Category: Valentine’s Day

Life gets better.

Hello friends,

If you were single on Valentine’s Day yesterday, don’t feel bad about it. I’m here to tell you that love may be just around the corner. Life gets better. You want proof? I have proof. My love life has gotten significantly better since 2006, as the following pictures demonstrate.

Kissed by a … seal?!


Kissed by my wonderful husband of almost 4 (!!) years


Yep, in 2006 the only love I was getting was from slimy sea creatures.

That picture was taken in Taiwan, at an aquarium that I was spending the day at with some friends. One of the friends with me that day was Ben — oh you know, just the guy I would marry three years later, in June of 2009.

At the time that I was getting smooched by that wet, whiskery seal, I liked Ben a lot but was pretty much in despair that anything would ever work out between us. Now, seven years later, I guess things did work out, because I’m happily married to Ben and I much prefer kisses from him to kisses from that seal.

So there, you have witnessed proof that life does get better. I hope it cheered you up, cause man that first photo is embarrassing, and this had better be for a good cause. :-)




How to celebrate Galentine’s Day

Since yesterday was Galentine’s Day, my sister-in-law Rachel and I had a great time hosting a little get-together for some of our mutual friends. We all met up for dinner at Baker’s Crust (the best restaurant ever!!!), where we caught up on each others’ lives while eating large quantities of artisanal pizza and bruschetta. Then we bopped over to my place where we hung out, ate cupcakes, made homemade sugar scrubs and watched a chick flick.

It was pretty awesome I’m just saying. So now, obviously you want to throw your own Galentine’s Day party next year. No problem, here’s what you’re going to need.

1. Cute Decorations


I used strings of white lights, candles, lanterns, and garlands to decorate my living room. The garland above was purchased at Target, but I also made one of my own using triangular pennants cut from pages of an old book.

2. Fun foods with a high sugar content


Having dinner at a restaurant was a MAJOR stress-saver for this party since I neither have the time nor the space to serve a meal to a big group of people. I did want to have some fun desserts, though, since V-Day is kind of all about that. So I set aside the night before the party to make cupcakes (Rachel helped, which was much appreciated). Rachel also made some chocolate-covered strawberries, and that about took care of the food!


By the way, the cupcakes were pretty amazing. I tried a new recipe for from-scratch chocolate cake made with two kinds of chocolate and coffee. In a word, WHOA. Oh, and did I mention they have raspberry filling and cream cheese frosting?! I need to make them one more time to work out a couple of issues and to get good pictures, and then I’ll post the recipe for you guys.

3. Whimsical Details


I picked up a few packages of disposable cups at Party City — they had plain red hearts on them, which inspired me to write sweethearts-candy-inspired sayings on all of them.


These silly straws with mustaches and lips on them were so fun! I picked them up at Target and everyone had a blast with them. They’d be super easy to DIY, too — something to keep in mind for the parties in the future.

4. Something fun to take home


You know me, I like to make people smile. So does Rachel. So of course we whipped up some fun stuff for our Galentines to take home with them. Rachel bought everyone chocolates and cards (and even wrote messages in all of the cards instead of just signing her name, you go Rachel!). And I made everyone Treat Your Self favor bags (yet another Parks and Rec reference!).

The Treat Your Self bags contained a lot of shiny, sparkly stuff I found here and there for cheapie-cheaps. It was all body/beauty stuff to go along with the homemade sugar scrubs we made.



5. Beautiful and quirky friends!

You certainly can’t have a Galentine’s Day party with gals, so get together as many of your girlfriends as you can. I don’t know what your friends are like, but mine are beautiful and quirky and some of them even have mustaches…


(Haha, my mustachioed friend Anna is gonna kill me for posting this.)

So that was my Galentine’s Day, and man was it awesome!! I’m definitely going to keep up this tradition – it’s a lot of fun to get together with girlfriends and unfortunately I don’t do it NEARLY often enough.



Galentine’s Day!

I’m excited to tell you guys in an upcoming post about a lil’ get-together I’m having at my house tomorrow night. Just me, my sisters in law, and a few other lady friends. It’s for Galentine’s Day. And what is Galentine’s Day, you ask?


Yeah, it’s from Parks and Rec (again). I know I have too much Leslie-Knope-related stuff around here, but she has the best ideas.

So Galentine’s Day is traditionally celebrated on February 13th, and it’s supposed to be brunch, but we’re celebrating it in the evening because it’s a free country and we’ll have our Galentine’s when we want our Galentine’s, I guess. The idea is simply a women-only Valentine’s Day party, to celebrate all the wonderful women in your life. It’s pretty awesome.

I’m very excited because I never get to have guests over since I’m aways doing homework. Going from never having guests to hosting a party with eight people was kind of a big jump, but I’m doing okay — last night I worked on my DIY garland in between writing a theological paper. I hope I’m not overdoing this, but making a couple of garlands and pretty much decorating my whole house and making two kinds of homemade cupcakes (dark chocolate raspberry!!) and putting together gift bags doesn’t count as overdoing, does it? ….hah.

It’s going to be fun! I’ll have some pictures for you later. Hoping you have a wonderful Galentine’s Day yourself, and if you missed it this year, well hey you can start preparing for next year starting Thursday. ;-)



The Valentine’s Day I spent in the kitchen.

Hi everyone! If you enjoy celebrating Valentine’s Day, I hope it was wonderful. If you hate V-Day, I hope you got through the day OK, that no one so much as mentioned the word “flowers” to you, and that you did not receive any of that horrid chocolate (eww, chocolate).


Me, I had a great Valentine’s Day. I spent almost the whole day in the kitchen, which is the size of a large kennel, but that’s all right. I’m not complaining. I like my kennel. Arf.

I spent nearly the whole morning making pretzels for the ladies in the office. Wait, didn’t I just make pretzels? Yes, I did. But these were heart-shaped in honor of the day. They turned out well, despite an unfortunate baking-soda explosion that left about half of the kitchen covered in a scaly white rime. They were a huge hit, though … so it was all worth it.

After a break, I returned to the kitchen to work on dinner. Ben and I don’t go out for Valentine’s Day because waiting in line for hours is not our idea of a good time. On Valentine’s Day, unlike many people, I actually want to be as far away from Olive Garden as physically possible. Yikes.

So, as we did last year (and maybe the year before that, although I can’t remember) we stayed at home, cooked a great meal together, and ate in peace and quiet. It was really very nice.

Last year we made caramelized shrimp, which we liked so much we made it again this year. On the side I made one of my favorite veggie dishes, broccoli and bok choy quickly sauteed with a little oil, soy sauce and garlic.

For dessert we had cream puffs. They were delicious, which was good because I worked hard on them. I mean I really WORKED HARD. I had never made them before, and I think it may be a while before I make them again because they are a serious workout. I now believe recipes for cream puffs should be required to have one of those warnings that says to consult your doctor before beginning any kind of exercise regimen — or making cream puffs.

I used my aunt’s recipe, in which you very vigorously beat the dough in a saucepan until it supposedly forms into a ball. I tried really hard to get it to do that, but it never did. Then, pretty much out of breath at that point, I added 4 eggs one at a time and followed the instructions to “stir vigorously” after each addition.

That was a lot of …. vigor.

I put the cream puffs in the oven. Then I had to go and lie down for about 15 minutes because I was completely exhausted from such hardcore stirring.

To my great surprise, the cream puffs actually turned out! I couldn’t believe it. I thought for sure I had killed them (and possibly myself). But they were good. I filled them with fresh whipped cream and strawberries. Eating them was quite the undertaking, and required a lot of strategy.

Of course, Valentine’s Day isn’t complete without some presents. Nor is any holiday. But then again, I really like presents.

This is what I gave Ben.

This American Lifeis a storytelling radio show (NPR on Saturdays) that Ben and I absolutely love. It’s amazing. This is really cool-looking flash drive that contains 35 hours of the radio show, plus some extra stuff … and you can re-use the flash drive. Ben really likes the show, and he loves any kind of tech/gadget thing, so I knew he would love it. And he did!

Here’s what he gave me:

I’m such a Parks & Rec fan. It’s the only show I watch, and I crack up the whole time I’m watching it. I love the characters. The only problem is waiting until Thursday nights to see it, and now I don’t have to! I just hope I can still get my homework done now that this is sitting around my house. Haha.

It was a really fun evening! It was nice just to be home, cozy and relaxed, not having to go anywhere or worry about anything … just making food, opening a few gifts, and enjoying each other’s company.

But now it’s February 16th. National Wash-the-Huge-Pile-of-Dirty-Dishes-from-Last-Night Day. So I’m off to go do that.

How was YOUR Valentine’s Day??

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Allow me to seize the opportunity afforded by this cheesy, commercialized holiday to tell you a little bit about the wonderful person I share life with.

Ever since the beginning I have found it hard to believe that I get to be with someone like Ben. I never thought my life would go this way: that I’d randomly meet this great guy on a mission trip in Asia, that we would end up liking each other, that we would make it through a 3-year long-distance relationship, that I would be married to him by the age of 22. I couldn’t have dreamed that one up.

I’m still not sure how in the world Ben and I found each other, or how it happens that we are pretty perfect for each other. I’m just really, really glad it happened. Here are a few reasons why.

Ben is one of the kindest people I know. I’m told that when he was a kid, he would get awards for being the “friendliest.” That’s because few people are quicker to strike up a conversation and make a friend as Ben …. but I think he’s also good at keeping friends because he’s easy to hang out with, has good communication skills and he’s just nice to people. He doesn’t take it out on them, or blame them when things go wrong. In this respect he is a lot farther along than me – and many people.

Ben is a good encourager. And this really matters because life isn’t easy. When I had to take a lot of tests for my undergraduate degree, Ben would always tell me, “One bowl of ice cream if you pass – and two bowls if you fail.” That always made me laugh and relax (and I never failed). Ben knows me, and he knows how to motivate me – lots of hugs and jokes. Also, he knows how to activate my own innate feistiness. To illustrate, here is a pep talk he gave me back in December during finals week (I wrote it down verbatim because it made me feel so much better):

“You are great! You have greatness coursing through your veins! You are of the house of Ingebretson and they are not daunted by academic tasks. You are hardy northern people.”

I don’t know anyone else who tells me I have greatness coursing through my veins.

Ben is always learning new things and growing, becoming a better and wiser version of himself. He makes mistakes, of course; we all do, but I love how he learns through them. Also, he is constantly trying to learn and improve. He reads a lot, listens to NPR (that’s hot in my book! :-) ), and is always talking to people and finding out their stories. He tries new things and is not afraid to fail. He has big dreams.

Ben lets me be me, and encourages me to be who God created me to be. He doesn’t try to change me, in fact he’s proud of who I am. And he dishes out compliments, affirmations and appreciation quite liberally. I try not to take that for granted because I know it is a rare gift. He’s always telling me he loves me, that I look beautiful, and all those kinds of things a person loves to hear.

It’s actually kind of hard NOT to love him.

Of course, those aren’t the only reasons why I love Ben. I didn’t even mention how good-looking he is (it took a lot of restraint), or how he’s outdoorsy and athletic, or how we like the same TV shows, or how I’m pretty sure he’s going to produce adorable babies someday (which is one of the reasons I thought it would be a good idea to marry him). But I don’t have a whole day to spend on one blog post, so I have to stop somewhere.

Happy Valentine’s Day, babe.