Friday, March 24, 2017

fun links

it's been a busy week and it looks like this weekend is going to be just as chaotic too.  since it's friday, here are a few fun links that i found around the internet this week . . .

1. this mom parody of the viral "bbc dad" video is too good

2. the new word that debuted the year you were born (mine is ciabatta)

3. 30 vintage photos of grocery stores that make me want to step back in time

4. i would definitely freak out if my house water turned pink

5. speaking of, the future of toilet seats

6. cute animal wrapping paper ideas

7. the most searched foods in every state

8. i absolutely l-o-v-e the way that leko smells, but i think this is going too far

9. last week's blizzard of '17 was truly insane, it even left a house completely frozen

enjoy your weekend
love, laurie

Thursday, March 23, 2017

buy a bag, give a meal

to celebrate their 30th anniversary, petsmart came up with an idea to make a difference for pets in need.  many pets live in shelters (up to 7 million each year), but others live with parents who rely on pet food banks.  so, petsmart launched their buy a bag, give a meal program.  when you buy any bag of cat or dog food (any brand, any size, no exclusions) petsmart will give a meal to a pet in need.  the meals will be distributed by petsmart charities to pet shelters, rescue groups, and food banks across the united states and canada.  petsmart is hoping to donate 60 million meals in 2017.

we shop at petsmart regularly for leko and we think this is a great program that petsmart is running.  leko and his 5 kitten cousins encourage you to buy from petmart in order to help out their fellow pet friends!

love, laurie

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

vegan apple crisp

during the crazy blizzard last week, i looked over and saw 4 sad apples sitting on the kitchen counter which had been there for a little while.  ryan suggested making an apple dessert with them in order to use them up.  thus, vegan apple crisp.

the combination of the apples baking and the warm spices filled the house with such a wonderful aroma on a snowy day.  this dessert was so delicious and so simple to make.  (it might surprise you, but there's a secret ingredient of olive oil in this recipe!)

vegan apple crisp
prep time: 10 minutes
baking time: 45 minutes
yields: 6 servings
adapted from minimalist baker

filling ingredients:
4 medium apples
1 small orange, juiced
1/4 cup coconut sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
4 teaspoons cornstarch

topping ingredients:
1/2 cup old fashioned oats
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
1/4 cup coconut sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup olive oil

preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.  peel, core, and dice apples into a large bowl.  pour the orange juice, sugar, spices, and cornstarch over the apples and toss well.  evenly distribute the apple mixture over the bottom of a baking dish.  in the same bowl, combine the oats, flour, nuts, sugar, cinnamon, and salt.  gradually pour the oil over the dry ingredients while stirring to make sure everything is evenly coated.  evenly spread the topping over the apples in the baking dish.  bake for 45 minutes.  let rest for 10-15 minutes before serving.

love, laurie

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

celebrating the first day of spring with rita's

even though it didn't look or feel like the first day of spring yesterday (because of the cold temperatures and the remnants of that stupid blizzard we got last week), yesterday was in fact the first day of spring . . . yippee!  it's so nice to think that this gross winter weather is finally coming to an end (hopefully) soon.  to celebrate the first day of spring, rita's gave away free italian ice.  in keeping up with tradition, ryan and i headed over to rita's yesterday evening after dinner to welcome spring with free dessert!  it was a nice little monday night date after not seeing him very much this weekend.

love, laurie

Monday, March 20, 2017

thai and cinderella

this weekend, the national tour of cinderella was in town.  as usual, i barely saw ryan all weekend because he worked the load in, the entire run of the show, and the load out.  since i love the story of cinderella and since i've played the role of cinderella twice, i wanted to see the show, so my parents joined me.

before the show, we met up with ryan for dinner during his break between performances.  we grabbed dinner at one of our favorite thai restaurants before heading to the theatre.  we had great seats and really enjoyed the show.  the set was gorgeous and the on stage costume transformations were really incredible.

(a little girl sitting a few rows in front of us was wearing this tour sweatshirt from the merchandise table.  i love the saying on it and definitely think i need an adult-sized one for myself!)

love, laurie

Sunday, March 19, 2017

happy birthday!

happy birthday today to ryan's mom!

love, laurie

Friday, March 17, 2017

vegan irish soda bread (with dried cherries)

happy st. patrick's day!  i'm not irish, and i don't really celebrate st. patrick's day, but i do enjoy homemade irish soda bread once per year.  in the past, i've shared recipes for cast-iron skillet irish soda bread and irish soda bread scones.  this year, i wanted to try something different and try my hand at vegan irish soda bread.  it turns out it's super simple to make this well-known treat vegan, and it is super delicious.  i only had a little bit of raisins left in the pantry, so i added in some dried cherries (which i know is not traditional at all) and they were really great.  i love it served warm with a cup of tea.

vegan irish soda bread
prep time: 10 minutes
baking time: 45 minutes
yields: one 8-9 inch round loaf of bread

1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon coconut sugar
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup dried cherries
1 teaspoon caraway seeds

preheat your oven to 425 degrees F.  combine the milk and the vinegar and set aside for 5 minutes.  in a large bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, salt, sugar, raisins, cherries, and caraway seeds.  pour in the milk mixture and stir with a wooden spoon just until incorporated and a dough forms.  pour the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and kneed a few times into a ball.  place dough in a greased cast-iron skillet and cut an "x" in the top of the dough with a serrated knife.  bake for 45 minutes until the crust is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  once baked, allow the bread to set in the skillet for 10 minutes before cutting.  serve warm.

love, laurie

Thursday, March 16, 2017

anyone want some snow? we have enough!

this blizzard of '17 has been no joke (#stellagoaway).  our snow total is over 2.5 feet, with snow drifts over 3 feet, and piles of shoveled snow well above my head (i'm 5'2'').  schools and businesses have been closed for 3 straight days (which never happens) and many roads are impassable.  it has been a back-breaking task to try to shovel several times per day.  lifting shovelfuls of snow above my head is more of a workout than needed.  right about now, a hot tub and a massage sound glorious.  still dreaming of palm trees!

^the road in front of our house is an emergency route so it's always cleared during storms, but not this time, it's horrible.  i've watched so many large pick-up trucks getting stuck and sliding out.  also, our neighbors' icicles are longer than i am tall.^
^the "after" picture of our neighbor's car once she had spent time digging it out.  it really got buried by the plow trucks.  before she starting digging it out, you couldn't even see that there was a car under there.^
^narrow walkways through waist-high aisles of snow.^

love, laurie

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

blizzard of '17

well, the blizzard of '17 (#stella) hit us hard and left us with over 2 feet of snow!  work was closed yesterday and again today (which is unheard of) and there is a travel ban in effect because the roads are so incredibly bad.  it took us over 3 hours yesterday just to dig out our sidewalks and driveway only to find everything snow covered again this morning . . . ugg!  i'm so over this winter weather and i'm ready for palm trees.

love, laurie

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

pi(e) day

today is pi day (3/14), or pie day!  if you're looking for some pie inspiration for today, here are some of our favorites: banoffee pieclassic apple piedeep dish apple piestrawberry pierhubarb macaroon pieroasted strawberry mousse piepumpkin pielemon clementine pie, peaches and cream pie, and ice cream pie.  you can really get in the pie spirit and even watch a movie about pie too!

love, laurie

Monday, March 13, 2017

fun quizzes for a monday

it's monday, and i'm wishing there was another day in the weekend before we had to start the week already.  i started the morning off with the battery dying in my key-less entry for my car, so i couldn't get into my car.  luckily, we had a spare.  everyone is running around like crazy due to the forecasted snow storm that is supposed to start tonight and last until wednesday.  since it's monday, and my brain is not functioning at full capacity, here are a few fun/dumb little quizzes thanks to buzzfeed . . .

1. can they guess your age correctly based on the foods you hate?
my results were 31-36 so it was right!

2. do you have perfect color vision?
hey, i got 8 out of 8 correct!  (but i have to admit the last 2 were a bit tricky)

3. a synesthesia test to determine the true age of your soul
i remember one of my students doing a project about synsthesia a few years ago.  i don't really think i associate color with letters and numbers at all, but i got "31 at heart" which is only 1 year off . . . so pretty close!

4. a look back at 90s tv shows
i got 8 out of 10 of these right (and man, i really miss 90s tv!)

have a great monday
love, laurie

Friday, March 10, 2017

hey, mother nature . . . what the heck?!

walking home from the dance studio late last night it was 48 degrees outside.  this morning we woke up to a snow storm, and now we have 6 inches of snow and counting!  it's march and i'm ready for spring, not more shoveling!  i feel really badly for all of the folks who will be standing outside this weekend for all of the saint patrick's day parades.  we'll be inside trying to stay warm!

have a wonderful weekend!
love, laurie

Thursday, March 9, 2017

bathing beauty

this guy ends up in our bathtub multiple times per day.  he screams at the faucet until we turn it on and let the water trickle out.  he puts he whole body under the water and ends up absolutely soaking wet.  he loves it.  when he's done, he jumps up onto the ledge of the bathtub and shakes out like a dog.  what a cute little nut!  (i keep asking him if he would be willing to chip in and pay part of our water bill, but he refuses!)

love, laurie

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

this week in the studio

this week, my role as a college professor and my role as a dance teacher intermingled when one of my university students came to the studio to student teach my dance students.  she visited our 10-12 year old jazz class and lead them (and me - i played along too) in warm-ups and exercises to fulfill part of her course requirements.  it was a small class that day, but we still had a good time.  here are a few photos that our studio director snapped on her phone . . .

love, laurie

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

let them eat (pan)cakes!

today is national pancake day at ihop!  to celebrate, ihop will be giving away free pancakes all day.  if you're like us and you don't live near an ihop, you can celebrate at home with your own pancakes.  it's no secret that ryan and i are huge pancake fans.  here are some of our favorite pancake recipes . . .

almond poppy seed pancakes
apple cider doughnut pancakes
apple cinnamon pancakes
apple pancake rings
banana bread pancakes
banana pancakes
buckwheat, banana, and oatmeal pancakes with dark chocolate
carrot walnut pancakes
chocolate pancakes
cinnamon bun pancakes
cinnamon swirl pancakes with coffee maple syrup
coconut pancakes
coffee pancakes
cornmeal pancakes with rhubarb sauce
cranberry brown butter pancakes
greek yogurt pancakes
honey and oat pancakes
hot cross carrot cake pancakes
oatmeal yogurt chocolate chip pancakes
old fashioned pancakes
orange chocolate chip pancakes
peach cornmeal pancakes
peanut butter pancakes
poppy seed pancakes
pumpkin spice pancakes
raspberry oat pancakes with toasted hazelnuts
sweet summer corn pancakes
whole grain buckwheat pancakes
zucchini bread pancakes

dutch babies / puffed pancakes:
dutch baby with fresh berries
german apple puffed pancake
gingerbread puffed pancake
nectarine dutch baby
spiced apple puffed skillet pancake

lemon poppy seed crepes with lemon blueberry cream cheese filling
strawberry crepes

you can even make your own chocolate chip pancake mix to keep for yourself or to give as a give to a friend to celebrate national pancake day too!

happy pancake eating!
love, laurie

ps: today is actually national cereal day too!
let's just celebrate with breakfast all day long!

Monday, March 6, 2017


when i was in doctoral school, my dissertation research focused on how social media has impacted our society's communication, both written and face-to-face.  i'm always fascinated at how much technology changes our ability to communicate.  undoubtedly, it has improved the ease of communication greatly, but it has come at a high cost of (in my opinion) ruining our ability to write formally and to hold an "old fashioned" face-to-face conversation.  so, i found photographer eric pickersgill's photo series to be interesting (and a bit sad because they're true).  all of the photos in his series called "removed" are to remind us of how strange we look holding our mobile devices by removing the mobile devices from the images.  i try my best to not be glued to my phone constantly, but i'm certainly guilty of this too.  the photo of the couple in bed (bottom left corner) really struck me.  something to think about on a monday morning . . . in our mobile-device-driven world, it's important to take time to unplug.

love, laurie

Friday, March 3, 2017

5 simple things we do on weekends to make our weeks easier

in our house, our week days/nights are super jam packed.  honestly, i don't know how we fit everything into our schedules.  in order to make our weeks run smoothly and to avoid too much mid-week chaos, we use our weekends to prep.  taking just a little bit of time on the weekends to get our affairs in order for the upcoming week lessens our stress and ensures that we are not scrambling throughout the week.  since it's friday, today we wanted to share five simple things we do on the weekends to make our weeks easier . . .

1. menu plan and grocery shop on saturday
everyone makes such a big deal about meal planning, but it's really easy and makes our weeks run so much smoother.  it only takes a few minutes to sit down and plan a menu for the week.  base your grocery shopping list off your weekly menu so you don't end up buying things that you don't need.  we typically try to get our grocery shopping done on saturdays.

2. make all lunches for the week and cook all dinners for the week on sunday
i have absolutely no time to cook during the week.  most days i leave the house early in the morning and don't return until very late at night.  in order to make sure we have nutritious meals for the week, i make and portion out 10 lunches on sunday (2 people for 5 days).  personally, we find pyrex containers to be the perfect way to store our lunches.  if you look in our fridge on any given sunday night, you'll see a wall of pyrex containers stacked up and ready to go.  all we have to do is grab one each morning and run out the door.  in addition, i also cook all dinners for the week on sunday.  some week nights we get to eat together and some we don't.  regardless, when dinners are prepped in advance, all we have to do is heat up our portion.  if you saw us on sundays, you would think that we were cooking for an army, but it's all gone by the following friday night.

3. do all of the laundry on the weekend
it's a rule in our house that we only do laundry on the weekend and it makes our lives so much easier.  we try our best to get all of our laundry done each weekend, and it's such a great feeling to start off each monday knowing that everything is freshly cleaned and put away.

4. pick outfits for the week ahead of time
i go through a lot of "costume changes" each day.  i wear dress clothes to work, workout clothes to the gym, and then dance clothes to dance class.  taking just a few minutes on sunday night to pick out my outfits for each day is such a time saver in the mornings and allows me to sleep in just a few extra minutes.  it's also a great way to ensure that i won't forget anything at home since most of my "costume changes" are not done at home.

5. plan a workout schedule in advance
i think for most people one of the first things to get pushed to the bottom of their priority list is working out.  you skip one day, then the next, and before you know it you haven't seen the inside of the gym in a month.  our health is a priority for us, so building workout time into our schedules makes us not be able to come up with an excuse to skip out on the gym.  signing up for a fitness class or planning to work out with a friend is a great way keep yourself accountable for exercising too.

have a great weekend!
love, laurie

Thursday, March 2, 2017

recent purchases that have pleasantly surprised me

every once in a while we come across a product that makes me say, "where has this been all my life?"  i wanted to share four recent purchases we have made that have pleasantly surprised me.  (this post is not sponsored by any of these brands.  these are products that i have purchased and enjoy.)

1. jcrew camp socks
ryan and i are huge jcrew fans (particularly of the jcrew factory/mercantile stores).  last christmas, ryan bought me a pair of womens camp socks.  they're great and i love them, but they are a pain in the neck to get on and off because they run really tight (and i have relatively small feet).  recently, we came across a few pairs of mens camp socks on a clearance sale.  we bought them and both love them.  i love the mens so much more than the womens because they are extra long so they fit me like knee socks, and they are really thick and cozy.  they're not meant to be boot socks, but since they're so long they fit like that which is great.  i know they're just socks, and it may sound silly, but they are game changers in the cold winter months!

2. real techniques miracle complexion sponge
i learned how to do my own makeup at a young age because i was on stage so often for shows.  i've always used my hands to blend my foundation and concealer, until i recently discovered these makeup sponges.  i have to admit, i was very doubtful that these would work, but they do.  these particular sponges are more versatile than most because they have a flat edge, a precision tip, and round sides.  used wet, they are ideal for liquid makeup.

3. tubshroom
hair ends up clogging the drain when taking a shower which is frustrating, and over the years we've tried tons of different shower drain options.  one day i was scrolling through my facebook feed and saw an advertisement for the tubshroom.  i was intrigued, but thought that i looked too good to be true.  we picked one up at bed, bath, and beyond to give it a try and were so pleased to find that it works like a charm!  it catches everything and is the easiest to clean off out of all of the strainers/hair catchers we've ever used.

4. lara bars
i'm super skeptical of packaged food, especially any snack that falls in the granola bar or protein bar category.  after doing a lot of reading up on lara bars, i decided to give them a try.  oh my goodness, we're hooked!  they are delicious and made from only a few simple ingredients.  best of all is that they're vegan!  i stand behind these bars 100%.  (the cherry pie  is my favorite and it's only made from 3 ingredients: cherries, dates, and almonds!)

love, laurie

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

tips and advice for college students

^me in my first dorm room on move-in day at the very beginning of freshman year - august 2003^

it's the time of the year when high school seniors are deciding what to do with their lives after graduation.  so, i'm excited to be teaming up with earnest today to share my tips and advice for college students!

whenever i think about education, i'm always taken back to a memory i have from when i was a little girl.  growing up, my dad used to listen to dr. laura (an american talk radio host).  i remember the first time he told me about dr. laura, "you can be dr. laura" he said . . . words that would end up sticking with me for the rest of my life.  i'm a fiercely strong person when it comes to drive and focus, and i attribute that in large part to how my parents raised me.  i take great pride in the fact that i graduated undergrad a semester early, dove right into grad school after, and then continued on to earn my doctoral degree.  anyone who knows me knows that i very much value higher education . . . but, it wasn't always like that.

i worked hard through elementary school, junior high school, and high school.  by the time i hit senior year in high school, i was so exhausted and burnt out that i couldn't even imagine going to college.  i actually didn't want to go at all.  of course this didn't go over well with two parents who hold multiple college degrees, so i went.  i applied to three different universities and got accepted into all three.  i couldn't make a decision as to where i wanted to go, mainly because i didn't want to go, and on the day decisions were due (talk about waiting to the very last minute) i remember my mom anxiously telling me that i just had to pick a school.  i looked at the three acceptance letters, saw that two of the universities were offering identical scholarship amounts and the third university was offering just a little bit more.  i picked the school that offered more.  folks, i based my whole college career on a difference of $2,000.  it was practically a game of eeny, meeny, miny, moe.  (please don't pick your college this way!)  in the end i am glad i chose the school i did, but i should have been much more intentional about my choice.  it's funny that someone who didn't even want to go to college after high school ended up with a Ph.D. after her name.

so here it is: a list of 10 tips and some advice learned along the way from someone who didn't even want to go to college and ended up surviving three degrees . . .

^left: in my dorm after a show sophomore year, right: in my dorm on the first day of junior year^

1. start taking college courses early 
most colleges have programs available where high school students can take college courses at a deep discount while they are still in high school.  i started earning college credits during my junior year in high school through a scholarship program run by my high school (and i should say it was my dad's idea).  to this day, it is still one of the very best things i ever did for myself.  it's a good way to get your feet wet and ease into college.  it's also an awesome way to start college with several credits under your belt!

2. take advanced placement tests in high school
almost all high schools offer advanced placement tests.  take them!  if you score well, you can earn college credits.  that means you don't have to take some of the entry-level courses that everyone else will have to take.  you'll start college with a leg up by already having several credits, and you'll be able to focus on upper-level courses that are of more interest to you than generic introductory courses.

3. in addition to your major, declare a minor
in college, you end up taking electives to fill your credit graduation requirment.  instead of taking random electives, be intentional about your elective course choices and put those electives to use in order to earn a minor in addition to your major.  i graduated with 2 minors (english and dance) in addition to my major because i had enough courses to meet the requirements for those minors.  years later, i'm still glad i declared those minors.  they've come in handy when applying for jobs.

4. take summer courses
summer sessions are much shorter than fall and spring semesters, and summer credits are typically much cheaper than credits throughout the school year.  the summer is a great way to bang out several credits.  it's also a great way to get a course "out of the way" quickly if you don't want to commit to it for a 15-week semester.

5. before you take any credits at another college, check to make sure they'll transfer
i took all of my courses at my college except for two spanish courses.  i was required to take 2 foreign language courses (which i had no interest in) so i took them over the summer at my local community college.  it saved a ton of time and money since the community college credits cost significantly less than my university's credits cost.  yes, it's a great idea to take some of your general education courses (or core curriculum courses) at a local community college to save money, however, before you sign up for any classes at another school make sure your college agrees that they will transfer and get that in writing!  (i spent a year as an academic advisor for undergraduate students and i saw way too many students get burned by this, and it could have been avoided in every instance if they would have just checked first.)

6. learn your program requirements early on and advise yourself
listen, academic advisors see hundreds of students and have to know dozens of different majors.  unless you are at a very small school with a great student-to-faculty ratio, your advisor is not going to know your program as well as you should.  learn your program requirements on day one and get them in writing (most are given to you in a handbook).  let those requirements be your bible by which you make every move for the next 4 years of your life.  there are countless stories about people having to stay an extra year because their advisors messed up and they were just a few credits short of graduation requirements.  hearing those stories was a driving force for me to take the reins to make sure i got out on time with what i needed.

7. save money wherever you can (and don't miss out on the freebies)
college is expensive, i don't need to tell you that.  it's easy to spend money unnecessarily in college, especially when friends want to go out to eat, out to the movies, etc.  set a budget for yourself and stick to it and don't miss out on all of the freebies that you can get.  from t-shirts to food, see what is going on with your student activities department and participate.  gym memberships are expensive, but almost all colleges offer access to their fitness center for free for current students.  take advantage of that!  also, don't forget that your student id card is gold when looking for discounts at stores and restaurants!

8. hold a leadership position while you're in college
this looks great on a resume and future interviewers will love it, but more importantly you'll get experience being in charge of a group and you'll get to develop and test your leadership skills.  i was the president of one club and the secretary of another.  i learned some great skills from those experiences and learned a lot about myself too.

9. get an off-campus internship (even if it's unpaid)
i see so many students turn down internship opportunities because they are unpaid.  this is the time to take an unpaid internship (because you won't be able to afford to take one after you graduate when student loans need to be paid).  you'll get experience outside of the classroom in a real life setting, and many times internships lead to job offers (or at least letters of recommendation).

10. find a mantra and stay focused on your end goal
if there's one thing i will always remember from my dad, it's the saying: "where there's a will, there's a way."  it has to be one of his favorite sayings because he recites it all of the time, and i heard it countless times growing up.  i had no idea that it would become my personal mantra to get me through school (and many other things in life).  find what works for you and stay focused on your goal.  remember what you are in college to do, don't get sidetracked.  it's okay to change your major, but don't change it too many times or else you will really set yourself behind.  when i began my doctoral program, a veteran professor shared some great advice with my cohort on the very first day.  she said that when times get tough we should imagine ourselves walking across the stage at graduation being handed our diplomas.  i am so incredibly grateful that i heard that little piece of advice that day, because truth be told it was the only thing that got me through my doctoral program.  i kept it in the back of my head for 4 straight years, and that image was what pulled me through.  when i finally got to walk across the stage as dr. laura it was the most fulfilling experience.

^ryan's crazy friends' annual bbq right outside their dorm on the lawn . . . pretty certain that having an open flame on a bbq grill would be frowned upon on a college campus nowadays!^

^writing papers for a class on our matching computers in ryan's dorm room sophomore year^

love, laurie