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

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 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 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,! 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 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 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...

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Blakely House: True Southern Charm in Ocala

The Blakely House. I've driven past it hundreds of times. Always curious. Never stopped. Finally, the other day, I had two lovely gals come visit me at work for my lunch break, and we couldn't quite decide on where we should go for lunch. Panera? Noo. Sushi? Ehh, noo. How bout the Blakely House? Ooo yeah! We'd seen its signs for tasty lunches every time we drove past and figured today was the day - finally, lunch at the Blakely House! I was delightfully surprised as I stepped through the door. An old victorian home, the Blakely House automatically has historic charm -- but the Blakely House had been renovated into a restaurant, shop AND spa - making it slightly modern in appearance, and so quaint! Although small, the menu had some great lunch items -- quiche, soup, sandwiches and......drumroll, please....cupcakes! Who knew!! (Unfortunately, I didn't have one, but all the more reason to return, right?) The girls and I ordered our lunches (quiche, soup & sweet tea) and chose a spot on their wrap-around porch. While we were waiting for our food, we meandered through their shop which was stocked with unique gifts, clothing, and jewelry. Thankfully, the day was cloudy, and a bit cooler - quite comfortable for a meal outside. We scarfed down the delicious food, and vowed we'd come back some day soon. For any of you in Ocala, or for any of you who are just passing through, the Blakely House is well worth the stop!


My Favorite New Duo