Friday, November 30, 2012

Parade, Penguins & Parties

Dear Penguins: Thanks for coming to my office and decorating for Christmas. I love seeing all of your cute faces, and you did such a great job! Feel free to invite a few more of your friends to come before the season is over. We always welcome more penguins around these parts.

Dear December: I'm so glad you'll be here tomorrow! I'm already in the Christmas spirit, but you really kick it off for everyone else who's been waiting around  for an engraved invitation. And tomorrow we're going to the Festival of Lights downtown, so that will make two lighting festivals for us this year! But this one has a parade!

Also, I've made an awesome activity calendar for Jeff and I for the month, and I can't wait to do some of these fun Christmas activities with him! And I wrote them all down on this little calendar that I picked because I knew how much he would like the cute little robots :) (You can find more cute stuff on their website.) Even if we aren't able to do every single thing, every single day, at least we have plenty of options to choose from on the days where we do want a Christmas activity!

Dear Fingernails: I'm sorry I've neglected you and you've been completely naked basically all week. I promise we'll make up for it and do something cute this weekend. And if I do something "fancy" enough, that will make nail art design #10 of 10 before my 25th birthday! And then that will be another goal I get to cross off :) Maybe a Christmas theme to kick off December? As if I'm not already Christmasy enough right now...

Dear Family: I'm so excited to decorate the Christmas tree on Sunday afternoon! And put up the rest of our decorations all around the house as well, of course. Get ready for my peppy spirit and some Christmas tunes while we do everything, because you can bet I'll be all over that.

Dear Boyfriend: Thanks for taking me to Japanica, where our chef was talented enough to breath fire out of his mouth after cooking our meal for us. Awesomeness I tell you. And the food wasn't so bad either.

Dear BFBC Youth: We're having another ugly sweater Christmas party on Sunday night, and I'm sooo looking forward to it! Last year's was so much fun, and we saw some truly ugly sweaters. So make plans to attend again, and please show up in the most hideous Christmas sweater you can get your little hands on! I'm going to be wearing one myself, and I promise we'll have a great time!

Sooo does anyone else notice how much I mentioned Christmas in all these letters? I'd say I'm a tad bit excited, but that's probably a huge understatement. I'm thrilled!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Powderpuff Days

Here are a few pictures from homecoming week my senior year of high school. From dress-up days, to spirit day on Friday, and then a few from the football game with friends. Our tiny little Christian school didn't have a dance then, so that's really all there is. I did however get to go to a homecoming dance with a friend from church at another school, and that was a lot of fun!

And this is installment number six of all my high school posts. In case you'd like to look at those if you missed them, here are all the other links! One, Two, Three, Four and Five.

Wacky tacky day year year homecoming week. Not sure why I thought that pose was cute or necessary.

Hawaiian Day/Powderpuff day for homecoming week

Went to another school's homecoming my senior year with a church friend. (We had dates, but I don't have those pics)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Proper Place

Here is my next set of 25 random lists I'm writing before my 25th birthday. These two are my Favorite Albums & CD's and 5 Reasons to Stop NOT Cleaning My Room... And back HERE is the first two lists from a few weeks ago. I've had fun with this so far, and I'm looking forward to writing more of these lists in the next couple of months! Tomorrow marks exactly two months until my 25th birthday, by the way :)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Proud of My Cooking

Today I want to share a couple quick easy recipes that I made last week during my Thanksgiving break. Seriously people, these are so yummy, and so easy. Just the way I like things :) I won't lie about this, I'm Proud of My Cooking, and I highly recommend both of these recipes. So grab a pen and paper to make some notes, because you're going to want to give these guys a try...

First up, I made Twice-Baked Cauliflower

2 heads of cauliflower
8 oz. sour cream
8 oz. cream cheese
8 pieces of bacon
1 handful of fresh shredded Parmesan cheese
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Prep cauliflower to cook, removing all leaves and what-not, and roughly chopping
Bring water to boil, throw cauliflower in, and cook until soft
While cauliflower is boiling, fry bacon in skillet, then place on paper towel to drain/dry/cool
After cauliflower is soft, drain and transfer to large mixing bowl
Using potato masher, mash up all cauliflower
Once it's decently mashed, add in sour cream, cream cheese & Parmesan cheese, and mix thoroughly
Crumble bacon, and add in 3/4 of it to the mix
Spray a casserole dish with non-stick spray, and scoop the mixture into dish, flattening out
Sprinkle all of the cheddar cheese on top, and the remaining bacon crumbles
Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes, or until cheese is completely melty and bubbly
Eat and enjoy!

So technically it's not actually twice-baked, but it is at least twice-cooked. And let me tell you folks - this tastes EXACTLY like loaded, baked mashed potatoes. And this stuff is delicious. We took it for Thanksgiving lunch with my dad's side of the family, and we fooled some of them into thinking it actually was mashed potatoes, rather than cauliflower. Even the pickiest eater of the bunch tried it, and she loved it! I can't wait to make this again, so that I get to eat more of it myself next time, because it was just that good.

And if you're watching your figure, just make the cheeses and sour cream the low fat or fat free versions to make this a little healthier. It's already almost carb-free (with the exception of a minimal amount from the cheeses), so this is a good low-carb option! Seriously, don't be scared of the cauliflower - just try it. And let me know how you like it too :)

And then next was Bacon-wrapped Lil' Smokies

1 pack of Lil Smokies sausages
The rest of your bacon pack from the first recipe up there ;) but uncooked and cut into thirds
1 stick of butter
1 cup of brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Spray a baking dish with non-stick cooking spray
Once your bacon slices are cut into thirds, wrap each smokie in the bacon, and place in baking dish, seam side down
Make as many as you please....
Melt 1 stick of butter, and stir in 1 cup of brown sugar until it's completely mixed
Pour the whole mixture over the top of the bacon-wrapped smokies
Bake for 30 minutes

After doing this it seemed like there was too much of the butter/sugar mixture during the baking process, so after about thirty minutes, I poured off quite a bit of the liquid, then put the dish back in the oven, for about 5-10 minutes, but under the broiler setting this time, just to crisp it up a bit. And these tiny meats turned out delicious!

Apparently a lot of people already make these pretty regularly, because when I brought them to the football-watching party, they were thrilled to see them because they knew how good they would be. I myself had never heard of them, or eaten them, but after trying one, I loved them too! I also heard a tip that if you're making them for a big party, skewer each one with a toothpick, and bake them like that so they're ready to grab-n-go after baking!

And then after putting this last dish together, I ran out of bacon, but still had some smokies left, so I threw the rest of them in a pot with some barbecue sauce and some more brown sugar, and just let them hang out in there until it was time to leave. So simple, and yet so yummy as well.

And here's a picture of me in my apron again, just because it's so darn cute, and I like this picture a lot :) And I was in fact wearing it the whole time I was cooking last week!

So, give both of these recipes a try. For real peeps. Because who doesn't love delicious food, that's made with easy-to-do recipes?! I know I sure do! Honestly, I tend to gravitate towards what looks the easiest or the most doable. Because even though I do love to cook, I still consider myself a "novice" and am still prone to silly mistakes or minor issues. So the easier, the better in my book! I need things that are close to fool-proof, and these recipes definitely fit the bill on that front. Hope you like them as much as I did!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Post-Thanksgiving Update

It feels like it's been forever since I've written a proper blog post, because Wednesday's post was a scheduled post with a yummy recipe, Thursday's post was scheduled too (and it was just a ton of pictures anyways), and then Friday I quickly wrote a few simple letters. So really, it's been about a week since I wrote a real post, and that just seems strange! And I missed it, and I'm glad to be "back" of course :)

So, since I've last written, here are a few things that have happened...

I was in charge of Thanksgiving dinner at our house, because my mom's elbow isn't healed from surgery
But I loved doing all of the cooking and decorating!
And I wore my super cute apron the whole time too :)
Painted my nails garnet & glittery gold to support my Noles
I did end up leaving the house a bit on Friday from some shopping, but not too much
Bought three new Christmas albums, each of which was only $5! (Perry Como, Colbie Caillat & Straight No Chaser)
Also did some much easier, online shopping on Friday, and got great deals
Had dinner with one of my besties, Sara on Friday night
Missed my boyfriend a whole bunch while he was out of town
Continued eating way too much food, even after Thanksgiving itself was long gone
Made some delicious appetizers for a football-watching party
Sadly watched my Seminoles lose to the stupid Gators :(
Did a lot of hanging out with my parents
Went to lunch with some awesome friends after church on Sunday
Finally got out my box of winter clothes with sweaters, scarves, gloves, boots and jackets! 
Went to an amazing night of worship at Awaken at my church
And finally welcomed Jeff home after missing him while he was gone for six days!

My dad took this when I wasn't ready, but it turned out pretty cute still :)

My super sparkly garnet & gold nails to support my Seminoles!

Bacon-wrapped Lil' Smokies I made for the football game. "Recipe" to come later this week...

An amazing "Awaken" worship service at my church on Sunday night.

Thanksgiving decor at my house, and my yummy dinner plate!

To sum it all up, I'd say I had a pretty great holiday, spent with family and friends. I cooked and ate a ton of delicious food, and enjoyed having time off for this holiday. It was a good mix of busyness and laziness, and I enjoyed both of those. I hope y'all had good Thanksgiving holidays as well! 

Today I've decorated my office for Christmas, and have definitely started listening to Christmas music. (Actually that's been happening for a while now...) I'm absolutely in the Christmas spirit, and I can't wait to get a tree and decorate our house! Oh, and I need to show off the Christmas wreath I made a couple weeks ago!

Oh, and for those of you who read my Friday's Letters about how annoying Picasa is, if you were wondering what I've done... for now I paid the monthly $2.50 to Google for the extra 25 GB's of storage. Basically just to buy myself some time to do more research on other options. If I find something better, I'll update again for those also having the same problem, because it appears a number of us are based on the comments and emails I got about it! Apparently Picasa is annoying quite a few of us bloggers... Rude.

And today I'm linking up with Brooke, Sami, Heather & Syndal.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Picasa Is Annoying Me

Dear Thanksgiving: You were delicious, and I thank you so much for providing such yummy things for my family and I to chow down on. Yum! (I'm too lazy to import and edit pictures right now, so I'll have to share some Thanksgiving pictures one day next week, maybe...see next letter...)

My sister Megan and I on Thanksgiving, with me still wearing my cute apron :)

Dear Blogger/Picasa Web Albums: You kinda suck. You say I've reached my 1 GB of free storage and won't let me upload any more pictures, at least not the "regular" way. Now I have to figure out what to do in order to add more pictures the rest of my bloggy life... super annoying. Pay for extra Google storage? Or circumvent the system and start using Photobucket? I don't know yet...

Dear Boyfriend: I hope you're having a great vacation up in West Virginia and North Carolina, but I really super miss you. I can't wait until you get home on Sunday night!

Dear Black Friday: I'm still at home in my PJ's, and I think I might actually stay here all day. I'm not sure that I want to brave the craziness. Maybe tomorrow we'll do some shopping, maybe... I am however doing some online shopping right now, so that may win out over actually getting dressed and all that nonsense.

Dear Florida State: Tomorrow afternoon is the FSU vs. UF game, and WE BETTER WIN!! Let's do this Noles!

Dear Sore Throat: Get the heck outta here!! I'm sooo over it.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Party Like It's 2005

Here's another installment of my walk down memory lane! This was our New Year's Eve celebration during our senior year of high school. We all went out to our friend Brian's house, and we just hung around the bonfire and enjoyed some Welch's sparkling grape juice at midnight :)

For past walks down memory lane, visit them here, here, here and here.

Click "Read More" to see all the pictures below...

We "borrowed" some Christmas trees from the neighbors for some giant bonfires

I photobombed this picture -- can you see me?!
I'm not actually here today, as this was already scheduled last week, but I hope you're all having a great Thanksgiving holiday! Enjoy the time with your friends, family and loved ones, and tell them you're thankful they're in your life! Also, I challenge you to write a list of at least ten things in your life you're thankful for, and hang it up somewhere you'll see daily. Gratitude and thankfulness should be recognized more than just one day a year! So take some time to reflect on those blessings today, and all year long as well.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Pumpkin Cupcakes

I've shared this post before on my friend Hallie's blog, but I'm posting it here today, since it's Thanksgiving week, and pumpkin cupcakes would be delicious during Thanksgiving :)

This is a recipe for homemade pumpkin cupcakes as well as homemade cream cheese frosting! This is Jeff's Granny's recipe, so it's a tried-and-true winner. And let me be really honest here -  both the cupcakes and the frosting are super delicious. So get ready, because I'm sure you're going to want to try this out for yourself! And don't let their simple appearance in the photograph below mislead you - there's all sorts of yummy in there!

Here's the cupcake ingredients and directions first...

2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 cup canola oil
1 can pumpkin
2 cups AP (all-purpose) flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. cloves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (Fahrenheit)
Whip eggs and sugar together first
Add oil and whip again
Slowly add in flour a little bit at a time (I do about 1/2 cup at a time)
Once mixed, add in all other ingredients (pumpkin, baking soda & powder, salt, cinnamon & nutmeg)
Mix everything together until smooth and creamy, with very few lumps
Use an ice cream scoop to put batter into lined cupcake tins
Bake at 350 for 45-55 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean
(This recipe makes at least 24 cupcakes, so it will need to be baked in separate batches.)

While the cupcakes are in the oven baking, you can make the cream cheese frosting, and leave it sitting out to stay room temperature until time to use it. So here's the frosting ingredients and directions...

1/2 cup butter, softened
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
4 cups confectioner's sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Whip together butter and cream cheese until thoroughly mixed
Add in confectioner's sugar a little bit at a time again (same way as flour for cupcakes) about 1/2 cup at a time
Mix until smooth and creamy, add in vanilla, and mix again
Top cupcakes with frosting with whatever method you may choose, although I just did it with a knife!

So listen ladies (and gentlemen?), make these sometime in the next few weeks/months while pumpkin-everything is still all the rage. Take them to a party or a dinner or share them with friends, and let them rave over your moist, yummy pumpkin cupcakes! I guarantee you won't be disappointed with these!

Hope y'all are having a great day, and a great Thanksgiving week!