Friday, July 29, 2011

Road Trip Days 3 & 4: Utah and Wyoming

I haven't posted many more pictures of our road trip lately, mostly because all the photos are on Adam's hard drives, which he uses pretty much every day for the video projects he is working on. It is WONDERFUL that he has so much work right now because he won't be able to work very much while he is student teaching this fall and winter. But that's my excuse for not documenting our trip for the past few weeks :)

I wasn't expecting much from Utah; I thought it would be dry and flat, but it was anything but that! In fact, when we drove out of Arizona (that was the drive that somehow I thought would take two hours, but when we were leaving the Grand Canyon and I plugged the address of our cabin in southern Utah into the GPS, it pulled up a whopping five and a half hours, and that it really how much time it took, so needless to say, we arrived in southern Utah very late), it was pitch dark by the time we were actually driving through Utah to our cabin for the night, and when we woke up in the morning and it was light out, we saw there was snow all around!

There was so much snow that we experienced a minor change of plans about five miles down the road:

That's where our map told us to go, and there was not even enough cell service for the GPS to pull up an alternate route for us, so we just decided to wing it and keep driving down the only available road! We did arrive safely, and there was some beautiful scenery along the way!

We made it to northern Utah where we met Aaron and Amy (Aaron is Adam's brother). They had been having a much-needed vacation there for about a week, and we did the rest of our trip with them. 4,000 miles with four people in a five-person car! (And there were no arguments, disagreements, or irritable moments the entire trip!).

We drove/hiked to the top of a mountain:

(You can't tell, but it was really cold up there-- in June!)

The next day, we drove through Wyoming.

I can't say much about Wyoming. There wasn't much to see. It was brown, flat, and it seemed never-ending.

The bright spot of Wyoming was the tiny town we stayed in-- Hulett, population 500. The very best part was that we happened to be there on the day of their 72nd annual rodeo and parade. Sadly, we didn't get to see the rodeo, but the parade was ultimate small-town goodness. The whole town was either in the parade or watching the parade.

After the parade, we had some tasty home-cookin from a diner on main street.

by Amy

by Amy

After breakfast we headed over to Devil's Tower, just about twenty minutes out of town.

We saw a huge snake. It was probably five feet long. I thought it was cool.

by Amy

And from there, we drove east into South Dakota to see Mount Rushmore. A post for another day!


Saturday, July 23, 2011

Lazy days...

I've been pretty lazy about blogging lately. I guess I just haven't felt very inspired these past few weeks.

I am feeling much more pregnant lately. My belly isn't really that huge (compared to what most pregnant ladies look like about now) but I'm starting to feel like there's not much room left inside me.

My students kept asking me towards the end of the school year, "Do you hope it's a girl or a boy?" and at the time, I really didn't know! I told them that I was glad that God is the one who decides for me, or else I'd never be able to choose. And that's the truth!

But now I am so happy to have a little girl on the way. Before we knew what she was, I had to stop myself from thinking of all the cute outfits I could make for a little girl, just in case it was a boy. Now, it feels kind of surreal that we're actually having a baby, and that I can think about cute outfits to make, so I almost have to remind myself that this is really happening!

She's going to be about six months old when it starts getting warm for the summer next year, which is the perfect age for sweet little blouses and bloomers. I want to buy some vintage bed sheets to make outfits for her, like these ones.

From Red Hen Studio

From Just Smashing Darling

From Vital Vintage

From Aestheticara

And while she's a tiny baby in the middle of winter, I'll have fun dressing up little onesies, like this link my sister shared with me:

From Grey Luster Girl

But like I said, it's still kind of surreal that we have a baby on the way. I'm sure I'll get hit with the "nesting" urge in a month or so from now and want to sit at my sewing machine all day, but for now, it hasn't happened yet.

Have any cute baby projects? Send them my way!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Twelve Pounds of Blueberries

This week we're in South Carolina with my sister-in-law Amy's family. It's hot and humid here! It kinda feels like I'm in southeast Asia when we step outside, but luckily we're a five minute walk from the beach, so there's a breeze that keeps it from feeling quite so hot. And apparently the weather allows the spiders here to grow huge! I saw one today that was easily three inches across and four inches top to bottom. But they're perfectly happy to stay outside in their giant webs, which makes me happy too.

Last week, though, was the first week of blueberry picking season, and Adam, Cynthia (Adam's mom) and I went picking. We ended up with twelve pounds of berries! When I was growing up, my family went berry picking every summer, and twelve pounds would have disappeared in a couple of days, but there's only three of us, so that's quite a few berries to get rid of.

We ate some of the berries; we gave away some of the berries to friends; we made blueberry muffins for a church potluck (my first midwestern church potluck-- I secretly love jello salads!), and I made a giant blueberry cobbler for fourth of July. Both of the recipes were super yummy.

First, Blueberry Muffins:

(We did mini muffins)

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 c. sugar (if your blueberries are on the tart side) or 2/3 c. sugar (if your blueberries are on the sweeter side)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 c. chilled butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 c. milk
  • 1 tsp. orange zest
  • 2 c. fresh or frozen blueberries (If you are using frozen blueberries, do not thaw them. You don't want them to get juicy and turn the batter a purplish-blue color!)
  1. Preheat oven to 400. Lightly grease muffin tins.
  2. In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients. Using a pastry blender, two knives (which has never worked for me), or your hands (this always works for me!) cut the butter into the dry ingredients until coarse crumbs form. 
  3. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs and milk together. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour the milk/egg mixture into the well all at once. Stir just enough to moisten the dry ingredients, and then gently fold in the blueberries and orange zest. The batter will be more like sticky dough, not runny like muffin batter often is. 
  4. Fill the muffin cups 2/3 full. If you're making regular-sized muffins, bake 15-20 minutes until the top is golden brown and a toothpick stuck into the middle of a muffin comes out clean. If you're making mini-muffins, 10-12 minutes should do it. Keep an eye on them after about 7 minutes have passed, because they bake very quickly. 
  5. Remove the muffins from the muffin pan and cool them on a wire rack. Or, remove the muffins from the muffin pan, and eat them right away. YUM! You don't even need any butter. 

Recipe #2: Blueberry Cobbler:

These ingredients and instructions are for a giant, 9x13 pan of cobbler. Just cut the recipe in half and use a smaller square pan, or even a loaf pan for half the amount of cobbler.

  • 8 cups blueberries (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 6 tbsp. cornstarch
  • 3 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • ---------------------------
  • 2 c. flour
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 c. cold butter
  • 3/4 c. milk
  1. Preheat the oven to 375. Grease a 9x13 baking dish.
  2. Mix all the blueberry ingredients together in a large bowl; set aside. 
  3. Mix dry ingredients for dough mixture together (flour, sugar, salt, baking soda and powder). Using your hands or a pastry cutter, mix cold butter into flour mixture until it looks like coarse crumbs. 
  4. Mix the milk into the rest of the ingredients just until everything is moistened. It should look more like biscuit dough than runny batter.
  5. Pour berry mix into the bottom of your 9x13 pan. Use a spoon and drop the biscuit dough by spoonfuls on top of the berries until berries are mostly covered and dough is gone. Sprinkle the top of the dough with a little extra sugar (just so it looks pretty!).
  6. Bake for 35-40 minutes until the berries are bubbling and the biscuits are golden brown. I think I may have had to bake mine for a little longer, so don't be afraid to do that if you need to. 
  7. Let your cobbler cool for awhile, and then serve it with whipped cream. 
The cobbler was SO good, but I'm also very partial to pies and cobblers, much more so than cake, cookies, and brownies. You really could sub in any cobbler fruit for the blueberries. I bet peaches would be really yummy, or maybe a mix of nectarines and raspberries! 

Do you have a favorite summer dessert? Have you been berry picking yet this summer?


Thursday, July 7, 2011

23 Weeks

Here we go! Finally! Here's what I look like at 23 weeks pregnant. Supposedly the baby is twelve inches long (head to toe), and I know she's probably in a pretty bunched-up position most of the time, but it seems like my belly should be way bigger if I've got a twelve-inch child living inside me!

For reference, here's the timeline so far:

7 weeks

And now, here we have...

People ask me all the time, "How are you feeling?" And my answer is, "Great!" And I do seriously feel great. I'm not tired, I can eat everything, my belly isn't very big yet so it doesn't really get in the way of anything, and I can feel our baby girl moving and kicking inside me all the time. I'm so thankful for how God is growing her day after day. It's easy to be doubtful and anxious and wonder all kinds of "What Ifs", but when I stop to think about what is true-- that God is in control of her development, and I can do nothing about it, and that God will always give us what is best for us-- my wrong thinking turns into thankfulness and amazement over this child that he is growing inside of me right now.

And on a practical note, leggings and tights are the most wonderful things in the world!! I am so thankful that maternity leggings exist, and I would live in them every day if I could!


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

4th of July Cake

I saw this cake recipe in my latest issue of Taste of Home, and I decided to try it out for 4th of July.

It's a crepe cake, so you make the layers in a pan, just like a crepe or a pancake. It took probably just about as much time to make as a regular cake, but it definitely took more effort because you have to man frying pan the whole time, instead of just pouring the batter into a cake pan and sticking it in the oven. It was fun, though, and I'm glad I tried it.

Here's the recipe. It is supposed to make enough crepes and frosting for two small cakes, but I used a bit more batter for each crepe so I would have one cake that was a bit larger, and I ended up having extra batter left over, but that was fine since it allowed for mess-ups. I also added in a modification that I would do next time, which is adding a bit of extra baking powder. The layers I made turned out flatter than the original picture of the cake in the magazine, so I think a bit of extra baking powder would do the trick to make them fluffier.

Cake ingredients:

  • 1 package (18-1/4 ounces) red velvet cake mix

  • 2-3/4 cups whole milk

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder

  • 3 eggs

  • 3 egg yolks

  • 1/4 cup butter, melted

  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract

  • Frosting ingredients:

  • 12 oz. cream cheese, room temperature

  • 1 cup butter, softened

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 8 cups confectioners' sugar

  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract

  • Fresh blueberries

  • Directions:
    1. In a large bowl, combine the cake mix, milk, flour, eggs, egg yolks, butter and vanilla; beat on low speed for 30 seconds. Beat on medium for 2 minutes.

    2. Heat a lightly greased 10-in. nonstick skillet over medium heat; pour 1/4 cup batter (or 1/3 cup, if you want one bigger cake instead of two smaller cakes) into center of skillet. Lift and tilt pan to coat bottom evenly. Cook until top appears dry; turn and cook 10-15 seconds longer. Remove to a wire rack. Repeat with remaining batter, greasing skillet as needed. When cool, stack crepes with waxed paper or paper towels in between.

    3. For frosting, in a large bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter and salt until fluffy. Add confectioners' sugar and vanilla; beat until smooth. 

    4. To assemble two crepe cakes, place one crepe on each of two cake plates. Spread each with one rounded tablespoon frosting to within 1/2 in. of edges. Repeat layers until all crepes are used. Spread remaining frosting over tops and sides of crepe cakes. (Or do this process for just one cake). Garnish with blueberries. 

    If you're up for a fun variation on the traditional cake recipe, try this one out. And as always, if you do try it, let me know what you think!

    Recipe credit: Taste of Home 



    Thursday, June 30, 2011

    Road Trip Day 2: The Grand Canyon

    Before our trip I had never been to the Grand Canyon (well, I had never been anywhere in the country besides the west coast, Ohio, and South Carolina... and Chicago-- when I was only seven years old!) so it was pretty cool to see it for myself in real life. I had heard other people say it looks like a painting when you're there standing in front of it, and I have to agree with them-- it really does.

    There were so many pretty wildflowers blooming all along the ridge trail of the canyon! I think I made Adam take more photos of the flowers than of the canyon itself.

    Now it's time for you to meet the Japanese Good Luck Cat. The week before our trip, Adam hung out with his good friend Patrick for the last time before we moved, and they hung out on the set of a kids' TV show that Patrick is in. On that particular day, the episode being filmed was about Chinese New Year, and some of the props were these Japanese good luck cats. After the filming was finished, Patrick snagged one of the cats and gave it to Adam before we left, and Adam brought the cat along on the road trip, taking pictures of it in front of every national monument, and in each new state we visited.

    Here's an example:

    You've seen those kind of cats before, right? Well this cat has now seen the entire country. Ha!

    Our drive out of the Grand Canyon was probably my favorite drive of the whole trip. The scenery was amazing! Our goal was to had north into Utah, but there are no bridges over the Grand Canyon, so that meant we had to drive east first, along the entire remaining length of the canyon. The canyon was beautiful, but the red cliffs on the other side of the road were equally amazing. I think we enjoyed the drive so much because we weren't expecting anything spectacular, so driving through miles and miles and miles of road with the Grand Canyon on one side and giant red cliffs on the other was a nice surprise! I think most of the land was Indian reservation land, because the only signs of civilization were trailers or tiny six-sided house every couple of miles.

    We made it to southern Utah a whoooole lot later than we thought we would (for some reason, I was under the impression that our drive out of the Grand Canyon would be a two-hour drive, but, well... it was a five-hour drive. Whoops.) but we made it-- in the dark and on windy roads-- and had a cute little log cabin all to ourselves.

    Tomorrow: Road Trip Day 3: I never knew how pretty Utah is!


    Wednesday, June 29, 2011

    Road Trip Day 1: Mojave Desert & Arizona

    Road trip pictures! (Baby belly picture coming soon, I promise).

    I have never driven farther east in California than Palm Springs, and as a fourth grade teacher in California, we study "the four regions of California", (one of which is the desert region-- mainly the Mojave desert), so, call me nerdy, but I was really excited to drive through the desert!

    The land was empty for miles, except for train tracks, and some occasional rock formations.

    I was determined to see a real desert sand dune, so we took a detour off the main highway into the desert, and off in the distance I could see some dunes. We took the worst, bumpiest gravel road you can imagine to get to (or we thought we were getting to) the sand dunes, but the road ended still a good mile or two away from them. We walked down the trail a little ways that led to the dunes, but it was about 96 degrees out so we didn't go far. On our way back to the car, we happened upon two hikers from Germany who took our picture for us.

    The one thing that was more noticeable than the heat, though, was the silence. The Mojave desert is the quietest place I have ever been. The only sound was the wind blowing through the scrubby bushes-- no cars, no city noises, no distant freeway, no planes flying over, no animals rustling, no insect noises, no one speaking-- nothing. It was pretty incredible.

    Some of the plants were cool:

    ...or maybe I'm the only one who thought they were cool. I have a thing for cacti and succulents, but they never stay alive for me.

    From the Mojave desert we drove on to Williams, Arizona (about half an hour south of the Grand Canyon) where we had the most disappointing food of our entire trip. Sorry, Pine Country Cafe (who boasts of good home cookin'), we will not be back any time soon. Adam's steak was quite flavorless and my salad came with a tear-open packet of Kraft raspberry vinaigrette.

    Our hotel, however, was the most unusual stay of the whole trip. We slept in a vintage railroad car!

    Our room was one-third of that green rail car. It was so tiny inside that we couldn't even get a photo of the room! The caboose you see there is also available for rent. It has a queen bed and at least two bunk beds!

    Thus ends Cross-Country Road Trip Day 1.

    Tomorrow: Grand Canyon!