Too good not to share

The wheels have fallen off the #blogtober14 cart, here at Happy by Design. But no worries. Today I’m just going to share with you my favorite picture from the weekend.

photo (4)


Okay, I may have kicked it up a notch. And now that song will also be stuck in your head. Happy Monday!

Dropping the ball and picking it back up (metaphorically speaking)

Won't eat, won't do pictures, but yes, please put the crown on his head.

Won’t eat, won’t do pictures, but yes, please put the crown on his head.

Noooo!!! I forgot to post! Ugh, we were so close and I dropped the ball on yesterday’s #blogtober14 (which, I won’t lie, I was not really excited to write). I was supposed to tell you about the editing tools I use here and on Instagram. Spoiler alert: I use free apps…cause I’m cheap…that even a monkey could learn. So if you’d like to try your hand at creating some fun images, go  try out Canva for your website or download the InstaQuote app when you’re posting to Instagram.

There. Caught up. I still count it as a miss, but to be honest, this week has been very full and I truly could not find the space to fit this blog into my mind, yesterday. Especially not after that glass of wine…and the vomiting incident  that I couldn’t wrap my head around. Because really, what exactly would cause someone to puke up liquid that’s so insanely green you wonder if he might actually be a leprechaun?

Well, the daycare teachers weren’t very clear about the incident when I brought him in this morning (no vomitting since then) but I heard them say “Oh yeah…the blue dye. That’s it.” and then nod at each other and me like, “Well that’s to be expected.” If I didn’t have so much going on in my brain, it may have occured to me to stop and go, “Hey,uhh…that’s probably not normal. Can we disect this incident a little more? I’m still not clear.” But alas, I have family coming into town, I needed to get home and clean, run errands, pick up a costume, bake some things, and do all of that before I picked him up. So I shrugged and left, hoping that he wouldn’t vomit green all over the nice sweater I had him in for picture day, today.

And just like the rest of this week, all has not gone according to plan, but it’s fine. It’s fine. I got home, cleaned the kitchen and the living room, vacuumed the high traffic areas, prettied up the guest room, checked the clock and it was time to go pick up the costume from my coworker. He’s lending me their Elmo costume, so between that and Jake the pirate and Yoda, my god, one of these costumes needs to not elicit a shriek of terror from him. Pretty please?

Got the costume, got money out of the HSA account because I just got contacts (crazy!) and new frames last night …but I stupidly forgot the HSA card when I was paying, so I had to put it on our credit card (ouch). Then as I walked around with WAY too much money in my wallet, I went grocery shopping and then…got the call from daycare. The little man has a small fever, did not cooperate for pictures, hasn’t eaten a thing all day.

Awesome. On my way to pick him up I called my sister who was en route with her husband and two girls. “Ummm, Marie, we have a bit of a situation.” I explained everything because hey, with a two month old and almost three year old, you need to know what you’re walking into. It’s the least I could do. Well, they didn’t turn the car around, so I hoped for the best.

Picked up Jackson, was able to bake a couple things while he slept, and the fever went away.  My sister’s family arrived  and he played hard with his cousin while we caught up and they got settled. My parents arrived with their two chocolate labs in tow, we ordered pizza, we ate the pizza, we ate the apple crisp and brownies I baked, we watched the world series and now it’s time for bed.

I didn’t get the main bathroom cleaned until almost 8pm, we didn’t get Jackson’s semi-annual pictures so we’ll have to figure out another solution there, but it’s fine. Family is here. It was a good evening. Tomorrow will be a lot of fun with a Halloween event at the Zoo and then heading over to a brewfest for a couple of hours (no kids).

This is all just to say, something is better than nothing.


And word to the wise – when there are two toddlers in the room, there needs to be TWO OF EVERYTHING. You’ve been warned.

What Really Grinds My Gears

negative shit

What gets under your skin?

My pet peeves:

  • Long, dirty boy fingernails (eww!)
  • Wisconsinites complaining about mild weather. If you live in this great state, you cannot complain about 40 degree, rainy weather. In a few months it will be a bone-chilling negative 20 degrees and we’ll be looking at grey mounds of snow for 17 weeks. Enjoy the rain!
  • People who assume all runners are thin.
  • People who are jerks.
  • The word Bunsen burner (again, eww!)

Honestly, I love to love and I hate to hate. I don’t like spinning my wheels to come up with things I don’t like about the world. Pet peeves are weird. It’s interesting, maybe, to read about those things that annoy us but at the end of the day (and it is that time!), I’d rather share things that made me smile today. Enjoy!

  •  Monica Lewinsky’s fourth public speech, ever.

  • My coworkers loved my homemade Pumpkin Chocolate Chip cookies. I made them last night and tonight Dan and I are eyeing up the last treat.
  • How the world works. I’ve been searching for information about the idea of “impostor syndrome.” Today one of my favorite bloggers wrote a beautiful piece about the subject. It’s like when you learn a new word and the next day that word organically pops up in conversation. Is there a name for that phenomenon?

Happy Wednesday all! Do yourself and your coworkers a favor, make those Pumpkin Chocolate Chip cookies. You’ll be happy and soon, it will be Friday.

My Dreamy Disney Vacation That’s Actually Going to Happen. For Realsies.

Disney World Castle

Here I come, Disney World!

Today’s #blogtober14 post is about your dream vacation. Well, I don’t know that I can define my dream vacation, but I can let you in on a little secret (which is really not a secret if you clicked on the title of this blog post already). I think it goes something like this…

The scene: I’ve just won the gold medal in the new interpretive dancing category of the Summer Olympics.

News reporter lady: Jamie, you just won the gold medal for your amazing performance. Besides the fact that you were already offered a job to teach Beyonce how to improve her dance moves, what are you going to do next?

Me…looking into camera: Well Beyonce is just going to have to wait, because I’M GOING TO DISNEY WORLD!!!!

End Scene.

So yes, my dreamy vacation to Disney World will be coming true in the next couple months. Jake and I are headed there to celebrate our first five-year milestone of being married together. Five years, woohoo! Anyway, we made a pact that we would go on a big vacation every time we hit a five-year milestone. We’re going in January, we’ll be in Orlando for two days (both days at Disney World) and then we’re heading to Tampa for two days to see some friends.


Top 4 reasons why I’m pumped to go Disney World. 

  1. Newbie alert: First and foremost, I’ve NEVER BEEN THERE. Okay, that one time when I did a triathlon on the grounds for Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, but I never actually got to enjoy Disney World. So that’s reason number 1 why I’m pumped.
  2. Complete and utter focus on all things Disney. Most of you might assume we’re bringing Jackson because why wouldn’t you bring your kid here? Ummm. A very good reason. This is our vacation to celebrate us and we don’t want to spoil it by catering to a toddler’s every whim in an insanely large amusement park. He can go next year. Or when he’s five. I promise he’ll get there.
  3. See ya later, bitter January cold: Not only are we going there in January to have some relief from our harsh Midwestern winters, but we’re also going at the least busiest time of year for Disney World. Score!
  4. Disney Princesses. Need I say more? Ugh. Obsessed.

Disney Princess Lineup

What have we done so far? 

  • Booked the flight and hotel in Orlando.
  • Told our friends in Tampa that we’re crashing with them. Thanks guys!!!
  • Jake created a kick-butt itinerary and even included all the best food options for me to choose from (cause Character dining needs about 180 day in advance reservation. Yes, it’s ridiculous, but it’s Disney. I’ll play by their rules!)
  • Started reading through all of those articles on Pintrest from all the best traveling alums.

Still a lot of planning to do, but it will no doubt be amazing. So that’s what’s top of mind for me in terms of my dream vacation. What’s on your agenda? Or, just pretend – where would you go on a dream vacation?

May all your wishes come true!

Fearing the Unknown


Growing up, I had a serious fear of missing out.

Here I was a little seven years old, enjoying a doughnut hole during Sunday school when our teacher introduced me and my classmates to the concept of Judgement Day. Excuse me, I thought, my little second grade heart racing. How have I been alive for seven, or eight, whole years and I haven’t heard about this…event? I had a dozen questions. My hand shot up into the air. I didn’t wait for my name to be called because my concerns were urgent. Urgent! In my little world, I was scared of being left behind in the bathroom. I was sure that come Judgement Day, I would be at the wrong place at the wrong time. My teacher thought I was being silly but my fear of missing out was real. So real, that I was kicked out of Sunday school for “causing others to panic.”

My fear of missing out only intensified over the years. I was the roommate who was always game for a late night workout, a late night popcorn break, a late night search for flights to Japan. Yes, most of my housemates were night owls and had unrealistic Spring Break expectations. I said yes to everything and in doing so, I overextended myself and filled my calendar. A decade later when my family and I moved into our first home, I listened to myself and the needs of our family and got comfortable saying no. Missing out is bound to happen. It’s a fact of life that we can’t do it all, at least not all at once.

Once I stopped overextending myself, I was left with some alone time. Why was I so afraid of being alone? Being alone is a glorious treat. Before my daughter arrived, I loved background noise. Giada’s Everyday Italian kept me company while I cleaned and cooked. Now, I love the silence of an empty house.

Fast-forward to today and I now have a fear of failure. When “older people” talked about failure, I envisioned life-altering events (or worse, a personal mistake) that lead to a lost job or failed marriage.

Now that I’m no longer checking the “20-29” box on surveys, I understand that the fear of failing isn’t about failure at all. It’s failing to not start.

My fear of failure is so real it cripples my ability to start. To start anything – a complicated recipe or a complex house project. It’s the reason I have a dusty sewing machine, a vintage doctor’s bag full of yarn and a handful of calligraphy pens. It’s the reason I’m drawn to books featuring underdogs and do-it-yourselfers. It’s the reason I’m inspired by friends – my husband included – who pursue their dreams over a well-paying job. It’s the reason I love people who chart their own course. It’s the reason I love Shark Tank and roll my eyes at people who brag about their parents’ accomplishments.

When I left my first ad agency job, my coworker gave me a really touching card with the following, edited, quote from Marianne Williamson:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

I took a leap and trusted my gut when I decided to leave that job. This quote validated my decision and that little piece of paper remains tacked on my cube walls. It’s a daily reminder to be myself and remain confident (even if I have no idea what I’m doing).

To me, this year feels like a lot of baby steps in the right direction. This blog is a baby step in the right direction – to encourage consistency, practice writing and create connections. Ragnar was a series of physical and mental failures that added up to an overwhelming feeling of success.When I discovered that other women were in my boat and felt like a fraud at work, I somehow gained (a little) confidence.

Small baby steps (infant steps? crawls? scoots?) take energy. It takes a lot to put yourself out there and take that leap (or carefully calculated step) into the unknown. But, I want to be successful and happy. There, I said it! I want to feel like Kevin McCallister in Home Alone when he shouts:

“Hey, I’m not afraid any more! I said I’m not afraid any more! Do you hear me? I’m not afraid any more!”

Successful, happy and not afraid. Oh, and I also want to be cool with making mistakes while practicing calligraphy because for fucks sake – they are swirly letters!  

Happy…but tired…but happy


I call this one, "Sanctuary."

I call this one, “Sanctuary.”

I had great intentions of writing a more in-depth post about some things rumbling around in my head, lately, but it’s takes too much energy and this week has me spent. Anyone else feeling like that?

So here’s a quick run down of some things that make me happy

Note: I’m purposely not adding friends and family because this list would get really long, but ya’ll know who you are that make me happy.

  1. Puppies. Especially those named after Seinfeld characters. RIP Uncle Leo!
  2. Red Moscato wine. Call me trashy, I don’t care!
  3. My green blanket
  4. Running
  5. Writing
  6. Watching cartoons with my son
  7. Netflix bingeing with my hubby
  8. Any form of baking with apples – Apple crisp or applesauce anyone?
  9. Disney princesses (and Disney movies, in general), there I said it!
  10. The show, Once Upon a Time. Don’t judge!
  11. Getting a jump start on the day. Alarm goes off at 4:45. Time to rise and shine! (and pass out at 9pm, promptly)
  12. Beyonce.
  13. This short clip of Jackson showing off his half yoga/half bodybuilder skills at my cousin’s wedding.

There’s a lot more, per usual, but I think that’s a pretty good list for now. Anything weird or funny make you happy today? Share it in the comments below!

Happy Sunday night, everyone.

Applesauce That Will Save Your Life

Apple Picking

Apple picking: from the orchard to the crock pot



Today’s Blogtober prompt encourages writers to share a secret. Confession: I’m an open book. I figured out my way through a few unplanned plans. I love to eat baked goods, drink vodka tonics with grapefruit and read The Skimm every morning. Are those considered secrets? Doubtful.

We can either share secrets or share recipes. Guys (or ladies), we started this relationship a few months ago, let’s agree to share killer recipes today and revisit share secrets down the road. Cool? Cool.

Ingrid and I made homemade applesauce today. I was skeptical about making applesauce because it’s kind of pain to peel apples but, it’s well worth the effort because the results are like anything you can purchase in the grocery store. I searched around for a few recipes and landed on this gem from Skinnytaste.


Crock Pot Applesauce

  • 8 apples, peeled and sliced. I used a combination of Galas, Honeycrisps and Cortlands 
    • How Ingrid helped: We picked the Cortland apples together. After I peeled and sliced the apples, Ingrid dumped them into the crock pot
  • Lemon peel and juice  
    • How Ingrid helped: I only had squeezable lemon (I know…). She helped to squeeze the juice and added this to the crock pot
  • Cinnamon stick 
    • How Ingrid helped: She was shocked to see a real cinnamon stick and asked 15 questions about cinnamon sticks vs. sprinkle cinnamon
  • 5 teaspoons brown sugar 
    • How Ingrid helped: She sang “I love sugar. I love sugar!”


  1. Combine all ingredients in a crock pot
  2. Set to Low for 6 hours, stirring every hour or so
  3. Remove cinnamon stick
  4. Use an immersion blender to blend until smooth

Today was a gloomy, dreary day but slow-cooking apples and cinnamon filled the house with comforting scent of fall. This applesauce will be delicious over pancakes and my husband has wild ideas to put this over ice cream.

What are your favorite seasonal recipes? Feel free to share!


Trust me, I’m an expert

I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but I like to toot my own horn. Toot toot!

Okay, not all the time. Just some of the time. And now with today’s #blogtober14 prompt, I can toot my horn guilt-free. Because today, I get to tell you the marvelous things that I have mastered.

Don’t be too intimidated.

1. I snake that bath tub drain like nobody’s business. 

I was born into a family with some good hair genetics. I’m super duper thankful for my thick hair (that varies in color depending on my mood). But there’s a price I pay — the price of the clogged bath tub drain. In  the past, I tried all of the slurpy durpy bath tub de-cloggers on the market. Nothing could make a dent. Then I decided to get down and dirty. At first I used an untwisted coat hanger. I did that in college when I was sick of dealing with a clogged drain. And then I discovered the snake – which was close to an untwisted coat hanger, but had more “give” and included a spear of velcro at the end to really grab hold of those hairballs. Voila! Drain unclogged. Weirdly enough, unclogging the drain is a favorite past time of mine now.

2. My interpretive dancing will bring you to tears. 

I discovered this talent in college when a specially moving rendition of Janet Jackson’s “Again” came on my friend’s iTunes playlist (which was probably downloaded for free from LimeWire). I’m not sure what sparked it, but I just felt like I needed to dance…but I needed to express my emotions. The movements, they just came out of me in ways I never knew were possible. It was like I found a new expression of life, love and the pursuit of alcohol. My friends and I shared a moment, that night. And ever since then, I’ve honed my craft year after year, but still it’s something I can’t bear to share with the public for fear that you’ll burst into tears at the complete onslaught of emotions you’re experiencing (think Will Farrell’s singing voice in “Stepbrothers”…basically that). But just for kicks, let’s all listen to that melodic Janet Jackson song.

3. I make a mean enchilada casserole (so says my hubby). 

Earlier this week I shared my favorite apple crisp recipe. But if you ask my hubby, my enchilada casserole is where it’s at. As I consider myself more of a baker, it also comes as a shock to me that someone could think I’m an expert at something that’s considered a pretty typical dinner meal (at least around these parts). But yes, I’ll take that compliment. I do make a mean enchilada casserole. The recipe? Top secret.

In conclusion…

I’m sure I could list a whole slew of other things I’m an expert at, but I don’t want you all to feel too self conscious so I’ll stop there. What are you an expert at? Feel free to post in the comments (I promise we’ll bow down and praise you for your expertise).

But not really in conclusion (other writing-related news):

I don’t usually tack on topics like this, but today I’ll make an exception. Why? Because today, it’s official people. I hit my first 50,000 word goal that I set back when I started writing a book.

Hurray! Break out the champagne! Or the culvers concrete mixer! Yes, that will do nicely, thank you.

Celebratory concrete mixer from Culvers for hitting my first 50,000 word goal. Woohoo!

Celebratory concrete mixer from Culvers for hitting my first 50,000 word goal. Woohoo!


Next up? Tackling NaNoWriMo. And for those just catching up, that stands for National Novel Writing Month where the intent is to write 50,000 words in just one month. It’s the second half of my goal. And I’m definitely pumped and ready for some heavy planning over the next two weeks. In fact, I just went to my first NaNoWriMo planning meeting tonight. I was a bit apprehensive, but I had no reason to be.

It was great to once again be surrounded by fellow writers trying to figure out plot details, Gaelic names, the difference between types of robots and more (this was just a sprinkling of the conversations I overheard).  I look forward to getting to know these creative folk better and becoming an expert at yet another thing.

Anyway. Happy trails and what not!

Motivational Fitness Quotes

Don’t you just love the warm fuzzies you get from reading an inspirational quote?

They have the power to flip your thinking and recharge your batteries. Sometimes this charge lasts for a few minutes and other quotes have had lasting power. They are little motivational Energizer bunnies, if you will.

Jamie shared her favorite quotes and after reading those words of wisdom, I dug through my favorite. Here are my top motivational fitness quotes:

“By comparing yourself to others, you limit yourself to being only as excellent as they may be and in so doing, prevent yourself from achieving a higher level of accomplishment that you never knew possible. Let others be guides, not goals.”


Fail to plan


Comfort Zone


Get stronger



And finally,


Favorite Quotes: Tony Robbins Style


Confession time. I LOVE me a good quote about the value of working hard and pursuing your dreams. It doesn’t matter the dream. Any dream, really!  And where do I express this? Instagram. That’s right, if you follow me on Instagram it’s basically just me posting inspirational quotes, pictures of Jackson, links to Happy by Design posts and then every once in a while a picture of a tiger.

So instead of picking just one favorite quote for #blogtober14…which is impossible for me…I’m going to share favorite quotes that I’ve posted/reposted on Instagram in the last couple months.

Tony Robbins – sit down and take a lesson from the master.

Instagram_13 Instagram_12 Instagram_11 Instagram_10 Instagram_9 Instagram_7 Instagram_6 Instagram_5 Instagram_4 Instagram_3 Instagram_1

What are some of your favorite quotes?

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