Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Fall Bucket List: Status Report

Fall's only one-third over and my bucket list is almost complete!

So far, I:
  • Visited Graves Mountain and the State Fair, where I rode the Ferris wheel with 2 very supportive friends and 1 very unsupportive husband :)
  • Found Jonagold apples during a work off-site in Charlottesville - Carter Mountain Orchard always delivers! :)
  • Made homemade applesauce.  
    • Funny story about this:  after I published the post about making the applesauce, a coworker reminded me that I have attempted applesauce before with VERY bad results!  5 years ago or so I tried making applesauce without consulting any recipes or cookbooks - I thought it can't be that hard and used my KitchenAid mixer to blend/mash the apples.  What was I thinking?  Shortly after I shared my applesauce misadventure with everyone at work, Kara read an article in the Washington Post about applesauce being a dummy-proof recipe and anyone could do it!  We all got a great laugh out of it - how could I forget that?!?  So this was not my maiden voyage, but this time I used my brain...and a recipe :)
  • Taken a staycation!
  • Carved a pumpkin - actually 2!
  • Visited James Madison's Montpelier - stay tuned for that post this weekend :)
  • Drank a pumpkin spice latte - never tried one before, and it is like crack!  My favorite cold-weather drink is still the caramel apple spice, and the gingerbread latte is good in small doses, but the pumpkin spice is awesome!  Go get yourself one :)

All that's left is reading a non-textbook book, getting a flu shot, completing a project inspired by Pinterest (which I hope to finish up on Saturday), and roasting a pumpkin (the scariest thing on the list!).  Here's hoping the other two-thirds of fall will be equally productive!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Fall Bucket List: Drink a Pumpkin Spice Latte

My awesome co-workers randomly gave me a $10 Starbucks gift card today, so I took it as a sign to go ahead and check off another item on my Fall Bucket List:  drink a pumpkin spice latte [or PSL if you're into Starbucks cup label lingo ;)]:

It's so good!  Doesn't beat the caramel apple spice, though...

Still unchecked on my bucket list are:
  • roast a pumpkin
  • flu shot
  • read a non-textbook book which might wait until after December 3, when the current semester is over :) - still fall until December 20ish right? :)
  • complete a project inspired by Pinterest (in progress)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Fall Bucket List: Carve a Pumpkin

Dave and I have never carved pumpkins together, so when I was asking for suggestions for my Fall Bucket List, he reminded me that we found a pumpkin carving kit a few months back at Diversity Thrift for a dollar! All signs pointed to us needing to carve some pumpkins this year :)

We picked up a few pumpkins a couple weeks ago for an arrangement for the front porch, but we went back to West End Plants and Produce to pick up some more for carving - 2 big ones and 2 small ones. Yesterday we got to work on our pumpkins :)
Dave was much more creative than me as far as carving - I'm not an artist, so I can't look at a big round pumpkin and see an evil face or jack-o-lantern. If I had a template I could trace a design, but I can't just pull it out, you know? So my pumpkins are more simple and methodical, and Dave's are more traditional Halloween pumpkins...

Here's my K:

One year at my townhouse in Fredericksburg, I wasn't going to be home on Halloween and didn't want to get egged for not giving out candy, so I drilled holes in a pumpkin and stuff Tootsie Roll pops in the holes. I added a sign that said "Please Take One" (I'm sure the kids ignored the signs) I decided to do that again, only without the lollipops. I thought it would look really cool lit up at night!

Dave carved this evil guy, which we filled with orange twinkle lights:

He also made a vampire and another small carved pumpkin - see what I mean about the creativity? It's unreal!

Here's the whole pumpkin family:

And all lit up on the rotten porch:

My drilly pumpkin needs bigger holes I guess - you can barely see the light through it!

I think we have a new family tradition! So fun!

Chex Mix

Every fall my mom used to make homemade Chex Mix. The smell of it cooking filled the house and we all waited for our treat! It's a little sweet, a little salty, and a LOT yummy!

I've never tried to make it before [unless I tried and failed years ago, like applesauce, and my selective memory is kicking in :)] Last week as I was cleaning out our kitchen buffet to make room for our new table I found an Amish cookbook. I was sorting through the book deciding which recipes to throw out and which to keep and found a recipe for Scramble. WTF is Scramble? As I read through the ingredients it was starting to sound all too familiar! Sounded exactly like my mom's Chex Mix - so I called her to read her the recipe and see how it compared to hers.

After making some small changes based after a failed attempt (burned it!), here's the recipe:

2 cups each:
Rice Chex
Corn Chex
Wheat Chex
Honey Nut Chex
Unsalted or lightly salted peanuts
Pretzel rods

1/2 cup each:
Worcestershire sauce

I combined all the dry ingredients and threw them into my turkey roasting pan. There's no reason to Pam it since you'll add the wet ingredients before putting it in the oven.

I melted the butter, stirred it with the W sauce, and poured that mixture over the dry mix. Bake it at 250 degrees, stirring every 15-20 minutes to make sure the bottom pieces don't burn.

It should be evenly coated and crispy within 90's what you end up with:

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Witch Hat Cookies!

Have I mentioned Pinterest is awesome?  Yep, I think maybe once or twice...well it is!

My college roommate, Erica, posted this a few days ago and I thought they were so cute:

Without reading the description they looked complicated and I didn't even re-pin them, thinking I couldn't tackle them.  Then I took a second look and noticed the base is just a fudge stripe cookie!  That I can handle :)

To assemble these adorable witch hat cookies, all you need is a package of fudge stripe cookies, a bag of Hershey's kisses, and some orange icing.

Since you don't need a lot of icing, rather than making a batch of buttercream I picked up a small tube of orange decorating icing from the baking aisle at the grocery store.  Wilton makes tips that can be screwed on top of the icing tube for easy piping - so convenient!

Pardon the extremely blurry picture (the background is in focus -hahahahaha), but I just squeezed some icing onto the bottom of the Hershey's kiss...

...and plop it down onto the chocolate side of the cookie.  Plop is a technical term.

Repeat for however many cookies you need - this would be a great snack or dessert at a Halloween party!  It just takes a few minutes to prepare many cookies and they are so good!

What a fun idea...and whatever icing you don't use can be stored in the tube.  Just take off the piping tip and put the tube's lid back on to seal it up...

I was thinking you could change the colors of the icing, but there are limited options I's not like cupcakes where you can make them match any theme or holiday.  With witch hats you're pretty limited - but  maybe if you're having a Wicked-themed party you could change the icing to green?  The orange reminds me of The Worst Witch :)  LOVED that movie when I was little - we taped it and I wore that VHS out!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Fall Bucket List: Make Homemade Applesauce

I only picked up six apples from Graves Mountain to avoid a Baby Boom situation:

In previous years I've picked up 2 or 3 bags or a 1/2 bushel and ended up throwing most of them away after getting tired of churning out a few apple dishes!  Six apples seemed much more manageable, and the plan was to choose 1 recipe that needs no more than those six apples.

When I find Jonagold apples I'll find room in my life for another recipe :)  Those are the best!

Since I've heard homemade applesauce is really easy to make but have never tried it, it is my recipe of choice for this year's batch of apples!  I trolled the internets for the yummiest-sounding recipe, and found it here.  I modified it a little for my batch:
  • 6 apples
  • 1 cup water (apple juice or cider might add more flavor)
  • 2 tablespoons (or was it?) honey
  • 3 ounces sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
I used my apple peeler/corer/slicer for the first time!  Super easy to use, yet somehow I found a way to muck it up at first.  I had a hard time lining up the core on the first few...

...but by the sixth apple I figured out how to do it neatly :)  Aren't they cute?
Once they were all chopped up I put them in a saucepan and added the rest of the ingredients:

Stir to combine all the ingredients, cover the pan, and the recipe said to cook it on medium heat for 15-20 minutes.  After 20 minutes it seemed a little liquidy, but I think that's normal since the apples are losing so much juice.  I turned off the burner and kept the pan covered for another 30 minutes or so...and it thickened up!

I mashed it up and it turned into this:

Hopefully it will thicken up a little more overnight in the fridge...tomorrow night:  pork chops loin and applesauce!

Perfect Fall Weekend in Virginia!

Last weekend was jam-packed with good times and good friends!  It started with a date night at Cinebistro to see The Ides of March - great movie and a great meal!  I love that place :)

Sunday morning I got up early to head to Graves Mountain Apple Harvest Festival with Bonnie and Crystal - a few of us go every year and it's always so much fun!

  We walked around all the vendor tents, where there were some interesting things people could buy for their homes, like this reminder for all husbands:
Happy Wife, Happy Life!

Scentsy had a booth, and Crystal knew all about it!  I had heard of it but just thought it was some other candle home party company, which it kinda is...but the scented wax is melted by a light bulb instead of a flame, so you don't have to worry about falling asleep with an open flame next to you!  Their scents are awesome!  I picked up this eggplant warmer and 3 scents:

Can't wait to plug it in and try it out!

Crystal found a cute sock monkey hat - which I hear through the grapevine can be found at Walgreen's for $7, much cheaper than the $18.50 price tag at Graves!

After lunch in the barn we headed over towards the apple bins, and passed this guy churning apple butter:

Then we hit the apples!  They bins and bins of all different kinds of apples.  I just got a mix of different kinds, because I knew I'd be baking with them and had no idea which ones were better or worse for baking...I figured if I only bought one kind, that would inevitably be the one that isn't good for baking. :)

After I picked up my apples we headed home to meet up with the rest of our clan for the State Fair!  It was very ambitious to do both these activities in one day, but we took a bit of a break in between to build up some new energy :)

My main goal at the fair, besides eating fatty fair food and having lots of laughs with my friends, was riding the ferris wheel.  I have developed a fear of heights over the years - I'm not sure where it came from since I used to love riding roller coasters and sky wire bucket things at Kings Dominion and rode the tram up to the top of Stone Mountain and ran around the top for a while without a care in the world.  But for some reason now I am so fearful anytime I'm high enough that I feel I'd break multiple bones if I fell.  Bridges are the worst.

I publicly declared to the group that I was riding the ferris wheel and told them not to let me chicken out.  I don't believe I tried to get out of it after my declaration, but they might tell a different story :)  I rode it with Dave, Bonnie, and Joe. Bonnie and Joe were very supportive, even offering their hand for support only to be turned away since I was clinching the side of the bucket with all the strength I had...I suppose I thought my little fingers would keep me attached to it if we began to plummet to the ground.  Jeez, I'm delusional.  Dave, on the other hand, was NOT supportive at all!  He kept jumping around, rotating himself to take photos.  Every time he did that the bucket started to sway and I thought it would turn upside down and drop us out!  I kept yelling at him to sit still and he wouldn't - the nerve!
This is the only picture I took at the fair before my camera died :(  It's good though...

I'm sure I made the trip miserable for all 3 of them, and at one point Bonnie (who had also never ridden a ferris wheel) said she was starting to get scared because of my reaction!  Haha!  Here's a video Dave took while we were up there - you can hear me in the background the entire time complaining about what a bad choice this ride was:

Once it stopped I hopped out of that bucket and almost ran down the ramp to get out of the area!  Haha - we ate some more fatty fair food and then decided to try and catch a few songs at The Band Perry's concert on the other side of the park.  We missed my favorite song of theirs, If I Die Young, but heard a couple other good ones.  Then it was time to head home and rest my aching feet!  

Fun weekend!  And I got to cross three things off my fall bucket list:  State Fair of VA, Graves Mountain, and Ride a Ferris Wheel :)

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Fall Bucket List

I have been a project and activity slacker lately.  School started back up, so everything else has taken a backseat so I can focus on getting nothing less than an A.  I finished my first class this weekend, and now know the format, workload, and time commitment that should be needed throughout the program.  I also know that I can't keep up the all work and no play routine because I will burn out, and burn out quickly.

BTW, Professor:  anytime you want to post those grades, I'll be very happy to see that A! :)

I can't ignore my favorite season - FALL - so I decided to make a list of all the fally things I don't want to miss.

Here's my bucket list - from a free, customizable printable you can download here:

As you can see I've already checked off a few things!  This weekend was full of Virginia Fall fun, about which I'll post later :)  My staycation is in progress and off to a great start! Hopefully I'll knock more than a few of my bucket list items off this week, before my next class starts...although the Pinterest project that has inspired me is more appropriate for winter, I'm going with it during this season! :)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Ways Facebook can be used for good #58: Gift Certificates

My first class at UR is all about exploring how our minds are evolving with the ever-changing technological landscape.  We no longer need to store massive files of information in our brains because we can look up anything on the internet at any time.  We no longer need to read every page of books; rather we can skim some pages and infer what we missed by deeply reading other sections.

The majority of our final grade is based on a 10 page research paper - the topic is very vague so we are able to get creative and narrow down the subject:  "Knowledge and Information in the 21st Century."  Wow - that's pretty broad.  I am writing about how consumers can circumvent any privacy practices in effect for their financial data or personal information on social networking sites and breach their own data or identity.  How beneficial is it to so heavily regulate banks around what information can be shared, with whom and when, if the customer can breach their own data by simply 'checking in' at home, revealing their address to anyone on the internet, unless they are one of the few who pays attention to their privacy options and customizes them?

I've been reading all about the dangers of Facebook and how we're all going to Hell in a handbasket for even having an account -really, only those of us who ignore common sense and don't lock down our pictures or personal data to friends - so I am so glad to see Facebook doing some good as the form of fabulous gifts and prizes awarded to yours truly. :)

A few weeks ago Ray's Italian Ice, a sleepy little dessert place on Lauderdale, posted a riddle with a prize of a $25 gift certificate to the winner.

I love a challenge, so I got to work.  When I should have been actually doing work.  At work.  But anyways...

Once I wrapped my brain around the jumble of letters (each word of the sentence is written backwards) it was easy to figure out Google the answer...

The riddle is:  what can go up a chimney down, but can not go down a chimney up?  Answer:  an umbrella!

Yay I won!

Dave and I stopped by there on the way home from work to redeem my prize, and immediately cashed in a few dollars of it for a dessert-before-dinner treat.

I got peanut butter and Dave got a combination of mango and banana - yum!

Stay tuned for an upcoming post:  "Ways Facebook can be used for good #59: More Gift Certificates"...I won another prize on Facebook around the same time, but I'll share that after we redeem it next week!  Fall road trip style!