Sunday, September 25, 2011

Funky Fall Decor - Part II

I really think I may have a problem. It's not anywhere CLOSE to looking like fall or feeling like fall, but I can't stop thinking about fall - and decorating for it! Yesterday, my friend, Kristin, and I had a lovely afternoon of crafting. Now, to be honest, I can't say we are craftiest gals around, nor the most talented, but what we did create? Totally awesome and totally easy. Trust me, if we can do it - you can too! After perusing Michael's for awhile, we finally decided to create three things: a Halloween Wreath, Mod Podge Pumpkins and (dollar store) Fall Candles. 

MOD PODGE PUMPKINS

Necessary items:
  • A Pumpkin (Real or Fake)
  • Mod Podge (glossy)
  • Some sort brush or sponge to apply the Mod Podge
  • 2-3 sheets of scrapbooking paper of your choice
Directions:
  1. Rip your scrapbooking paper into small pieces. If the design on the paper is large, I would recommend ripping large pieces as you'll want be able to see what the original print design was once it's on your pumpkin.
  2. Use your brush or sponge to "glue" each piece of paper to your pumpkin. Be sure to brush the Mod Podge over your paper as well - this will give your pumpkin a glossy look. Note: Once the Mod Podge dries, it will not be visible, leaving only a gloss over your paper.

HALLOWEEN WREATHS

Necessary Items:
  • A Wreath Base: This can be wire shaped into a circle, circle-shaped styrofoam (this is what I used), or a bundle of twigs that can be shaped like a wreath (this is what Kristin used).
  • Your Wreath Decorations: I used orange ribbon to wrap my styrofoam and a black and white ribbon to create a bow to attach to my wreath. Kristin used felt to create flowers to attach to her wreath. Other items I've seen: pieces of fabric tied around a wire to create a "bushy" look, painted letters (BOO or EEK), painted wooden shapes, etc. This is where you can get creative and customize based on what YOU like!
  • Super Glue/Hot Glue + Hot Glue Gun
Directions:
  1. Begin by decorating your wreath base - whether that is wrapping a thick ribbon around it, tying pieces of fabric onto it, or twisting your twigs into the shape of a wreath.
  2. Get out that glue and start adding the accessories! My wreath was relatively easy, but if you'd like to create Kristin's felt flowers, all you must do is cut a long skinny piece of felt, tie a knot at the end of it, and wrap the extra felt around that knot - gluing as you go.


DOLLAR STORE FALL CANDLES

Necessary Items: 
  • Fall Leaves (Real or Fake)
  • 1 tall cylindrical candle from the dollar store
  • 1 tall cylindrical vase from the dollar store (must be thicker than the candle)
  • 1 short candlestick holder from the dollar store (this will be the base of your creation)
Directions:

I will leave this up to 320 Sycamore as she gives wonderful, very easy-to-follow, and detailed directions on how to do this project. Trust me on this one - $4 total will get you the perfect classy fall centerpiece! 



Good luck all you fall crafters you! 

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Pumpkin: Red Velvet's Tastier, More Elusive Cousin


Your favorite guest blogger is BACK! Meghan Diamond, the Red Velvet Extraordinaire turned Autumn Enthusiast, will be sharing with us the wonders of pumpkin bread and roadtrips during our favorite season of the year: FALL.
I know you guys missed her. I sure did. Take it away, Meghan....

Today is my first day back home after a rowdy weekend in Austin so naturally I decided to catch up on blogging instead of cleaning or running errands or being productive. Plus, listening to The National (aka the best band ever) puts me in good mood. And since I’m on the topic of good moods, I will be writing about my absolute favorite time of the year: Fall. It’s strange that I love autumn so much considering that I grew up in Florida and now live in South Texas. We don’t really get a real fall until winter comes around. But I think the feeling comes from knowing that the summer weather is finally going to end and the holidays are right around the corner.  Throughout college, MC and I planned fall trips, usually to either Nashville or North Carolina. We loved the cool weather and beautiful foliage, not to mention that road trips just make us happy. And for every road trip I always stayed up late, baking pumpkin bread and not studying for whatever important nursing school exam I had at 730 the following morning.

So on Thursday night, in keeping with tradition, I stayed up until 4am baking pumpkin bread and watching Garden State (aka the best movie ever). I then woke up at 8am and made the 3 hour drive to Austin, ate a slice of the delicious bread, and then proceeded to spend the next 10 hours sweating, walking wayyy too much, and seeing some really awesome live music at Austin City Limits. This trip wasn’t quite a normal fall trip considering it was 90-something degrees the whole time but I switched things up this year, including my pumpkin bread recipe. 

I usually stick with basic pumpkin bread and then make one loaf with chocolate chips and maybe some walnuts or pecans (this one is always my favorite because of the chocolate, duh) and the other loaf with dried cranberries or cherries and maybe some walnuts. They are always moist, delicious and so so pumpkiny (please excuse my bad habit of making up words). This is my typical recipe that I took from a Taste of Home cookbook and can also be found here. Its perfectly simple and delicious and I highly recommend making it.

I’ve been making that recipe since I was in high school, however, since then I’ve discovered Pinterest. Remember my last guest post where I drooled over Pinterest the entire time? Well nothing has changed since then, I’m still obsessed and, fortunately, it has expanded the horizons of my love for pumpkin baked goods. I recently came across this recipe (I won’t post the actual recipe because the blog is super cute and definitely worth checking out). It’s cream cheese rippled pumpkin bread and it is amazing. It’s slightly less pumpkiny than the previous recipe but I don’t even care. My boyfriend could not stop eating it all weekend - believe me when I say this is a big deal since he is very picky about what baked goods he eats. And when I say picky, I mean he doesn’t like too much chocolate...we’ve been going to couples counseling regarding this issue because it’s been a major source of stress in our relationship (for obvious reasons).

Seriously, you want this. Make it. Now.

Since I seriously got carried away with the whole pumpkin thing this week, I also made vegan pumpkin cupcakes for a patient of mine who is vegan. We always have trouble getting her favorite foods because our cafeteria doesn’t carry many vegan options so I started bringing her vegan baked goods. They were a big hit. I made vegan icing by mixing half a tub of tofutti “cream cheese,” a few tablespoons of Earth Balance margarine, 1.5 cups powdered sugar, some vanilla, and cinnamon. Don’t be scared of vegan baking, its usually just as good (and sometimes better) than non vegan baked goods I promise!


Then since I was seriously stressed about working 3 nights in a row, I made myself some cookies with all the leftover pumpkin in my fridge. I added chocolate chips (duh) because that was all I had in my pantry but I froze some leftover batter to bake when I get some dried cherries because dried cherries and pumpkin are the best combo.

Pumpkin overload? Nah, there’s no such thing. Plus it has lots of Vitamin A, which is good for you. It’s also just good for your mental health because how could pumpkin or the fall season not make anyone happy?

And just in case nobody believes how much MC and I love fall, just take a look at our excitement during this trip to Nashvegas back in 2009:


We also get really excited about being at dueling piano bars in the fall but that is completely unrelated and any photo evidence would probably be embarrassing. Except for this...


....That’s not at all embarrassing.

Want some funky fall decor tips? Check out my guest post on Meghan's blog!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Oh the Memories...

A little over two years ago, my cousins and I ventured across the Atlantic to England and Ireland. Needless to say, we had the time of our lives - and I'm not exaggerating. I would give anything to be able to go back! 

One of the biggest things we made sure to do while we were over there was document our time via journals, but also save every little ticket, receipt, brochure, map, you name it - we saved it. Up until a couple of weeks ago, I had no idea what I was actually going to do with all of those paper memories, until I stumbled upon memory boxes on Pinterest (of course). Immediately, I knew this was the perfect way to display my memories, and keep those treasures in good condition.
Creating a memory box is actually very simple. All you'll need are a few record album frames (or actual shadow boxes - if you're not cheap like me), double sided tape, and your memories. 

1. The first thing you'll need to do is decide how you'll want the names of the cities and/or countries displayed within your frame. I chose to use Photoshop to create letter cut-outs of my pictures taken on my trip. 
2. Once you've printed your city/country name, use that sheet of paper as the base of your creation. Tape any and all receipts, maps, brochures, tickets, luggage tags, coasters, etc. to your base sheet. 
3. Once you're done setting your paper memories, place the taped-creation in the record album frame or shadowbox. And you're done - Easy as that! 

I am so excited about my framed creations, and can't wait for my next venture abroad so that I can add to the collection! I think I hear Greece and Italy calling....



Sunday, September 4, 2011

Two (Yes, TWO) Ingredient Pumpkin Cake

I know what you are thinking. TWO ingredients? Yeah right. Well, believe it or not --  it's true. I stumbled upon this cake on pinterest (via The Big Red Kitchen blog) and knew this had to be my next creation because a) I'm not an avid/very good baker so, uh, yeah, two ingredients? love it b) I LOVE PUMPKIN ANYTHING and c) It's September! Which means I am basically required to create fall-inspired dishes such as this one. I'm home at my parents' house for the weekend, so I figured it was the perfect time to experiment with the people who would give me their honest opinion on this two-ingredient dessert. Needless to say, it was a HIT. 

The Dish?
Pumpkin Cake

The Ingredients?
1 Boxed Cake Mix
1 15-oz. Can of Pumpkin
Frosting/Glaze - optional

The Directions?
1. Mix pumpkin and cake mix on medium speed for two minutes.*
2. Pour into a greased 7 x 11 pan. 
3. Bake at 350 degrees for 28 minutes. 
4. Remove from oven -- let cool.
5. Glaze or frost as desired! 

*This cake created with the above directions is undoubtedly delicious - BUT, I think next time I'd experiment by adding raisins, walnuts and a pinch of pumpkin spice! 

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The 100 Strangers Project

I think I've found my next photography challenge. And no, this is not like the previous challenge I attempted that required me to take a photo of a various subject each day for a month. This challenge looks to be more difficult - but without the overbearing deadline. The 100 Strangers Project requires each participant to "Take 100 photographs of at least 100 people you don’t know by approaching them, asking for permission to both take a photo of them and to post it to the group." This challenge will prove to be difficult for me for the following reasons:

  • I can be shy. Approaching a stranger and asking to take their picture is a challenge in itself! ...But a good one, that will hopefully bring me out my comfort zone, and encourage me to come out of my shell. 
  • I don't mingle with many strangers in my day to day life. This challenge will require me to hang in places where lots of strangers gather...like Starbucks? A local festival? A Gator game? The options are endless.
  • Ok....100?! That's a lot. Enough said.
  • I need to work on my portrait and people photography. Landscapes? Easy. Flowers? A sinch. A person's face? Ummmmm. To put it nicely, I need some practice. All the more reason to take on this challenge! 

Ok, so I'm shy, don't interract with many strangers, a bit lazy, and people photography scares me. But, hey - that ain't gonna stop me. To my few loyal readers, I will be posting my strangers on this blog - so keep an eye out. And if any of you have suggestions as to where I could get photos of some true characters, please let me know! 

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Warehouse Restaurant and Lounge

Last night, I went out to celebrate one of best friend's birthdays - Happy Birthday Kristin! Kristin and I are on a "try new places" kick. Both of us are Gator grads still living in the great ole' town of Gainesville. That said, we realized that during our 4 years of undergrad we did NOT take advantage of the variety of restaurants and culinary creativity Gainesville has to offer. We've made it our goal to only go to restaurants that we've never tried before. So, last night, when we had to make a decision about where to go to dinner and Kristin suggested Warehouse Restaurant & Lounge, which I had never heard of, I knew we had to give it a shot -- and I'm so glad we did. Warehouse is exactly how it sounds - a warehouse. It is located in a slightly sketchy area of town (just south of downtown on Main Street), but once you're inside that giant, warm room and surrounded by wine bottles and live music, you feel as if you're right in the heart of downtown.

I was so pleasantly surprised as I walked in. The high ceilings and shelves full of wine that lined the walls gave Warehouse a funky, modern, yet classy ambience. Their menu does not have much variety, but what they do have? Amazing. Their dishes range from curried chicken and seared ahi tuna to gnocci and corn cakes. I decided to go out on a limb and try their Grilled Flank Steak & Snow Crab Macaroni and Cheese. HOLY COW. It was unbelievable. Honestly, one of the best things I've ever tasted. Although the wait for our food was a bit long, you can tell that Warehouse offers freshly prepared food - no microwaves, no reheats.

Now, of course, because we were surrounded by wine, we had a get a bottle for ourselves. Their drink/wine/beer menu is quite extensive - significantly more extensive than their food menu. We went with a bottle of pinot grigio and enjoyed every last drop! Finally, the grand finale - dessert. We decided to share raspberry pound cake (which we got on the house, thank you very much) and to our surprise, the pound cake had been grilled! This is not something I've ever seen before, but it works. And it is GOOD.

We ended our night out on the patio listening to Little Jake and the Soul Searchers, a band that looked and sounded as if they came straight out of the fifties. They had everybody dancing, smiling and singing. Kristin and I decided that we just might have to become groupies - they were just that awesome.


SO. To anyone looking for a fun, funky, delicious restaurant in the Gainesville area: Warehouse is your place. And be sure to venture there on a night when they have a live band!

Friday, August 26, 2011

CDR Edward "Pops" Shaughnessy

Commander Edward "Pops" Shaughnessy, my grandfather, recently passed away at the ripe old age of 95 years old. As a Commander in the Navy for over twenty years, he received full military honors at his burial in Arlington National Cemetery - including a 21-gun salute, full marching band and a horse-drawn caisson. It was an incredible experience that made me so proud to have the honor of calling him my grandfather. RIP Pops! 

 
  
 
 
 



Tuesday, August 23, 2011

PMC 2011: Wipe Outs, Hills, and Flat Tires - Oh My!

It's been exactly 16 days since I completed my first Pan Mass Challenge. Over those 16 days, I've had time to ponder, remember, laugh, and cringe over those 8 long hours on my road bike. The one thing I can say, without a doubt, is that the Pan Mass Challenge is most definitely a challenge. Not only is it a physical challenge, but it is also a mental, and dare I say emotional, challenge. Regardless, it is a challenge I am willing to take on again despite the numerous roadblocks (no pun intended) we encountered on our journey. 

August 7, 2011 - The Wickham Family Takes On the PanMass Challenge

3:30AM: My alarm, the annoyance equivalent of an ambulance siren at that ungodly hour, temporarily brought out my mexican jumping bean. After realizing a) what time it was, b) that today was the day I would ride 65 miles on a bicycle with minimal training, and c) that it was raining outside, I can't say I was completely excited about this 65 mile venture through the bays, bogs and hills of Massachusetts. After putting on my super cool PMC biking gear and actually feeling like cyclist, those feelings began to melt away. 

5:30AM: My Uncle Jeff, my two cousins, and my Dad and I arrive at the Bourne starting line. At this point, all feelings of dread are gone. The crowds of supporters, riders and volunteers who have rolled out of bed to be a part of this event blow me away. Every single person in attendance has been affected by the horrendous disease we call cancer. But you wouldn't know it. Cheers, laughter and excited chit-chatter can be heard throughout the parking lot of the Mass Maritime Academy. Riders, adorned with funky/crazy/funny helmet ornaments, are riding out by the hundreds. Their family members and friends, there to see them off, are cheering, waving, clapping, and showing no sign that they are affected by the rain, wind and early morning fatigue. We set off on our bikes in hopes of a smooth, dry and relatively easy ride. 

7:00AM: After a scenic ride through the villages along Buzzards Bay, we enter cranberry bog country. The rain has stopped, but the clouds remain above us, providing cooler, more comfortable temperatures for what could have been a ride in the blazing heat of summer. 

8:00AM: We have our first incident. My cousin, who accidentally ran his bike off the road, narrowly misses a major wipe out by inches. Although he is okay, the scrapes on his legs are bleeding profusely. We wait for help for what seems like forever, but finally the PMC road crew spots us - we are saved! My cousin, being the trooper that he is, puts on some bandages and hops right back on his bike. Onward! 

8:30AM: We arrive at the first water stop in Middleboro. 24 miles down. I have never in my life been more happy to see water, bananas, cheese sticks, bagels, you name it - they had it - I wanted it. I tried not to overdo it, but I literally felt famished. After about twenty minutes of relaxation, some chit chats with the volunteers, and (of course) some Dunkin coffee, we head back out on the treacherous trail completely not expecting what was to come. 

Middleboro Waterstop. Source: pmc.org

10:00AM: We know we are so close to the next waterstop. We are getting tired, but have surpassed the halfway mark, giving us an extra boost of motivation. My Dad, being the experienced biker that he is, decides that he would like to ride ahead, you know, push it a little, see what he's really got while he's not waiting for his slowpoke daughter to catch up. We ride along, my Dad in sight, disappointed that the rain has started again. Suddenly, he's gone! My immediate thought was that he was going so fast he was able to get out of our sight quickly. Assuming that was case, we ride and ride and ride along a hilly, straight path for what seems like forever, hoping that at any moment, we will stumble upon our waterstop. We reach an intersection, and oddly, there is no crossing guard like there had been at every other intersection on the PMC route. I knew, almost immediately, that we were lost. After talking to a gas station clerk, we discover that not only are we off route, but we also have a long uphill battle to get back on said route. No wonder we thought my Dad had channeled his inner Lance Armstrong - he had taken the correct turn and rode right out of our sight! 

10:30AM: Biking becomes especially hard. We are going uphill, but still, this feels unusually difficult. After pushing and pushing, and whining in my head, I asked my Uncle Jeff to look at my tires to see if either of them are flat. And guess what. The back tire was! Just our luck. This was an especially tricky situation considering we were not back on the official PMC route quite yet - hence, it would be more difficult for the road crew to locate us to provide a quick fix. Thankfully, my Uncle Jeff is skilled in the art of fixing a flat tire and knew exactly what to do. 

11:30AM: After a flat tire and getting lost, we are back on route and very close to the next waterstop. At this point, it is POURING. Finally, we arrive at the Sharon waterstop, where my dad has been waiting for us to deal with our fiascos and finish the last leg of the challenge. We ride in to the tune of cheers, upbeat music and encouraging words. We are officially the last group of riders because others have opted to not continue their ride due to the rain. But not us. We hop back on those bikes in what is now major pain all around and focus on the task at hand. 18 miles to go. 

1:00PM: HILLS. Up until this point, yes, there have been hills. But none of them monstrous and none of them soaking in the pouring rain. I want to cry. The hills are huge and many. My legs are jello and exhausted. I admit - I get off my bike twice because it is faster and easier to walk my bike up the hills than to work as hard as I physically can and still move at a snail pace. This is where the challenge became more mental. We are all exhausted. We are tired. We are hungry. We are in pain. But we are determined. And we will finish this challenge, despite the roadblocks. 

2:00PM: The finish line is just minutes away. The pouring rain has not let up. I have never wanted to be done with one task so badly. Ever. In my whole life. Finally, we reach Babson College in Wellesley, where the finish line is located. Being sadly, but understandably, the last riders to arrive, we are welcomed with hoots and hollers galore. Everyone is so excited, so proud, and so surprised that we persevered through the nasty conditions. We are done. 

The Finish Line - Babson College, Wellesley. Source: Carrie Kuempel

The Pan Mass Challenge was the experience of a lifetime. Although at times on that rainy day, I felt I would never do this again, my Mom helped put things into perspective with some encouraging, and frightfully true words: "The Pan Mass Challenge is like having a baby. You swear you'll never do it again, but once you forget about the pain and misery you had to go through, you'll be ready to do it all over again before you know it." Thanks for the disturbing, yet oddly true insight, Mom! Despite all of the challenges we faced, I really do want to continue the tradition of raising awareness and funds for such an important cause even if it means 8 hours of misery - except next year, you better bet I'm going to start training a little bit earlier than say...oh....3 weeks ahead of time.  

PS - I would just like to give a BIG thank you to everyone who donated to my ride. Not only did I meet my goal of raising $1,000 - I exceeded it! Thank you so much! 

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Move. Learn. Eat.

The three following videos are quickly becoming an internet phenomenon - and it's not hard to see why! I wanted to share them because I find them so inspiring - in more ways than one. After my recent, very amateur jaunt into the world of video making/editing (see my recent post: In the Summertime), these videos have inspired me to create similar projects the next time I travel the world and hit up 11 countries in 44 days, or maybe just my next trip to a cool city? That seems a bit more reasonable if you ask me. But, in addition to the "editing" coolness factor of these videos, these videos portray one solid message that I'm sure anyone in any of those countries they visited could understand: Live life to the fullest. We all get bogged down by the the craziness and stress of our lives, but these videos remind us how much more there is to this wild and unpredictable thing called life - and to embrace all of it!




MOVE from Rick Mereki on Vimeo.

LEARN from Rick Mereki on Vimeo.

EAT from Rick Mereki on Vimeo.



Tuesday, August 9, 2011

In the Summertime...

Just got home from a family reunion on the South Shore in Massachusetts, and I'm already dying to go back....I heart my family!

Friday, July 22, 2011

A VERY Late Photo Challenge Update: Days 17 - 29

Ok, ok. I admit it: I have NOT been keeping up with the photo challenge. And yes, I realize that it is JULY 22nd. I've had to put it off due to other unforeseen responsibilities, but I've finally caught up! Not ALL the way, but I'm very close to completion. I will tell you: I have a new found respect for those photo challengers who completed the challenge on a daily basis and by June 30th! They are either super dedicated or super bored or not a perfectionist like myself. Regardless, it's been a fun experience and for any of you dabbling in photography, it's a great way to get the creative juices flowing. The next time I hear of a photo challenge, I'll be sure to pass the word along!

Day 17: Technology
QWERTY is the most common type of keyboard. That's the one thing I'll always remember from computer class in elementary school (aside from how to make the most awesome Zoombinis, haha - please tell me someone remembers that totally cool game.)

Day 18: Your Shoes
I already did a shoe picture, photo challenge! But, here's another. And I like it better.

Day 19: Something Orange
Georgetown Flowers.

Day 20: Bokeh
Ok, I admit it. When I saw that Day 20 was Bokeh, I had absolutely no idea what that was. I did a little a research, and turns out, I do Bokeh photography all the time! Check out these bokeh photos.

Day 21: Faceless Self-Portrait
COMING SOON!

Day 22: Hands

Day 23: Sunflare
You may have seen this picture on my blog previously.
Minnehaha Falls, MN.

Day 24: Animal
Willow: the most awesome dog ever.

Day 25: Something Pink
Flowers on the UF Campus

Day 26: Close-Up
Close-ups of flowers are always intriguing.

Day 27: From a Distance
Minneapolis, MN

Day 28: Flowers
I've been watching this flower for a few days now. It opens in the sun, and closes in the dark!
The same flower as it's about to storm! Crazy.

Day 29: Black and White
Minneapolis, MN - down along the Mississippi River


Monday, July 18, 2011

Of your eyes, begonia skys like a sleepyhead

Do any of you have THAT song? You know, that song that can brighten your mood no matter what kind of day your having? That song that can get you to go to the gym even when you feel like the laziest bum on the planet? That song that makes you wanna dance around your house like a crazy person? Yeah, we all have that song and mine is Sleepyhead by Passion Pit.


I don't know what it is about this song. It is BY FAR the most played song on my iTunes - I literally don't think I'm physically able to get sick of it. Maybe it's the beat. Or maybe it's just that it's catchy. But you know what I think? I think maybe it's the memories I have associated with this song. Sleepyhead will forever take me back to some of the best times of my life thus far with some of my most favorite people in the whole wide world.
We are crazy and I love it.

What is your "THAT" song?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Roasted Butternut Squash Pizza

Roasted butternut squash pizza is arguably the most heavenly pizza known to mankind. It sounds like an exaggeration, but just you wait until you try it yourself one day. Maybe you'll even be inspired to make your own after this post! The first time I laid eyes and tongue (ew?) on butternut squash pizza was when I was in Burlington, VT last Halloween weekend with my Aunt Carrie and Uncle Funny Jeff (he's really funny). The leaves were just about done changing, and there were snow flurries in the air. College kids were out and about on the streets dressed in their (hilarious) costumes - probably freezing - as were we. We were on the hunt for a tasty eatery that was unique to Vermont where we could relax, warm up, and enjoy our evening. We settled on American Flatbread, a wood-fired pizza grill, and also the most warm, cozy, perfect place to spend the evening on a cold Halloween night. You just might be able to guess what comes next. We ordered butternut squash pizza! Which was very appropriate considering the time of year. I do believe we also ordered a squash-based beer - which was surprisingly good. At first bite, we all fell in love. Maybe it was the cozy atmosphere, maybe it was because we were famished from traveling, or maybe...just maybe...it was because butternut squash on a pizza was meant to be. I don't remember what exactly was on that pizza. I just know it was a tasty schmorgesborg of cheeses, onions, herbs and squash. I'd also just like to say, that after that meal, we were completely rejuvenated and went to an authentic irish pub and had some beeahs. SUCH a fun night. But I digress. After coming home from that trip, my Aunt Carrie and I knew we had recreate that fine dish - and again, I don't know exactly what ingredients we used, but all I know is that it turned out just as good, and quite possibly better, than in VT.

As I was searching for a fun, tasty, yet challenging dish to make on my day off, roasted butternut squash pizza magically popped into my head and I knew I had to make it and share it with the blogging world. I did a little search and found a great recipe by Two Peas and Their Pod for roasted butternut squash pizza. I followed her recipe more or less, but also followed my own intuition when making this pizza pie.

First of all, you always need a little pre-dinner, cooking entertainment. That's why I turned to Mr. Jimmy Fallon, my future husband (after he divorces his current wife) for some laughs to keep busy for what seemed to be for-ev-er. If you haven't watched Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, I highly recommend it.
The Dish?
Roasted Butternut Squash Pizza

The Ingredients?
  • Pizza dough - I cheated and got the store-bought.
  • 1 Red Onion
  • 1 Butternut Squash
  • Mozzarella Cheese
  • Feta Cheese
  • Olive Oil
  • Garlic, 1-2 tsp minced
  • Fresh Rosemary

The Directions?

1. Peel and dice your butternut squash. WARNING: This takes a lot more manpower and strength than you think. Make sure you have a strong knife and solid cutting board. OH - and MUSCLES.
2. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Place diced squash in a pan, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Once the oven is preheated, let the squash roast for 40-50 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Chop that red onion, and hold back those tears.
4. Get ready to carmelize your red onion. Place a skillet or pan on medium-high heat and drizzle with oil. Once the oil is shimmering, throw those onions on there. The only difference between carmelizing an onion and grilling an onion is that you add a teaspoon or two of sugar. Don't know how to grill/carmelize an onion? Here's a little help. The grilling/carmelizing should take 15-20 minutes. This would be a good time to make that pizza dough, if you are not lazy like me and want to make your own crust.
5. Once the onions are done carmelizing and the squash is done roasting, top that pizza! It doesn't matter what order - I did a little mozzarella, then the squash, then a little garlic, then the onions, then the rosemary, and then the feta, and then a little more mozzarella. Hey, what's a pizza without lotsa cheese, right?
6. Finally, raise that oven temperature to 450 degrees. Once it hits the 450 degree mark, lower the temperature back down to 425 degrees and put that pizza in there. I kept my pie in there for 10 minutes - but that's because I don't like super crispy crust. If you like crispy crust, I recommend 13 minutes or so. Just watch - when the crust is golden brown and the cheeses are all melted and gooey and delicious, you'll know the pizza is ready.
7. Finally, enjoy your creation! I chose some Cupcake Chardonnay to accompany my pizza. What. A. Pair. The only reason I picked it up was because when I was Houston, Meghan and I were totally intrigued by it, mainly because it has a dessert in it's name. We bought it, brought it home, and chilled it - in the freezer. Then...oh yeah, we forgot about it. And guess what? It exploded. True story. Needless to say, we did not get to enjoy our Cupcake wine and I've been dying to try it ever since! Meghan's quite the cooker, too. Check out her post on how to make risotto!
Bon Appetit!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Must you go, 'Arry Pottah?

I can't believe the day is finally here.
The bittersweet end to thirteen years of Harry Potter magic.
Oh, what will I ever do without you?

PS - I totally wish I was at this premiere in Trafalgar Square in London

...as Rupert Grint aka Ron Weasley's date.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Hipster Stamp of Approval

Meghan and I had a very eye-opening realization this past weekend. As we planned my time in Houston, I wanted to make sure that I went to the coolest restaurants, bars, shops, etc. that Houston had to offer. Meghan and I, of course, always have a tendency to gravitate towards a very specific type of place. Some may like to call it the "hole-in-the-wall" or the "not-so-mainstream" hangout, or dare I say...hipster hangout? Yes, that's right. Meghan and I may not be the biggest hipsters, we may not even be hipsters at all, but where do we feel most comforable? In the presence of hipsters. What can we say? We're indiekidz at heart and the "Hipster Stamp of Approval" is a must when venturing into the unexplored abyss of a new city.
See? Indiekidz. Tried and true.

Upon realizing that the Hipster Stamp of Approval was a necessity in our search for fun places in Houston, we decided to visit Brasil, a local coffeshop, in the heart of the Montrose district. This place was super cool. Even in the sunny 100 degree weather, Brasil offered a dark, cool place to eat, study, catch up with friends, or....blog! Red Velvet Love Affair was a "Brasil-Inspired" blogpost, and look at the piece of work that turned out to be. Captivating, I know. Meghan and I spent a good two hours there for lunch one day munching on quiche and fresh salad, and then went back for more a couple of nights later and enjoyed a soy mocha/blogging session. Quite frankly, I could probably sit there all day and be perfectly content. Sidenote: Why can't all of our offices just be in coffeeshops? A girl can dream, right?

The second restaurant that received the "Hipster Stamp of Approval" was Beaver's Icehouse. Beaver's, from the outside, doesn't look too intriguing. Beaver's from the inside? Awesome. It's a like an indie Texas bar. As contradictory as that sounds, for Beaver's, it works! Meghan and I had fun with their extensive drink menu and each had an "El Diablo" - a sweet, yet spicy Texas drink. We also decided that, heck yeaaahh, we can handle the gigantic, probably meant for five men-BBQ sampler. And not only did we "handle" it, we dominated it. And then...well...we didn't really eat for the next 24 hours, with the exception of red velvet brownies. But that's a whole other story...
Moral of this blogpost? If you can't seem to find one place that would be fit for the presence of hipsters, then you should probably get as far away from that city as you possibly can. The Hipster Stamp of Approval: the perfect tool for navigating yourself from the Applebees of the world to the Satchels of the world in unfamilar, unexplored territory.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Red Velvet: A Love Affair

'Allo Puppets. I am in Houston. With THE Meghan Diamond. We love blogging. A lot. So much so that we are spending our Saturday night in Houston at the most awesome coffee shop on the planet - Brasil - and we are...you guessed it...blogging. Being that we are at the most awesome coffee shop on the planet, and we are drinking the most awesome drinks on the planet (soy mochas), we knew we had to do some super awesome blogposts, so we had the super awesome idea of guest blogging! Or as I like to call it: Celebrity Blogging. So, without further adieu, I'd like to introduce our celebrity blogger of the evening....Meghan Diamond! Meghan Diamond, an avid baker who should probably quit her job as a nurse an open a bakery full-time, will be introducing us to the fascinating world of Red Velvet. Red Velvet holds a special place in both of our hearts and most definitely deserves a whole blogpost dedicated to it - duh.
The Red Velvet Extraordinaire, Meghan Diamond

For all of you out there who want to meet the rebel girl who is messin' with Texas when everyone says not to, check out her blog!

HEY Y'ALL. I'm Meghan and I'm from Texas where everything  is bigger, we love guns, and ride horses everywhere. Basically all I wear are cowboy boots and jeans. Actually none of this is true. Well it does apply to some Texans, but definitely not me. Ironically though, as I write this I am wearing cowboy boots with jean shorts, I promise this does not happen very often. Just wanted to clear all that up. So now that I've introduced myself I'll get to the point. I love dessert. Like for real I could eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and sometimes I do. Please don't tell my mom because she thinks I finally got out of my ice cream for breakfast phase. Obviously since I love sweets I also enjoy baking them. I bake wayyy too much, sometimes I can't sleep after working all night because I'm thinking of the awesome things I'm planning to bake when I wake up. Its a problem. MC and I share a common bond in our love for red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting, I'm not even sure love is a strong enough word. We actually both planned to marry them. Zach Braff and DD iced coffee were a bit upset because we were both engaged to them as well but how could we resist that rich red color, and the cake actually feels like velvet in your mouth, and cream cheese frosting, its the absolute perfect complement to something so divine. Ok I sound a bit nuts, I'll stop.

So red velvet cake has become pretty popular over the last 5 years, especially with the recent cupcake fad (yes they are a fad). Despite this many people don't know what red velvet is. No it's not red food dye in white cake, that just makes a pink cake. Great for a kid's birthday party, not good enough for me. Yes, I'm a bit of a dessert snob which is why I refuse to use boxed mixes. But I digress. Red velvet is actually cake with red food dye (a lot of it) and a little bit of cocoa powder. Not enough cocoa to make it chocolate, but enough to give a good flavor and that deep red color that we all love. But lets be realistic, cake is kind of time consuming to make and its hard to transport and serve unless you're at a wedding or birthday. Fortunately you don't have to have just red velvet cake, oh no, there is a whole world of options out there for you. Ever heard of pinterest? You probably have, and you're probably obsessed with it, everyone is. Pinterest is the absolute best way to find recipes, blogs are another good way, and most pinterest pictures come from blogs. I may have to marry Pinterest as well. Sorry red velvet cupcakes, I'll always love you, I just feel like there's more out there for me.

So without further ado I have some food porn for all of you...

Red velvet cookies made from scratch. Sandwiching optional.

Red velvet brownies. I made these, they're amazing. I ate some for breakfast this morning. Although I made cream cheese icing and skipped the frosting, but I'm sure its delish as well.

Red velvet fudge. I need it.


Red Velvet cheesecake brownies. OMG.

Of course the new fad is cake pops. Probably America's way of attempting to control portion size by making a small serving of dessert look cute and trendy. Too bad I would still eat like 10 at a time. But they really are so tiny and precious.

And for the grand finale, a new spin on my first love: Red velvet cupcakes...in a jar. How cute, I'm in love. I'm also obsessed with mason jars, but that could be an entirely different post in itself.

OK I'm exhausted. That was a lot of red velvet for one blog post. Seriously, I worked up an appetite. I may need a snack and cafe Brasil has some delicious desserts...