Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Black Keys

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My attempt at being super fancy and causal all-at-once, because Kyle and I finally went on a dinner-date a few weekends back. I am in serious need for another night like this, because life has been so insane lately!

Our weekends have been packed to the gills, I was almost pulling my hair out trying to figure out how we are going to fit everything in for the one coming up. You can't say "no" to the people visiting from out of town, or to grandparents, or to people you haven't seen in ages, or to the laundry mat because you need clean undies, or to the grocery store because you skipped that last weekend. Sheesh.

On top of all of that, I  am busy all week from 6 am to 11 pm. I get up, do morning things (aka, dawdle), rush to work, work all day, then I either rush to the gym, or home to babysit, I figure out dinner, then clean, shower, and get everything ready for the the following morning. Not to mention work has been insane lately! I work for two (sometimes three) different departments, and I can't seem to get caught up. I really just need to work a Saturday, but someone has to be there to let me in, and I have to make sure that I have nothing going on at home. Luckily there is a light at the end of the tunnel, Kyle and I are taking a week off in November, so hopefully I can catch up on some things at home, like sleep, and puppy cuddles (or farts, but I will take what I can get). 

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I was cracking up during these photos, because I really wanted to go stand by that tree pictured below, but it was in someone's yard. Kyle told me that I couldn't stand in front of a random person's house because it would be creepy. Whatever Kyle! I have come to the conclusion that mustard is my favorite fall color. I think I have worn these tights twice per week ever since it became cool enough to wear tights. I am also pretty surprised at how seasonal I have been dressing lately! What is this?! I have been living in fall colors, browns, reds, lots of black, and of course flannel. Very cliche, but I am really liking it lately. 

I am super behind on posts (I don't know how I am going to fit in "edit 500 photos for the blog" in over the weekend, but I promise it will happen! I have a Halloween costume throwback post coming up, more fall outfit photos, and lots of photos of #FallShit. So stay tuned!

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Details
Blazer-Thrifted
Dress, Necklace, & Tights-Forever 21
Cat Flats-Delias 
Purse-Target
Glasses-Warby Parker

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Guest Post Eats: Pumpkin Pie Spiced Sweet Potato Muffins

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 Spiced sweet potato muffins with two different crumbly toppings.

Hello there!  I'm Annie, and I play mad scientist in the kitchen.  Sara asked me to do a guest post on her blog featuring my first attempts at this particular #FallShit themed muffin venture, so I hope you enjoy!  I would also like to say thanks for the opportunity to try my hand at a food blog post.  I felt even more inspired to keep working on these babies beyond their maiden voyage as a result!

Let it be known that I love pumpkin.  In fact, it is my most favorite kind of pie.  I used to gorge on it every season with a mountain of whipped cream covering each slice.  Then, one year, I developed a sudden head-to-toe, hive-inducing allergy to the gourd.  Coincidentally, that was the same year I decided to take on a whole pie by myself on Christmas Eve.  But hey, at least pumpkin went out with a bang, right?  

Then, one glorious Thanksgiving, after years of deprivation and endless wandering through a pumpkin-less darkness, I discovered sweet potato pie.  I was overjoyed to see that it not only looked like pumpkin pie, but it ate like one as well with its similarly thick custardy texture and creamy smoothness.  So, I have been appeasing my pumpkin pie monster by throwing sweet potaters at it for years.

This season, after being inspired by Sara's Guest Post Eats: Iced Pumpkin Cookies, I began to think I wanted to try something new.  I believe one of our mutual friends described those cookies as "crack cookies."  Unfortunately, I can only eat "crack cookies" with my eyes, (and what remains of my pie-gorging memories).  So, I went on a search for something else sweet potato-ish, but with a faux-pumpkin feel.  After two experiments, I think I may have found it!

For starters, I seized in on this spiced sweet potato muffin recipe because I was impulsive the first time around, and I pretty much had every ingredient required at home.  

NOTE: The original recipe says it makes a dozen large muffins, but for some reason I came out like a bandit with 48 minis the first time, and 24 minis plus a dozen large the second time.  Perhaps my muffin pans are smaller than average.  Who knows?  I'm not an expert.

Anyway, I did make a few changes to the original.  Rather than milk, I used half & half in the first batch (all I had at the time), and then unsweetened vanilla almond milk in the second, which turned out much better.  Instead of the nutmeg and cinnamon, I used pumpkin pie spice from Milwaukee's The Spice House  Rachael's recipe calls for AP flour, but I used a healthier option; white winter wheat pastry flour which contains less gluten and is lighter in texture.  Instead of brown sugar, I used dark brown sugar.  I thought the deeper molasses flavor might be yummy
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INGREDIENTS:

2 cups winter white wheat pastry flour or all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup milk/unsweetened almond milk (vanilla flavored works, too!)
2/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup canola oil
1 cup sweet potatoes, cooked and mashed or processed in a processor
1 teaspoon vanilla

I used my husband's vanilla extract, which he put together using some leftover Jim Beam bourbon whiskey and Madagascar vanilla beans he purchased from Amazon.  He used a one to one ratio because he said he was "cursed with small beans."  That means one bean per ounce of bourbon.  Typically one bean to two ounces is sufficient.

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Beans and a detailed look at the final extract with pretty little bean bits.

As for the hooch, the alcohol is what extracts the flavor, so any type of liquor will do.  Just know the mixture needs to be placed inside a paper bag in a cabinet where you must try to forget about it for a month or two.  After that, keep it stored in that paper bag because light is its enemy and you don't want to vanquish your delicious boozy vampire.  

TOPPING OPTIONS

Next, I needed to figure out a topping!  Rachael's did not have one, so I decided to try a double experiment before settling on which one worked best.  The first was a pecan streusel topping, and the second was one I threw together; a slightly crunchier version without the flour, and with less butter and larger pecan pieces.

The first time I tried the pecan streusel topping, I used white sugar, which resulted in a very light colored streusel for my tastes.  It was delicious and had a nice grainy texture, but I was going for a toastier look.  Plus, I think I over-processed my pecans and let it sit for too long.  So, for the second batch, I subbed the white sugar for dark brown sugar, and they turned out looking more fit for Fall!

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 Comparison of anemic looking streusel on the left with a more toasty looking result on the right.

Pecan Streusel Topping:

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
¼ cup finely chopped pecans
¼ cup all purpose flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar/dark brown sugar

Pecan & Brown Sugar Topping:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
¼ cup finely chopped pecans
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar

For both options, you can either chop the pecans by hand and then mix everything with a fork or use a food processor first to pulse pecans close to your preference and then pulse a few more times with remaining ingredients.  Both methods worked well for me, but make sure the streusel topping does not sit for too long or it will turn into a clump of dough that will be very difficult to sprinkle.

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Streusel topping, post pulse.  This is about what it should look like.

THE BAKING OF THE SPUD

As for the "pump-con" itself (ha ha ha...), the method I used for baking my sweet potato was to poke it with a fork a few times.  Then place it on the middle rack of the oven with a sheet of tin foil on the lower rack to catch the drippings. 

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Spud in the oven.

Next, turn on the oven and bake at 425 degrees for 50 minutes to an hour.  Finally, turn off the oven and leave the potato inside for at least an hour after that.  Remove from oven, allow to cool and then easily remove the skin.  The sweet potato can either be mashed with a fork, (which I tried on one batch and it left some yummy little potato bits) or it can be pureed into a smooth texture, which gives the muffins a more incorporated look and feel.  

PREHEAT & PAN PREP

Eek that thing on up to 350.  The original recipe says 400, but every time I have ever made muffins at 400, they come out too dry and more cooked on the bottom than the rest.  This way, the muffins are evenly cooked and moist.

Also, grease your muffin tin(s) or place papers into the cups.  If you only have one muffin tin and you wind up with more like I did, just bake one after the other, but make sure you are using double acting baking powder if you go that route.

DRY, THEN WET, THEN WET TO DRY
Now let's get down to business.  First, in a large bowl, sift together the dry ingredients: the flour, salt, baking powder, and pumpkin pie spice.

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The dries.

The original recipe calls for 1/4 tsp cinnamon and 1/4 tsp nutmeg, but like I said, I used pumpkin pie spice.  I started with 1/2 tsp, and then after the first sampling, went whole-hog on a full teaspoon for the second round.

Now, you don't have to sift, but I like to, because it aerates the flour and produces a lighter texture.  Plus, it helps incorporate the ingredients.  Just set a sifter over a bowl, place contents in and gently shake and tap until everything passes through the screen.  Discard or break down any remaining bits.  Then I like to pass a whisk through the flour mixture a few times to be sure everything is dispersed.

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Sifting is uplifting!

Onto the wet!  The first time I made these, I did not have a full cup of sweet potato.  After trying 3/4 cup and a full cup, I found there wasn't too much difference except for a richer color and a little more moisture.  So, if you don't have enough, don't sweat it, they turned out great either way!  Just add a little bit more milk.  Or even Greek yogurt!  That's what I'm going to try next time.  

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The wets.

Now, in a smaller bowl, mix eggs, milk/unsweetened almond milk, brown sugar, canola oil, sweet potato and vanilla.  Add wet to dry and mix slowly until just combined, but don't over-mix or stir too vigorously or those muffins will come out dense and chewy. 

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The mix, all nice and incorporated in the bowl.

DISTRIBUTE & BAKE

Using a 1T for mini muffs or 3T for large, fill each cup with batter, then generously sprinkle on the streusel or crunchy pecan topping. 

Bake for 9-12 minutes for mini muffins or 18-20 minutes for large, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. If they need a bit longer, cook for two-minute increments, checking each time with a toothpick until done.  Carefully remove from pan and place on a rack to cool.

Then repeat once more for second batch, if you have a lot of batter left over like I did.

STORAGE:

These will keep covered on a counter or in a pantry for about 2 days, or in a fridge for about a week.  The best part is that these babies can be frozen for quick breakfasts.  After they are completely cool, you can either wrap them snugly in plastic wrap and bag them in large Ziplocks or bag each individually.  Just 15 seconds on high from frozen (in our microwave) does the trick for the minis.  For large, about 30-40 seconds.  

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And now I shall bid thee farewell on your happy muffin making ventures!  Also, eat lots of pumpkin-y things for me!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Beanie Season

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With the autumn chill comes hats! Most people hate wearing hates, because of the inevitable hat-hair problem that usually results from wearing them, but I love them. For me, they make outfits more interesting, they make dressing for colder weather fun, and, when my hair looks like shit, I can just hide it away! When people side-eye my "hat-hair" , they have no idea that I didn't bother to brush it in the first place! No, but seriously, I just wear them all day, even when indoors. HATS. 

Anyway, I got this beanie for $2 from Forever 21. I also ripped a hole in it when I took the tag off, so I guess you get what you pay for. Nothing a little slip stitch can't fix!

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Not much to report today, other than I am getting to that point where I notice when I miss a workout. I was in a very "blah" mood for a good chunk of the day yesterday, not because I turned another year older (although having a birthday on Monday is pretty lame), I just felt tired, and out of it. I still managed to pack my gym bag the night before, and as soon as my feet hit the track, I felt better. Endorphins! I had a pretty decent workout, then came home and cleaned while listening to my records on my sexy new record player. I have also come to the conclusion that gym time is usually the only alone time I get lately, so I need to take advantage of it.

Side-note: There is something wrong with our camera/lens. A lot of photos keep coming out blurry, and I am not really sure what is going on. Maybe the lens just needs to be cleaned? If any of you have any tips/ideas, please share, thx!

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Details
Doctor Who Shirt, Bracelet-Gifts
Flannel-Kyle's
Jeans-American Eagle Outfitters
Purse, & Boots-Target
Hat-Forever 21
Glasses-Warby Parker

Monday, October 20, 2014

Little Bits: 29



Happy Monday everyone! I am going to try to keep this post short, as I have a busy day today, even though it is my birthday. Yep, I am 29 today. My last year of my roaring twenties! Don't worry, I promise to stay mentally twelve way into my 30's. 

Here are some little bits from over the weekend! Friday after work, Kyle and I rushed out to my cousin Heather's wedding, and somehow we made it on time (it was at 5:30 pm), despite the rush hour traffic. We had a lot of fun, but left around 10 to catch up with my brothers, as my brother David. and his wife Shannon are in town. We had some drinks, and it was a lot of fun. 

Saturday was jam-packed! We  headed out with our friends Nicole, Stephen, and Dan, as well as my brothers David, & Liam,  and also Shannon, to a few cider mills. We go cider mill hopping every year, and this year we hit up three of them. We had hard cider at Blake's, and went on a hayride at Miller's Big Red. We also picked pumpkins, bought loads of apples, doughnuts, cider, and hard cider to take home. The best part was the corn maze, which quickly escalated to us throwing ears of corn at each other, like grown adults do. We also all got to go in the petting zoo, because Liam was with us.

Later that evening, we used more birthday coupons at the Royal Oak Brewery, before heading to Sneakers karaoke. It was a fun night!

Sunday, Kyle and I were exhausted, and hungover, so we slept in. We then headed out for bagels, picked up the dogs from my parent's house, and to take some outfit photos. We spent the rest of the day catching up on our TV shows, and watching "This is The End", and "The Great Pumpkin". It was a perfect Sunday. 

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Today I have to work, then get my last two fillings after (barf). I also have to run down to the Sectary of State this week to get my tabs, because I totally forgot. Our house also looks like a bomb went off, because we were in-and-out all weekend, and I think I am going to have to suck it up and plan a trip to the laundry mat this week. Am I winning at this birthday thing yet? 

1) Pretty house in Ferndale.
2) Giant Pumpkins at Blake's.
3) Miller's Big Red.
4) Pumpkin patch. 
5) Feet & leaves pic, like you do. 
6) Foliage. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Story Of Us

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10-7-2014 "Everything Will Be Alright In The End"  

This isn't the story of "Boy meets Girl", this is a Love story. 

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Sarnia Bayfest, my first Weezer concert (I bought an enhanced ID just to go to Canada to see them)

I was young when Weezer broke out into the music scene, really young. I was 7 years old when Weezer formed in 1992, and 9 years old when The Blue Album became successful. I grew up in a household where the only music my parents listened to were oldies and/or country music (which is why to this day I cannot stand country music), so I really cannot say when I first heard "Undone-the sweater song", or "Buddy Holly". I had friends with older siblings who were always playing interesting music, so I assume I heard Weezer that way. 

However, the very first time that I heard a Weezer song, and immediately knew who they were has always stuck with me. Kyle and I were bowling with our friend Dan in Royal Oak (the bowling alley isn't even there anymore), I was in 11th grade, and "Photograph" came on over the speakers. There was a girl dressed in all black, with brightly colored hair, and she turned around to face the guy she was with and started singing along. I remember just sitting there and taking the song in, and really enjoying how I felt as I listened to it. I remember saying something to Kyle along the lines of "This is Weezer, I like them". A month or so later I bought a used copy of The Green Album from a record store on 9 mile in Ferndale, it was my first Weezer album.

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1) Scott Shriner & myself/Weezer Cruise 2) Rivers Cuomo/Weezer Cruise 3) Brian Bell/Weezer Cruise 4) My friend Vera, Rivers, and I/Weezer Cruise

I slowly started accumulating more of their music over time, and I always would play one of their CD's whenever I felt down, because Weezer had this magical way of making me feel better. It wasn't that their music was always super uplifting, but just belting it out along with Rivers & co. was therapeutic.  However in 2008 when The Red Album was released, that was when the obsession began. I played that album to death, I am pretty sure Kyle was borderline hating Weezer at that point.  2008 was a rough year for me, I had a "real" full time job at that point, but I had also wanted to finish school, so I was going full time as well. I have always thrived on being busy, especially when studying something I was passionate about, but at the same time I felt very lonely and disconnected from the ones that I loved. It was the start of many changes in my life; I was finally going to get out of the community college that I had been drifting around in for years, Kyle and I were engaged at that point, and it felt like all of adulthood was crashing down on me at once. I spent a lot of time driving around blasting The Red Album, and I think because it was the first album to feature each member of the band on vocals on separate songs, I started to notice how much I appreciated each member of the band. 

No matter the content of the song, Rivers has this angst, this desperation in his voice that is just so convincing to me. Brian has a way of hugging the lyrics with that guitar, and giving them the extra push to make them true. Pat and Scott hammer everything together, sealing the song up in a complete package. 

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Weezer at Caesars Windsor, 2013 

Of course, not everyone agrees with me, and I don't expect them to. To me however, this band is everything. I have never received a letter from a young girl in Japan, and fallen in love with her. How could I possibly relate to "Pink Triangle", "Perfect situation",  or "In the garage" (other than being a fellow dork) for that matter? I can't. I can relate to the complete sincerity that is delivered with each song, the ability to capture experience, a moment, or even just acknowledging an emotion. Weezer represents the underdog, the beta male. That is how I fell in love with an entire band. 

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My first tattoo 

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1) Weezer Cover band 2) Kyle, myself, and Pat/Weezer Cruise

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We met my heros, and gave them bunny ears

How do you express a love for a band that has gotten you through some really shitty times? How do you explain that an album, Pinkerton, gave you a sympathetic hug, while simultaneously tugging at your heart strings? 

You can start by terrorizing your husband non-stop for years on end. Every time Kyle walked into the door after working a long day he was greeted with "I am the greatest man that ever lived" blaring in his ears, he would scream "NO YOU'RE NOT, RIVERS!" and slam the door. Each time we got in the car and I would casually ask if Kyle wanted to listen to music, Kyle would say yes, only to frantically hide my Ipod before I could plug it in and play Weezer. He had to endure two years of me crying hysterically wistfully talking about how amazing it would have been to go on that first Weezer cruise, knowing damn well we could never afford to go. The things we do for love, correct?

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Weezer cruise

Although I can't bring myself to give a review of their latest album, only because I love it too much and will have a biased opinion, I can say that it really is everything a Weezer could have asked for in an album since the 90's. Personally, I love all of their albums, but EWBAITE is an album about music. They are acknowledging past mistakes with music, not that they regret any of it (and they really shouldn't), and are proving that they are just here to rock out and have fun, and this album is saturated in that sentiment. 

I know at this point most of you guys are rolling your eyes, or scratching your heads in confusion. I know, this primarily a personal style blog, but it it is also a life blog, and Weezer is a big part of my life. I just love it when I see someone so passionate about something, that they cannot even find words to express their excitement, or they are talking so fast, or screaming so loud, that you have no idea what they are talking about. They have let something become such a huge, passionate part of them, and it is apparent. That is how I feel about Weezer, it is simply, love. 

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Weezer Cruise

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Fallish

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I swear this is a cute outfit, but I have no idea why I can never manage to get good shots of these shorts before they get all wrinkly, le sigh. I guess this is honest blogging. Whatever. 

I bought some necklaces the other week, because Forever 21 had them buy one, get one free, and you can't beat that! I almost never buy jewelry because I lose it (I once lost my wedding/engagement rings for over ten days and was freaking out! Kyle found them. In my jewelry box), but costume-type jewelry is cheap and always looks cooler than the fancy stuff, in my opinion. 

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We have yet another jam-packed weekend ahead of us, and I am super excited, but also looking forward to some down time come November. I want to spend a weekend with Kyle, just watching movies, or walking the pups to get coffee. Maybe we will even get around to finishing the living room that has been torn apart for a month. Who knows! We also have plans to catch up with some of our other friends who we haven't seen in awhile either, but all of this socialization is pushing my introverted limits. I may just hibernate for a month, that's cool right?

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Details
Cardigan & Purse-Target
Necklace & Shorts-Forever 21
Tights-Leggs
Leotard-Amazon
Boots-Payless
Glasses-Warby Parker