Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Beginning the Holiday Season

I have a yearly tradition - on the day after Thanksgiving, I put up my Christmas tree and all of my other holiday decorations.  Then, in between December 26th and Jan 1, I take them all down.  I know to some it may sound rushed, but in the words of Ally McBeal, "I prefer to experience a full month of Christmas."

So, for my "B" post for Jenny Matlock's Alphabe-Thursday, I'm sharing my (hopefully) Beautiful holiday decorations.  You can also get a little glimpse of my personality as well, and the things that I love.  The photo at the top is of the passthrough between my kitchen and dining area.  The photo below is the bookcase/stemware case that also sits in my dining area.

This is my sofa table.  I normally keep the plastic barware set on the lower shelf during the rest of the year, but I do enjoy filling the glasses with glass balls and then lighting the candles on each side.  On the lower shelf you can see a big present among my souvenier shot glass collection and rock-and-roll souvenier mugs.

This is my entertainment center.  There's really a lot of space on top to fit decorations, but I prefer to keep it simple.  Since I don't have a stocking, I hung an ornament off the snowman hanger.

This is my CD holder/small bookcase that sits to the right of the entertainment center.  The card in the frame is from Four14, a Milwaukee-based photography/graphics design company you can find on Etsy.  The late-70's-era camera on the first shelf of the CD holder is the same one I use in my avatar.

This is my penguin-ornament collection that sits on one of the nightstands in my bedroom.

I have two Christmas trees.  This is because I love ornaments so much I have bought so many throughout the years.  But, one of the trees is in my bedroom, and has red and gold (and kind of glam) ornaments.  Yes, the presents underneath the tree are this year's gifts.  I'm already done shopping and wrapping (please don't hate me).

And the one in the living room is my first grown-up tree.  It's fake, but it's 6 feet tall, which makes it one foot taller than me.  I did have a snafu with the lights, though.  I bought 2 strands of very cheap lights and half of the second strand burned out already.  I improvised with icicle lights that I had around and knew I wasn't going to be using otherwise this year.

Here are some of my favorite ornaments.  You can also go to yesterday's post to see my Harley-Davidson ornaments.

And here is one of the ones I bought this year, a silver fox.  If you would like one of your own, I bought it at Target.

Although I don't have a ton of space to decorate, I think I do pretty well with what I've got.  I hope your holiday decorating, if you choose to do so, goes well and you have a lovely, sparkly, comfortable home this season.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: There's A Harley in my Tree

Make that two Harleys.  I got these ornaments years ago at a White Elephant gift exchange, and they were made to commemorate Harley Davidson's 90th anniversary.  Next year will be the 110th anniversary of the motorcycle builder/dealer.

For more Wordless Wednesday photos, click here.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Low Sodium Cooking #2: Turkey Tex-Mex Skillet

Here's one of the (fairly) low-sodium dishes I'm making for my dinners this week - Turkey Tex-Mex Skillet, and the great thing about it is you can make it one pot (or skillet).  Now, I say this dish is fairly low-sodium because it completely depends on the type of ingredients you choose.  To make sure it's low-sodium, buy canned tomatoes and sauce that say "no sodium added", use ground turkey instead of beef, and use whole wheat noodles.  Or, if you prefer going organic, and you have more skill and time than me, use real tomatoes to make the sauce and cut up another to add texture.

Turkey Tex-Mex Skillet


1 pound lean ground turkey
1 medium onion, chopped
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
1 medium green pepper - chopped (if you don't like peppers - like me - use 2 tsp red pepper flakes)
1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
1/2 cup water
2 TB chili powder
6 TB reduced-fat sour cream


1. In a nonstick skillet, cook turkey and onion over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain.

2. Add tomatoes, macaroni, green pepper, tomato sauce, water and chili powder.  Bring to a boil.

3. Lower heat, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes or until macaroni is tender.  Garnish servings with sour cream.

I truly believe this is a dish everyone in the family will love (unless they hate tomatoes).  It's simple, not too spicy, and truly mouthwatering.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Autumn Vibrance

For this week's Wordless Wednesday, I'm posting an old photo but one of my favorites, especially now that this year's fall color is gone. 

Have a happy, safe, and filling Thanksgiving everyone!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Annual Weekend of Culture: Holiday International Folk Fair

This weekend, I went with a friend to Milwaukee's Holiday International Folk Fair, a yearly event that, along with the Milwaukee Christmas Parade, unofficially kicks off the holiday season in our city.  This fair has been going on for as long as I can remember, and my mom and I used to go every year when I was young, first when it was in Downtown Milwaukee, and then in it's current home at Wisconsin State Fair Park on the west side.

The fair includes a marketplace where you can buy small gift items from all sorts of different countries.  But one reason people love this fair is because of the food.  There are vendors from every country you can think of selling foods of their homeland.  Every year (again, ever since I was young) my one must-get has been the Baklava.  If you don't know what baklava is, it is 6 layers (sometimes more) of filo dough with honey and nuts inside.  It is sinful, but since I lost another pound last week, I could indulge.

The photo below is foods of my main heritage country, Ireland.

Every year, many of the countries represented at the fair put up special booths to highlight aspects of their heritage.  Mexico featured its clothing and music:

Romania focused on folk telling:

And Italy highlighted it's most famous wooden boy, Pinocchio:

And of course, our country was represented, but along with a reenactment of the Revolutionary War, there were many stations dedicated to the Native Americans.

One more highlight of the Holiday International Folk Fair is the performances.  There are 3 stages where dancers from many different countries perform throughout the day.  There is also a separate stage where goers enjoy coffee drinks and listen to international music.

Needless to say, this is where I took most of my photos. 

The Holiday International Folk Fair goes on every year the weekend before Thanksgiving. 

Also, another round of Jenny Matlock's Alphabe-Thursday starts this week.  This is my "A" entry.  To see more, please click here.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Low Sodium Cooking #1

I have a new feature here on the blog all about low-sodium recipes.  Some of you may already know this, since I have mentioned it in comments on other blogs, but I have high blood pressure, and my doctor says I need to be on a low-sodium, high-potassium diet AND lose 15 pounds (at least).  So for the last couple of weeks I've been focusing on eating healthier and cooking more, and have lost 3 1/2 pounds so far.  Yes, a lot of that is probably water weight, but I'm pretty happy.

So I've decided to share my weight loss journey and post some low-sodium recipes that I have found on the Internet, probably once or twice a week.

The first recipe is for:

Creamy Italian Pasta Salad with Tuna

  • 2 cups whole-grain rotini
  • 1/2 cup fat-free Greek yogurt
  • 2 TB Parmesan cheese
  • 2 TB fresh chopped basil (or 1 TB dried basil)
  • 1 TB red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. dried mustard
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 can (6 oz) canned tuna in water, drained
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

1. Cook rotini according to package directions, then rinse in cold water and set aside.

2. In a small bowl, combine, yogurt, parmesan cheese, basil, red wine vinegar, mustard and garlic.

3. Combine with pasta and add tuna and tomatoes.  Chill until ready to serve.

Sounds simple, right?  To add more potassium to the dish, serve it over a bed of spinach. 


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Life Lessons

For this week's Wordless Wednesday, I took some photos of very unique public art located in downtown Waukesha.  These bears, according to the plaque you can read below, were created to honor the Native American teachings of family and survival.  You can also see where the bears are located below, on the Fox River.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: MAM

For this week's Wordless Wednesday, I'm posting some photos I took of the Milwaukee Art Museum, which I admit, I don't visit as often as I would like.  The Quadracci Pavilion (the winged structure) has become world-famous since it's completion in 2001, and was even named "the best design of 2001".

I have included photos of the pavillion as well as a few of the art pieces inside.  For more information about the Milwaukee Art Museum, click here.  Or Google "Milwaukee Art Museum" to see more images.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Frigid Free Day At The Zoo

Yesterday I went out into the 40 degree weather, customary to Wisconsin in early November, to visit the Milwaukee County Zoo on their next-to-last Family Free Day (the final one for 2012 is December 1st).  I had been meaning to get out to the Zoo since I bought my DSLR camera in May, but the time just slipped by.  I'm glad I went, even though a lot of the animals were indoors now and the outdoor habitats looked kind of bleak.  There were still enough interesting animals to get some good photos.

Here are some of the animals I was fortunate to photograph:

The caribous were outside, of course.

As were the bears.

This little guy, the red panda, was especially adorable.

The tiger, like the ape above, was indoors, but you could see them through glass from outside.

The strange part of the day was that the polar bears were nowhere to be seen, but the sea lions were out.

The giraffes were inside, but it looked like they were quite content with their balls and their hay.

Like I said, the polar bears were not out, but the kangaroos were.

The penguins were also inside.


I think this particular breed of monkey thrives closer to the arctic.  I believe they are the ones you sometimes see in photos with frost on their hair.

And last, but certainly not least, the king of the jungle.

I gained some more experience taking photos of animals at the Zoo yesterday.  I will definitely try to make it back next spring for one of their free days, and hopefully get photos of some of the animals that were indoors.  To see more, please visit my Tumblr page, and for more information on the Milwaukee County Zoo, click here.