Thursday, February 16, 2012

We were wedding weirdos...

See what I did there?  With my alliteration?  Pretty good right?

Nevermind, I'm just a writing dork and things like this amuse me.

Anyway, it was Valentine's Day this week and so I've been staring at a Facebook newsfeed of flowers, chocolates and love messages so cliche they make me want to barf. Seriously, stop telling your bf how much you "forever love him and will be his boo forever" on Facebook.

Can you tell I'm not much into Valentine's Day?

But in keeping with the love theme of the week, I've decided to show one of the awesome details from our wedding last May.

So I think I've mentioned how dorky we are as a couple.  If I haven't, consider this your warning and leave now if you wish to avoid further nerdiness.

Still here?  Good.

When we were planning our wedding, I was appalled by how much flowers cost.  It's ridiculous!  Then my Mother-in-law had a wonderful idea.  Why not do something different for the boutonnieres? So, she searched the web for some cool ideas and found the idea of using Lego figurines for the guys.  Which we thought was great!


For our wedding, we used Star Wars Lego figurines for the boutonnieres.  Yep, we're that dorky.  (And you were warned!) 

Some people loved them, some people hated them.  No doubt a lot of people thought we were weird.....  But we loved the idea!  And that's what counts, (for a wedding anyway).

Here are some pictures:

Andy and Best Man

 Man of Honor and One Groomsmen

Another groomsmen and my bouquet.

Not pictured are C3-P0 and Boba Fett.

Nerd love is the best kind.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Delicious Delicious Soup!

I don't know about you but for me nothing sounds better on a cold January evening than hot soup.  But I hate canned soup.  It just doesn't taste right.  So when I got this recipe from a friend for homemade Tomato Bisque, it was love at first bite.  I've never had a better tomato soup.  Not even from Panera.  It's that good.

I have tweaked the recipe slightly from what he gave me but in essentials it's the same.

Doesn't that look delicious?

Ingredient list:
2 lb. Roma Tomatoes
1 onion, chopped (I use vidalia)
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 T olive oil
4 c Chicken broth/stock
2 cans (6oz) tomato paste
2 T Fresh Parsley (I use dry, just use less, it doesn't affect the flavor noticeably)
1/2 c Fresh basil (same thing as with the parsley)
2 t oregano
1 t thyme
3/4 c Red Wine (The original recipe says sweet, but I think it's better with dry.  Just use whatever you like)
3 T Balsamic vinegar
1 c Heavy Cream
Salt and Pepper to taste

A note on the tomatoes: The original recipe said to blanch and peel the tomatoes before chopping them.  I find this step way too time-consuming and not at all necessary.  You puree everything together at the end anyway so peeling them at the beginning hardly seems important.  I did blanch them the first time I made this soup but haven't since.  I just chop them up with skins on and put them in that way but if you're weird about skins or want to make sure everything gets blended consistently you can always do this extra step.

Putting it together:

1. Heat olive oil in large stockpot

2. Add chopped onion and saute until soft

3. Add garlic and saute another two minutes

4.  Add tomatoes and salt and pepper.  Cook for 5-10 minutes.

5.  Stir in chicken broth, wine, vinegar and tomato paste.  I'd recommend adding the paste first, it's easier to make sure it gets thoroughly mixed in that way.  Bring the mixture to a boil.

6.  Add all herbs and reduce heat to medium (you want it to be just simmering).  Allow the liquid to reduce by 1/4.  You can also let it reduce slightly more or less depending on how thick you like your soup.

7.  Let cool at least 15 minutes.  I like to put it in the refrigerator overnight at this step but that does take planning ahead, which is not something I excel in.  Letting it sit overnight allows the flavors to blend and get stronger and also ensures that it's at appropriate temperature for blending.  It comes down to this:  The next thing you are going to do is puree the soup.  The hotter the soup is at this point, the harder that will be.  Now, it's not impossible to put hot soup in the blender and mix it, but you definitely want to make sure the lid is on tight and that you're holding it down even tighter.  (Trust me, I know from experience).

8.  Puree on high speed in a blender or food processor.  I prefer a blender (mostly because it's easier to clean) but everyone has their own preferences and it really doesn't matter as long as the soup gets made.

9. The original recipe says to transfer the blended mixture into a clean pot.  Well, I don't know about you, but I only have one stockpot.  I usually just blend in small batches and put them into a mixing bowl. Once everything's out of my pot I rinse it out and transfer the soup from the mixing bowl to the stockpot.  It's kind of a hassle but it's way cheaper than buying another stockpot.

10.  Slowly reheat and stir in the cream.  Once it's up to the proper temperature, serve!

11.  Die of happiness.

I would recommend trying one batch at first, to get the hang of the recipe but after that all double batches.  Everyone loves this soup and it's great for parties. And it's even better warmed up on the second day.  You'll never go to Panera again. (Okay, maybe you will, but not for tomato soup!)

It's Andy's favorite!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Happy 2012

Happy New Year!

Personally, I hate New Year stuff.  I don't really like New Year's parties, New Year's eve, the fact that everyone uses it as an excuse to try and do everything in their life completely different for a month before they get sick of it and revert back to their old ways.  You know, everything.

But this year, I'm trying something new.  I'm calling it Project 2012.  (Super creative, I know)

The past few months have been rough and 2011, although it started out wonderfully, didn't have a great ending.  I've been feeling pretty down lately and like I've been stuck in a rut, in my personal life, work life, etc.  I go to work and do the same things every day.  Then I come home and do the same things every day.  On the weekends I do the same thing every weekend.  In general, I think I just need a change.  Thus, Project 2012.

Spoiler Alert:  It involves healthier eating, getting involved and a big move.

This isn't a New Year's resolution.  It's a decision to make changes that will make me a happier person.  I don't want to instantly convert to a new lifestyle, change everything about myself or give up anything that I currently enjoy.  I just want to make my life a little better.

Step 1:  Getting involved.  I feel like I don't have a ton of friends.  I don't mean that in a sad way, because I know I do have quite a few awesome friends.  But they don't live around me and the ones that I do I never end up seeing because one of us is always busy.  So I want to start branching out a little more.  Taking a few classes, volunteering, etc.  Just a way to meet some new people and get out of the apartment once in awhile.

I'm happy to say I've already started this step.  I am currently enrolled in both a beginning knitting class (I've always wanted to learn how to knit) and an Adult Tap class.  I used to take a lot of tap when I was young but sadly haven't much since.  Both are going very well and I really enjoyed the first classes of each!

Step 2: Eating Healthier.  Andy and I have both been feeling we should start this.  It's easy to fall into the "This tastes good so I'm going to eat it all the time" trap.  And we have.  Big time.  We've both gained some weight since the wedding, which neither of us is feeling good about and we just haven't been eating great food.  And it's amazing how much that can affect how your body feels and how you feel about yourself.  In addition I recently started taking insulin, which in addition to allowing me to survive (an awesome effect) has also caused me to gain a ton of weight in the past two months (a not so awesome effect).

We haven't started this yet but it will be going into effect this month and will involve a lot of soups and salads. ( Some of my favorite healthy things).  So be prepared for those recipes to show up on the blog!

Step 3: The Big Move.  I can't say much about this, as it's still up in the air as to time and place but we've been feeling like a change of scene for the past year and we've decided to do something about it!  I'll let you know more when I can.  Maybe I'll be moving to a town near you, very soon!

I wish a very happy 2012.  May it be your best year yet!

Monday, December 12, 2011


You know what this blog is missing?  More pictures of my dog.

Here's one of my favorite pictures of us!

Gypsy is an almost six year old (Birthday is at the end of this month) rescue mutt from our local county animal shelter.  We think she's a mix of German Shepherd, Husky and Collie, but obviously we don't know for sure.

Here are some fun facts about Gypsy:

1.  She is afraid of almost everything.  I have seriously never met such a cowardly dog. Here's a list:
  • Big Wheels
  • Puppies
  • Bubbles
  • Stairs
  • Small dogs
  • Doors
  • Fireworks
  • Parades
  • Our Ottoman
  • Drawers
  • Ice
There are probably more things.  The other day I fell over while walking her and she hid behind a tree.  She's a little neurotic.

2.  She will do anything for a kringla.  Seriously, they are her favorite thing ever.

3.  She once managed to get a hold of a steak, that was thawing on our counter.  Instead of eating it, like a normal dog, she buried it in the couch cushions where my brother later found it while looking for the remote.  He was not pleased.

4.  She is smart for a dog.  In our apartment building, she plays tricks on the other dogs.  When we walk by their door she sticks her nose under it, which of course causes them to bark.  Gypsy then happily prances away while the other dog is yelled at for barking.  She knows exactly what shes doing.

5.  She will not fetch things.  If you throw something, she expects you to go get it.  And she'll just stare at you until you do.

 After my bridal shower, we tied one of the balloons to her collar.  She was quite confused as to what we were laughing at.

 We also dressed her up so she could win the cutest pet contest at our apartment complex.  She didn't win.  But I think the people who did win cheated.  Plus Gypsy is way cuter than any cat.

And this is her "get the hell out of my face" face.

She is Awesome.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Pumpkin Cake

I chose a bad time to start a blog.  You may have noticed this from the lack of posts.  It's been a rough couple of months here in Iowa land.  We've been dealing with the death of a close relative, job problems and health problems.  Hopefully, now that all of that is mostly sorted out, I can go back to writing on a more regular basis (and I use back in the loosest sense of the word, because as we all know, there are only three posts here.)

So today, I present to you the cake that you will be making for your next fall/Halloween related party.  The pumpkin cake.  And no, I don't mean a pumpkin flavored cake.  I mean a cake shaped like a pumpkin.  And you don't even have to be an all-star baker to do it.

Step 1:  Pick your cake recipe. I used the apple cake recipe from earlier in the blog.

Step 2.  Prepare two batches of it.

Step 3.  Bake said batches in two bundt cake pans.  (I'm poor and only have one so I just repeated this step twice.  It turned out fine!)

Step 4.  Choose your frosting.  I made a cinnamon buttercream, which I will post a recipe for at a later date.  It was delicious.

Step 5.  Make said frosting, or get said frosting out of can. (I prefer homemade frosting, but I know it's easier to just buy it.)

Step 6.  Turn one cake upside down onto the platter you will be using to serve.  Cover the bottom (which is now the top) in frosting.

Step 7. Put the second cake on top of the first cake.  Cover the entire thing in frosting and decorate according to your tastes.

That's it.  An idea so easy and simple, anyone can do it.  Even me!

Here's how mine turned out:

I'm still working on my decorating skills.  But for someone completely untrained in the art of cake decorating, I don't think it's half bad.  The best part is, the bundt cakes naturally make the shape of a pumpkin, so no carving or molding is necessary.  Just coat it with frosting and you're done!


Monday, October 31, 2011

Letter to Santa

This past weekend my family and I were in New York for my grandmother's funeral.  We also sorted through her belongings and decided what was going where.  Since we live so far away we wanted to make sure that nothing important got thrown away or left behind.  While going through some old pictures and things we came across an old letter that I had written to Santa Claus. Apparently my parents sent them to my grandparents instead of the North Pole. No wonder I never got my easy bake oven...

I wrote it when I was three and yes I do mean actually wrote it.  I had no idea I could write at that age but apparently I could.  And everything was spelled correctly too.  Clearly, I blossomed too early...

Here it is, word for word:

Dear Santa,

I've been a good girl this year. This is what I want for Christmas:

Beauty and Beast Movie
Rescuers Down Under
A Shark
A Doll
Washer and Dryer
Ironing Board
A Sleeping Bag
A Candle
A Santa Claus Sweatshirt
ABC Book
A Map
Santa Hat

Thank you


It is quite possibly the strangest combination of requests I have ever seen from a three year old. My favorites include a shark, a map and an ironing board.  
Clearly, I was going adventuring.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


I know.  It's been awhile. 

In my defense, I went out of town for four days.  And I never specified exactly what "updating frequently" would mean.

Ok, so it's a crappy defense.  I'm sorry.

On the bright side, I can now offer you a delicious, delicious cupcake recipe.  And really, doesn't that make everything better?

So a week and some change ago, the husband and I went to the apple orchard and picked a ton of apples and two pumpkins.  Apples are probably my favorite fruit and I pretty much love anything with them in it.  Especially desserts.  So when I came across this recipe for apple cupcakes, I knew it was meant to be.  I did change the recipe slightly from it's original form so I will give you the adjusted recipe which I used.

Apple Cupcakes:
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  •  1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon of allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon of cloves
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 4 cups coarsely shredded apples, (about 1 3/4 pounds)
Most of what I changed was the spice.  I like cinnamon and all those other good things and I have found that ginger pretty much makes any baked good better.  Especially ones with apple.   I also don't really measure spices, so these are my best estimates of what I used.  I like to think they are fairly accurate.

I would also recommend weighing your apples if possible, so as to avoid chopping up too many or too few, which will inevitably end up with you being frustrated and not enjoying said cupcakes as much.  I think I ended up using about 5-6 apples, but some of mine were small so weighing is best.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Do it now.  I always end up skipping the preheating step and then I have to wait to cook anything for 10-15 minutes while the oven heats up.  Save yourself some hassle and turn that oven on.

Line 2 standard cupcake pans with paper liners; set aside (or if you're like me and only have one: line the one that you have and then take the cupcakes out when they've finished baking and re-line). Whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, cloves and salt in a medium bowl; set aside.

Put butter and sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy.  Mix in eggs and vanilla. Reduce speed to low; mix in apples. Add flour mixture; mix, scraping down sides of bowl as needed, until just combined.

(You could also easily do this by hand with a whisk and a wooden spoon.  Or even with a hand mixer.  But kitchen gadgets are fun, so if you have a stand mixer, us it!)

Scoop out batter into liners, filling each to about 3/4 full.  I like my cupcakes to have a rounded top that extends past the paper liner.  However, the standard is 2/3 which means the top just comes right to the top of the liner.  It also prevents spilling over and big messes on your cupcake pan.  I don't mind making a mess when I bake, but not everyone appreciates that part of the creative process as much as I do.

Cook for 18-20 minutes, or until top is springy.  Remove from the pan (without burning yourself, good luck!) and let cool on a wire rack.  If you only had one cupcake pan to start with refill it and repeat the baking process, until you run out of batter.

Brown-Sugar Buttercream Frosting:
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
The original recipe says to use cold butter, DO NOT DO THIS!  Seriously, use room temperature butter. Using cold butter when your other ingredients are at room temperature will cause the frosting to separate and look something like the top of yogurt that's two months past it's expiration date.  Get the butter out of the fridge while you're making the cupcakes, it will be the right temperature by the time you get to the frosting.

Put egg whites and sugar into the heatproof bowl of an electric mixer set over a pan of simmering water. Cook, whisking constantly, until sugar has dissolved and mixture is warm to the touch (about 160 degrees).

I don't have a heatproof bowl for my electric mixer so I just used a regular mixing bowl and then transferred it to my stainless steal mixer bowl.  I'm pretty sure this didn't effect the frosting negatively.

With the whisk attachment for your electric mixer, (or just a regular hand whisk) beat this mixture until it forms stiff but not dry peaks.  (I had to look up what this meant, it means when you remove the whisk from the mixture sharp peaks form that are uniform in color and glisten.  If they are dull and speckled, it means you've whisked too much and they've become dry).  If you're using a regular hand whisk this will take quite awhile, with a mixer plan on 6-8 minutes.

Switch to paddle attachment (or wooden spoon).  Slowly add butter (about two tablespoons at a time) on a medium speed.  It says if the frosting separates to beat on a high speed until it recombines.  This didn't work for me.  In fact it made it worse.  If your frosting separates, I would recommend removing the bowl from the mixer and mixing with a hand whisk until it becomes smooth again, either at room temp or in a cool water bath to make it go a little faster.  Mix with the paddle attachment for about two minutes after the last butter is added to remove air bubbles.

Frost cupcakes with the frosting in your favorite way.  I like to put it in a plastic sandwich bag with the corner cut off and make a swirl.  See picture for details.  But really, unless you're entering them in some kind of contest, it doesn't really matter if the frosting looks perfect.

Here's a couple pictures of what mine looked like:

They are scrumdiddlyumptious!  Seriously.  My favorite cupcake recipe ever.  The only thing I would change is the frosting.  I like light and fluffy frosting and this one turned out to be pretty heavy.  This could just be how this frosting is or it might have had something to do with my huge frosting fail and the fact that it separated and I had to spend an extra 20 minutes whisking it by hand to get it back together.  Either way I would give the frosting another chance before I changed it.  But the cupcakes are so yummy.  No change needed there.

Now go make your own.  Because I ate all of these.