Saturday, April 21, 2012

More Pretties

I love playing with cameras and taking pictures of all the beauty I am blessed to witness everyday.  Seriously, although it's a bit of a drive to get anywhere, I love where I live because I get to see these views nearly every single day -- usually twice:  once on my way into town and again on my way back home.

My proper digital camera, a Kodak EasyShare P850, is now several years old and has 5.1 megapixels, but it makes up for it with a 12X optical zoom.  It was top of the line when I got it.  But now my iPhone 4S has a camera that is roughly even with my digital camera -- it has more megapixels but no zoom -- and it's a lot more portable.  So, as usual, these were taken with my iPhone 4S and the only alterations made with Photoshop were to add the watermark and resize for web publication.

Peanut Butter White Chocolate Chip Cookies

I'm slow about actually posting things.  If you didn't know this about me already, you should make a note of it now.

Anyway, a couple weeks ago I asked my neighbor (who happens to be an accountant) for some help sorting out my taxes.  The Turbo Tax program was telling me I owed money but I was pretty sure that wasn't right.  Sure enough, my neighbor got me sorted out and told me what form I needed to fill out and submit for everything to work out properly.  She, being the very sweet lady that she is, didn't charge me anything.  So I decided to bake her some cookies.  I figured she could use a sugar rush to get through crunch time anyway.  This was just before Easter weekend.  I'm not sure why, but I had a craving for peanut butter cookies, it just seemed like Easter cookies to me for whatever reason, but not the typical ones -- I wanted something new.  I don't know how or why, but I though of white chocolate chips.  I don't know how my brain works most of the time either, don't worry.  But out of nowhere, my new favorite cookie was born!

I ended up making the first batch just a bit more crumbly than I wanted, but I couldn't resist making another batch -- seriously, they were yummy! -- so I tweaked them then.

Peanut Butter White Chocolate Chip Cookies (Adapted from the Joy Of Cooking's peanut butter cookie recipe)


  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup, packed, brown sugar
  • 1 cup peanut butter (I used creamy because that's what I had, but use what you like)
  • 1/3 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 375, or 350 if using convection.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together dry ingredients.  Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, with paddle attachment, beat butter and sugars.
  4. Add eggs, peanut butter, and vanilla.
  5. Slowly add dry ingredients, so you don't end up with flour all over you.
  6. Add milk.  Mix until well blended.
  7. Add chips.
  8. Scoop onto cookie sheet -- I used a cookie scoop but rounded tablespoonfuls would probably be about the same.  No need to flatten, as with traditional peanut butter cookies.
  9. Bake 10-12 minutes.
  10. Let stand briefly, then remove to a rack to cool.
  11. Enjoy!


There's a wedding on the horizon.  Not mine.  Not even that of a close friend.  A friendly acquaintance is getting married tomorrow evening (Sunday).  Very casual and sudden -- although they've been together for six years, they started planning the wedding maybe a month ago.  I got my invitation via my friend (the bride's coworker) leaving a voicemail for me last weekend.  Reminds me of what my parents' wedding must have been like more than 30 years ago.

Last night was the joint bachelor/bachelorette party.  My friend was organizing it as the sort of honorary Maid of Honor (the bride's sister decided she wasn't going to make it), and I offered to make the cakes  -- both to help my friend and as a gift to the bride and groom.  I'd never met the groom (before last night) but nevertheless I wanted to make some delicious cakes for the two of them.  Vanilla for her and chocolate with some strawberries for him.

Wednesday I had lunch with my friend Jesse and decided to stop at Michael's for some cake boxes on the way back to the school to drop him off.  Big mistake, taking Jesse into Michael's...although it worked out fairly well, I must admit.  While I was looking for the right box size (unsuccessfully) Jesse was looking at the shiny, giant "diamonds" and called my attention to a pink one.  I was already planning on dying the bride's vanilla cake pink since she's a girly girl but didn't have any embellishments for the outside.  I decided that would be the perfect topper.  Then, Jesse decided we needed to find something for the top of the groom's cake.  Naturally, this was not easy to do, but after bouncing ideas back and forth with a sales associate for a bit we ended up looking at action figure toys for a dragon.  I guess they are the only "manly" things Michael's carries.  We settled on two dragons that looked like they were battling.  Boys.  Okay, the toppers kind of made the cakes awesome in addition to delicious, so maybe next time I'll bring him in as a design consultant or something...maybe.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


I've done it!  I've reached my goal!  Okay, one of them -- there are several more, of course -- but I still reached it!

I've never been able to run.  I mean never.  In school we'd always have to run the mile for P.E. twice a year (at the beginning and the end of the semester as a measure for how much we'd improved) and I was always at the back of the pack.  Had to walk at least half of it because I couldn't breathe.  My asthma was diagnosed, finally, in high school so I at least had an excuse and an inhaler to try to help, but it didn't change the fact that I could never run the full mile.

...Until yesterday!  I've been slowly building up to jogging a full mile, but in separate halves.  I'd walk a bit to warm up, then jog for 6 minutes, then walk a faster pace for 10, then jog another 6 minutes, then cool down.  Yesterday I decided I wasn't going to stop at 6 minutes -- I wanted to see how long I could go.  I figured I'd get to about 8 minutes before I had to stop.  I made it the full 12 minutes, which at 5 mph is a mile is a full mile, without stopping!  First time in my life I've run a full mile without a break.  I am so unbelievably proud of myself!

Of course, I may have jumped the gun a little bit, because my ankle was already feeling a bit bruised and yesterday it was a little swollen.  I was hobbling around like a big baby yesterday at work.  Today I'm armed with Icy Hot Cream and an ACE bandage, but I'm not sure I'll be able to properly work out.  I did some yoga and stretches this morning without dying, but walking on it still hurts.  I think I'll take it easy today and see if I can make my ankle happy again.

Tomorrow, though, back on track!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Homemade Creamy Macaroni And Cheese

This is long overdue.  I'd actually intended to post this back in February, but I got distracted -- probably by something shiny or a squirrel or something.

Anyway, I'd found this recipe through Pinterest and, being a lifelong mac-n-cheese-aholic, simply had to try it out!  And I must say, Maggie over at Smashed Peas And Carrots nailed it!  I've adjusted the serving slightly since I pretty much only ever cook for myself -- and a child-sized serving rarely satisfies my craving for macaroni and cheese.  But overall, this is still her recipe.

 Homemade Creamy Macaroni And Cheese


4-5 ounces uncooked pasta, your choice (I like shells)

1/2 cup milk (I haven't had any significant problems using skim milk, so use whatever you like)

1/2 cup shredded cheese, your choice (I've been playing with different combinations and really like the Kraft Four Cheese blend, especially when I add some Swiss or Parmesan as well)

1 tablespoon cornstarch (I mix in just enough cold water to make a paste -- but no thinner than the milk -- just to take the edge off the floury flavor)


1.  Cook pasta according to package directions, drain, and set aside.

2.  Warm the milk in the microwave for 30-60 seconds, then combine in a sauce pan with the cornstarch mixture.  Stirring often (if not constantly), warm over medium-ish heat until thickened.

3.  Add the cheese, stirring until melted and blended.

4.  Before adding to the pasta, I'll add in any extra spices here.  I know that most homemade macaroni recipes include mustard powder -- not my cup of tea.  Personally, I usually just add some pepper.

5.  Pour sauce over pasta and stir until pasta is completely covered.

6.  And voila!  If you're like me and occasionally like to add something to your macaroni and cheese, this is the time to do it.  Otherwise, it's dinnertime!

Okay, I know it doesn't look especially pretty here,
but trust me, it 's delicious!

Just Because!

Here, in Northern Colorado, we've had a very mild winter and a lovely spring already.  Because of the beautiful weather I thought I'd share a few of the better pictures I've taken capturing it.

These have all been taken with my iPhone 4S and the only alterations have been to put my watermark on them and re-size them for web publication.

Lake Loveland at twilight.

Horsetooth Reservoir at sunset.

Horsetooth Reservoir at sunset.

Monday, April 9, 2012

So That Happened...

I'm terrible at updating on a regular basis, apparently.  The iPhone app hasn't changed that, I guess...Oh well.  Things in Liberty Corner have been good, but nothing specific has happened that was fantastic or interesting enough to warrant a post about it unto itself -- or maybe I'm just lazy -- but either way, here's the great big update blob!

I have been officially accepted at UNC and plan to start taking classes in the fall.  I have only today filed my taxes so that I could finish my FAFSA, so both are going through the bureaucracy now -- or will be soon, I guess, since it's still Sunday.

The Hunger Games has become my new obsession.  Literally, I have read, watched, or listened to something pertaining to the Hunger Games every day since I started the book just before spring break.  I finished the trilogy in less than a week and saw the movie opening weekend -- and I have tentative plans to see it again when one of my friends finishes the book.  And in all my down time, or when I'm cleaning or driving, I have been listening to the audio books on repeat.  Admittedly, I'm nursing a major crush on Peeta despite the fact that he is a fictional, teenage character.  Okay, also Cinna...And Finnick...I may need help.  Fortunately, I have a few friends who have recently gotten sucked into the world of Panem as well so I can geek out with them about it.  Good thing, too, because Catching Fire was my favorite and I don't know how I'll survive the 18 months till the movie's slated release!

It almost seems like the universe knew I needed something to distract me from this latest obsession, because last night I went with my friend, Nedah, to see Christopher Moore speak in Denver and get his autograph.  The man is a very sick sort of genius -- complex yet simple, irreverent, hilarious (seriously, I've literally laughed out loud while reading every single book), and actually intelligent.  I've read all of his books, and owned all but one before the new release last Tuesday.  I ordered Sacre Bleu:  A Comedy D'Art online because it was significantly cheaper and I didn't really have time to read it during the week anyway, so when it arrived yesterday I was on my way to the signing.  I am still working on it, but it starts off with Vincent van Gogh so it's already off to a brilliant start!  And even in just the first couple chapters, reading his distinct writing style is like visiting an old friend.  Okay, maybe I need some more actual friends...

Me with Christopher Moore, Author Guy.

Me with my awesome birthday present...
even if it was almost three months late!
Thank you, Nedah!
But the friends I do have are awesome, I must admit that!  Nedah felt guilty that she hadn't gotten me a birthday present for my 30th in January.  Honestly, I hadn't even thought about it till she mentioned it.  But while we were waiting to be allowed to line up for Christopher Moore's autograph we wandered around the bookstore that was hosting the event.  I was looking for the one book missing from my collection.  The only reason I didn't own all of his previous works was because I couldn't find The Stupidest Angel on any bookstore shelves and I hadn't gotten around to ordering it online yet.  I'd read it only by checking it out from the library.  Didn't see it on the regular shelves, but once we were in line we saw one more display about 25 feet away from the signing table.  There was one copy of the book left.  Nedah, who hadn't read the book but who's a lot more assertive than I am, ran up and grabbed it before we got there in line and brought it back.  I joked that she should have him personalize it to me and give it to me as her birthday/Christmas present to me.  Totally kidding, though, because I figured I'd lost.  Then she went and found one of the people with sticky notes to get the personalization information ready.  She tried to trick me by getting her name on a sticky on top of it, but she actually did have him sign it to me for my birthday.  It was awesome!

I've been working out fairly regularly and eating well, most of the time.  Of course, there are days when I choose sleeping over hopping onto the treadmill or when I go out with friends and roughly double my caloric intake, but oh well!  I've lost 10 pounds now since my birthday almost three months ago with little yo-yo-ing and I'm excited.  I feel stronger, healthier, and more confident (though my confidence level really had nowhere to go but up) and I can tell that my clothes are fitting me differently, if they fit at all.  My favorite pair of jeans are now loose right out of the drier, but no loose enough to need the next size down...not just yet.  A random girl who works in the cafeteria at my school (work) told me I look like I've been losing weight, though, so with that sort of positive reinforcement I may be able to keep up the momentum!

Lastly, I've been reading the blog 1000 Awesome Things for a little while -- and went back to look through the archive to catch up as much as I could when I found it last year.  The author, Neil Pasricha, started it by counting down from 1000 naming many of the innumerable awesome things about life, relationships, the world, and the small things.  There are many that have been funny, as well as several that are touching and poignant.  Others are so obvious, the title is all that's needed.  The glass-is-half-full sort of perspective has even spawned two books.  Now, however, is the home stretch.  Tomorrow's post, already up now, is #9.  I am sad that something so uplifting will be ending.  I really loved the post I saw this morning on Post Secret and encourage anyone who hasn't already seen it to read it.  And for those of you who need a pick-me-up, I encourage you to read both blogs.  They're both AWESOME!

I promise I'll try to be better about posting shorter updates more often...but I can't promise it'll work!  Anyway, I'm off to read!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Hoppy Easter!

Easter has never really been a big deal at my house.  We're not particularly religious and we don't have any little ones around for the Easter Bunny to make a special trip to visit.  Still, apparently the wascally wabbit decided to drop by early this morning to ruin my diet.  Darn bunny.

Still, he was very creative about where to "hide" his gifts.  My favorite, though, I didn't notice till after breakfast -- on the very clever little dinner table piece my dad made.  I wonder if that was his whole intention for the table all along.

We also have a stack of styrofoam egg cartons for recycling (we have friends who have chickens), so naturally, there was a cute, pastel dozen there as well.  I made sure to eat them all today so I didn't have any temptation tomorrow or later in the week.

So for all of you who celebrate Passover and/or Easter in the religious and/or secular traditions, I hope you had a very happy holiday.  For anyone else, I hope you had a lovely spring day!