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Monthly Archives: November 2013

Writer’s Block

Yesterday, I had writer’s block. It doesn’t show in my blog but it’s showing in my work! Today, however, I see the light at the end of the tunnel and I’m writing ferociously like Speedy Gonzalez! The first photo shows how I really felt and the second photo just made me feel better about myself. Thanks, Ryan!

Writers Block

Hey Girl. You Make Writer's Block Look Good.

Weekend Recap – SD, Home, Run, Bake

Last Friday, I made a trip back to San Diego to see one of my girlfriends, explore my old stomping grounds at UCSD, catch up with one of my other girlfriends and play with her adorable two-year-old and go line dancing. The morning began at 6 a.m. and ended at 11 p.m. with plenty of running around. After scooping up some caffeine and breakfast for my friend and me, I went to my college bookstore to do some exploring (or rather look at things and say to myself “That’s where my tuition went.”) I ended up giving more money to the campus by purchasing some books and t-shirts (nope, no buyers remorse here…). The Christmas tree was set up and decked out with Grinch-y items in celebration I assume of our love for Dr. Seuss things. Dr. Seuss is our semi-mascot as our library is named after Theodore Geisel (creator of the Dr. Seuss line).
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While I was away and being a paranoid parent who kept wanting to check in on Vixen, I got this text message reassuring me that she was doing A-OK. That little smug face is too cute.
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So after doing the cowboy cha cha and running around on a playground with my friend’s son, we needed some time to just relax at home. Saturday morning didn’t go that way at all as I did several loads of laundry, went to the groomers (for Vixen, not me) and went on a grocery run. FINALLY, in the afternoon we found time to squeeze in a little hike to connect with nature and enjoy the lovely SoCal weather. We went to Peters Canyon which is just a few miles from home and did a nice three-mile trek around the lake. Daniel was totally surprised by it’s existence (as it hides quite nicely behind some homes and a shopping center). I’m sure we’ll be back again.
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After the hike, I knew that I had two desserts that I needed to bake for Sunday but I just wasn’t up to it. I should have planned my schedule better though because Sunday was totally nutty. We all got up at 5 a.m. to attend our dog rescue fundraiser. I had to make a bagel/doughnut run while Daniel had to set up the tents. Our rescue group, Lovebugs Rescue, raised $18,000 which is absolutely spectacular! Thanks to everyone to who donated!! More dog lives will be saved!! Vixen and I did a 1K with all the other furry friends at the park and she had a blast. Next year we are aiming to do the 5K (well it’s really me who needs to aim higher). After that event, we rushed to our softball game and then went home to have lunch and bake two desserts. I could have made one dessert for the dinner we were going to but I just couldn’t! Reason – Daniel told me that one of the guests of honor was the best baker he’s ever tasted baked goods from. Since she impressed him, I wanted to impress her and I sure did with this brownie recipe. Woo! The first recipe is from Pioneer Woman and it’s called Knock You Naked Brownies. I’m not sure if I can say that these brownies blew my clothes off but my socks came off and my teeth screamed a little.

Ingredients:

  • 1 box (18.5 Ounce) German Chocolate Cake Mix (I Used Duncan Hines) – I used Pillsbury and it was only 15 oz.
  • 1 cup Finely Chopped Pecans – I used just a handful
  • 1/3 cup Evaporated Milk
  • 1/2 cup Evaporated Milk (additional)
  • 1/2 cup Butter, Melted – Daniel stared at me as I laughed with much guilt
  • 60 whole Caramels, Unwrapped – I used only 20 and I thought it was more than enough
  • 1/3 cup Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips – I used a small handful of mini chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup Powdered Sugar – Not necessary but I used about a pinch

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • In a large bowl, mix together cake mix, chopped pecans, 1/3 cup evaporated milk, and melted butter. Stir together until totally combined. Mixture will be very thick.

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  • Press half the mixture into a well-greased 9 x 9 inch square baking pan. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove pan from oven and set aside. (Not pictured)
  • In a double boiler (or a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of boiling water) melt caramels with additional 1/2 cup evaporated milk. When melted and combined, pour over brownie base. Sprinkle chocolate chips as evenly as you can over the caramel.

20131114-085635.jpg <– This took forever to melt!!

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  • Turn out remaining brownie dough on work surface. Use your hands to press it into a large square a little smaller than the pan. Use a spatula to remove it from the surface, then set it on top of the caramel and chocolate chips.

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  • Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from pan and allow to cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate for several hours. When ready to serve, generously sift powdered sugar over the surface of the brownies. [I cut this part out and just did a light sprinkle of the powder sugar]. Cut into either nine or twelve helpings, and carefully remove from the pan. Slice below.

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Ooey-gooey, moist and oh so sweet!

On to my next creation! Pumpkin spiced everything is everywhere this year. I decided to make the most of this pumpkin season by making pumpkin bread. Originally I was going to make pumpkin pie but Daniel said it’s not special enough and that he missed my bread. I get more inspired when he tells me what he wants to eat! This recipe makes two loaves. It’s very moist and light in pumpkin flavor. It tasted a bit bland to me but that’s because I cut down the sugar by half but it makes a great breakfast bread because it’s dense and will hold you over for some time. In the future, I will add a bit more sugar and some nuts to add additional texture. Thank you to My Baking Addiction blog for this recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar (I used only 1 1/2 cups)
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice
Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two 8.5 x 4 x 2.5 inch loaf pans.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl with an electric mixer, combine pumpkin, eggs, oil, water, vanilla and sugar until well blended. (I just mixed with my spoon – nothing fancy here).

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  • In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, and pumpkin pie spice until well combined.

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  • Stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until just blended. Pour batter into the prepared pans.

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  • Bake in preheated oven for 60-70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

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As everything bakes, take a moment to stare at your spouse relaxing as you sweat in the kitchen. JK, he was so helpful afterward as he washed all my dishes!! Can you spot Vixen in the picture? She’s under the blanket laying her head on Daniel’s leg.

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Voila – Here is a not so great photo of the desserts that were nearly finished at the dinner!

And as if I wasn’t all ready spreading myself thin in the span of 72 hours, I decided that I should make soup too! This is a repost from my old blog that faded into the sunset. Enjoy!

Roasted Tomato Basil Soup (6-8 servings)
From Ina Garten
Ingredients:
  • 3 lbs ripe plum (aka Roma) tomatoes cut in half lengthwise
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tspn black pepper
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onions (about 2 onions)
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/4 tspn crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 (28 ounce) canned plum tomatoes with their juice (I used regular diced tomatoes in a can)
  • 4 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 1 tspn fresh thyme leaves (I left this out)
  • 1 quart chicken stock or water ( I used chicken stock)
Directions:
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Toss the tomatoes with1/4 cup of olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread them out on a baking sheet and roast for 45 minutes.

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  • 15 minutes before the tomatoes are done roasting, saute the onions, garlic, 2 tbspn of olive oil, butter and red pepper flakes in a large stockpot for 10 minutes over medium heat. Once the onions start to turn brown, add the canned tomatoes, basil, thyme and chicken stock.

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  • Remove the roasted tomatoes from the oven and add it to the pot. Also add any liquid that is left on the baking sheet into the pot.
  • Bring the pot to a boil and allow it to simmer uncovered for 40 minutes.
  • Take the soup off the food mill and use the coarsest blade. I don’t have such equipment so just poured it into my Ninja blender.
  • Get some tasty bread and mozarella cheese and press it in a panini maker or make garlic bread to dip in the soup. Enjoy!
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My next to dos: Two birthday cakes and Christmas yarn tree tutorial!

The holidays are almost here!!

One of my favorite times of the year – Halloween – has come and gone. As I slowly take down my decor and store away my costume, my mind is all ready on to other craft projects for the holiday season. I don’t usually decorate for Thanksgiving but I am considering it this year. There may be a future post about that… In the meantime, I wanted to showcase some of the things I did in our home for Halloween and also show how inexpensive it can be to make your home feel festive. Below are some photos from around the home:

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This year Daniel and I decided to be Batman and Robin. He sported a pretty cool Batman shirt (with a cape). He made it easy by finding one at a local store. I on the other hand decided to create the entire costume like the one I’ve seen at Party City. I purchased some green silk fabric, a red shirt, and some felt. About two hours later and a lot of contemplating on how to sew something so that it doesn’t appear inside out, I created this outfit. It was a lot of fun being a superhero at work. In total, my costume cost about $16.

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This was one of my first projects for this year’s Halloween decor. I learned how to make a yarn wreath with one of my friends last year for Valentine’s Day. My goal is to create a wreath for each holiday of the year. This one took me about an hour and a half. It’s always great to pop in a movie when making a wreath as stringing the yarn around the foam takes a while. The best part is trying to figure out where to place all of your little pieces onto the wreath. In total, this project cost me about $10.

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This is my kitchen. This is where we had a full spread for our Halloween party. I decided to go with a chili dog bar so that everyone can build their own dogs. Although I don’t encourage eating a lot of hot dogs, I think it’s a great thing to serve when you are trying to feed about 25 people. On the island I was able to put out different little Halloween decor such as spiderwebs over plastic tablecloths and a couple other little things I found from the dollar store. I added some dimension on the island was by hiding some books underneath the tablecloth so that some plates stood a little bit higher than the others. Another thing that I did was put some fun labels on the condiment bottles. For instance, the ketchup said cyanide and mustard said crushed beetles.

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This is a prosciutto appetizer dish that I found on Pinterest. While I was wrapping the prosciutto around the plastic skull, I did begin to get a gagging feeling. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to eat any of the meat after finishing the whole thing. He was quite a hit and people kept eating his face. Barf.

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This next photo and the photo below show just a bit of decor that I put inside of the bathroom. I didn’t want to go overboard in a room that not many people were going to hang out inside of. The picture frames were a dollar a piece and I found the images on Pinterest. As for the decor that’s inside of the big bell jar, I found the skull and the bird at the dollar store as well and the large skeleton board. Then I bought some mini skulls and Halloween colored ornaments to put inside of a bowl. In total, it cost me about eight dollars to decorate the bathroom. The one thing that was a tad expensive in my bathroom was the pumpkin spiced soap. But I had to have it because the soap fit perfectly with the whole theme!!

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This is an old chalkboard from our wedding that I up cycled to put outside to let the guests know to take off their shoes.

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This large cauldron was probably one of the most expensive things I purchased this Halloween. It was $16 and I wanted to put some drinks inside of it and make it smoky. Daniel didn’t want me to play with some dry ice so instead I just put a picture of sangria inside of it with a ladle and guests were able to scoop it into little goblets. Inside of the goblets I put some lychee with blueberry eyeballs to make it look like floating eyes.

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This is our TV area. I wish I had a fireplace mantle but for now my shelf will do. I put some cool spiderweb cloth over it and then I cut out little paper bats to put above the TV. This decor is very subtle but I think it really changes the space. The cost was about three dollars just for the cloth. I already owned everything else.

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This is one of the coolest finds that I found while on my shopping adventures. I found these two glittered pumpkins from Target for a dollar a piece. I took them home and then I taped them to the top of two candlesticks that I bought from the dollar tree. I also bought the little black cauldrons in a package of six and a tapered candle to make a bleeding candle in my wine bottle for two dollars. In total, this cost me six dollars. I didn’t glue the pumpkins to the candlesticks because I want to be able to repurpose my candlesticks for something later this holiday season.

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And this is the view from my corridor that is outside of our front door. It’s really the only space that I have to decorate outside of my home. I bought two tombstones from the dollar tree and then I put my little ghost that I had purchased last year. The newest thing in this hallway is the doormat. In total, everything in this hallway cost me $14 minus the wreath.

I can’t wait to bring everything back out next October and continue to craft new items to add to our Halloween collection. I’m really going to need a public storage facility to house all of my things as my garage can no longer hold any more decorations that I have.