Wedding Season Tips: Be good, have fun, read this.

1 Jul

It is officially wedding season. I’ve been thinking a lot about it, especially with our 3-year anniversary less than a week away.

I really, really love going to weddings. Besides two people joining themselves together forever, it’s just a lot of fun. It’s fun to see what people are wearing, to eat the food, and catch up with friends and family or meet new people.

That being said, weddings are not all that fun for the people actually getting married. Not BECAUSE they’re getting married, but because of the stress the well-meaning folks attending the weddings put them through.

I think a lot of people in my generation (and older/younger people too) forget or are ignorant of common wedding etiquette. Here’s a short list of things I’ve seen lately.

Not sure if you can bring a guest, your kids, etc? Check the envelope.
If you’re wondering if you can take the new guy you just met, or if your toddlers are invited, the quickest way to know is to see who the invitation was addressed to. For example, if it says, “Your Name and Guest” on the addressee line, you’re good to go. If it says “ Your name/spouses name and family” bring your kids. If it says, “Your name,” you are the only one invited.

Don’t ask the bride or groom if you can bring someone. It costs them money for you to bring a guest, and they might be on a strict budget and can’t fit another person in. It wasn’t an accident; they really don’t want you to bring someone. The kid thing can be tricky. We didn’t have kids at our wedding. It was a conscious choice. It does sound a little harsh, and some people chose not to come. It’s just one night – it is up to you if you want to go to a child-free wedding without your kids, or not. But don’t hassle the bride about it.

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RSVP: It is not just a suggestion.
If there is an RSVP card included in your invitation, or a link to a website to respond to, please do it. This isn’t for fun, or just to see who is coming. It’s essential to the headcount, food, cake, alcohol, seating chart and more.

If you come unannounced, you might not have a dinner (especially if it’s plated and not buffet). There might be just the right amount of tables and chairs set out, leaving you literally without a seat (or awkwardly trying to shove another chair next to your uncle). It seriously stresses out the bride, who can see exactly who hasn’t gotten back to her. Is she supposed to call/email each person JUST to make sure they’re really not coming? No! That’s the point of the RSVP. Just drop it in the mail, or go to the wedding website and respond appropriately. It’s so easy – don’t be a jerk!

A97W3667Don’t Drink Too Much

This is tricky, since it’s easy to have one too many and act a little inappropriate. Read the room.

  • If the bride and groom are doing shots, it’s probably a looser atmosphere.
  • If there’s an open bar, approach with caution and know your limits. Open bars mean the couple and couple’s family want you to have fun, but just don’t be the person barfing in the corner or dancing on a table.
    (We had an open bar but a no-shots rule – I really do think it kept people a little more in check).
  • If the bride and groom are not drinking, and it doesn’t seem like many other people are either, maybe have one or two and see how the night unfolds.
  • Make sure you know how you’re getting home or back to the hotel. Many weddings have shuttles available, but at least have cash for a cab on hand.

A97W3858Wear Appropriate Clothing
The time of day and the location of the ceremony and reception can help to clue you in as to the right attire. A backyard wedding means nice shorts/shirt with a collar or a sundress is probably okay. An evening wedding at a nice, well known building usually indicates a bit fancier vibe, so a longer or nicer dress and a suit is the way to go. Nothing too short, nothing too casual, and really ladies, nothing white, no matter what the bride is wearing. It’s just tacky. If the bride and groom are especially particular about what you should wear, it will usually be indicated on the invite.

This is a celebration, it’s meant to be a time of joy and happiness for the couple, and you can help in making sure that is how their wedding day goes. If you’re interested in wedding etiquette or need more clarity on some things, check out Emily Post’s site, where you’ll find all the answers.

Five Friday Things: Things I love that other people hate

24 Apr

If you remember the last Five Friday Things edition, I talked about the things I used to hate but now I love.

This time it’s about the things I really like that other people (generally) don’t seem to like as much as I do. This is all generalizations and I am prone to hyperbole. People might not HATE these things, but I feel, just from experience, that I’m way more into these things than other people.

Okay.

1) Egg Nog
Starting it out easy with egg nog. Not so divisive, but most people don’t like egg nog. As soon as I see egg nog on the shelves, I get pumped. I don’t let myself buy it till at least Dec. 1, but it’s so wonderful and amazing and tastes like Christmas and vanilla sunbeams and rich, tasty fat and hydrogenated oils. This strictly applies to grocery store, alcohol free egg nog. I have really no interest in making my own, egg-filled, hot, weird, boozy drink. bleh.

I heard someone say it was gross because it was like drinking melted ice cream. Um…why would that be gross? Isn’t that a milkshake? this is like a milkshake, but BETTER. Because it’s egg nog. I used to call it egg nob when I was little.

Man I just typed egg nog so many times, it is starting to sound less and less appealing. Egg based drinks sound gross…but just like the famous egg cream, there’s not really eggs in store bought egg nog.

2) Tattoos
DSC04404I think it’s pretty clear that I love tattoos. I have five, and three are fairly large and visible. I mean, I don’t know quite how to explain why I like tattoos, but I do know how easy it is for people to really dislike them, and come up with many, many reasons why.

IMG_2752The book in the picture, Bodies of Subversion, is all about women and tattoos, the history and the cultural significance of tattooed women and women tattooers. It’s really great, and I learned a lot and actually was empowered by this book. I learned the idea that all people get tattoos purely for aesthetics, no matter what you tell yourself/other people what it means to you, you’re putting art on your body because you like how it looks, and what to convey a certain image of yourself to everyone else.

This is from my favorite passage: “Women’s tattoos do have real-world ramifications to the extent that they defy socially sanctioned standards of feminine beauty for the recognition of new, largely self-certified ones.” That’s a thinker.

3) Buying People Presents 
Buying people presents is literally one of my absolute favorite things. I buy people presents like months in advance of their birthdays. I fantasize about having more money, just so I can buy that perfect gift for someone. And it really doesn’t matter who it is for. I got our mail-lady a small gift for Christmas (did you know there’s like a huge list of things you CANNOT give your mail carrier, including money and a meal??) and she was so thrilled, she wrote the nicest thank you note and it just made my heart so happy.

I get the impression from the people who don’t like getting presents for people don’t like it because they are worried the people won’t like what they pick out. I think the reason I love it is because I’m overconfident that I’ve chosen the most perfect gift. Maybe I’m not as good as I think I am, but it doesn’t matter. I still love it. I have 2 or 3 gifts in my closet right now for people’s birthdays that are still weeks to months away. and I’ve had them for several weeks/months.

4) Hardcore Music
I’m not really going to get into what this really means. But just trust that there is usually screaming involved. Loud drums and stuff. It’s not for everyone. It’s really not for most people. But I just love it. I didn’t always love it, but now I can’t get enough. It’s interesting, different, and pretty emotional. I think most people think it’s angry music.
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(Brent at I at Warped Tour many years ago, when he had long flowing locks. Pierce the Veil set above).

When my brother imitates this style of music, he usually mock-screams about hating the world and things along those lines. No one ever says that. Most of it is just like any other song, but just…screamed. For example, this line from “All Nereids Beware,” by one of my favorites, Chiodos:
“This spring of love resembles the uncertain glory of an April day…”

Oh wait, that’s not right, is it? That’s in a hardcore song? Sounds kind of like Shakespeare, doesn’t it?

5) Shakespeare
The line above is from Shakespeare. The Two Gentlemen of Verona,” in fact.

When I first realized this, my brain exploded. Chiodos has many, many lines from Shakespeare plays in their album “All The World’s A Stage.” (Which, if you’re keeping track, is a famous part of “As You Like It.”)

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I took roughly 5 Shakespeare courses in college. I still read it. I have a whole series of young adult novels about Shakespeare.

I remember listening to this hardcore band while reading plays for homework, and suddenly the band sings a line from the very same play I’m reading, my brain exploded.

Shakespeare can cross so many boundaries and genres and will still make sense. The band doesn’t make it obvious or clear that Shakespeare shows up in their songs. It’s like a little secret, and hordes of 16 year olds are totally oblivious that they’re screaming Shakespeare in the mosh pit.

THAT’S SO COOL YOU GUYS YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND AND NEVER WILL! Ugh. Okay, end nerd rant.

Shop Talk

22 Apr

Shop talk today = the grocery store.

I love the grocery store. I also hate the grocery store. I think a lot of people feel this way, because 1) the grocery store has all the food and it’s fun to buy stuff. 2) when you don’t know what you want/where anything is/have the slowest cashier ever it is the worst.

But I mostly love it, because I love cooking and the only way to cook is to grocery shop. And I’m really good at grocery shopping. It’s one of my skills. I would put it on a resumee if people cared, along with my skill of pouring a big thing of liquid into a different container (another acquired skill). I’ve developed a method and gained wisdom from my several trips a week, and I’m here to share my insights and warnings.

1) You really do need a list:
People almost always tell me they don’t need a list. It’s in their head. They know what they need, screw your pen and paper. This never works. This means you forget at least  6 things and you had to go up and down every aisle since you did’t make a list and the aisles will jar your memory. This is why it takes you an hour and a half to shop. Trust me. I know this. This is why my husband hates the grocery store; PTSD from our college days of group grocery trips where no one has a list and everyone is going down the aisles at a different pace. It’s excruciating. (Don’t go group grocery shopping. this is a sub tip)

Make a list, people. Really, it’s not like you giving into everything you hate about domesticity. The list is all about efficiency. You don’t lose cool points for having a list.

And while I won’t tell you how to make a list, I think it would benefit you to organize your list in groups of ingredients (produce/meats/dairy/dry goods/frozen/miscellaneous). This helps you shop for things in the same area and avoids the trek across the store every other item, and lets you avoid going down every aisle.

(On that note, it wouldn’t hurt to plan a couple meals for that list. That way when you shop, you’re actually buying ingredients for an actual thing. So later on that week, you’ll magically have all the ingredients. but we’re getting off track.)

2) Try to go to the same store every time:
This is only because of efficiency. Eventually you’ll know exactly where everything is and what is down every aisle and you can zip around the store super fast. I get so disoriented even walking into the same name brand store but at a different location. It’s maddening. I get lost and it takes me twice as long.

Also, once you know the store really well, you’ll have a good idea if they will or will not have the item you’re looking for. My usual grocery store doesn’t have a great baking aisle and is often out of specialty produce so I have to stop by a different store that is better in this capacity. It’s annoying, but I don’t waste time looking for things.

3) There are good cashiers and bad cashiers:
Since I go to the same grocery store so often, I also know the cashiers. I have a favorite and go to her lane if she’s working it (I think she’s a manager or shift supervisor). She’s so fast and no-nonsense, doesn’t ask me lots of random questions, and knows every produce code and gets me out of there fast. She’ll help the baggers, too. I just love her. I might buy her a christmas present, that is how much I love her. (I’m not really going to do this, but I have considered it very seriously.)

The bad cashiers are the worst. They’re good people, I’m sure, but I have a hard time getting past how slow they scan every item. Or make a comment about every item. Or have to put on/take off/put on/take off their glasses to read the produce stickers. Or give me a spiel about the rewards card (even though I tell them I already have it).  Or don’t actually know what they’re doing and try to scan my reusable canvas bag (?), and then bag everything in a plastic bag, and then look puzzled when I ask them to use said canvas bag. This usually happens at Target, which is a bummer since I love Target, but now they have self checkout! (although, see #4)

Once, at Trader Joes, the cashier asked me if I had tried something I was buying. I said no, and he proceeded to tell me he didn’t like it and thought it was gross. Okay, dude.

4) Self checkout is a blessing and a curse
Sometimes, the self checkout is quick and painless. Sometimes.

Usually, it bites me in the butt. I’m so, so impatient in these situations.

Tip. Do not buy produce at target and then try to scan it yourself. Today I bought a lemon. A nice, simple, not even organic lemon. I placed it on the scale. I hit “find item.” I found the lemons. The machine told me “Set aside and seek assistance.” WHYYY machine?! Then, a manager had to come over and scan my lemon and I kid you not, it took at least 6 steps. Since the cashiers in this Target are so terrible, this was preferable. It’s a delicate balance.

The self checkout is use at your own risk.

Okay, I’ve probably sufficiently bored most of you…if you even got this far. brb, gotta go buy MORE STUFF THAT I FORGOT YESTERDAY. (sigh, my lists are not working, clearly.) Tell me your grocery store tips or stories in the comments!

lessons in fun (do what you want!)

15 Apr

“What do you like to do for fun?” “What are your hobbies?” “What are your favorite things to do outside of (job/school)?”

On the surface, they are simple questions, usually posed by those who’d like to know you better, or often included on an application or bio form. Fun is not complicated or difficult, but when you really want to give the question a good answer, what do you say?

A few years ago, I seriously didn’t think I had any hobbies. Is Netflix a hobby? (It really, really shouldn’t be.)

What are hobbies, anyways? Some people might think of hobbies are like stamp collecting or model-making, but I think hobbies are those things you do that you really enjoy, but you’re not making money from it. It’s just for the pure enjoyment and maybe your even passion for it.

I was telling Brent my despair at being hobby-less a few years ago, and he just looked at me and was like, well, cooking is your hobby, isn’t it? Oh. Right. That thing that I really enjoy because it makes me happy and is a creative outlet that I can share with people. The giant cookbook collection, expansive Pinterest food board, unnecessary amount of aprons and far too many rubber spatulas… Yes! I have a hobby! It’s very exciting to have a hobby when you’ve been hobbyless.

Chair and tires watching Chopped together.

Chair and tires watching Chopped together.

Brent was also lamenting his hobbyless existence not too long ago. He didn’t think “working on his car” was really a hobby, especially since he doesn’t have a lot of time (or money) to devote to it. But the stack of tires in currently hanging out in our living room and the abundance of car-related parts and pieces in our storage unit beg to differ.

I think that’s the thing, though. We don’t always realize we have a “hobby” because we just like to do these things. We’re not experts or professionals, and that’s exactly what makes us hobbyists. You don’t have to be really good at something for it to be your hobby. You don’t have to be the best, you just have to have fun. You have to get something out of it.

The lovely paintings from Rifle Paper Co. and the cutest animal jewelry from The Small Wild Shop has really been

you-make-everything-beautiful-illustrated-art-print-01inspiring me lately. I’d love to be able to draw/paint/sculpt like that, but I don’t really know how, and I’m not super great at it. I even try to mess around with watercolors and acrylic paints, but give up quickly because I just don’t know how to work with them, and nothing turns out right.

Yesterday I got the community college continuing education catalog in the mail. (Right after my mom was telling me to look into taking a community ed class…good timing, Mom!) They have EVERY class in there, you can learn how to sell things on etsy, brew beer, file your own taxes, and plant a garden. Oh, and learn how to bake alcohol infused cup cakes. Everything. Even painting.mallards

Guys, I’m doing it. I’m taking the Painting 1 class they’re offering this summer. I’m not good at painting, and I don’t know how. But it can be my hobby if I let it be. I want painting to be my hobby. That’s my whole point after 500 rambling words. I get to pick my hobbies and the things I choose to have fun with.

So, how do you answer the question? What do you want to do for fun?

Five Friday Things

27 Mar

Things I Used To Hate But Now I Love

Sometimes, we convince ourselves we have ourselves all figured out. We like what we like, we don’t like what we don’t like, and that’s how it is. You can’t make me like mushrooms, and no, it isn’t because I haven’t had the right mushroom.

But there are exceptions. Maybe something you don’t like keeps popping up in your life and you think, “If I just keep trying this thing, I’ll stop hating it.” Over the last 5 or so years, I’ve been trying things I hate, just to see what would happen. It occurred to me in the bath today that there are actually several things that I used to hate, but now, I I’m into them. My theory worked!

1) Baths: I don’t like being in water. Bathing to me is like a get in-get out situation, I think mostly because I have to fix my hair and get ready all over again. And baths were always…not enjoyable. I felt like I was just sitting in a puddle of rapidly cooling water.

But people love baths. And in a bath, you get all these cool little accouterments, like bath bombs and melts and bubbles and beads and salts. I wanted to have that spa-like experience, and let me tell you, that’s tough to do in a 10 minute shower. So I broke down and bought some sweet bath bombs and other little goodies from Moon’s Harvest. The bath bombs are the size of softballs and turn your water into a magical fizzing pool of goodness. I can get down with a bath now, but now I’m obsessed with finding things to put in my bath, and I now require a huge soaking tub in my future dream house.

2) Broccoli and Cauliflower
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Growing up, we never had broccoli or cauliflower. Fresh or frozen, raw or steamed, it just never showed up on the table. I wasn’t use to the taste or texture, and I was just generally not a fan. I blame a lot of this on the boiled frozen or mushy, gloopy “cheese” covered versions I was given. It’s not appealing.

I didn’t like either of these veggies until probably two years ago, just because Brent likes them and I wanted to try new foods. I still am not a huge fan of them raw, but we probably have either of these guys at least once a week. I’ll make roasted broccoli with garlic and lemon with a sprinkling of parmesan, or a nice cauliflower puree or a “risotto” with cream and parmesan. Tonight I made a super tasty broccoli and cheddar soup with ham. I cannot get enough! The crazy cauliflower above is from our CSA last summer, and I hope I more this CSA season. I’m thinking this recipe is coming to our table soon…

3) Electropop

Maybe you don’t even know what electropop is. It sounds stupid. and I thought it was. It’s generally happy, upbeat music driven mostly by electronic instruments, like keyboards and synthesizers and drum tracks mixed on a computer program. It never seemed like “real” music to me, and the singing was sometimes a bit too saccharine sweet and just not serious enough. I used to make faces and request the song be changed.

Now, I kind of can’t get enough of it. I love strong female vocalists and imaginative instrumental tracks and hooks that are really hard to get out of your head. It’s an addiction. (Listen above)

4) WINE
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This picture is from my 21st birthday, drinking out of my personalized goblet from Jena, and in it was a super sweet, super fruity moscato that I just absolutely loved. It was the only wine I drank, and I definitely didn’t consider myself a wine drinker. Red wine was gross and made my tongue feel weird and it tasted like sour grapes.

I worked at a coffee shop/ wine bar, and I couldn’t give any customers any recommendations or help because I hadn’t had any of our selection. My only comment on my performance review was “Needs to drink more wine.” Well, if you insist…

So, I started going to the weekly wine tastings that were hosted at my work, just sipping and deciding whether I liked it or not. I started to discover that there actually were differences, and I had preferences. I started out loving Pinot Noirs, and slowly started to branch out. Now, you can pretty much give me any wine and I’ll find something I like about it. I love the flavors, I love the low-volume, low-sugar aspect of wine. It’s the perfect drink.

5) Exercise
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Okay, I know what you’re thinking…everyone hates exercising. It’s boring and sweaty and hard and gross. Yeah, it can be. I always thought so. Sometimes I still do. But when you sit inside staring at a screen all day, you start to get antsy.

If you’re like me, the antsy feeling turns to anxiety since you haven’t done any more than walk to the kitchen a few times. I joined a gym. I didn’t use it much for the first year, going in spurts but always finding excuses to skip working out. Then Julie made me go to yoga with her. Yoga…BORING. But then i thought “You’re already wearing yoga pants, Jenny…you might as well do some yoga in them.”

I found out that yoga is fun. Like, really fun, and challenging, and centering. (yeah, I said centering.) I also get to wear yoga pants with a purpose. The gym can be fun, too, because the gym has elliptical machines and cable (yay, tv I don’t have to feel guilty about watching!) And the gym gets me out of my house and out of my weird computer screen funk. Exercise also makes me feel strong and healthy, which is good on many levels.

So, I’ve flip flopped on some things in my short 25 years. Maybe I’ll start trying mushrooms more often. Or maybe not.

Is there anything you used to hate, but now you love?

Lunch Break!

24 Mar

I always envied people who would actually take their lunch break. They would go outside, take a walk around the block, eat their sandwich, maybe check Facebook, and go back to their desk. This seems nice and constructive and gives your brain a needed break.

I usually just eat mindlessly at my desk while reading random articles and scrolling through Facebook for the 4987th time. It’s not great. Nor is it really a break. My brain is mushy by lunch time, and even if I’m not focused on work, I’m still in “work mode.”

And then, quickly after my lunch is gone, maybe like an hour later, I do need a break. I need to like…get up and stretch, read a magazine, just anything to get away from my desk. So, I decided to actually start taking a lunch break.

So, I actually started making lunch. Brent always gets the leftovers for lunch (lucky) and if there are actually more left, I get the scraps. But a lot of the time, there are no scraps. I would eat frozen meals or weird soup from a plastic microwave bowl. You know the weird metal/plastic bowl that doesn’t seem allowed to go in the microwave? It was not very exciting or inspiring.

I’ve been trying to keep lettuce or spinach around, and some tortillas, so I can at least start from there. I made a pesto, spinach, and cheese quesadilla the other day that rocked my world. Thats really only 3 ingredients (4 if you count the butter i threw in the pan), and it was incredible. Why have I not been making lunch for myself this whole time?

Have you seen those crazy bento box lunches? I’m so into these. I want to get a bento box and fill it with amazing things and then take it somewhere. Look at those cute toothpicks and the organized little cups of food! Those interesting combinations and sections of food! Makes my sandwich/granola bar/fruit cup of the past pale in comparison (Don’t worry, mom, I still loved your lunches even though there weren’t any pizza lunchables or little debbie brownies…)When we were in Japan, there were whole aisles in the dollar store dedicated to bento boxes. Tiny cookie cutters to make flower shaped carrots, themed toothpicks and adorable little containers…So many accouterments. I could definitely get obsessed with packing school lunches.

Well, I think it’s obvious what I did on my lunch break. I wrote this and then looked at bento box lunches. Whoops. How do you make the most of your lunch break?

I’m Back! (Again. Hopefully for good)

17 Mar

I’m sure you never really noticed I left, but, here I am again.

I’m sort of… “re-branding” this thing. Instead of a food-focused type blog, which is what I was going for last time, I think I’m just going to talk at you. Just my musings and ramblings, with some food stuff, life stuff, etc., etc.

Since I work from home, I don’t get to do that office chatter that comes with a normal job. I like office chatter. I like telling someone about the random, funny, odd, and just even normal things that happen in my day-to-day life. So, that’s what this will be. Me, pretending you’re in my office with me. Except…I’m still by myself and you won’t answer.

Things I’m thinking about today:
1) It’s crazy warm here for mid-March. Like, 70 degrees. Of course, tomorrow it’s going to be barely 50. And then, it might snow later this week. But, regardless, I didn’t wear a coat today, and I broke out the white wine. That’s right, everyone, it is white wine season! It’s official; I’ve officially decided.

2)I listen to way too many podcasts, but like I said, I have no office chatter. Podcasts are cool. I like to just listen to people talk about stuff, and pretend I’m just an eavesdropper. I then tell Brent about what people said “on the podcast today.” Like, “today, on the podcast, so-and-so was talking about xyz, and I was like yes, I totally agree about xyz!” and he’s like wait…who? what? It’s probably annoying.

I found a super great one today, and it is like the holy grail of podcasts for me. I’ve been searching for a podcast that is sort of geared towards a topic I really like, but not so structured. I like when the podcast hosts go off on random tangents and just chat on like friends do. The Joy The Baker Podcast is it. Two food/lifestyle bloggers just basically talking. I love Joy’s blog, she’s a wonderful writer with a bright spirit and takes great pictures. She also has a fluffy orange cat and I have two fluffy orange cats. We could probably be friends.

Do you guys listen to any podcasts? Any recommendations? I’ll probably write a post in the future all about podcasts and that might be really boring.

3) My brother is coming into town this week. He’s in law school and I’m assuming he’s on spring break? That makes sense. But i’m excited to host him for a few days, and then we’ll take him to the airport and explore Milwaukee and drink beer probably and probably go into a bar and watch some basketball which I will pretend to watch but not watch. It will be fun!

Okay, that’s enough. Off to inflate the new air-bed for brother, watch some (more) Top Chef, and drink my long-anticipated, now appropriately seasonal white wine.

Baking Up Some Sunshine (IPA Lemon Bars)

7 May

It’s been slowly turning into spring around these parts. It’s been raining and cloudy constantly, and the thermometer is barely hovering above 50-60 most days. That, plus wind and no sun means it is not warm.

We even tried to have a cook out and froze our butts off waiting for the food to cook and hurried inside to eat in warmth.

Ahh, Midwest seasons.

I’ve cooled off on baking super often, because Lord knows I don’t need a high volume of desserts in my house. But, I really felt like I needed some sunshine in my life, so I whipped up these bright, sweet and tangy lemon bars.

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I used a recipe that involves beer. I love using alcohol in recipes. Beer is in abundance in our fridge, and I chose to use the only IPA we had lying around. It was probably hoppier than I would have liked. If you are an IPA drinker, choose a beer that is citrusy and balanced and not super aggressively hopped. If you’re not, adding in a balanced, not super flavorful beer will probably still work just fine. Steer clear of anything dark or flavored, though, as this will probably alter the flavor of the classic lemon bar we have going on here. DSC04153

Don’t let this scare you away. I promise it’s not beer-y and really just lends another layer of flavor to the tasty lemon filling.

Speaking of the filling. This recipe has the perfect ratio of crust to filling. I think sometimes lemon bars are all crust or equally crust and filling. This one, my friends, is just the right amount crust. The crust is just a vehicle for the real star of the show.

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Both Brent and my brother declared them the best lemon bars they’ve ever had. Brent said he didn’t even really like lemon bars but loved these. Yay! They really are good.

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I actually own the cookbook the author of this recipe wrote. I have yet to make anything from it, but after making these I’m definitely diving into that sucker this weekend to see what other magic I can make.

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These are really pretty, too. Look at them! So bright and sunny.

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RECIPE: IPA Lemon Bars (16 servings)
Adapted slightly from this recipe.
Crust:

  • 1 c flour
  • 1/3 c powdered sugar
  • 6 Tbsp unsalted butter (cut into chunks)
  • pinch of salt

Method: Either blend all ingredients in a food processor until butter is cut into very small pieces and mixed throughout, or stir dry ingredients together and cut in butter with a pastry cutter, fork, or rubbing it in with your fingers. (I started out using a food processor but it wasn’t working for me for some reason, so ended up blending it all up with my fingers.) Mixture will be dry and crumbly. Press into 8×8 pan and chill 15 min.

Preheat oven to 350

Bake crust for 20-25 min. let cool (at least 15 min – you don’t want a hot crust when you pour in filling)

While crust is cooling, make filling.

Filling: 

  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 c sugar
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 tbsp corn starch
  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup beer
  • extra powdered sugar for dusting (optional)

Wisk eggs and sugar together until smooth. Wisk in flour and corn starch until combined. Stir in beer and lemon juice until well combined.
Pour filling over cooled crust and bake 20-25 minutes or more until center is set. (I had to bake mine for 30 min). Let cool slightly before putting into fridge. Refrigerate 2-3 hours before cutting.

Enjoy!

For more tips on using beer in cooking or tons more beer and food recipes, check out The Beeroness!

 

My Week in Cooking

5 May

Wow, I just realized I didn’t post a single blog in April. That’s pathetic. I think it’s because I think I never have anything interesting to post. But now, I’m going to post whatever I feel like. So here’s my promise in digital ink: I’m going to post much more often. About whatever.

Today’s topic: cooking!

You know how people list hobbies or interests and it always sounds really cool and interesting? I always wish I was these people, with their novel writing or guitar playing. But Brent just pointed out to me recently that cooking and baking are my hobbies. I cook every day, so I didn’t really consider this a “hobby,” but it totally is. Because I love it.

When I tell people I cook every day, I usually get a side-eyed glance and a polite response, but I’m sure these people think I’m crazy. I admit, I’m lucky with my job and schedule because it leaves me a lot of time to cook, since I don’t commute and my hours are flexible.

I’ve always enjoyed cooking, but ever since I graduated college and got married, it really has become part of my life.

In college, I’d whip up a batch of chocolate chip cookies or make some tacos, but cooking wasn’t my priority (obviously). I’d boil some pasta and cook up some chicken and call it a home cooked meal. Which, it is, but isn’t exactly gourmet.

As I got more time, I started to cook a lot more for people. My roommates and I would collaborate on a meal every so often, sometimes slaving away over a miniature stove (seriously, who puts in a half-sized oven in an apartment!?) with all the windows open and fans blasting in our 1930s, non-air-conditioned apartment building.

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Hey, it’s me in my college apartment kitchen! Notice the total lack of counter space and that stupid tiny stove in the background. I don’t miss that.

But once I had someone to cook for every day, I really got into it. Sharing the food I make is the best part about making food. I love scouring my magazines and cookbooks for interesting ideas, and my my food pinterest boards are totally full of recipes. I love hearing Brent’s approval as he scarfs down my latest creation. It’s one of th best parts of my day, too.

My meal prep actually begins on Sunday. I sit down with my cookbooks and pinterest and comb through recipes for the week. I ask Brent what he’s craving (which is almost always fish or “meat”) and start making a list.
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(Check out my funky new vegetarian cookbook! I picked it up at a garage sale this weekend, and it’s pretty great.)

I plan out what I want to make each day of the week (except for the weekends), and make my grocery list accordingly. This allows me to have everything I need on hand throughout the week, helping me avoid the last minute grocery store run. Admittedly, though, I still end up going back for something.

This approach to cooking also helps us eat healthy all week. Because I plan for it, we rarely play the “what are we having for dinner” game and cave into pizza or Chinese food delivery.
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The menu this week! I’m particularly excited for the broccoli casserole, which I found in a vintage 1960s copy of a Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. There’s cream cheese and bleu cheese involved…yum!

More to come soon! Happy Monday, all.

 

 

 

 

 

My First Spring Break (Mexico!)

29 Mar

Guys! I went to Mexico for a week, and it wasn’t snowing there! I didn’t have to wear a coat or boots or anything! (well, I did wear something…but it was far far less than usual)

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We went to Puerta Vallarta with my parents and brother to a super beautiful resort. This area of Mexico is just gorgeous, with the mountains surrounding a bay, it’s all just so pretty. And we always feel really safe in this part of the country, which is nice because it means we can go exploring a little bit.
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Margaritas, obviously.

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Dad loves mom.

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I’m so short.

This was Brent’s first time in Mexico, and I was excited to share it with him. I’d been to this area twice before, so I really wanted him to see the things I had told him about. Here are the highlights: We went on a cool boat ride to a little “private” beach. Private, because it wasn’t open to the public. You had to buy tickets to go there – so fancy!

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On the boat!

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Mom “found” a starfish! I can’t believe she actually held it.

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The boys paddle boarding

Brent and I took a tour of the city and surrounding areas, something I had done before with my family. It was all of our favorite thing from the trip, so I really wanted to do it again! There is a small walking tour of the downtown area of Puerta Vallarta.

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Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in downtown Puerta Vallarta.

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The boardwalk is full of statues and art pieces. This piece is the symbol of the city.

There’s a huge “handicraft” market, basically a tourist mecca with basically anything you could ever want made in Mexico. Beautiful ceramics and hand blown glass, blankets, clothing, shoes, vanilla, etc., as well as the little junky trinkets and shot glasses and other mass-marketed things. I wasn’t really in the mood to barter or get ripped off, and neither one of us really needed anything. All I wanted was this super high quality vanilla that we had bought from this market a few years back. I grabbed it, got a decent deal, and we headed over to a really cute little cafe and people watched.

From there, we headed up to the mountains, where we learned a lot about the city and how it came to be a tourist destination. Basically, it all comes down to Elizabeth Taylor’s affair with some movie star…I am not totally sure but the scandal brought attention to the city in the late 1960s and then Nixon came and visited…and boom, on the map.

A really unique part of this tour is that we get to stop at a traditional tequila distillery. It was a 3-generation family business that hand make severything, from cooking the agave in big fire pits, using a donkey to crush it into juice, and distilling it in small batches in copper stills, to developing their own flavored and aged tequilas. Last time I didn’t partake in the free samples…but I sure did this time!

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They have a citrus flavor, almond flavor, and a coffee-vanilla-chocolate flavor. They were so good. like…so good. Brent had to get a picture of me taking my first official shot! (Long story, but I don’t like when people tell me what to do, i.e.: “You HAVE to take a shot.” so I don’t take shots on principle…and I’m stubborn). Anyways. They also have a reposado tequila, or “rested” which means it was in the barrel for less than 8 months. The anejo tequila is rested for at least 18 months, and was smooth and slightly sweet. The family reserve was the best thing ever – smooth, sweet, and smoky, but very pricy. We bought the anejo, which was still expensive…but worth it!

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Obviously there was the beach and ocean, but I’m so fair (and so is Brent) and I get very grumpy when I’m hot. I need shade at all times or I fry. I used spf 50 all week. I still got sun burned.

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But I’ll gladly take that over boots, down jackets, mittens, and having the heat on, all things that happened this week at home. So. Over. It.

I’m happy to be home, though. I missed my kitties!

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