Wednesday, February 29, 2012

February: How I Remembered Love

Time to check up on how I did with my February goals!  I loved that the focus of February was love and marriage; it coincided perfectly with all of that Valentine spirit in the air and also Caleb's birthday.  

Read The Excellent Wife:  I honestly haven't gotten very far, but I like what I've read.  One sentence at the beginning of the book caught my eye and I've been thinking about it since: "the husband should be the primary benefactor of his wife's time and energy, not the recipient of what may be left over at the end of the day".  After a really busy day, it's hard to make sure I'm still pouring energy into us!  I've been trying to consciously work on this.

Frame and hang our wedding vows: done!  I hung them on one of the walls in our bedroom, and I love having them there.  They are hanging across from our bed, so I love that I see them every night before I fall asleep and every morning when I wake up.  It's definitely helped me to be more conscious of the things that I've promised Caleb.  Caleb said he really likes that we have them hanging up now, too.  I highly recommend hanging your wedding vows where you can be reminded of them often!

A few other things I learned:

1. I was sick for almost three weeks February, which obviously sucked.  But it was so much harder to pour into my marriage and consider my spouse better than myself when I wasn't sleeping well and felt gross and couldn't breathe.  I already know that I am so selfish, but not feeling well reminded me that it really is a constant battle to fight that selfishness and put Caleb's wants and needs first. 

2. I need to write Caleb more notes.  We were long distance when we were dating and engaged, and I wrote Caleb letters all the time then, but since we've been married I haven't been doing it as much.  Caleb absolutely loves loves reading notes from me; his Valentine card and his birthday card are still out because he loves re-reading them.  I need to make the time to put in words how thankful I am for him!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The NotWedding 2012

The NotWedding is happening in just a few weeks in Atlanta, Orlando, and San Diego.  If you live in one of these areas and are planning a wedding or thinking about planning a wedding or just want a really fun night out, buy a ticket to this amazing fake wedding that is designed to inspire and help brides plan their own weddings!  The NotWedding is the BEST alternative to a bridal show - instead of walking around booths picking up pricing sheets on different vendors, you get to watch a ceremony and attend a reception to see the vendors' work firsthand!  From the invitations and flowers to the DJ and the candy bar it is ALL there.

I attended the NotWedding 2011 in Atlanta and LOVED it (you can read my post and see pictures from it here).  The food was AMAZING, the decorations were beautiful, and it was just a really fun night!  It made me super jealous that I didn't have an amazing event like this to go to when I was planning my wedding!

For more info about the NotWedding, tickets, and a list of the vendors in each city, check out!  The NotWedding facebook page also has more information and updates about the event.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Happy Monday!

Happy Monday!  I'm still feeling a bit under the weather but I'm trying to embrace the fact that it's Monday morning with this picture of a beautiful arrangement!  

How was your weekend?  Friday we house-hunted with our realtor before grabbing Chinese for dinner with some friends.  We then decided to brave the wind and played mini golf - something we hadn't done in years! The men out-played the women (Caleb got two holes-in-one!), but it was fun to do something different.  Saturday morning we went shopping, but by the afternoon we were both feeling sick and exhausted.  The rest of the weekend was pretty low key, trying to rest and watching way too much Downton Abbey.  (I even got Caleb interested in watching a few episodes with me!)  It was nice to have a relaxing weekend before our busy week ahead, and I'm hopeful we'll start feeling better soon.

What did you do this weekend?  

(image from here)

Friday, February 24, 2012

Cake Pops for Beginners

My fun goal for 2012 was to make cake pops!  When I've done it before they crumbled and didn't stay on the stick and it was a disaster.  Last week I decided it was time to try again - and they turned out!  I got into a good rhythm and the ones at the end of the batch even looked pretty!  I brought them for the weekend with my family and everyone, especially my nieces, loved them.  I found these tips to be very helpful, so I'm going to spell out how I had success with my cake pops, if you wish to make them.

Cake Pops
box of cake mix
can of frosting 
lollipop sticks
styrofoam (I got mine in the floral department at Michael's)
mini treat bags or cellophane candy wrappers

1. Make cake in 9x13 pan according to box directions.  Let cool completely!

2. Scoop the cake out with a spoon and crumble it into a large mixing bowl.  The crumbs should be fine - you don't want big chunks of cake in there.

3. Add frosting to the cake crumbs and mix to combine.  I started with just 1/3 of the can.  Test the consistency by rolling into a ball.  If the cake ball crumbles in your hand, add a little bit more of the frosting.  (I used just under half of the can.)  

4. Roll out your cake balls.  If you're having trouble getting them to be uniform in size, use a small cookie dough scoop.  I was able to get 32 cake balls.  Put them in a casserole dish with a lid, or on a rimmed baking sheet covered with saran wrap or foil.  Place them in the refrigerator overnight.

5. Melt your candy melts according to the bag instructions, but add 1 Tbsp of vegetable oil to the candies before sticking in the microwave.  This will help thin out the melts a little.

6. Dip your lollipop stick (about 1") into the melts and then stick into the cake ball about halfway.  Repeat with the the rest of the cake balls.

7. Place the cake balls with the sticks into the freezer for about 7 minutes (I used an 8x8 dish so that it would fit into my already-full freezer, so I did this in batches).

8. Dip the cake ball straight into the bowl of melts.  Do NOT swirl the cake pop in the melts.  Use a spoon to pour more of the melts over the cake ball if it is not completely covered.  If the cake ball is not completely covered, some of the cake might ooze out of the bottom, so make sure you cover it completely. 

9. Pull the cake pop out of the melts and then lightly tap the lollipop stick on the side of the bowl to get rid of excess coating.  You may want to gently roll the lollipop stick in your fingers to help make sure the coating is even.  

10. Place the dipped cake pop into the styrofoam to let harden.  If some of the coating drips down the lollipop stick, then you know that you need to let more drip off before sticking in the styrofoam.
11. If you're decorating the cake pops with sprinkles, place the styrofoam on a rimmed baking sheet to help catch the sprinkles.  Decorate with sprinkles immediately after dipping.

12. Once cake pops have hardened and are dry, put the cellophane wrappers over and close with a twist-tie.  Store at room temperature.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Feels Like Home

You know that thing when you hear a song and you're immediately taken back to a certain point in time when you were listening to that song?  

When we were driving to my parents' house last weekend, I was flipping through songs on my iPod and hit "Feels Like Home" by Chantal Kreviazuk (you can listen to it here).  That was the song we danced to for our last dance at our wedding, and as soon as it started playing in the car I felt like I was back to our wedding day. Our last dance was probably one of my favorite parts of our entire day.  I was so relaxed, I was so indescribably happy to be married to Caleb, and I felt like there was no one else in the room but Caleb and me.  The words of the song say "if you knew how happy you are making me, I never thought that I'd love anyone so much", and I really thought I would never feel happier than I did at that moment.  The crazy thing is that I do; I am so much happier and so much more in love with Caleb now than the day we got married.  It's one of my favorite things about marriage; it keeps getting better and our love keeps growing stronger.  I love that listening to that song reminded me of all of this, because I don't ever want to forget the way I felt on our wedding day.  These are some of my favorite pictures from our wedding day - they were taken during our last dance. 

(all photos by our wedding photographer Colling Photography)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Sick Days = Downton Abbey

I caught a little bug that's been going around, so I've been laying low the past couple of days.  I've still been working but aside from that and making dinner, you can find me on the couch watching Downton Abbey.  Why in the world did it take me so long to start watching this show?!  I'm so OCD that I have to watch a show completely in order, so I've been catching up on Season 1 on Hulu.  I can't wait to get to season 2!  

Do you love Downton Abbey?  What do you like to watch when you're sick?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A Weekend with my Family

This past weekend my family gathered at my parents' house to celebrate my sister Lauren's birthday.  It was a quick trip for us, but it was so fun to be all together!  If there's one thing you need to know about my family, it's that we love to eat. Lauren chose an amazing menu for her birthday dinner Saturday night, and I think I gained a few pounds from all the food I consumed throughout the weekend.  On Sunday it started snowing!  It was really fun to see a little snow for the first time this winter, but it made for a long (and tense) drive home.  Here are some pictures from our weekend!

What did you do this past weekend?

{festive table}

{hanging out with Uncle Caleb}

{cutest little smile}

{grilling the kebabs}

{the birthday girl}

{bruschetta while waiting for dinner}

{dinner: beef, shrimp, & chicken kebabs; twice baked potatoes; caesar salad}

{family around the table}

{every two minutes she would say "Mommy it's your birfday!"}

{pretty presents}

{so excited for Mommy to open her presents}

{white chocolate raspberry cheesecake for dessert}

{Sunday snow fall}

Friday, February 17, 2012

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Sandwich Cookies

I live with a pretty much constant craving for Little Debbies.  I hate that they always have their own endcap at the grocery store!  The only thing that keeps me from buying them is knowing I would end up eating the whole box, since Caleb doesn't get into store-bought cookies.  And eating an entire box of Little Debbies is just sad.  So to satisfy my craving for sandwich cookies like oatmeal cream pies or fudge rounds, I made these peanut butter oatmeal sandwich cookies.  Caleb totally got on board with these, so I could enjoy my fair share guilt-free.

P.S. My absolute favorite sandwich cookies!

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Sandwich Cookies
for the cookies:
3/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
8 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup oats (quick-cooking or rolled)

for the filling:
3 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
3 Tbsp heavy cream

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.  In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Stir together with a fork to blend. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter, peanut butter and sugars on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.  Blend in the egg and vanilla extract.  Add the dry ingredients and mix on low speed just until incorporated.  Stir in the oats until evenly blended.

Use a small cookie dough scoop to portion out the dough, rolling each portion into a ball, and place them on the prepared cookie sheet, a couple inches apart.  Bake about 10 minutes, rotating the sheet halfway through baking.  The cookies will be light golden brown and slightly puffed.  Let cool on the baking sheet 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  Repeat with the remaining dough.

Once the cookies have cooled completely, pair them up by size.  To make the filling, combine the butter, peanut butter, and confectioners' sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Cream together until well combined.  Mix in the heavy cream until smooth and fluffy.  Spread the filling onto the flat side of one cookie of each pair.  Sandwich together with the remaining cookie and press down (lightly) so that the filling reaches the edges.  

source:  recipe from annie's eats, originally from all recipes

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Reading, Lately

During the winter Caleb and I like to sometimes read in the evenings (yes, we act like an old married couple).  I am so thankful I married a man who likes to read because I don't know what I would do without big chunks of time to read! The past few weeks I've been reading an insane amount, and I've loved every minute of it.  I've been trying to finish reading all of the books I own before I go out and buy more books, and these are the ones I've enjoyed lately.

The Glass Castle:  I don't know why it took me so long to finally read this book, but it was so good!  I love memoirs, and this one was no exception.  It was really sad, but it made me so thankful for my own family.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn:  I read this and The Glass Castle back to back, and I found them kind of similar.  Both were about girls in very difficult family situations, without money, and working hard for what they each wanted.  I also really loved the way the neighborhoods in Brooklyn were described in this book; I felt like I could totally picture what life was like there and I liked that.

Tender at the Bone: I read this one and also Comfort Me with Apples and enjoyed learning more about Ruth Reichl's life.  Honestly neither was my favorite food memoir of all time, but I did enjoy the easy read.

Jane Eyre:  I'm still reading this one, but I really like it so far!  Usually it takes me a while to get into a classic, but this one has been so easy to read and I'm really into the story.  If you're unfamiliar with the story, it's pretty dark and sad, but I like it.

Outliers:  I love anything by Malcolm Gladwell so I really enjoyed this book.  It's all about why and how people succeed, the reasons he gives much deeper than hard work and determination.  I thought it was really interesting to read the parts on Steve Jobs and Bill Gates and how their lives were perfectly set up for them to be successful. 

Orange is the New Black:  I have to give Darby all the credit for my enjoying this book; she highly recommended it and I wasn't disappointed.  It was SUCH a fascinating read about life inside of a women's federal prison.  I had no idea how prisoners spend their time or what their relationships with other prisoners or guards are like, so it was really interesting to hear about it.

What have you been reading lately?  Once I finish Jane Eyre I'm looking for some new good reads!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Onion-Apple Pork Tenderloin

For his birthday dinner, Caleb requested pork tenderloin.  My go-to pork recipe is this cranberry-dijon pork roast, but Caleb wanted an apple-flavored pork rather than the cranberry.  This recipe is what I came up with, and Caleb loved how flavorful it was.  I hadn't made a crockpot dinner in a while and my love for my crockpot has been renewed.  I had forgotten how nice it is to throw a few ingredients together in the morning and then forget about dinner and let the crockpot do its magic...and make our house smell wonderful in the meantime!  

Onion-Apple Pork Tenderloin
1 boneless pork loin (1.5 - 2 lbs)
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 envelope Lipton onion soup mix
2 Tbsp firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup apple juice
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
salt and freshly ground pepper 

Spray the inside of a crockpot with cooking spray.  Place pork loin in crockpot.  In small bowl, combine olive oil, soup mix, brown sugar, apple juice, applesauce, salt, and pepper.  Stir to combine well.  Pour mixture over the pork loin in crockpot.  Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.  Slice or shred pork before serving.  Ladle juice into small bowl to serve on top of meat.  Serves 2-4.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Birthday Caleb!

Happy Birthday Caleb!  We celebrated Valentine's Day yesterday so that today can be all about Caleb's birthday! (side note: I am super opposed to combining birthdays and holidays.)  

I was looking through pictures of us from the last year and I just felt overwhelmingly blessed to be doing life with Caleb by my side.  Around Caleb's birthday last year, he was applying to go back to school to get his MBA and we were planning on staying in the same town for a few more forward a year and we've moved across a couple of states and we're looking for a house to settle down here instead.  Life is full of so many unexpected changes--both good and bad--and I can't imagine navigating my way through life with anyone but Caleb.  I am just so thankful that Caleb is all mine!  And I'm so excited to see what this next year of Caleb's life will bring!

February 2011

April 2011

May 2011

July 2011

September 2011

December 2011

February 2012

P.S. Caleb's birthday last year!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Valentine's Happiness

Caleb and I are celebrating Valentine's Day today, so here are some valentine's things that make me happy.  I can't wait for the work day to be over so we can go out and celebrate our love and our life together! yay Valentine's day! :)  If you already celebrated this past weekend, what did you do for Valentine's Day?

{heart sprinkles on top of my cupcake}

{sending valentine's packages to my nieces}

{heart socks I've had since middle school}

{making Caleb muffins with festive muffin liners}

{my attempt at homemade valentines}

Friday, February 10, 2012

Our Little Visitors

This week we had my sister and her two kids visiting us!  My sister's husband was traveling for work this week, so she came down on Tuesday and just left a little bit ago.  It was so fun getting to spend a few days with the kids - they are so much fun!  I like to savor every chance I get to be with family, and this week was no exception.  We went shopping, went out for lunch, walked around downtown, got cupcakes at the cupcake shop, picked candy out at the general store, and had lots and lots of tea parties.  Here's a few pictures of our time together!

Happy Friday!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Winter Nail Care

My skin isn't the only thing that is super dry during winter; my nails also need help!  I've found that using this cuticle cream really keeps my cuticles from being atrociously dry.  I rub it into my cuticles when I get into bed, or whenever I think about it during the day.  It's lemon-scented and nourishes brittle nails, too.

My other favorite nail-care product is this vitamin E nail oil.  It also softens cuticles, but massaging the oil into your nails stimulates new nail growth.  After years of being a nail-biter, my nails just don't seem to want to grow very fast, so I really need this!

What do you use to keep your nails healthy?