Saturday, October 27, 2007

Dress ups aren't just for kids

The night before our annual Halloween party I had a wardrobe malfunction of epic proportions. In the aftermath, it was decided to throw out our costumes and start from scratch. Long story short, we ended up as Where's Waldo and Waldo's girlfriend Wenda. Awesome! Never again will I underestimate the diverse utility of a little duct tape. We look only a little goofy, but trust me, the alternative was much much worse.

Brad hasn't downloaded the rest of the party pics from the camera...those will come later if I can find the energy to post them. In the mean time you can look here, here, here and here. Happy Halloween!

My kind of town, Chicago is

Where to even start...
We packed in so much "stuff" on this trip, and for good reason: who knows when we'll be able to go back. But first, we celebrated our 4th Wedding Anniversary. 4 years has passed so quickly, it's mind blowing. I love being married to my best friend and high school sweetheart. Chicago was the perfect place to spend a few days playing around together without work or school or real life in our way. Our good friends Andy and Alex let us crash at their place, which was so gracious of them. It was tons of fun to hang with them again. We've missed them since they moved from our ward to Chicago for med school. Maybe, just maybe and with a lot of luck and prayers, we'll be joining them in the Windy City next year...cross your fingers! Tighter! We visited The Art Institute of Chicago because we had sadly neglected it on previous trips. It was amazing. I realize that this next part may be boring for some of you, just sit still and it will be over before you know it.

We tagged along with a school class on tour with one of the museum curators. This sneaky maneuver turned out to be a great way to learn interesting facts about famous paintings, for free. Did you know, the Art Institute has the best collection of Impressionist paintings in the U.S.? Monet, Manet, Renior...they all live in Chicago.
Two Piet Mondrian's on display, my lucky day. The one I'm looking at is Lozenge Composition with Yellow, Black, Blue, Red, and Gray (1921) . Exquisite.
Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman. Gimme gimme. This chair was introduced on NBC's "Today" show in 1957 and has become the icon of modern furniture. Bear with me...
You can't be American and not recognize this painting by Grant Wood called American Gothic (1930). This is one of the most parodied images of our time and continues to reflect the struggle between traditional values and modern progress which is ever present in our culture, even today.
Almost done. Georgia O'Keefe's Cow's Skull with Calico Roses (1931). Love it, but you can't appreciate how "soft" it is from the photograph.
Brad and I walked all over the city during those few days. Our legs were not quite used to all that city walking, so we stopped often to take pictures. Brad was in heaven with his camera. He and Andy had way too much fun showing off their photog skillz while me and Alex hit Michigan Avenue for the shopping. We decided that we need an "Andy and Alex" wherever we go. Andy can go with Brad to take pictures and Alex can come with me for all the fun stuff. We did manage to buy Brad a nice suit, first one since the mission. If he's going to be interviewing for medical school soon, he might as well look presentable. I love the suit, but it makes me feel old and all grown up-ish. Ew. Andy gave us a quick tour of Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine which is located in downtown Chicago. The campus was SO impressive. Brad loved it and we're now praying for an interview there as well. I could definitely live in Chicago, if I was forced to.

View from Thomas' Sun Deck. Not bad. Not bad at all.

Thanks again Andy and Alex! Until next time...

Good Times in Lincoln Park

Brook was able to ditch work the day after her fund raising event and take Brad and I into the city. Yippee! We spent the day in Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood, super chic, super cool. I could spend days shopping and eating in LP, but since we had just one day here's a little sampling of what we did.

Lunch at "Minnies" where everything on the menu is, well...minnie.Warming up: Me and Brook and some TeaGschwendner More shots from Lincoln Park that I heart...
Armitage StreetWhat sissies...

Rockin' Rockford

My older sister Brook works at a children's museum in Rockford, IL. This past weekend the museum had a fund raising event and Brad and I were recruited as volunteers on her crew. Yeah! I basically just followed Brook around, but Brad was the official photographer. He felt pretty nifty cool. I'm sure he'll post more on that other blog soon enough.
I'm not even going to waste precious blogging space to describe the series of unfortunate events all caused by the guest of honor, Duff Goldman from the Food Network's Ace of Cakes. He was a complete disaster and the worst "celebrity" I have ever witnessed. I'm a little (actually a lot) bitter towards him since he totally screwed over the museum, acted like a crying whiny baby the entire time, and disappointed lots of little "cake decorators" to-be. Can you say bipolar split personalities? 'Nuff said.
The best part of Rockford was being able to hang with my sis and her cute family. We miss them so much!

Here's KJ, my little stud nephew, playing flag football. Go Panthers!
Super cute Marley and me cheering on the side lines.
On Sunday, we went up to Madison, Wisconsin to check out the Medical School and the city itself. Seems like a place where we could see ourselves living. And they have good stinky cheese, so what's not to love?

Sunday, October 21, 2007

How 'bout dem apples?

My favorite Cupcake Goddess, Chockylit, is having another cupcake round-up this fall! I didn't participate last year because I was admittedly too chicken. I mostly like to stalk her blog from the shadows of my secret foodie world (shhhh). But this time I'm taking a more TA-WANDA! approach to my baking. Watch out. The cupcake round-up theme is "re-invention." Inspiration came immediately. I would re-invent my Grandma Richman's Fresh Apple Bundt Cake. Oh, how I love this cake. At the urging of my sister I made this cake just a few weeks ago for a "girls night" I hosted. While peeling and chopping the apples I could vividly see Grandma, house dress and apron, standing in her small, tidy kitchen doing the exact same thing. As I pulled the bundt cake from the oven memories of her flooded my kitchen as quickly as the delicious baked-apple aroma. My friends, this is the epitome of comfort food. Period. Final.

A note on re-invention: I'm quite certain Grandma would have considered her Fresh Apple Bundt Cake (perfect in every way, every time) in the form of cupcakes as re-invention enough. And that was good enough for me. But to be fair, I brainstormed what else I could "do" to the cupcakes. I thought about stuffing them, but with what? The cake certainly doesn't need anything added because the chunks of baked apple and pecans already add plenty of texture and flavor. It was important the soul of the cake would remain essentially hers, no matter what twist I used in my own version. I decided not to mess with the cake itself, and I'm so glad I didn't. Hence, my re-invention comes with the topping: caramel and apples, because it doesn't get any better than that. How 'bout dem apples? Chewy, thick caramel dipped on a crisp apple wedge was the perfect accompaniment to both the richness of the cake and the sweetness of the icing. I used Grandma's buttercream recipe although I doubled the ingredients and thickened it with more powdered sugar until I reached the consistency I wanted for piping. Sorry, there's no cupcakes left to share. I ate them all.

Fresh Apple Cupcakes
4 cups apple, peeled and diced small
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup oil
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)
2 tsp. vanilla
2 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. cinnamon

Mix apples and sugar in large bowl. Add oil, eggs, nuts, and vanilla. In a separate bowl sift together flour, salt, soda, and cinnamon. Add to wet mixture and stir until combined. Divide batter evenly into 24 cupcake papers.
Bake at 350° for 21-23 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Buttercream Frosting (I doubled this recipe)

¼ stick butter, softened to room temperature
3 Tablespoons heavy cream
2 cups powdered sugar
Dash of salt
½ tsp. vanilla
¼ tsp. lemon extract
1/8 tsp. almond extract

Using a hand mixer combine butter, cream, salt, vanilla, lemon, and almond in a medium sized bowl. Add powdered sugar until you have reached desired consistency.

Caramel Apple Topping
Fresh apple, thinly slices
1 bag wrapped caramels, about 50
Spray apple slices with lemon juice to help keep them from turning brown. Melt the caramels over medium low heat. Dip apple slices into caramel and let stand 5 minutes on parchment paper before assembling cupcakes.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Happy 26th Birthday Bradlee

Happy Birthday to my beau,

You should know:

For every today I love you as I did before,

And for every tomorrow I'll love you more.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Huckleberry Milkshakes and Some Bison

Once again our hiking plans were thwarted by bad weather. Oh well. We weren't prepared to hike anywhere in the snow that's for sure. Thus, we didn't make the hike to Dunanda Falls to soak in the hot pots as we had hoped, but we made the most of our trip nonetheless. The SNOW was certainly unexpected, but it was so incredibly beautiful we couldn't help but love every minute we were there. The fall colors were amazing in Yellowstone especially near the Bechler region where there are so many Aspens. And we saw lots of serene wildlife, so no complaints here.