Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Don't Post-Christmas Shop

I really like this article on MSNBC today...we will have to be careful now that we bought an HVAC unit for the house! (Not that it was a small splurge of luxury.)

The gift giving season has come to an end and you might be thinking it’s time to permit yourself one little luxury — a small purchase, not anything that would break the bank. It might be an exotic end table, some designer shoes, or perhaps a fancy throw pillow.

Bad idea, scientists say. Just as a tiny bite of chocolate cake can dash a dieter’s will-power, the purchase of one special item can spark a shopping spree, a new study shows.

In a revealing series of experiments researchers discovered that the acquisition of one high end item can spur us to spend lots more if the original purchase turns out to be a lot nicer than our other possessions, according to the report published in the Journal of Marketing Research.

“When we buy something with unique design elements and it doesn’t fit in, it frustrates us, says the study’s senior author, Henrik Hagtvedt, a professor at Boston College. “This is because the design has intrinsic value. Rather than returning the item, we actively seek ways to make the item fit, often by making complementary purchases.”

So, has Hagtvedt found the shopping equivalent to the “gateway” drug, where a pair of designer shoes leads to a complete wardrobe makeover or a bite of cake leads us to consume the whole thing?

Kind of, says psychologist April Benson, author of “To Buy or Not to Buy: Why We Overshop and How to Stop.”

“It’s even worse than taking a bite of cake,” Benson says. “Once the cake is consumed, you’re not looking at it anymore. With a purchase, you keep seeing it.”

That doesn’t mean we can’t ever buy anything special, Benson says. We just have to be aware of the menace of mismatches.

And, before buying, we need to know whether we can enjoy our one nice piece of furniture or whether we’ll get frustrated because it makes the whole room look shabby in comparison.

“You have to know what you’re getting into,” Benson cautions.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas in Sioux Falls

Yay! We had a GREAT time in Sioux Falls...Christmas at the Hartman's, a little time with the Kienow's and Steineke's, baby Madeline's dedication...and SNOW!

Photos will be coming soon. As soon as Jeff comes home that is :). He stayed in SF to help the Hartman's purchase a new car and hopefully will be home on Thursday. Problem is, he has the camera with all my fun photos.

So you are just going to have to wait!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Look what Santa brought!!!

I must have been very good all year. Plus, our new basement locale at work has no coffee maker, and rumor has it our 4th floor digs will not either...

THANKS SANTA!!! See you next year :)

Friday, December 24, 2010

White Christmas

We made it to South Dakota! After a few false starts yesterday, Jeff and I both ended up in Omaha (within a few hours of each other), rented a car one-way, and drove to Sioux Falls.

After a fun Papa Murphy's pizza dinner with Jeff's folks and aunt, and his sister's family (including 2 boys and the baby), we hung out the rest of the night.

Now today, I am sitting in my PJ's (hey it's 10:30!), watching giant snowflakes come down outside. It's beautiful - and will be a VERY White Christmas.

It's great to be home!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Ireland, I'm Coming Home 2

Blogger won't let me put so many photos in one post so here is the rest of our trip!

We stopped for lunch at a pub in Hollywood - totally authentic. Moms yelling at their kids, a couple was fun!

After lunch, we continued driving towards Kilkenny. Here we stopped to see this castle...but it was already closed (hence sad face). Good thing the Christmas market was in full swing. We shopped into the evening instead.

Our final stop for Day 2 was in Waterford, our overnight city. Many restaurants were closed since it was Sunday, but we found this amazing Italian place...super cute, authentic, delicious! After some wine and beer, things got pretty funny. For instance, my mom crying out, "Randy, your calzone is HUGE!" as they brought out our food. We all got the giggles pretty good about that one!

Nightcap at a pub on the way back to the hotel. I saw the bottom of 2 Guinnesses.

Monday morning brought a trip to Waterford Crystal. If you didn't know they basically hand blow and cut everything with artisans on site. Amazing!

Of course I bought a little something...

We came back to Kilkenny to tour the castle. It was open! And probably my mother's favorite was renovated to be decorated as a Victorian household. Cool!

A hustled drive back to the city, with a quick stop at Avoca (handmade shopping store from the mills of Wicklow), and we made it in time for the last tour of Jameson. Dad's hand shot up so fast to sample all of the different whiskeys. He picked Jack Daniels...uck. Our new family drink just may be Jameson and Ginger Ale.

By Monday night, we were pretty tired, but back in Dublin - and HAD to see an authentic Irish band and some Riverdancers...

Close enough to get kicked!!! We had such a great time - thanks Mom and Dad!

Happy Potluck

It's 8AM and I am ready for our holiday potluck at work today!

The midwestern transplants are keeping it real with crock pot central. We'll take care of the hotdishes, salads, and dessert. All others need only bring chips, plates, and pop. (That's right, Pop. Not Coke.).

Happy almost Christmas!!!

UPDATE: here's the lasagna recipe.

Crock Pot Lasagna
1 lb ground beef or turkey
2 Tbsp dried onions
1 tsp garlic powder
1 or 2 jars spaghetti sauce (for the big crock pot I used 1 jar of the Bertoli’s Tomato and Basil and one jar of Spicy Tomato and Basil)
1 small can mushrooms (optional – I didn’t use)

16 oz box uncooked lasagna noodles (normal noodles, not the no-cook variety)
12 or 16 oz cottage cheese (I used skim, small curd)
16 oz shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup fresh parmesan cheese (I buy the bags)

Brown the hamburger, onion and garlic. Add jar(s) of sauce and warm.
Spoon a layer of the meat sauce into the bottom of the crock pot.
Add a double layer of uncooked lasagna noodles (break to fit).
Layer in the cottage cheese, mozzarella, and parmesan on top of the noodles.
Repeat with sauce, noodles, and cheese until everything’s gone – or the crock pot is ¾ full.
Add in ½ to ¾ cup water over the top for good measure and to keep from drying out.

Cover and cook on high for 2-3 hours (that’s what I did today), or low 4 to 5 hours.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas baking

Every year Jeff and I make "Grandma Hartman's Spritz Cookies" and "Peanut Butter Blossoms".

Raise your hand if you know what both of those items are, ok? Because if you were in Georgia, you'd be in the minority.

We went to 3 different grocery stores, asking about Brach's chocolate blossom candies...none to be had. Further investigation led to the bakery ladies' lack of knowledge of 'peanut butter blossoms'...even when described in detail of their deliciousness.

FINALLY - after a major meltdown at Kroger, we last-chanced it at another Publix. I tentatively walked up to the bakery and asked (with tears in my eyes)...and she knew what I was talking about. FURTHERMORE, they had bulk candy in stock!!! I cleaned out the old chocolate (it was a little white) but I didn't care. SUCCESS!

The prep of our labor:

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Ireland, I'm coming home 1

Yay! Photos from our trip to Dublin and surrounding areas...

Our first venture out after a morning of flying - we arrived to Dublin around 7am, napped, then ventured out through St. Stephen's Green to find lunch somewhere.

Yay! Shopping in Grafton Street - totally decked out for Christmas and one of the busiest foot traffic streets in Europe.

We took a hop on / hop off bus tour throughout the city and saw St. Patrick's Cathedral. Then...Guinness. This is me at the rooftop bar, waiting for my drink.

Ahhh...pretty good start to our first evening out in Dublin. We had a great view before the fog rolled in and the sun set.
Trotting around Temple Bar, pub hopping. We stopped for dinner at Quay's Restaurant, with authentic Irish cuisine...I had a lamb stew, Dad had Guinness stew, Jeff with fish and chips, Mom with smoked salmon. I swear, Mom had smoked salmon every meal in some form (even on the plane ride home).

The next morning, our driver picked us up bright and early for a drive along the coast, heading south.
Somehow, Jeff got put in the back during this first leg. We saw Powerscourt Estates, but did not get out since it was snow-covered. Our first stop was in Glendalough, an ancient monastery Jeff crawled out of the back the van, sweaty and pale. No barfing though!

Walking through the icy, quiet, and magical graveyard at Glendalough.

Dad holding up some ancient ruins

Friday, December 17, 2010


Just in time for Christmas...

Red Velvet Cake Truffles
1 box red velvet cake mix (bake as directed on box for 9 X 13 cake)
1 batch cream cheese frosting
1 package white chocolate bark
Green or Red sprinkles
wax paper

Cream cheese frosting:
2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. After cake is cooked and cooled completely, crumble into large bowl.
2. Mix crumbled cake thoroughly with batch of cream cheese frosting. (It may be easier to use fingers to mix together, but be warned it will get messy.)
3. Roll mixture into quarter size balls and lay on cookie sheet. (Should make 45-50. You can get even more if you use a mini ice cream scooper.)
4. Chill for several hours. (You can speed this up by putting in the freezer.)
5. Melt chocolate in microwave per directions on package. Note, only melt a few pieces of chocolate bark at a time because it starts to cool and thicken. It’s easier to work with when it’s hot.
6. Roll balls in chocolate and lay on wax paper until firm. (Use a spoon to dip and roll in chocolate and then tap off extra.)
7. Sprinkle with green or red sprinkles.


1 (18.25 ounce) package devil's food cake mix
1/2 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
6 ounces caramel ice cream topping
3 (1.4 ounce) bars chocolate covered toffee, chopped
1 (8 ounce) container frozen whipped topping, thawed

Bake cake according to package directions for a 9x13 inch pan; cool on wire rack for 5 minutes. Poke holes across the top of the cake.

In a saucepan over low heat, combine sweetened condensed milk and caramel topping, stirring until smooth and blended. Slowly pour the warm topping mixture over the top of the warm cake, letting it sink into the holes; then sprinkle the crushed chocolate toffee bars liberally across the entire cake while still warm.

Let cake cool completely, then top with whipped topping. Decorate the top of the cake with some more chocolate toffee bar chunks and swirls of caramel topping. Refrigerate and serve right from the pan.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Jessica's Favorite Things

Sorry for the lack of posting, internets! BUT - we had a WONDERFUL vacation beginning last Friday until Tuesday in....IRELAND!!!

And I promised my dad I wouldn't post anything until we got back. This resulted from a previous Facebook post in which I mentioned the parents and us were looking for recommendations for our Ireland trip. Which apparently got the word back to my Mom and Dad's friends that they were getting ready to go vacationing...and they hadn't told anyone yet. OOPS. Anywho, we're back! Look for photos tomorrow.

In the meantime, did anyone see Barney's Favorite Things on "How I Met Your Mother" on Monday? I LOVED the spoof on Oprah (because I love all things Oprah), and it gave me the idea to choose 5 of MY favorite things this Christmas.

1. Smartwool Socks. What??? Where did these come from and how did I miss the train? They are warm but don't let your feet get sweaty. Amazing! But at $17 a pair a little pricey - try to find them on sale.

2. Coco Mademoiselle perfume gift set. YUMMY. Other acceptable items are Lancome's Hypnose, or other bergamot / spicy scents.

3. Costume Jewelry. Big. Bold. Borderline Gaudy. MINE!

4. A year's supply of Jameson and Ginger Ale. Hey, I am still in vacation mode :)

5. Sour Cream Cutout Cookies. These are my favorite all-time Christmas cookie - but with this recipe only! And if I can eat, like maybe 100, and don't have to make them...that is my favorite present, I think!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Disconnected politicos from people

This is totally worth reposting from one of my favorite blogs...what do you all think? Should the government fund programs like those from the Great Depression?

The unemployment rate rose to 9.8 percent today, and one well-respected economist said we can expect it to go to 10 percent soon.

So, what are lawmakers doing to boost job growth in this country? Not much.

The Democrats are pushing an extension of unemployment benefits as a way to fix the problem, and Republicans seized the report as a chance to fight, yet again, for an extension of tax breaks for the wealthy as the answer to the dismal job market.

Michigan Democratic Representative Sander Levin said in a statement that: “Today’s news underscores the moral and economic obligation facing Congress right now to extend unemployment benefits for those struggling to find their next job opportunity in this slowly recovering economy.”

And House Republican Leader John Boehner urged Democrats to stop “wasting time with meaningless votes” and avert all tax hikes, according to Fox News.

I’m all for extending jobless benefits because the unemployed need all the help they can get. But that’s not the way to significantly grow jobs in this country. And while tax breaks are a good thing in a booming economy, there’s little compelling evidence that letting rich people keep more of their money will mean jobs for the average working stiff.

Neither side seems to be standing up for the workers in this country. Have they ever stood on an unemployment line? They just don’t get it.

At times like these I always check in with former Labor Secretary under Clinton Robert Reich who seems to have his head on straight.

In his blog today he said:
"Only 5 percent of those with college degrees are now unemployed, while more than 20 percent of everyone else is without work.

Maybe that’s why Washington doesn’t get it. The Washington echo chamber is filled with college degrees.

The Big Money economy on Wall Street and in corporate suites doesn’t get it, either. They’re doing marvelously well because they’re tied to rapidly-growing markets in China, India, and Brazil.

But the Average Worker economy on Main Street continues to wallow."

His answer:

"Not only do we need extended unemployment benefits. We need a new WPA, modeled after the WPA of the Great Depression, to put jobless Americans to work. We need a national infrastructure bank to rebuild our crumbling highways and water and sewer systems, thereby putting additional people back to work.

We needed it in the Great Depression but few think such a move is necessary now."

I was having dinner with some friend recently and we all talked about how we didn’t know anyone close to us that was jobless and struggling. That from a room full of college graduates who don’t rely on manufacturing, construction, or retail for our paychecks, at least not directly.

But indeed, people are struggling. Thanks to what I do, I was able to inform my friends that millions of people are going to bed worried about what tomorrow will bring.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

A very Potter weekend

Well, ABC Family did it again. They sucked up random 30 minutes of my life, bit by bit this weekend, by showing all the Harry Potter movies back to back.

Of course, then we had to watch the most recent movie, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, to get psyched up to go to the new Deathly Hallows movie part one.

Did we ever make it to the movie theater? No. We got caught up with more Christmas decorating and baking. (Photos are waiting for a sunny day. Literally. The weather here SUCKS right now!) Guess HP will wait till later this week!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Lutheran Airlines

This will be the funniest thing you hear all day. I promise. Even if you are watching Chelsea Handler tonight, this will trump her and Chuy all the way.

Post a comment - what was your favorite line?

(Mine is...Rows 1-6 bring rolls...)