Friday, December 20, 2013

These Are A Few of My Favorite Things...

Snow is on the ground, the air is cold, and Christmas trees peek from the windows of every neighborhood house. This is a magical time of year, no matter what you celebrate, when being cozy, admiring twinkling lights, and indulging in hot drinks and sweets is all that's on the agenda. Before we leave for Athens on Christmas Day, we have a few social engagements, some family fun, and a couple more presents to wrap. This weekend is all about checking the last few things off your list, enjoying your loved ones, and staying warm by the fire. Here are a few of my favorite holiday things...


Monday, December 16, 2013

Holiday Gift Guide: Charities of Choice

My sister in law Emily gave me the great idea to do a gift guide for nonprofits and charities this holiday season. Working for a nonprofit, I have the pleasure of seeing acts of generosity every day, and no time is as sweet as the holidays. It inspires me to support causes I believe in and reminds me to give back all year long. My favorite thing about philanthropy and charitable giving is that every dollar really makes a difference, and these days, you can see exactly where your donation will go and how it will have an impact on the group you choose. Donations in someone's name are a thoughtful gift, especially if you have a friend who's crazy about cats, reading, clean drinking water in developing countries, etc - there's a nonprofit for that.

 Leukemia and Lymphoma Society - I have many friends who have raised money through marathons for LLS, and loved ones who have benefited from the ground breaking research being done there. LLS supports every part of the patient experience and creates thousands of volunteer opportunities.

Local hospitals - I am totally biased as I work for a hospital, but with bias comes information. Give locally and know that every cent of your donation will go to the program or service that took care of your grandpa, baby niece, or best friend. Depending on where you live, your hospital might be doing research and medical trials of its own, or requires funding to keep special and imperative programs afloat. - I was blessed with a great education and lots of resources at school, but my mom taught in low income schools for years and had to provide basic necessities for her students. allows teachers to post projects and materials, and gives donors the power to select their favorites and follow the process until the students have what they need.

Heifer International - Is there anything more fun than giving someone a sheep or chicken for Christmas? I don't think so! Not only is it a cool gift, but it provides so many resources to the area receiving the animal (or other basic needs). It means that they're able to build up their own economy, provide food, clothing, and shelter, and sustain themselves for years to come.

Watsi - Crowdfunding is pretty hip at the moment, and while others were funding their concert tour or next novel, Watsi was creating a ground breaking opportunity to bring health care to developing nations. For as little as $5, you can support individuals in their specific medical needs. Watsi has funded over 800 patients in a few short years.

Humane Society - Taken care of ill, neglected, and abused animals is especially important when the temperatures drop around the country. The Humane Society provides lots of options for support - donations, volunteering, and adoption. 

International Rescue Committee - Biased again (as one of my best friends works for IRC in Africa), but I have learned through her how incredible their programs are. IRC helps to rebuild communities following crises, and provides support and resources on the road to safety. In Boise, a wonderful nonprofit supporting refugees is Create Common Good, which works with refugees to teach them how to grow, farm, sell, and cook their own food, creating jobs and healthy communities.

ACLU - For me, civil and equal rights are at the top of my priority list. ACLU works to preserve the rights and liberties for all Americans. A few other rights non profits that I follow are The Trevor Project, Lambda Legal, and HRC.

Do you have a favorite charity that I should add to the list? Happy gift giving!


Friday, December 6, 2013

Our Holiday Card!

I have to admit - next to actually getting married, sending our first holiday card was high on my list of accomplishments for this year. With teachers for parents, I always got to see stacks of cards, and I would sift through them, checking out the adorable kids and golden retrievers, so excited to send one of my own someday. We've started to receive a bunch of cards over the past few years from friends and family, and I love putting them up to admire throughout the season. 

I knew I wanted to wait to send our first card until we were married and were officially a little family. We used Tiny Prints after having such a great experience with Wedding Paper Divas for our wedding invitations. I love how they turned out and I can't wait to mail them all over the country this weekend! It goes without saying that this year has been the best yet, and we are so blessed to have been able to celebrate our love with so many of our favorite people. This card just sums up how we feel - Happy Everything to you and yours!

Did you do a holiday card? I would love to see!


Monday, December 2, 2013

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Happy Monday after Thanksgiving! Mondays are already hard, so this one is definitely providing some additional challenges after four days off. I'm still dreaming of pajamas and leftovers, especially this pumpkin cheesecake. It was the first cheesecake I've ever made and I was a little intimidated before I got started, but it turned out to be fairly easy! It's a time consuming recipe, but the end result is so delicious and perfect for fall. Creamy and fluffy with a hint of spice, this might become a Thanksgiving staple. Hope you had a wonderful holiday!

Recipe, adapted from Betty Crocker:
(Makes 12+ servings)

2 cups graham cracker crumbs (recipe called for 1 3/4 cups for a 9-inch springform pan)
1/2 butter, melted
2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1/4 cup flour (I used almond flour)
1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3 8-ounce packages light cream cheese, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
4 eggs

1/2 pint whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 teaspoons granulated sugar 

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 9 or 10 inch springform pan (I used a 10-inch pan so I added an extra 1/4 cup graham cracker crumbs). Mix together graham cracker crumbs, butter, and sugar. Press into bottom of pan. Bake for 8-10 minutes. When done baking, let cool for 5 minutes and then continue cooling in refrigerator until it has returned to room temperature.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix pumpkin, flour, and spices. In a large bowl, whip cream cheese until smooth. Slowly beat in sugar, and then beat in eggs, one at a time. Add in pumpkin mixture and lightly mix until fully combined. Don't overbeat the mixture.
When the crust is cool enough, pour cheesecake on top. Bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes or until sides are set and middle jiggles slightly. Turn off oven, open oven door at least 4 inches, and continue baking for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and place on wire rack for 30 minutes. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight.
Whip cream with spices, vanilla, and sugar. Run knife around cheesecake and carefully remove the side of the springform pan. Spread whipped cream over a completely cooled cheesecake.


Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Most Thankful Thursday

(Timepiece Studio)
This year, I have so much to be thankful for. I took an exciting step in my career, felt more at home in my city, got engaged and spent a wonderful year planning our dream wedding, and ultimately, celebrated the best day of my life with everyone we love. The list I could write about my blessings this year would be long, and most of all, I am thankful for everyone in the pictures above. Our families and friends, those people who have been with us through thick and thin, who love us unconditionally, and who have supported Jeff and me from the beginning of our love story. Every former bride told me that during the wedding, you have to take moments to look around and take it all in - everyone is there for you. I felt that so strongly throughout the wedding planning process, the weekend itself, and in the weeks that have followed. Completely supported, very happy, and very lucky.

I use the phrase "an embarrassment of riches" often, and today, it applies to our family and friends. When it comes to these people, my cup runneth over. Special, loyal, hilarious, loving, devoted - thanks to each of you for the gifts you have given me and for being along for this unpredictable and amazing journey. I couldn't love you more! 

And of course, to Jeff. Thank you for being my partner in crime through it all. I'm so glad that I'm your wife.

Happy Thanksgiving, all! 


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Stuffed and Baked, Two Ways

I'm a huge fan of yams and sweet potatoes, and the other night, I was thinking of interesting ways to serve them and incorporate more ingredients into a meal. I love baked potatoes filled with toppings, but I had never made a twice baked potato. I decided to give it a shot. They were a perfect side dish, but what I love the most about this option is that it could easily be turned into a meal and the additions can be mixed and matched to your heart's content. I think a Thanksgiving version with leftover turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce or graving would be amazing, or a Southwestern version with green chiles and black beans. The sky's the limit! 

Next, it was girls' night in, and I wanted to make a hearty and vegetarian appetizer. I saw these mini portobello mushrooms at the market and thought they were adorable (a great reason to cook something) and decided to fill them with some of my favorite things - cheese, tomatoes, garlic, and a little spinach to round it out. Two of these felt like a meal - they were so filling! The portobellos were great for heavy hors d'oeuvres, or you could use smaller mushrooms for a bite size version.

Twice Baked Yams:
(Makes 3 main portions or 6 side portions)

3 medium sized sweet potatoes or yams (I used jewel yams)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
8 ounces crimini mushrooms, chopped
1 cup + 1/4 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
Sprinkle of cayenne pepper, black pepper, and onion powder

Wash your potatoes. Place them on a paper towel lined microwave safe plate and microwave for 15 minutes, turning once, or until potatoes are soft to the touch. Set aside until cool.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a baking sheet.
In a medium sized pan, heat olive oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add garlic and mushrooms, and cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are browned and cooked through.
In a medium sized bowl, add mushrooms and garlic, cheddar cheese, yogurt, and spices. When potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut each one lengthwise and gently scoop out the flesh, leaving a little rim in the skin. Repeat with the rest of the potato halves, adding flesh to your bowl. Mix all of the ingredients together with a spoon until fully combined. Add additional spices to taste.
Place potato skins on your baking sheet. Scoop heaping spoonfuls of filling into the skins. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top.
Bake for 20 minutes or until cheese is melted and golden brown. 

Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms:
(Makes 6 mushrooms)

6 mini portobello mushrooms, washed with stems removed and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 ounces herbed goat cheese
1 cup sundried tomatoes, chopped
2 cups spinach, cooked (I used frozen cut leaf spinach)
1 egg
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place your mushrooms open side down on a baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Bake for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat remaining olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add garlic and mushroom stems and cook until soft.
In a medium sized bowl, mix garlic and mushroom, sundried tomatoes, goat cheese, spinach, and egg. Season with salt and pepper.
When mushrooms are done in the oven, remove and turn up heat to 400 degrees. Scoop filling into each mushroom, heaping extra on top. Sprinkle Parmesan on mushrooms.
Bake for 15 minutes or until cheese is melted and tops are golden brown.


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Cozying Up to the Cold

While I may complain about the cold and lament about missing California sunshine, I truly love fall and winter weather. The smell, the fleeting evening light, the crunch of leaves and then snow. I love getting bundled up in scarves and hats, wearing boots and wool socks, being embraced by soft layers. I love curling up on the couch, drinking red wine and eating hot and hearty comfort food, escaping the cold for happy hour and nights with the girls.

Living in a snowy city isn't always my favorite thing, but I do love having seasons to look forward to, colors and climates to change, new wardrobes to switch in and out of the closet. In an effort to assert my inner recessionista, I've been trying to shop less and repurpose more, mixing and matching pieces that I've always worn just one way. While this does make it feel like I have brand new things, of course I'm still lusting after items that would be perfect for the colder weather. Here are a few pieces that would round out my winter wardrobe...

Fall Fashion

Coat -Snood - Cardigan - Blouse - Jeans - Pumps - Dress - Booties


Monday, November 4, 2013

Basil and Spinach Pesto Pasta

Jeff and I are spending Christmas with my mom and stepdad in Athens, Georgia this year, so naturally I'm daydreaming about all the home cooking we're going to enjoy. I have a fairly long list of my favorite things that always taste better when parents make them, but I got a strong craving for one dish in particular, Mama's pesto, and couldn't wait to give it a try.

This was my first time making it, but like so many of her recipes before, I was left wondering why it had taken me so long. This pesto is simple, healthy, and absolutely scrumptious. Best of all, it tasted exactly like she makes it. Instead of being a few tablespoons as a side dish, it is the main event and leaves you wanting seconds, and not feeling too guilty about a big portion. I'm excited to try some other mix-ins - sundried tomatoes, red peppers, kale, or arugula to see what flavors I can bring out. For now, this classic version is a new favorite in our house.

(Makes approximately 4 cups of pesto or 10 servings of pasta*)

1 small bunch of fresh basil
1 large bunch of fresh spinach
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup of pine nuts
1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons nonfat milk
1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon pepper (or to taste)
10 cups dry rotini (I used gluten-free brown rice rotini)

Wash your basil and spinach and pat dry. Cut off ends and discard. Roughly chop leaves.
In your blender or food processor, add all of the ingredients and blend until smooth. Depending on the thickness that you want, add additional olive oil and/or milk.
Cook pasta per directions. Pour pesto over hot pasta and stir gently until full coated.
Season with additional salt and pepper.
I served ours with baked chicken thighs and oven roasted cherry tomatoes.

*I made the full recipe, but will freeze half of the pesto for another time. You can also keep it in a sealed jar or container in the refrigerator for up to one week.


Friday, November 1, 2013

Happy Friday!

Cheers to the beginning of a long weekend - we gain an extra hour on Sunday! There is always a to do list on the weekends, and I plan to spend my down time writing thank you cards, continuing the name changing process, unpacking wedding presents, and starting a new book.

I hope your weekend is filled with fun, rest, and laughter. I am thankful that the sun is shining, that I have ballet and babies to look forward to, and that my cute boys are waiting for me at home. 

(stolen from Instagram)


Friday, October 25, 2013

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things...

This week, we were blessed and surprised with some warmer weather - the afternoons reached the high sixties, and Jeff and I took Bear on a date last night and ate dinner outside! On Monday, the temperatures drop to what I consider to be freezing (40 degrees), and rain and sleet will be close behind. The changing season means so many good things - boots and sweaters, hot tea in the afternoons, curling up while the rain falls outside, holidays and family, weekend walks in the leaves - but it also has the tendency to get me down. I tend to fall into the pattern of pajamas at seven, crawling into bed to read long before lights out. Sometimes, nights like these can be a welcome break from the constant energy of work and life, but I am hoping to keep myself busy this fall and winter with some new activities and hobbies. The idea of a cooking class came to mind, starting or joining a local book club, trying my hand at a few new craft projects. Stay tuned, and until then, here are a few things I'm loving, and looking forward to, this weekend...

 Photo booth pictures from our wedding

sweet potato pie for the next dinner party

A new spin on pumpkin decorating

Curling up in the coziest of sweaters


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Cheesy Shepherd's Pie

Fall has arrived in Boise, and that means that the leaves are on fire, the mornings are brisk, and cool weather recipes are on my mind. Earlier in the week I christened my new crock pot with butternut squash soup, and last night, I whipped up a shepherd's pie with a few twists. Jeff had two and a half portions, and asked three times while eating if we could have this every week. I think it's safe to say that it was a success! My favorite part was the cheesy, tangy potatoes - my dad's famous mashed potatoes include lots of sour cream, which I've replaced with plain Greek yogurt, and the cheddar gives it a zing that complements the hearty filling. 

(Serves 4)

2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and quartered (about 4 large potatoes)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
1 1/4 pounds lean ground turkey
2-3 cups frozen veggies (peas, corn, carrots, string beans)
1 cup low sodium chicken broth
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons Worchestershire sauce
1/4 cup milk
1 cup plain yogurt
1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, cover potatoes with water and bring to a boil. 
In a large, deep pan, head olive oil and sauté onion over medium heat until soft.
Add vegetables, turkey, and 1/2 cup broth. Cook, breaking up with a spoon, until turkey is no longer pink.
Add an additional 1/2 cup broth, tomato paste, and Worcestershire sauce, and mix well.
Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Meanwhile, when potatoes are soft, drain water and return to pot.
Mash potatoes, mixing milk, yogurt, and 1 cup cheese as you go. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Set oven to 400 degrees.
In a large baking dish (I used a 9x13 ceramic dish), spread meat and veggie mixture to fill the dish. Spoon potatoes on top, and spread them out to cover the meat and veggies. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.
Cook for 20-30 minutes or until sauce is bubbling and top is browned.


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Wedding Wednesday: Sneak Peek!

So I'm a complete broken record when it comes to taking breaks from blogging, but this post is coming from a newly married gal! Our wedding was on Saturday, October 5, and it was a dream. We were in California for the week before the big day, taking care of details and running last minute errands, and then we hustled back to Boise soon after the wedding for work. Ten days later, I'm still recovering from all of the excitement and celebration, and I'm not completely ready to recap everything and pretend to move on. Newlywed life has been amazing so far - even though we already lived together and have been dating for years, our bond feels stronger and my stomach takes a little flip whenever I think about my husband. Our incredible photographers are in Italy shooting engagement sessions, but Christin sent me a sneak peek that I couldn't wait to share. Vendor reviews and a big post (or three) filled with pictures coming soon!

(all photographs courtesy of Timepiece Studio)


Friday, September 6, 2013

Foodie Friday: Brown Rice Risotto

Does it seem like all I eat is rice? Well, sometimes I cook outside the box (get it, a box of rice?!), but I just think that brown rice is the most versatile and easy to use ingredient, especially for gluten-free peeps, so I turn to it all the time. I can make Asian, Mexican, Italian, and Greek dishes - you name it, brown rice absorbs all the flavors and serves as a great base for lots of different recipes. Last night was pea and mushroom risotto and it was delicious and oh so simple. We had it with sauteed chicken breasts and broccoli. Enjoy and have a fab weekend!

(Makes 6 servings)

2 cups brown rice
4 cups low sodium chicken broth
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon onion powder
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil 

In a large pot, heat 2 cups of chicken broth until boiling. Add rice and return broth to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to cook, adding splashes of broth as the rice absorbs it, until you have 1/2 cup of broth remaining.

In a pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add sliced mushrooms and sauté until brown and soft. Set aside.

When the rice is cooked and most of the liquid is absorbed, add mushrooms,  frozen peas, and remaining 1/2 cup of broth. Cover and cook until peas are defrosted. 

Stir in Parmesan, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder, and serve.


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Wedding Wednesday: The Dress

The many brides, it is the single most important piece of the wedding puzzle, next to marrying their dream guy, of course. I've been watching wedding shows for years and I've seen girls try on hundreds of dresses, searching for the most perfect one, waiting to have "the feeling," hoping to fulfill their childhood bridal fantasy. I went dress shopping with my mom last year, but I didn't know what I was looking for at the time so it felt more like playing dress up than prepping myself for my moment. After that experience, I guess you could say that I went a less conventional route.

I fell in love with a designer dress online. You'll have to wait until after October 5 to know exactly which one, but it was beautiful, perfect, and way above any amount I would allow myself or anyone who loves me to spend on a dress. So I kept looking, for something similar or something better, but at the end of the day this one just felt right and surpassed all the others, even through my computer screen. After looking at what felt like every single wedding dress on the entire internet, I started to look into custom made dresses. I figured that too would be out of my ballpark, so I was amazed to find multiple dressmakers who could create what I envisioned, on a budget. I read hundreds of reviews and totally freaked myself out about what I was considering doing, and then I found the perfect fit.

I discovered Bridal Bliss Designs on Etsy, but was excited to learn that Erin also had bridal boutique called Truly Bridal in Camdenton, Missouri. I poured over her Etsy page and her website, looking at every dress she has made, reading all of the feedback, checking her reviews on message boards, and Googling for details. Once I felt like I had sufficient information, I reached out to her with pictures of my dream dress and all of the desired changes and updates. We messaged for a few weeks, I sent her measurements, and she got to work. A few months felt like years and the anticipation was almost too much to handle! I would check her Etsy page every couple of days, just to remind myself that other brides had done this and ended up loving and looking amazing in their dresses and even though it was nuts to purchase one sight unseen, I was going to get what I wanted.

Finally, after about seven months, I received my dress last week. It is, in a word, perfect. Amazingly, it fits like a glove, the details are exactly as I described, and the changes are just like I imagined. Erin is clearly an expert and she has the gift to be able to create a dress for a girl she'll never meet, by listening intently and offering great craftsmanship. There was always a little part of me that thought it wouldn't work out and that I'd be shopping for something off the rack six weeks before my wedding day, so I am very happy to be able to fully endorse Erin's work. If any brides out there are looking for a custom made dress on a budget, I would highly recommend Bridal Bliss Designs and would be happy to answer any of your questions!

My dress will grace the blog after the wedding, but until then, here are a few of my favorite Bridal Bliss Designs gowns:

(All images: Bridal Bliss Designs)


Friday, August 23, 2013


Ah, Friday, it is good to see you. This week has been exceptionally busy and I feel like a weekend to rest, catch up, and snuggle with the boys will be just what the doctor ordered. My dad has been taking photographs for longer than I've been alive, and he recently launched a new website. I have always admired his dedication to photography - I haven't loved a hobby so much that I could give to it the patience and care that he does with his pictures. For him, I imagine that it's an escape, a way to connect with people on a different medium, an opportunity to capture a feeling that others would let pass us by. Thinking about his work reminds me to live in the moment, to be present, to appreciate and embrace each little piece of life. I hope you have a lovely weekend! 

(c) Bill Bullard

In the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you."


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Wedding Wednesday: Our Engagement Shoot

A few weeks ago, Jeff and I spent the evening with Nichole from Ampersand Studios having some engagement pictures taken. We went to the Idaho Shakespeare Festival grounds, which was beautiful and filled with lots of spaces to traipse around and be one with nature. I was pretty nervous as we got ready to go - I'd never had professional photos taken like this and I wasn't sure what to expect - but Nichole made us feel comfortable from the start and was great at directing us and keeping it fun and easy. We happened to get an overcast day and it got dark a little early, but overall we love the pictures and can't wait to use them at the wedding and share them with family and friends!

Engagement shoots are a great idea for many reasons - they help the bride and groom get comfortable being photographed, they can connect the couple to their wedding photographer so that they're that much more at ease on their big day, and they're a great opportunity to get silly and have fun with your future spouse. I highly recommend a photo shoot to anyone on the fence, and Boise brides, check out Ampersand! Here are a few of our favorite shots...


Monday, August 19, 2013

Oh Happy Day

Hello friends! Phew, is life going a mile a minute or is it just me? I can't believe August is halfway over. I've been really busy personally and professionally, hence the lack of blogging (and doing laundry, cooking proper meals, etc), and I'll admit that my stress level hasn't been the most enjoyable to those closest to me. I have the tendency to get in funks when I'm really busy, so today I'm focusing on the positive - my cute boy and pup, crossing things off the work to do list, sunshine, a date with the treadmill, a good book, and little reminders that everything is totally fun and pretty wonderful.

Last weekend, Jeff and I flew to Portland to attend the wedding of one of my besties, Kellie, and her awesome other half, Bryan. The weekend was filled with friends, laughter, fun, food, and witnessing a beautiful couple getting hitched. Kellie is my first close friend to head down the aisle and I introduced her to Bryan, so it made it especially emotional for me. Everything was perfect - rain during the indoor ceremony (it wouldn't be Oregon without it!), a flash mob to Bryan's favorite song, tearful speeches, and lots of dancing. Kellie and Bryan are so in love and they were floating on air throughout the wedding. This is what life is all about - love and joy and being surrounded by lots of people who make each other really happy.