Just the other day I convinced you all (except Mavis) that chocolate covered pretzels were the perfect potluck food.  This summer we attended a ham radio field day (yes, The Husband is a ham geek but a damn sexy one if you ask me) and I brought my new go-to potluck food. Here’s what was left of them after the first pass.

Plate pretzels RW

Yes, the first pass.  They fared well.  Quite well I think – aside from one guy complaining (joking? it’s hard to tell with ham geek humor sometimes) about mustard pretzels being on the dessert table that is, although I’d like it noted he still took one.  The Husband went back to field day after the kids went to bed for the night and he watched a guy snatch the very last pretzel.  So I guess I was totally right about them being the perfect food to sit out for extended periods of time.

Here’s Sweetey Petey enjoying one in case you need more photographic evidence they were popular.

Plate Pete RW

If you recall I also promised to share the rest of the potluck food. I focused solely on the dessert table for the post.  Yes, yes I did risk looking like a crazy fool in front of a bunch of people who have no idea I have a blog just to snap pictures of half eaten trays of food for you.  Because I love you all.  Or at least like.  I at least like you all.  Or at least most of you.

Anyway, here’s a breakdown of the dessert table.

The generic brownie.  Somebody always brings brownies.  They did okay. Not great, but solidly in the middle.

Plate Brownies RW

Store bought cake.  These did not fare well at all.  Nobody goes to a potluck for store bought cake people, so stay away from bringing these.  They sure were pretty though weren’t they? 

Plate store bought RW

I have no idea what these were.  Some sort of pastry?  It appears to have been pretty popular despite being purchased.

Plate Pastry RW

Apple pie.  Let’s face it, apple pie is always a winner no matter where you go or who you are with. So if you have the time, feel free to make one of these (message me your address if you need a taste tester mmmm K cause I love pie.)

Plate Pie RW

This was some sort of dump cake I think.  It was popular . . .

Plate dump cake RW

. . . so was the chocolate cake with caramel frosting.  Nothing beats a good homemade caramel frosting if you ask me (and apparently all the other folks who devoured this.)

Plate caramel cake RW

Fruit.  I’m tossing this into the dessert category here because it was with the desserts.  I devoured the cherries because cherries are expensive.  Must.  Get.  Money’s.  Worth.  From.  Free.  Potluck.

Plate cherries RW

For the record, the pre-sliced cherries made me look less like I’d been gutting chickens.  I had some blood red fingers after pulling pits out for Sweetey Petey.

Plate fruit salad RW

Watermelon is a classic and somebody always brings it.  It also always gets eaten.

Plate watermelon RW

This used to be cheesecake.  Clearly it was popular.  I bet Paula Deen’s mini cheesecake recipe would be a great option.  You all know that one right?  Quick, easy and already portioned.  I’ll have to keep that in mind . . .

Plate Empty RW

There were chocolate chip cookies too.  I forgot to snap a picture but I tried one.  Despite their claim of being “famous chocolate chip cookies” they were meh if you ask me.

So there you have it.  The potluck dessert table.

– Joanna

P.S.   My mom called me out on my lackluster blogging schedule the other day (over the phone of course since she has no clue how to leave comments.)  So, for the official record here are the reasons I’ve been a bad blogger lately:

1)  I’ve been painting the half finished wall in the Don Draper room (that’s what we call our family/play/TV/bar room.)

2)  I’ve been stripping painted over wallpaper again.  This is actually going faster than the last time I attempted this.  Possibly due to lack of blogging.

3)  I bought a carpet cleaner and have been cleaning the carpets (the Mother-in-Law will be happy about this because she noted the state of my carpets last time they visited.  Yeah, they are bad.  I have two kids and two dogs so they are bad.  Less bad now though thanks to my new Hoover baby.)

4)  I’ve been working on Sweetey Petey’s birthday party.  I am having Chipotle cater it so a lot of the food stress is gone, but I picked a pretty random theme (Giraffe’s Digging) and have not only created my only image for invites, but am also attempting one of those giant plywood cut-outs you stick your face through.  It’ll be of Giraffe’s.  Driving a construction digger.  And it’s gonna be awesome.

5)  I’m 95% sure that 90% of my readers these days are friends or relatives that I’m friends with on Facebook so they know the haps already.

I do still have lots to say and a ton of drafts started and some fun house projects to share eventually.  Very soon I’ll be starting a new series called The Patrick Project as well.  I’ll leave you to ponder on what that might be . . .

Question of the Day:  What do you think The Patrick Project is?? 

Pretzels in the Pan Crop R

Until recently I would have advised you NOT to invite me to your potluck.  I stink at bringing food other people like.  Let’s review my past potluck contributions:

cold quinoa salad with raisins and toasted coconut

brushetta with goat cheese

greek yogurt cucumber salad

marinated feta cheese, olive and cucumber skewers

I thought they were all perfectly yummy, and best of all healthy . . . but no one else ate them.  Any of them.  It’s not that they weren’t tasty or that I’m a bad cook, they were just out of the norm.

I was chatting with my friend Amber a few months ago and she noted she has this same problem.  She’s 100% Paleo and super excited for the food she brings to get-togethers.  Her contributions are super healthy, super within her diet and . . . super unpopular.  Or so she tells me – I go NUTS for her food because she’s an awesome cook.  We commiserated and I explained how I was done sharing food I like and was set on sharing food everybody likes.  Let’s face it, more people share the culinary tastes of my Father-in-Law than me.  It’d be a frigid day in H-E-double-hockey-sticks before I could get my Father-in-Law to eat a cold quinoa salad with raisins and toasted coconut and let’s not even discuss the goat cheese.  I shudder to think what he’d say if I served that to him.

After much debate I’ve recently come up with a solution to my potluck woes.

I’d like to introduce you to the perfect potluck food . . . dun dun duuuuuuun . . .


Pretzels Crop R

I have reasons people, oh do I have reasons!

Pretzel Title RW

One.  Who doesn’t like pretzels?  Nobody, that’s who.  Pretzels even come in gluten-free versions if that’s an issue.

Two.  Who doesn’t like chocolate?  Nobody, that’s who.  Chocolate even comes in vegan versions if that’s an issue.

Three.  They are fast and easy to make.  Melt chocolate.  Dip pretzel.  Top if desired.  Done.

Four.  They can be made last minute.  Keep a bag of pretzels around the house and some chocolate and you are always ready to go, no special trip to the grocery required.

Five.  They are completely customizable to any and every occasion.  That’s right.  Every occasion.  Wilton candy melts come in a ridiculous amount of colors to account for every holiday, graduating seniors class colors, birthday theme, season and more!  For formal occasions or to appear fancy, use more expensive chocolate.  Dip your pretzels in a mix of white chocolate, milk chocolate and dark chocolate and you’ve got every type of chocolate lover covered.  And toppings!  Yes, let’s discuss toppings.  Crushed peppermint for Christmas.  Toasted pecans for Thanksgiving.  Green sprinkles for St. Patty’s Day.  Yellow sprinkles for summer.  Orange sprinkles for fall.  Red and blue sugar on white chocolate for Fourth of July.  I could go on but there isn’t enough room on the internet  to list all the options.

Six.  They are portable.  They store well, travel well, there’s no messy sauces to deal with and they are easy to grab a serving off the picnic table.  They won’t go stale, get soft or slimey or squishy and they have a shelf life that makes them just as tasty for a second helping when that fabulous party extends late into the night.  Plus, if by some miracle, there are any left and you take them home there’s no need to be concerned about contracting botulism from them sitting out on a table for hours and hours.

Seven.  They are pretty.  Yes, pretty.  Presentation is half the battle and the better they look the more likely they’ll end up on that disposable plate instead of that plain old generic brownie default.

Eight.  If you have kids, they can help! Get them dipping and rolling and you’ve not only got your potluck portion covered, but you’ve gotten your kids in the kitchen, kept them entertained and covered craft time.

Nine.  They really aren’t that bad for you.  Sure, chocolate covered pretzels aren’t exactly on par with eating a salad, but the pretzels themselves are low in fat and if you use a super dark chocolate they can be low in sugar too.  Topping with crushed peanuts even offers a protein boost.  Take that generic brownie.

Ten.  I don’t actually have a tenth reason, but nine reasons chocolate covered pretzels are the perfect potluck food sounded less cool than ten so how about you just take my word for it okay?

Pretzels in the Pan RW

Stop back in later for a post on how well these pretzels did at our last potluck . . . as well as how well other dishes fared!

– Joanna

P.S.  If you are asked to bring a side dish to your next potluck . . . well, ignore the request and go ahead and still bring these mmmm K?  No one will be mad once they eat them.  Besides, pretzels are carby and carbs are side dishes so WIN!

Question of the Day:  What’s your go-to potluck dish?

Ironically, this year the first day of summer falls on a Saturday . . . the very same day I’ve chosen to schedule these awesome random picture of the day posts.  So in honor of summer I’d like to present some fun summer activities.


No matter how old you are, you’re never too old to enjoy a good swing.

Swinging RW


Sliding is awesome.  Much like swinging.

Slide RW

Playing in the Sand

No matter how old you are, you’re never too old to enjoy playing in the sand.  As Sweetey Petey would say . . . DIG!

Summer RW

Playing at the Park

Okay, you might be too old to play on this metal pig.  Especially if you are old enough to read this blog post.

Metal Pig 1 RW

Still, he’s mighty cute and very summeresque.

Metal Pig 2 RW

Summer Holidays

The Forth of July is coming up people so let’s get ready to celebrate!

Flag RW

Eagle RW

– Joanna

Question of the Day: What’s your favorite summer activity?

Happy Father’s Day!

Around here that means an excuse for chicken art.  Oh who am I kidding, every day is an excuse for chicken art.

It’s no secret that my husband loves his chickens.  It may be a secret that I pinned a crap ton of chicken art projects for kids on one of my secret Pinterest boards.  Secret in case my husband would happen to see them.  Not that he would because he didn’t actually follow me on Pinterest till he left his account up on my laptop and I made him follow me.

But I’ve segued.


Wait, no, it’s supposed to be about Fathers today.

Whatever.  Here’s what the kids and I put together for dada for his day (please ignore the slightly creepy eyes.)

Chickens Border RW MB Ttitle

Here’s the haps if you want to make your own someday and really, who wouldn’t?

The boy watercolored a pretty pretty background for the art which I was almost sad to cover up.  It’s cool, no?

Art FD

Yes, it’s cool.

Then I traced one of each of the kids hand onto a folder piece of construction paper and cut it out, making two “wings” (one of which the toddler pushed into some wet paint so it’s watercolored as well.  I like it.  It’s artsy.)

Cut out two egg shapes.

Glued the wings behind the eggs to make the chickens.

Glued the chickens onto the watercolor art.

Cut out legs and beaks and glued them on too.

A marker dipped in brown paint and a pencil dipped in white made the eyes.

Then I pressed the kids thumbs into paint then onto the paper to make little eggs.

While we’re discussing Father’s Day can I just throw out something that really annoys me about these holidays?  It’s all the PC folk who wish men who want to be fathers Happy Father’s Day and single moms Happy Father’s Day.  I’d like to be an astronaut but nobody wishes me Happy Astronauts Day on Astronaut Day.  And single moms . . . you have Mother’s Day.  We all get how hard you work and nobody is saying you don’t, but you already have a day.  Mother’s Day.

Rant over.

Happy Father’s Day to you all!  Unless you aren’t a father.  Then just Happy Sunday.

– Joanna

Question of the Day:  What are you having for dinner tonight?


Okay so you all might think it is April 3rd but technically it is January 5th.  Yup.  January 5th.  It’s a Sunday and I’ve spent the better part of Sweetey Petey’s naptime running some old pictures through PicMonkey online, adding fun filters, resizing and watermarking them.

As I’m typing this, baby girl is kicking me (she’s a mover that one) but as you’re reading this she is probably a few weeks old and keeping me awake at night.  Babies.  They do that sort of thing.  It’s a good thing they’re cute.

So yeah, I’m banking some posts and scheduling them ahead of time to keep you all interested in case I can’t keep a decent posting schedule with a brand new little one in the house.  I’m guessing I can’t.  At least not for a while.

And since I probably just bared it all to dozens of nurses and doctors in the hospital, I figured I might as well bare it all to you too.  So I’m taking a stab at this whole Throwback Thursday thing and posting some pictures I wouldn’t normally post.  Pictures of me, which you almost never see.  Pictures of Mike.  Pictures of random moments from my past.  Some sentimental.  Some funny.  Some slightly embarrassing.  Some just because.  So for the next umpteenth weeks (I think I’ve got at least 25 plus weeks worth of pictures edited) you’ll see regular Thursday posts with a picture or two and just a little bit of commentary.  So stay tuned.

I’m sure I’ll post current stuff as well, but for now this eases my mind that my little corner of the blogosphere won’t appear neglected.

For my first Throwback Thursday I’d like to share a picture of Mike and I from early on in our relationship.  We met in September and this was obviously taken in October so we definitely hadn’t been dating long.  If I recall, Mike had thought I was kidding about my fear of clowns till we went through this haunted house and I screamed my freaking head off and hid.  Yes, I AM freaked out by clowns and any of you in your right mind should be too.  They.  Are.  Scary.

Halloween PM RW

– Joanna

Question of the Day:  Do you like haunted houses?  

Valentines Day Title RW

Lately I’ve been trolling for some new blogs to read.  Some of my favorite bloggers have backed off blogging recently for one reason or another (babies, lots of babies) and I’m on the hunt for a few good replacements.  I tend to click on a blog comment on one of my regular reads, then another off that blog, then another till someone interests me.  Then I bookmark them on my phone and try them out for a few weeks to see if they can keep my attention.

The latest blog find I’ve been testing out is a blog called Tamara (like) Camera.  Her tag line is Writing, Photography and Discovery.  I can get behind all of those.  Tamara’s most recent blog post is a question and answer V-Day link-up.  I don’t usually opt for the question and answer posts but I’ve been feeling all kinds of nostalgic lately (I blame the baby growing inside me.)  I mean, I’ve prescheduled four months of Throwback Thursday posts starting in April, some with actual pictures of me and everything.  So, yeah, the nostalgia is kicking in hard.

Totally unlike what you’d expect of me, I’m biting into Valentines Day today and answering a boatload of personal questions.  Don’t expect a novel for each, I’m not that vain people.

Aaaaand let’s begin.

How do you typically celebrate Valentine’s Day?

We don’t.  The Husband isn’t into it and I honestly can’t remember ever dating a guy that was.  Sweetey Petey did make his dada a special Valentines Day gift and The Husband has been instructed to bring Sweetey Petey home a heart shaped cookie from my favorite bakery.  And that’s gonna be that.  Oh, and we’re having artichoke meatloaf for dinner.  That says love right?

Do you like to get A) chocolates B) flowers C) a sweet card or D) ALL OF THE ABOVE?

Chocolate.  Is this even a question?   I worked at a funeral home for six years (and loved it – seriously) so The Husband never has to buy me flowers EVER again.  Unless they are the outside plantable kind.  I’ve had my fill of cut flowers for a lifetime.  Mike is happy about this.  So happy.

Would you consider yourself a “cuddler”? If not, would you at least cuddle on Valentine’s Day?

Totally.  Is THIS even a question?  Who doesn’t cuddle??  I feel bad for non cuddlers (if they even exist which they might not.)

What is your favorite movie about love or with a love story?

When Harry Met Sally.

Do you believe in “love at first sight”? Did it happen to you?

Kinda.  When I met Mike I had literally just looked up at the sky and asked for a decent man to come along.  And he walked by thirty seconds later.  That’s as first sight as it gets.

Do you believe love can conquer all things?

No.  Like I said, I worked in a funeral home for six years.  Love cannot conquer all things.

What is ONE of the main things you love about your S.O.(significant other)?

He can always make me laugh even when I’m boiling mad at him.  It’s also the same quality that drives me nuts about him.

If you could have the perfect Valentine date what would you and your loved one do?

These days I would love a motorcycle ride out to dinner where someone else cooks me food.  I don’t care if we grab takeout and sit on a park bench.  If we take two wheels to get there and I don’t have to cook it I’d be THRILLED.  FYI:  There is zero chance of this happening with my giant belly.  Also the snow we’re expecting puts a damper on this plan.  Still, a girl can dream.

Tell me about your first crush!

Oddly enough one of my gradeschool friends just attended our eight grade class reunion and while my first crush wasn’t there I heard some stories from her that he didn’t fare so well in life.  So let’s just be happy I met The Husband, okay?  Also, The Husband has way better hair than first crush did.

Do you have any embarrassing or horror dating stories?

YES!  OMG yes.  I got bitten on the ear once on my second date with a chef.  And I mean bitten HARD.  Never date a chef.  Never ever.  Even if you are a food satire blogger.

Favorite flower?

Snapdragons or Tulips.  It’s a toss up.  I had tulips in my wedding bouquet.

What’s the first type of chocolate you hope for when you reach into a box of chocolates?

Either peanut butter cream or caramel.  But I know what all the shapes and swirls on my favorite local chocolate mean so unlike Forest Gump I know exactly what I’m going to get.

Favorite love song?

Joanna by Cool and The Gang.  Don’t look at me like that.  There aren’t a ton of songs sung about a girl named Joanna.

What is the best breakup song?

I always listened to My Friends by The Red Hot Chili Peppers . . . on repeat . . . till it no longer hurt.

Favorite celebrity couple?

Gah.  No.  Just no.

Overall, are you pro- or anti- Valentine’s Day?

Pro.  Celebrating love is a good thing.  Despite the fact there was a Saint Valentine, if you – like The Husband – think it’s merely a Hallmark holiday, just don’t spend any money celebrating.  You don’t need money to show someone you love them.  Although The Husband had better shell out that two bucks for Sweetey Petey’s heart shaped cookie.

If someone did that “Say Anything” boombox thing outside your window, would you be into it, or call the police?

I had to Google this to make sure I was thinking of the right thing (I was) and I’m cool with it.  Grand gestures are nice on occasion.  If it was every day . . .  then maybe I’d call the police.

First thing you notice about the objects of your affection.

Well, The Husband has a really nice butt but who starts looking at someone by staring at their butt???  Men, don’t answer that question.  He has confident eyes.  How’s that?  More PC than butt?  I think so.

What’s the best thing you’ve ever gotten for Valentine’s Day?

I can’t recall a thing.  Not.  One.  Thing.  Is that sad?  I’m okay with it.  I have lots of other great moments from lots of other great days to recall so it’s cool.

Happy Valentines Day everyone!

– Joanna

P.S.  Sweetey Petey made the dog in the above picture and he says Happy Valentines Day too.

P.P.S.  My friends threw me an online virtual baby shower and it was all kinds of awesome.  More about this next week and a proper thank you, but for today please check out Aly’s post and see where it all began.  Thanks ladies!  I couldn’t ask for better friends!!

Question of the Day:  Pick one of the above questions and answer it!


Title Ranch Dip RW

When life gives you holiday parties, make ranch dip I always say.

Okay, that’s a lie.  I rarely ever say that.  Mostly because I rarely ever eat ranch dip.  I think it’s the texture and the fact it always always always reminds me of chugging super strong salad dressing.  Not that I’ve ever done that.  Seriously, I’ve never done that.  I’m a modest salad dresser and that’s putting it mildly.

This ranch dip recipe fixes all that.  I’m taking a few liberties by using the word “recipe” here since this is more of a to taste sort of thing.

I like sour cream in moderation.  I like mayonnaise in moderation.  I just don’t like them in my dips.  What I do like and don’t feel nearly as bad about chugging (not that I’ve ever done that, seriously I’ve never done that) is low fat cottage cheese.  It tastes better, the texture is better and best of all it’s better for you.  Although pretty much anything is better for you than mayonnaise amiright?

So here’s all you need to do to make the BEST ranch dip ever.

Two Ingredient Ranch Dip


Low Fat Cottage Cheese

Hidden Valley Ranch Seasoning Packet

The Haps

This is why I’m having a difficult time calling this a recipe.  I never measure.  Ever.  Depending on how many people I need to feed, I dump some cottage cheese into the blender or food processor (I never dump the whole tub because Sweetey Petey loves cottage cheese and he’ll want some later.)  Then I sprinkle in some ranch seasoning.  I whir it all together into a smooth consistency, taste test, add more seasoning if needed and whir some more.  Repeat as necessary.

That’s it.  Fabulously tasty.  Fabulously thick for dipping.  Completely customizable to your level of ranchy preference.  Oh, and it’s super simple as well.  Comes together in seconds!  Unless you are too lazy to wash the food processor and your blender stinks and requires a little bit of prodding with a spoon, then it’s more like minutes.  Still.  Very little prep work and no measuring cups to wash afterwards!  And isn’t it really all about how many dishes you have to wash anyway?

– Joanna

Oh!  Sorry the blog has been a bit sparse lately.  I’ve been working on painting the nursery (no VOC so no lectures please) and unboxing and organizing and boxing and organizing the mess that’s been shoved behind our bar for the past six months.  Also, I’ve been reading a lot more lately.  I had forgotten how awesome it feels to just sit and read a book.  Quietly.  With no distractions.  Bliss.  Anyway, coming up on Friday is Thrift Gift Facelfit and hopefully Monday The Husband will be in to give you a tutorial on that funky picture I posted the other day and made you guess on.  I’m also going to write up a review of Girl Reinvented by Ann Moore (Allchin) of Cooking Dangerously fame.  Not sure when I’ll get to that, but hopefully soon.  That’s the plan Stan.  Do I have any readers named Stan?  If so, show yourself please.

Oh Oh, as another aside, I really hate photographing white things.  Also, yellow flowers.  That is all.

Question of the Day:  To dip or not to dip . . .  that is the question. 

December’s Snap To It Tip and Assignment from Cinnamon at Eat Pray Tri is all about focus.

I’m loving her photography tips and challenges because it gives me an excuse to get my camera out and practice something I might not have.  I’ve never actually used toggle focus on my camera before.  Normally I would just manually change my focus area with the focus ring.  So I found this interesting.  Please read Cinnamon’s post for more explanation, but I hope my submission will provide an easy visual aid for you as well.

Basically you can set up your DSLR to use your selector buttons to change where the focus is on your shot.

I pulled out the tripod and took three pictures at exactly the same distance, ISO, SS, aperture ect.

The first pic the focus is on the fish on the left.  In the second pic, it’s on the fish in the middle.  In the third pic, focus is on the tail of the wooden garland hanging down.

Snap To It 3 Pics

Hopefully seeing these three pictures together will help you understand a little more about focus and toggle.  The only thing I did differently in each picture was to use my selector dial to move the focus box from one place to the next.

Have a great weekend all!

– Joanna

Question of the Day:  Wanna guess how many fish ornaments I have for our Christmas tree?  Maybe that should be the next giveaway.  The closest guess wins a prize or something.

25. December 2013 · Comments Off on High Five for the Holidays · Categories: Holiday, Midwestern Life · Tags: , ,

The best way to ensure a Merry Christmas morning is to get in good with Santa.

Sweetey Petey covered his bases with a high five.

DSC_0504 altered RW

Or perhaps a low five.

Regardless, him and Santa are TIGHT.

In all seriousness though, please have a wonderful Christmas full of family and friends of all kinds and a thankful heart.  It is the people we have near and dear to us that matter most.

Best holiday wishes,


I’m trying my hand at the ever popular blogger gift lists where we tell you the most amazing products to buy and you run out and buy them for your loved ones this holiday season.  Everybody has a (sponsored and unsponsored) gimmick it seems . . . gift lists for foodies, photographers, athletes, moms, dads, toddlers, dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish . . .

I’m here to tell you what to buy for the Stay at Home Mom.

I will not be following this post with a gift list for the Working Away from Home Mom because that is a comparison trap I don’t want to fall into.  Our society is jugdey enough without my two cents.

Also I will not be creating a fancy schmancy board with cutesy numbers next to fun pictures for quick reference and pinability.

Pinability.  Ha!

Pinability 2

I’m totally contacting Webster’s dictionary and having that word added.  

Since I know you are all stressed and anxious about those last minute gifts, I’ll just get on with things so you can finish your holiday shopping, mmmmm K?

Dun dun dun . . .

DSC_0719 RW


That’s it.  That’s all that’s on my list for the SAHM.

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