Archive for the ‘Just for Fun’ Category

On Saturday, Sarah and I went to the Chocolate Festival.

http://nwchocolate.com/

It was truly a dream come true! As a long-time lover of everything chocolate, I was super excited about the festival.  I learned so much! Not about chocolate, but about how to survive at a chocolate festival 🙂

There are some simples rules I plan to follow in the future (and believe me—I will be back next year).

1.  Get there early

Sarah and I arrived shortly after it opened, got our wrist bracelets and headed in.

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We started walking around and tasting the chocolate, getting slightly frustrated when we were stuck behind people who actually had questions about the chocolate (we just wanted to taste the samples—how could they not know the danger of standing between women and chocolate??).  We realized when we came back after lunch, that the small lines in the morning were NOTHING compared to the craziness in the afternoon!  It was so crowded we could barely walk.  So, get there early 🙂

2. You can’t try all the chocolate. 

There’s too much available to try everything, so you need to use some discretion when choosing what to sample.  I’m not a fan of dark chocolate—usually prefer white or sometimes milk.  Sarah likes the same, so we started skipping tables that only had dark chocolate.  Also, there’s really no point to trying plain chocolate. It’s much more fun to try the interesting combinations or fun truffles they have available. 

3. Not all chocolates are created equal.

You should come prepared to experience some interesting flavors—both good and bad. I learned that it is possible for someone to make white chocolate that tastes like dark chocolate. I have no idea why anyone would want to do this—it was definitely an unpleasant surprise for me.  But it can be fun to be brave and try new things. For example, the habanero salted caramels I sampled were fabulous!

4. Vegan chocolate doesn’t count.

I’m sorry, but it was just plain awful.  It didn’t even taste like chocolate. It tasted like oil and cocoa powder.  And not in a good way.  And the woman kept telling me it was “healthy.”  Saying that a chocolate is “healthy”—it’s just—grr—I’m speechless–no one wants that!  The chocolate doesn’t even like being described that way!  Good grief! And, frankly, I’m no longer comfortable referring to it as chocolate. Henceforth, I will call it not-chocolate.  So, in the future, I will avoid all not-chocolate.  I’m just glad they had a couple gourmet vinegar samples to try at the next stand. Phew!

5.  There are classes! 

Sarah and I didn’t notice this area until the afternoon. And the only class we could make was a vegan ganache making class. No interest in learning to make not-chocolate. There was no way that we were doing that.   Not. A. Chance.

Next year, we will be a little more prepared for what we’d like to do, But the best part was that I found some new chocolate makers that I love! My personal favorite was George Paul Chocolates (hint, hint Anson): http://www.georgepaulchocolates.com/

They had some nice and interesting flavors available in milk and white chocolate. And they also make some really good caramels (including the habanero salted caramel).

The other big hit for us was Cocotutti, Sarah’s favorite (hint, hint Dave):

http://cocotutti.com/

They made some really good truffles! I liked the spicy ones, like the hot chocolate and the thai spice.  I also actually liked the raspberry one, and I don’t generally like fruit with my chocolate.

Can’t wait until next year 🙂

I grew up in a house where we played the “what if” game a lot.  For example: What if you were stranded on a desert island and could only bring 5 books/movies/food? What if they re-made this old movie—who would be in the cast?  Anson and I play this game sometimes.  Today, we decided to choose which fictional city/town we would move to if we could.  Here are the top 5:

5. Nantucket—Wings

We both like small-town New England, so this was an easy pick.  Also, Anson likes the idea of living by the water 🙂

4. Unknown—Video Game High School

We both think it would have been super awesome to grow up in a town where you get to go to Video Game High School.  If you haven’t watched this, you should!

3. Storybrook—Once Upon a Time

Living with fairy tale characters? So cool!

2. Federation of Planets—Star Trek Next Generation

Frankly, having the computer provide all of the food (so I don’t have to suffer through my own cooking) was enough for me.  Anson likes the idea of holodecks.  And who doesn’t like Picard?  Any universe with him in it is worth living in!

1. Eureka—Eureka

Lots of super smart people. Small town. Cool gadgets.  Every time we watch this show we talk about wanting to move there (hence, this entire conversation/post).

These were just the towns we could agree on.  We had a few runners up. For example, Anson would also consider moving to Springfield (Simpsons), Haven (Haven), Little Tall Island, Maine (Storm of the Century), Salem’s Lot  (Salem’s Lot), Unknown (The Gates), and Unknown (Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-long Blog).  Gotta love my hubby!

My runners-up were: Neverland (Peter Pan) because I’ve wanted to live there since I was 5 and Hoboken, NJ  (Cake Boss) because I love cake.  My top runner up was a tie between Stars Hollow (Gilmore Girls) and Bluebell (Hart of Dixie).  I love small towns!

What fictional places would YOU move to if you could? 🙂

I have not had the greatest experience at the salon recently.  The past two times I have gone in, they have had a completely different staff each time.  And I was becoming less and less happy with my hair.  Most recently, I had gotten my hair highlighted.  The gal couldn’t figure out the colors that had been used on my hair in the past (despite the records the salon keeps), so she “improvised.”  Also, she talked at length about how she does highlighting differently than everyone else—not necessarily a good thing.

She did the highlights a few shades lighter than I’m used to and didn’t evenly space them.  My hair looked pretty streaky and there were pockets of un-highlighted hair. As my hair started to grow out, it got really ugly.  That’s why I decided to look for a new salon.

I made an appointment at a new salon without really knowing what I wanted to have done. I just wanted to look “better” and have people who could help me do that.  Which brings me to today 🙂

Here is my before picture:

 

Before

This picture doesn’t really do my hair justice; you can’t see the odd highlighting.  The  old stylist had tried to put bangs in my hair, so I have a giant chunk of hair just pushed off to the side. Most days I would pin it back—not the most stylish look.

So, after a quick consultation, I was on the path for a whole new look!

 

During

So nervous!  This is me sitting with dye in my hair thinking “I can’t believe I’m doing this!”

 

Done

In the end, I think it looks pretty darn good.  Especially the purple layers 🙂

Purple Hair

I spent the last year dreading turning 30.  It seemed like I would finally be in the “adult” category of life, which I was completely unprepared for.  My closet still consisted of t-shirts, jeans, and sweatshirts.  I knew that after I turned 30, it would just be weird for me to wear the same clothes I wore in college.  I spent the week leading up to my birthday thinking of the many ways in which I was “old.”  The day before my birthday, the list looked something like this:

  • I avoid going to the movies on weekends because there are too many teenagers at the theatre. 
  • At times, I have to squint my eyes and lean forward to read street signs.
  • I can remember a time before cell phones and the internet.  Ah, the good old days.
  • I like to sit around drinking tea and playing board games.
  • I often comment that “those kids are playing their music too loud” or “their skirts are too short.”
  • I get frustrated when young people text me and use abbreviations—it’s like a different language!
  • I have actually checked for gray hairs.
  • On more than one occasion, I have forgotten why I entered a room. 
  • I pay attention to the amount of fiber and cholesterol in my diet.

I’m sure there’s more to that list, but I’ve already forgotten the rest of it (my old and addled brain can’t remember things like it used to).  So, for so many reasons, I was not excited about my birthday this year.

Fortunately, I have awesome friends who decided to surprise me!  My friend Jane asked me out to coffee.  She and Sharon picked me up and we headed to the mall. There, they took me to Nordstrom’s where we met up with Sarah (and cutie-pie baby Alex!).  At this point, I was slightly confused as to why we were getting coffee at Nordstrom’s. But, it turns out that they got me a personal shopper and a gift card for me to find a new look for my 30’s!

The dressing room was full of fun outfits to try on, as well as cake 🙂

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I ended up getting some new pants, shirts, sweaters ,and a dress.  Jane had me put on the dress and then they took me to Maggianos for dinner.

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The boys met us for the meal and we had a great evening of delicious Italian food and wonderful conversation.  I am so lucky to have such great friends! All in all, I think I like being in my 30’s. 🙂

This past weekend was the first weekend that the pumpkin patch was open.  Anson, Luke, Felicia and I all went to Craven Farms in Monroe.  It was a lot of fun!

They had a lot of displays made of pumpkins.  We forgot our camera, but took some pictures with our phones:

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We entered the corn maze. It was Alice in Pumpkinland themed 🙂

 

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The corn was SO tall! We got lost for a little bit.

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But, we got to have some fun while in the maze, so we were pretty happy considering we had no idea how to get out 🙂

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After the pumpkin patch, we went back to our house and carved pumpkins (while eating pumpkin seeds and pumpkin snickerdoodles). Yay!

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Today, Sheri and I took an impromptu road trip to Roslyn, WA.  For those of you who don’t know, this is where all of the outdoor scenes for Northern Exposure were filmed. Anson bought me the first few seasons of the show a couple of years ago and I LOVED IT!  So, upon discovering that the town is a mere 90 minutes away, I decided it might be fun to go explore 🙂

Side note:  Sheri and I are wearing matching outfits. It wasn’t planned. It was fate!

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Everyone in the town was so nice! It’s such an old fashioned looking place to visit. Lots of fun stuff to see:

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One of our first stops was to the Gift Shop.  AKA—Dr. Fleischman’s office 🙂

 

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There, we got a tour map of the town. We skipped a lot of the homes because I couldn’t remember what the homes looked like on the show. I’ll have to watch the show again and drag Anson to Roslyn. Out next stop was The Brick bar where we had lunch.  Can you believe it? We actually ate at the Brick!

 

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Of course, we stopped by the radio station, KBHR. It’s still set up! So cool!

 

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Had to get some ice cream from Café Cicely!

 

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We did discover a couple of AWESOME spots that had nothing to do with the show.  For example, we found a gnome!

 

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And, this was probably the most wonderful surprise I could imagine:

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It’s like this town was made just for my enjoyment 🙂

And, lastly, we got some pictures with the painted wall.

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It was such a great trip! I can’t wait to find a new adventure! Or maybe just repeat this one 🙂

We have an old, dilapidated computer chair that sits in our office area just for Beta.  Without it, she will steal our chairs. So, we have an ugly old chair that Beta sits in while we’re on the computer.  And today I turned around to find this:

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I’m not sure she could look any more lazy if she tried 🙂

Yesterday I had decided I wasn’t going to bake anything for Easter. It was going to be a lot of work and I knew Anson and I wouldn’t be up to eating all of the goodies. No big deal, right? Well, yesterday I was talking to my mom and told her I wasn’t baking anything this year. The response I got was: “Oh, but I was looking forward to reading your post about baking hot cross buns!”

So, here it is (because my mom asked for it):

I started out the same way I do every time I’m about to bake something new—I looked up as many different recipes as I could find. After finding 3 different recipes that I liked, I decided to combine them to make some super-mega-awesome hot cross buns.

The recipe I chose for the basic dough was pretty simple. And I chose it because it let me use my breadmaker. Don’t get me wrong, I like doing things by hand, but any time I can avoid spreading flour all over the counter is a bonus. So, I dump all of the ingredients into the machine and press “dough.” Done.

1 hour later, it beeped and I added the chocolate chips. 30 minutes after that it beeped again to signal the dough was ready. I went over and opened the lid. It was at this point that I realized things had gone terribly wrong.

I put my hand in to try to make a ball out of the dough and all I got was a wet hand. I mean, it was a chocolate-y, flour-y, yeast-y soup. Ewww.  So, that batch went in the trash.

Here is what I determined to be my 2 major mistakes:

1. I put the ingredients in the breadmaker in the wrong order. Breadmakers want you to either put in the dry ingredients first OR the wet ingredients. It depends on the breadmaker. The recipe asked me to put the dry ingredients in first and, since it had been a while since I had used my machine, I didn’t remember that mine needs the wet ingredients first. It all came back to me when I let my hand get slimed by the chocolate disaster that was my first attempt.

2. It is clearly a bad, bad idea to put the chocolate chips in while the dough is rising. They just melt and make it ultra-gooey.

Take 2.

This time I put all of the wet ingredients in first, dry second. When the breadmaker was done with the dough, I opened it up and happily discovered I had real dough. Yay!

From my second recipe, I took the idea of making it a pull-apart bread instead of making individual buns. So, I greased a pan and started to make dough balls. Before pinching the bottom of the dough together to make a ball, I would put in a bunch of chocolate chips. So, somewhere near the center of each roll would be a chocolate bite. Mmmm 🙂

After they were all shaped and in the pan, I let them sit to allow the dough to finish rising and then put them in the oven to bake. While they were baking, I made a glaze (3rd recipe) and an icing (2nd recipe). Some people have unforgivable ideas about what is allowed to be called “icing.” To the lady who wrote the recipe that told the baker to make the icing out of flour and water, I feel the need to inform you that that is PASTE, not icing!

Ding! They’re done! Out of the oven, I put the vanilla glaze on and then let them cool a bit. Afterwards, I drizzle some icing in the shape of crosses. And voila! Hot cross buns! Super awesome, vanilla glazed, chocolate filled, and iced!

Mmmm….tastes like Easter 🙂

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Anson and I have been having fun this past week!  Over the weekend, we went to see “Take Me Home Tonight.” I’m sure you are all tired of hearing about this movie. No worries.  It’s only been in the theatre for 2 weeks and it’s already down to 1 showing per day. I’m sure it will fade from memory soon. 

We enjoyed dressing up for the movie.  Anson had a ‘80s tshirt on:

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Anson is doing his 1980’s pose.  I’m going to go with “it’s an homage to Judd Nelson in the Breakfast Club.”  He’s also in the same pose as the kool-aid man on his shirt 🙂

I went a little wacky and crimped my hair, wore legwarmers, etc:

 

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My 80’s pose is, well, frightening.  But, it was fun. Just like the 80’s 🙂

We also got to visit with Aunt Meredith. She was in town for a conference and was able to stop by to see the new house and go out to dinner. I consider the visit a success because Beta actually let Aunt Meredith pet her. She must be pretty special!

I woke up full of excitement and ready to go!  It took about 2 hours to make the almond flour. I will admit it was much easier with the blanched almonds. Everything in the recipe is supposed to be “light” and “fluffy” so there is a lot of sifting and whisking. All in all, I ended up sifting the mixture about 4 times. Phew! 

This recipe is somewhat high-maintenance (for lack of a better term). For example, you fold the mixture exactly 50 times (though someone found that 65 folds works better for her).  You whisk the mixture at medium speed for 3 minutes, low speed while adding sugar, then high speed for 8 minutes (but whatever you do, don’t stop whisking!).  I pretty much memorized the recipe in preparation! They try to describe the texture/sheen of the batter to help you determine when to stop.  At one point the recipe says it should be “magma-like.”  Oh, how I wish I knew how to make my shiny white batter look like magma.

After all of the sifting, mixing and folding, I put everything into my electric cookie press and fit it with a plain round tip.  I made some awkward looking circles on the cookie sheet, though I will say my circles looked better as I went along.

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It was around 5:30 when Anson called on his way home. The conversation went something like this:

A: Hey babe, I’m on my way home.

R: Great!  Look, I just want to prepare you for something.

A: Yeah? What?

R: When you get home, it’s going to seem like the house was on fire.  I mean, it’ll probably smell like the house was on fire. I assure you, there was no fire.

A: Ummm…okay.

R: Hey, I made <pause for counting> 8 cookies for Fiona!

A: That’s awesome hun! Good job!

 

And now the cookies sit in the freezer and are ready to be brought into work on Monday! Hopefully, they will taste good after they thaw.  I tried one (now Fiona only gets 7…sorry!).  They are crazy delicious. It’s a good thing they are a challenge to make or I would probably bake them all the time. 🙂

Here’s a fuzzy cell phone picture of the finished product:

Any new challenges? 🙂