April Showers Bring May…Babies!

TGIF!  I don’t have much to say today, but I just wanted to share a few pictures from a baby shower we threw at work yesterday.  The baby is due at the end of May, and I am happy to report that his momma should be stocked up on diapers, onesies, bottles, and pacifiers for quite awhile!

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Questions:

What is your favorite baby shower theme?

Any fun plans this weekend?  (I have an 11 mile run and a wedding on the agenda this weekend!  Yard work will be thrown in there too!)

Rubber Ducky, You’re the One

I have been quickly reminded what spring really feels like.  Highs in the 60’s actually feel cold for March compared to the 80’s we were having last week.  Spoiled, spoiled.

 

I thought that yesterday’s photo montage from the weekend helped to balance out my wordy post from Friday.  I wanted to give a quick running update today and I am happy to say that I ran my 7 miles on Friday in 1:08:14.  I actually felt pretty great the whole time, and dare I say that I could have kept going when I finished?  It is amazing how runs feel so different day-to-day.  Monday you would have thought I’ve never run 2 miles and Friday I accomplished 7.   Did I mention also that the majority of the run was in the rain?  It was misting for most of the time, but while listening to my iPhone, ‘Let it Rain’ by David Nail came on and I swear that the skies seemed to open up and it just started pouring.  I listened to the words and literally started singing out loud.  Although the song’s lyrics relate more to relationship problems as opposed to the issues I am facing regarding my own personal stress and urge for perfection, it really helped me to hear this song right in the middle of my run.  When the song was over, the sky dried up a little and went back to the light mist it was doing before.  Yesterday we went to the gym and I ran 2 miles in 16:38, the fastest I have ever ran.  I couldn’t believe it and I was so excited to see that the long runs mixed with the short speed sessions seem to really be helping me to become a quicker runner with more endurance.

 

I had a lot of questions about this particular drink:

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It was actually a Ginger Ale, ginger, organic cane sugar, lime juice and mint, from the North Star Cafe in Columbus.  I absolutely love this restaurant, which I originally tried while going to Ohio State.  The original was opened in 2004 near downtown Columbus, but now there are three locations including the one at the Easton Town Center that my mom and I visited Saturday.  We had a snack while we were there instead of eating a big meal and split the Pimiento Cheese Dip:

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Yum!

 

The Baby Shower went really well Saturday.  We held it at Brio at the Polaris.  The theme was ‘Ducky’ and we made sure this was included in the invitations, on the balloons, and in the favor bags.

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We played two simple games:  We used ribbon and had each guest estimate how much ribbon would be needed to wrap around the baby bump.  The second game was to guess the baby’s weight.  These guesses went into an envelope and we will mail out the prize to whoever guessed correctly after the baby is born.  The prize was a $5 gift card to Starbucks and some chocolates.

The favor bag included a rubbery duck..

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…and chocolate!

DSCN1345 We wanted to keep everything simple.

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I made the cupcakes, which were Chocolate Cake with a Chocolate Cream Cheese-Buttercream Frosting. (Recipe to Come!)

DSCN1399 Fun balloons!

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Everything turned out really nice and my cousin said she had a great time, which was most important.  Brio did a great job and the restaurant at the Polaris is absolutely gorgeous.  The party was simple yet elegant and classy.

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I feel like having it at a restaurant makes it harder to be creative since you don’t know what you have to work with in regards to the size of the room, provided decorations, etc.  We were a little concerned that we wouldn’t have enough decorations or that our simple games wouldn’t be enough fun.  However, I totally agree with the idea that less really is more, and I think the ducks would agree too.

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Questions:

Have you ever ate at Brio?  Are you a fan of this restaurant chain?

If you were throwing a baby shower tomorrow, what theme would you use?

Do you agree with the saying that Less is More?

Spring Showers

After graduating from college, it seems like your social calendar begins to fill up even faster than it did during undergrad, if you can believe that one.  Tim and I are constantly being reminded that we are at the “right age” for weddings and baby showers as invitations come trickling in through the mail.  I love celebrations like these and look forward to every single one!  After having my own wedding last October, I more than ever understand the tedious tasks a bride goes through to make her wedding day as perfect as she’s always hoped.  I catch myself checking out the little details like the monogram choice, the type of invitation paper used, and the kind of save-the-date that is sent, because I now know how much time and thought is put into these decisions and it makes me truly appreciate every choice the bride makes.  If you look closely, it can actually teach you a little more about the bride and the groom as a whole.

We have five weddings to attend this year starting in April until mid-September.   Before we get to that point though, I am also blessed to be not only attending a baby shower this weekend, but throwing the party along with my mom.  My cousin is pregnant with her first baby, a little boy, and we are holding the event in her honor at a restaurant on Saturday.  I don’t want to give away too much information before it happens, but the two details I can share is that A) The theme is ducks and B) the mother-to-be is craving chocolate cake!  Rest assured, those two things will be making an appearance at her shower!

When it comes to fun though, I am really not into the traditional shower games.  I am trying to come up with a few different ideas that may help this shower stand out in the minds of my cousin and her guests.  I have of course been using Pinterest to gather ideas, but I really haven’t seen anything too awesome that has caught my eye.  Some of the cutest things I’ve come across are:

 

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Each baby shower guest is assigned a letter & is asked to bring that letter decorated for the nursery.

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Another “Pop” themed Baby Shower.  This website is amazing, FYI!!  If I am throwing a baby shower for you within the next year, please don’t check it out..! ;-)

 

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Great for a ‘Library Building’ Baby Shower

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How cute is this?!?!

 

FYI, none of these ideas are being used this weekend, but I thought they were all adorable!  We have one ‘sort of’ game in mind, but nothing we are completely set on doing.  We do have great goodie bags for the guests ready to go, and we also have the food and dessert handled.  We are hosting another baby shower for a very good friend of ours this summer too, and we’ll need even more ideas!  I love throwing events like this, because it brings me back to the love of wedding planning, without QUITE the amount of sleepless nights and tough decisions. This sort of responsibility gets me psyched to have kids one day and throw them some fun parties!  My birthday parties consisted of roller blading a few years, but I had at least 6 or 7 gymnastics theme parties at the gym I attended.  Those were amazing.  My dream party though would have been at the American Girl Place.  I was obsessed with my dolls and that would have been a perfect party in my eyes.  Oh well, maybe for my 24th?! Ha!

 

I am curious: 

 

What is the best baby shower you have ever attended? 

Do you have any suggestions for great games, themes, treats, special details, goodie bags, etc. that really stand out in your head? 

Any ideas to make the mother-to-be feel extra special?

A Sweet & Sour Decision, Part 2

After making dinner went smoothly, it was time to focus on the missing link.  The sweet and sour sensation that it is, Key Lime Cheesecake Pie (adapted from this recipe) with a homemade vanilla wafer crust, was the dessert I had in mind to end the night on a sweet note.  Now how I forgot about this one, I will never know.  But the truth is that when I found myself at home from work at 5:00 on Friday without any preparation and with no refrigeration time available, I highly considered rushing to the Dorothy Lane Market and getting a prepared treat instead.  I knew it was a long shot, but I really wanted to give it a try and make this pie from scratch, crust and all.  I wanted to show I had put effort and time into the dessert as a gift to Tim’s mom.

So my weekend began like this..

Analyze whether this can be pulled off on the way home from work.

Rush in the house and convince my husband how fun it is to use the new vacuum and floor mop to clean.  He is a wonderful helper!  In the mean time, I cranked up the oven to 350 degrees and got to work.

I quickly got out the food processer, roasting pan, spring form pan, mixing bowls, and hand mixer.

Ingredients

2 cups vanilla wafer crumbs

5 tablespoons melted butter

3 packages cream cheese (I used Neufchatel-1/3 less fat)

1 cup sugar

7 tablespoons lime juice

3 eggs

2 tablespoons sour cream

To make the crust, blend in food processor enough vanilla wafers to make 2 cups of crumb.

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Melt butter in microwave.

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Mix melted crumbs and butter together and spread along bottom and sides of greased spring form pan.

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Bake crust at 350 degrees for 5 minutes, then set aside.

For the filling, beat together cream cheese and sugar.

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Mix in key lime juice.

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Mix in eggs, 1 at a time, and sour cream.

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Pour filling into pie crust.

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Instead of simply sliding the pie into the oven, I decided to bake mine in a water bath instead.  I used the brand new Calphalon roasting pan I had gotten as a wedding gift. 

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All you have to do is foil wrap the bottom and sides of cheesecake pan, then pour water into roasting pan, until the water level is half way up the spring form pan.

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Place roaster in oven for 45-50 minutes, depending on oven temperature, until fully cooked through.

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This is where my issues began.  The directions call for the pan to cool off for 30 minutes, and then refrigerated until cheesecake solidifies, maybe 5-7 hours, or preferably overnight.  I however didn’t have that time and needed the pie to cool fast!  I did let the cheesecake cool out of the refrigerator for about 20 minutes, but I took a chance after about 2 hours of refrigerating to cut and serve.

Look how beautiful this pie turned out!  It popped right out of the pan, there was no split down the center, and it let off the most delicious citrusy sour scent.  It looked perfect and I couldn’t wait to slice it.

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I took out the knife and slid it right down the center, but…

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It wasn’t perfect.  The pie wasn’t done cooling and the filling melted faster than a popsicle in the middle of July.  I remember feeling a pang of annoyance at myself for not making the pie Thursday.  For a split second I wished I would have went to the grocery and picked out a store bought cake.  Sometimes it’s hard to accept mistakes, but at this point I had to bite my tongue and tell my pride to get in the backseat.  I began to think about all the hard work I put into the pie.  I wanted it to be perfect, but nothing is perfect, just like life right?  It was a good lesson for me and I took it with a grain of salt.  I was proud of this pie, whether it looked like a slice or a pile of pudding.

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You know what though, it tasted absolutely delicious!  The citrus balance was nice and light.  The vanilla wafer crust was buttery and crumbled just the right amount.  I may have delivered the pie with a visual disclaimer, but I was completely proud of how tasty this was.  Everyone at the table seemed to really enjoy it as well, and the smiles on their faces put one on mine too.  I can’t wait to try and make this pie again, but next time I will allow plenty of time for cooling.  You live you learn though, both in the kitchen and in life.  Besides, would it have been better if it had looked gorgeous, but tasted dry and flavorless?  Yep, I would say this pie was the perfect balance of sweet and sour, just like this dessert had been on my day.

 

Questions for the Readers

Do you ever have a hard time cutting yourself some slack when you make a mistake  Why is wanting to be perfect such a goal for so many, including myself?

Have you ever had a kitchen disaster that turned out to be a delicious blessing?

A Sweet & Sour Decision, Part 1

I don’t know about anyone else, but I feel as if this whole weekend is just going by so quickly.  I can’t believe we are already half way through Sunday.  I love being busy and having a lot of plans and events to attend, but sometimes it’s nice to just R-E-S-T.  You know what they say though, time flies when you’re having fun, and a lot of that has been happening. It all started before the weekend had even officially began.

On Friday I didn’t have a moment to myself beginning at 5:30 am, until Saturday at 12:00 am when my head finally hit the pillow.  We hosted Tim’s parents at our house Friday night for a special birthday dinner in his mother’s honor.  I really enjoyed planning and creating the menu for her night.  Starting on Thursday evening, I began the preparation for the dinner party.  I created the marinade for the pork tenderloin.  I cleaned and cut the brussels sprouts.  Laid out ingredients for.. wait I forgot that part.  I had a dessert in mind that takes planning ahead, including bringing ingredients to room temperature, baking the item and refrigerating overnight. I meant to make it Thursday, but somehow it completely slipped my mind.  More on that in a bit, but first came a few still delicious, yet saltier decisions.

The main dish was a pork tenderloin, marinated overnight Thursday, and then grilled Friday night.  I adapted my version of the pork tenderloin marinade from a Cooking Light magazine recipe, Pan-Grilled Ginger-Honey Pork Tenderloin.

Ingredients

3 pound pork tenderloin, marinated overnight in…

1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons sesame seeds

DSCN0434I used this Toasted Sesame Ginger Seasoning, but basic sesame seeds would work just fine.

2 cloves minced garlic

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 tablespoon grated peeled fresh ginger

4 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons soy sauce

 

Directions

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Mix together all ingredients.  Pour over pork in large bowl.

Marinate over night in the refrigerator.

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Heat grill pan over medium high heat.  Spray with cooking spray or drizzle a little Olive Oil.  Cook Pork, covered, for 15 minutes on each side.  (This depends on the temperature of your burner.  If not fully cooked inside, either place pork on a roasting rack and bake at 350 degrees for an extra 10 minutes, or slice pork into 1 inch thick and cook in grill pan over medium high heat for 3-5 minutes.)

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The actual Cooking Light recipe called for the pork to be grilled simply with salt and pepper, and then to baste the marinade onto the pork.  I decided to marinate overnight though and I am glad I did.  The pork was so tender and literally melted in your mouth.  I think this had a lot to do with the acid from the lemon juice and sodium in the soy sauce breaking down the meat while it refrigerated.  The magazine also did not include olive oil, garlic, pepper or sesame seeds, but I thought these additional ingredients gave the pork just a little extra kick.

The next item on the menu was Rosemary and Parsley Roasted Red Potatoes.

Ingredients

Red potatoes

Dried Rosemary

Dried Parsley

Salt

Pepper

Set oven to 450 degrees.

Using 1 bag of roasted red potatoes, wash and cut into 4 or 8 pieces, depending on size of potato, and place on large baking sheet.

Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, black pepper, dried rosemary and dried parsley as desired

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Bake at 450 degrees for 30 minutes, stirring half way through.

Broil 1-2 minutes on high until potatoes are a nice golden brown.

As a second side dish, I made pan fried brussels sprouts.  I meant to bake them in the oven, but time got away from me so this way worked just fine.

Ingredients

2 teaspoons bacon grease (just a little goes a long way and adds a ton of extra flavor) or olive oil

Brussels sprouts, cleaned and cut in half,

Sprinkled with salt and pepper.

Directions

Over medium-high heat, melt grease/drizzle oil around pan.

Pan-sear brussel sprouts for 7-10 minutes until cooked through, with a slight bite to them.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and place in bow.

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As an end to the meal and a way to top off the celebration, I wanted to make a stand out sweet treat. That is why I still couldn’t believe I had almost forgotten, in my opinion, the best part of all!  This dessert is my husband’s absolute favorite, and he somehow convinced me it was his mom’s as well.  I am still not sure if this was simply a trick for him to get to enjoy the dessert he loves the most, but either way I thought everyone would enjoy it.  However, I had forgotten about the preparation and cooling time.  How would it turn out?  How would it taste?  Could I finish in time, or would the night end on a sour note?……

 

Questions for the Readers

If you could pick any dessert to have for your birthday, what would it be?

 

What meals do you think are worth the extra planning and preparation time it takes to make them?

Christmas Time is Here…

Well, here we are.  It’s already two days since Christmas and another work week has already began.  The past three days have gone by fast, but they were spent the way I hoped they would.  My holiday weekend was filled with enough family, love, food, presents, laughter and dancing (!) to last me until next year’s Christmas season comes around.

Our first Christmas tree

Let’s start back on Friday with Christmas Eve.  My husband went to the grocery to get ingredients for the night’s dinner, so I decided to surprise him with a festive holiday breakfast.  However, my sweet and salty plans did not play out quite the way I wanted!  Soft scrambled eggs and waffles with red and green m&ms were on the surprise menu.

I started with 5 fresh eggs

Add 1/4 cup of milk. Toss in a pinch of parsley and basil, along with salt and pepper to taste. I also included freshly grated Sharp Cheddar Cheese I received as a housewarming gift.

Next came my attempt at the sweet portion of breakfast.  I thought it would be great to include festive red and green m&m’s I had leftover from my rolo/pretzel treats and throw them into the waffle batter.  Brilliant, right!?

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Well, turns out if you add colored m&m’s to the batter too soon, the reds and greens cannot stand up against the wet batter.  The colors dissolve and you are simply left with chocolate chip waffles.  Delicious? Yes!  Quite as appealing and festive?  Probably not!  Lesson Learned?  Check!

Holiday breakfast is served! If you squint, maybe you can spot the red and green.. ;-)

The rest of the day was spent watching football and creating a holiday feast! Christmas Eve dinner was hosted at my house this year and included myself, my husband, my parents and brother.  For the past few years, we have made a new tradition of having an italian feast and this year I stuck to the same theme for my first time hostessing.  Pan-fried Chicken Parmesan, Mozzarella and Bread Crumb Stuffed Mushrooms, Hot and Cheesy Lasagna, and Rich Red Velvet Cheesecake Brownies were on the menu that I worked hard to prepare.  I wouldn’t say the meal was a “traditional” italian feast, but I find putting your own spin on recipes and adapting to your taste is what makes food special and appealing to you and your guests.

Bubbly Lasagna right out of the oven, made with four kinds of cheese
Crispy Panko breaded Chicken breast, pan fried and then baked at 350 for 20 minutes, topped with melted fresh mozzarella
The start of the show! Red Velvet Cheesecake Brownies! Idea from my Pinterest, adapted from this recipe: http://sweetpeaskitchen.com/2011/02/01/red-velvet-cheesecake-brownies/
Check out that deliciousness! Next year there will be a double batch made.

The rest of the evening was spent enjoying each other’s company, reminiscing past Christmases and imagining what each new Christmas season will bring to our family.  It was only Christmas Eve though and we knew there was a lot more time still left during Christmas 2011, and we were looking forward to what was to come!

A New Beginning..

Where to begin on your first blog post is a tough decision.  Whether to introduce yourself, explain your blog direction, or to simply start a post has given me a lot of thought.  Being it’s Christmas Eve, I have decided to start my blog as a sort of gift to myself.  This is a place where I want to be me without any apologies.  Where I can share my life as a new wife who is trying to find her way and live a healthy lifestyle.  I enjoy hostessing, baking, running, cooking, home decorating, writing and finding a way to laugh every day of my life.

Today’s post is simply about a Christmas party my husband and I through at our new home earlier this December.  It worked as a house warming/holiday get together for ourselves and about 15 of our friends.  I spent many hours cooking, cleaning and decorating our house with reds and silvers, snowmen and lights, garland and glitter.

Dining room, complete with Christmas linens received at a Bridal Shower
 Expecting at least 15-2o people, I knew I wanted to make enough appetizers to keep everyone happy.  The one ready made item we provided was Chick-Fil-A nuggets.  We had a buy one large tray, get a small tray free coupon and my brother and husand were quick to wanting to take advantage of this opportunity.  The rest of the menu contained a homemade crock-pot Spinach Artichoke Dip, fresh cut vegetables with ranch, homemade red velvet cake cupcakes with a buttercream frosting (which actually was bought from my favorite bakery, Ele, that we will discuss another time!), Rolo pretzels, and a holiday punch.  The punch contained a Sparkling Red Moscato from Sam’s Club, a bottle of Lemon-Lime Soda, and a container of Raspberry Sherbet.

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Buttercream Icing. The Display was a gift from my mom, purchased at Home Goods!

 

Pretzel Squares, Rolos and Holiday M&M's. Easy peasy and my friends could not get enough of these salty/sweet treats!

Pretzel Squares, Rolos and Holiday M&M's. Easy peasy and my friends could not get enough of these salty/sweet treats!

Fresh cut carrots, broccoli, cucumber and celery. So easy, fresher and much cheaper, to put your own tray together than buying pre-made from the grocery.
Fresh cut carrots, broccoli, cucumber and celery. So easy, fresher and much cheaper, to put your own tray together than buying pre-made from the grocery.

The night was a success and I enjoyed hostessing our first (hopefully annual!) Christmas party at our home.  I hope to have more events here in the future.  We received 7 bottles of wine, Belvedere Vodka, Skinny Girl Cosmo and Cabo Wabo.  Yep, I would say that another get together should not be too far in the future!

 
Here’s a quick pic of my husband and I in front of our first Christmas tree. This is a special moment I know I will cherish!

So there’s my first post.  I have an idea of what I want this blog to be, for I have been reading healthy living blogs since 2008.  I tried to start one a couple years ago that I had named Chocolate Dipped Buckeye, in reference to my Ohio State University alumni status.  However, I got too wrapped up in making it perfect and comparing it to other blogs.  This time around, I plan to do it my way and find my own direction in words and in life.

 
Off to enjoy the holiday with my family.  I will be hostessing Christmas Eve dinner this evening and couldn’t be more excited.