Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Try-It Tuesdays/What's New Wednesdays

(Photo courtest of Rachael Ray's website.)
So, now that my little brother Cory is out of the house: it's just me, my mom, and my dad. (Wait... She's still living at home? Hasn't she been employed for almost a year now? Her parents haven't kicked her out yet? Didn't she just turn 24?...) I love Cory. I miss Cory. I could write at least 78 blog posts about how great he is. But that boy is picky. Sure, not as picky as some people, but he's picky. So anything with vegetables, or cheese, or interesting sauces, wasn't for him. (Ok, he is starting to eat cheese on things now...) I'm not missing his picky-ness. Because you know what that means? I get to try new, crazy recipes out on my parents... and I'm thrilled about it. Baking is normally my thing... but I'm excited to try out this whole cooking thing, too!

My mom gets Everyday with Rachael Ray and Real Simple magazine and I dug into those last week and marked all of the recipes I wanted to try out. Tonight I made Rachael Ray's (or someone who works for her magazine, because there is NO way one woman could come up with that many recipes...) Spicy Chicken with Spinach Orzo. It was delicious! Her picture is above... My lame iPod picture is below... But you can't judge a meal by the picture. (Except for I totally do on baking blogs all the time.)

Anyway, just thought I'd make a list on here (have I mentioned I love lists?) of recipes that I've seen on some blogs that I'd like to try out. You can check them out. But if nothing else, I figure here is a good place to compile everything for myself. (Some people use Pinterest for that, but I have yet to figure that site out...)

By the Pioneer Woman
-Spicy Dr. Pepper Shredded Pork
-Beef Stew with Beer and Paprika (not sure this is so Momma-friendly, or healthy... but maybe.)
-Chicken Tortilla Soup
-Curried Chicken Pasta Salad
-Meatballs with Peppers and Pineapple
-Carrot and Squash Curry Soup (this one could either be really good... or really bad.)

By Annie's Eats
- Black Bean Burgers (I have a feeling my dad won't like these. "Where's the meat?")
-Burrito Bowls (aka homemade Chipotle!)
-Chinese Chicken and Broccoli
-Cranberry Pecan Chicken Salad
-Chicken Lo Mein (can you tell I like chicken?)
-Tequila Lime Grilled Chicken (ok, so, I really like chicken.)

By Brown Eyed Baker

By Two Peas and Their Pod

Ok, I think that's plenty for now. That should feed us through Christmas... I think we'll call it Try-It Tuesdays or What's New Wednesdays, depending on the day that I cook!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Summer sans a "Summer Break."

(My blogging location tonight: my back porch. Pretty splendid...)
I became an adult this year. You know what that means? No summer break. Last summer I was working part time so I didn't really feel it... but this summer was my first summer with a real job and therefore I had no "summer break." Going into it I thought it was going to stink. Even in the middle of it I thought, "Man, it'd be great to just be able to go to the pool instead of work today." But I must say, after looking back over my summer... even with no "summer break", it was pretty incredible. Here's a recap of how blessed I was...

I baked. That's nothing new. But it was still fun.
(Momma's birthday cake. I know you've seen this picture before but
it's probably my favorite picture of all of my baking of the summer.)
(Royal icing sugar cookies with Jessie.)

I experienced a lot of change. Friends and family moving away. Changes at work. Changes at church. I think it was all good though...
(A going away dinner, of sorts, for my dear friends the Cunninghams.)
(What I stare at 40+ hours a week. Symbolism for the change at work.)

I got to hang out with my friend Katie a bit. She lived in KC this summer... and although I didn't get to see her a ton, it was still great having her nearby.
(Sadly this is the only picture I have of Katie from the whole entire
summer. Here we were making scotcheroos...)

I painted some.
(For Corrie, celebrating the birth of Theo.)
(For Valeria.)

I wrote this list. It kind of transformed my summer.
(I cleaned my closet. That for sure wouldn't have happened if it
weren't for the list.)

I went to Austin to help my brother Joel move in to his new place. On the way back we stopped in Derby, Kansas to celebrate the 4th of July with the family. That was a pretty special weekend...
(Torchy's Tacos in Austin. Amazing.)
(The Panther field from Friday Night Lights in Plflugerville, TX.)
(Gotta love the sparklers...)

I went to Watercolor, Florida with my family. What a great getaway...
(I can't take credit for this sand castle. Someone else put in
the work. I just took the picture.)

I went to the Lake of the Ozarks with my family and some of my favorite people in the world: our friends, the Wilts.
(Sunsets on the lake are pretty special...)
(Tubing with Joel!)

I experienced some great sunrises.
(My favorite sunrise picture of the summer.)

I got to celebrate birthdays... I think I take for granted sometimes how lucky I am to be a part of a family that celebrates the way that we do.
(Mom's birthday!)
(Celebrating birthdays with Mexican food and special people!)

I got to go to a Royals game with Jessie.
(Kauffman Stadium is one of the best...)
(We were sitting on the wrong side. Jessie was cheering for the Red
Sox. I almost defriended her... almost.)

I got to see my little brother Cory leave for college. College is going to love him. Not as much as I love him though.

What a great summer....

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

So... what now?

So... now that my list is finished, I'm missing it... My list kept me striving, learning, pursuing... and now it's done. A lot of the things on my list I'm trying to continue even though the list is over with, but things are different. I'm craving goals in my life. Things to work for. It's too easy to go to work, work, come home from work, eat dinner, hop on the computer or watch TV, maybe hang out with someone, go to bed, and then start the process all over again. I need something to strive for. So I've decided to try to learn and master three things in the next year. Well, to say "master" implies something a little grander than I anticipate. If I come back next year and say "well, I've mastered them, what now?" someone please slap me in the face because my humility has gone missing and I'll need to find it. Anyway, not that these are really shockers, because I talk about them all the time, but here are three things I will be working on in my free time over the next year.

1. Learning how to play the guitar. I've actually continued practicing even though my list is done. I'm not great, but I can say that I have learned enough to sound somewhat melodic and can kind of play some songs and it's only been a couple of weeks! I hope to continue working on it and getting better and better. We'll see...

2. Learning how to use my camera. Have you heard this before? Yes, like thirty thousand times, I know... But I got two photography books for my birthday: Plate to Pixel by Helene Dujardin and some random old photography book that my aunt stole from the library that she worked at. (She says she "withdrew" it, but I'm pretty sure that's a nice way of putting "sticking it in your big purse without anyone knowing it.") I'm hoping these books will help me finally learn what I've been hoping to learn for the last couple of years.

3. Learning how to bake more difficult things. There are some things that I haven't really attempted to bake yet. Tough things like: a wedding cake (which I may bake one in October...), a lemon meringue pie, various tarts, etc. I want to bake things that are out of my comfort zone. And I want to not be afraid of failing or them tasting bad.

So anyway, I just hadn't blogged in a while and thought I'd put these goals in writing. It makes things a bit more official for some reason... Hope you're having a great end to your August! Fall is getting closer and closer...!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Beauty of the day.

So, one of my goals was to write down the beauty of the day every day until my birthday. Well, I've got to be honest... I slacked. It's not that I didn't notice something beautiful every day. I did. But I slacked at writing it down. So instead I decided to write down 40 things in general that I found were beautiful... Some of them I actually did write down the day of. Some of them I just know that I've likely thought they were beautiful over the last month. So here's the list:

5th: A nice, cool breeze.
6th: Videos that document the Earth's splendor like this one.

7th: More figurative than literal: When it seems like life is rough, and right when you accept how things are God is like "hey, I'm going to work everything out for you." That, my friends, is a beautiful moment.

8th: Having a night to yourself with nothing but take out and DVR to do.
9th: Walking through your front door after returning home from a long road trip.
10th: Those waffle makers at continental breakfasts (I had a chocolate waffle for the first time in my life and it was pretty tasty. Well done, Comfort Suites.)
11th: The sound of laughter.
12th: Sunrises. (I've seen some pretty ones on my way to work lately, so I added some pictures that I took on my iPod while driving. Really safe. I know.)
13th: Sunsets.
14th: 70 degree days after being scorched with 100 degree weather for weeks in a row.
15th: The beach.
16th: Acoustic guitar.
17th: Encouragement and how a little bit of it can completely turn a day around.
18th: A full tank of gas.
19th: A good book.
20th: Movie theater popcorn.
21st: Dallas Green, aka City And Colour's, voice. Need proof? Go here.
22nd: Ryan Gosling's face. Need proof? Go here. Just kidding. You don't need proof.
23rd: Cake batter. I know a lot of people think I'm crazy when I say that, but I believe it's true.
24th: Getting a magazine in the smack dab middle of summer when you sweat just thinking about going outside and then you open up said magazine and it has fall fashion in it and you remember that soon, very soon, you will be wearing scarves and cardigans again. Ahhh...
25th: My mom.
26th: Getting a Netflix movie in the mail and being perfectly in the mood to watch the movie that arrived.
27th: A homemade meal.
28th: When you decorate a cake and it turns out the way you want it to.
29th: Birthdays.
30th: Getting to know someone a little bit better than you knew them before.
31st: Clouds.

1st: Seeing a friend after you haven't seen them in a long time and things feeling like you just saw them yesterday.
2nd: The birth of a baby.
3rd: Listening to a song for the first time and absolutely loving everything about it.
4th: Wearing flip flops to work and getting away with it.
5th: Learning someone's name.
6th: Playing cards at a coffee shop with a good friend.
7th: Sunrises. I know I already said this, but I have experienced some AMAZING sunrises lately, so it deserves a repeat.
8th: Persevering and learning something new that you thought you could never accomplish.
9th: Having friends that are so close that they feel like family.
10th: 30% off at Gap coupons.
11th: Chinese food.
12th: Getting a text from someone just because they were thinking about you and wanted to let you know.
13th: Moving outside of your comfort zone and experiencing something new that is so refreshing and what you've needed all along.
14th: Seeing someone after you haven't seen them in years and having the expectation that it'll be awkward or that they won't even remember you at all but them greeting you warmly with a hug instead.
15th: Getting a birthday present you weren't expecting and didn't ask for but totally loving it. (I got a Keurig for my birthday! You jealous?)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

I'm 24. Here's the list!

So... I did it, almost, for the most part, a couple of spots I stretched it a bit... But I basically consider the list inspired by the lovely Joy the Baker a success! A lot of the things I've updated you as I've gone along, but I thought I'd recap. (This is going to be a long one, but I tried to add as many pictures as possible to keep it interesting, so I hope you enjoy reading about this as much as I enjoyed working on it!)

1. Mail 5 people hand-written letters.
-I sent them to: Brad, Valeria, Liam and Eli, Julie, and Corrie.

2. Surprise someone with a batch of cupcakes.
-I surprised Jessie with a batch of Dulce de Leche cupcakes. I blogged about it here.

3. Spend at least 10 minutes a day for a whole week trying to learn how to play the guitar.
-I procrastinated until the very end, but I actually did it! And there was improvement! I think I'm even going to stick with it...

4. Make a pretty cake.
-I made a variation of this one for my Momma and blogged about it here.

5. Send someone flowers.
-I sent some to my Momma. Here they are.

6. Spend an evening in a coffee shop having a solid quiet time. (I tweeted this picture and mentioned how you can't go to a coffee shop with an ESV Study Bible and it not scream for you, "I'm a Christian!" I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing...)

7. Compliment two strangers.
-A few times that I remember complimenting strangers over the last month and a half were when I complimented the woman who gave me a pedicure on her own nails, when I complimented the guy manning the Starbucks at the airport all by himself because he was working so hard, and when I complimented this girl who worked at Target for her pretty, curly hair. After doing this, I've decided this is something I want to make a habit of. Complimenting strangers is great.

8. Enjoy three beach sunsets.
-This was kind of difficult because it was overcast a lot of the week. But here was my attempt at three sunset pictures. I know they're kind of lame...

9. Learn how to use my gosh darn camera.
-This is still a work in progress but I'm getting a little bit closer as I blogged about here.

10. Take someone out to lunch.
-This is actually a picture of my aunt and uncle when they took me out for breakfast. But I took them out to dinner (lunch, dinner, same difference) later that day. I don't really feel like this counts because they did me the huge favor of driving me home from Florida when I accidentally booked my flight for the wrong day. Buying them dinner was the least I could do.

11. Write a song.
-Writing a song is so hard. I started a song... I don't know if it's finished but I do know that I will be the only one who ever sees the finished product if it does come about. Fact: writing songs is scary.

12. Play marco polo and sharks and minnows in a pool.
-I didn't ever play sharks and minnows, but I did get my whole family to play marco polo with me when we were in Florida. It was a good time...

13. Clean out my closet.
-This may be one of the things I was looking forward to doing the least but I'm glad it's done! I blogged about it here.

14. Lose 5 pounds.
-Ok, so... this is one I kind of failed on. I gained some weight on vacation, then lost some, then gained a little bit of weight when we went to the lake, then lost some, then gained some when I ate abundant amounts of birthday cake. Now I'm going to focus on the losing again. Thanks for giving me grace on this one...

15. Give someone in need $20.
-I gave some money to Kiva as I blogged about here.

16. Read 4 books.
-I barely finished this one. I finished my 4th book last night around 11:00. So maybe it wasn't actually finished before I turned 24, but it was finished on the day I turned 24. I read: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Winter Garden, She Walks In Beauty, and The Help.

17. Ride a bike at least 5 miles.
-I did this! I probably biked 10 or 15 miles over the week of vacation. When we were in Florida, the quickest and easiest route to the beach was a bike ride and it was a beautiful one. I think riding bikes to and from the beach was probably one of the highlights of my vacation actually...

18. Blog at least 10 times.
-I did this. I blogged 16 times!

19. Make some sugar cookies with royal icing.
-I made some with Jessie and blogged about it here. I've been itching to make some more lately. Especially since my brother's girlfriend and one of the coolest girls I know, Erica, gave me a mermaid shaped cookie cutter for my birthday. I think I will be making some Ariel sugar cookies real soon...

20. Introduce myself to 5 people I don't already know at work.
-I introduced myself to Heather, Jim, Paul, Scott, Jason, Rhonda, Lacey, Yuri, Ernest... I've met a lot of people lately. The joys of working at a big company.

21. Tell 15 people why I'm grateful for them.
-I didn't actually count this one out but I make it a goal in my life to constantly be encouraging people, so hopefully I told at least 15 people over the last month and a half how much they mean to me. And I plan on continuing to do it.

22. Make 3 Facebook videos for people.
-I made one for my friend Corrie and one for my friend Megan. On Sunday night I went on Facebook to make my final Facebook video for Jessie, but the video function wasn't working. So I typed her out a play by play of what I was going to say anyway. I know it doesn't count, but I tried. I guess that's why they encourage you not to procrastinate... you never know when Facebook video wall posting won't work.

23. Paint something for a friend.
-I painted three things: something for Valeria, Jessie, and Alan. Valeria's was my favorite though. I blogged about it here.

24. Write down the beauty of the day every day until my birthday.
-So, I kind of slacked at this, but I made up for the days that I missed on other days. This list will be coming tomorrow...

Thanks for sticking with my over the last month as I tried to complete this! I'm actually kind of sad that this list is over... I'm thinking about starting a new one. Anybody have any suggestions?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Pretty cake... kind of.

So on my list was to bake a pretty cake. I've been waiting all this time for an occasion to bake a cake and have been researching cake designs that I could possibly pull off in the meantime. One website that I've spent a lot of time on is I Am Baker. Her blog is a little jumbled, but she's got a lot of great tutorials. I decided that I would try out this design in celebration of my lovely momma's birthday. It's a simple yet fun design, just how I like it. I didn't have the right piping tip to mimic it exactly, and I still have a long way to go with my decorating skills, but it was close enough...

Tomorrow is the day! I have tonight and tonight only to finish up a few things...

Friday, August 12, 2011

Photography... kind of.

Time is running out... I have 3 days until my birthday and a few more things to cross of my list. On Sunday night, I was assessing my list and noticed that I'd completed pretty much everything except for the things that I know I'm not good at: learning to use my camera and practicing the guitar. I was forced to practice guitar starting Sunday because I had told myself I had to do it every day for a week, and Sunday was the one week mark so I pretty much couldn't procrastinate any more.

Thursday I went to my favorite park in Kansas City, Loose Park, with my friends Becca and Nathan. The goal behind the night was for me to learn a little bit more about my camera. I didn't learn a lot... I gave up rather quickly actually. Partly because I would rather spend my time catching up with my friends, but the other part is that I have a hard time doing things I suck at. I did indeed learn a few things though. I learned how to make the above picture be not so ugly and turn into the below picture. I also learned, or was reminded rather, that my friends are beautiful and I'd prefer taking pictures of them. The bad news: I didn't really take the time over the last month and a half to learn as much as I'd like about my camera. The good news: I've got my life ahead of me and I asked for two photography books for me birthday. :)
(The pretty picture...)
(Nathan and Becca. I love them. A lot.)
(When I'm at Loose Park I feel like I'm in a different city, the buildings make me feel like I'm in a smaller scaled, ok, much smaller scaled, New York City.)
(Doesn't every park need a cannon in it?)