10.29.2012

Pumpkin. Roll.

All a successful Saturday morning requires is time. Blissful, glorious time to languish in bed, time to sip coffee and read magazines (or cookbooks), time to dream about what the day will hold. For me last Saturday, it was dreams of baking...pumpkin things. Perfectly spiced pumpkin things. Perfectly spiced pumpkin things with cream cheese. So, once I was sufficiently caffeinated, I set out to make good on my Saturday morning dreaming.

I decided that a pumpkin roll was the only way to go. So I based my roll on this recipe.

Gather ye ingredients! Granulated sugar, butter, eggs, vanilla, flour, powdered sugar, pure canned pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie mix), cream cheese, nutmeg, ginger, salt, ground cloves, cinnamon and baking powder. And also baking soda, which I forgot to get out.


Then, prepare ye pans and surfaces! Cover a 10x15 rimmed baking sheet/jelly roll pan with parchment paper, spray the parchment paper with cooking spray and sprinkle liberally with flour.


Spread out a thin, clean kitchen towel on the counter and sprinkle that liberally with powdered sugar.


Then, combine dry ingredients in a small bowl - 3/4 cup of flour, 1/2 tsp of baking powder, 1/2 tsp of baking soda, 1/2 tsp of cinnamon, 1/2 tsp of ground cloves, a sprinkling of nutmeg and a sprinkling of ginger. Oh, and 1/4 tsp of salt.


Beat three eggs and 1 cup of granulated sugar in your mixer until thick.


Beat in pumpkin, then stir in the dry ingredients.


Spread this evenly into the prepared pan.


Bake at 375 degrees for 13 minutes, but check it at 11! If the cake is springy when you touch it and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, then pull 'er out!


Immediately loosen the cake's edges from the parchment paper and brace yourself for the big flip onto the powered towel. One, two, three....flip!


Peel off the parchment paper, sprinkle more powdered sugar on the cake and then begin rolling it up with the towel, starting with the narrow end, like this:

Nail color: Deeply Violet by Sally Hansen Diamond Strength
Let the roll cool on a wire rack. In a little while, start making the filling! Sift 1 cup of powdered sugar.


Grab an 8oz package of room temperature cream cheese, 4 Tbs of softened unsalted butter and 1 tsp of vanilla extract and throw it all into the mixer with the sifted powdered sugar until it's smooth.


When the cake is cool, carefully unroll it and spread it with the cream cheese filling.


Then carefully roll it back up again and set it on a platter sprinkled with more powdered sugar. Cover and chill in the fridge for at least an hour.


Cut yourself some slices, pour some afternoon coffee and enjoy!


What pumpkin delights have you been cooking up lately?

10.23.2012

28.

When I was half my age - 14 - I'd imagine what my life would be like when I was all grown up, when I was out on my own, an adult.

This adolescent girl isn't some other person; she's me. She's still a part of me, wondering her 14-year-old wonderings. Tonight, the night of my 28th birthday, I'm going to answer her.

1) You live in Cincinnati now, in a cozy apartment you love having people come over to.

2) You have a job as a writer. You're good at it, you enjoy it and sometimes it excites you.

3) In just seven years, you'll graduate college early and move to Chicago, a city you've only ever thought about in passing.

4) In the four years that you live there, you'll become independent, you'll bike to work, you'll pay bills, sign leases, discover sushi, you'll realize you've turned into a woman.

5) You'll learn your limits - how much you can drink, how far you'll let a guy go in a bar (good news, it's not much farther than talking), how much crap you will take from people (and apartments) (and jobs) before moving on.

6) And you'll learn what you like - scotch. And also the ballet, football, big cities, public transportation, having friends over just to do nothing, going to the grocery store.

7) You have a cat.

8) You love to cook. It's your favorite way to de-stress, to show your friends you love them and to connect with Mom.

9) You won't see Mom and Dad or your baby brother very often, because they will move to Houston. It's going to be really hard.

10) But you're going to slowly be learning that it's not a house or a location that ties us together, but love and faith in a sovereign God who provides.

11) You'll feel at the same time 10x more mature in your faith than you were as an adolescent, and a worse Christian in your late 20s than you were in your teens. You know more now how God desires you to be in your heart, and you'll only be able to wake up each day and try again by His mercy.

12) You won't have a husband, a fiancé or even a boyfriend. Guys will lead you on, you'll feel like a fool and this will happen more than once. God will be refining you, drawing you closer, and it will hurt.

13) You will have the unreal blessing of deep, authentic friendships with so many amazing people. The Lord will be abundantly good in giving you a family made of friends who will listen to you, respect you, cry with you, laugh with you, set you straight and lift you up. They will be your treasure.

14) You'll even have some close guy friends! You'll learn that boys are not much different than you - that intimidation will fade with each year and you'll be surprised at how comfortable you can be around them, about how you can be friends.

15) Of course, that won't stop you from being attracted to some of them, but you'll be learning that's ok, too.

16) You'll come to a place of acceptance (more or less) with your body. You'll like being curvy, and you'll learn how to wear skinny jeans and that button up shirts will just never work.

17) You'll also be shocked with what inactivity will do to your weight and you'll be surprised when you make a decision to live healthier, stick to it and see results.

18) Your hair will still look like a haystack.

19) But you'll learn how to style it, what products to use and that you love it long.

20) You'll realize something you've known all along - that you must travel.

21) You'll go to Africa, Europe and South America. In one year you'll go to Hawaii and Alaska. You'll see Victoria Falls, hike the Inca Trail to Machu Piccu, snorkel, climb mountains and still want more.

22) You'll still love to read. And you'll read some good stuff. That Harry Potter? Get ready.

23) You will have chocolate raspberry truffle cheesecake on your 28th birthday. It will be as good as it sounds.

24) Your friends will have kids and it will be almost inexpressible how much you love them. You'll want to do things like squeeze their heads and munch on their cheeks and roll them into a ball and flatten them out at the same time. They will be such sweet, sweet expressions of their parents' love. You will feel like the luckiest person to get to be in their lives.

25) You will be in a continual learning process when it comes to figuring out how to spend and save and give. You will be learning lessons over and over again.

26) You will not marry any member of Hanson.

27) Sometimes you will hear or smell something in a breeze that will stop you in your tracks, drawing you back to something barely remembered. Memories will flood in, and in an instant you'll relive dashed hopes, shattered dreams, unrealized plans.

28) And then you will see the beautiful life you've been given. Clear. Bright.

10.21.2012

October Birchbox


Well, there it is folks. This is my twelfth box - I've subscribed for a whole year. I'd say that overall, I've scored some pretty good finds in the last year. Some I've even purchased for myself/plan on purchasing, some I was glad to try, but don't need to use again, and some I can't believe were put in my box (eyeliner stickers, anyone?). I'll have a run down of my favorite things, as well as a look into the three boxes I received before I started blogging about them, next week. I know you all can't wait. ;)

Anyway, my October Birchbox held some pretty decent things...

Like this little highlighter compact. I've never used a highlighter, but have been hearing about them for a while, so I was glad to try one. This one's from theBalm Cosmetics and is called Mary-Lou Manizer. Get it? Haaa.... So it works nicely to brighten my visage, but I'm not sure that I notice a big enough difference that I'd want to purchase a full-sizer. Birchbox included a helpful little card that tells you how to wear highlighter - so that was nice.


I received yet another Harvey Prince fragrance sample that I love. This one's called Eau Flirt. It has pumpkin and lavender notes, which apparently are supposed to spur passionate reactions in men. I don't know about that - at least, nothing's happened yet - but I do know that I like wearing this scent and I'm beginning to think Harvey Prince doesn't make a bad one.


Now come the things I wasn't super thrilled about. This lip butter is from Mox Botanicals, and it was made with only natural, organic ingredients. All fine and good. Birchbox calls this balm "artisinal" and its packaging "indie cool." Whatever floats your boat, Birchbox, but personally, the packaging doesn't do anything for me (black and pink...indie cool?) and the flavor/scent - pomegranate & fig ("a Birchbox exclusive!") - smells exactly like all the run-of-the-mill lip balms that you'd get in a freebie bag from the dentist or a home-builder or some other business looking for more business. Instead of an exclusive new product, I smell hype.


Birchbox also sent me three packets of Mighty Leaf Tea. This is the second time they've sent me tea. I don't really drink tea. But whatever you know...I can deal. Sometimes I do have a cup, and luckily they included an Earl Grey packet, which is my fave. It was good - tasted like Earl Grey. But I don't know enough about tea to have a strong opinion. Tea snob, I am not.


Last, I got this sample of Ouidad Climate Control Heat & Humidity Gel. I knew right away that this wouldn't work on my hair - it's made for curly girls, and while there's definite texture to my hair, it's more beach-waves than curls. I read about Ouidad's "rake and shake" method for applying the gel and all I could see in my future was crunchy, limp hair. 


Here it is right after I applied it according to directions. 


Note the skepticism. It ended up drying exactly how I thought it would - more or less like the above photo. I imagine this would be great for girls with actual curls, but I need less structure in my hair product.

Do you get a Birchbox? What was in yours? If you'd like to get one, click here! https://www.birchbox.com?raf=6tm7o

10.19.2012

A More Polished Method

It's said that you can tell a lot about a woman by the way she stores her nail polish.

Not really; I don't think anyone's ever said that.

But, something had to be done with my ancient flower pot and the bursting toiletry bag that housed a polish collection that was unorganized, dusty and full of old, gloppy polishes.

After I organized my makeup a while back, one of my friends from college commented that she couldn't believe I still had that flower pot o' polish. College was six years ago for me and I'm pretty sure I had that pot during high school, too. And so I was shamed into trying to come up with a reasonable way to organized my nail polish. Reasonable in that it couldn't take up much more space than my previous "method" and also that it couldn't cost me anything.

As fate would have it, I found this great idea on one of my favorite blogs, and so last Sunday during an NFL marathon, I put together my new nail polish organization system. The best part? I barely had to get up from the couch.

Exhibit A: My previous "method" included an old flower pot, a toiletry bag from Bath & Body Works and incidental places around the apartment.


Exhibit B: My supplies, which include wrapping paper (I chose coordinating prints, but you can also just use the same kind for the whole project if you don't have coordinating prints), a hole punch, white label stickers, a sturdy shoe box with a detachable lid, scissors, tape and nail polish.


First, I wrapped the box and lid separately. This was the trickiest part, because shoe boxes are awkward. Who knew? There might possibly be a method for doing this, but I blazed on ahead and figured it out as I went along.




Once I had the lid and box wrapped, I painted the white labels with a swatch of each of my polishes. I could fit about five swatches on each label, so I lined up my polishes in rows of five so I wouldn't have to guess which swatch goes where. Also at this point, I weeded out the old, gloppy polishes that I never used.


I let the swatches dry completely and then hole punched each one of them. I realized my giant three-hole-punch pictured above wasn't going to work that well, so I grabbed a smaller one.


Carefully peeling the backing off the punched circles, I then placed them on the cap of their corresponding polishes so it's easier to see what I'm pulling out of the box and so I don't have to pull out every single nail polish to see what I have.

Then I was able to line everything up inside the box in a pattern that made sense to me. I made sure to include clippers, files and whatnot in the box, too.


Close it up and tadaa!!


Exhibit C: Everything all neat and tidy and in one place. And it only took me two quarters of a football game!

So, let's hear it. How do you store your nail polish?

10.12.2012

The Last Frontier, part two

For part one, click here.

We left Talkeetna, but not before stopping for one last view of McKinley. Strangely, it looked even bigger, though we were further away. Weird.



Anyway! We stopped along the way home for some hikes around some lakes and general exploration.



But the best part was when we drove up to Hatcher's Pass. There's an old abandoned mine up in the mountains that you can walk around - it was pretty darn cool!





We made it back to Anchorage in time for dinner at Moose's Tooth. They're famous for their pizzas and mine did not disappoint. Look at all those mushrooms!


Moose's Tooth also has a brewery (Broken Tooth Brewing), so we did a little tasting there, too. Just five this time. We came back to the apartment after dinner and watched a movie, and Amy and I stayed up and talked for a while which was so good for me. I miss her.

The next day was my final day in Alaska and also the day Amy had to head back to work. So while she slept in, Scott, Andy and I went to downtown Anchorage to see what there was to see and do a little shopping.

After lunch (and lots of hugs), Scott and I dropped Amy off at the hospital and then picked up Andy so we could go out and climb Flattop Mountain - 3,510 feet into the air.



Really, the climb we did was 1,280 feet, but that's not bad for a Monday afternoon! And it was snow and ice the whole way. Well, once we got close to the top it was snow and ice and rock.


But it was really fun. A couple times we wondered if we could make it to the top at all since it was so icy, but we pushed on. The last bit of climbing was especially hard - my legs and arms were shaking so bad I was ready to just perch on a rock and wait until Andy and Scott were ready to come back down. But I couldn't tell I was only 10 feet from the summit, so when Andy hollered back that I should just get up there already it was so close, I sprang to life and made it to the top of the mountain.




Coming back down was interesting, as well. We'd had our backs to the drop off the whole way up, so as we gingerly picked our way through icy rocks, we faced out toward everything. It was better to just look down at my feet and hands and watch what they were doing. Some of the time we had to slide down, so I'm sure I looked as graceful as you expect.


Then, I wrapped up my time on Flattop with a spectacular fall five feet from the parking lot. Made it up and down a mountain, but couldn't quite make it to the car.

For dinner we met up with Andy's mom's cousin. She's 82 and has lived in Alaska for...well, a long time. I can't remember. But! She wanted to see Andy, so we went back to downtown Anchorage for dinner at Glacier Brew House. Cousin Lou was a real treat, and I'm glad we got to party with her. She told us stories, sat on Andy's lap, took our picture and bought us dinner. And beer.


My flight left at 1:30 a.m., so we went back to the apartment and all tried to stay awake until it was time to leave for the airport. I headed home and somehow made it into my own bed after more than 30 hours of being awake.

It was an amazing trip, where I was unexpectedly awestruck pretty much constantly. I ate good food, walked and hiked and climbed and slid, laughed and laughed with some of my very favorite people.

(Again, I may have borrowed some shots from Amy's FB page. Thanks, Ama!)

10.11.2012

The Last Frontier, part one

So Alaska. That was awesome.

I headed out to the Last Frontier on Thursday, September 28, with my friend Andy after a crazy, and I mean CRAZY, first half of the week.


Nothing like preparing to go on vacation to fully convince you that you really need a vacation.

Lucky me, I had a row to myself on our long flight from Dallas to Anchorage. Unlucky for me the entire cast of Shrek: The Musical was partying in the rows directly behind me while a toddler constantly looked at me with orange-crackery spit dribbling from her mouth from the row in front of me. Wooo.


Almost seven hours later we arrived in Anchorage to the loving arms of Scott and Amy. They took us somewhere to eat, but I was so delirious from lack of sleep that I can barely remember it. I do remember several attractive outdoorsy-looking men. And that I told a story that I thought no one would find funny and Andy laughed harder than I've ever seen him laugh. He was probably delirious, too.

Despite our exhaustion, Andy and I were both up at 6 a.m. the next morning (it was 10 a.m. EST). After waiting around for, like, three hours without coffee, we almost walked to a Meijer Starbucks, but Scott finally woke up and saved us from walking through the cold and wet by driving us to Heavenly Cup.


Alaska has these little coffee shacks all over in parking lots and on the roadsides - they don't look very legit from the outside, but they make real quality coffee. I started every day in Anchorage with an Americano from Heavenly Cup.


Our first day we drove along Turnagain Arm to a wildlife conservation area and a glacier. On the way were too many views! And so I took took way too many pics out of the car window.




Preeettty excited about Alaska.
We picked up Amy's brother Eric, who lives in Alaska pretty much full time, and stopped to view some wildlife: moose, elk, caribou, porcupines, bald eagles, lynxes, black bears and probably other stuff that I can't remember. Oh! Musk oxen.





Then it was on to Byron Glacier. This was way cool. We hiked and climbed over all sorts of rocks to get closer to the glacier. I fell in the river, Andy got stranded in the middle of the river and had to build a rock bridge to get back across (which only marginally worked), Amy slid down part of the mountain and ripped her pants and it rained off and on through the whole ordeal. It was really, really fun - possibly the best day!







We topped that portion of our day off by heading through a 2.5 mile tunnel under a mountain to Whittier, which was covered in fog, for a late lunch and to change into some dry clothes. I got some super yummy chowder and an adult coffee beverage. Warmed me right up!

After lunch we dropped Eric off back at his house and then headed to a path through the woods which ended in a hand-tram over a gorge. The tram was so hard to pull! Andy did most of the work on our trips over the gorge...but I tried for a little bit and it was exhausting fo sho.


Back in Anchorage we dined on pot roast and fell into bed!


Everything was all snowy when we woke up! But it melted fairly quickly and we drove to Talkeetna, where we would stay for the night and hopefully see the Northern Lights and views of Mt. McKinley. Along the way we stopped at Eklutna Lake and hiked around it a ways, snapped some pics, etc.

Absolutely everywhere looks like a postcard.
Talkeetna is this tiny little fishing town that's not too far from Denali and has some great views of Mt. McKinley when the weather's clear. We were lucky because after dinner we walked out to the river and there it was - the highest peak in North America! It was 150 miles away and we could see it. Amazing!


Mt. McKinley on the right!


But! Before dinner we went to the Denali Brewing Company to start what turned out to be an unofficial tour of Alaksan breweries. We ordered samples of all their beers and had a lovely time. Dinner was at the Roadhouse, this ramshackle-looking place that doubled as a hostel/inn. I had a pasty, which is a Russian thing, apparently - it had salmon and wild rice and broccoli and spinach and other stuff all cooked in a puff pastry of sorts. It was very good, filling and just what I wanted after tasting 11 different beers.


We hung out in our cozy cabin for the rest of the night, chatted, played cards, tried to discern when the aurora borealis would be out and whatnot. With plans to get up at 5 a.m. to check, everyone went to bed. But the northern lights weren't out at 5 a.m., and no one decided it was worth it to go outside and check again at 6, so that was that. At breakfast (again at the Roadhouse - I had biscuits and reindeer-sausage gravy), we learned that the moon was too bright to see them that night.




Part two coming soon!

(Also, some photos may have been taken from Amy's FB page.)

For part two, click here.