Lizzard Loves Blue Sky Snow Covered Vail

Monday, August 29, 2016

Blueberry Pie (that turned out to be cobbler)

Lizzard Loves blueberry pie, or blueberry cobbler, or really most any kind of fruit pie/crumble/buckle/cake that she's come across!

I particularly love it when I am invited to join our neighbors' dinner party for dessert because (according to our neighbor) "you guys have been over here working so hard and we've just been being loud!" Chris & I truly won the neighbor lottery. Who rewards their neighbors for doing yard work on a Sunday night? Apparently our neighbors do! They reward us with lovely company, a homemade blueberry dessert that I think would qualify as a cobbler because it had a ginger biscuit topping rather than a crust. Oh &  it was served with about a cup & a half of fresh whipped cream which threw the whole thing straight over the top!! Their dessert became our dinner!! 

I also love that they had no issue with us coming over literally dirty from working in our muddy backyard. We looked worse for the wear to be sure & our neighbors were still willing to include us in their evening.

Bottom line: seems like we bought and moved into the right neighborhood for us. Very little pretense and people who share their desserts. Winning.

Just because it seems prudent; here is a recipe I found for a similar cobbler - this one calls for blackberries; though I think blueberries would be divine. Ice cream, whipped cream, whatever suits your fancy will compliment this dessert just fine!

Food for thought: invite your neighbors over, even if just for dessert. I can nearly guarantee they will be grateful!

Friday, August 19, 2016

Slumber Parties

Lizzard Loves when her 2 best friends (one who lives 12 miles away, the other 1423 miles away) both come over for a Monday night slumber party.

I love that we ate a rainbow sprinkle studded rice krispy treat with our cheese plate. 
I love that the laughter was almost continuous. 
I love that we are grown up enough to seriously discuss the hard stuff too. 
I love that no matter how much distance is between us, we will remain close. 
I love that we had a summery meal with the best corn & tomatoes around.
I love that Chris is happy to have dinner with 3 ladies.
I love that we are all old and wanted to go to bed even before we did. 
I love that we (because why would we talk about it) had 3 different kinds of dessert on a Monday night, not including the aforementioned rice krispy treat.
I love that in an ever changing world, it feels like some things never change.
I love that I got to share Tuesday morning coffee with my best friend who didn't need to get on a 6:45am flight back home. So rare is it to share your weekday routines with anyone other than your spouse. It felt like college, in a good way.
Bottom line: I love my best friends & am lucky to have them.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Homemade Cookies - Favorite Recipe Included!

Lizzard Loves homemade cookies.
Lizzard Loves the pools of melty chocolate
these cookies are filled with!
I mean, who doesn't?!? Is there anything better than a plate of fresh baked, homemade cookies? I would argue there is not. Cookies are my favorite sweet treat, I like them in (almost) every form: chubby, chewy, crunchy, soft, plain & chock full of extras.

Store bought cookies for SURE have their place; they can be abundantly delicious. This brand is my top notch favorite for store bought. A good bakery cookie is hard to beat; if you live in the Chicagoland area; this bakery is worth a pilgrimage as is this one (get the Florentines & smiley face cookies at the first, the bulk cookies by the pound at the second). This post isn’t about store bought cookies though. Store bought cookies don’t take thought, time, or effort. They also don’t make your house smell like heaven.

Homemade cookies matter because they communicate so much goodness in their perfect little smash up of flour, butter & sugar. Homemade cookies tell people you care about them. Homemade cookies tell people they are worth your time. Homemade cookies convey a sense of comfort few other foods do.

“But Liz”, you say, “I don’t have the time to make a batch of cookies every time someone needs a pick me up, congratulations, birthday treat” and I would agree with you. You are busy, you have a job, a family, obligations at church, perhaps you go to school, you volunteer, you blog, you create art, you watch shows,  go on dates, plan playdates, make lunches, have adventures. All these things are wonderful & meaningful uses for your time!

My challenge to you is; find a chunk of time, early in the morning, late at night, whenever. It doesn’t matter. Prepare a double or triple batch of cookie dough and FREEZE it! I’ve included links to some of my favorite recipes below. Once you’ve made the dough, stretch a long piece of plastic wrap out on your counter (leave it attached to the box – don’t tear it off yet – its sooooo hard to handle a loose piece of plastic wrap. That stuff sticks to everything) & thwap a big hunk of dough onto it. Fold the plastic wrap over the mound of dough & use it to flatten it and shape it into a rough disk shape. Tear the plastic wrap from the box & wrap the dough tightly. Now wrap it again. Repeat 4 times for a double batch, or 6 times for a triple batch of dough. These disks do not need to be uniform; they do not need to be perfect. They do need to be double wrapped tightly in plastic. Using a permanent marker, write out the baking instructions for the cookies on the outside of a zip top freezer bag (oven temperature & baking time at least) so when you come back to the dough you don’t need to go searching for the cookie recipe to remember what to do with it. To prevent your future cookies from tasting like your freezer, slide the entire bag into another freezer bag.

If you find yourself with extra time on your dough making day (extra time for the first time since you got the job, had the baby, started your business), feel free to shape the dough into balls and freeze on a cookie sheet. After a few hours they are frozen enough to dump into a zip top bag (that you still should label with baking instructions…… yourself that favor!). It is just a question of, do you have those extra minutes on dough making day or on baking day. 110% up to you.

Now the fun part; it is your friend’s birthday & you want to make her a treat. You don’t have time to drag out all the ingredients & tools necessary to make a batch of cookies. You might just have the time to pull one of your dough disks out of the freezer, let it sit on the counter for 20-40 minutes (until it is soft enough to form into balls) and bake. I use a mini ice cream scoop for the most uniform size/shape cookies. If you line your cookie sheets with parchment paper, you will only need to wash the ice cream scoop – no sink full of dishes, no countertop covered in flour, no muss, no fuss. I’ll give you extra points if you let your dough defrost overnight in the fridge so it feels like less waiting.

So dear friends. Get that mixer out & dust it off. Make an epic batch of cookie dough every now & again to be prepared to bring homemade awesomeness wherever you go. You won’t be sorry. I promise. Oh, also, this method provides you with the steady supply of frozen cookie dough you’ve always wanted. Maybe that’s just me. But just in case it’s not; you’re welcome.

This recipe has, over the course of the past 5ish years, become my absolute, hands down favorite. I have, in that time, tweaked it, adjusted it & in my humble opinion, perfected it! I hope you make and enjoy these as much as I do!

Salted Oatmeal Dark Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Adapted from Real Simple
Makes approximately 50 cookies (enough to stock your freezer for future use!)
4 cups old fashioned rolled oats (not quick cooking)
2 cups bread flour (or all purpose if you don’t have bread)
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 teaspoons flaky sea salt (Maldon works well, sub in Kosher if you don’t have anything flaky)
1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter
½ cup coconut oil (warmed to a very soft state, liquid is fine but let it cool to room temp so you don’t melt your butter!)
½ cup turbinado sugar* (raw sugar)
½ cup coconut sugar*
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
12 ounces dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line 2 large air bake baking sheets with parchment paper
2. In a large bowl, combine the oats, flour, baking soda, cinnamon and 2 teaspoons of the salt. Set aside.
3. Beat the butter, coconut oil & all 3 sugars with an electric mixer (or stand mixer with the paddle attachment) on medium high for 2-3 minutes until light and fluffy.
4. Beat in eggs one at a time and then the vanilla.
5. Reduce your mixer speed to low and gradually add your flour mixture, mixing until just combined. Don’t overmix or you risk your cookies being tough, not chewy.
6. Stir in the chopped chocolate.
7. Using a mini ice cream scoop, drop rounded mounds of dough onto the lined baking sheets, spacing them approximately 2 inches apart. I fit 16 cookies per sheet on my baking sheets. This dough does not spread too much.
8. Sprinkle the dough balls with the remaining 2 teaspoons of flaky salt.
9. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until lightly browned around the edges.  Cool for a few minutes on the baking sheets before sliding the cookies (on the parchment) onto cooling racks.

*If you don’t have these types of sugar in your pantry, you can substitute granulated white sugar. I like the taste/texture the raw sugar/coconut sugar combination gives the cookies. I’ve made them many times with granulated sugar & they are quite delicious as well!

Friday, July 22, 2016

Delicious, Homegrown & Homemade Food

Lizzard Loves delicious homegrown and homemade food.

This week has been full of deliciousness all the way around it. Celebrated Lynn's birthday at the Lake with Mom, Lynn (obviously), Marg & the Hennie chicky. Ate deliciousness at every turn including brunch at Simple Cafe (favorite, favorite, favorite restaurant at the Lake), donuts from Do-Rite Donuts (they were a sweet treat bonus from me since they are located almost too conveniently a couple doors down from our doctor!), flourless chocolate cake from Simple Bakery, etc etc etc. We don't cook on our girls "weekends" which are always during the week - eating out is the name of the game! 

Which is why I was THRILLED beyond measure to come home to this:
Camilla's homegrown arugula
Delicious, nutritious, perfect arugula grown by Camilla in her community garden plot. Breakfast for dinner was on the menu the night I got home - the arugula was sauteed down with olive oil and mixed with scrambled eggs and assorted leftover grilled veggies. Perfection. And a bit of a detox after the wonderfully indulgent birthday celebrating.

Also was uber excited to discover 2 of my tomato plants ripened fruit while I was away! My bumper crop of 5 tomatoes was my biggest harvest to date. I was thrilled. I might add that these are cherry tomatoes......SunGold and Zebra Cherry......5 is not a lot......but they were DELICIOUS! I'm still new to the whole growing your own food thing. It does not take much to blow my hair back!
My Zebra Cherries on the vine
I hid out indoors yesterday to stay out of the insane heat wave heat we're having. What to do while hiding out indoors? Crank up the oven & make the AC really work. Environmentally friendly, not at all. But I'm afraid it had to be done! Blueberry Coconut Muffins (adapted from this Smitten Kitchen recipe) were on the menu! Some went to our neighbors who recently lost one of their moms. Some went to Christina with her bread delivery today. Some went to Laura & little Lizzie because they stopped by! 
Blueberry Coconut Muffin explosion
Cheese & Pepper bread required another oven crank today......but it was a loaf for CC & Adam who have family in from England. I'm willing to heat up the kitchen if they are willing to fly oven the ocean ;) Happiness overwhelmed me when I was gifted some indulgent buttermilk cheddar chive biscuits that CC baked. They became the base for breakfast/brunch for Chris & me today. Toasted the biscuits in the oven, scrambled eggs with sauteed spinach and built my most delectable breakfast samby to date. 

Egg sambies on Christina's biscuits
My cup runneth over with delicious this week. I am particularly grateful for the homegrown & homemade delicious that came my way!

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Mother's Day Brunch - recipe included

Lizzard Loves thinking she published this post 3 months ago! Oops!

Lizzard Loves Mother's Day. 

Lizzard also loves brunch! Put the 2 together and I am quite happy indeed!

This year I was finally able to make good on my theory that Moms should NOT cook on Mother's Day! In years past, I've been living (like a normal adult does) in my own place away from my parents. This year though, Chris & I have been leeching on my parents & living with them while the house we bought is renovated. Logistically speaking - this is the PERFECT year to prepare brunch for the Moms! 

My Mom & her best friend Lynn have traditionally celebrated the holiday together, along with their families, always in/near the town where they live. Seeing as how I have not been living in the same house, let alone town, in the past years - I have not been able to make & transport the entire meal to them. So this year I put on my stubborn hat & refused any/all offers of help with brunch!

I am so thankful the meal went off without a hitch! I started preparing on Wednesday with grocery shopping round 1 (there were rounds 2,3 & 4 giving the items I needed & how quickly they would spoil). Friday was flower arranging & table setting with a bit of food prep thrown in. Saturday was all cooking for about 7 hours. I love cooking, especially for the people I love, so it was really a day well spent. 

Mother's Day went smoothly! My Mom & Lynn both had portions of their kids/grandkids represented at the table; though they would've preferred to have all of their kids/grandkids present - some is better than none :) Hooray for one of the only meals I've hosted that the timing was spot on. All the food was ready/hot at the same time (which was 30 minutes after the guests arrived - giving everyone enough time to settle in- but not enough time to be hungry enough to gnaw off their own arms).

The menu included the following:
Turtle scones (chocolate, caramel, pecan)
Pecan rolls (mini cinnamon rolls with pecans)
Peggy Malone's Breakfast Casserole (see below for the recipe)
Hash Brown Casserole
Cinnamon Raisin Walnut Bread (click to order from Belle Plaine Bread)
Plaine Old White Bread (click to order from Belle Plaine Bread)
Cheese & Pepper Bread (click to check out Belle Plaine Bread on Facebook)
Chocolate Covered Strawberries 
Everyday Chocolate Cake (click for the recipe from Smitten Kitchen) with chocolate whipped cream

Peggy Malone's Breakfast Casserole

This is a recipe from my sister in law,Tara's, mom Peggy. Thank you so much for sharing it with us Peggy - I've made it approximately a zillion times :)

1 pound Italian sweet sausage, casings removed
1/2 cup chopped shallots
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup chopped drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
5 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
1 cup half and half
1 cup whipping cream
2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Sauté sausage in medium nonstick skillet over medium heat until brown and cooked through, breaking up with back of fork into small pieces, about 10 minutes. Add shallots and garlic and sauté 3 minutes. Add sun-dried tomatoes and 2 tablespoons parsley; stir 1 minute. Spread sausage mixture in prepared dish. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)
Whisk eggs, egg yolks, half and half, whipping cream, 1 1/2 cups cheese, and salt in large bowl to blend well. Pour egg mixture over sausage mixture in dish. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup cheese and 2 tablespoons parsley over. Bake until top of casserole is golden brown and knife inserted into center comes out clean, about 30 minutes let rest 5 minutes before serving.

What are your favorite brunch recipes? I wish brunch was an everyday meal, not just a weekend/special occasion meal! Hope you enjoyed your Mother's Day with the special Moms in your life!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Perfect homemade iced coffee

Lizzard Loves the perfect glass of homemade iced coffee.

Sometimes your Sunday needs a bit of a pick me up to keep it rolling...and its summer and it is approaching afternoon and you are hot and want to cool down. Enter homemade iced coffee. By this point in the day your pot of morning coffee has cooled off, so just add iced and your favorite milk and sweetener.

My preference is a ton of ice cubes, vanilla coconut milk and about a teaspoon of good old granulated white sugar. I stir it a ton to help the sugar dissolve.

I find the swirls the coconut milk makes in the coffee to be just wonderful.

Insert straw & enjoy!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Unexpected Beauty

Lizzard Loves unexpected beauty.
So many pretty colors jammed in one tight little space!

I was struck by the shock & tangle of colorful wire in a junction box in our dining room. Our home is still majorly under construction & much of what is happening there is quite ugly.
Like the mud pit. 
Yeah. Our backyard is a mud pit wasteland!

Or the guy cleaning out the porta potty. 
Don't get me wrong - I appreciate it being cleaned, but
the process is pretty ugly.

But not this. This struck me as beautiful. Maybe it is all the color in a room that is now covered in white drywall including the ceiling (hooray for drywall by the way. Lizzard also desperately Loves drywall - it means we are inching ever closer to moving into our home). Maybe part of its beauty lies in the amount of work I saw go into wiring our house. Hours & hours of work by 3 great guys. The time from mid December to mid March was occupied by filling in the "guts" of our house - it was a slow process to install new plumbing, HVAC & electrical. There is a certain beauty in the almost finished product pictured above. If you want to read more about our "house to a home" project, we have a blog about it.

As per usual, I'd love to know where you have found unexpected beauty recently! Please feel free to share in the comments :)


Lizzard Loves to vote.
Only once - no "vote early, vote often" for this girl ;)

Why? Because in a year when I've felt really quite out of control in many ways; I can assert my opinions in a concrete way. Right there on paper, I connected the lines next to the candidates whose policy & plans I support. Slid that paper into the balloting machine, a couple quick beeps later & my voice had officially been heard! Democracy hinges on participation. We can not be apathetic in this regard - it is too important to assume "someone else is going to do it". We owe it to ourselves to take the few minutes out of our day to vote. It is a privilege that so many around the world hope, fight & pray for; don't squander it!

Now, please dear God, let this election season be over- its killing me! November can't come soon enough!

Family Winter Fun

Lizzard Loves winter, you know this already! 

As today is the first day of spring 
(though it dawned feeling like it was in the 20s....there's Chicago weather for you!) 
I'm looking back at all the fun outdoor adventures we had this winter.

I also love spending winter with my family including my nieces and nephews!

Here is an assortment of things that have made me happy this winter, all of it family related:
Miss Anne's first ice skate

Miss Anne's first ice skate

Anne's first downhill ski

Chris came for the big day too :)
Meeting up with this smiling face at the Gunnison airport

Hennie's amazing ability to sleep
while Marg & I snowshoed!

Hennie's first downhill ski!

Marg, Hennie & my first time fat biking

Shredding the gnar with my sissy

Bluebird days in the mountains

Hiking with the adventurous Samantha,
why would you use the bridge to cross
the creek??

Hiking with Chris & Samantha 

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Baking & Helping

I love baking. 
You already know this though. 
I also love helping. 
You might also already know this.

Chewy and good Chocolate Chunk with
Walnuts Cookies
On Monday, I baked a new recipe for the first time that I found on Smitten Kitchen. If you don't at least occasionally look at Smitten Kitchen, check it out - the recipes are delicious & the blog is beautifully photographed. The recipe I tried is here. I chopped up the remains of 3 different dark chocolate bars and sprinkled the dough balls with sea salt before I baked them. I chose to use toasted walnuts.

These cookies were baked as a thank you treat for the nurses working 12 hour shifts taking care of my mother in law, Barb, at the Crozer Hospital ICU. Barb had a 13 hour long surgery on Thursday and has been in the ICU since. Things are touch and go. Chris & I flew to be with my father in law Rich, my sisters in law Jen & Beth and be by Barb's bedside during the annoyingly strict visiting hours. More family came to visit throughout the weekend & week which was comforting indeed.

Why do I bake for the nurses? I bake to tell them they are seen, appreciated & needed. To try to bribe them into giving Barb even better care than they already are. As insurance against anything less than compassionate and gentle care. Also, to keep myself calm amid the storm. My husband's family (myself included here) are in a terrible middle ground of waiting. We don't know what the future holds for Barb. She remains sedated & stable in her bed in the ICU. Vital signs remain normal. No one knows what is next. It is horrible. As much as I know the care the nurses & doctors are giving Barb is great, the place is not. The ICU restricts the hours you can visit your loved one, it restricts the number of people who can visit at a time (only 2), and feels like a cold and lonely place. I am incredibly scared and sad and stressed and my heart hurts each time I think of my mother in law spending a big part of everyday away from all of those who love her. 

So I bake. I bake bread, I bake cookies, I bake whatever comes to mind. I want to offer my family in law the best of what I have to offer. The best I have to offer pretty much always comes in the form of edibles.

I am home from Philly now. I am still baking. Approximately no one should be shocked by this. The nurses will get 2 more deliveries of cookies when Chris returns to his family on Saturday. One of my most favorite cookie recipes of all time; Salted Oatmeal Dark Chocolate from Real Simple. I swap out the shortening in favor of melted coconut oil. If you make them - please don't over-bake them. They should be pretty darn pale when you take them out of the oven. They retain their chewiness best if they don't brown in the oven. 

Salted Oatmeal Dark Chocolate Cookies
If anyone has any tips for handling an ongoing medical crisis; I am open to them. I'm sure that some of you have dealt with similarly sick family members and I'm sorry for that. I'm hoping you can share some advice about how you dealt with the sadness & stress. If you have spare good thoughts & prayers; please send them Barb's way. She is heroically strong and has made it this far - but every little bit helps. Thanks all and as always; happy baking.
Close up of the Salted Oatmeal Dark Chocolate
Cookies to show how the chocolate erupts out
of them. I love how it does that.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Grandpa's 99th Birthday

Man oh man, my Grandpa turned 99 last week! Ninety nine! It is hard for me to imagine what it is like to be 99. This is my Mom's Dad who lives in semi-rural Kansas, where he & my Grandma raised my Mom, her sister & brother.
Aunt Margi, Mom, Uncle Rick with
the 99th Birthday Boy

The year my Grandpa was born......
~Streetcars began municipal operation in San Francisco
~USA broke off diplomatic relations with Germany (the same day a US ship was sunk by Germany)
~The 1st NHL Championship game was played (though it was a 2 game series, which strikes me as odd)
~USA enters World War 1
~The average life expectancy for an American man was 48.4 years & an American woman 54 years (I'd say my Grandpa blows that average right out of the water!)
~The first Pulitzer Prizes were awarded. 1 of them was shared by 2 women writers!
~The United States was only made up of 48 states.
~The draft was established for WWI

Things have changed indeed since then :)

We had a great weekend with Grandpa, who lives in an apartment inside an assisted living facility. The long weekend meant visiting with Grandpa over 3 days and listening to his jokes and stories. 

Chris & I were excited to share photos of the progress on our house with him and Grandpa reminisced about the home he'd visited in Evanston; the one belonging to my dad's parents! This would've been 40ish years ago when my parents were dating, engaged & newly married! Grandpa told me he thought Evanston was  great town and he saw copper gutters on Dad's parents' home for the first time ever. He also loved their sunporch.It is crazy to think that my Grandpa can recall details like that 40 years after he experienced them!

As he consistently reminds me - his long life can be attributed to three things "Hard work, clean living, and wine" I had another chance to drink a glass of wine with Grandpa this year - its a huge treat to share in his twice daily ritual with him. Because when you're 99, you can request a wine delivery from the nurses at 11am and again at 4pm........which sounds lovely to me!
Grandpa with all but 2 of his great grandkids!

Grandpa with all but 3 of his grand & great grandkids!

So much family, so little time :)

Grandpa with some of the Kearney/Kramer/Platts

Family enjoying Grandpa's party

The birthday party was well attended by family plus all of Grandpa's neighbors were invited and many of them came to celebrate! There was cake & ice cream & punch. It was perferct; though I think we exhausted Grandpa fully - he headed back to his room to relax in his chair once the festivities wrapped up.

Grandpa meets Hennie
Grandpa meets Kane & Anne

Another bonus of the weekend: Grandpa got to meet 3 more of his great grandchildren for the first time! Hennie, Kaner & Anne! What fun he had with all the kiddos scrambling around in his room.

When we weren't spending time with Grandpa, we ate a ton of ridiculously delicious food in epic portions. Check out Chris' half portion of biscuits & gravy along with Dad's single pancake. These treats were enjoyed at the restaurant inside the tiny Miami County Airport. When the weather is nice, people fly their 2 & 4 person planes into this airport just to eat at the restaurant! President Barack Obama visited We B Smokin when he came to give a speech nearby in 2011. Its a pretty great place!

We spent a good amount of time hanging out at Aunt Margi & Uncle Phil's house, playing games, catching up & eating even more delectable food. 
Mom, Hennie & Aunt Margi hanging at Margi & Phil's

It was a fantastic weekend spent with family, celebrating Grandpa Dick Schowengerdt & his 99 great years.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Random lovely things

Lizzard Loves random lovely things.

Here they are in no particular order:

~ These beautiful flowers. Sunny & pretty & bright. Thanks Tara!
Lizzard Loves fresh flowers
~A phenomenal dance show Chris & I went to on Friday. "Still Inspired (?) A Series of F.O.U.R." was put on at Constellation at Links Hall, a cool spot with a great beer list. Bonus - we had no idea what to expect - so where there is excellent beer available - we feel like we're winning. This show was a pairing between dance & painting. The choreographers (including the 2 producers of the show) selected a painter to approach about this collaboration. The artist was excited, flattered, & on board. Each choreographer created 1 dance based on a different painting by the same artist. I should state for the record that Chris & I don't go to a ton of dance shows of any kind. As much as we try to make room in our lives for these moments of culture - days & weeks & months go by without us finding the time or making the effort. All that being said, I am graced with the friendship of Christina who is a passionate, incredibly talented professional dancer. When she is dancing in a show; I make a point to go (assuming we are in town; which is a big assume as of late). This show was inspiring. To watch people do their job in such a thoughtful, graceful, powerful way was awe inspiring. Most people have jobs that aren't particularly "watchable"; I'm not going to watch Chris on his computer and feel awe struck by his abilities (though I know he is incredibly talented & accomplished in his field). Dance combined with viewing the paintings projected onto the wall gave me the chance to see people at work, to see the end product of countless hours of hard work and be wowed. I won't soon forget the beauty! Still Inspired has a Facebook page, its here if you want more info!
Felt good for supporting the show's crowdfunding
campaign too, double lovely.
~This weekend was chock full of cultural activities! Thank goodness I have artistic friends :) Our Saturday evening was kicked off at Firecat Projects where my friend (from volunteering) Jane Sloss was giving a talk/guided tour of her show "This Is Home". The collection is her brainchild - do yourself a favor & check out her website about this project and view her paintings! She interviewed 15 Chicagoans who had lived in their homes for 10+ years about their experience of home. She made beautiful paintings based on photos she took and the subjects which came up in the interviews. It was lovely to hear her explain the art, describe her interactions with the residents, hear clips from her interviews - all while looking at these beautiful paintings! Again I was struck by the talents of those I know. Jane is an architect by trade; but also an incredibly gifted painter! Amazing. Absolutely amazing. Check out her work for sale on Etsy; Chris & I both love it.
Jane guiding us through her paintings
~The Lincoln Park Zoo on a frigid, sunny MLK Day. I stopped in (using my lovely membership card to breeze into the parking lot) and even though it was 10:15am, it was deserted! I saw so few other people, it felt like I had the whole zoo to myself. Being that it is frigid today (-20ish with the wind chill) I walked from building to building to keep relatively warm. I was impressed by the camels- they seemed utterly unfazed by this extreme cold. The tiger was fazed. He/she (not sure which I found lounging inside & which was outside) was walking outside and then quickly back inside and doing it again. Maybe wished he/she could switch to the indoor enclosure.....The highlight of the day was visiting the Regenstein Center for African Apes and having the building to myself (I am not delusional - I know the zookeepers are working behind the scenes all the time; but there were no other zoo visitors nor volunteers in the viewing area). It was quiet and lovely. I enjoyed unobstructed views of the Zoo's youngest gorilla eating breakfast and well as the bachelor gorillas chowing down on their food. It was so quiet I sat in a sunny corner & read my book for awhile. Double lovely. 
Mmmm, delicious lettuce.
~Donuts. Delicious, perfect, ridiculous good donuts. Do-Rite Donuts. If you've never had them & you live in/near Chicago - go try them. You will not be disappointed!!
Do-Rite; YUM!
Old fashion, chocolate, cinnamon crunch, apple fritter,
pistachio lemon, maple bacon....yes, yes, & yes!!
~Free lunch at Chipotle because  the stranger in line behind me had a "Buy 1 Burrito, Get 1 Free" coupon & he never goes to Chipotle with someone who wants a burrito (its a sad day when you don't have anyone in your network who loves delicious Chipotle.......Chris, Amber & Camilla all share my love of Chipotle. I am grateful I have people to share in the deliciousness). Back to the free lunch - how great is that? Just a random person wanting to share!

So that's that. A roundup of a few random, lovely things that I've been into lately. What has been lovely in your life lately? I'd love to know in the comments!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Winter, especially the cozy parts

 Lizzard Loves winter (you knew this already) but especially the cozy parts of winter.

We went on a beautiful snowy walk Sunday afternoon with Willa the dog. The trees were all shimmery/sparkly because the gross rain finally froze and turned into snow. The beauty of the woods almost made up for the utter nastiness of rain in the winter.

We were cold when we got home and had plans to work (Chris) and finish Christmas thank you cards (me). It seemed like the perfect opportunity to bust out the peppermint hot chocolate my sister put in our stocking this year! Honestly, it was one of the best cups of hot chocolate I've ever had. The line from the Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg ran through my mind more than once while enjoying it; "We drank hot cocoa as thick and rich as melted chocolate bars." I topped each mug with a marshmallow and dunked a candy cane in each one for good measure.

While enjoying the hot chocolate, we had our lighted wreath plugged in - calling attention to the festive Christmas cards on the wall. We also lit our pine scented candle to up the Christmas-y ante even more. For me anyway, winter coziness is almost akin to Christmas-y. I am not alone in this feeling, in fact, Norwegians have a word for it; koselig. This article in Fast Company is a great read for more ways to love winter; maybe I am secretly part Norwegian? My favorite passage from the article is near the end when they discuss the concept of koselig: "It’s like the best parts of Christmas, without all the stress. People light candles, light fires, drink warm beverages, and sit under fuzzy blankets."

I am not among those who love to bitch and moan about winter.

 I love it. 
I love how the biting cold hits my face, it makes me feel a tad bit more alive. I love tilting my head all the way back and looking up into the sky as the snow falls down - it is a beautiful way to watch snow fall (though - you will get a neckache if you stand that way too long :). I love bundling up for a walk, or a skate on my brother & sister in law's backyard rink. I love cross country skiing near home and far away too. I love downhill skiing, especially in Colorado, but here in the Midwest too (I will never be too good for the Midwest skiing that made me fall in love with the sport). Though I've mentioned it before; it bears repeating: I love the coziness.; fires in the fireplace, hot mulled wine, hot cocoa, soft blankets and people I love. 
These are the makings of a wonderful winter!
First batch of Christmas cards
A Happy New Year to us! We are
thankful for all the family & friends
who sent us cards this Christmas season!
I would love to hear what your love about winter!
Tell me in the comments if the mood strikes.