March 29, 2015

Getting Outside

The weather this week has been about as close to perfect as it gets.  Spring has finally arrived and we have been taking full advantage of the nice evenings!

 Tuesday night our Bible Study took a night off and we all went to dinner.  After dinner at Pei Wei we walked a few doors down to get dessert at Potbelly and enjoyed it on their patio.  Picture courtesy of my friend Amy.

Last night we hosted people for a March Madness watch party.  When we were first asked to host it, I was hoping it would be a nice night to enjoy our new patio furniture for people who weren't as into the basketball games and it definitely worked out that way.

 Checking out the new app Katie found to mix faces together

 Testing out our fire pit that David got for Christmas

 Perfect weather for sitting outside and catching up with friends

 Today David worked on the pool and the yard while I did some paperwork to get ready for tomorrow.  Then he grilled dinner and we ate outside.
 Lily loves this huge branch that's in our yard.  She will chase it and carry it around

Yummy steaks and potatoes.  And Oreos for dessert.  

Every meal at home this weekend I ate outside.  It was just too nice to be indoors!  I'm glad we were able to put our patio furniture together last weekend so we could enjoy it this week.  It's made our backyard a pretty perfect place to hang out this Spring!

March 27, 2015

Cooking up Memories: Italian Creme Cake

This recipe came from my Aunt Connie and I had been trying to find the right time to make it.  We signed up to bring a dessert for our International Student Bible Study this week, so I thought this would be a good spring-time dessert.

After my trip to the grocery store this morning I started on the cake batter:

One of the ingredients if 5 egg whites beaten.  So while my Kitchenaid did the work of mixing the first parts of the batter, I beat the egg whites.  I put it together and baked it.

And then I took a break to go get lunch and pedicure with my mom: 
 You've got to have time to let the cake cool before you can ice it, so I had to find some way to fill in the time ;-)

Then I came home and whipped up the icing

Spread it on the cake and sent David off to ICF with it.  It's been a fairly crazy/busy/stressful week for me, so I decided to stay home and rest tonight.

Italian Creme Cake
*2 cups Sugar *1 stick Oleo *1/2 cup Crisco *5 Egg Yolks *2 cups Flour *1 teaspoon Soda *1 can Coconut {I had some left over coconut flakes so I used those} *1 teaspoon Vanilla *5 Eggs Whites beaten *1 cup Buttermilk
-Cream oleo, crisco and sugar
-Add egg yolks
-Alternate with flour, soda and milk
-Add coconut and vanilla
-Fold in egg whites
-Bake 25 minutes at 350
Italian Icing:
*1 8 ounce package Cream Cheese *1 stick Oleo *1 box Confection Sugar *1 cup Pecans, chopped *1 teaspoon Vanilla
-Cream together & spread over the cake

I honestly don't make a whole lot of cakes or icings from scratch, but this one was easy to put together and came together pretty quickly.

March 21, 2015

Home Sweet Home: Bedroom Update {and some outdoor add-ons}

I mentioned a few weeks ago, that I was looking forward to painting our bedroom.  After we bought our new headboard, I started looking for the right paint color for our room.  I picked up several paint chips and we hung a few on our wall while we decided which one.  Last weekend we went and bought paint so everything would  be ready to go this week.  

My co-worker that most of my evaluations are with was off at the end of this week for her kids' spring break, so I decided I'd take Thursday off to paint.

Our room before we took down all the pictures and moved the furniture out:

Today with our new silversmith gray paint:

 {Lily was glad to be home--she stayed with Grandma while I painted}

I was able to put on 2 coats of paint on Thursday and that was the perfect amount of coverage.  We spent today getting everything put back and finding new places for things

 After I painted I decided I wanted to not put back all of the pictures on our gallery wall.  I loved them all, but I also really loved the new paint, so I wanted less on that wall.  I moved some of our pictures to the built-ins when you walk in.  We had a few decorations in these before, but mainly they just collected stuff and clutter, so I added pictures in

And our only new decor other than the paint is from this idea I found on pinterest (which is where I find all of my ideas):

 The few decorations still on our walls.  Above: the sign with our dates on them and one of our favorite black and whites from the wedding.  Below: The D sign my best friend Erin made us as a gift and our vows that I printed and framed

When we moved in to our house, all of our walls had been freshly painted and the color was good enough that I figured I'd wait until I knew exactly what I wanted before we painted anything.  I've had the itching to paint our bedroom for over a month and I love the way it turned out!  The next thing I really want painted is our living room area, but since it's connected to our dining room and kitchen that's a big undertaking.  So for now I'm just enjoying our updated room!

As if that wasn't enough, we also got lots of projects done outside this weekend.

This picture may not show much, but our windows now have screens!  When we moved in all of the window screens were stacked neatly in our garage.  In the Fall we had tried to put a few on the Living room windows, but we couldn't get them to work so we gave up.  Now that the weather is getting nicer again I really wanted a way to open the windows without getting bugs in or letting a dog out.  David called a company that makes window screens and the guy came out today to help us troubleshoot getting the screens on.  And success!  Since we knew so little about it, we just assumed that the biggest screens were for the biggest windows.  Not so.  Apparently the front windows all have full screens and the rest only have screens on the bottom.  The guy who helped us said in his 25 years in the business he's never seen them put together that way.  He helped us match them up and get the first few on and then we put the rest on ourselves.  I'm so excited to have window screens!

We also finished assembling our patio furniture.  We put together the table and got it all set up.  It's an extendable table, so when people come over, we can extend it and add the bench in for more seating.  I can't wait to use it! 

We also replaced the light fixture in our backyard.  It had stopped working this week and instead of rewiring it we decided to buy a new one--the old one was motion sensing, but I really wanted one that we could turn on and have it stay on without motion.  

It's been a few days full of home projects.  I love every part of making it our home!

March 19, 2015

Cooking up Memories: Incredible Apple Dumplings

This week's recipe was courtesy of my wonderful mother-in-law.  For some strange, unknown, unfathomable reason my husband does not like cake.  And although he likes some chocolate things, his favorite desserts are not chocolate.  His mom found this recipe for Apple Dumplings a few years back and David loved them.  So she gifted me the recipe at my shower.

This is one of the recipes that I have made before because I made it a few times in our first year of marriage (before I started this year of cooking through all the recipes).  It is pretty easy to put together and very delicious.  

I actually made this on Sunday, this is just the first chance I've had to blog about it.  We spent the afternoon working on our pool--we've had it covered since November, so we took off the cover and started the process of cleaning and shocking the pool.   I figured this dessert would be a nice treat after all of David's hard work.  We had BBQ brisket for dinner and apple dumplings for dessert--it was a great Sunday dinner.

Incredible Apple Dumplings
*2 Granny Smith Apples *2 cans Crescent Rolls *1 cup (2 sticks) Butter *1 1/2 cups Sugar *1 teaspoon Cinnamon *12 ounces Mountain Dew
-Preheat oven to 350
-After preheating the oven, grease a 9x13" baking dish
-Peel, core and cut each apple into 8 wedges and set aside.  Separate the crescent roll dough into triangles.  Roll each apple wedge in a piece of crescent roll dough, starting at the smallest end of the dough.  Pinch to seal and place in baking dish
-Melt butter and stir in sugar & cinnamon.  Pour over the apple dumplings.  Pour Mountain Dew over dumplings
-Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until golden brown

March 14, 2015

Cooking up Memories: Pesto & Pepperoni French Bread Pizza

I've felt very busy this week.  We were running around a lot and finding dinners at the last minute, so Thursday morning I decided to find one of my recipes to make for dinner.  I texted David the two options that day and he chose this french bread pizza.  So I went to the store after work.  Unfortunately, while I was grocery shopping the power at the store went down, so it ended up making the shopping trip a lot crazier.  And by the time I was done at the store I was so exhausted that I opted for us to pick up dinner instead (aka I was being really lazy).  

If I had known how simple this meal would be I would have made it anyway!  But instead I tucked away the recipe, knowing we'd have time to eat it this weekend.  Today we ended up being gone all day.  We went out to Fossil Rim with our friends Lucas and Yali and had a lot of fun.  We got home with about an hour before I need to leave to go to my next event for the day, but I was determined to make this tonight for dinner.  And I'm so glad I did!

This was very quick and easy to put together.  Our friends Lucas and Yali came in after we got back to charge their phones before heading out to a dancing class and I was able to put all of this together before they were even ready to go again.  Yali commented on how little time it took to get it in the oven.  This definitely rivals the Impossible Pumpkin Pie for the easiest recipe yet, and it probably wins because it only has to cook for 6 minutes--so from the time I set foot in my kitchen to start it to the time we could eat was no more than 15 minutes.  And because of the fresh ingredients and the pesto, it feels a little fancier than normal pizza so I'd have no qualms about serving this if we had people over for dinner.  Definitely one we will come back to on crazy weeks

Pesto & Pepperoni French  Bread Pizza
*1 8 ounce loaf French Bread, Split *2 tablespoons Prepared Pesto *2 Plum Tomatoes, diced *1/2 cup shredded Mozarella *Pepperoni Slices *2 tablespoons Chopped Basil
-Preheat broiler
-Line baking sheet with foil
-Pull out some of the soft center from each piece of the bread
-Place bread halves, cut side up, on prepared pan
-Spread pesto on each piece--amount of pesto is a matter of personal taste {I think I used way more than 2 tablespoons--I just spread a bunch out until I covered the bread}
-Top each evenly with tomatoes, pepperoni & mozzarella
-Broil pizzas 6 inches from heat until topping is hot and cheese is melted, about 6 minutes {This was the first time I've used the broiler at our house, so I'm still figuring out the settings--the edges of mine got burnt, but the rest was perfect after 6 minutes}
-Sprinkle each with basil and cut crosswise in half to make a total of 4 pizzas
-Serve at once

March 13, 2015

Friday Favorites

A few of the bloggers I read have a link-up every week of Friday Favorites.  And these past few weeks have had so many little moments and fun things that I thought I'd share some this Friday.

1. I got to spend last Saturday with one of my favorite people--my Grandpa.  Unfortunately, his health is declining pretty quickly and so he made the decision last week to bring in Hospice care.  He's been sick off and on for several years and in the past year has had a few hospitalizations that have knocked everything out of him.  Obviously, this news is far from one of my favorite things, but we had a really awesome visit with him last weekend.  David and I went along with my mom and my brother's family to visit.  My grandpa is doing a lot of resting right now, but he was awake for a good 45 minute- hour long stretch while we were there and he was engaged in our conversations, enjoyed getting to meet my niece (his newest of 9 great-grandchildren), and had fun watching my nephew play football.  It was a really good day with him.  Prayers for our family would be appreciated in the coming weeks-- we don't really know how long he has left, but they aren't thinking very much longer.  He's at peace and ready for what's next, but it's a bittersweet time for us as we say goodbye.

A picture of me with my grandpa at my cousin's wedding in December

2. And speaking of favorite people, I also got to spend a lot of time with this kid over the past couple of weeks:
We celebrated my mom's birthday 2 Sundays ago and Chase entertained us with his renditions of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and ABCs.  Then on Friday my mom spent the day with him, so I joined them for a trip to the Children's aquarium.  We found all the Nemo and Dory fish and then he posed for a picture with the sting rays.  When we went to visit my Grandpa on Saturday, we spent a lot of time exploring the "forest."  My grandpa lives with my Aunt and Uncle and they have quite a bit of land with trees.  Chase had his dad and I running from and fighting the bad guys.  Brought back lots of memories of playing with my cousins at their house!

3. And of course my "people" (dog included)
We took advantage of the first bit of sunshine we'd seen in a while and tried out our new rocking chairs on the front porch Wednesday night.  I read while David and Lily played.  I know this will be one of my favorite places this Spring.

4. A random surprise of the week was being selected to be on the book launch team for Jen Hatmaker's new book For the Love.  Jen is one of my favorite authors and bloggers.  I read her book Interrupted several years back and it has been one of the most influential books I've read.  She posted on Facebook last week that she was taking applicants for her book launch team-- I almost didn't apply because I figured there's no way I'd get picked, but I went for it anyway.  On Monday she posted that they had 5000 people apply for 500 spots, so there went any chance of being one of the 500.  But as I was leaving work on Tuesday, I opened my email to find an email saying I was on the launch team!

So I was given a digital copy of the book and a hard copy is being mailed to me.  And I am part of a "secret" Facebook group with all of the other members of the team.  Right now there hasn't been a whole of direction other than read the book and wait for the next instructions.  So I've read the first couple of chapters and it's already really good--I'm waiting until I get the hard copy to dig in more.  I'll definitely be posting more information about it as time goes by.  The subtitle of the book is Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards, and I can tell it's going to be a much-needed message for me!  It's just exciting to get to be a part of this!

5. Speaking of fun books, another one of my favorite authors is Melanie Shankle (aka Big Mama).  I read her blog and I've read both of her books.  Her first book was a memoir about Motherhood and her second a memoir about Marriage.  Both were fun, but I'm really looking forward to her next book, which is a memoir about Friendships!  It comes out in April, but this week she posted this quote from the book:

I immediately sent a picture to my best friend Erin, because just the night before I had asked her for random medical advice and she was my nurse :)  It also made me think of the times I've sent my friend Nicki pictures of outfits I'm trying on to have her help me decide (from another city or even state) what I should buy.  I'm blessed to have some really awesome friends.  And I love all of the stories Melanie shares about her life with her BFF Gulley, so I'm sure I'll enjoy this book.

It has been a long, crazy, up-and-down kind of week.  But I'm grateful for all of the little moments to remind me of God's grace and blessings amidst a somewhat hard week.

March 7, 2015

Cooking up Memories: Bruschetta

This recipe came from my sister-in-law's mom.  My bridal shower was held at her house, so she gave me recipes for all of the appetizers that she made that day.  I've been waiting for the right opportunity to make this bruschetta, since it's not really something that David and I would just eat for dinner one night.  

Last Friday night for ICF (our International Student Home Group) we were going to all bring appetizers, so I thought this would be a perfect time to make the bruschetta.  So I went shopping and bought all of the ingredients, but then ICF was cancelled due to the snow.  Luckily, we already had a girls dinner scheduled for this Friday so I was able to use everything I'd already bought to make this appetizer for last night.

First of all, there's a new Trader Joe's about 5 miles from my house and I love it.  That is where I went to buy all of the ingredients for dinner and everything was so fresh and tasty.  If you don't know Trader Joe's--they have a lot of fresh and organic produce as well as several specialty items and they are all pretty affordable for the quality.  It's now a regular part of my grocery shopping mornings.

 While I was at TJ gathering all of my ingredients, I came across this:

And while it was very tempting--I figured it would defeat the purpose of making this recipe if I cheated.

I used part of my snow day on Thursday to make 2 of the steps of the bruschetta ahead of time

First was making the olive paste:

 And next was the Tomato topper.  I know I've mentioned before, but my manual food processor is one of my very favorite kitchen tools!  David bought it for me last Valentine's after we'd seen it at a Pampered Chef Party and I use it all the time.  It took only about 30 seconds to get from the quartered tomatoes to very finely diced tomatoes!  I also used it for green onion and basil for the tomato topper

Then on Friday night I assembled it together with the baguette and it was ready to go when my friends arrived

Toasts: Cut 1 loaf baguette into 1/2 inch slices.  Brush both sides lightly with 2 T olive oil.  Place on ungreased sheet.  Bake at 425 for 5 minutes, turning once.  Covered cooled crisps at room temperature {I baked these up right before I assembled the bruschetta, but you can do this step up a few days ahead of time}
Olive Paste: Combine in a blender or food processor:
*1 cup Black Olives (pitted) *2 teaspoons Balsamic Vinegar *1 teaspoon Capers *1 teaspoon Olive Oil *2 cloves Garlic
-Cover and chill up to 2 days
Tomato Topper: Stir together:
*2 medium Tomatoes, chopped *1/3 cup chopped Green Onion *1 tablespoon Olive Oil *1 tablespoon Fresh Chopped Basil *1/8 teaspoon Black Pepper
-Cover and chill up to 2 days
To Assemble, spread each toast with olive spread, top with 2 Tablespoons tomato topper.  Sprinkle with Parmesan Cheese.  Bake at 425 for 2-3 minutes until cheese starts to melt.

While the toasts were baking and my dinner was simmering on the stove, I set the table.  I bought these placemats at Bed Bath and Beyond with a gift card I had and decided to use my China for our girls dinner to add a little fun!  I used my Chalkboard Banners for our welcome.

After everyone arrived we had some bruschetta for an appetizer and then we had a Lemon Dill soup for dinner.

And a Cherry Berry Cobbler for dessert (on my polka dot plates that I think are so fun!  But I tend to reserve them for girls events since David might not think they are quite as fun as I do) 

 We hosted this as part of the IF:Table. My friend Amy and I had attended a simulcast of the IF:Gathering last month which is a gathering of Christian women.  There were several speakers throughout the conference and their mission is to connect women together to seek after God and grow deeper in relationship.  "IF" comes from the idea that "IF God is real, then we want to live like it."  So they do a gathering once a year, a daily bible study online and then they encourage people to host IF Tables once a month.  And IF table is a small group of women who come together over a meal and talk through some different questions.  Amy and I decided we wanted to try one out with some of the International Students, so we took advantage of the night off of ICF to ask a few girls over.  We had some great conversations!

So blessed by these girls!

March 5, 2015

Snow Day

It was hard to believe that after so much ice and snow last week--my office was only open 1 full day all last week-- that there was more snow in the forecast this week.  It's always hard to know how accurate those forecasts are, but it seemed that as last night got closer the percent chance of snow increased.

And then we got more than they were even predicting.  The official snowfall at DFW airport was 3.4" but I saw several reports that the North Dallas area (which is close to where we live) had about 6" of snow last night.  

I slept through the snow falling (snow fall started around midnight) but I woke up to a text of a delayed opening at work and looked out my window to a blanket of white.  I took Lily out this morning and it was so peaceful.  Once David got up he snapped a few more pictures.  It was fun seeing our house surrounded by a blanket of snow (again)

 My and Lily's tracks in the snow

Our office delayed opening until noon, but our boss urged us to stay home the whole day since it did't get above freezing until afternoon.  The roads were better by around noon or 1:00, but I didn't see the sense in driving to our office and risking it if I didn't have to, so I took some PTO for the afternoon.  

I spent most of the day working around the house and getting things done.

There is a bit of irony in the fact that I used my snow day to put out my Spring decorations!  When I got my own place, I started out just decorating for Fall and Winter (Christmas) mostly, then I collected a few Valentine's things so I would put those out in the transition from Christmas into the new year.  But this year I added a few new things in for a more Spring feel this time of year.  

I found free printables online to fill my frames. {11x14} {5x7} and I had found several Welcome/Hello Spring Prints that I loved, but then a blogger I followed posted this {8x10} of "What We Believe About God" and I decided to go with that one.

I stocked up on some mason jars and stems of white flowers on sale at Michaels earlier this week.  I painted a few of the jars and added burlap and/or ribbon to the others and filled them with flowers.  I added in some candles (pear, lemon, and vanilla) and a small bowl of jelly beans.  It came together rather nicely {I think} for our makeshift sofa table and our dining table centerpiece

And then I spent the better part of the afternoon assembling our patio furniture!  It came in several weeks ago and I put together our 2 rocking chairs then.  Today I put together the 4 chairs and bench that go with our table and I stained them all with Teak Wood to help them endure the outdoors.  David will help me tighten up all the bolts this weekend and once we put together our table we'll post pictures of the finished products, but here's a peak of my afternoon in the garage

I was grateful for an impromptu day off and glad for all that I was able to accomplish!