Thursday, December 18, 2014

Three Things Thursday

1. I am so excited - I secured a super sweet blogger in for the Chicago Auto Show first look for charity courtesy of the Chicago Food Bloggers. It's going to be amazing - I get a preview of the event and what it takes to pull off this black-tie affair, then I get to attend it on Feb. 13 and see everything come together. Problem - it's black tie. Which dress should I get?
Colors are changeable, just looking at styles

2. I was reading Runner's World and can't believe this tiny dog - he has his own medals! I had no idea dachshunds were such avid runners and able to log 35 miles a week. Impressive pup.

3. I got the new Influenster #FrostyVoxBox and am already enjoying the context. My hair is finally long enough to require a hairbrush, so it was a nice surprise in addition to the normal hair care and make up items.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

How to Not Have a Mean Dog

Napoleon is six. He was a bit of a jerk. Well, a lot of a jerk. The neighborhood kids called him the mean dog because he barked at them violently when they rode by on bikes.

A lot of it was me - I was always anxious when he was around people because he would react erratically, so he sensed that and behaved in kind. During the past few months, I've made a concerted effort to make my dog less of a jerk and more socially acceptable. It's had mixed results. He still wakes me up in the middle of the night by barking at who knows what (I hope it's not a ghost), but he has stopped barking at every person relaxing on the couch, he doesn't beg at the table and I'm not afraid to take him places anymore. I even took him to a holiday party this weekend. It went well for everyone ... except maybe not Prince Napolio, king of the castle and tamer of toddlers:
So here are the things I did to make my dog more socially acceptable:
1. Sweater training. This sounds weird, but it works. Instead of spraying him with water, shocking him or shaking keys at him when he's bad, I preemptively put a costume on him when I know he's in a situation where he might freak out. It's like those thundershirts they sell on TV, but cheaper. It calms him and puts him into what I call a cost-oma: a costume-induced coma.

2. Fewer treats. I swear that I used to go through a bag or two of treats a month because he would get one every time he went out, and I'd ply him with them to calm down when I was working from home. Now, he has to actually work for treats, and they're doled out at random.
3. Patience for everyone. Napoleon now has to wait. If I'm cooking in the kitchen or eating at the table, he has to put his butt on the wood and wait. This means no begging while we're eating.

4. More time with other dogs. Napoleon has a lot of quality time with other puppies now, learning that he is not the only furball to ever walk this Earth. It's a good reminder for him that he is not in charge all the time.
5. More cuddles. This little guy needs attention. I try to sit with him when I work from home, and spend time with him each day so he's not needy or sad.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Three Things Thursday

1. Napoleon's vast and varied contributions to the cuteness factor on this blog are really paying off. WellPet sent him Old Mother Hubbard Jingle Jangle P-Nuttiers and he was ready to learn how to empty the dishwasher to earn one. They're on the smaller side, too, which I appreciate as Napoleon is also on the smaller side.

2. My holiday shopping is done, I just have to finish assembling and wrapping stuff, but I got an e-mail this week that would make a great gift idea. RawSpiceBar is a brand new subscription service that send three spice blends monthly for $6 a pop, and offers three-, six- and 12-month subscriptions. I think it's cool because they're sending out spices from around the world that aren't quite popular in America yet, as well as suggestions on how to use them. It's a pretty easy gift to spice up dinner for the cooks in your life (see what I did there?).

3. Does anyone know how I can display my pressed pennies? I've been picking these up everywhere I go since I was a kid and have quite an expansive collection these days. They're currently in my wallet, which is a shame since they speak a story of all the places I've traveled to and things I've seen throughout the years.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Win it Wednesday: Sky Zone Elmhurst Passes

If you creep on my Instagram, you already know I had an awesome visit at Sky Zone Elmhurst. It's a really cool facility that's every kids' dream - a giant room full of all kinds of trampolines in different permutations and combinations.
Spoiler alert, it's pretty fun for adults, too. There's a foam pit for practicing your next acrobatic feat, along with a basketball court that allows even a shorty like me to dunk for real.

The whole visit was pretty simple - you sign a waiver and then get a pair of sticky-bottomed socks to wear around the facility. There's a lot of adult supervision and assistance, and there's only a single entrance, so it would be tough to lose a kid in this place. When I went, there were three distinct areas open that provide enough room to move around and be silly. In addition to be fairly empty that night, it was spotlessly clean, which is refreshing. There's also space for a private party and a snack bar.

I went for an hour and was pretty wiped out at the end, so I can see how this would be an excellent workout ... or manner to exhaust the little ones in your life. Either way, it's money well-spent, but you don't have to spend it if you're the winner of this giveaway. Sky Zone gave me one-hour passes to raffle off so you can try it for yourself, enter below and give it a go for yourself!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Cooking with Kelly: Napoleon's Favorite Dog Treat Recipe

This headline is a bit of a lie - Napoleon loves all treats. Some of his favorite human food snacks include bananas, sweet potatoes, boiled egg yolks, green beans, pumpkin, peanut butter and tuna. He can hear bananas being unpeeled and cans opening. He's a little rascal.

But for Christmas, now that we all have dogs, we thought it would be nice to include the furkids in the holiday festivities. The PR people behind Kretschmer's also sent me a coupon for wheat germ to use, so I figured I'd try a recipe that incorporates it. Wheat germ is a power food that I stir into oatmeal or add to granola. I added it to these treats to provide structure and keep them from falling apart.

A word on the peanut butter: I prefer natural peanut butter, but for baking, you have to use the normal stuff. It has stabilizers that prevent your baked goods from spreading and falling apart. Which is integral if you want to create a Jurassic Park of treats for your pups to destroy.

Peanut Butter Banana Dog Treat Recipe
1 egg
1/3 cup regular peanut butter
1 Tablespoon honey
1/2 cup mashed up ripe banana
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup Kretschmer's wheat germ
water as needed

Start with whisking the egg, then add the peanut butter and honey and whisk until smooth. Continue to whisk in the banana, then switch to a spatula to fold in the dry ingredients.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Getting in the Holiday Spirit

New life, new traditions, right? This weekend, we gathered for a new holiday tradition at my house: cookies for Santa! We've decorated sugar cookies together for years and I decided to resurrect this tradition. We just used rolls of premade dough, a bucket of cookie cutters and white frosting in a variety of colors. First, we cut out our masterpieces and baked them.

Then, while they cooked, Katie created cookies for the furriest members of our household while Mandy mixed the icing.

We got down to the business of decorating:
I have to say that the dog biscuits worked out to be the best out of the bunch.
 But I don't think Santa will be disappointed.
Not only did my house smell like cookies, but it also looks like Christmas, too.
What traditions get you in the holiday spirit?

Sunday, December 7, 2014

A Tour of Veneto Wines at Eataly

What a cool day! I was lucky enough to score an invite to #UWV, a private wine tasting at Eataly featuring the united wines of Veneto. It was an interesting event blending an educational tasting with a geography and politics lesson, along with a decent dose of food, too.

We arrived to find our places already set, complete with bread, water and red wine already breathing. At the start of the session, we learned more about the Italian region of Veneto, it's importance in the wine making community and the various rules and regulations governing production in this region. In my opinion, we started on a high note with the Villa Sandi Prosecco. It was so light and refreshing that I could have easily stopped right there. Plus, it was $14, which is my kind of price point.

All of the three prosecco varieties we tried were paired with a salmon tartar on top of a Parmesan crisp finished with greek yogurt and chives. I thought the first prosecco paired well with the dill topping of the salmon nicely.
We then moved on to white wines, which were paired with a delicious radicchio risotto. I wanted so much more of this dish - it was surprisingly filling thanks to the pancetta inside. I enjoyed it the most with the custoza DOC, a white wine comprised of four grape varietals that mature at different times, then are fermented together for 15 days. It was fruity and had a floral aroma, which I really enjoyed with the creaminess of the risotto.

The final dish was my least favorite, which was a Venetian-style meatball containing mashed potatoes. The texture is what got me, so I enjoyed the final red wines of the afternoon solo. The bardolino classico DOC "vigna morlongo" was another combination of grapes that was a dry red that was slightly spicy to my palate. It was light enough, however, that I could have enjoyed more than one glass. But just more than one, let's not get crazy.

It was such a great tasting at one of my favorite food emporiums in the city, so I had to stop for a little post-tasting snack. The focaccia here is insane - so fluffy and chewy and filling. I tried the cinnamon sugar (not too sweet, just right) and the proscuitto, which was fine but not nearly as awesome as I thought. Next time, I'm going with the mozzarella, tomato and basil combo. Can't go wrong there.