Friends forging a course together through the unexpected

Trying my Hand at Pickling September 1, 2015

Filed under: Kelly — Uncharted @ 6:14 pm
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So I could spend some time in this post apologizing for my long absence, or I could just get on with my post.  I don’t want to make excuses so I’ll choose option two!

Along with my theme of being behind, I realized one of my Christmas gifts from Dave has gone unused.  He got me a box of spices from Urban Accents.  I was really excited about it when I got it, but I stowed it away and you know what they say about out of sight out of mind…I opened the box up and one item in there really caught my eye: a Sweet & Tangy Pickling Spice.  I have never made my own pickles before and I thought I’d give it a shot.

box of spices

My town has a Farmer’s Market every Thursday morning.  The problem is I usually remember it as I drive past it on my way to work.  Last week I remembered on Tuesday and I made sure I was up in enough time on Thursday to go on a walk, stop by the Farmer’s Market and pick up some farm fresh cucumbers!  The packet in my spice box only called for 1lb of cucumbers, but the deal was $7.50 for a plastic grocery bag full.  I had $8 cash on me so it seemed perfect.  Fast forward to this past Sunday when I started this recipe and I realized 1lb is only 3 cucumbers!  Needless to say I need to come up with something to do with all the rest of the cucumbers I have now.

The recipe doesn’t require much:


1 lb cucumbers, 1 cup white vinegar, ½ cup granulated sugar, 1 cup water1 packet pickling spice


  1.  In a medium pan, pour the water and vinegar in and bring to a boil.
  2. Open the spice packet and add it to the boiling mixture along with the sugar.


3.  Make sure the sugar is dissolved and then lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

4.  While the mixture is simmering, wash and cut the cucumbers into spears.

5.  Place the spears in a heatproof dish and pour the hot mixture over the spears.

6.  Let these sit for 1 hour at room temperature.


As you can see in this photo, I first poured the mixture into a bowl.  I immediatly realized the mixture wouldn’t cover the cucumbers so I moved the spears and mixture to a shallow dish.  This still didn’t cover them completely so every once and awhile I’d turn the spears making sure they call got a fair time to soak.


 After the hour was up, I tried a pickle and it was delightful.  The only thing that was lacking was the temperature. I like pickles cold.  The package told me to serve the pickles immediately or refrigerate.  I decided to refridgerate so I could get the cool crunchy pickle I craved!  I fit all the spears into a tall glass jar (I knew I kept these for a reason!) and proceeded to pour the mixture into the jar.  Well that filled up about ¾ of the way.  I knew they needed to be covered completely so I ended up adding some water.  I screwed on the top and then turned the jar upside down a few times to make sure the mixture was fully combined.  I was pretty pleased with how easy it was to do this and how accomplished I felt.  Do you have a special recipe you use for pickling?  I’d love to hear about it!


Northwoods Get-Away Recap June 17, 2015

Filed under: Karla — Uncharted @ 6:44 pm
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This past weekend Matt and I packed up my Escape, for our second get-away to the northwoods of Wisconsin. Our agenda was quite simple: a little work and have a lot of fun.

Work consisted of mowing the lawn, finish staining a lower portion of a new kitchen cabinet and cleaning. The fun part included exploring a new brew pub, going to our favorite breakfast place and visiting a well known Wisconsin brewery.

The new place we’re happy to add to our favorites list is Aqualand Ale House in Boulder Junction. The brew pub boasts their own four specialty beers as well as a nice mix of craft beer from the Midwest. Matt and I both ordered flights and a few appetizers. Their homebrews and food were delicious. My favorite brew was a cream ale, which we ended up getting a grumbler of to take home. We had a great time talking to the bartenders and are already planning to visit them again in a few weeks.


Flight sampler at Aqualand

If we’re only up for a few days or a week, we always make sure to enjoy a breakfast at Cafe Holiday located in Hazlehurst. My parents discovered this gem a few years ago and it has become a family staple. Matt always orders a full biscuits and gravy breakfast meal served with two eggs. And for me, it’s the stuffed cranberry-apple french toast with a side of hashbrowns extra crispy. My mouth is already watering from writing about it.

Our last favorite stop took place on the drive home. Often we’ll stop in on the way up or down in the little Swiss town of New Glarus, Wisconsin, home to New Glarus Brewery. Once we arrived at the brewery, Matt literally jumped out and headed straight for the beer depot to see if any of the recent brown sours were still available. Luck was on his side because they were! With our haul secured we ventured out to enjoy a Belgian Red straight from the tap on the patio with Porter. Best rest stop ever.

Porter hanging out on the patio at New Glarus Brewery

Porter hanging out on the patio at New Glarus Brewery

We’ll be back up north in another few weeks for much of the same. A little work and a lot of fun. I think that’s going to be my new motto for the summer.


Checking out St. Charles and Geneva June 10, 2015

Filed under: Karla — Uncharted @ 8:04 pm
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On Saturday Matt and I headed west to Geneva for a night out and to meet up with my cousin. We started off our evening at Stockholm’s brewery located right in downtown Geneva. We had no trouble finding street parking nearby the restaurant. Once we arrived at Stockholm’s we were immediately greeted and asked where we wanted to sit. Matt and I both agreed to enjoy our meal out on the back patio.

Our meal started off with the scallop appetizer and a beer sampler. The appetizer was great, a hint of lemon, light greens and deliciously cooked scallops. The beer did not live up to the same standards sadly. For our main meals Matt ordered a beef tenderloin salad piled high with blue cheese, blackberries, raspberries and blueberries. He was in heaven. I ordered the shrimp taco platter. My plate was filled edge to edge with rice, sour cream, pico de gallo salsa, lettuce, sliced avocado and of course three shrimp tacos. All in all our dinner was great but we wouldn’t go back for the beer. As soon as we finished our meal we met up with my cousin and headed out for our next stop.

We got back in the car and headed north to Saint Charles. Our destinations was the House Pub located right behind the Arcadia Theatre. My cousin warned us that their beer selection was massive and hand-written on a huge chalkboard wall behind in the bar. And she was not kidding. All of us spent about 5 minutes going through the menu trying to decide what we wanted. With our orders of good beer in hand, we grabbed a table and settled in for the evening. Just after the Hawk’s game ended a live jazz band started playing. They had a fun funky sound but it was very loud. A little after 10:30 we all called it quits because we were losing our voices trying to talk over the music.

All in all a nice little visit out to the western suburbs. We both really enjoyed Geneva and St. Charles so I foresee a few more outings this summer. If anyone has any other recommendations let me know!


Tough Mudder vs. 2.0 May 13, 2015

Filed under: Karla — Uncharted @ 7:22 pm
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This weekend my husband participated in his second Tough Mudder in Richmond, Illinois. Last year there were just three of them but somehow this year they convinced another two guys to join their team. We drove up at 8 a.m. to the border of Wisconsin to meet up with the rest of the team.

A week before, the ladies chatted and divided up items to bring. I’ve learned to wear layers. It’s early spring and the morning starts off cool but can heat up quickly by the afternoon. Plus, as repeat spectators, we’ve learned to pack just a few items for ourselves and our husbands.

Tough Mudder

Recommended Spectator List

  • Snacks – granola bars, pretzels, apples, carrots
  • Water
  • Sunscreen
  • Hiking or sturdy gym shoes (do not wear flip flops!)
  • Rainjacket – wear layers!
  • Hat
  • First aid kit
  • A small backpack to carry everything

Recommended Participant List

  • Extra set of clothes
  • Extra pair of shoes
  • Large trash bags
  • Towels
  • Mudder headband(s)
  • Wear a form fitting shirt
  • ID

The guys completed all of the obstacles and about a dozen miles together in about four hours. It was fun to cheer them on and the other participants. I give major props for anyone who participates in a Tough Mudder. I don’t think I’ll ever give it a go, I’ll stick with a 5K or two and call it a day!


Rent The Runway Review May 12, 2015

Filed under: Kelly — Uncharted @ 11:21 pm
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I want to tell you guys about a service that I tried out called Rent the Runway.  I’m not being paid to write about them.  I was just so pleased about my experience I had to share!  I heard some chatter about it so I thought I’d check it out.  I started out by looking at their website.  Here is how they describe themselves:

Rent the Runway is a fashion company with a technology soul. Powered by a transformative business model, proprietary technology, a unique reverse-logistics operation and some of the smartest people on earth, we’re in a position to challenge old systems and rewrite new rules. By giving people access to remarkable luxury experiences, we’re changing the meaning of ownership — and revolutionizing retail in the process.

Here is why it was a no brainer for me:

  • Since I’m not paying full price to keep the dress, I can look at options that normally wouldn’t be an option for me
  • I won’t be guilted into wearing a dress to multiple events in order to justify the purchase
  • I can rent two sizes at a time (for no extra cost) so I won’t need to be worried about not trying it on ahead of time
  • Vitual process is less exhausting than physically searching through racks and racks of dresses
  • Can plan ahead or find something last minute

Rather than just telling you why I think it’s a smart move, I thought I’d also share my experience with you.  I went on their website and created an account.  This allowed me to create a ‘shortlist’ (think similar to a Pinterest board) for different occasions.  I was searching for a dress to wear to my friend’s rehearsal dinner so I named it ‘HP Rehearsal.’  You enter in the date of the event and then can search by size, occasion, price, length, color, trend, body type, sleeve, neckline, age, style, and or designer.  I love being able to narrow the search so much.  I started my search by date to be sure not to fall in love with a dress that wasn’t available when I needed it.  I took my time ‘hearting’ dresses for a few weeks before choosing one.  Once I finally made a decision, I was able to choose 2 sizes (for no extra charge) and place the order.   I signed up for the PRO Account which pays for itself if you rent twice in one year.  It costs $29.95 and covers shipping and insurance on all orders for one year.  It also provides a free rental on your birthday.  I placed my order and waited for the special day to arrive!

I had arranged for the dress to arrive a day before my event.  It actually ended up being delivered on the day of the event.  This made me a little nervous which prompted me to call their customer service team and request an extra day of rental and it was granted to me!  When I opened the box I was pleasantly surprised to see a free sample of Aveeno lotion along with the garment bag.  I wasn’t sure what the packaging would entail and thought the bag was a fancy touch!  The first one I tried on fit like a glove and I was very relieved my plan worked out because I was not excited about my backup dress.  Even if it didn’t fit, Rent The Runway has a ‘Fit Guarantee’ where if neither of the dresses sent fit they will try to send you an alternative in time for the event or give you a credit.  I really don’t see how you can lose here?!

rent 1
rent 2

I wore the dress to the rehearsal and since I had earned an extra day with the dress, I ended up wearing it on Easter Sunday too.  Monday I placed the two dresses (no garment bag or hangers) into the pre-labeled UPS envelope provided and threw it in a UPS drop-off bin.  The whole process from ordering to returning was incredibly easy and I will be doing it again this year.  In fact I booked a trip to Vegas for my birthday and I think that would be the perfect occasion to rent for.


Beer Tasting Recap April 29, 2015

Filed under: Karla — Uncharted @ 7:06 pm
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Throughout the year, our beer friends will get together about 3-5 times to try a wide variety of beers. This past Saturday we had the privilege to host a tasting. Even with the weather not cooperating, we were still able to grill, drink a wide variety of beer and enjoy excellent company.

Here’s how our tastings work. Usually a few days before we make a note of who is bringing what to eliminate any duplicates. On the day of, everyone breaks out their bottles and we create a line-up. Starting with the lighter beers and ending either with the “whales” or pallet crushers. At this past tasting here was our line-up:

  1. Devoir Saison from Penrose
  2. A cider called Mitten from Virtue
  3. Maria’s Tears from Marz Community
  4. La Beire Fantaisie from Side Project
  5. Cuve Diable from 4 Hands
  6. Black Angel Cherry Sour from Wicked Weed
  7. Goose Island Grimm Vicar
  8. 2014 Bourbon County Barleywine
  9. Madagascar from 4 Hands
  10. Downfall from 4  Hands
  11. Black Ops from Brooklyn Brewery
  12. Fyodor’s Classic from Stone
  13. 2014 Bourbon County Stout Proprietor’s from Goose Island
  14. Elevated IPA from La Cumbre
  15. Imperial Red from Marble
  16. Serenity from Wicked Weed
  17. Big Hugs Imperial Coffee Stout from Half Acre
  18. Pancho Verde Chile Cerveza from Rio Grande


There’s nothing better than trying samples of beer with your friends. It’s a great opportunity to sample a few rarer beers and to try out different styles. For this tasting we had a few sours but mostly stouts and barleywines. I will say, I did try everything, even if it was just a sip. This allowed me to confirm that I do not like sours but I do like stouts and a few barleywines. And since we do such small pours, sometimes you get lucky and can get a second round of your favorite.

From this tasting my top three favorites were the Bourbon County Stout Proprietors from Gooseland followed by the Mitten cider from Virtue and then Downfall by 4 Hands. They are all delicious. Now I just have to wait for the next tasting!


Lemon Bars April 22, 2015

Filed under: Karla — Uncharted @ 8:28 pm
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Yesterday I was in a rare mood of procrastination. I did not want to write my blog post because I felt I had nothing to write about. There are a few projects I’d like to start but I’m holding off because of our house hunt. Thus my inspiration was running low. So instead of writing I baked. My procrastination got filled up with butter, flour and sugar and a little lemon.

One of Matt’s favorite desserts are lemon bars. Over the last few year’s I’ve modified a recipe from Betty Crocker to become a family favorite.

What you’ll need:

  • Oven heated to 350 degrees
  • 1 8 or 9-inch square pan
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup butter at room temperature
  • 1/4 powder sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • All of the peel from a large lemon
  • 3 tablespoons of lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • an additional 2-3 tablespoons powder sugar

To start you’ll mix the flour, butter and powder sugar together. I start with adding the flour and powder sugar together and the cut the butter into smaller pieces. I use my hands to make sure the butter is mixed in well and not left in chunks. Pour the mixture into the square pan and press down firmly all around. Pop it in the oven for about 20 minutes or until the crust starts to brown at the edges. When you take it out, there might be a few cracks but don’t worry, they’ll be covered up in the next part!

While the crust is baking, whip out your Kitchen Aid stand mixer or hand-held mixer. Beat the granulated sugar, lemon peel, lemon juice, baking powder, salt and eggs on high speed for about 3-5 minutes. The mixture will turn a lighter yellow and appear fluffy. Pour the liquid mixture on top of the hot crust. Bake for another 25-30 minutes until the liquid mixture has solidified.

Homemade lemon bars

Homemade lemon bars

Cool for at least one hour and dust with your extra 2-3 tablespoons of powder sugar. Enjoy and here’s to procrastination that tastes good!



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