Monday, January 27, 2014

National Chocolate Cake Day.

Guess what today is?

National Chocolate Cake Day! (That was your first guess, wasn't it?) I randomly came across this special day on a blog the other day and thought that was enough of a reason to celebrate. I brought in chocolate cupcakes to work today to celebrate the big day and my co-workers were pretty ok with it. Fun fact: today is also Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day. The more you know...

I also brought in leftover banana bread. If I didn't get it out of my house stat, the diet was going to be done for. Believe it or not… most of my co-workers liked the banana bread better than the chocolate cupcakes. Now that's good banana bread…

Another fun fact: National Banana Bread Day is on February 23rd. I may just have to make another batch to celebrate the special day next month.

Anyway, I was thankful that on this freezing, dark, windy Monday… I had something to celebrate that I could also share with others… chocolate cake.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Sara's Banana Bread.

I came in to college with quite a few credit hours, so I graduated a semester early. It was the financially responsible decision, but looking back I think, "Why in the heck did you end college a semester early?" I needed a place to live for a semester, rather than the whole year, which meant finding a place to rent was going to be difficult. This lovely woman named Sara who led a Bible study I was in offered to let me live with her and her husband for that semester… for free. I don't think I have ever been so blessed or felt so loved on by a couple (outside of my family…) The semester there changed my life and put this heart for hospitality in me that I never knew I had before. Words can't describe how special that time was.

Sara had people over all the time. Her house and her kitchen were always open to the public. She had some snacks that became staples when she had our Bible study over: M&Ms, apple slices (or some other kind of fruit), bacon (yep, we had a lot of bacon), and banana bread. Sara's banana bread is the best. She would set out sticks of butter days in advance. I'm not really sure if it's because she wanted it to be extra soft or because it took her a few days to actually get around to baking it (she is a busy woman) but whenever I saw butter sitting out I knew I was in for a treat soon. Sara also mixed all of the ingredients by hand. I never really got that… She had a hand mixer, but I suppose there was extra love in it because she creamed the butter and sugar herself. (Just need to take a moment and acknowledge how cheesy that last sentence was.) Whatever it was that she did, whether it was the extra soft butter, the hand beaten ingredients, or just the fond memories that go along with it… That banana bread is some of the best ever.

I made it today! It's actually in the oven as I type. I can smell it and just the scent makes me want to give up my successful week of diet-eating and devour it all. (But I won't, don't worry.) I didn't set out the butter two days ago. And I used my Kitchenaid to mix. But if the results are anything close to Sara's, I will be one happy baker. Because Sara is one of the most giving people I know, I figured she wouldn't mind me sharing her recipe. So if you are in the search of a good banana bread recipe, look no further. You've found the one.

Sara's Banana Bread

3/4 cup butter or margarine, softened (for days, if you're Sara :))
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups mashed bananas (3 medium) **I usually use 4 bananas and let them ripen as much as possible** (note from Sara)
2 eggs, well beaten
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1 tsp soda
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup walnuts (I didn't put these in mine, and Sara didn't either… I wouldn't recommend it. Nuts. ruin. everything.)

Cream butter and sugar thoroughly. Blend in bananas, eggs, and vanilla. Sift flour, baking soda and salt together. Add to banana mixture, alternating with buttermilk, mixing thoroughly after each addition. (Add nuts, mix. But remember… Nuts. ruin. everything.) Pour batter into greased and floured 9x5x3 inch loaf pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 1 1/4 hours or until done.

(Our Bible study… gosh we look young.)

(Sara and Joe on graduation day. Man, I love them.)

(At my friend Christine's wedding a year or so after college.)

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Fall in love...

This could be my life motto. (In fact… I have a random blank canvas in my trunk (you'd be surprised the things you can find back there…) and next time I hankering to paint, and I think this weekend I shall paint this on it.) This is pretty much the epitome of this blog. Originally, I wrote simply about things I loved... I suppose the blog's evolved a bit. It had to or you would have gotten sick after the 50th post on how much I love benches, trees, the color mustard, and pumpkin things. So now I blog about life, cooking, creations, etc. But I just the idea above and encourage you to do what it's encouraging you to do: fall in love with as many things as possible. Sure, this world is broken and messed up, but there is still a ton of beauty in it. Beauty worth falling in love with. So do it.

This week here are some things I've fallen in love with (or have always been in love with just had a renewed sense of love, maybe?):

-Empanadas. Fact, I went to On the Border twice last week and ordered the exact same thing (I told you I was eating everything in sight leading up to this diet.)

-This mug. I got it at Anthropologie on sale a few weeks ago. I've started collecting mugs. Because I have also fallen in love with…

-This idea. I'm hoping once my cousin Brad (or my friend Hudson) become expert wood workers, one of them will make this for me. Fingers crossed.

-Emma. You know I love me some Jane Austen. My friend Jessie pointed out that this is streaming on Amazon Prime. Love it.

-Space heaters. For a girl who is always cold… This was one of the best investments I've ever made.

-Midwest weather. Yeah, it's crazy unpredictable. But sometimes that works out in your favorite and you have a couple of 50 degree days in January.

-Making vegan things that actually taste good. A friend of mine is vegan, and this has become a mission of mine. That Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili that I made last night is vegan. Next up - baked goods.

I think that's a good enough list for now… Have a wonderful day!

Monday, January 20, 2014

A Fresh Start… yet again.

It's that time of year… You know, that time when I start eating right again? Normally it's closer to the beginning of the year, but I just wasn't quite ready for it yet. I found myself eating anything and everything the last few weeks because I knew the time was coming when I needed to get back on track.

Today was that day.

I had good intentions… then my co-worker invited me to go to Oklahoma Joe's for lunch. Oklahoma Joe's. The best BBQ in Kansas City. And Kansas City has the best BBQ in the world (…you can connect the dots.) I couldn't turn her down and thought to myself, "Welp, there goes the first day of my diet…" But that's not true. And if I look at food as an all or nothing thing, I'm never going to last. So I had a light breakfast, didn't go too crazy at lunch, and I made Sweet Potato Black Bean Chili for dinner accompanied by none other than… fruit. (You can tell by the picture above how happy I was about it.)

So here's to a fresh start of eating healthy! We'll consider above to be the "before" picture and see how well I do. And yes… prepare yourself for some "healthy" recipe posts in the near future. Gotta make this eating healthy thing fun somehow, right?

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Disney on my Saturday.

Today is Saturday. My day to catch up on "me time" and other things that I haven't been able to get done all week. I slept in, went grocery shopping, watched some of a movie, baked a lot, and surfed the internet more than I should have. As you probably have noticed… Facebook is changing… It used to be status updates and vacation pictures. Now it's funny links and articles and political opinions (I guess that's always been there.) I have actually been enjoying the articles and links though. Today I watched a video about selfless love, looked at pictures that were supposed to "restore my faith in humanity", saw a clip of Jimmy Kimmel explaining how crazy Obama's ideas are…

I also happened to come across a couple of articles involving Disney... I know I'm 26, but growing up in the 90s made me a Disney girl so I really enjoy those articles. You may have already seen them, but I thought I'd show you a few that I came across today (some previously) that I have really enjoyed.

Which Disney Princess Are You? I was Jasmine… I wish I was Belle - but let's be real. I don't enjoy spending my days in libraries and falling in love with hairy men.

What If All The Disney Princesses Live Together? I liked this a lot…

They made me a smile. So if you're a Disney girl like me… I hope you enjoy!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Kitchen Design.

Long story short, I have been thinking up ideas of how I wanted to decorate my kitchen for about two years… This weekend, it finally happened. I already had some Etsy prints and Instagram photos. Then my crazy talented brother Cory designed some new prints for me for Christmas which gave me the drive to finish this project once and for all. I felt like the wall needed one more piece so I decided to do a last minute project…

I bought a couple of cheap white plates from Old Time Pottery (best place ever for cheap stuff like that, if you've got one nearby.) I used this tutorial as a guide and took a Sharpie and some masking tape and went to town. I've seen feedback that these DIY projects where you draw on a plate, pop it in the oven for 30 minutes, and have yourself a finished product are a bit bogus and that the marker quickly wears off. But I thought it would do just fine for what I was doing - hanging it on the wall. I'm pretty pleased with how they turned out. (Side note: I didn't end up putting them in the oven like the tutorial said because I knew they wouldn't ever be touched or washed so it wasn't necessary.)

Anyway, I combined the plates, along with the rest of the pieces I already had, and one that my roommate had hung, and did what I know how to do best… made a collage wall!

Here's how I had originally laid out the pictures. Gotta be honest… I like this layout better than how it actually turned out. But when I accidentally hammered some holes in wrong places (measure twice, nail once, right? Ok, that's not the saying, but it would have been good for me, because "eyeballing it" didn't work out so well...), I had to improvise and change things up a bit so it didn't look off center on the wall.

Here are the prints that Cory made. I love them so much. I started out with them and went from there.

And tada! Now I feel even more inspired in a space that already inspires me so much: the kitchen.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Chipotle Rehearsal Dinner.

My cousin Brad and my dear roommate Kathryn got married this past weekend. It was a wonderful weekend and a beautiful wedding. With my cousin being the groom, that meant that he (aka his parents) were in charge of the rehearsal dinner. My aunt knows that I love to help with things like that so she enlisted my help in the planning and carrying out of the rehearsal dinner.

They served Chipotle for the meal. Yes - I know you wish you were friends/family with people cool enough to have Chipotle cater their rehearsal dinner. It was quite the hit! We went with the Mexican theme for our decorations. I took some inspiration from none other than Pinterest and had the intent to keep the spending to the minimum. We came up with some ideas on how to make the space fun and Mexican-y while still keeping it minimalist and simple.

I asked my aunt how much she spent on the decorations (including plates, napkins, etc.) and she thinks it was somewhere around $75. Not bad, eh? Here is my inspiration and here is how we carried it out…

Lime name cards. Here is the inspiration and here is how ours turned out…

Tissue paper tassels have kind of been my thing lately. Here's how we used ours…

 Continuing with the tissue paper theme we made some tissue paper flowers for centerpieces.

And my aunt had the best idea ever of creating a cookie bar for dessert so we went with that idea and it turned out wonderfully!

The food and decorations were a hit. And more importantly it was a special night celebrating Brad and Kathryn… Ole! (Ok, that's cheesy, I just didn't know how else to end it. Adios?)

Monday, January 6, 2014

Man-It's-Been-A-Long-Time Monday!

Man, it's been a long time since I've cooked a meal at home… I honestly don't remember the last time. Today I went to the grocery store and actually bought fruits and vegetables and things to make a legit meal. I don't remember the last time I did that... I don't know where all the time went over these last couple of months… But goodness am I glad to get some of it back!

Tonight I made Gimme Some Oven's Skinny Orange Chicken. I don't really know how she can call it skinny, because it has a 1/2 cup of honey in it… But I suppose it is skinnier than most orange chicken recipes. But… Oh. my. gosh. y'all… This was one of my favorite recipes I have ever made. The ingredient list isn't too out there. Don't be scared away by things like rice wine vinegar (I'm talking to you, Katie) - it's only 2 or 3 dollars are the grocery store and you will use it again if you do any kind of Asian cooking. And I whipped this up pretty quickly! And did I mention it was delicious?

A few alterations that I made:
-I didn't include sesame seeds because they aren't really necessary
-I didn't include green onions because I forgot them (although I think they'd be a nice addition)
-I didn't serve it over quinoa because I think quinoa is nasty (I opted for some jasmine rice)

Make this recipe. I'm telling you. You'll thank me. And you can invite your friends over and they will be way impressed with this delicious, Asian meal that you made them. You'll look awesome. I'm telling you…

So, I may have gone a little overboard and also made myself a little dessert. A Peanut Butter Banana Quesadilla! I tried to use the peanut butter and chocolate chips sparingly so that it was semi-healthy. (I said semi…) It was delicious as well. It would be good as breakfast, snack, dessert… You name it.

Happy cooking!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2013 In Review.

The last couple of years I have done a retrospective post on the year. Where I've been, what I've done, how I've grown. It's healthy for me to look back and see everything that God's done in the last year. So here is my year… via Instagram.

The truth about Instagram is that you only show the stuff you want people to see. Most people see this picture and see a beautiful place where I went on a K-Life retreat…. What you don't see is that I cried almost the whole weekend because I broke up with my boyfriend the week before. This impacted my year more than I'd like to admit. But it's done… and I learned a lot.

Speaking of K-Life… I spent a lot of time with these lovely ladies. Now they are all off to college. Craziness...

In March, I went and visited my brother Joel in Austin. I love Joel and I love Austin. I need to plan another one of these trips soon.

This is my friend Dee Dee. I spent a lot of time with her in 2013. God used her in my life and mine in hers. It was a good year with Deeds.

In June, I went to Seattle with my family. It was one of the most beautiful places I've been...

Both of my beautiful roommates Kathryn and Paige got engaged over the summer which meant our time together had to end. I moved out of the K-Life house in September...

…and in to a house with two other girls, Audra and Maggie. I moved to good ol' Independence, Missouri. Never thought I would move there, but it was one of the best moves I've ever made.

 In October, I went with my parents to visit my brother Kyle in New York City. It was an incredible trip.

The rest of my fall was pretty consumed with church stuff, namely, Affordable Christmas which you have heard me talk about a lot. It was a pretty cool experience to be so involved in so many cool things. It really is an honor to serve such a special church.

Those are the big things of my year. Here are some little things...

I crafted a lot.

I baked a lot.

I sang a lot.

I family-ed a lot. (It's now a verb. This is my cousin Cole. He's a stud.)

I friend-ed a lot.

I had a good year.

Last week my family went to dinner and my dad asked questions like he's so prone to asking (and I love that he does) that make us think about the year. He asked, "What was the highlight of 2013?" or something like that. I mentioned some of the trips that I had been on and said, "The truth is, I feel like this year has been full of waiting... and nothing actually happening." I've been waiting to hear on a promotion from work that I applied for back in May. (They still haven't told me yes or no.) I am waiting to find a good guy that I can call my husband someday. I am waiting for something big to happen in my life.

But looking back on this year a lot of big things did happen. I saw a lot. I did a lot. I learned a lot. I don't want to look back over 2014 and feel like it's another year of waiting for things to happen. I want to be doing, going, being, experiencing it all. And I want to be aware of it... Here's to a new year and a new beginning...