Thursday, October 30, 2014

Hay There

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That blog post title? Yeah, I actually typed that out and left it there. You are all welcome. 

This is the outfit that I wore out to the cider mills, hence the hay. I always think that my style has changed a lot over the years, especially since those awkward high school days, but looking at these photos, I feel like this something high school me would have loved. Giant winter hat? Check. Ripped American Eagle jeans? Check. Striped, Weezerish sweater? Check. Footwear that doesn't match anything, but is worn with everything? Check. Seriously, just swap out the giant glasses for braces and nothing much has changed. 

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Last night we carved pumpkins, and watched Hocus Pocus while sipping hard cider. (I posted a photo of mine on Instagram, and it is totally fantastic!). Passing out candy tomorrow will check off the last thing on my fall bucket list! I might have to make another little list for November, all I've got so far is to run the Stuffing Strut with Kyle before the parade on Thanksgiving (which we haven't even registered for yet), and bake a pumpkin pie.  My mom and I are thinking of ideas on how to make Thanksgiving dinner slightly healthier this year, and I am really looking forward to it. I will be sure to do a post of some sort of what we made if it all works out okay!

Tomorrow I will have another outfit post for you guys (three in one week! What is this nonsense!). and I am only working a half day because I have a packed Friday. I am heading out to try my photography skills (or lack there of) on some family members after work, picking up Liam for a bit, then getting ready for Halloween! It is supposed to rain, maybe even snow, which really sucks for all of the little bastards out trick-or-treating. I am going to try my best to get photos of our costumes for Monday's post. Much Excite! Happy Halloween Eve!


Sweater Sweater 5

Details
Tank,Necklace, Hat, & Purse-Target
Sweater-Forever 21
Jeans-American Eagle Outfitters
Boots-Amazon
Glasses-Warby Parker

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Autumn Adventures!

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Here in Michigan, the peak of autumn came around the 18th, and for the most part is still here! Every year, Kyle and I have a tradition of going cider mill hopping, where we hit up 2-4 places in one day. Sometimes we go alone, and other times we get a group of people going. We almost always hit up Blake's, Miller's Big Red, and the Stoney Creek Cider Mill. The other weekend we did just that, with a group of friends. It was cold as balls, but loads of fun!

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We started off at Blake's where we bought cider and doughnuts, apples, and hard cider. They had a little fire pit going, and it was awesome! We even bought a few bottles of hard cider to go, that we still need to get into. 

We then headed to Miller's Big Red, bought some lunch and then we all went on a hayride. We stopped to pick pumpkins, then we stopped to go through the corn maze. The corn maze was a lot of fun, because instead of trying to get lost, we just hurled ears of corn at each other and ran for it (we are twelve). We also hit up the petting zoo because we had Liam with us, and if you pay for a kid to get in, all of the adults get in free! My favorites were the llamas, and the bunnies. 

After one last stop at Stoney Creek for more cider and doughnuts to take home, we finally drove home. That is what I really love about where we live, Oak Park is 15-20 minutes from Detroit if you go south, and if you drive 30-40 minutes north, you get trees, farms, fields, and cute, little small towns that are just fall as fuck right now. I love every minute of it!

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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Strange Things

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Whew! A few unexpected days off from the blogging world, my apologies. In all fairness, I woke up yesterday morning feeling like crap on toast, and I didn't even make it to work. I am feeling much better now, and I am armed with a huge batch of butternut squash soup to get me through the week, so hopefully I can keep it on the up. 

I didn't notice the giant smudge on the camera lens until Sunday, so pardon the strange blur on all of the photos for the next few posts. 

Holy-I-am-so-behind-on-posts-Batman! This is what I wore to my cousin Heather's wedding earlier this month, and I think that this is my favorite outfit of 2014 so far. Even though I really love clothes, all of the outfits that I post on here, are outfits that I actually wear out doing things. They tend to be mostly on the casual side, so it was so much fun to dress up! The best part of this outfit is the velvet jacket, I am in love with it! The sleeves are a bit long on me (as is the case with most blazers), but other than that, it is perfect. It even has pretty blue lining, which I of course forgot to take a photo of, so you will just have to believe me. Wanna know what the best part is? I forgot I even had it! It was in Kyle's closet, I think for the entire three years we have been in the house, whoops. 

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In other news, I did not get around to doing a weekend update post yesterday, but we did have a really good weekend. On Friday we went to my sister-in-law's parent's house for a bonfire, and it was a blast! I am so happy to have been able to go to a fall bonfire this year, and Shannon's mom is awesome for having us loud assholes over (thanks, Jeanne!). Saturday I went thrifting with my friend Mariah for our Halloween costumes, and we managed to find everything we needed. Now I am even more excited for Halloween! Saturday afternoon my brother David and I went to my co-worker's house for the Michigan VS Michigan State game. I will be honest, I don't really follow football, but I just really like my co-worker's family, it is always a blast over there! After that, my family, Shannon, and Jeanne, all headed out to dinner at The Emory in Ferndale. It was a good time! After, Kyle and I met up with friends for pinball, followed by karaoke. 

On Sunday, Kyle and I met up with his family for brunch at Mudgies in Corktown. We then headed over to my other in-law's place to mooch things. Seriously, every time we have issues with our camera, or need help figuring out how to use it, Chris and Michelle always help us out. On Sunday they gave us a camera! I felt like such a mooch, but I really can't wait until I get a chance to use it. I am seriously forever grateful for my family, as well as my extended family. Even though I totally over did it this weekend, it was so worth it to see everyone.

Now I just need to make it through Halloween, then I am going into hibernation until Thanksgiving. 

Gobble Gobble. 

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Details
Dress-Tobi
Shoes-Payless
Tights-Leggs
Necklace-Forever 21
Jacket-Guess/Thrifted 
Purse-Target

Friday, October 24, 2014

Halloween Throwback


With Halloween being only a week away, I thought it would be cool to look back on some of my past costumes! I have always loved dressing up for things (probably the entire basis for this blog), and Halloween is THE BEST because you can really get creative! I think Halloween and Comic Con are my two favorite times of the year.

So without further ado, here is my Halloween Throwback post:

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Josie And The Pussycats

Group costumes are amazeballs, especially when they are saturated in nostalgia. Back in 2010, I went as Valarie from Josie and the Pussycats. The best part? I only had to buy the cat ears, tail, and tambourine. People actually knew who we were too, so that was awesome. 

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I have been a cat many times, it is a classic go-to when you are going to several different Halloween parties, or just need something quick for work. I even did a cat costume remix post! This one was from 2011.  My advice? Use regular eye liner instead of the cheap Halloween makeup (aka: the crap on my face in the above pic) for the whiskers, looks loads cuter and less messy.

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Halloween Antics 

I also went as Kurt Cobain back in 2011, and while this was a super lazy costume, it ended up being perfect for a Halloween party that ended with a bunch of us in a cold garage playing beer pong until the wee hours of the morning, because I was warm! 

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So apparently 2011 was the year for Halloween parties! I did manage to pull off three different costumes for super cheap though. All I needed for this witch costume was a cheap hat, can't beat that!

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Our first couples costume! Rose Tyler, and the Tenth Doctor, from Doctor Who. Holy hell was that wig a pain-in-the-ass, but soooo worth it! This costume was so much fun, even if people initially thought I was a Spice Girl. Poop!

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Of course, I knew that everyone at work would have no idea who Rose Tyler was, so I played it safe and went as a Witch again to work in 2012. I reused the hat from the year prior, and viola! Done. 

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And of course here we are with last year's costumes, my favorite costume to date, Moss and Roy from the IT Crowd! I had a blast with this one, I thrifted the whole thing, aside from the shoes (which I had), and the wig. I wore this costume a second time for MCCC 2014!

Well there you have it! I am really excited about this year's costume as well, even if we don't really have any fancy parties to go to, this year still is looking like it will be a blast! Passing out candy, eating pizza, watching Halloween movies, and then hitting up our favorite dive bar with friends. Sounds like perfection!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Black Keys

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My attempt at being super fancy and causal all-at-once, because Kyle and I finally went on a dinner-date a few weekends back. I am in serious need for another night like this, because life has been so insane lately!

Our weekends have been packed to the gills, I was almost pulling my hair out trying to figure out how we are going to fit everything in for the one coming up. You can't say "no" to the people visiting from out of town, or to grandparents, or to people you haven't seen in ages, or to the laundry mat because you need clean undies, or to the grocery store because you skipped that last weekend. Sheesh.

On top of all of that, I  am busy all week from 6 am to 11 pm. I get up, do morning things (aka, dawdle), rush to work, work all day, then I either rush to the gym, or home to babysit, I figure out dinner, then clean, shower, and get everything ready for the the following morning. Not to mention work has been insane lately! I work for two (sometimes three) different departments, and I can't seem to get caught up. I really just need to work a Saturday, but someone has to be there to let me in, and I have to make sure that I have nothing going on at home. Luckily there is a light at the end of the tunnel, Kyle and I are taking a week off in November, so hopefully I can catch up on some things at home, like sleep, and puppy cuddles (or farts, but I will take what I can get). 

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I was cracking up during these photos, because I really wanted to go stand by that tree pictured below, but it was in someone's yard. Kyle told me that I couldn't stand in front of a random person's house because it would be creepy. Whatever Kyle! I have come to the conclusion that mustard is my favorite fall color. I think I have worn these tights twice per week ever since it became cool enough to wear tights. I am also pretty surprised at how seasonal I have been dressing lately! What is this?! I have been living in fall colors, browns, reds, lots of black, and of course flannel. Very cliche, but I am really liking it lately. 

I am super behind on posts (I don't know how I am going to fit in "edit 500 photos for the blog" in over the weekend, but I promise it will happen! I have a Halloween costume throwback post coming up, more fall outfit photos, and lots of photos of #FallShit. So stay tuned!

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Details
Blazer-Thrifted
Dress, Necklace, & Tights-Forever 21
Cat Flats-Delias 
Purse-Target
Glasses-Warby Parker

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Guest Post Eats: Pumpkin Pie Spiced Sweet Potato Muffins

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 Spiced sweet potato muffins with two different crumbly toppings.

Hello there!  I'm Annie, and I play mad scientist in the kitchen.  Sara asked me to do a guest post on her blog featuring my first attempts at this particular #FallShit themed muffin venture, so I hope you enjoy!  I would also like to say thanks for the opportunity to try my hand at a food blog post.  I felt even more inspired to keep working on these babies beyond their maiden voyage as a result!

Let it be known that I love pumpkin.  In fact, it is my most favorite kind of pie.  I used to gorge on it every season with a mountain of whipped cream covering each slice.  Then, one year, I developed a sudden head-to-toe, hive-inducing allergy to the gourd.  Coincidentally, that was the same year I decided to take on a whole pie by myself on Christmas Eve.  But hey, at least pumpkin went out with a bang, right?  

Then, one glorious Thanksgiving, after years of deprivation and endless wandering through a pumpkin-less darkness, I discovered sweet potato pie.  I was overjoyed to see that it not only looked like pumpkin pie, but it ate like one as well with its similarly thick custardy texture and creamy smoothness.  So, I have been appeasing my pumpkin pie monster by throwing sweet potaters at it for years.

This season, after being inspired by Sara's Guest Post Eats: Iced Pumpkin Cookies, I began to think I wanted to try something new.  I believe one of our mutual friends described those cookies as "crack cookies."  Unfortunately, I can only eat "crack cookies" with my eyes, (and what remains of my pie-gorging memories).  So, I went on a search for something else sweet potato-ish, but with a faux-pumpkin feel.  After two experiments, I think I may have found it!

For starters, I seized in on this spiced sweet potato muffin recipe because I was impulsive the first time around, and I pretty much had every ingredient required at home.  

NOTE: The original recipe says it makes a dozen large muffins, but for some reason I came out like a bandit with 48 minis the first time, and 24 minis plus a dozen large the second time.  Perhaps my muffin pans are smaller than average.  Who knows?  I'm not an expert.

Anyway, I did make a few changes to the original.  Rather than milk, I used half & half in the first batch (all I had at the time), and then unsweetened vanilla almond milk in the second, which turned out much better.  Instead of the nutmeg and cinnamon, I used pumpkin pie spice from Milwaukee's The Spice House  Rachael's recipe calls for AP flour, but I used a healthier option; white winter wheat pastry flour which contains less gluten and is lighter in texture.  Instead of brown sugar, I used dark brown sugar.  I thought the deeper molasses flavor might be yummy
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INGREDIENTS:

2 cups winter white wheat pastry flour or all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup milk/unsweetened almond milk (vanilla flavored works, too!)
2/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup canola oil
1 cup sweet potatoes, cooked and mashed or processed in a processor
1 teaspoon vanilla

I used my husband's vanilla extract, which he put together using some leftover Jim Beam bourbon whiskey and Madagascar vanilla beans he purchased from Amazon.  He used a one to one ratio because he said he was "cursed with small beans."  That means one bean per ounce of bourbon.  Typically one bean to two ounces is sufficient.

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Beans and a detailed look at the final extract with pretty little bean bits.

As for the hooch, the alcohol is what extracts the flavor, so any type of liquor will do.  Just know the mixture needs to be placed inside a paper bag in a cabinet where you must try to forget about it for a month or two.  After that, keep it stored in that paper bag because light is its enemy and you don't want to vanquish your delicious boozy vampire.  

TOPPING OPTIONS

Next, I needed to figure out a topping!  Rachael's did not have one, so I decided to try a double experiment before settling on which one worked best.  The first was a pecan streusel topping, and the second was one I threw together; a slightly crunchier version without the flour, and with less butter and larger pecan pieces.

The first time I tried the pecan streusel topping, I used white sugar, which resulted in a very light colored streusel for my tastes.  It was delicious and had a nice grainy texture, but I was going for a toastier look.  Plus, I think I over-processed my pecans and let it sit for too long.  So, for the second batch, I subbed the white sugar for dark brown sugar, and they turned out looking more fit for Fall!

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 Comparison of anemic looking streusel on the left with a more toasty looking result on the right.

Pecan Streusel Topping:

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
¼ cup finely chopped pecans
¼ cup all purpose flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar/dark brown sugar

Pecan & Brown Sugar Topping:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
¼ cup finely chopped pecans
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar

For both options, you can either chop the pecans by hand and then mix everything with a fork or use a food processor first to pulse pecans close to your preference and then pulse a few more times with remaining ingredients.  Both methods worked well for me, but make sure the streusel topping does not sit for too long or it will turn into a clump of dough that will be very difficult to sprinkle.

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Streusel topping, post pulse.  This is about what it should look like.

THE BAKING OF THE SPUD

As for the "pump-con" itself (ha ha ha...), the method I used for baking my sweet potato was to poke it with a fork a few times.  Then place it on the middle rack of the oven with a sheet of tin foil on the lower rack to catch the drippings. 

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Spud in the oven.

Next, turn on the oven and bake at 425 degrees for 50 minutes to an hour.  Finally, turn off the oven and leave the potato inside for at least an hour after that.  Remove from oven, allow to cool and then easily remove the skin.  The sweet potato can either be mashed with a fork, (which I tried on one batch and it left some yummy little potato bits) or it can be pureed into a smooth texture, which gives the muffins a more incorporated look and feel.  

PREHEAT & PAN PREP

Eek that thing on up to 350.  The original recipe says 400, but every time I have ever made muffins at 400, they come out too dry and more cooked on the bottom than the rest.  This way, the muffins are evenly cooked and moist.

Also, grease your muffin tin(s) or place papers into the cups.  If you only have one muffin tin and you wind up with more like I did, just bake one after the other, but make sure you are using double acting baking powder if you go that route.

DRY, THEN WET, THEN WET TO DRY
Now let's get down to business.  First, in a large bowl, sift together the dry ingredients: the flour, salt, baking powder, and pumpkin pie spice.

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The dries.

The original recipe calls for 1/4 tsp cinnamon and 1/4 tsp nutmeg, but like I said, I used pumpkin pie spice.  I started with 1/2 tsp, and then after the first sampling, went whole-hog on a full teaspoon for the second round.

Now, you don't have to sift, but I like to, because it aerates the flour and produces a lighter texture.  Plus, it helps incorporate the ingredients.  Just set a sifter over a bowl, place contents in and gently shake and tap until everything passes through the screen.  Discard or break down any remaining bits.  Then I like to pass a whisk through the flour mixture a few times to be sure everything is dispersed.

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Sifting is uplifting!

Onto the wet!  The first time I made these, I did not have a full cup of sweet potato.  After trying 3/4 cup and a full cup, I found there wasn't too much difference except for a richer color and a little more moisture.  So, if you don't have enough, don't sweat it, they turned out great either way!  Just add a little bit more milk.  Or even Greek yogurt!  That's what I'm going to try next time.  

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The wets.

Now, in a smaller bowl, mix eggs, milk/unsweetened almond milk, brown sugar, canola oil, sweet potato and vanilla.  Add wet to dry and mix slowly until just combined, but don't over-mix or stir too vigorously or those muffins will come out dense and chewy. 

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The mix, all nice and incorporated in the bowl.

DISTRIBUTE & BAKE

Using a 1T for mini muffs or 3T for large, fill each cup with batter, then generously sprinkle on the streusel or crunchy pecan topping. 

Bake for 9-12 minutes for mini muffins or 18-20 minutes for large, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. If they need a bit longer, cook for two-minute increments, checking each time with a toothpick until done.  Carefully remove from pan and place on a rack to cool.

Then repeat once more for second batch, if you have a lot of batter left over like I did.

STORAGE:

These will keep covered on a counter or in a pantry for about 2 days, or in a fridge for about a week.  The best part is that these babies can be frozen for quick breakfasts.  After they are completely cool, you can either wrap them snugly in plastic wrap and bag them in large Ziplocks or bag each individually.  Just 15 seconds on high from frozen (in our microwave) does the trick for the minis.  For large, about 30-40 seconds.  

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And now I shall bid thee farewell on your happy muffin making ventures!  Also, eat lots of pumpkin-y things for me!