Uncharted

Friends forging a course together through the unexpected

{a new} Home Sweet Home May 1, 2014

Filed under: Sarah — Uncharted @ 7:38 pm
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I’m so excited to share with you all that we are officially homeowners!  Yesterday, we closed on an adorable single family home in Denver.  Now I can finally start making all my Pinterest decorative dreams come true.  It’s tough living in rented units sometimes, because even though apartment living feels urban-chic, you can only do so much to an apartment to make it feel like home.  Often you are limited with painting, and you don’t want to bust your budget on furniture that may not be ‘forever’ furniture.  When we moved to Denver, Jonathan and I meshed some of our own things, and bought some new together.  We were limited to very specific couch dimensions that would fit our square-footage, and were stuck with the wall colors as they were.  We did the best we could, but I’m ready to move on.

What I’m excited for:

  • investing in some quality, classy, grown-up furniture pieces
  • picking paint colors
  • wood floors!
  • a backyard (grilling, gardening, sitting in the sun!)
  • hanging as many pictures and paintings as I want and not worrying about losing any of my security deposit for making the walls holey
  • starting fresh and mixing styles with fun new pieces and not trying to force old pieces to fit together
  • having an excuse to purge (let’s be honest, moving stinks, but it’s nice when it’s all over to have been forced to shred old bills and donate clothes you haven’t worn since you moved in)

Needless to say, I’m also looking forward to posting our progress as we do a few touch ups to our new home before we move in and as we continue to really make it ours.

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Uncharted Gift: Cocktail Dice & Creation Kit April 25, 2014

This week I’m featuring not a gift I have given, but one I received.  My friend Hollice got very creative with a gift for me, and gave me something so fun to use: cocktail dice and a cocktail creation kit!  You can find the dice on Uncommon Goods’ website.   It includes 8 dice to get your mixology skills rolling and keep your taste buds guessing!

cocktaildice

You roll the 6 ingredient dice to get a random mix of flavors including: juices, spirits, sodas, add-ons, and spices.  Then, you can eliminate up to 2 to create your cocktail (this is a good rule to abide by, since not all of the flavors are meant to go together).  Once you have your cocktail recipe figured out, roll the other 2 dice to decide how your specialty cocktail should be served.  Believe me, we are no mixologists at our house; we typically refrain from experimentation unless we have little to choose from in our fridge.  But this has made us think out of the box a bit and has opened my eyes to trying fun new cocktails.  One of my favorite combos I’ve gotten so far (which I’m excited to enjoy on the deck over hot summers) is vodka, tonic water, pomegranate juice (I never thought much about putting this in my cocktails until now), a splash of simple syrup, shaken with a garnish of lemon twist.  It’s very refreshing and not too sweet.

Hollice was super sweet and also gave me a box of all kinds of fun minis to get me started on my new mixology adventure.

creationkit

This is a fun and very creative gift for any cocktail-lovers in your life, so next time you’re looking for an uncharted gift idea, this may be the way to go!

 

 

Grown-Up Easter Egg Hunt April 19, 2014

Tomorrow Jonathan and I are heading to Jeff and Krista’s house for a friends’ Easter brunch. Krista and I put together a brunch 2 years ago for all our Colorado friends and had a blast, so we thought we should make it happen again before the baby arrives!

Easter just isn’t Easter without an egg hunt. Let’s be honest, when you were a kid you dreamt of being the person who found the most eggs, spending hours strategizing about how your hunt would progress. The egg I looked forward to the most growing up was the one that had the ‘coupon’ in it for the giant 40-flavor box of Jelly Belly jellybeans. My cousins and I would spend the rest of the day blindly flavor testing each other, coming up with the grossest concoctions and combinations of buttered popcorn and jalapeno.

How do you make an Easter egg hunt fun for adults? Well, if you Google it, you come up with a lot of raunchy and drinking-related ideas. I wanted to keep this egg hunt at least on the verge of classy, though, so certain items were definitely a no-go on my search. Our last egg hunt consisted of color-coded eggs for everyone, and each person got 3. This year, however, I thought I’d up the anty a bit. The gents in our group are going to love a bit of healthy competition this year. Here’s how our egg hunt will work:
1) Each person will get a fun polka-dotted carry out container instead of a basket to collect their eggs in.
2) All of the eggs will be white, except 2 specials, a silver and a gold.
3) Every egg will have a number in it, 1, 2, or 3 (but nobody will know what the numbers mean!)
4) You can take as many eggs as you find, you aren’t restricted to any number of eggs.
5) Once you find them, you can open them to see what numbers you have.
6) If you want to blindly trade, steal, or barter for eggs with others, you can (but remember, nobody knows which numbers hold the good treats!).
7) Once all trading is complete, you trade each number in for a prize from that basket. The carry out container now becomes your goodie bag.

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#1- The high-level prizes: keychain bottle openers & shooters
#2- The mid-level prizes: mini hot sauces & Ghiradelli chocolate squares
#3- The novice-level prizes: Reese’s peanut butter eggs and Peeps (because it wouldn’t be right to have an egg hunt without some traditional Easter candy in the mix…even grown-ups like to indulge in the classics)
Silver: Chocolove chocolate bar pack
Gold: 6-pack of beer

For fun and inexpensive egg prizes, hit up World Market (they have good candy at reasonable prices, minis of coffees, teas, sauces, and jams, and fun drink accessories to spice things up).

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Seuss-Themed Shower April 12, 2014

Last weekend, I co-hosted a baby shower for my friend and mom-to-be Krista.  She’s a fellow educator, and there were going to be a lot of friends from her school attending the shower, so I enlisted my talented and creative mom to help me come up with an appropriate theme.  She relayed some information from a friend who had just hosted a Dr. Seuss themed baby shower, and I thought this could not be a better fit!

The other co-hostess and I had an absolute blast running with this theme.  We tried to keep everything fresh, colorful, and whimsical.  Krista doesn’t know what the gender of the baby is going to be (they’re waiting it out for a big surprise!), so the colors of our theme lent themselves perfectly toward a gender-neutral feel at the event.

The Decor:

It’s good to know talented people.  My friend Brittany over at Perpetually Daydreaming has an Etsy shop where she sells stunning, high-quality printables for announcements and invitations.  She created a custom listing for me that included an incredible banner welcoming baby, cards to put by my themed book-signing stations, and more!  We bought some fun succulents (they felt Seuss-y) and put stakes with Dr. Seuss quotes in them (these were also used as favors for the winners of our games).  I created 4 “decor centers” that included books for guests to sign and write a message to mom and baby.  They included: Fox in Sox, The Lorax (I had a lot of fun making that tree out of a metal pot from Ikea, green and pink Easter basket shredding, pink tissue paper, a styrofoam craft ball, and a thick wooden stake), The Cat in the Hat, and One Fish, Two, Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.  Then to fill in the holes and make the whole space feel themed, we got some balloons in traditional Dr. Seuss colors.

ImageImageThe Food:

We kept things simple and brunchy.  People were coming and going throughout the event, so we wanted things to be easy for people to eat as they pleased.  We did deviled eggs, chicken salad with croissants, marinated cheese and crackers, a veggie tray, and bruschetta toasts.

ImageFor dessert, I crafted some ‘green eggs and ham’ pretzel bites.  Think of them like a reworked version of those pretzel kisses everyone makes around the holidays.  I bought waffle pretzels, white chocolate Reese’s mini cups, and M&Ms (I had to sort through for all the green ones!).  I spread out my pretzels on a wax-paper lined plate, placed a Reese’s cup on top, microwaved them for 45 seconds, and stuck green M&Ms on the top of each one. I put a few into each polka-dotted dessert/nut cup from Hobby Lobby and set them out on a dessert tray.

The cake was my favorite part, though, I had so much fun making it!  I used a white cake recipe from I am Baker and Martha Stewart’s classic buttercream frosting recipe.  When I separated the batter for my 2 cake pans, I dyed half of it red and half blue so when the cake was cut open it would be a fun Seuss-y surprise.  Once the cake was frosted, I cut out different size colored fondant dots to give it a whimsical feel on the outside, too!  I got that adorable plate you see peeking out from under the cake on clearance at Hobby Lobby…I couldn’t pass up the chance to go polka-dot-crazy…there aren’t many chances an almost-30-year-old gets to do that anymore.

ImageThe Activities:

In her amazing set of custom-created printables, Brittany also made me a BINGO card for people to fill out before gifts were opened.  Guests had to fill out gifts they thought the mom-to-be would receive, and as they were opened they would get marked on the card until someone got BINGO.  Everyone had a LOT of fun with this one, and it took a little pressure off Krista because people weren’t just staring at her while she opened gifts.  Brittany also created a Dr. Seuss book fill in the blank game that really stumped our guests (I’m bummed that I forgot to take a picture of this one, but you can always go to her shop to ask her to see it!).  We set up a onesie decorating station in another room with fabric paints and cute stamps and stencils, and when guests had created their onesies we displayed them on a clothesline around the room for all to see.  Now Krista has some fun onesies in all sizes for baby!  Finally, by the One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish book signing setup, there was a fishbowl of Swedish Fish that guests had to take their best guess at.  The winner got to take the bowl of goodies home.

ImageThe Drinks:

Since the mom-to-be couldn’t partake in cocktails, I did a non-alcoholic drink and a champagne punch.

Mango Pineapple Champagne Cocktail (punch serves 20-30 guests):

  • 3 bottles of your favorite prosecco
  • 1 bottle of mango juice
  • Pineapple slices and raspberries as garnish

Non-Alcoholic Peach Sparkling Punch (punch serves 10-20 guests):

  • 1 carton of peach juice
  • 1 bottle of sparkling apple cider
  • 4 oz. grenadine

ImageI found those fun striped straws in perfect colors at Hobby Lobby, so even our drink station could be themed!

The Favors:

My co-hostess took this one on, and made take-home baggies of “Hop on Popcorn.” They turned out adorable, and the best thing is people can devour it and not have another ‘thing’ to take home as a favor.  Brittany created that adorable framed farewell sign for us to tie it all together.

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Savory Breakfast Pizza March 24, 2014

This breakfast pizza is one of my favorite at-home brunch dishes.  It’s easy, classic, and a definite crowd-pleaser!   It’s also great for group brunches and having company, as it makes 8 slices per pizza and they are satisfying.

You’ll need:

  • 1 thin crust Boboli pizza crust
  • medium shredded cheddar cheese
  • 8-oz. container of whipped chive cream cheese
  • 8 eggs
  • breakfast sausage, cooked and crumbled (I love using the new Jimmy Dean pre-cooked turkey sausage crumbles, so easy!)
  • 1/2 chopped white onion

breakfast pizza

Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Spread the entire container of cream cheese evenly on your pizza crust (can prepare it right on the ungreased cookie sheet you’ll use to cook it on later).  Add your desired amount of cooked and crumbled breakfast sausage.  Cook the chopped onion pieces until they are fragrant and slightly soft, then spread the cooked onion out on the pizza crust.  Scramble 8 eggs to spread onto the crust with the onion and sausage crumbles.  You can definitely add mushrooms, green pepper, or other desired veggies to spice your pizza up a bit, and/or forgo the sausage to make it a vegetarian pizza.  Sprinkle the pizza generously with shredded cheddar cheese.  Bake for 12-15 minutes or until cheese is melted, bubbling, and starting to slightly brown (just like regular pizza!). Enjoy this savory breakfast dish with a light and refreshing fruit salad on the side.

Just a reminder, readers, to consider donating to my classroom project that I told you about in last week’s post on Donors Choose.  My kiddos really need this technology, and we are almost 1/4 there!

 

Sprucing up my Classroom (& a shameless plug) March 17, 2014

I’ve been meaning to share this classroom spruce-up technique with you guys for a LONG time now…this is an easy and cheap idea to add a little color and fun to a classroom, playroom, or even your outdoor porch or patio area!

I love to make my classroom feel homey.  I want my kids to feel like school is their home away from home where they can be comfortable and happy while they learn.  Adding bright colors, a theme, or fun accessories can really help make this happen.  I’ve become pretty expert at finding anything and everything I need for cheap.  You can find most things you need at dollar stores, thrift stores, or on clearance at Target and Ikea to spruce up a classroom.  The one item I’ve continued to struggle with is area rugs, though.  Sold in resale, area rugs can look drab and be odd colors; if you get them new, even at cheap places they’re expensive!  So this year I decided to keep with my yellow, grey and green theme by creating my own carpet solution.  All told a 6×8-ft. area rug became a splash of fun, comfortable color for less than $25!

I bought my indoor/outdoor grey area rug for $19.87 at Home Depot (you can see the particular rug I used here online).  Many hardware and home stores sell these kinds of thinner rugs rolled up in bins near the WAY more expensive thicker area rugs.  They mostly come in greys, blacks, and various shades of tan, but with a little color you can really spruce them up!  I went with yellow fluorescent spray paint.  Rust-oleum sells several super fun fluorescent colors, which I think can be very festive in a classroom environment and don’t feel too primary or cheesy for 4th graders.  I taped off zig-zag patterns across my carpet and went for it!  If you want yours to look a bit more professional than mine try NOT to do it on a windy day (I didn’t really have a choice…in Colorado in the middle of a blacktop school parking lot it can get quite breezy!).  At first glance you can see that the paint blew over to the other side of my tape stencil a bit.  However, with normal wear and walking on that faded pretty quickly.  The paint has faded a tad since the beginning of the school year (now it’s been 8 months though, so I’d say it’s had a good run), but I can easily re-tape and brighten up the zig-zags before next school year begins.  The beauty of these carpets is that, when they do bite the dust, I won’t be heartbroken and digging through the couch cushions to scrounge up money to buy new ones!  I kept with my color scheme and painted my wooden bookshelves an apple-green and donned some green and yellow tissue paper poofs from the ceiling (bright tissue=dollar store find).

classroom

Speaking of sprucing up my classroom…here comes the shameless plug!  We thought maybe our school would be lucky enough to add computer lab to our specials classes for next school year but alas, it looks like that’s not in the budget.  I’m prepping by begging for funding to get a few classroom iPad minis for my kiddos so they can be exposed to the technology they DESPERATELY need to explore and learn in the 21st century.  Please help us….I know it looks like we’re asking for a lot, but even $10 from all of you would help a GREAT deal toward our goal.  Think about it, you know you want to make a 4th grader’s year 🙂 Check it out and donate on Donors Choose (it’s easy and safe!).  Thanks in advance for your support, blog-o-sphere!

 

Uncharted gift: Wine lovers’ wedding March 6, 2014

Last week I was excited to share my Uncharted gift terrarium idea for the hard-to-buy-for people in your life.  Well tonight I’m sharing another wedding gift idea with you readers out there.  You’ve seen the first dance quote picture frames I love, but what about when you don’t know the couple’s home decor style or want to go a different route?  If they are wine or beer drinkers, this gift idea will hit the spot!

For my sorority sister’s wedding back in September, I know she was really excited to become a Mrs. to her Mr.!  I thought it’d be fun to commemorate her new-found Mrs. status and new last name with a set of personalized wine glasses, and to give them the opportunity to toast to their new journey together as husband and wife with a local wine shop gift card.  Marcella’s Engravables did such a nice job creating a custom order for me off of Etsy. You can find the original listing that inspired my custom order here…Marcella is great, has a quick turnaround and does super quality work!  It was easy to Google map fun local wine shops around my friend’s house with a quick typing of her address, and then I solicited assistance from Yelp to see which ones had a fun selection of wines and excellent customer service before I called to have a gift card shipped to me.

winegift

If your friends are more of the beer-loving couple, Marcella also does really fun steins in the same “Mr. & Mrs.” style.  I went this route for my friend and fellow Uncharted author Karla.  To accompany the steins, I asked for  her and Matt’s favorite breweries and got them a set of several gift cards to some of their chosen brew spots.

What Uncharted gifts do you all like to give for weddings?  I’m always looking for something new and creative to gift!

 

Uncharted Gift: Terrarium February 27, 2014

I don’t know about you readers, but I’ve always found it much harder to get a gift for the men in my life than the women.  Even if you don’t know a woman that well, she’ll appreciate a fun accessory or something she can pamper herself with.  But men, they’re a different story.  Most of the men in my life buy the things they need for themselves and can’t come up with many things they want that they also haven’t already bought for themselves.  When deciding what to gift Jonathan for occasions this year, I had to dig deep into my reservoir of gift-giving genius.  I’m not the kind of girl who likes giving cash or gift cards.  I feel like they’re too impersonal, especially for the love of my life.  Anything he needs right now includes mostly electronics and gadgets; I could try to accomplish these, but they’re either out of my budget or above my knowledge level (I’m a self-proclaimed near illiterate technology user, if you’ve read many of my posts you know this about me).  At first mention of a desiring a terrarium, I must admit I thought Jonathan was a little nutty.  This was a few years ago before I did some shopping soul-searching at the many amazing boutiques and garden shops in Chicago and Denver, so I didn’t really know much about them.  This wanted item sat on the back burner of my brain until I saw them again at one of the stores I lust after most in Denver, Wildflowers.  Wildflowers has anything and everything I could ever want to gift for all the females in my life.  Turns out their garden nook in the front would hit the bulls eye, making all of Jonathan’s terrarium dreams come true.

When building a terrarium, you must have a minimal knowledge of the plants that go together, what size to include in your chosen container, and how much rock, soil, and water to include.  Luckily the guys at Wildflowers are amazing, knowledgeable, and full of personality which makes building your terrarium with them a fun adventure instead of a mere purchase.  I wanted Jonathan to experience it with me as part of his gift (who doesn’t love an adventurous gift?!), so I chose to gift him a simple jar I found there that thought fit his personality and our apartment decor and placed a gift card to Wildflowers inside that read “Your Terrarium Awaits.”

terrarium1

The most fun part about giving someone a terrarium is that nowadays you can even put cute little “fairy garden” accessories in it that make it look like its own little utopia of nature and relaxation (believe me, there are days when if I could pull a “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” moment, implant myself on its cute little bench for a few hours and read in peace after a rough day at work, I would do it in a snap).

terrarium2

The terrarium building gift was much appreciated, makes a very unique and fun piece of home decor, and is relatively easy to care for!  So far, we’ve both really enjoyed having it around.  Looking for an uncharted gift idea? Try a terrarium for the guys and gals in your life!  Home or office, they’re a world of fun.

If you live in Denver, visit Wildflowers for your terrarium needs and knowledge for sure!  If you live elsewhere, here are some links to check out terrarium kits and pre-mades that you can check out online:

http://www.juicykits.com/

http://twigterrariums.com/

http://www.botanicgifts.com/

 

 

Sweet Potato Gnocchi & Sauteed Kale January 30, 2014

Before Jonathan and I lived together, we always had a ‘date night’ during the week.  This started in the very early stages of our relationship in Illinois, when we both lived in the suburbs with our parents as recent college grads, and Kelly and I would trek back and forth from our hometown to see Jonathan and Dave.  Date night has evolved from suburban movie nights to all-out Chicago city dates to concert evenings to home cooking accompanied by wine.  Through all its stages, date night has been a blast.  But when we moved to Denver and moved in together, it fell by the wayside.  We see each other every night and often go out one night on the weekend together, so we just didn’t think to do it anymore during the week.  Imagine my complete elation when Jonathan suggested we bring weeknight date night back after the holidays this year!  I mean, this kind of thing is usually initiated by the female in the relationship, but Jonathan was all about it and gung-ho to make it happen.  I (obviously) readily (and maybe a bit too enthusiastically) agreed.  It’s fun to have an excuse during the week to go out and have a good meal and cocktail, see a new movie, try a new recipe together, explore a new restaurant.  Plus, it breaks up the monotony of the work week and gives us both something to look forward to.

Last week for date night we cooked at home and tried something new: sweet potato gnocchi.  It honestly was one of the best meals we’ve ever home-cooked and came out totally restaurant-worthy.  Here’s how you do it…

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs. of sweet potatoes (this will be 2-3 potatoes depending on their size)
  • 12-oz. ricotta cheese
  • 1 c. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tbsp. brown sugar
  • salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 4 tbsp. chopped sage
  • 2 1/2 c. flour, plus some for a floured rolling surface

Poke the sweet potatoes all over with a fork.  Microwave them on a plate for 6 minutes on each side.  Poke them again to make sure they’re done and easily pierced, because if your potatoes are larger and not fully cooked you may need to keep them in for a few additional minutes.  When easily pierced, take potatoes out of microwave and cut them in half to cool.  Once they are cool enough to handle, scrape the potato insides out with a spoon.  Run the potato through a potato masher.  Mix the ricotta, Parmesan, brown sugar, nutmeg and a generous pinch of salt into the riced sweet potato.  Make sure you really mix everything in well to get a good bite of flavor into what will be each piece of the gnocchi.  Bring a large pot of water to boil.gnocchi

 Add flour to your dough, kneading in until well combined and gnocchi dough no longer feels too sticky.  Flour your rolling surface and, in small amounts, roll the dough out to about 1/2 inch thickness.  Cut the dough rolls into 1-inch long pieces and pierce them with a fork for an authentic feel.

gnocchi2Once your water is boiling, carefully plop your gnocchi dumplings into the pot for 5-6 minutes, until they float to the top.  You may need to boil them in 2 rounds.  Heat up 1/2 stick of butter in a sautee pan on medium heat, and add the chopped sage once the butter is melted.  Let the sage seep into the butter mixture for 1-2 minutes before adding your gnocchi to the butter.  Be sure to continuously (but carefully so they don’t disintegrate) toss the gnocchi in the butter.  They will cook for 4-5 minutes before they start getting golden brown on the outside.

gnocchi3We decided to do sauteed kale as a vegetable dish.

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch of kale leaves
  • 1 c. walnuts
  • 3 cloves crushed garlic
  • salt to taste
  • olive oil

Heat 1 tbsp. oil on medium-high heat.  Add the garlic and stir until fragrant.  Toss the walnuts in the oil and garlic until slightly toasted.  Twist and rip your kale leaves in sections and add them to the garlic and walnuts.  Add salt to taste.  Continuously stir the kale until it is limp and sauteed.

kaleAll of this made for a delicious date night dinner!

gnocchiandkale

 

Quick and Delicious Antipasto Salad January 22, 2014

My dad “invented” this really delicious, easy, and inexpensive antipasto salad that knocks my family’s socks off.  Traditionally, antipasto salads include some pretty niche ingredients, such as anchovies and pepperoncinis, but it doesn’t have to be that hard or require an extra trek to the grocery store after a long day.  The best thing about this salad is that it includes mostly things a lot of people already have at home, especially if you’re eating-at-work-lunchers like us.  This salad will serve as a side dish for 8-10 or a meal for 3-4.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large package of mixed salad greens (I like the kind from Whole Foods that includes all those healthy greens that you’d normally shy away from, but taste great in a flavorful salad)
  • 1/2 c. of chopped pistachios
  • 6 slices of salami, cut into thin long pieces
  • 6 slices of provolone cheese, cut into thin long pieces
  • 10 baby carrots or 2 regular carrots, diced into discs
  • 2 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 1 red pepper, sliced into thin long pieces
  • Italian dressing (you can toss it with your desired amount, or allow your guests to dress their own salad to their liking)

Have at it, it’s delish!  If you don’t dress your salad on its initial serving, this is also a great mix to throw in a to-go container and take for lunch the next day (the dressing can make it soggy as leftovers)…with the veggies, meat, and cheeses it won’t leave you feeling hungry on those long office afternoons.

antipasto salad

 

 
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