Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A Fall Potpourri Simmer Pot!

When I was growing up, my mom would buy potpourri simmer pots and they always made our house smell soo good!  

And as great as a fall candle is, there is something even more amazing about real ingredients simmering away on your stove top making your house smell like the most delicious fall ever - I am not even kidding, can you tell how passionate I am about this?  This stuff iz goooood.

Anyway, this simmer pot is great for a day when company is coming over, or any day that you feel like being fancy and celebrating fall!


Put all of your ingredients in a small pot, add a bit of water, and put on the stove over low heat.


The water will eventually evaporate, so make sure you add more water as needed.




Monday, September 29, 2014

Weekend Recap!

Happy Monday!

John was away this weekend doing a rim-to-rim hike at the Grand Canyon, and while he was gone I did a whole lot of sleeping, crafting, and watching TV... it was glorious!  

But I am SO happy to have my hubby back home with my kitty and me (Winnie was not happy that John left...). :)


I started the weekend with some sushi and gathered pine cones for my garland. It would have been much less awkward if I had Scout with me when I was gathering, but since she is away at camp, I had to search solo.  I found one pine cone in particular that was really great, but it was right by someone's window - I didn't go get it, but if you can tell, I'm still thinking about it...

In addition to my garland, I made the most amazing gourd and pumpkin soy candles!! 
DIY instructions coming soon because these babies are pretty awesome.


John had a blast on his hike, which is a very good thing...  it's not like you can decide half-way through that you're done.  John said that there are signs everywhere that say "down is optional, up is mandatory" - word to the wise...

John started down the North Kaibab trail from the North Rim (before sunrise), hiked along Bright Angel Creek at the bottom of the canyon, and then took the Bright Angel trail up to the South Rim. All in all, he hiked 25 miles from 5:30 am to 4:40 pm. 

Other than hiking in a torrential downpour for the last 10 miles (...), everything went smooth enough!

Here are some of the pictures from his hike.









Tuesday, September 23, 2014

assemble-and-freeze meals!

I don't know about you, but after a long day of work, I'm ready to eat dinner... and if you didn't catch that, I'm ready to eat dinner - not make dinner.  ;)  I absolutely love to bake, but when it comes to weekday cooking, I'm not a huge fan, and to be honest, it feels like tacking on more work to my day!

So, to help prepare for my transition back to work (and anticipated lack of interest in meal prep), this past weekend I made 12 freezer meals for John and me to eat throughout the month.  The total cost of the 12 meals was about $135 (including the disposable baking pans that I bought)... so about $11/meal.  Money aside, I decided to do this for the convenience of a tasty post-work meal with basically no day-of work required!


To make things easy, I used chicken for all 12 of my meals, but if you are feeling ambitious, you can most certainly prepare a variety of meats.  All in all, I used about 10 lbs of chicken.

I made...
- Chicken pot pie (2)
- Pesto ravioli and chicken (2)
- Chicken and wild rice casserole (2)
- White chicken enchiladas (2)


For the majority of these recipes I used the Dream Dinners cookbook, but there are plenty of resources and recipes on Pinterest that provide similar information for freezer meals.

Tips for meal prep:
-  If the recipe calls for cooked chicken, cook your chicken in the crock pot the day before... this way it requires very little prep work, and it will shred very easily.  Or, buy a rotisserie chicken - even more yummy!
-  Prepare the meals in dishes that can go straight into the oven (and then be disposed of, if you are clean-up lazy like me!).
-  Serve the meal with something fresh, like a salad... we always buy the salad kits (again, it's a convenience thing), but I realize it is way cheaper (in the end) to buy all of the ingredients separately.
-  Label everything! Label what the dish is and how to prepare it.  For example, specify whether the dish must be thawed first, or if it can go straight into the oven.
- Since you will be essentially assembling a large number of meals in a single day, it will take some time.  Invite a friend over to join, turn on some music, pour a glass of wine, and enjoy the process (these 12 meals took me about 4 hours in total).
-  Once the meals are assembled in baking dishes, wrap them in airtight foil, plastic wrap, or freezer paper... proper packaging will help maintain quality and prevent freezer burn.

Tips for tasty meals:
-  Carrots, zucchini, onions and celery are vegetables that freeze best.
-  Dice vegetables no smaller than 1 inch; larger chunks will freeze and reheat better than smaller pieces.
-  Cream cheese will dry out when frozen if not blended with other ingredients (instead, try a yogurt-based spread).
-  Heavy cream and mayonnaise do not freeze (substitute with sour cream which freezes better).
-  If you plan to freeze cooked pasta, do not fully cook the pasta.  It should be a bit firmer than al dente.
-  If any of your meals have a finishing sauce, freeze the sauce separately from the rest of the meal so the food does not get soggy. 


Have you made freezer meals before?  Any go-to recipes?!



Monday, September 22, 2014

Weekending!

Happy Monday! Keeping it short today, since I'm officially back to work at a new job!! 



ONE
John and I dropped Scout back off at bird camp this weekend, and we will very much miss her.  

(John insisted I further explain what "bird camp" is because he thinks it isn't clear.)  
Scout is a French Brittany, which is a bird hunting breed. Some examples of other bird hunting breeds ("bird dogs") include German Shorthaired Pointers, English Setters, and Springer Spaniels. When we first brought Scout home as a puppy, we had the intention of training her to do what she was bred to do- find and "point" birds.  "Pointing" happens when the dog catches the scent of a bird in a bush or tall grass and instincts cause the dog to freeze, often with one paw up, which makes it look like the dog is pointing to where the bird is hiding. The training facility that we are taking her to helps further these instincts.  She will learn a lot of these things by practicing, but the professional training gives her a good foundation and speeds up the process.  Here in Arizona, quail season opens in two weeks, and John would like her to be fairly functional to start.


TWO
There is something about a lunch date that I think is so romantic!  On Saturday, John took me to lunch at Postino, and I ordered a cucumber honey lemonade... and it was uh-mazing! 

Not too sweet, and very refreshing - I may try to recreate this gem at home.


THREE
After lunch we did a little bit of shopping, and I finally purchased the Zara scarf that I have been seeing everywhere.  Last week this scarf was on 5 or 6 people's blogs, and every time I saw it I said something along the lines of "Ahh! Need that!"  ...So finally it's mine.  It is too hot to wear it outside, but I have no problem rocking it in my living room.

BY THE WAY, did you know that Forever 21 does not do returns?  I went to return a shirt that I bought the day before, and I swear they treated me like a criminal for suggesting I wanted to return it - it was super confusing... Not exactly quality customer service (but I guess that's to be expected when you're purchasing clothes for $10).


FOUR
For lunch on Sunday, John and I went to Blanco and had the most amazing chicken, short rib, and carnitas tacos... the location that we went to is just a walk-up window, so we enjoyed our delicious food outside under some misters (it was actually pretty nice outside with the breeze)!


FIVE
To prepare for going back to work, I made 12 premade freezer meals to eat throughout the month.  I'm actually quite excited for them!  I spent about $135 (including the dishes) to make the 12 meals... not too bad!  All have chicken in them, and they should be pretty tasty when we decide to eat them.  

I'm all about no-prep post-work dinners, and this is the only way I can think of to avoid eating out every day of the week.  More on this tomorrow!


SIX
We didn't get a chance to make it to the apple orchard this past weekend, but we did indulge in some delicious Arizona apple cider - Mm, mm, mmm!  Gotta get what you can!


Friday, September 19, 2014

Five on Friday

Happy Friday! This week went by way too quickly, and it is hard to believe that October is right around the corner and Christmas is less than 100 days away... what?! Now, on to my Five on Friday!
 

ONE 
 
One of my best friends, Hannah, booked a flight to come visit me over Halloween weekend and I cannot wait to see her!! Hannah and I have been good friends since high school, and when I lived in New Mexico, she also visited over Halloween - so I guess that's our thing... and I like it!!

Next Halloween, she won't be able to visit because she is doing the World Race.  Have you heard of it?!! It's pretty incredible... she will be traveling to 11 countries in 11 months to share the Good News and love of Jesus.



TWO

This week I put out some of our fall home decor, and I am SO happy I did... it's incredible what a little seasonal decor can do for your mood!

Here is a little glimpse into our festive home. :)



THREE

Monday means back to work for me! Since I had a week off between jobs, I was able to enjoy a little down time and have lunch with John several days this week.  It's so great to see him during the day... it makes me feel like it's the weekend!

I am excited (and a little nervous) to get back into the full swing of work! Starting a new job is always a transition, but I'm hoping it will go smoothly.

 
FOUR

Scout goes back to bird camp this weekend for two weeks.  We will miss her dearly, but the timing works out pretty well with me starting a new job.  

After dropping her off, there is a pumpkin and apple orchard near Scout's camp that we are going to visit! Can you believe Monday is the first official day of fall?! There is no better way to celebrate than some you-pick apples.



FIVE

Can someone make me these caramel apple cheesecake bars?! Please and thank you!



Wednesday, September 17, 2014

DIY: Coconut Oil Lotion Bars

Have you ever tried Lush's lotion bars? 
Apparently they are now called "massage bars"... fancy! Either way, I have purchased a few in the past, and they are fabulous! Living in Arizona, the air is so dry and I am constantly applying lotion to my hands to keep my skin from feeling tight and uncomfortable.  
These bars are a fun and mess-free alternative to traditional lotion!

When I came across a DIY on Pinterest to make them, I knew I had to try it. 
They are so incredibly easy to make, and they only have two ingredients!  


By the way, this was my first time working with coconut oil, and I have about half of a jar left... any suggestions on what I should do with it?! 

I know that people swear by this stuff for all sorts of things!


How to:
1.  Begin by melting the bees wax in the microwave.  It takes a bit to start melting, so be patient.  Once it starts to soften, break the wax into smaller pieces... it will start to melt faster this way.
2.  Once the bees wax is melted, add an equal amount of coconut oil.  I just eye-balled it, but feel free to measure if you want to be exact.  Stir until the coconut oil is completely mixed in with the bees wax. If you want to add any essential oils, add them at this time (I added lavender!).
3.  Pour the mixture into soap molds.  Let sit until completely cooled (after mine sat at room temperature for 10 minutes, I moved them to the refrigerator to speed up the process).
4.  Once the lotion bars are completely set, they should just pop right out of the molds. 


I used about 1/4 lb of bees wax and my mixture made 10 seashell-shaped lotion bars.
Store the lotion bars that are not being used in a Ziploc bag and keep out of direct sunlight and heat.


To use the lotion bars, warm the bars in the your hands by rubbing them together (similar to a bar of soap).  Below 75 degrees the coconut oil is a solid, but when it rubs together with your hands and body heat, it will slightly melt.  Rub the oils into your skin.


By the way, I added a DIY tab to my blog to help organize my past projects... check it out for more DIY ideas! I plan on doing a similar tab for recipes (it just may take me awhile to sort through my old posts) - blog organization for the win!


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Lofthouse Copycat Pumpkin Spice Cookies

Soo, the pumpkin baking has officially started! And these gems should not be missed!

You know those amazing Lofthouse cookies that everyone loves?  The ones with the bright colored frosting and sprinkles?!

Well, here is a pumpkin spice version... and they are absolutely amazing!


What you need:
- 1/2 cup softened butter
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
 - 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 large eggs
- 4 cups all purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

How to:
1. In a large bowl mix together the butter, oil, pumpkin, sugars, vanilla and eggs, until incorporated and smooth.  Slowly mix in all the dry ingredients.
2. Roll the dough into balls and place on a lined cookie sheet.
3. Dip the bottom of a glass in a bowl of sugar, and flatten the cookies to your desired thickness.
4. Bake for 9ish minutes at 350 degrees.


Once the cookies are fully cooled, top with a pumpkin spice glaze.

What you need:
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 4 tablespoons water
- 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Mix together all of the ingredients, top the cookies with the frosting, and let the frosting set before serving.


Have you started your pumpkin baking yet?! 
September is officially half-over, so I think it is time :)


Friday, September 12, 2014

Five on Friday!


ONE  |  Seattle
John and I booked flights to Seattle for a little Thanksgiving break vacation!  John lived in Seattle for close to 4 years when he was growing up and has very fond memories living there... I have never been, and I am excited for him to show me around a bit!  The first thing I did after booking our flights was check out Brittany's great Seattle/Vancouver guide!  

Anyone else have any suggestions of must sees?!


TWO  |  Arizona Driver's License
So I finally switched my license plate and driver's license over to Arizona from New Mexico... and let's just say that my new picture left a lot to be desired.  Normally at the DMV they let you view your picture before committing to it, but they did not let me see it until after they printed it out.

Let's put it this way - You know when you're in grade school and there is always one person's picture in the yearbook whose face is way closer than everyone else's?  And you're like wow that picture makes that person look like they have a huge face.  Well, that's me... in my picture I have no shoulders, no neck, and hardly a chin... it's bad.  The worst part? It doesn't expire for FORTY years!  So unless I lose it, I won't need to renew my license until I am 66, ha!



THREE  |  Macarons
The Whole Foods by our house sells macarons, and every time I walk by those beauties, I just can't help but indulge... howeverrrr, they are never very good! They don't taste as fresh as they could... so, I decided to email to company who makes them and let them know (hey, if someone was selling stale macarons with my name on them, I would want to know too!).  And the company emailed me back and sent me a big box of fresh macarons! Mmm!

John and I ate them all in a single sitting and they were dee-licious!  I'm the kind of girl who will email Sour Patch Kids if I don't have enough reds in my bag... so it really is nothing personal, more of an FYI.  Just kidding, but you get my point. ;)



FOUR  |  Last Day of Work
My last day of working from home was on Wednesday, and I will be starting my new job on the 22nd.  I have all of next week off, and I am SO excited.  

I plan to do some baking, put out all of my fall decorations, and finish up some long overdue errands.


FIVE  |  Work Clothes
I was looking for some new simple shirts to wear to work and started perusing Old Navy online, and I found a couple really great pieces! And, even better, they came in tall sizes - since I'm 5'9" it is very difficult for me to find shirts that are long enough to have the option to tuck in, so hopefully these will fit the bill!

They are currently on sale for $14 each, but there was an additional 30% for online purchases making them $9 each (and free shipping!).  Holler!




Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Football Food

Now that we are a few weeks into the college football season, it is time to really start with the game day food.  John is big on his game day food - he needs it to get the full "experience" (or so he says!).  And I'm with him - there is something about extra tasty food that makes the game more fun to watch (and especially when you can snack on things all day long)!

Wings, spinach dip, and chips and salsa are regulars, but I thought I would switch it up with a crab rangoon dip. It was very rich and very yummy - I'm sure this recipe will be on repeat!


What you need:
- 2 8oz packages of cream cheese
- 1 6.5oz can of lump crab meat
- 1 lime, juiced
- 1 tsp of sugar
- 2 tbs of chopped cilantro
- 1/4 cup of chopped scallions

How to:
1.  Combine all ingredients, except the crab, and mix thoroughly.
2.  Fold in the crab meat.
3.  Place the dip in a oven safe dish (I used a nonstick spray first).
4.  Top with breadcrumbs (optional).
5.  Bake at 400 degrees until bubbly (it took me about 45 minutes).

Serve with tortilla chips and Triscuits.



Monday, September 8, 2014

the great weekend that didn't end so great...

John and I had a great start to the weekend, but as you probably guessed from the (very) obvious blog post title, our weekend ended with a major hiccup.  (Be forewarned, this is a very long post.)

We decided that we were going to go camping for the weekend at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon... so we did just that! I took a vacation day on Friday, and John took a half day of work so that we could get up there before dark.  To get to the north rim, you have to drive all the way around the Grand Canyon and back down (which adds an extra three hours to the trip).

 

When we finally got there, we got settled and went straight to bed to wake up early the next morning for the opening weekend of blue grouse hunting.  John said that grouse hunting is sometimes referring to as "walking around in the woods with a shotgun," which is pretty much what we did the first day - but let me tell you, it was absolutely beautiful!  The aspen leaves are already starting to change colors!



We were in the Kaibab National Forest, which bordered the national park.  The scenery was gorgeous, and the weather was in the low to mid sixties... it was glorious.  Although Scout didn't find any birds, she did a really great job "pounding the pavement."  I enjoy watching Scout run around, and man can that girl run forever.


Once we were done looking for grouse, we decided to go check out the sights at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.  Our campground was actually in the national park, which was super fun.  The North Rim is absolutely beautiful... the South Rim (where everyone goes) is also breathtaking, but the north rim is extra forested, the rocks are bolder colors, and it is literally empty - no one is there because it is so hard to get to (the north rim even closes in October due to all of the snow).




We headed back to the campground, made a fire, and grilled some hot dogs and s'mores.  We were worried about Scout being around the campground, but she actually did great! Although she did quickly learn that, at the camp ground, all she needs to do is bark and we will come running... Oh well.



The next morning we planned to go out to do a little more grouse hunting and then head back to Scottsdale.  We didn't see any birds, but just as we were getting ready to finish up because it started to rain, Scout found a covey!  We were so proud of her, and I couldn't believe she did it!  The rain started to get heavy so I decided I was going to head back to the car as John finished up with Scout.


We were hunting in an alpine meadow, and all I had to do was head straight up through the forest and I would run into the car - about a half mile, no problem.  I started walking and the rain started coming down pretty hard and it started hailing.  I was concerned that I was walking too much to the right, so I started walking more left.  I was getting a bit turned around, but figured all I needed to do was run into the old logging road, and then I could just walk to road back down to where we parked.

At this point, I had been walking for a ways and still didn't run into the road, and I was started to get worried because I couldn't retrace my steps.  I was screaming for John, but knew there was no way he could hear me over the pounding rain and hail.  So, I had the brilliant idea of running to what looked like the nearest clearing, which was not a clearing, and then the next clearing, which was not a clearing.  The problem was that the trees were so high and thick that I literally could not see more than 20 feet in front of me.

I was starting to panic, and turned on my cell phone to call 911.  My phone would go from no service to one tiny little bar depending on where I was, so I kept walking to try and find service.  I called 911 seven times (and my mom once, ha), and not surprisingly, none of my calls went through.  At this point, I had been wandering for over an hour, and there was no way I was finding my way out.  I finally got to the edge of what looked like a clearing, and it turned out to be a massive canyon - the Grand Canyon.

Lots of people get helicoptered out of the Grand Canyon, so I decided I would just wait until mountain rescue came to get me... which I thought could be awhile, since I had the keys to the car, and I had no idea if John had even figured out what happened to me yet.  I had a whistle and my throat was unbelievably sore from screaming - so I decided to sit under a tree to get out of the rain and wait.

After another hour, I heard the most glorious noise ever - my husband very faintly screaming my name.  I have never ever screamed so hard in my life, and after about 30 minutes, he was able to find me - I will be eternal grateful to see his handsome face.  It took us about 45 minutes to get back out, and we came out from the absolutely opposite direction from where I thought I was.  MY MUSCLES ARE SO SORE.


Moral of the story... we are getting a GPS ASAP, walkie talkies, and I need a little break from the outdoors.  BUT, all in all - I could not be ANY happier that my husband found me (obviously)... and thank God this all happened at 10am and not 4pm, when it could have started to get dark out...

Friday, September 5, 2014

Friday Catch-up!

John and I have been so busy lately, so I thought I would use my Five on Friday for a little life catch-up!


ONE  |  Scout is home

This past weekend John and I went to Prescott, AZ to pick Scout up from bird camp, and we are SO happy to have our pup home! After sleeping for a day straight, she went back to being as crazy and wild as ever, but that's just the charm of our little pup, I guess. :) :)

She will be going back for another two weeks at the end of this month, but we are enjoying having her home in the meantime... John is very excited to have her ready for the start of quail season!



TWO  |  New job

I have been working from home since we moved to Arizona, and casually job searching for something in the area.  There was an exciting opportunity that I applied for, and I got the job! Whoohoo - I feel very blessed!

This Wednesday will be my last day of work at my current job, and I will start work the week after.  I will miss my current co-workers dearly, but I am looking forward to getting out of the house and interacting with people again! Back to getting dressed in the mornings, I guess... but if you ask me, this justifies a little shopping rendezvous!



THREE  |  Humphrey's Peak

John and Scout hiked Humphrey's Peak which is the tallest point in Arizona at over 12,600 feet.  I was planning on joining, but I decided to stay home - which I am very thankful for!!

When I go hiking I am very paranoid about having enough water and food, but John on the other hand is a fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants kind of guy, and he ran out of water on this hike about halfway through... yikes!!



FOUR  |  North Rim Grand Canyon camping

This weekend John and I (and Scout, of course!) are going camping on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.  I took a vacation day today, and John will be leaving work a bit early so that we can get there in time for the sunset.  The plan is to do some grouse hunting tomorrow in the Kaibab National Forest, but we will see how that goes!

This will be our first time camping with Scout, and we are crossing our fingers that it isn't too stressful. Our last trip to the Grand Canyon was to the South Rim, and supposedly the North Rim is even more beautiful. It should be a beautiful weekend - the highs are in the low 70s!  




FIVE  |  College football

I don't know about your weekends, but from here on out, ours will be filled with college football... and let me tell you, I'm not upset about it (and neither is John so long as Florida State shapes up!).

While John watches football, I bake! I have a yummy game-day crab rangoon dip that I'll be sharing next week!


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