Friday, December 17, 2010

I did it.

I actually won this year's Cookie Exchange! Let me tell you, this annual cookie exchange with our sunday school class is serious business. Some start searching for the perfect cookie months ahead, but not me this year. Which is one of the things that might have helped me win. :) Check out Leslie's post for more pictures of our fun night!

I'm not going to lie. I did try a few recipes before making the final decision and they were pretty good, but just lacking that thing to make me say, "this is it". I told myself I would do something different this year and make a cookie without frosting. Yeah right. I should have known better. I love sugar too much and there's just nothing better than a glazed or frosted cookie, right?!

And when I saw these Iced Eggnog cookies, I couldn't resist.

photo via Madison, from espresso and cream

The only thing I did to adapt the cookie dough was use 1/2 whole wheat flour and 1/2 all purpose (1 cup each). The original glaze was just not enough for me and I used this instead:

Eggnog Icing

8T. butter, softened
1 1/2 c. powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
pinch cinnamon
pinch kosher salt
1/4 cup eggnog
1/4 tsp nutmeg

Here are the two recipes that didn't make the cut. Both good and worth making sometime.

The winning prize you might be wondering? Just the cutest apron I've ever seen. And my first! My clothes are thanking me, now (and I'm thanking you, Leslie!).

Just so you know, my vote went to another Leslie and her amazing chai cookies. My first try at these were just not as good as yours, Leslie! Can you make some more, please?!

And in case you're wondering, I did finish a few of those Christmas projects and will share soon!

Unfortunately, the one thing we didn't do this year is send out Christmas cards. No real good reason, just didn't do it this year. But we're sure our friends and family know we love them! We'll get it together next year, promise.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Let the baking begin

This is my favorite time of the year. Three separate holidays, almost back to back. And all three require baking of some kind, which I love. But lately, I've come to the conclusion that I do a much better job collecting recipes than actually using them.

I've cut down on the current magazine subscriptions I receive, but still enjoy Taste of the South, BHG, Martha Stewart + everyday food, Southern Living and Real Simple. And yet, this doesn't stop me from picking up the latest special edition of any magazine throughout the year, especially all the holiday editions. I'm still working on the cut-backs. It's not all magazines for me, though. I love cookbooks (Giada de Laurentis never disappoints) and have a good wish list going, but these take a little more time to select, considering their usual price.

Since October, I've been collecting fall recipes and deciding what I'd try for Thanksgiving. I had plans to do more, but ended up with a few good recipes I'll share from my search.

You may remember the cinnamon honey butter craze that ensued from Darby's blog post last year and boy, was it good! I wanted something along the same lines this year and came across an easy recipe for apple butter. My dad and I always purchased a jar of apple butter each fall we traveled to Gatlinburg and Ive been hooked ever since.

[pairs great with Cinnamon Nut Bread, both via BHG, Holiday Baking issue]

There's nothing quite as easy as this:

Apple Butter

4lbs cooking apples (I used Gala because its all Kroger had. Honey crisp would be good, too)
2 cups sugar
1/3 cup water
2 T vinegar (all I had was apple cider kind, worked fine)
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
1/8 tsp allspice
1/8 tsp nutmeg

Place slices in crockpot. Stir in all ingredients. Cover and place on high for at least 5-6 hours. I might have let mine go for more like 7-8, though. You be the judge. You just want the apples to be all the way smooth, of course. Cool and place into canning jars or airtight containers. Store in refrigerator for up to 3 weeks or freeze up to 1 year.

I plan to enjoy this with homemade biscuits next. Well, when I decide which recipe to use! :)

I couldn't resist this next one.

Almost No-Bake Pumpkin Cream Pie, via Joy the Baker.

I wish I could take pictures like she does and I wish I hadn't eaten so much of this pie. Next time, I'll assemble the crust better and add the syrup on top. yum.

These were on the list, but didn't quite make it:

- Sausage stuffing, via Jenny from picky-palate
- Pumpkin spice granola and multigrain rolls, via Annie from annie's-eats.
- Browned butter cranberry lime muffins, via Joy the Baker. If these are anything like her browned butter blueberry muffins, I'm in. They have certainly become a regular in our house.

In the attempt to save money while also being able to decorate for the holidays, I started thinking about several projects I'd like to accomplish before December hits-
1. advent calendar
2. magazine christmas trees, thanks to martha s.
3. something to hold christmas cards
4. festive garland

Like I said, I'm really good at making lists. Maybe I can finish one of these.

As an early Christmas present, Grant finished the office for us.

not the best picture, carpet looks a little mustard-y. you get the idea though.

Here's the scene from 2007 when we first met.

how bout that green shag carpet?!

I'm hoping this finished project will jump start us toward a more organized lifestyle. Speaking of, the dishes are calling my name. My least favorite part of baking.

Hope you had a great Thanksgiving, too!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

the year 2000

Well, there's really no good reason why I've allowed summer and fall (almost) to pass without updating something! The end of my summer and beginning of fall was spent in large part, preparing for my 10 year high school reunion in September.

It's still hard to grasp that I am old enough to have a high school reunion. And 10 years at that. We had a good turnout for the weekend, minus a little rain for the picnic. We graduated with a class of 100 people and had nearly half of the class attend.

As a senior, my main responsibility as historian of the class was to take pictures. That's it. Easy enough, right? And I think we had a decent slide show to prove I was capable. But for some reason these days I just don't think about taking pictures. In fact, the only reason we have our life documented in photos is because of Grant. So like a dummy, I only took one picture. All weekend.

These are my dear friends, Eryn, Kara, Emily and Melissa. We've been through it all- a few of us as early as elementary school and the rest of us met in 7th grade. Each time we get together, nothing has really changed and I love that. This was the first time in several years (Eryn's wedding in '06, I think) that we were all in the same place together. So much fun!

10 years ago, Emily and I decided this was a good idea

( please don't kill me, Emily!)

candle-light devo during Homecoming week.

Awhile back, I discovered I was not the only one in high school who rocked short hair. There was one more person in this world who had the guts to do it and after Jesse's post on her version of the "mom cut" I figured it was only fair I own up to my version too. But I think this is a little past a "mom cut", don't you Jesse?! Yikes!

This is the one thing my friends never forget and love to remind me of when we get together! And something Grant can't bear to view, I think :)

While planning, gathering photos, memorabilia, etc for the reunion, this little piece of paper was dropped into my hands courtesy of Debbie Edwards (Melissa's mom). I almost fell on the floor when I read it. And after sharing this with the girls we all agreed, we.were.weird.

I guess we ate lots of chocolate pies back then?! who eats whole pies?!

I don't know, but I almost ate a whole loaf of Leslie's pumpkin bread tonight. I guess some things haven't changed.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Celebrating 100 years at Glacier National Park

My body has barely recovered from our week of hiking in the park, but the sore muscles are worth every minute we spent enjoying views like this

We celebrated the 4th with Grant's aunts in Billings, MT before driving to Glacier. And let me tell you, the people in Billings go all out for the 4th with the fireworks. They started at 7pm and did not quit until 1am (mind you, it doesn't get fully dark until about 1030 or 11pm there). And the quality of fireworks was equivalent to an organized show in Memphis. We loved it!

We drove to Glacier the next morning and spent three days hiking, totaling a whopping 30 miles! We visited the park a couple years ago, but were unable to finish most of the hikes due to the number of grizzly bear sightings causing the rangers to close the trails.

But this year we finished all 3 hikes we set out to complete and did not encounter any grizzlies (thank goodness!) but saw several deer, marmots, mountain goats, sheep, cows and one black bear. Grant spent most of his time pining for a moose but no such luck this year.

First day of hiking. Iceberg Lake.

on the way... don't even ask, i have no idea whats going on here.

stopped to admire this little guy and then finished here

due to the ever-changing climate, the icebergs are slowly disappearing each year :(

Day 2: Hidden Lake
Let me just say, I was not prepared for the amount of snow on this hike. We drove about 30 min to the trailhead and this is what was waiting for us:

less than a mile in...

Align Left
the Burke men made it to the top!

and so did this cute thing

The change in altitude and steep incline presented its own challenges, but I certainly made it worse when I decided to wear New Balance shoes that morning. Reaaally old new balance with non-existing treds.

The beginning of the end...

and it only got worse from here. it was pretty hilarious the number of times I bit the dust. way too many to count!

Day 3: Grinnell Lake

We spent many nights here by the fire or on the deck and it was heaven! Its also the place where Grant's dad spent 2 summers working in college.
Many Glacier Hotel (built in 1915!)

and finally, the place we visited every morning in hopes of spotting a moose for Grant
Fishercap Lake

see you next time, glacier!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Five years ago

Grant and I were celebrating our first day of marriage here, in Belize.
(our anniversary was really a couple weeks ago, but I just couldn't get it together, as usual!)

This year, we celebrated downtown at Flight. If you've got a special occasion to celebrate or just in the mood for a splurge, this is your place. I loved everything about it- food, service, location and overall concept. The menu is designed with "fights" of every course presented in small portions.

It's perfect for someone like me who agonizes over decisions of any kind (fyi- if there's a plan to eat out, never ask me where I want to eat because most likely I'll say, "where do you want to eat?" and that will go round and round until you want to kick me. Just ask Grant!). So, instead of one entree, I had pork tenderloin, jumbo shrimp and steak. All of it was delicious. especially my 3 desserts!

After dinner we took a stroll through Harbor Town and enjoyed the sunset, which sparked a discussion of why we never thought to move downtown. I say we still can, but Grant isn't quite convinced yet!

Instead of gifts, we've always celebrated with a nice dinner, but this year Grant surprised me with this:

created in his office

and hung in our bedroom to enjoy!

He got his inspiration from this photo we took while in Rome last Fall:

I think he came pretty darn close to replicating it!

I sure do love this guy. Here's to many more years, my love!

While we were celebrating our anniversary, our backyard was going through a major overhaul. We have neglected the backyard for 3 years now and it certainly showed:


during demo:

We knew this would be a project we couldn't do alone and I am so glad we decided to hand it over to someone with more experience.

The grass is slow-moving, but coming along! We're hoping to add a few plants/flowers soon.

But until then, we're off to this lovely place for a week of hiking!

Glacier National Park, Montana

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Recent Travels

I really thought I'd do better about posting on this blog, but obviously that's not true!

Since the last post, we've entered a new year and so far it's been pretty great. In Februray, we celebrated with our favorite Griz, Zach Randolph (Z-Bo) as he was rewarded a spot to the All Star team during the annual All Star Weekend. Grant made several onesies and small t-shirts for his two girls to wear and celebrate the honor too!

[lost the onesie pictures, but trust me, they are so cute]

Unfortunately, we didn't see the Tigers in March Madness, but we thoroughly enjoyed watching two certain teams in the MidSouth lose in the Elite Eight! (don't act like you didn't either!).

In March, we won a contest at a Grizzlies game that involved writing your name on a piece of paper, folding it into your best make-shift airplane and launching it to center court in hopes of reaching the very center, or closest to.
And the prize? Free airfare to Orlando, tickets to Griz/Magic game and one night stay in the team hotel!

I thought I crafted the perfect plane, but it didn't even reach 3 rows in front me. So, you can imagine my surprise when the lady announced, "Grant Burke" as the winner. As it turned out, our dear friends placed our name on several planes and made a perfect throw. So very sweet!

So, we spent our first Easter away from home and in Orlando and had a great little getaway! We were able to extend the trip to 3 days and spent one day in Disney World at Magic Kingdom, a few hours at the outlet stores, a lovely easter service at church downtown and of course, the game.

Grant's good luck ran out when a bird pooped on him.

But then came back after Disney gave him a voucher for clean clothes!
[I almost didn't believe the sweet lady that walked up to us and said, " Sir, are you okay? Can we get you some new clothes?" Grant certainly wasn't going to say no!]

seriously, not another picture.
Space Mountain

The Grizzlies lost their game Sunday night, but we still had a great trip and are thankful to our friends who helped us get there!

And a couple of days after Orlando, I met my friend, Emily and her precious daughter, Sadie in Little Rock for a quick trip to see our dear friend, Melissa and her two children in Monroe, LA. The trip down and back was short-lived but so worth it!

Nora and Sadie
[if only you could see the things we did to get them to look into the camera!]

sweet, Ethan. He's so cuddly. I love him!

Loved seeing both of you and your precious children!

Now, I think I'll stay put for a little while. And maybe update before 4 months goes by again!