are from boutique vineyards around the world and cannot be found in stores. Once they are gone, they are gone. New arrivals come in each month.

What’s more is that because The Traveling Vineyard Wine Club® includes wines from around the world from many different wineries, it’s like your ticket around the world through wine!

 Each month, members receive:

  • Two fantastic wines from regions around the world
  • An email with printable full-page descriptions of each wine’s characteristics, the region it comes from and the best food pairings
  • Recipes that pair with the wines in the shipment
  • Additional wine education that will feed your interest in wine

Subscription Options:

  • Continuous shipment: $29.95 + shipping/month (no contract – cancel at any time) – Most people who join the club for themselves like the option to pay month to month.

If you are giving a gift, you can pay for a subscription up front (shipping included):

  • 3-month prepaid: $116.70
  • 6-month prepaid: 233.40
  • 12-month prepaid: $466.80

Why the Wine Club is such a popular gift this time of year at my Wine Tastings:

  • It’s easy. You don’t have to leave your home to pick it up, nor wrap it.
  • It’s a gift you can give across the miles.
  • When your wine lover thanks you each month when their shipment arrives, you’ll already have an easy gift picked out for the next holiday season.

Who joins the Wine Club?

  • Friends or Neighbors – You know how you always say to each other, “We should get together sometime!” but never do? Those who join the Wine Club together know that the wine is coming. It’s paid for; so they put a date on the calendar and they do get together.
  • Couples – It’s an excellent excuse to have a romantic date night each night. Nothing sparks passion like a great meal and a little wine. 😉
  • Wine Club Groups – If you don’t belong to one, start one! Invite your friends. You can learn together with the included education. Remember the Importance of Company?
  • Book Clubs – I heard a chef on a Food Network show joke that Book Clubs are “really” about the wine. It wouldn’t hurt to make it a theme one month. It just might catch on!

But maybe you don’t want to share!

You might just want to learn more about different wines, get out of the rut of buying the same wine over and over, and try something new.

A single gal joined just to stock up her wine rack without having to do any research on the wines. It can be intimidating picking something out in the store. With so many options, which do you choose? This Wine Club member would store her Wine Club wines in her wine rack. When she decided to open a bottle or give it as a gift, she could thumb through her tasting lessons to learn about it or stick the notes in a gift bag with the wine.

The Traveling Vineyard Wine Club® is the Perfect Gift for:

  • The Holidays
  • Hospitality – Is someone letting you stay with them this holiday season?
  • Birthdays
  • Weddings {especially today when most couples don’t need another toaster}
  • The Hard-to-Buy-for-Adult-Who-Has-Everything

When you order a Wine Club as a gift, be sure to contact me at UncommonWine (at) Yahoo (dot) com immediately and let me know so that I can put it on hold so that it won’t spoil any surprises. Also, do NOT enter the email address of your gift recipient or they will get a confirmation. We can change that later. 😉

With The Traveling Vineyard Wine Club® , you can travel around the world of wine from the comfort of your home.

What is your favorite gift for that



*The Traveling Vineyard can currently (at the time of this post) ship to the all States within the U.S. except: AL, AR, CO, DE, IN, KS, KY, LA, MS, MT, TN, OK, PA, RI, SD, UT, and VT.

112 Eatery – Minneapolis


It’s been a few years since we’ve been to the 112.

All I remember is that I ordered the Nori Encrusted Sirloin with Ponzu and my husband ordered the Bacon, Egg & Harrisa Sandwich. And while we were both pleased, we weren’t blown away like some say that they are when dining here.

I do, however, remember Rob craning his neck to follow a burger that was being delivered to a table across the restaurant. While staring in that direction, he vowed that we would be back.

For his birthday dinner this year, he chose 112 Eatery with every intention of finally trying the 112 Cheese Burger.

We made early reservations as we had planned our night out around the Ike Reilly Thanksgiving Eve 10th Anniversary Celebration. Our friend Jen joined us. {If you haven’t heard of the Ike Reilly Assassination, be sure to check them out!}

I ordered a glass of French bubbly: Bouvet-Ladubay Brut; Jen went with a Sammy Smith’s Oatmeal Stout; while Rob was seduced by the fact that they had San Pellegrino beverages on the menu. He went with the Pompelmo flavor {grapefruit}. His favorite flavor is Blood Orange, but we haven’t seen that since Chicago.

While we waited for our beverages and perused the menu, some pre-dinner snacks were brought to our table:

Greek olives and wasabi almonds

This reminded me very much of France because at parties, you often see nuts and olives served with an apéritifs.

Rob already knew that he wanted a burger, but I was a little perplexed on what to get. I asked for recommendations and favorites. The menu was even a little too “foodie” for me, but sometimes we can be turned off by an entrée just because of the name. The 112 menu doesn’t give much for descriptions, but I will tell you that our server did an excellent job once I asked! It helped me make my decision.

I decided to start with and share this:

(partly eaten) fresh ricotta w/ white truffle honey – $8

Oh dear, was this sinfully delicious. The bread was toasted. The ricotta was whipped and creamy and the sweetness of the honey with the hint of earthiness of the truffle flavor balanced beautifully.

I chose another appetizer as my entrée:

sea scallops w/ oyster mushrooms – $16

I probably would not have ordered these with that description alone. However, the way our server described them sold me. And by now, you know how much I love scallops. These were decadent, perfectly seared, and if you like mushrooms, these will make you swoon. There’s a lot of umami going on here! However, as I kept eating, it eventually became too much, almost too salty. Maybe just one scallop would have been perfect. Now I know why it’s an appetizer, perhaps meant to share.

For the table, we ordered some sides:

(half eaten) pan-fried gnocchi w/ parmesan reggiano – $10

The sides here are meant to be shared and while we did order two sides, we couldn’t finish either of them among the three of us! This gnocchi was just the way I like it. I think gnocchi is always the best the next day, when you sear it so that it has a nice crust. These had just that along with those yummy shavings of parmesan reggiano. Perfect.

Of course, to go with the burger, we had to get a side of fries:

french fries – $7

Again, a huge portion! Luckily, the fries were the kind Rob likes – the perfect ratio of potato to fried surface {read: skinny fries}. And while they were no Pops fries, they did the trick. However, the ketchup and almost-too-tangy mayo-like dipping sauces didn’t thrill us.

Both Rob and Jen ordered burgers:

112 cheese burger – $10

So there is no real description on the menu about this burger, but Rob has been hearing about it for years! The meat sits on an English muffin and is topped with brie cheese. Rob said that the brie overpowered the entire burger. He was a little thrown off, too, because he looked at the menu online prior to dining out and there was a picture of the 112 burger. By the looks of it, the 112 burger had cheddar, or at least some sort of orange cheese!

It’s not that he doesn’t like brie cheese. In fact, one of his top 10 burgers in the Twin Cities is a truffle burger with brie that also sits on an English Muffin. But he didn’t come for that burger. And this one didn’t compare. The meat was high quality though, and he ate most of it. But I was sad that his birthday dinner choice was a bit of a let down.

But something made up for everything:

izzy’s ice cream, salted caramel flavor – $4

We first discovered Izzy’s Ice Cream at Scusi in St. Paul. We fell in love. So much that, one of the items I put in Rob’s birthday box was a “coupon” for a trip to Izzy’s.  I had no idea that we’d be having some of Izzy’s ice cream the night before he opened his gifts!

Both Jen and Rob ordered the salted caramel ice cream, so I elected to get something different:

caramel cake w/ dulce de leche whipped cream

This cake was quite yummy and caramel-y, but when I had a bite of the oh-so-decadent salted caramel ice cream, I was entirely jealous. Both Rob and Jen tasted my cake and were happy with their choice. Jen said that if we had just ordered the caramel cake to split, we would have enjoyed it just fine. However, after trying the salted caramel ice cream, it just didn’t compare! And there was so much going on with caramel-y sweetness in the cake and on the side, that I couldn’t tell if the whipped cream was of a dulce de leche flavor or not.

With our tummies full, we asked for the check and were also brought this:

spicy caramel corn

We were too full to take more than a taste. For flavors, I got cayenne and cardamom. Jen said she didn’t understand who would like a combination like this! While I didn’t mind it, I just couldn’t eat anymore at this point. But I love the thought of a complimentary post-dinner treat!

What’s a flavor combination that you’ve been surprised by?


Ireland – Weather & What to Wear


Do you ever have so much information and so much you wanted to share that you were overwhelmed with where to start. That’s how I felt about my trip to Ireland. I don’t know how much I’ll cover, but here’s a start!

One of the main reasons people visit Ireland is to see the beautiful countryside. Sure, it may rain an awful lot, but that doesn’t keep people away. The rain is what gives Ireland its lush green color and why it’s poetically referred to as the Emerald Isle.

Irish Countryside

My first trip to Ireland was in 2000. My friend Jen and I were there at the end of May/beginning of June finishing off our 10-week backpacking tour of Europe. While that time of year is practically summer for those of us in Minnesota, Jen had to buy a fleece jacket in Ireland because it got a little chilly! We really had to use our layers. One moment you could feel the chill down to your bones, the next moment it was sunny and the layer had to come off and the next moment we’d get a downpour of rain. Then we’d have to shed that layer again as it became sunny again.

In fact, one thing I remembering hearing about Ireland was, “If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes.”

This time around, I made sure to come prepared. We had read that weather at the end of September/beginning of October would be in the low 60s. My husband had originally planned to bring his sandals. I thought he was crazy! “What will you do when it rains and your feet get cold and wet?” I asked. He ended up leaving them at home and I know he was happy with that decision!

It was chillier this time of year than it was on my previous visit. This was a family trip. And my mother-in-law was told by the travel agent that the weather would be very nice and that she might need a jacket.” Um. Yeah. I think she should have used the word “definitely” instead. I brought one sweater to go over my long-sleeved shirts, a couple of scarves and a water-proof windbreaker jacket.

I wore the sweater every day.

My waterproof jacket looks bulky with a long-sleeved shirt and sweater underneath. Photo taken at Slieve League.

I love scarves because they can warm you up in pinch, but you can remove them once you go inside and start to heat up. For me, they are instant temperature adjustments. They can also liven up any outfit if you are traveling light and aren’t bringing many clothes.

Speaking of packing light, I had the goal for this trip to try to pack as light as a I did for that 10-week backpacking trip  twelve years ago. If I did it for 10 weeks, I should be able to do it for 12 days, right? For this trip, we planned to stay in most places just one or two nights. So I didn’t want unpacking and repacking to be such a chore.

To accomplish this, I decided to use the same bag I used for that backpacking trip:

REI Tourlite Backpack – bought in 2000. I am not sure if they still make these.

For clothes, I packed two pairs of black pants, one pair of jeans, three shirts, something to sleep in, my waterproof jacket, two scarves, underwear, bras and socks. On travel day, I wore an additional pair of black pants, a long-sleeved shirt, my sweater, a scarf and my only pair of shoes. {Oh, and undergarments of course.}

Everything packed nicely by rolling my clothes in Eagle Creek Pack-It Cubes

Then somehow, I realized I had room and these jumped into my bag:

What?! Only a RUNNER would want to bring those along! 😉

Unfortunately, the opportunity to run didn’t exactly present itself. But that’s okay. I think just wanting to pack these made me feel like a real runner. For weeks prior to the trip, I had pictured myself running through the beautiful Irish countryside. However, once we started driving on those narrow roads where people sped around the curves so fast, I decided it just wasn’t a good idea.

When all was said and done and my bag was packed with toiletries and all, it weighed only 26 pounds!

My 26-pound bag!

Okay, before you get too impressed, I did bring a carry-on bag:

This over-the-shoulder bag included things like magazines and a borrowed Kindle for the flight, my iPhone and our chargers, travel documents, meds, Kleenex, snacks, journal, purse, an extra pair of underwear and TSA approved-size toiletries in the event of missing luggage.

Here are some notes I made to myself for packing for my next trip abroad:

  • I’m so glad I packed light!
  • Carrie, you are getting too old to backpack it. Invest in small roll-away bag instead. Yeah, despite that it was only 26-lbs, it kind of was a PITA.
  • Get a new waterproof jacket. I still love the quality of the LL Bean Jacket pictured above {also bought back in 2000} and its ability to pack down to a small pillow. However, as a pullover jacket, it gets really old! I need to invest in jacket that I can just zip up.
  • For this trip, I wished I had brought another sweater, too, just because I got so bored with the one I wore every day.

My husband packed light as well, but in a small roll-away bag. His clothes consisted of jeans, long-sleeved button-down shirts and a waterproof jacket. Ireland is fairly casual, so this is all he really needed. And since he is not a freeze-baby like me, he didn’t need a sweater of any kind.

One of my favorite photos of him when it rained during our trip:

Rob walking in the rain. It actually hailed briefly that day!

Don’t worry, you’ll get plenty more scenery photos to come. This is just a start to my Ireland posts!

What is your best packing tip?


BarkBox – November 2012


This month’s BarkBox arrived the day before Thanksgiving, but we didn’t get a chance to sit down and open it until the following day. This means that Benny and Sophie didn’t miss out while Daddy got to open birthday presents all day long!

As usual, Benny was anxious and curious:

And I think it was the best box the pooches have received so far!

November BarkBox Contents

The contents of each BarkBox so far have always included treats, a toy and something for dental hygiene. So let’s review some of this month’s items:

Barkworthies 6″ Dog Chew

This chew claims to be “100% natural”, high in protein, low in fat and to keep teeth and gums healthy. It is made of 100% beef pizzle {whatever that is}. Sophie tried to rip it out of my hand the moment I took it out of the box. I didn’t want to give it to her, however, due to recently having two teeth extracted and her follow-up appointment being the next day. So it remains to be chewed. Still, this chew must have been a last minute addition to the box, as it was not listed on the BarkBox insert anywhere!

Bionic Bone

This plastic bone, made of food grade materials, claims to be virtually indestructible. The design is meant to fit your pooch’s mouth and its ridges are supposed to provide a “chewy” feeling. It is recommended to stuff it with treats and freeze it overnight for “hours of fun”. Ours is currently filled with peanut butter and has been stuffed in the freezer. We’ll try to test it out on both Benny and Sophie. If they both like it, we’ll have to buy another. Both dogs currently have KONGs, but I am not sure if those are freezable.

Fruitables Healthy Dog Treats – Pumpkin & Blueberry Flavor

The pumpkin craze that has swept the blogosphere this time of year did not pass up the doggie world! I opened the bag and these actually smelled really good – lots of blueberry aromas, none of those dog biscuit smells. The dogs loved them. At only 9 calories per crunchy treat, they’d be perfect for training.

Acadia Antlers Moose Rac Chew Toy  Rope Antler Chew – Made from Naturally Shed Maine Moose Antlers and 100% Cotton Rope

Okay, our dogs really aren’t into rope toys; so I had fully intended to give this one away. However, I let Sophie sniff it and she went CRAZY. She tugged, chewed, scratched at and rolled on this thing for at least an hour straight.

Sophie went ballistic over this. I guess we won’t be giving it away!

On the tag:

“Our MOOSE RAC* (rope antler chew) is made from Maine Moose Antler and 100% cotton rope with no fillers or synthetics. Soft roping acts as a floss for teeth, great for chewing, tugging and throwing. Chewing is great jaw exercise, and our Moose Antler will hep scrape tartar off your dogs teeth!!”

Mr. Barksmith’s Smoothies for Dogs – Pumpkin Patch Flavor

What a “cool” concept! I thought this might feel really good on Sophie’s teeth. I popped it in the freezer so that it would be ready by feeding time. The recommendation was to “pop the cool treat into your dog’s favorite bowl.” At dinnertime, I took the Smoothie out of the freezer, filled Benny and Sophie’s food bowls, divided the cup in half and popped it on top of their regular food.

At first, I think Sophie wasn’t sure what to think. She licked the cool treat on top of her food and then looked at me. Meanwhile, Benny took his portion out of the bowl and put it on the floor and licked it up. By the time they were finished, I checked both bowls: They both were completely empty.

Ingredients: Pumpkin Puree, Banana Puree, Apple Puree, Water, Omega 3 Chia

Also in the BarkBox were coupons/vouchers for:

  • – $10 off dog-sitting from local insured dog-sitters
  • – $10 online gift card for pet food and treats
  • DogTV – $10 gift card – uh what?

I had never heard of DogTV before, but here is what the card insert read:

I wonder if we’ll receive December’s shipment in time to wrap it up for Christmas. No matter what, we’re definitely finding products we would have never encountered nor tried on our dogs before if it weren’t for BarkBox!

This would make the perfect gift for any dog or petparent in your life. To join, you just choose your dog size, the plan (month-to-month, three months or six months) and enter your billing and shipping information. It’s that simple.

Click here to get $5 off your subscription to give it a try.

Have you ever heard of DogTV?

What do you think of something like this?


Gratitude: Brought to You by the Number 40


It’s Thanksgiving – the day of the year when we Americans are reminded to give thanks. For some, that may just mean a day off of work and some home-cooked turkey. However, if you haven’t before (or even if you have), let’s dig deeper beyond that.

Although we hear the word gratitude and are encouraged to be thankful this time of year, most people don’t take the time to practice it more often than that. It wasn’t until I received a book as a gift called The Simple Abundance Journal of Gratitude that I started to practice it more often myself. But it took reading the book The Secret for me to truly understand its power. Being grateful for even the tiniest things can really change your perspective. For me, writing a list of things for which I am grateful helps me turn my mood around. It changes my focus from the negative to the positive. It may sound simplistic, but I find that it really works.

In honor of Thanksgiving, just one day that reminds us that we should be thankful, I want to challenge everyone reading this post to do any of the following:

  • Find someone you love and thank them for something you never have before.
  • Take a piece of paper or notebook and over the next week write 100 things you’re grateful for as they come to you.
  • Keep a notebook by your nightstand and each night before you go to bed, write five things for which you are grateful.
  • Join me on Twitter with thousands of others and tweet one thing each day for which you are grateful followed by #365thanks.

Because really, shouldn’t we show gratitude everyday? That is what #365thanks symbolizes. It’s simple to do and you’ll feel great doing it.

Today, I’m grateful for my wonderful husband.

It’s his  40th birthday today!

He actually *asked* me for a surprise party this year. I just laughed at him and said, “I can’t throw you one now!” Then, to throw him off, I threw a “40 Days Before Your 40th Birthday” party last month. It worked out perfectly. And he was absolutely surprised. I’m probably the only person in the history of mankind to throw one of those!
For his birthday on today, we elected to stay home. We normally travel back to Green Bay for Thanksgiving, but we decided to stay put this year because:
  • We visited two weeks ago for our nephew’s 5th birthday.
  • We went to the 10th Anniversary Ike Reilly Thanksgiving Eve concert last night at First Avenue and were out very, very late.
  • He’s allergic to turkey.

So it was another gift to him not to have to drive there and back. When we originally decided to do this, I thought I was doing him a favor as to not drive in snowy weather. However, this year, we just so happen to have the best weather here in Minnesota in years. It’s currently 61 degrees! {I bet people who were out doing Turkey Trots this morning were elated!}

For his birthday, we celebrated with our usual birthday dinner tradition {Restaurant Impression to come} prior to last night’s concert. But this morning, I put this box in front of him:

Birthday Box

This box contains 40 little gifts that I’ve picked up that reminded me of him. They are either things that he loved when I first met him, things that he likes or uses right now or just things I thought he might like now or in the future.

The first gift he opened however was this:

The instructions are that he has to set the timer for 15:00. Every fifteen minutes, he can open any gift of his choice. He’ll be opening fun gifts all day. {Well, while he watches the football of course.}

Happy Birthday, Baby! I’m grateful to have you in my life.

Cheers to many more years together. #365thanks.

Name one thing you for which you are grateful today.