Monday, January 31, 2011

Goodbye 20's....Hello 30's!

Today is my 30th birthday. I am the kind of girl who embraces birthdays, so I throw myself a party every year, sometimes more than one. This year, there are two. I went to Milwaukee over this past weekend for party number one. (Party number 2, here in Minneapolis is this will be featured next week!)
This is a milestone birthday that I've been reflecting upon for a few weeks now. Several friends have also turned 30 this month. Seeing how they handle it and their insights on it has been interesting and quite different from my own perspective.
Let me say something about my 20's first. It was a wild ride. There were so many life changing experiences for me. To name a few...
College and all the crazy experiences that go with it. Living on a tiny budget, eating ramen noodles, going to class or not going to class, living without real rules or guidelines, partying too hard for my own good, and forming friendships that will last a lifetime.
Traveling, on all different levels. I did the travel on a small budget, hustling from hostel to hostel, trying to squeeze in too many sights in too little time. Then I evolved into more focused travel and not staying in a hostel with a shared bathroom (yuck!).
The "Quarter Life Crisis" ....don't laugh. Its no joke. Its got to be one of the most challenging emotional times of my life.
Moving to Minneapolis, the different apartments, jobs, friends, and experiences rolled into one.
Committing to a serious adult relationship (going on 5 years now!) and facing life head on together.
Adopting my dogs and buying a house....and all the responsibilities that come with both!

Those are just a small few of the lessons and experiences I've had in this past decade.
Friends of mine were nervous about turning 30. Suddenly we are old and real adults and its too sad to say goodbye to our former selves.
I say, *F* That! To my 20's, I loved ya, but I have a full and bright future ahead of me and I can't wait to see what is in store!
I told one of my more nervous friends to look at it like this: We still have so much left to experience. Weddings, babies, career changes, and my passport is nowhere near full enough for me to be satisfied. Only now, I'm a little bit wiser, a little bit more thankful and aware of my blessings. Aging is inevitable and I don't want to hate the journey because I'm scared of the destination. If I am going to get older, I am going to earn my laugh lines by spending the decades to come laughing and loving every minute of it.
To 30....bring it on baby, hit me with your best shot!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Photography Challenge!

In 2010 I participated in a photography challenge, the 365 Photo Challenge. I had to take a photo every single day for 365 days. I just completed it on January 15th. It was such a fun experience, and quite amazing how many times I was like "oh yeah! I forgot about that!" when I would go through an review my photos.
My friend Jackie (Check out her blog here) turned me on to that challenge and now she told me about this one, called You Capture.
I jumped on during the challenge for Circles (details here) This is the photo I took. Its a light fixture at a sushi restaurant I went to recently. I want to expand content on my blog to express all of my passions and adventures so I hope you'll enjoy these challenge posts!
I am one week into the challenge and have to admit an oops! I thought she posted every week what the subject was after already photographing it herself. Turns out there is a teenie tiny spot that says what "next week's challenge" is. So I am actually behind a week. Last week's assignment was "Happy" and this week's assignment is "Red", so I guess I'll be playing catch up on both this week!
I hope you will enjoy my photography journey and maybe even join yourself!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Recipe Review: PW Chicken Tortilla Soup

Over the weekend I was having a soup craving. Magically the Ree, the Pioneer Woman, posted a recipe that made my mouth water....Chicken Tortilla Soup! It was a bit time consuming to make. I'm usually more of a quick recipe kind of girl, however this soup was entirely worth it!
The flavors were just amazing, but I think my favorite part was topping the soup with avocado! I never thought to use that in soup. Now, I'm obsessed. I'm trying avocado on everything!
If you have a little time on your hands, this soup is worth making. I also think it would freeze well if you left out the tortilla strips.
Try it out.....

Chicken Tortilla Soup (Adapted from the Pioneer Woman)

Prep Time: 10 Minutes

Cook Time: 1 Hour30

Servings: 8


2 whole Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil

1-½ teaspoon Cumin

1 teaspoon Chili Powder

½ teaspoons Garlic Powder

½ teaspoons Salt

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil

1 cup Diced Onion

¼ cups Diced Green Bell Pepper

¼ cups Red Bell Pepper

3 cloves Garlic, Minced

1 can Rotel Tomatoes And Green Chilies

32 ounces, fluid Low Sodium Chicken Stock

3 Tablespoons Tomato Paste

4 cups Hot Water

2 cans Black Beans, Drained

3 Tablespoons Cornmeal Or Masa

5 whole Corn Tortillas, Cut Into Uniform Strips Around 2 To 3 Inches


Sour Cream

Diced Avocado

Diced Red Onion

Salsa Or Pico De Gallo

Grated Monterey Jack Cheese


Preparation Instructions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix cumin, chili pepper, garlic powder, and salt. Drizzle 1 tablespoon olive oil on chicken breasts, then sprinkle a small amount of spice mix on both sides. Set aside the rest of the spice mix.

Place chicken breasts on a baking sheet. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until chicken is done. Use two forks to shred chicken. Set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a pot over medium high heat. Add onions, red pepper, green pepper, and minced garlic. Stir and begin cooking, then add the rest of the spice mix. Stir to combine, then add shredded chicken and stir.

Pour in Rotel, chicken stock, tomato paste, water, and black beans. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer for 45 minutes, uncovered.

Mix cornmeal with a small amount of water. Pour into the soup, then simmer for an additional 30 minutes. Check seasonings, adding more if needed—add more chili powder if it needs more spice, and be sure not to undersalt. Turn off heat and allow to sit for 15 to 20 minutes before serving. Five minutes before serving, gently stir in tortilla strips.

Ladle into bowls, then top with sour cream, diced red onion, diced avocado, pico de gallo, and grated cheese, if you have it!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Love Birds

Valentine's Day is fast approaching and I was feeling inspired. Check out the cupcake toppers I made!

At Christmas time I made some penguin cupcake toppers and I just loved how cute they is a Valentine's Day version!
I may like these love birds even better than the originals!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Whooooo has a birthday?!

A short time ago I did some cookies for an owl lover, which you can see here, and they were a big hit! I got loads of love on those cookies...THANK YOU. I also received an order for the same design, but for a little girl's pink and green theme birthday. Check 'em out!
I'm really lovin the green.

I had loads of fun making these guys. Thanks Alissa!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

DIY: African Oreos

This summer I did a Jungle Safari Baby Shower. I have gotten a lot of requests for how-tos on the "African Oreos" I did. These oreos are so easy to do, I thought, hey, why not share?!
You will need....
A cookie sheet covered in wax paper
Chocolate transfer sheets
Something to melt your chocolate in
Chocolate chips (or candy melts, whatever you prefer)
Begin melting your chocolate. While chocolate is melting cut your chocolate transfer sheets into squares just big enough to fit over your oreo.
Dip your oreo in chocolate, place on wax paper.

Press chocolate transfer sheet into wet oreo. Make sure to press textured side down.
Repeat with remaining oreos. Refrigerate until chocolate is set.
Once chocolate is set, peel back the transfer sheet to reveal the print. (And ignore my creepy chocolate covered fingers!)

Viola! You have "African Oreos!"


Too keep this OOPS from happening, make sure to press out all air bubbles when you place your transfer sheet on the oreo.
UPDATE: I've gotten a lot of emails on where I got the chocolate transfer sheets. I ordered mine online HERE 
At the time that I ordered them they had lots of selections for animal prints, holiday prints, and other designs.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Heavenly Grapefruit Cake

This cake is literally a slice of heaven. Here I was, minding my business, cruising blogs on the weekend and I stumbled upon A Baked Creation who posted this recipe. My mouth instantly began to water. Odds were that I had just bought a grapefruit! I dont normally buy it. I have been on this "try winter fruits" kick since I'm usually a summer berries kind of girl, so I had one in the fridge. For a minute I had the internal debate "eat grapefruit as nature intended" or "eat grapefruit baked into a cake that could make me pass out on the spot in bliss". Clearly, you can see which side won over. That devil on my shoulder is sneaky I tell ya!
I was surprised at how simple this cake was to make. Here is the've got to try this.

Cake (Makes two 6 inch cakes)

2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 3/4 teaspoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of kosher salt
1 2/3 cups of granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup of whole milk
3/4 cup of canola oil
1 tablespoon of grated pink grapefruit zest
1 teaspoon of vanilla paste or pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line your pan with parchment paper or use nonstick spray.

Sift the flour and baking powder together, then stir in the salt. Set this aside.

Using a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, beat the sugar and eggs at medium speed for about 3 minutes.

Beat in the milk, oil, grapefruit zest, and vanilla

Reducing the speed to low, add in the flour mixture.

Spread the batter in the pan.

Bake for 30 minutes and rotate the pan in the oven so that the cake will color evenly. Bake for another 30 minutes or until a cake tester comes out with just a few moist crumbs on it.

While the cake is still baking, make the syrup!

Grapefruit Syrup
1 cup of strained fresh pink grapefruit juice
2/3 cup of granulated sugar

Combine the grapefruit juice and sugar in a small saucepan. Bring it to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Simmer for 1 minute and set aside.

Transfer the baked cake to a cooling rack. Using a long skewer, poke deep holes every 3/4 inch over the top of the cake. Immediately begin brushing the syrup over the cake. You may have to wait for the syrup to soak through, but continue until you've used all the syrup. Then let the cake cool for about 10 minutes.

Unmold the cake and let it cool to room temperature on a cooling rack.

Grapefruit Icing
3/4 cup of powdered sugar
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon of fresh pink grapefruit juice

For the icing, stir the powdered sugar and grapefruit juice together into a bowl until it is smooth

Using a spoon, drizzle the icing over the top of the cake, allowing it to drip down the sides!

Now just try not to eat this whole cake in one sitting, I dare you.


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