I’m Back, Baby!

I have officially devoured all my antibiotics,  1 1/2 bags of cough drops, 1 box of tissues, 2 seasons of Downton Abbey, and more non-home-cooked meals this week than I care to admit.

I’m in love with Downton Abbey, but I’m ready to break up with bronchitis.

First order of business: bringing out the frying pan.

Dave went grocery shopping yesterday, and I begged for fresh fruit; thankfully, he delivered! Our fruit basket is now filled with grapes, ‘nanas, plums, Asian pears, and two kinds of apples.  Melted sharp cheddar and crisp Gala apple slices with a little cinnamon truly made my morning.

 

After I polished this off, I set to crossing one of the foods off my ‘holiday season’ cooking bucket list: Chai Pumpkin Spice Thumbprints. I decided to make them at my grandma’s house so I could hang out with the fam for a little bit.

 

Could you resist this adorable face? Not me. (Seriously, I was never a baby person before, but this little moonbeam is friggin’ adorable. Okay, okay, I’ll shut up about her. 🙂 )

The cookies call for chai concentrate which can be found at most grocery stores, but I decided to make my own using my mom’s looseleaf Masala Chai tea.

Homemade Chai Concentrate

  • 4 1/2 cups water
  • 8 oz Masala Chai tea
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup raw cane sugar
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract

Bring water and sugar to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium high heat. Once boiling, add tea, and reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer for about twenty minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, strain out the tea leaves, and mix in honey and vanilla. Stir, then allow mixture to cool before moving to an airtight container (I used a mason jar).

 

Then, it was on to the cookies!

Chai Pumpkin Spice Thumbprints

  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup chai concentrate
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 22-24 pumpkin spice Hershy kisses (found at Target)

Cream together butter and sugar.

(My grandma doesn’t have a Kitchen Aid (I know, right?!), so I mixed these together by hand.)

Add egg, chai concentrate, and vanilla extract, and mix until well combined. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, and salt. Slowly incorporate flour mixture into wet mixture (I usually do it in threes).

 

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour. (Or cheat and freeze for 15 minutes, then refrigerate for 15 minutes like I did).

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Using your hands, roll the dough into 22 to 24 one inch round balls. Place the dough balls on parchment paper lined baking sheets.

Bake the cookies for 12-15 minutes. Meanwhile, unwrap kisses.

Remove the cookies from the oven and immediately place pumpkin kisses in the center of each cookie. Don’t touch or the kisses will turn into puddles! (I touched one to verify this warning. It’s true). Cool completely.

 

Recipe adapted from: Pass the Sushi

I will be the first to say that the Pumpkin Spice kisses are a lot to take on their own, but combined with the flavors from the chai cookie, it was scrumptious. Two thumbs up.

After I waited an extraordinarily long time for the cookies to cool, I went home to some delicious seafood chowder that Dave made.

 

What it lacked for in photogenic quality, it made up for in flavor. Bronchitis or no, I am still all about the soup this week, and this particular chowder was no disappointment. Dave made a huge batch, so I’m sure I will be enjoying it again this week. I love easy meals!

I am looking forward to getting back into my regular exercise routine tomorrow (exercise and bronchitis don’t mix–try it yourself). Until then, I will leave you with a sneak peak of what an important day tomorrow is for me.

Thanks for sticking with me!

 

 

 

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What a Weekend

Being sick did not lend itself to a fantastic night’s sleep after the rehearsal. But I powered through the weekend with Dayquil, Pepto, Cough Drops, and Nyquil (note: waaaay more drugs than I usually take).

Saturday morning, the girls met bright and early at the salon for hair and makeup.

Amanda, Annie, Tricia, and the lovely bride Emily

We were scheduled to be at the salon from 9:00-11:30am so breakfast there was a necessity. Tricia brought some fruit skewers and delicious Earl Grey Tea bread with a honey cream cheese spread.

And I brought fixings for Mango-Orange Mimosas. Mango Orange juice just tastes so much better to me than regular OJ.

Fortunately, the salon staggered the order in which we got our hair done, so a couple of the girls could run and get coffee for all, as well. A morning without coffee isn’t a morning at all.

We had lots of time to chat and tell stories, which was great because I got to know the bridesmaids even better. Even though I knew them all beforehand, we are scattered across the country and don’t see each other very often at all.

Emily had the coolest wedding shoes I have ever seen. You Whovians will love this (haven’t started watching yet): Emily had a Tardis on the bottom of one of her shoes as her ‘something blue!’

The bride and I were the only ones who elected to get our makeup done. Since I didn’t get my hair or makeup done for my own wedding (my sister did my hair and I did my own makeup), I felt like splurging.

Emily looked absolutely gorgeous; she doesn’t wear much makeup (doesn’t need to!), and basically just looked like a more glamorous version of her usual beautiful self.

I was not nearly as happy with the way my own makeup turned out; I wanted to look just a step above natural and ended up looking way too done up for my own personal tastes. But I didn’t have the time or energy to time to fix it–we headed off to the church with just an hour to get dressed and ready.

It seemed like a perfect amount of time–until the pull broke off my zipper, and I was left standing in the bathroom half naked waiting for my mom and sister to come up with a brilliant plan to save my dress. After about forty minutes of panic, my sister finally used a corsage pin to hold my dress together. I will never again buy a dress with an invisible zipper–hate those!

We even had time for a few pictures before the ceremony began! It was a wonderful ceremony, and I couldn’t stop myself from tearing up just a little. After having had the pleasure of seeing Em and Dan’s relationship for five years, I was so incredibly happy to see them showing their commitment to the world.

Post-ceremony, we were picked up by a limo and headed to Dan’s parent’s greenhouse for some beautiful pictures among wildflowers and their vineyard. The last time I was in a limo was for junior prom in high school–this was so much better!

 

Now introducing….Mr. and Mrs. Kiefer! So weird to say that.

 

The girls bouquets held up excellently; the corsages never do: hugging does not lend itself to pretty flowers. But a sad corsage at the end of a wedding is a sign that the wearer is beloved. I think it’s a good thing.

After photos, we arrived at the reception.

 

 

A beautiful Lemon Raspberry cake greeted us.

 

Each table setting was adorned with homemade Strawberry jam for favors. A fabulous idea. Unfortunately, as I couldn’t ‘jam’ it in my purse right away (heh), I forgot mine on the table. 😦

 

Dinner at the Wellington was phenomenal. The porcini dusted walleye was fantastic and the green beans very good, but the mashed potatoes were really the star of the show. They were more like smashed potatoes; although incredibly creamy, they had bits of potato skin swirled in–my favorite way to eat mashed potatoes.

I’m really going to have to get used to ‘Emily Kiefer’ instead of ‘Emily Osby.’

Once the band came out, the dance floor was hopping.

 

 

Need I say more?

 

 

 

 

Rehearsal

The wedding rehearsal last night was a great success! I got to meet even more of Dan and Em’s family, as well as everyone involved in the couple’s big day.

 

After we ran through the wedding procession, we hung around the church for a while discussing the proper term for a flute player. Flutist? Flautist? Fluter? I like flautist, because I think it sounds fancier…but, then again, I don’t play flute. After many other discussions, we headed to one of my favorite restaurants for the rehearsal dinner: St. Brendan’s!

 

It was such a beautiful evening with a phenomenal sunset. And it was so fun to be part of a dinner where everything had been ordered in advance, so we didn’t have to break our wonderful conversation and laughter with anything. Dan and Emily looked so happy together all night–I remember that feeling of euphoria well!

The food was fantastic. We were started with a very nice salad.

Way to go, St. Brendan’s! No iceberg lettuce. 🙂 Then the main course we had ordered previous to coming was set before us. I chose the salmon….I have a weakness for it.

 

It was covered in a thick and savory cream sauce that brightened the whole dish. I rarely ever use heavy cream, so this was a real treat. But another unexpected treat came soon after…dessert!

 

Apple Crisp with Maple Nut ice cream. A perfectly sweet end to the meal. After dinner, Em and Dan graced us with unnecessary (but much appreciated) gifts–cranberry-colored cashmere scarves for the girls and engraved flasks for the boys.

 

I am so lucky to be a bridesmaid for this wonderful woman!

Now I’m off to the salon for hair and makeup…with mimosa fixings in tow, of course. 🙂

Happy Wedding Day, Dan & Emily!

 

Wedding Weekend Begins!

I have been feeling like rubbish the last few days. Nausea, dizziness, stomach pains, sore throat, cough, hot and cold sweats; you name it. I was so ill yesterday I could scarcely stand more than a few minutes without having to sit down and was forced to call in sick, which I absolutely hate to do. 😦 Fortunately, I got some much-needed sleep during the day yesterday, then went to bed early at my parent’s house last night in preparation for a day of creating wedding flowers.

I was up with the sun soon after 6:00am and made a lovely pot of oatmeal for my mom, sister, and I to enjoy.

 

Apple Oatmeal for Three

  • 1 cup sweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • dash of salt
  • 1 ginormous Braeburn apple, diced
  • splash of agave nectar
  • splash of vanilla

Topped with some chopped dates (yum!) and walnuts.

After breakfast, Emily headed off to work, and Mom and I got work on the flowers. While working, we tested out some of her new tea flavors: Mocha Nut Mate and Apple. So good! Tea is especially delicious when you’re sick, and I loved the new flavors.

After the last huge wedding we did (11 bridesmaids and 11 groomsmen!), with these flowers we got to ‘savor life in the slow lane’ a bit more.

 

I loved the colors for these-do they scream fall or what? So pretty. Gerbera daisies are not easy to work with (they have a tendency to pop their heads off), but they definitely make a statement.

 

These yellow ones are definitely my favorite, if I had to chose.

 

Lovely red and orange Gerbera daisies for the girls’ bouquets.

One thing we love to do is tie ribbon around the bouquets–there is always room for a little more fancy.

 

Another fridge full of flowers!

We drove into town to pick up a few more flowers and then Mom and I split up–she’s gone to drop off the cake flowers, mail a corsage to a loved one who can’t make the wedding, and check out the reception hall for the centerpieces. I’m getting ready for the rehearsal; I’m determined to power through this weekend with grace; I’m already sick of being sick!

 

Sister Day

I had the day off today, and my sister Emily asked me if I wanted to go shopping with her. A chance to see my sister and my charming niece Aurelia was much too good to pass up.

I love this girl so much. She just keeps getting better and better. It’s so cool to see a personality developing in her right before my very eyes.

Emily and I hit Target and Goodwill first, where she was responsible for not letting me into the book section and I was responsible for not letting her into the Halloween section. We both did a bang-up job and ended up only with clothes. Then we headed to Panera for lunch.  Panera is one of my favorite (and one of the cheapest) places to eat near the mall; that’s why I ended up here twice within two weeks!

I started off with a wild blueberry scone and some coffee.

 

The coffee was perfect. I haven’t been sleeping well lately, so I definitely needed the extra jolt of caffeine.

 

The blueberry scone was quite good, a bit dry and crumbly (eh, it’s a scone), but very flavorful. I ended up eating only half during lunch, then the other half for an afternoon snack. I wanted to save room for my main course.

Garden Vegetable Soup with Pesto and a Multigrain Baguette. My soup was smiling at me!

I’m not sure if it was on purpose or not; one of the servers was very apologetic because my order came up wrong the first time as a Mediterranean Veggie Sandwich. I do love that sandwich, but it was so chilly out that I really wanted the soup.

Then it was off to the mall for Emily to find shoes and jewelry for the upcoming wedding of my best friends Emily O. (not to be confused with my sister) and Dan. This was a day-long extravaganza. The styles of women change through the ages but men stay generally the same, thus the selection of women’s clothing is much more difficult to maneuver. Fortunately, we were successful in finding Em some kick-ass shoes and fabulous jewelry to go with her dress.

She spent a little while hanging out at my apartment before heading out with Baby A. Then I was off again to the store–the bride and bridesmaids are getting our hair and makeup done this Saturday morning before the wedding, and mimosas are a must (because Bloody Mary’s would be a bit too involved…).

 

Here’s something Dave was surprised to find out last week: I’m not really a huge fan of orange juice. Firstly, I prefer to eat my fruit rather than drink it. When I do drink orange juice, I like the pulpiest I can find, because it’s closer to eating the actual fruit. Secondly, I kissed a guy once after he had drunk a Screwdriver.His mouth tasted terrible, and I threw up afterwards. Coincidence? I don’t know. But I never go out of my way to drink it.

But Mango Orange Juice with some bubbly? I’m all over that like white on rice.

(Note: my posts have been and will continue to be sparse until the Wedding Extravaganza is over! I’m heading over to my parents tomorrow night to get an early start on the wedding flowers Friday morning and the wedding fun will continue until Sunday!)

 

It’s Fall

I know because I broke out my ‘fall’ socks today. In the summer, I don’t even like to wear socks; I’m in sandals as often as possible. Failing that, ankle cut socks that don’t lend any heat to my ankles.

But my ankles needed some warmth this morning, as I woke up to a chilly 45 degrees.

 

There’s a slight chance I misread the calendar last Saturday and proclaimed my ignorance on Facebook, claiming “I can’t believe it’s the first day of Fall already; my life is flashing before my eyes!”

It’s not fall yet. I just don’t know how to read a calendar.

But when the temperatures require tall boots, sweaters, and argyle socks, it’s definitely fall. You can celebrate with a Caramel Apple Nut Latte from Gloria Jean’s. Or you can make an Autumn inspired coffee drink of your own. It’s much cheaper, and it does not contain a gazillion calories.

 

Chocolate Pecan Pie Latte

  • 12 oz Pecan Pie flavored coffee
  • 1 tbsp Stevia (or sweetener of your choice)
  • 1 tsp cocoa powder
  • splash of milk

Heat and revel in the season.

Easy Zucchini Parmesan with Shrimp

Life isn’t always easy.

Sometimes, we sleep through our alarms. We break glasses. Spill coffee. Fail tests. Get rejected from job after job.

We are mean to those who love us. And sometimes, people we love are mean to us.

We drink ourselves into oblivion. We eat terrible food that makes us feel terrible later.

We try, and fail, to quit bad habits.

And then there are those moments, those brief but intense moments of being, when we are so filled with light that it is all worth it.

No, life is definitely not easy. But, when given the option, it is too good to miss.

Easy Zucchini Parmesan with Shrimp (serves 6)

Recipe adapted from Taste of Home

  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 medium zucchini, cut into 1/4″ slices
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) diced Italian tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp pesto
  • 12 oz shrimp
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

In a large skillet, saute garlic in oil. Add zucchini; cook and stir for 4-5 minutes or until crisp-tender.

Stir in the tomatoes, pesto, salt and pepper. Simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Add shrimp and continue simmering until liquid is absorbed and mixture is heated through. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

 

Live and Learn

Sometimes I get pissed that I wasn’t born skinny. That I literally have to work my ass off most days of the week just to maintain a healthy weight for my body type. That I have to consistently monitor my food intake or I run the risk of gaining weight faster than the speed of light.

Most days, I don’t complain about it. Millions of other people are in the same boat I am. And even those who were born naturally thin are probably tired of people like me calling them out for something they have no control over.

I was in one of those whiny moods this morning. Do I hafta work out? I’m tired of my routine. Can’t I shake things up by eating a fattening breakfast, lounging around, and reading until it’s time to go to work? Oh, and be fit, too?

No.

Okay.

I sucked it up, put on my exercise clothes, and did Level 1 of Shred-It with Weights. Then I made myself an unfattening breakfast that was unfortunately subpar. 😦

I used Hungry Girl’s Homemade Blueberry Pancake Recipe, and, despite my addition of cinnamon, it wasn’t very flavorful at all.

Oats, egg whites, milk, cottage cheese, flour, water, a pinch of salt, and blueberries went into the mix. (Here’s where I should have added some Stevia, I think).

Then I pan fried for about 3-4 minutes on each side.

And I served it with two strips of Morning Star Veggie Bacon.

I prefer these bacon slices crumbled up in recipes as opposed to eating them straight, but I wanted some extra protein with my breakfast. Next time, I’m going to stick with my easy and delicious oatmeal pancake that just calls for oats, an egg, and a mashed banana. So much better!

Oh, well. Hope you all have a great Saturday!

Keep Walkin’

It’s official. I’m a shoe pansy. I walked around in my super cool, super high heels for half an hour yesterday morning, then promptly took them off to return them.

I knew if I couldn’t last a half hour in them, there was no way I was going to last through an entire wedding from the beginning of the ceremony to the end of the reception. Dancing? Fuhgeddaboutit. I was sad to see them go, but I can’t subscribe to the ‘beauty is pain’ mantra yet.

I tried a few other shoe stores in the mall before ending up with a pair I tried at Payless yesterday. (The ones I got were black, not fuschia, but I couldn’t find a picture online).

I don’t feel nearly as tall and powerful in these, but hopefully they will be much more comfortable. When I got home after running errands yesterday, I tried on my shoes with the whole getup and was just as happy with my dress choice today as I was yesterday.

Here’s the one I came home with.

The collar of the dress eliminated the need for a necklace, so instead I picked up these cool chainmail-like earrings to go with it.

 

Now I’m all set to go! I still had energy to burn when I got home, and I really wanted to go for a walk while listening to one of my audiobooks. Unfortunately, after playing around with Itunes, I still can’t get my Nano to upload any of them. Grr. I was so frustrated I ended up staying home and organizing my closet instead. (Does anyone else have a Nano with audiobooks on it? If so, I need your help)!

After turning my closet into a somewhat respectable location again, I finally completed another task I’ve had for the past year–tracing our wedding guestbook with a permanent marker. See, I had this idea to use a huge log slice as our wedding guestbook, which Dave and I engraved a tree with our names and wedding date on. We bought paint pens for the guests to sign with, but they unfortunately did not show up as well as we hoped.

 

I even traced over the indecipherable comments like ‘SLER.’ I thought this might have been an acronym for something, but after a quick Google search, I don’t think anyone meant to write ‘Signal to Listener Echo Ratio’ or ‘Soil Liner Evaluation Report.’

Although I was ready to cook something for dinner last night, I went into indecisive mode and could not figure out what I wanted. So after Dave got home from work, I poured myself  a drink instead and watched Friends until we finally decided to go pick up grocery store sushi.

 

Festival is getting so much better and more adventurous with their sushi. So am I–I tried some of the octopus salad Dave picked out even though octopi freak me out. The flavor was actually quite good, the texture very firm and chewy, and had I not envisioned whipping tentacles, I may have eaten more.

Question of the weekend: What do you think SLER stands for?

 

Any and all answers will be considered.

 

Spicy Morning

Can you remember the last time you had a breakfast quesadilla?

Yeah, me either. But it’s exactly what I was craving this morning. And since I have the day off again (I work this weekend…blech), I had the time to do it.

First I sauteed some mushrooms, peppers, and onions in a medium saucepan with a little olive oil.

 

I added a little liquid egg whites to the mix along with oregano, cumin, garlic salt, and cayenne pepper. I think it’s funny that taco seasoning and chili seasoning have so many of the same spices, yet chili doesn’t remind me of Mexican food at all. Weird.

I cut a spinach and herb tortilla in half, then layered some grated sharp cheddar cheese, the pepper mixture, and more cheese for good binding.

 

After topping it with the second tortilla half, I pan fried it with some olive oil spray for 2-3 minutes on each side.

 

Topped with a little plain non-fat Greek yogurt and some salsa for good measure. The best condiments!

This veggie, cheesy goodness was the perfect start to my day. Now I’m off to run some errands while trying to break in my new heels for the wedding. I never wear heels, so this is going to be quite the adventure…