Happy Birthday Nova!

Winter here in Minnesota seems to last forever and this year is no exception. After being cooped up inside for weeks, you’re fairly certain time slows down and it’s very easy to lose track of time. Thankfully my phone has my back and reminded me Nova’s birthday was Friday so I had time to get things organized.

Her first birthday was pretty simple so I’d hoped to do a bit more this year, but moving back home made it a bit challenging. I also wanted to make it as fun as possible because she had a serious case of cabin fever. Nova managed to cut the underside of her paw, restricting her movements as well as having to keep her paw dry every time we were outside. On the plus side, winter here has been too insanely bitter to make outdoor playing virtually impossible. She’s been cooped up for about four weeks (or to those of us who have active dogs, it really feels like 40) and I wasn’t sure how to let her be active inside while not scaring the other two dogs in the house who are less than pleased with her happy and sometimes overly friendly attitude.

To my delight, winter cut me a break, and gave Nova the best birthday gift evvvvvvver: not only was it reasonable enough to let her go outdoors and play, we got about five inches of fresh snow. I’m quite aware just how much she loves snow, but until I watched her today barrel through snow drifts taller than her, I began to suspect she might be a Corgi version of Naga, the polar bear dog from The Legend of Korra….

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Nova also got a box of goodies from my ex boyfriend. Like most dogs, the box itself was the “fun” part of the gift, at least until she discovered the jolly ball and treats inside.

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All the pups get a special dinner for their birthday and Nova’s was probably the easiest I’ve ever done: a mix of Fromm salmon wet food, slightly crushed Fromm dry food and about a teaspoon or two of prepared Honest Kitchen ice pups mix as a binder (I froze the rest into ice cube trays for summer). I topped it off with some leftover cooked pasta and cut a bit of carrot to make her candles and the sprinkles around the plate. Everyone gets a bit of real cake as well, regardless if it’s a person or puppy birthday. I tried to get the super cute planned picture of her eating cake, but my camera isn’t fast enough for her Corgi appetite, but the photos I did get were more “her.”

2013: A Year in Review

First off, let me say to those of you still following my blog or the ones who visited, thank you for sticking with me! Life got pretty crazy and blogging took a backseat. I was writing posts now and again, but it wasn’t until I went to my site on my laptop that I noticed they never published–oops!! I plan to get back at it, maybe by doing my own version of the “post a week” challenge I’ve done in the past. Anyway, a lot has happened, both good and bad, since my last post.

The biggest challenge was breaking up with my boyfriend of almost five years. Not only did I lose someone I deeply loved and wanted to spend my life with, I also had to say goodbye to many wonderful friends and the house we shared together. Sure, there were tons of things I wanted to change/add-artwork, a small garden, updated landscaping, but as I was packing up my belongings, I realized how trivial those things were. It was the memories attached to these things, both ones I’d had and many I was looking forward to. It was so surreal to see the last four years of my life packed in boxes, totes and wrapped up and neatly packed into a storage pod.

Moving back to Minnesota and living with my family was a major adjustment as well. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to be closer to them, but we’ve all adapted differently and combining our lifestyles/choices is not always easy. The trickiest part–after having to unpack everything and find places to store what I don’t need now, of course–getting three dogs to get along but still have their own space. We had two dogs before I moved to Omaha, a Papillon (Pippin) and a Havanese (Indie) who are now in their late adult/senior stage of life. They’re pretty stuck in their ways, so me bringing a huge (at least in their minds), overly curious, super friendly and super bouncy young Corgi (Nova) really upset the balance. Even though I’ve brought her home with me when I visit during the holidays, she was an intruder. We’ve done our best to help them become friends, or at the very least tolerate each other, but even after 10 months it is still pretty iffy and at times I wonder if there’s been any progress at all. Thankfully, the neighbors have a dog and he loves to hang out with Nova.

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My other life changing event was the passing of my grandma. We all know our loved ones will die one day, but it never has comforts you when it happens. My mom and I lived with my grandparents for about 13 years and I always considered both of them extra parents, making her death deal a double blow. When I lived in Omaha, I worried I wouldn’t be able to make it home in time to say goodbye, but I realized despite the stress and negative view about moving back here was actually a blessing in disguise.

So far 2014 has been pretty good. I’m still working out and losing weight (although I’ll be honest, since Christmas, the various sweets more present in the house and our horrible cold weather, I’ve gained a few pounds, but not as much as I could have). I’ve been hanging out with one of my closest friends–she’s a great movie/crafting buddy. My most exciting event so far? After years of saying “one day,” I finally decided to learn to knit, although if you saw how many supplies I have, you’d think I’d been knitting for years.

I’m not a resolution maker, but I’ve decided to make a “happy box:” each day, I’ll write down at least one positive thing/moment, then read them all on New Year’s Eve. Whatever 2014 decides to throw at me, I’m ready for the challenge and to make it my best year yet!

Happy Birthday Nova!

Yesterday, Nova said goodbye to her puppyhood and celebrated her first birthday. Like other parents, I wish I could keep her that way forever, but it is nice she’s old enough to be more “free” in the house without me watching over her every single second and to see her more adult coat coming in. I will certainly miss some things though, like her puppy breath (it sounds crazy, I know, but dog parents know what I’m talking about) and her chubby, all ears body.

Since it was her special day, we bought a few decorations and of course, I had to take some pictures. Gonna be honest, I’m quite impressed since I was taking these pictures alone that I was able to get one of her wearing that hat that wasn’t some blurry blob.

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I thought she needed to look her best, which gave me a chance to try her new sweater on her. I will confess, the sole reason I bought it is because the model dog was also a Corgi and it looked soooo cute, I was sold that Nova would look equally cute. It was also a good way to see how she would tolerate something other than a jacket, giving me hope I could dress her up for Halloween. 

And since she was looking so spiffy, I thought it was the perfect time for a group picture!

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Nova’s favorite bits of her birthday were definitely food related (although it also snowed and she loved romping around in it). Instead of her usual dry dog food, she got some Grandma Lucy’s for breakfast and some lean ground beef (which meant some for me as well–yaaay) with rice for dinner. But the highlight: finally getting another carrot peanut butter cupcake I had made a few weeks before. This time, I cored the cupcake and filled it with crunchy peanut butter, then frosted it with a mix of peanut butter and honey, garnished with an apple heart.

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Unlike the last cupcake, eaten so daintily, she inhaled this one. The apple heart was the last thing to be eaten, and I suppose I can’t blame her on that….She also got a small box coarboard filled with some of her favorite things: homemade turkey cookies, some leftover paper towel tubes filled with small treats and a new toy. She decided to eat all the goodies, then shredded the paper towel tubes and finally the box (the cheapest toy evvvver). She ignored the toy for a few hours then rediscovered it, and is happily squeaking it to death by the patio window.

Nova has changed quite a bit as she’s gotten older, both in size and maturity. It’s been fun to watch her understand more of what’s expected of her and look at some things, including toys she’s had since she was a baby in a different light. I can’t wait to see what kind of things she’ll learn, as well as how much mischief she will get into over the next year!

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Nova’s First Snow

It’s odd to be posting pictures of snow and writing about it when almost all of our snow in Nebraska has melted. Not that I’m totally complaining, mind you. It’s been kinda nice to not have to seriously bundle up to go outside, but I’m sure winter will have its revenge and we’ll get a blizzard before spring hits.

I spent Christmas up in Minnesota with my family, and when I left Nebraska, we still hadn’t gotten any snow to speak of, just a light dusting. I was mainly disappointed because I really wanted to see Nova run around in the snow. Well, I got my wish in Minnesota….

Just before we visited, they had gotten a huuuuge snowstorm (about 18 inches at the house), and despite a rainstorm, there was still plenty left. I got to see Nova run around in the snow A LOT. The first time I just went out with mittens, hat and my coat. Big mistake. Nova wanted to play like a child plays in the snow, with full on enthusiasm, leaping into drifts taller than her, then jumping up on me. I ended up having to buy some winter boots and dug my snowpants from middle school out of storage (I am just shocked they still actually fit). She also got some nice winter gear: a coat and a great pair of boots. I know she’s a dog and doesn’t need them, but I also knew she would probably play out there all day and wouldn’t realize her feet were freezing. We borrowed a pair one of my other dogs used; she quickly lost in bounding through a snowdrift in the park (couldn’t find it before we left for Nebraska either!). I spent a long time looking for a decent pair that would stay on after that, and ended up buying her Ultra Paws Durable dog boots in small. I liked the double velcro straps and the foam inside the boots that helped prevent her paws from slipping out. They did a nice job of helping her not slip around on icy spots and kept her paws pretty dry. The first few minutes watching her try to walk in them was hilarious, but she adjusted very quickly. I made them seem like extra fun because as soon as they were on we went out to play, and once she was out, the forgot all about them!

As much as I complain about the cold and hate having to bundle it, I must admit it was so much fun to play outdoors with Nova. I don’t think I’ve actually played in the snow since I was in elementary school….Granted, I couldn’t/didn’t want to stay out nearly as long as when I was little, and tumbling down to the ground hurt a lot more now, but I actually started to look forward to going out with her. I had a blast throwing snowballs at Nova and watching her frantically dig through the snow to find it, and she had a great time barreling through the snowman I made. I even bought a cheap snow saucer sled, thinking she would love to slide down with me (I saw pictures of someone on Pinterest doing it with their dog). Wrong. The sound of the sled scraping against the snow freaked her out so she refused to ride on it, but she did like chasing me when I went down the hill and using it like a big Frisbee.

If you have a pet, I encourage you to go out and actually play in the snow with them. It’s fun to see how they react to the snow and it’s a great way for everyone to get out of the house and get some exercise!

Nova enjoying the dusting of snow in NE

Nova’s first real experience with snow in MN

If you look closely, you’ll see she’s trying to catch a snowball

Nova wearing the borrowed boots; her paws were drenched, but she still had fun

Ah, nothing like running free through lots of snow

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Nova resting after leaping in the snow with her new boots

A Gamer’s Rant

While browsing restaurant info on the omaha.com site (we’re planning on giving gift cards someplace new to Mike’s parents for Christmas), I stumbled across a link for hot holiday games. I didn’t really need to click on the link…I wasn’t buying games for anyone and I had a feeling I knew what games would be on that list, but my curiosity got the better of me and I clicked it.

What I saw made the journalism grad and gamer in me cringe. A lot.

The article was so poorly written. It reminded me of the writing exercises we did in my final journalism class where we got 10 minutes to write about a topic with little information. If I had handed it in to my professor, I would have been in major trouble. Another major flaw was how the article was formatted. The sections were a great idea and had a lot of potential, but whoever uploaded it and approved it should have double checked to make sure the sections and all the headers didn’t run together (ex: the info about Dishonored and that weird, lonely word at the end–zombies).

I am not a published journalist who has written for a major publication and I am not a hardcore gamer by any means. Sure I played a bit back in the day when I was a kid, but my buttony skills faded as time went on.

But, when you date and live with a gamer, you eventually become a gamer again. One who plays the same more serious games other gamers play (Gears of War and Halo versus Viva Pinata and Kinectimals–not that Viva Pinata and Kinectimals aren’t seriously awesome). Then you move into the big leagues and get invited to join LAN parties and actually play instead of watching for four or five hours and are actually able to be a helpful teammate. And if you don’t become a gamer, you know a ton about the world of gaming, whether it’s when games come out, where to look for reviews or who is offering the best pre-order bonuses.

I can kind of overlook the awkward writing, but I really couldn’t get over the reviews for the games. I can understand the writer might not have time or access to try any of the games out beforehand, but if all you’re going to do is basically copy and paste descriptions from sites dedicated to gaming, like IGN, at least use the good stuff. The majority of the reviews make the games sound very generic–and in some cases, downright dull. Who on earth wants to buy a dull game?

And for goodness’ sake, double check your facts (you’re not “getting” birds in Angry Birds Star Wars, you’re “getting” pigs). You would honestly learn more from the back of the box of the actual game and no gamer in their right mind would find the information useful. I was also surprised there wasn’t any mention of which platforms you could play them on or what they were rated–very important things for parents to know before buying one for their kids.

The “review” of Halo 4 is pulled directly from IGN, but it still failed on pointing out the biggest feature of the game: Master Chief is back. I mean, c’mon, Master Chief has been in a cryo-sleep for five looooong years and you can’t add a few words to pointing this out?!

The “review” that really set this whole rant in motion was for Borderlands 2. I have played countless hours of Borderlands 2. Heck, thanks to the sweet DLC (that’s extra content like new maps or challenges you can download) and various characters to play as, I’m still playing it.

The review reads as: “Borderlands 2 — The Borderlands are a crazy place for any adventurer, but you’ll make it through with the crazy amount of available weaponry.”

What a way to get your reader’s attention, then leave them hanging and probably pretty confused. Yes, The Borderlands is a crazy place for you to explore, but it doesn’t tell me anything about the game. Why is it such a crazy place? Why would I be wandering around the world, exploring? What kinds of weapons are there–like the ones I can find in other shooters? What do I need all these weapons for, anyway? Why is it called Borderlands 2–should I play the first one before this one?

So, what should a proper review of Borderlands 2 look like? Like these:
The Smoking Section
PC Gamer
GameSpot
IGN

This might be one of the few, if not only, ranting posts on my blog. I figured I’d forget all about the topic and carry on with life, but after a busy holiday season, it was still nagging me and I knew I better write about it. Mike deserves some credit for telling me I could and would have done a much better job reviewing the games.

I was also encouraged by another blogger, Ash Paulsen. His blog, The Optimistic Gamer chooses to focus on the positives of games, regardless if they’re developed by major studios or independently. He reminds you it’s totally acceptable to like a game just because you enjoy playing it. After all, that’s the reason people play. Sure, there’s flaws in every game and everyone has their own idea of what makes a game fun or good. Just because the critics hate it doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy it.

Until I get my character to level 50 (that’s the maximum for now), or try out the two DLC packs that are out now, writing my own review would feel incomplete, so I will post one in the future. It will also give me more time to play with Mike and one of our friends, allowing me to give some insight to their characters and playing in a group.

Thanks for bearing with me and my rant. I promise my upcoming posts will be back to normal 🙂

Best of 2012: Food

This year I branched out and sharpened my cooking and baking skills. I’ve always enjoyed watching cooking programs and learning about new ingredients and recipes, but this year it went from “oh, that looks like it would be good” or “so that’s how you use that/that’s what that is” to actually incorporating the ingredients, techniques and recipes into my life.

More people have asked me for advice or questions about food and it’s been pretty awesome to share what I’ve learned. I’ve had my share of food related disasters, so if I can help someone prevent them or become more interested in food, I’m all for it! For example, my mom mentioned she made a batch of chocolate cookies and just used the cocoa powder instead of the of Dutch process cocoa she’s had for a while. I was able to tell her the difference between the two and why you can’t swap them out (Dutch cocoa has a neutral pH so it can’t be used in recipes with baking soda, which relies on the acid to activate it).

I’ve had lots of tasty encounters with food, but here are the most memorable ones:

Bacon: I love bacon. A lot. Possibly too much, at least according to others. Bacon seemed to appear in almost every area of life, from fashion (the insanely expensive and lifelike bacon scarf) to desserts (Burger King’s bacon sundae) to the possible “aporkalypse,” which didn’t happen (thank goodness!!!). I didn’t think I could love bacon more than I do, but I was wrong.

One of my good friends, Justin, took me to Frank Stoysich Meats on Q Street in Omaha to pick up some homemade sausages. While we waited for the woman to gather his order, we noticed a slab of bacon in the case. Knowing I like bacon, he generously bought me a pound. I decided to fry some for breakfast so I took out the normal amount of six slices and put ’em in the frying pan. I noticed it wasn’t nearly as fatty as other bacon-something I’d never really seen before. That first taste was heavenly. The flavor was much more meaty and pure. Even Mike was impressed. We ate our three slices each, but it was so much more filling than store bought bacon, we would have been satisfied with just two each. From that moment on, I was hooked on the Stoysich bacon. I rationed what we had left, using it for “special” times. Since then, every time Justin is in town, we stop in and get more. It is actually much cheaper to buy the super tasty bacon than store bacon, and since we don’t need as much, it lasts muuuuch longer. Even the bacon fat, which takes longer to stockpile, tastes better.

German chocolate: My mom and I lived in Germany when I was little. I have fond memories of many of the places we visited (the Christmas marketplace) as well as lots of their foods (Butterkäse, Schneebälle), but German chocolate holds a special place in my heart. When we paid our rent, the landlady would always give me a few pieces of chocolate shaped like cute little ladybugs. Once she discovered how much I loved it, she started leaving a small bowlful out in front of their door. German chocolate doesn’t taste like chocolates you can find in the U.S. or most of the chocolate I’ve tried from Britain. The “real deal “is pretty hard to find in stores, so when I found some in ALDI, I was ecstatic and shocked. Once I confirmed they were legit, I stocked up. I was even able to find an advent calendar. As soon as we got to the car, I unwrapped one and popped it in my mouth and instantly felt like I was back in Germany, enjoying my candy on our steps while I admired the geraniums in all the window boxes.

Cumin: I am not very knowledgeable with spices used outside of baking. I try to keep the basics for cooking on hand, but if a recipe that I haven’t tried yet calls for something I don’t have, I usually just leave it out. Not the best idea, I know, but I don’t really want to buy it then hate it and have wasted the money. Plus, if I’ve had a dish in the past that was awful, I tend to remember the spices in a not so flattering way. Cumin was one of those spices. I had it in an Indian dish that was loaded with cumin and who knows what else and it was so spicy, I decided to avoid it from then on. However, I had saved a few recipes from Martha Stewart and both of them used cumin. I was skeptical, but after reading reviews and seeing a handful of people note even their picky children loved the taste, I added cumin to the list. The amounts used in each recipe was so small, I figured if I didn’t like the flavor, next time I made it, I could adjust as needed. To my amazement, I have learned to love cumin. I think cumin is the first spice not used in baking that I’ve actually had to run out and replace. It does have a distinct, fairly strong flavor and smell, but in certain recipes, it doesn’t seem overpowering. I am much more open minded to try recipes that have less common spices and have started to add some to my spice rack I never thought I’d buy.

Leeks: I am so bummed I didn’t try leeks sooner. I am not an onion person, but I do like the subtle flavor they add to dishes, but I always assumed leeks had a harsher onion flavor and had no clue how to cook them so I avoided them. I started to change my mind after seeing various British chefs use them on TV and in their cookbooks for their mild flavor. Once I did a search for recipes using leeks, I realized everyone knew how tasty they could be. As I mentioned in a previous post, leeks are quite a pain to clean, but so worth it. I know leeks, cream and bacon are a wonderful combination, but I’m looking forward to trying them thinly sliced in salads or a frittata as well as in stews.

Pan roasting: I can’t believe I didn’t attempt to try pan roasting sooner, and I can’t believe it isn’t a skill taught in every cookbook. If you aren’t familiar with this technique, Google it and give it a try. It is unbelievably quick (you can have dinner done in under an hour), easy and seriously tasty. I think the word “roasting” scared me away, especially since I wasn’t too successful roasting whole chickens in the past.

Pan roasting consists of two steps: first, searing off the meat in some oil, then finished in an oven.  We eat a ton of chicken in our household and pan roasting has turned chicken from ordinary and boring to something flavorful. I have become a pro at roasting chicken parts, mainly legs and bone-in thighs, which has saved us a bunch of money (who doesn’t love that?). Pan roasting is a great way to make vegetables more exciting, too. I LOVE to roast potatoes–they satisfy my cravings for French fries without adding lots of extra fat. Other favorite vegetables to roast include carrots, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, onions and squashes. I suggest making more than you need; leftover roasted veggies are delicious mixed into cooked rice, on bread with a bit of goat cheese or reheated in the oven for another meal. Plus, you usually only have to use one pan, which means less time doing dishes and more time doing fun stuff!

Everyday Food Magazine: In the fall, Martha Stewart announced how Everyday Food was published would be changing. The magazine’s last stand alone issue would be December, and would instead be a supplement to Martha Stewart Living. I subscribe to MSL and I enjoy all the crafts and looking at the fancy recipes, but I love Everyday Food much more. The recipes were much easier to make, the ingredients were easier to find and it was one of the few publications that included recipes for one or two people. I’m interested to see what the supplement will look like, and I do appreciate the daily emails sent out, but I’m old fashioned: I like to have a hard copy of the recipe in front of me!

Cooking without a recipe: When I try a brand new recipe, I tend to follow the directions to the letter. If it’s tasty enough to make again, then I’ll make adjustments as needed, but I am not so great at making something up from scratch (especially when all I have to work with is what we’ve got in the house). I’ve watched hours of cooking shows like Chopped, so you’d think I’d be fearless enough to just go for it.

Sure, I tend to keep emergency meals on hand like mac and cheese or frozen pizzas, but sometimes I just can’t face a premade meal. Thanks to spending hefty amounts of time out of state, I usually come home to an interesting selection of ingredients I’m kind of forced to use until we can make it to the store.

My favorite no recipe meal would be a frittata. We always have eggs on hand and with a bit of hunting, I can find enough add ins to make a tasty meal (I do bacon, scallion, potato and bell peppers a lot). However, my results don’t always turn out well. The only meal I’ve seriously failed would be the almost cooked bone-in turkey breast. Our fridge had died and by the time we noticed, we had to find fridge and freezer space ASAP. We brought most of food to his parents’ house, but there was no room for the turkey breast so I had to cook it that night. Despite being overly cautious and letting the turkey cook an extra 20 minutes, when we carved it, the meat was raw. I did my best to fix the situation (I threw all the pieces into the gravy I had made from the drippings and finished cooking it in the pan), but it was pretty awful. A more successful (but not by much) recipe: crunchy, spicy mustard chicken legs. We had a bunch of chicken legs that had to be used, so I decided to brush the legs in spicy mustard then coat them in a mix of panko, parsley and a bit of Parmesan. They didn’t taste bad, but the coating didn’t stick as well as I hoped and what did stick didn’t brown enough. I think with a bit more work, it could be another favorite dinner.

Cactus fries: I know you can eat cactus, but I certainly never expected to try them in Nebraska. We met our friend downtown in the Old Market at Roja Mexican Grill & Margarita Bar. Mike and I had already eaten, so we didn’t order anything, but we did try their guacamole (which was free thanks to a check in on FourSquare) and the cactus fries. The fries were lightly coated and fried and they were pretty darn tasty. If you ever see them on a menu, they’re definitely worth a try!

Avocado egg rolls: Last Christmas, Mike’s parents and Mike and I got gift cards to Kona Grill. We went during happy hour, which gave us the chance to try some appetizers at half price (which is a GREAT deal). We decided on the avocado egg rolls with honey-cilantro dipping sauce. I am not a huge fan of avocado, but I must confess I liked these a lot. I was surprised the filling was so soft and creamy and warm-a nice contrast to the crunchy wrapper. They had a bit of onion and bell pepper in them and the dipping sauce added the hint of sweetness they needed. We all liked them so much, I did my best to deconstruct the ingredients so I could try to make them at home.

Supreme: I love grapefruit, but since I don’t have the best grapefruit knife ever (my mom insisted she keep it and sadly, Crate & Barrel doesn’t make them anymore), I usually don’t buy them. The grocery store had samples of some Rio reds out and they were so sweet and juicy I had to buy six. I debated cutting them into wedges like an orange, but I took a chance and looked up segmenting (also called a supreme) citrus fruits. If you attempt this, you’ll need a REALLY sharp paring knife. It looks a lot scarier and harder than it is, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll find all sorts uses for the membrane-free sections: tarts, salads, pies, compotes….

Ted & Wally’s wasabi ice cream: If you’ve followed my blog for a bit, you’ll probably know I LOVE Ted & Wally’s Premium Homemade Ice Cream. All of their ice creams (including vegan and diabetic-friendly ), sorbets and yogurts are homemade with fresh, all-natural and usually local) ingredients made the old fashioned way: slow-churned with rock salt. The flavors change daily (or during summer months, hourly) and range from traditional (Dutch chocolate, vanilla, chocolate chip) to unexpected (french toast bacon–it just won the annual Baconraiser competition, blueberry banana, salty seahorse, Monster Energy Drink sorbet, white chocolate caviar). If you think something would make a great ice cream/sorbet/yogurt flavor, they are more than happy to give it a shot.

They’ll let you try as many flavors as you want, but wasabi has to be one of the weirdest ones I’ve ever tried. I don’t like wasabi with sushi so I highly doubted I’d like it in ice cream form, but I couldn’t pass up the chance, especially since it used fresh wasabi instead of the powdered or premade kind. The ice cream itself was a soft, pale green and nice and creamy on your tongue; it was definitely much more muted than eating wasabi normally, but certainly left its trademark spicy punch at the end. It was sweeter than I thought it would be, but I opted to get a different flavor.

Cheddar bacon potato chips: I spent yesterday with my best friend Jill wandering around the Albertville Premium Outlet Mall in Albertville, MN. We initially passed KLN Family Brands, but saw chips in the window and decided to go inside (what can I say, we like to eat). Based in Minnesota, it is their only outlet store and they carry some of their more unique products/flavors. When Jill and I saw the cheddar bacon potato chips, we grabbed a few bags without hesitating. Potatoes, cheese and bacon–how could that be bad? We barely made it out of the store and I had opened my bag and eaten one. Yum. Yummy yum yuuuum. The chips were the perfect blend of smoky bacon flavor and cheese. I let my mom and aunt try some when I got home. Big mistake. They were also hooked. I promptly hid them so I could take them home with me. The salesclerk informed us it was the only place that carried the cheddar bacon or ketchup flavored chips and people come from all over just to buy them in bulk. At $2.50 a bag, I am more than happy to be one of those people.

There are tons of food ideas I didn’t get around to trying this year (making candy, making more pies and breads, making homemade dog treats for Nova, making pasta from scratch), so I am going to make it a point to try them in 2013. Are there any food experiences you enjoyed in 2012? Do you have a favorite ingredient or cooking style you love that you think I should explore?

Conversebear Turns 2!

When I decided to start a blog two years ago, I chose to make it personal. Looking back, my posts have changed a bit in style, but the topics still reflect me and what was going on in my life at the time. I may not post as often as I’d like, but I try to make each post that does get added special and worth the time to read.

I wasn’t too concerned if only my family and close friends read it, so it is quite an honor to have found a wider audience. I truly appreciate everyone who has stopped by to check it out and those who have subscribed or taken time to leave a comment. The comments and subscriptions have led me to some other fascinating blogs and ultimately inspired me not only to keep writing, but how to adapt my blog and make it better.

 Thanks again and I look forward to sharing more of my adventures with you in 2013!

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