Where Did January Go?!?

Well, I’m off to a terrible start this year blogging. Believe it or not, it’s been a pretty busy month, despite the freezing temps and frigid weather. I had several things I planned on blogging about this month. For one, I thought I was going to do Bachelor recaps. However, after the first show or two, I realized this season is REALLY not very interesting. The lead barely speaks English, and the girls are pretty blahh. So I didn’t have much motivation to blog about it. Then G & his dad painted our kitchen/dining room, and it looks AWESOME! We still have some projects to finish it off, but the paint looks great. We went with Naval (navy blue) and white, and I’m really happy with how it turned out. Maybe this weekend I will get my kitchen put together enough to take some pictures and post the before and afters.

Last weekend I got to celebrate my friend Tiffany’s 30th birthday at her 90’s theme party. We had SO much fun reliving the 90’s in costume, complete with lots of denim, clogs, and some butterfly clips. I was so impressed how into it everyone got. Lots of great costumes and fun games. One guy even came dressed as a TY BEANIE BABY. It was awesome.

Me and "Cher" - the birthday girl!

Me and “Cher” – the birthday girl!

He's got his tag....how much is he worth?!

He’s got his tag….how much is he worth?!

Bottom's Up for the Birthday Girl!

Bottom’s Up to the Birthday Girl!

It’s going to be a fun year with so many of my friend turning the big 3-0 this year! (I still have another year, though, YIPPEE!)

Tonight I tried a new recipe that I wanted to share while it’s still bitterly cold outside. This chicken noodle soup recipe will make your house smell amazing and will warm you right up–and the best part is it’s SUPER easy and only takes about 30 minutes to make! I did make a few changes to the original recipe found on Pinterest.

20140130-203929.jpg

Homestyle Chicken Noodle Soup

Ingredients:
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 bag of egg noodles (medium or wide)
2 cans of cooked chunk chicken breast, strained
1 can sliced carrots, strained
8 cups water
Chicken Boullion cubes
Spinach leaves, cut in thin strips
Parsley Flakes

Directions:
1) In a large soup pot, saute onion in olive oil until translucent.
2) Add 8-10 cups hot water and add bouillon cubes (I used 8 cubes)- you could also use canned chicken broth.
3) Bring to a rolling boil and add bag of egg noodles.
4) Boil until noodles are tender (approx. 8-10 minutes, according to package), and stir occasionally.
5) Add carrots, spinach, and chicken and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 10 more minutes. (I did a quick taste test here and add more seasoning if it needs it including some salt/pepper.)
6) Sprinkle parsley flakes on top and serve!!! (Don’t skip out on the parsley flakes- it really adds to the “homestyle” look of the soup.)

This recipe makes a big pot of soup, so you’ll have left overs for a couple days. It is so easy and delicious, and perfect for this time of year. Enjoy!

20140130-205736.jpg

Advertisements

2013 in Review

2013 was an AMAZING year! This week, I’ve seen some of my favorite bloggers writing their year in review, and I really liked that idea. 2013 was full of weddings, and parties, changes and trips, and overall it was a wonderful year! So without further adieu, here are some of my favorite moments from 2013!

  • In February I started my new blog, Our Little Ivory Tower! I wrote 47 posts in 2013, and I’m excited to see how I can grow my blog in 2014. I absolutely love having a writing outlet and a way to keep in touch with my family and friends. It has also been a great way for me to document my life and it serves as a “live” scrapbook.
  • In March my sissy moved to Colorado, which was incredibly sad, but also so exciting for her! She got a promotion working for Victoria Secret, and shortly after moving she got ANOTHER promotion and was given her OWN STORE to manage. She is doing an awesome job and loving being out in Denver!

Mar  VS

  • Also in March, G & I did some fundraising for the Eastern Iowa Honor Flight. So many of our family and friends helped by donating and we were able to raise $250 for the local organization to help send veterans to Washington D.C. to see the WWII Memorial.
  • In April my bestie Megan invited me to be her +1 for a work trip she earned to Austin, TX! All expenses paid, we spend a long weekend exploring Austin with an awesome group of people, as well as a couple days at an amazing resort. We were pampered, ate like queens, and had an awesome #palsweekend overall. The trip was definitely a top highlight of 2013!

TX

  • At the end of April, I helped to host my dear friend Tiffany’s bachelorette party in Des Moines, which was a blast with old and new friends.

bachelorette party

  • In May I celebrated another bachelorette, my roommate from college Katie, in Nashville! It was my first time to ‘Music City’ and I loved every minute of it. We danced to country music, bought cowboy boots, and drank till the sun came up. It was another amazing girlfriends trip!

Nashvegas

  • In June I got to stand up as a bridesmaid in Tiffany and Nick’s wedding. It was one of the most fun bridal parties I’ve ever been a part of and the wedding was beautiful and classy and SO much fun.

Malcom Wedding

  • In July G & I celebrated our 2nd wedding anniversary! He posted this on Facebook which absolutely melted my heart ūüôā He’s not a big “sharer” on Facebook, so that made it all the more special. It’s good to be me, too!

Facebook

Anniversary

  • Also in July, I was a bridesmaid in Katie and Sean’s wedding in the Quad Cities. It was a gorgeous wedding and incredibly special and truly a wedding I will never forget.

Laird Sisters

  • In August we attended my 10 year class reunion. I rode in our class float, watched old class videos from elementary and high school days, and enjoyed catching up with my classmates, some of whom I hadn’t seen in 10 years!

Class of 2003

  • In September we went out to Colorado with my parents to visit Marlee and Andrew. We went to a Reds/Rockies game, hiking in the mountains, exploring Denver and Boulder, and had a lot of family fun time.

Mountains Family

  • Also in September, we traveled to Missouri for our friends Stephanie and Horacio’s wedding. So many of our friends who G grew up with were there, and we had a great time dancing the night away and catching up with old friends.

Wedding fun

  • In October I got to go to Las Vegas for work to exhibit at the NBWA Tradeshow. Not only was it beautiful weather while we were there, I learned a lot and even had some time to explore the city.

Las Vegas

  • In November I participated in NaBloPoMo¬†and blogged {almost} every day in the month of November. We also spent Thanksgiving in Fort Dodge with the Ivorys, and went to G’s cousin’s wedding.

Ivorys

  • In December¬†my sister got engaged!!! Her fiance Andrew took her up into the mountains for a relaxing weekend, and ended it by putting a beautiful ring on her finger. We are looking forward to the wedding planning to come in 2014, and a wedding in 2015! I’m so excited for them and excited for Andrew to become a part of our family.

Future Newbergs

  • Also in December,¬†I decorated for Christmas¬†¬†and we went to Chicago to celebrate the holiday with my mom’s side of the family. We also got together in Cedar Falls with G’s family to open presents and enjoy a really fun lunch at a Japanese steakhouse.

Christmas Tree

As you can see, 2013 was a really exciting and eventful year. We’re expecting another fun and and crazy year in 2014, and I can’t wait to share it all with you again. My goal for 2013 is to take one picture everyday to document the year {thanks for the idea, Mix and Match Mama!}, and to take time to enjoy my family and friends, because life is too short to not be around those you love.

Tonight G & I are going to ring in the New Year together by going out for a fancy dinner at 350 First¬†and possibly to a movie, then probably home to watch the ball drop on TV. I’m really looking forward to it! Tomorrow we will spend Jan 1 relaxing and watching the Iowa Hawkeyes play LSU in the Outback Bowl! GOOOOO HAWKS!

I hope you all have a safe and happy new year, and look forward to seeing you all in 2014!

That’s What I Love About Sunday

It was an emotional week last week with lots of ups and downs. We were traveling through Christmas day, then home to work for a day, then back in the car to go to the Quad Cities to pay our final respects to an amazing man. On December 21st, we got the news that my college roommate and close friends’ dad had passed away after fighting pancreatic cancer for 10 months. Bill always called me the 3rd Laird daughter, and was someone who could always make me laugh and had the most warm and caring smile of anyone I’ve ever met. He loved and appreciated everyone he met, and I am so sad for my friends who will now miss their dad every single day. We went to the visitation on Thursday night, then spent the night and attended the funeral on Friday morning. It was a beautiful service and I’m so glad we were able to attend.

When we got back on Friday afternoon, I had to go back to work for the rest of the day, and then babysat in the evening. Saturday we met G’s family in Cedar Falls for a really nice lunch and our family Christmas. I must say we were really spoiled by both of our families this Christmas, and feel very blessed to have such amazing parents and siblings.

But by today, I was EXHAUSTED. I knew I needed to do some laundry and go to the grocery store, and didn’t feel like making anything too complicated for dinner. Cue up my Yummy Food and Drinks Pinterest Board¬†and I had the perfect recipe in mind to try. One of my favorite Illinois staples that my mom and I always HAVE to hit when we’re visiting our family is White Castle. Love it or hate it, I don’t care….I love a delicious slider! So when I saw the recipe for Easy Cheeseburger Sliders, I pinned it right away! Tonight I finally tried it and must say, it is SO EASY and INCREDIBLY yummy! One of my new favorite pins!

Image

Photo from betterrecipes.com

Since I was just cooking for G & I, I used a smaller pan and cut the recipe in half. Only using 1 pound of ground beef was enough for us to each have a couple sliders, and still have more left over for tomorrow. Click the photo above for the original recipe, or here’s how I did it:

Easy Oven-Baked Cheeseburger Sliders

 

1 pound, 90% (or leaner) lean ground beef

1/8 cup seasoned bread crumbs

1/4 cup chopped onions

Pinch of salt

Kings Hawaiian sweet dinner rolls (or slider buns)

4 slices cheddar or American cheese

Heat oven to 400 degrees.   In a bowl, combine beef, bread crumbs, onion, and salt.  Gently press mixture into a 8 x 8-inch pan so that it makes one large patty of even thickness.  Use the tines of a fork to poke holes throughout the meat.  Bake for 20 minutes.  As it bakes, the meat will shrink away from the sides and liquid will accumulate around the edges of pan.  When fully cooked, remove the pan from oven (keep oven turned on) and carefully drain off the liquid.

Top the meat with an even layer of sliced cheese; return pan to oven for about 2 minutes or until the cheese melts.  Remove from the oven and allow to rest for a few minutes.  Cut into 2-inch squares (or the size of the buns used), making about 8 mini-hamburgers.  Serve with dill pickle slices, ketchup and mustard.  Serves 4 at 2 sliders each.

I would use this recipe to make regular sized hamburgers again, too. It was so easy baking the meat, and was pleased how all the patties turned out the same size and thickness. You could also add bacon, or other favorite toppings for some variety, or make a double cheeseburger who wants to eat less bun and more burger!

Now I’m back to work tomorrow for the last day of 2013, and then off on Tuesday and Wednesday for New Year’s Eve and Day. After such an emotional week, today was exactly what I needed – relaxing, yet productive, with a comfort food dinner. Now, THAT’S what I love about Sunday!

Merry Christmas From the Ivorys!

Merry Christmas friends and family, near and far! We spent the last few days with family in Plainfield, IL celebrating the holiday and getting to see my cousin who is home for a short while from the Air Force. We enjoyed eating way too much and got completely spoiled with presents. We missed being with my sister who was in Colorado, and Greg’s family. But we will continue the celebration with them next weekend.

Hoping you all had a wonderful holiday!

20131225-130408.jpg

So This is Christmas

Apparently I’m into naming my posts after songs lately….and I kinda like it. Might see how long I can keep it up! ūüôā

Tomorrow I’m hosting some Zetas from my alumnae chapter over to put together the fundraiser I’ve been working on. We sold “finals survival kits” to the parents of the collegiate Zetas, and will put them together for delivery. I’m really excited about it because we sold way more than I expected, and are going to be able to donate a lot of money. I just hope the weather isn’t bad, as many of the ladies are traveling from Iowa City and the Quad Cities. Snow, snow, stay away!

In preparation for my guests, I finished my Christmas decorating today, and even wrapped the presents I have ready so far! I really wish I would have gotten a real tree this year, but with Thanksgiving so late, it just didn’t seem worth the hassle. Hopefully next year…regardless, I’m glad to have it done and am looking forward to enjoying the pretty decor for the next 3 to 4 weeks!

See this year’s decorations below and Merry Christmas, everyone!

20131207-221722.jpg

20131207-221802.jpg

20131207-221859.jpg

20131207-221938.jpg

20131207-222011.jpg

20131207-222045.jpg

20131207-222108.jpg

20131207-222136.jpg

These Are a Few of my FAVORITE Things!

Oh my goodness, you guys! I am SO excited for the NBC LIVE performance of The Sound of Music. It is one of my very favorite movies, not to mention I LOVE Carrie Underwood! And a LIVE TV special?!!? I’m ALL in! So in honor of my excitement…..

…..these are a few of my favorite things……

**Dory-Dog….this little puppy has given me so much joy in the three years we’ve had her. She is snuggly and cuddly, and can put a smile on my face no matter what is going on. We got a good one with this little pup, and I can’t imagine my life without her.

Dory Dog

**Chopped Salad….to me, regular salad is SO hit or miss. Salad bar salad used to ALWAYS be my favorite kind. Portillo’s chopped salad was a close second. But that was really all the chopped salad I was familiar with. Since finding Dole’s chopped salad kits, I could probably eat salad every day and be completely happy. This stuff is amazing…..try it!

Image

**Hand-Written Notes…..There is nothing like receiving a hand written note from a friend or family member saying hello or they miss you. Call me a hoarder, but I hold on to all the sweet cards and notes I get. Christmas time is amazing because the Christmas cards start rolling in from near and far!

**Sephora BB Cream……It moisturizes, it evens out my skin, it’s got SPF 20, and lets be honest, it just all around makes me prettier. I’ve tried other BB creams before, but this one is for sure my favorite. If you haven’t tried it, get it here!

**Hot Chocolate with Marshmallows…..no special recipe, no special kind. I just think there’s nothing as comforting on a cold winter night as a big ole mug of hot chocolate filled with marshmallows.

Oh, and of course….

….raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens, brown paper packages tied up with strings, these are a few of my favorite things….

Enjoy the show everyone!!!!! I really hope it is as good as I’m expecting it to be!

My Webtastic Black Friday

In past years, I admit I have been a Christmas present procrastinator. December just always seems to sneak up on me, and between holiday parties and decorating and baking and everything else, finding the {perfect} gifts have always been left until the very. last. minute. I spend the few days before Christmas running around from store to store, stressing out and sweating, trying to find exactly what I need. Online shopping is not an option when you procrastinate. Not even close, especially when you have to travel for the holidays.

Every year I tell myself that this year will be different.¬†Well, GUESS WHAT FRIENDS!?!¬†This year was different! I’ve been working on my list of gifts for people for the past few weeks. And on Black Friday, I was READY. I sat on the comfy chair at my in-laws starting late Thanksgiving night, logged into my email for all my promo codes, and of course Ebates¬†so I could save even more, and started buying and saving like a mad woman. Like my favorite blogger always says,¬†

Image

So I shopped my little heart out, and got about 85% of my Christmas shopping done. You have no idea how huge this is, seriously! This means I will not be scooping up last minute gift cards, or running from store to store on December 23rd, so I am very, very pleased. And I scored some great deals {um, I mean, everything I bought was SUPER expensive, family and friends, so you better love them, wink, wink!} I even found the perfect wedding gift for a friend getting married in February. Can you say OVER-ACHIEVER?

For the first time in I don’t know how long, I am¬†super excited to give my loved ones their gifts this Christmas. And I even picked out a few little things for myself. Including the Verizon Ellipsis 7 tablet, which I got for FREE. You heard that right….free. And it was even overnighted to me for Saturday delivery, also for FREE.¬†I’ve been playing with it for a few days, and I absolutely love it. It has 4G and just goes right on my Verizon Share Everything plan, so I didn’t have to set up a new account or anything like that. It’s small enough to hold easily in my hand, but large enough to see the screen about a thousand times better than my phone. Have I mentioned I loved Black Friday this year?¬†

Best part of my Black Friday experience….I didn’t have to go out in the crowds or the cold. Now THAT’S my kind of deal! Isn’t the internet a wonderful thing???¬†

Image