12.28.2012

Auld Lang Syne

2012
I turned 26 and Mike turned 30 (ahh! haha)
We bought our first home
Adopted a new rescue puppy
Photographed three weddings, a few engagements, and a lot of babies
Firenzi business has taken off
Mike became unemployed in September... and re-employed in December

Most of you know from Facebook, but Mike got a job! After we had a huge letdown a few weeks ago, we were prepared for disappointment with this interview. However, a recruiter sought out Mike because he spoke Portuguese (he learned on his mission) and that's the skill they were in dire need of. Starting January 2nd, he will begin work at Phillips! The best part is, besides a great salary and benefits, it's literally ten minutes from home. :BIG sigh of relief:

Since then, I've been able to take some days off of work and regain my sanity. Mike and I have spent more time together, and more time with our furry "kids." The 3-month unemployment trial is over, but we're not so quick to forget the hardship. There was a time where we couldn't afford to cover our bills and still eat. Of course our parents were there, but that came with guilt. I hope I can help out my kids in the future like we have been helped. This trial also taught us more of the good and bad about ourselves; granted, we'll be learning more about each other throughout our marriage, and it's only year #2. We didn't give up, and made it over the speed bump. We will look back on this and feel grateful for years to come.

We also made it through the Mayan end of the world, and the zombie apocalypse. Mike was playing zombie-fighting games to prepare :) Here's to a new year coming up. May 2013 be the best year yet!

Merry Christmas, and a bright and happy new year to our friends and family. We love you and appreciate you in our lives.

Here are some highlights from the past month and this awesome Christmas season (most via Instagram).
Our Christmas tree
Winter blossom at the Spencer house
Watching "White Christmas" in front of our Christmas tree

Baked gingerbread cookies with Michael and Cassie. This is the gingerbread blob... thing. :)
Wore white and green for Sandy Hook Elementary.
Photos Michael took of Cassie and her daughter Ariel
Made the traditional Spencer family fudge
Maya in front of the Christmas tree
The Christmas turkey at the Spencer house

12.19.2012

Merry Christmas!

We've gone digital with our Christmas card this year. Enjoy!
Click to play this Smilebox greeting
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12.17.2012

Somethin' Pumpkin: Spiced Pumpkin Soup

I know I haven't caught up for the past few weeks, but I had to share this recipe. We just had this for dinner tonight even though I didn't have cardamom or cumin, and it was a-ma-zing. I also didn't have an immersion blender, and didn't really need it. I'm so glad this recipe was saved on my fridge for a few months! It's perfect for fall and winter, and to keep you warm on these upcoming cold Christmas nights.


Spiced Pumpkin Soup
{original recipe from Parade magazine)




Ingredients
1 Tbsp canola oil
1 small onion, chopped fine
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cardamom
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 cups reduced-sodium, fat-free chicken broth
1 (15-oz) can pumpkin
1 (12-oz) can evaporated fat-free milk
6 Tbsp plain fat-free Greek yogurt
Parsley leaves, for garnish

Directions
1. In a large pot, heat oil over low for 30 seconds. Add onion and cook 3 minutes or until soft. Add garlic and cook 1 minute. Stir in spices, salt, and pepper. Cook 1 minute, stirring.

2. Whisk in broth and pumpkin. Bring just to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add milk and simmer for 2 minutes.

3. Using an immersion blender, puree soup until smooth. Add a little more broth to thin, if desired. Ladle into bowls. Garnish with yogurt and parsley. Add pepper to taste.


12.02.2012

Grateful for November

With the holidays in full swing, it feels like these are the most cozy/sentimental/emotional/wonderful months of the year. Life changes constantly, so maybe it just feels like there have been so many changes happening at the same time. I decided to focus on being more thankful for things than I have been, and update my Facebook status once a day in November to share what I was grateful for. It has REALLY put things into perspective and makes each day better.

1: I'm grateful for such a good husband.

  • A few days beforehand, I chopped my hair off 5-6 inches and didn't like it. He made me feel at ease about it, and encouraged me to make it REALLY short. I don't have the guts or desire to go that short.


2: I'm grateful for my amazing parents. They do SO much for me still. I love them a ton!!

  • Little did I know this would again ring true two weeks later, when my back molar has decided to ache, I need dental work done, and have no insurance. Being taken care of growing up, I now deeply appreciate those seemingly small things. I feel guilty leaning on my parents, even though they said they'd be here for us. Someday I'll figure out how to repay them.

3: I'm grateful for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the LDS church for being such an inspirational part of my life since I was 19, and even before that through friends and ancestral connections.

  • Another rough week had passed for both of us, and church has kept us at peace. Every Sunday is a much-needed recharge in order to survive each new curve.

4: I'm grateful for naps.
5: I'm grateful for work, even when the hours are long.


  • I recently picked up a tutoring client through a friend. While I appreciate it, now I'm working 45+ hours a week, not including making crafts. The way I manage it is ONLY thinking about ONE day at a time. If I look at the whole week, I get overwhelmed.

6: I'm grateful for the country in which we live and those who have served it.


  • I was pretty disappointed by the election results. However, I have faith that good will still continue to be seen despite so many chaotic things happening.

7: I'm grateful for my mind and the education I've been able to attain, as well as the education of life I'm getting every day.
8: I'm grateful for the good people I work with in education who are honestly striving to make life better for their kids.

  • There are people on the other end of the spectrum who are in education merely because they can dominate it. They are a huge part of why it's so messed up.

9: I'm grateful for cloudy, rainy days that make being at home in your socks drinking hot cocoa so much more cozy.

10: I'm grateful for pumpkin banana bread. mmm.

11: I'm grateful for knowing how to take care of a sick husband, while enjoying a lazy weekend.
12: I'm thankful for such amazing, true friends that are there time and time again when I/we need a shoulder to lean on, and there for a good time. Same goes for extended family members who are there constantly giving good vibes and love.

  • There are friends. Then, there are GREAT friends. Certain people are close at times in your life, and move away at other times. I am so grateful for those close friends we have now. They're the kind of people you can tell are truly good, inside and out.

13: I'm thankful for my health. When you're sick, it makes you appreciate NOT being sick.
  • Caught from husband. Luckily we're 95% better, and I didn't miss any work that I would have possibly taken off.
14: Grateful for heaters. I LOVE having a warm classroom and home. 
15:  Grateful for FOOD. I love the act of eating and all of the tasty food in the world, and the fact that we are blessed to have it every day. It's a wonder I'm not three times my size with how much I've enjoy food.
16: I'm grateful for FRIDAYS.
17: Grateful for humility. Each new struggle or failure teaches me everything is in the Lord's time.
18. I'm thankful for hope. Often it's what gets me up in the morning.
19: I'm grateful for little kids. They remind me to aim to be my best in everything in order to make the world better.
20: SO grateful for vacations. I love exploring new places, or even just staying close to home and spending time with family while relaxing (whatever that word means).
21: Grateful for random acts of kindness. Little things, sometimes big things, make a big difference in someone's day.
22: Grateful for my parents, sister and her husband, aunt and uncle, grandma, and dad-in-law who are close enough to come down to our home for Thanksgiving around their schedules. So glad that boot camp kicked my trash last night so I could eat as much as I wanted! Thanks Driven Fitness.
23: I'm grateful for my furry children, past and present. Besides my parents' dogs Smokey and Pepper, my first was Moppy, the fluffy pekingese; then Cookie, the crazy springer spaniel. I adopted Ozzy from the pound, who has become the son my Dad never had; then Harley, the chi-weenie who aims to please, and Maya, the scaredy-cat. I love them all. Dogs are special companions who are there for you through thick and thin, when you want to play or when you just want to cry.



24: I'm grateful for photo work and unplanned visits with such good old friends.
25: Thankful for silence. Gives me time to think, to meditate, to breathe, and to focus on one thing at a time.
26: Grateful for cars. They make getting to/from places sooo quick and easy compared to walking and buses. 
27: Grateful for text messages so I can see sweet and positive notes from loved ones.
28: Grateful for silliness. It makes elementary school so much fun.
29: Sooo grateful for hot showers after a workout.
30: Thankful for hope, and the holiday season. Makes you feel warm and fuzzy getting gifts for everyone.


EVERYTHING has made me feel more grateful. 

11.25.2012

Out With It.

It's time to get real.

Mike and I have been through a lot these past few months, and we aren't sure where the light at the end of the tunnel is. We just know there is one. But I'm really, really tired of being strong all the time.

We do have a few things going for us...
  • Substitute teaching: As soon as Mike was laid off, I had started work. I'm able to work every school day for $100 per day. This can range from 16 days to 21 days each pay period, and I'm paid at the end of the month.
  • Tutoring: I tutor a senior in high school 2-3 hours per day after school.
  • Unemployment checks: What we do get, helps.
  • Firenzi: My craft business has been steady online.
  • MBKB Photos: Here and there we get a gig or two.
  • Food stamps: Haven't done this yet, but now considering it.
With these positives come the negatives.

Perspective
If I look at the whole week all at once, I will start crying. I really, really can't look at the whole thing. I stay sane by taking one day at a time. I don't get "me-time" anymore. If anything, my "me-time" is a fitness class.
I've had to stick with this perspective because it keeps me focused. A few weeks ago, I was considered for an amazing job. My mistake was envisioning what life would be like if I had it: no more substituting at different schools every day, my own little cubicle, health care, Mike could finish school, etc. When I didn't get it, it was heartbreaking. It has taken me two weeks to get back to where I was, looking at one day at a time.

What is really ridiculous is that even with my educational degrees, I'm still not getting the work I'm qualified for. I'm settling for less because that's what I can get. 

Husband
Mike, understandably, feels this is his fault, like he isn't doing his husband-ly duty to bring home the bacon so I can bake it. No matter how many times I tell him it isn't his fault, it is to no avail. We made the decision to leave one company and go to a smaller one because we valued his personal happiness and wanted him out of the hell of his previous workplace. I think if we could do it again, we would. However, I see him carry this burden every day, and it isn't something I can fix. All I can do is be there and we both can stick together.

Future Kids?
It isn't easy seeing our friends from all ages have the joy of having a child. I am very, very glad for them. At the same time, I wonder when our time will be. If we had it our way, we wouldn't be so cautious, and just have a kid. But we both don't want to be stupid about it: we can barely afford to cover our own finances, so it isn't smart to pop out kids just because we want to. We love our two dogs, but obviously it isn't the same.

Emotional Roller Coaster
One moment, I'll be fine. Busy. Whatever. The next, angry. The next, crying in the car just because I love the song on the radio so much and blah blah blah.
Let me be blunt: I feel like a burden on my parents. I know, I know, they love us and they said they'd be here for us. But crap. We are grown. We should be able to cover everything, but we can't. I feel so guilty. I think this is my largest self-inflicted emotional wound.
Humility is a good thing. We have been blessed to have a lot of it lately. But this 2+ month burden is taxing, and I don't have a clue where we're going. It's almost like we have to be ignorant to be happy despite our worries.

I forget who, but someone said to me, "Well it's a good thing you guys have your photography business!" Yes, we have it. But if you don't hire us, what good does it do? None. If we booked one $1200 wedding a month, we would be fine. That's what so unbelievable to me. We make everyone happy with our photos, and yet more often than not, we are ignored.

There's my rant. Despite everything, I know there are much larger problems on other horizons. It's just scary to be so aware of them and not be in a position to change anything. We just keep avidly hunting for work, making sure to cover all of the bases, and pray for the best. I just hope one day I can wake up and this will have just been a bad dream.

11.17.2012

Hilarity. You're Welcome.

Here are a few of our latest Youtube video finds that have made us literally laugh out loud. I HAD to post them. Enjoy.




11.06.2012

Faith. And Sleep.

Gasp. I have time to update! Here we go.



We kind of hit an emotional wall last week. Work hours were (and still are) long, Mike and I didn't spend too much time together during the week, and his job prospects were absent. Here's a clip of what Mike said on a sleepless Saturday night:

"Too much on my mind, not enough peace to sleep. No job, no real prospects at the mom
ent, and I'm feeling devoid of all of the positive thoughts I've had motivating me through the last month. I feel like I'm doing everything I can to do whats right... but I look around at this world at people like this pot smoking jerk guy I'm trying to serve papers to, at celebrities who back presidential candidates because it's "the cool thing to do," at people my age that buy stupid political agendas from those same celebrities because it's the squeakiest wheel they can hear, at a world that supports employers who thrive off of lying to clients and short changing their employees in these economic hard times, at people that call good things bad and bad things good!


I'm fed up with all the rotten people. What sucks more is that I'm venting here... on Facebook, a place where proponents of moral debauchery shout so freely, a place I tried so hard to leave but had to come back to in order to maintain some insignificant "social web presence" so that potential employers in my field would trust that I'm "relevant" in some esoteric way. UGH!"



It can be a huge stumbling block when you dwell on the negative things everywhere. Often it feels like us versus the world. We hold on to our dreams and hopes while sometimes, patience is wearing thin. I really can only take one day at a time. If I look at the whole week, I'm overwhelmed. It's the little things that help keep me sane (as I've said before), like these two cuties.



I will say, after going through the motions, going to church and bearing our testimonies, being spiritually fed even more than usual because we were fasting and more humble, we got some peace. Thank goodness for the church, for God, for Jesus.

Mike had a phone interview today for a great game company. I have an in-person interview tomorrow to be a career services advisor, which I'd love. Prayers, good vibes, and luck sent our way, please!

11.04.2012

Somethin' Pumpkin: Baked Pumpkin Spice Doughnuts

Someday when I have free time (whatever that is), I'll update about what's going on with us. For now, it's this: work, work, boot camp class, work, sleep. Repeat. More to come later.

I finally got the chance to make somethin' pumpkin again when we had an impromptu potluck dinner with our friends tonight. I made easy fish tacos, and they made delicious vegetable pot pie (which I NEED the recipe for! so good). Of course we had to do something sweet afterward, so I dug into my Pinterest and found an easy treat.

I love how these had simple ingredients and tasted perfect. I liked not rounding mine into donut holes and instead opted to keep them as regular rounds, "hole" included. Yummmmm.

Baked Pumpkin Spice Doughnuts
(original recipe here)
Donut Ingredients:

  • 1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2  tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/3 c. vegetable oil
  • 1/2 c. brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 c. pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1/2 c. low-fat milk
Coating Ingredients:
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter, melted
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon
Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease a 24-cup mini muffin tin with nonstick spray.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and cloves. In a separate large bowl, combine the oil, brown sugar, egg, vanilla, pumpkin and milk until smooth. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until just combined. Be careful not to overmix the batter.

Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups, about 1 tablespoon in each cup. (You will have batter left over for about another dozen.) Bake for 11 to 12 minutes or until passes the toothpick test.

Remove the muffins from the oven and allow to cool for 2 minutes, or until just cool enough to handle. With the melted butter in one bowl and the sugar and cinnamon combined in another, dip each muffin into the butter then roll in the cinnamon sugar to coat. Repeat with remaining batter. Serve immediately.



Needless to say, they're all gone to the tummies of: me, Mike, Robert, Justina, and the missionaries.

10.21.2012

Good Things

This blog can be whatever I'd like it to be. So, today I'll focus on good things since so many things in life seem to be frustrating right now.

My sister and my friend Laura both tried and liked the pumpkin cinnamon roll recipe. These photos cheered me up. I like knowing people actually read this and was surprised and happy that people used what I'd shared.

My sister's photo
Laura's photo
I get substitute work every day, which is good. I've also learned I like going to a different school every day instead of the same one for the whole week.

I've read three books in the past week:

  • The List by Melanie Jacobson - If it were to be made into a movie, it'd be a chick flick, and a good one. While it was a fun read, I hope the next book in the book club I'm in has more depth.
  • Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult - I read this over three days at a high school. The subject matter is bullying and how students choose to explode as a result {shooting at their school}. So, reading this while substituting at a high school felt weird. However, I loved how spot-on the author was about what so many perspectives can be in that type of situation. I'll definitely pick up another book by her in the future. I didn't like the language but appreciated the realism.
  • Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life by Steve Martin - I grabbed this from Mike's book collection on my way out the door to work in order to avoid sheer boredom that day. It renewed my appreciation for Steve Martin as a person and as a comedian. He is, as advertised, an all-around good guy, and wants his career and everything in-between to have meaning. I'd read Shopgirl, a little novella he wrote, years before and loved it. Steve Martin: definitely on my awesome-celebrity list.


Last week, I started my first set of free fitness classes I won through Driven Fitness. To say I was sore was an understatement. However, this is a good thing: it means I actually got a workout. For awhile I've done my regular cardio routine but haven't felt anything. This is a good change and will help me maintain my weight going into the holidays :knock on wood:.

My parents came down to visit my aunt and uncle down the street, where my grandma is currently staying. It was great to hang out with them and hug and chat. I'll never stop being grateful for the help they continuously offer. I just wish I could repay them tenfold. Mom brought down my Halloween decorations so I finally got to put some up, besides my flag banners and pumpkin wreath. The dogs {Harley, Maya, Ozzy, Minnie, Izzy} all had a blast with each other too.

Things aren't so bad once you start to remember the good things. It's the good things that keep me sane.

10.16.2012

Somethin' Pumpkin: Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

Several friends post on Facebook every time they see a new pumpkin product/recipe I should try. I credit my friend Whitney Erickson for helping me stumble upon this amazing recipe, which I'll copy here with my own small edits. Whitney, you're a saint.



YES, this was my first time ever making cinnamon rolls of any kind, and I'm so happy with how they turned out. I think I'll actually use this recipe annually for Thanksgiving or fall time in general. Yummy tradition. To make it more gooey, only bake it for 22-23 minutes, and make a little more filling with a little more butter brushed onto the dough when it's rolled out before baking. However, we were extremely happy with everything about it as-is. Justina and Robert also approved, hooray!



So, Mike and I actually made this together. :awesome husband points x10: It wasn't too difficult, and turned out SO TASTY. The original directions called for a stand mixer with a dough kneading attachment, but I went old-school and did it with my BARE HANDS. Take that. It felt much more satisfying. Our only concern was that when the dough was set aside to rise, it didn't. We even bought new yeast, and took "beginning" and "after an hour" photos to be sure. I was worried I'd missed something, but went ahead with the baking anyway. I'm glad I did because they were so worth it.


Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls



Dough:

  • 6 T unsalted butter, to be divided
  • 1/2 c whole milk, warmed (but not over 116 degrees)
  • 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast (or one yeast packet)
  • 3 1/2 c all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling out
  • 1/4 c light or dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 c granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp table salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp ground cardamom (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 2/3 cpumpkin puree
  • 1 large egg
  • Oil for coating rising bowl

Filling:

  • 3/4 c light or dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 c granulated sugar
  • 1/8 tsp table salt
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
Glaze:

  • 4 ounces  cream cheese, softened
  • 2 T milk or buttermilk
  • 2 c powdered sugar, sifted
  • Few drops vanilla extract (optional)




Make your dough:
1. Melt your butter. If you’re melting it in a little saucepan, you might as well brown it for extra flavor (it was my first time doing this and I'd say it's a great idea). Once the butter has melted, keep cooking it over medium heat for a few additional minutes. It will become hissy and sizzle a lot, then take on a nutty flavor as golden bits form at the bottom of the pot. Remove from heat and set aside to cool slightly.

2. Combine your warmed milk and yeast in a small bowl and set aside. After five to seven minutes, it should be a bit foamy (mine barely did it, so don't be too concerned as long as your yeast didn't expire). If it’s not, you might have some bad yeast and should start again with a newer packet.

3. In the bottom of the bowl of an electric mixer combine flour, sugars, salt and spices (mixing by hand is fine). Add just 1/4 cup (or two-thirds of; leave the rest for assembly) of your melted/browned butter and stir to combine. Add yeast-milk mixture, pumpkin and egg and mix combined. Switch mixer to a dough hook and run it for 5 minutes on low.

4. Scrape mixture into a large oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside for 1 hour in a draft-free place; it should just about double (mine didn't... but don't let that deter you).

5. While it is rising, line the bottom of two 9-inch round cake pans (8-inch round should work too, as does an 8-inch square) with parchment paper and butter the sides of the pan and the paper.

Assemble buns:
1. Scoop dough onto a very well floured surface and flour the top of it well. With a rolling pin, roll the dough to an approximately 16×11-inch rectangle. Brush reserved melted/browned butter over dough. Stir together remaining filling ingredients and sprinkle mixture evenly over dough. Starting on a longer side, roll the dough into a tight spiral. It’s going to make a mess because the dough is crazy soft and some stuff spills off the ends; don’t sweat it. It will all be delicious in the end.

2. Here’s how to cut cinnamon rolls without squishing their pretty spirals: With a sharp serrated knife, using absolutely no pressure whatsoever (only the weight of the blade should land on the dough) gently saw your log with a back-forth motion into approximately 1-inch sections. When a soft dough like this is rolled, it tends to grow longer, which means that you’ll have the option to either make more buns (say, 18 instead of 16) or just cut them a little larger (in generous inches).

3. Divide buns between two prepared pans. You can sprinkle any sugar that fell off onto the counter over them. Cover each pan with plastic wrap and let rise for another 45 minutes.

4. If you’re doing this ahead of time, you can now put them in the fridge overnight. In the morning, leave them out for an hour to warm up and finish rising.

5. 15 minutes before you’re ready to bake them, heat the oven to 350°F. Meanwhile, you can make the glaze. Beat your cream cheese until it is light and fluffy. Add powdered sugar and vanilla. Drizzle in milk until you get the consistency you’re looking for, either thick enough to ice or thin enough to drizzle. Finish your buns: Remove the plastic and bake buns for 25 minutes until golden brown. Remove from pans onto a cooling rack, and when they're cooled to your liking, spread on the glaze and enjoy.

nom. nom. nom.

10.10.2012

Fall Holiday & 100th Post

Happy 100th post to us! In case you didn't know, the reason I called it daburrfamily.blogspot.com is in reference to {this}. We're fans of classic SNL.

Things I love about fall...
  • cooler weather
  • cuddling with husband
  • fall and winter clothes {sweaters, jackets, scarves, warm socks}
  • changing colors in nature
  • crisp morning and evening walks with the dogs
  • the warm, fuzzy feeling that accompanies the beginning of a cozy season
  • people seem a bit... softer, and they're more likely to smile
  • seasonal foods, such as pumpkin {duh}, hot cocoa {more reason to have it}, peppermint


Here is the list of fall things we have thus far enjoyed that are pumpkin-related. If you have more to suggest we go try, let me know! My cousin Julia already added pumpkin rice crispy treats to my to-do list, and I have a few homemade pumpkin plans up my sleeve. On a non-pumpkin-related note, Oreo now has Halloween colored cookies. Hmmm, what to do with those...

Fall eats we have thus far enjoyed...
  1. pumpkin better-than-sex cake
  2. pumpkin wreath
  3. cinnamon pumpkin spice kiss cookies
  4. pumpkin banana bread
  5. pumpkin spice Hershey Kisses 
  6. pumpkin spice cream frappuccino from Starbucks 
  7. pumpkin pecan cheesecake from The Cheesecake Factory
  8. pumpkin truffles from See's Candy
  9. pumpkin pie shake from Bruxie
  10. pumpkin ravioli {failed attempt at making it}
  11. pumpkin waffles and pancakes {recipe coming next week}
And I'm miraculously maintaining my weight. :knock on wood:

I almost didn't let the pumpkin ravioli fail make the list. But, it did. I enjoyed the experiment.

I'd also like to add the Mickey Jack-o-lantern caramel apple we had at Disneyland last year. The orange-sprinkled marshmallow ears were yum.






10.06.2012

Somethin' Pumpkin: Ravioli-Fail and Bread-Win

Instead of a dessert recipe for this week, I decided to attempt pumpkin ravioli. But now that I'm posting about it, I can't even find the recipe I used to fail with. I'm betting that it was removed from the internet because it was so lame-sauce. Anyway, lesson learned: Don't invite a guest over the night you experiment, especially when it's your first time making ravioli, of all things. This time I was lucky: Tina didn't mind experiments :)

SO, after that disaster, it just happened to be convenient that the bananas I bought at Costco had turned overripe much too quickly. Then I had the best remedy to my ravioli fail: Pumpkin Banana Bread for the win!





I already knew I was awesome at baking banana bread {not to toot my own horn, but my husband says so}.  Creating a variation of it with pumpkin was right up my alley, and wow, it turned out great! Moist. Flavorful. You can taste the banana and the pumpkin. This is a must-try recipe. I know, I know, Costco just started stocking their pumpkin quick-bread mix, which is really good, but you need to make something from scratch to call it your own.

Big positives about this recipe: There is some batter leftover for you to have a few extra muffins on the side, AND, you don't need butter in the batter. NO butter! The only butter I used was to grease the sides of the pan.

Ingredients:
  • 3 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 c. vegetable or corn oil
  • 1 1/3 c. canned pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 c. honey
  • 1/2 c. white sugar
  • 1/2 c. brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • optional: walnuts, raisins, cranberries

Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F and grease a 9 x 5" or 10 x 4" loaf pan.
  2. In a large bowl, gently mix together: bananas, eggs, oil, pumpkin, honey, white sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla. Separately, combine the flour, powder, soda, salt, cinnamon, and allspice. Slowly add to banana/pumpkin mixture until just combined. Pour batter into the loaf pan until it's -just- over half full. Then use the rest to bake muffins {20-25 minute baking time}.
  3. Bake loaf at 350°F for 60 minutes, and make sure a toothpick comes out clean from the center. If not, add 10 more minutes. Let cool on cooling rack before removing from pan.

yum.yum.yum.

I must be a baker, because my cooking experiments are fewer than my baking experiments. Maybe pumpkin ravioli isn't all that amazing in general, but I think it should be. Either way, I will continue to love baking with pumpkin.

10.05.2012

Win What You Want

On with the Secret. Michael was officially laid off last week, which came sooner than we expected, but we expected it. The investors seemed to have a "meh" attitude about the company, in my opinion; if they wanted it to do well, they would have marketed and motivated better. Instead, they let it end "meh-ly" and Mike can tell you more in detail if he wants to update this. haha.



Initially I was worried because it had happened so fast; but then I reprimanded myself. The Secret is just beginning. There is something better for Mike, and it's coming, and we're very excited. I'm getting regular sub work and he will be getting unemployment. AND, did I mention we get checks in the mail? That's how we make our living. People ask, "So what do you do for work?" and we answer, "We get checks in the mail." Mind. Blown. :)

The past few weeks, we've had dinner with the Justina and Robert again, whom we love. We saw the movie "Looper" and loved it {mmm Joseph Gordon-Levitt... Michael knows I say this often}. Did I mention Mike tried his hand at stand-up comedy last Monday, and didn't bomb? Well, he did stand-up, and compared to the other first-timers, he did really well. We'll be going to this little hole-in-the-wall joint every Monday night so he can develop his stage personality and his material. Most of the other comedians were vulgar and the jokes were all about male and female anatomy, so he felt kind of left out. haha :)

We also became closer friends with our friend Tina from church when we had her over for dinner. She is hilarious and is a master baker. I had baked cinnamon pumpkin spice kiss cookies, and eventually we ate them and gave them away. Then, Tina does this amazing goodbad thing and brings us a dozen of our own carrot-pineapple cupcakes with frosting that had a hint of cream cheese. I had two after dinner even though I was full, they were so delicious. I immediately dispersed them to the neighbors the following day so we could share in the joy and also be cleansed of the guilt of eating any of them in the future. This was the night I also tried a pumpkin ravioli recipe and it was an 80% fail. The flavor was barely there, and they fell apart... so maybe like a 100% fail. Anyways, I'll go into it with another 'Somethin' Pumpkin' post later.



I substituted elementary PE for the past three days and I am super tan and happy with that. Yes I wore sunscreen, so it's a good tan. 

Sandal tan. No, I didn't want to wear shoes :)

{Firenzi} business is booming. It started to take off thanks to a few things I had done all at once toward the end of September and now... it just keeps going. I'm so happy.thankful.peaceful. Who ever thought I'd be making what I'm making and people love it as much as I do?



Tonight, we further used the Secret to go to our HOA's Meet and Greet shindig and collect our present. They called it door prize, but we knew we would get one, so we came to collect. Hooray for Trader Joe's gift cards!

So, are you ready for General Conference this weekend? I always feel like it's such a special time of year because it's like opening presents for Christmas. The prophets and leaders of the church share such awesome messages and spiritual gems. Don't miss out! Watch it {here}.




9.30.2012

Somethin' Pumpkin: Cinnamon Pumpkin Spice Kiss Cookies

Here's to week two of pumpkin goodness!

This one is of my own design. CVS had a sale on pumpkin spice Hershey kisses {LOVE them} so I bought a couple of bags for this recipe. I was inspired from a recipe that asked for chai spice. We being Mormon, I decided to cut out the chai and replace it with cinnamon while adjusting a few of the other ingredients. Helpful hint I learned by doing: Remove the cookies ASAP from the cookie sheet or they'll look funny, like some of mine :)


Cinnamon Pumpkin Spice Kiss Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 - 2 T cinnamon
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 bag pumpkin spice Hershey’s Kisses - {Find in September onward at CVS, Walgreen's, Target}

Directions:
Combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of your stand mixer and cream at medium speed until fluffy, or with a hand mixer, for about 2-3 minutes. Add the egg, cinnamon,  and vanilla; mix until combined. Add the flour, baking soda, cornstarch, and salt, scraping down the sides of the mixing bowl as necessary. {If needed, add 1 T water to mix better}
Preheat the oven to 325° F.
Roll the dough into 1 inch round balls. Place the dough balls on parchment paper lined baking sheets, or a nonstick baking pan, and sprinkle pumpkin pie spice or powdered sugar lightly over cookies if desired.
Bake the cookies for 12-13 minutes. Meanwhile, unwrap kisses.
Remove the cookies from the oven and immediately place pumpkin kisses in the center of each cookie. Don’t touch or the kisses will turn into puddles! Remove immediately from cookie sheet onto a cooling rack. Cool completely.




9.25.2012

Pumpkin Wreath Giveaway

My friend Daryl over at Roots, Wings, and Other Things is sponsoring me in a giveaway this week. Go here {http://thoserootsandwings.blogspot.de/2012/09/fall-home-decor-giveaway-with-firenzi.html} to enter to win a pumpkin wreath, or here {http://firenzi.etsy.com} to buy one :)