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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.

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Sunday Brunch Day (My newfound love)

3 Mar

Sundays are now officially my favorite day of the week.

I feel like most people don’t like Sundays. They’re like pre-Mondays, right? I used to feel that way. I used to just feel the time crunch bearing down on me…”Monday is coming! Are you ready for 5 strait days of work?” (that was Sunday talking to me.)

But now, it’s my favorite. I work Mon-Sat right now, so Sundays are my only days completely “off” work. They’re lazy. They’re fun. I usually do really mundane things, but it’s entirely enjoyable.

And recently, I’ve been really in to making us a delicious breakfast in the mornings. Our weekday breakfasts are usually just yogurt or a granola bar ( boring) and Sundays give me those extra hours to create something really delicious, most often involving bacon.
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This Sunday I pulled out all the stops. My dear friend Becky joined us for brunch and we had a very lovely time! Brent whipped us up some breakfast cocktails and I made tiny baby donuts. They are an almond donut with a cherry glaze, although the glaze definitely left something to be desired (very powdered-sugary) so I will be tweaking that one. but they’re so adorable.

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I also made an amazing Middle Eastern egg dish called shashuka, which is eggs poached in a spicy tomato sauce eaten with pita. I forgot to take pictures because I was too hungry. I’m making that again for sure. I followed Deb’s take on this dish over at Smitten Kitchen, so head over there for that recipe.

Anyways, my point is that I wish every day could be like Sundays. Just taking my time in the morning, enjoying my coffee and whipping up a super tasty breakfast for people. I’ll be waiting all week for this Sunday morning – I’m thinking some breakfast tostadas are in order!

Holiday Adventures (AKA: Photo dump)

3 Jan

Hi! I hope everyone had a nice holiday season, and got a bit of  a break from your hectic schedules.

Brent and I did a lot of visiting and traveling, hauling the kitties with us to stay at Brent’s parent’s house and seeing lots of relatives. We are pretty blessed to have such great families and friends and I’m so glad we got to see a lot of them!

Here’s about 100000 pictures I took. It’s a shame not to share them, so be prepared for a long picture post.

Minnesota: Christmas
We had a “Cookie day” a few days before Christmas. For once ,I didn’t actually bake anything. My mom (of all people!) mixed up a really tasty sugar cookie dough, and we store bought gingerbread cookie dough. Brent helped roll and cut out shapes (I have no patience…) and we invited people over to decorate.

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Here’s a small sampling of my cousins.

Then, there was Christmas and other things that go along with that. Nothing too exciting to report! We got more things than we needed – we’re still spoiled.

Case in point, our 1 day trip to NYC.
We didn’t really have a plan…at all. This made for a lot of wandering around, which was pretty fun. We happened to walk past one of my favorite things in the city: Trinity Church. I’ve been to NY a couple times before and have only walked past this ancient church and the cool cemetery attached to it. I longed to go in, since I love old old things, but we never had time. Not this time!
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The gravestone above is the oldest in the cemetery. It was put there before the church existed, in the mid 1600s, and still stands. You can actually still be buried in this cemetery if you have the right connections.

We were centered mostly around Times Square and that area, walking around Broadway and other famous locales.
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If I had been on this trip alone, I would have TOTALLY gone to see Richard III and Twelfth Night. Richard III is my favorite Shakespeare play…but alas I’m the only lit nerd in our group. I would have also gone to the American Indian Museum near Wall Street, the only free museum in the city. I’m also the only one who likes museums.  Maybe next time!

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After this little trip, we drove to Brent’s parent’s for the rest of our little vacation. We were glad the cats had a place to stay, and they loved their new big place to explore. (and their grandparents! hehe)
We do a lot of relaxing there, which is so nice when neither one of us has work to do.
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Squirrels! Dogs! So many new things!

 

 

 

Photo Dec 29, 2 57 08 PM

All three cats were napping with Sherri.

New Years 13 Family
Family picture with wiggly participants
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We also got to go out for New Year’s Eve and got to dress up. Brent got to wear his suit…it was a big deal. One of our dear friends goes to school in this town, so we were able to meet up with him and had a nice night out. I had the best cocktail of my life (pineapple upside down cake!) and my feet almost froze off.

That’s about it. I did get to peek at some vintage recipes from Brent’s grandpa, something I’m very excited about – look for some of those to come in 2014, along with more posts from me. A resolution of sorts.

Happy New Year, all!

Easy Food for Hungry People (Or, being a “good” host)

11 Dec

I don’t really need to point out that it’s officially the holiday season. This year they’re kind of in a big jumble together. I’ve been anxious for my Christmas “vacation” ever since my 4-day Thanksgiving weekend!

I’ve also been stuffed full since then. But, there’s so much more eating and entertaining ahead of us.
Look – I made these!

Gingerbread Marshmallows

Gingerbread Marshmallows

Anyways-
Holidays in our family mean lots of pop-in visitors – usually one of my mom’s sisters – just dropping by to chat and drink coffee ( or cocktails, depending on the time of day!) Having “unexpected” guests can be frustrating for the unprepared, pajama-clad hosts who didn’t have time to really rustle anything up to feed their visitors.

At least, that’s what happens at my mom and dad’s house. Everyone ends up grazing and picking through the cupboards and refrigerator. Leftover turkey here, some christmas cookies there…not the best strategy for either party. Even if you’re a twenty-something living on your own, I can guarantee people are either coming over or you’re being the guest yourself. Either way, you’re gonna need something to offer. That’s where this cake comes in!
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It’s simple, strait forward, lightly sweetened and pretty difficult to mess up. It utilizes the produce star of winter – citrus – and makes use of holiday flavors without being obvious. It could be a breakfast treat or an afternoon snack. Regardless if you’re the host or the guest, this is a great cake to have around.
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What do you like to have on hand for guests? Do you bring a “hostess gift” when you go holiday visiting?

Orange Cardamom Olive Oil Cake 
(inspired by this recipe)

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Zest of one orange (about  1 tablespoon) A few tablespoons orange juice (I squeezed half an orange into the batter)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon  cardamom

Set oven to 350 degrees and grease a round cake pan (I used a 9 inch). Beat eggs and sugar together until thick and fluffy, about 2 minutes on high. Stream in olive oil while mixer is on (medium) until oil is incorporated. Mix in vanilla and orange zest, along with the orange juice. Whisk all your dry ingredients together in a separate bowl, and with the mixer on, slowly incorporate into wet ingredients until uniform. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean from middle.

Let cake cool in pan for a few minutes before turning out on wire rack to cool completely. While cake is cooling, make the glaze

  • 1 to 1 ½ c. powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1  teaspoon orange zest
  • 4-5 tablespoons fresh orange juice (I squeezed in the other half of the orange, but you might need a bit more. you can always thin out a little water.)
    Mix all ingredients together, until glaze is thick enough to coat your spoon. Wait until cake is cool before pouring glaze on top of cake. This can be very messy, so I usually slide some parchment paper under the edges of the cake to catch drips. Let glaze dry and harden before slicing. Garnish with some leftover orange slices, if that suits your fancy.
  • {I actually did almost totally screw up this cake. I put it in the oven, looked up and saw the cup full of olive oil I never actually put in the batter, and had a bit of a panicked moment. So, your cake will probably turn out better than mine if you actually follow the directions…}

Friendship and baking: Pie Edition

14 Oct

This weekend, one of my best friends in the world came to visit. Holly and I have been friends for years, and we just get each other. Even if we don’t talk for months on end, once we reconnect it’s like we’ve never been apart.

We haven’t seen each other in a really long time, (maybe a year?!) and it was great to just hang out and catch up. Holly has made it sort of a tradition to take the drive up here every fall, and it’s just about perfect. We were able to cram a lot into a day and a half: we took a zoo trip, did living room yoga, ate at a couple great restaurants, drank boozy apple cider, played and cuddled with kitties, introduced her to Doctor Who, made her watch Rocky for the first time ever (what?!) and….drumroll….we made a pie!

picking the apples

The pie is just another example of why we’re in sync. Brent is even included in this. He suggested we bake a pie, I thought about making one with a crumble on top, and Holly blurted out “a dutch apple pie!” She even brought apples with her…how did she know?

The recipe we chose was very involved, but we were glad to have a project to dive in to. We even made pie crust –  and Brent helped with the apple peeling, coring, and slicing and picture taking.

crust pressing

ignore my crazy hand

The crust is fussy, and neither one of us had any patience for all the refrigeration time (nearly 2 hours, all together), so we essentially cut that in half. I also don’t have a sufficient rolling pin, and our crust is definitely not going to win any beauty contests.

into the oven

But that’s one thing I love about baking. Nothing ever has to look perfect, especially when you know the quality of the ingredients you just threw together. There’s no way butter, sugar, and fresh orchard apples could ever taste bad. Ever.

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Baking is one of those things that is made exponentially better when you do it with someone. Baking with a partner allows you to share the joy and love that goes into it, and you get to taste it together and just wordlessly enjoy the fruits of your labor. I hope my future children share the love I have for baking so I can have some in-house baking buddies!

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Anyways, this pie is incredible. The addition of cream simmered with the sweetened apple juices created a fabulous filling. Since we cut the apples so small, they got nice and cooked through, and the crumb topping added a special sugary crunch. The crust was flaky and buttery, even though we cut the chilling time in half. Although it is very labor intensive, if you’re looking for an impressive apple dessert, this should be your pick.

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We used this recipe from Brown Eyed Baker. We stuck pretty true to the original, but I cheated on the chilling time of the dough, and used brown sugar instead of white sugar in the filling, and increased it to about 1/2 a cup. Don’t fret about the type of apples you may use, just use at least 2 different types. Also, my pie pan was 1/2 inch larger than called for, so my pie crust did not have a lip but it still worked out just fine. Perfectly, in fact! I had never even made pie crust before so don’t be afraid, it’s actually very simple.

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Do you have a favorite apple pie recipe, or any great pie crust recipes?

Happy baking!

Apple Adventures: It’s apple time.

7 Oct

I wait for this day all year: Apple orchard day!

Views of Eplegaarden

Views of Eplegaarden

The minute we leave, I can’t wait till we get to go again. I limit myself to one trip a year… we just cannot eat more than 20 lbs of apples in one season. We go to a little, local apple orchard with Norwegian roots. It’s very old fashioned but very family oriented. They have a cash register that has got to be about 100 years old!

Norwegian apple garden experience

Norwegian apple orchard experience

This is our third trip, and it’s turned into a tradition. I turn into a little kid, and Brent joins right in, and we cannot stop ourselves from running up and down the rows, seeing who can pick the biggest apple.

big guy.

big guy.

Giant fortune apple

Giant fortune apple

There were so many types available to pick. We go to a little orchard just a few miles away from us, and they had a great season with tons of rain and extra apples! We grabbed a 20 pound bag and got to pickin’.

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We also did some snacking.

The great part about orchards is the variety you get. There are so many kinds not available in stores, and many we’ve never heard of. This time around, we chose: Golden Delicious Smoothie- an amazing, sweet and sort of tart eating apple, Regent: which was a larger, not super crunchy but still tasty choice, Red delicious redchief for baking, Jonee for baking, Empire apples which weren’t as big as we wanted since they’re so yummy, and Fortune apples, new to us this year and incredibly large.

so. many. apples.

so. many. apples.

I have so many plans for these little guys. Cakes, bars, breads: it’s going to be intense…

We also picked up some squash: spaghetti, butternut, and acorn, and cider.

squash and gourds!

squash and gourds!

To kick off what I declare as Apple Week, I made this amazing savory-sweet apple pork dish with caramelized apples and onions in a rich cider sage sauce from Good Life Eats. I don’t often cook with apples (just baking), so I was a bit nervous. Pork and apples is a classic flavor combo, and add in sage and cider I don’t know where you could go wrong.

No pics for the recipe, but note that I used boneless center cut pork chops (3), halved the amount of apples and subbed in thinly sliced onions, and didn’t use quite as much sugar and butter for the sauce. Please make this, though, you will NOT regret it.

Check back soon for an awesome apple dessert! Happy Apple Week!

yum!

yum!