Sunday, September 30, 2012

DC Day 3: Dinosaurs and Ice Cream

Day 3 in a nutshell: Capitol Building, Smithsonian Natural History Museum, Smithsonian Institute (the awesome castle!), the Smithsonian American History Museum, and Ben & Jerry's! :) The trip to Ben & Jerry's brought with it a surprise elevator ride to an awesome tower lookout. Pretty neat!
Outside the Capitol Building
Jerry was nearly eaten by a T-Rex!
Where's Robby?
Chatting it up with a museum statue
Delicious ice cream!
Ice cream high!
Robby in the tower
A great view
On the way down

Saturday, September 29, 2012

DC Day 2: Trains, Planes, and Rockets

DC Day 2 got off to a bit of a late start, but we were happy to wait for another addition to our group. Deb drove from Ohio for a couple of days to join in on the fun. The big thing of the day was a visit to the Smithsonian Space and Air Museum.  It was quite impressive and a great learning experience...although I think I left with more questions than I had going in. Ignorance is bliss, I suppose. A big highlight was Deb sharing a bit of what she does...which must be pretty amazing if she used something at the museum to explain it! (See the photo below.)
The amazing brick wall promised
Deb and her prop!
Jerry and a giant door!
Neat view of the Washington Monument
After the museum, we found a great Thai place and had a nice family dinner, then walked/rode the train home for dessert and hot beverages.

Friday, September 28, 2012

DC Day 1: A Monumental Beginning

Hi all! It has become a year of traveling for us. We are so excited to join Robby's family for a trip to Washington, D.C. - a first for Rob and me!

We boarded our plane late last night and suffered through another red-eye (we did this for our trip to New York, too), arriving in Virginia around 7:00 am this morning. Needless to say there was not much sleep on our red-eye flight, but we managed to catch up on a few hours before heading out to see some of the main monuments.

Rob's parents rented this great place for everyone to stay. It is a super cute three-level apartment (we're renting out two levels) built sometime in the late 1880's and recently updated. There are three bedrooms on the top floor, and the main floor has a roomy family area, a nice dining area with a great table, and a decent-sized little kitchen. One of the greatest features is the exposed brick wall in the living room. Love that! We are seriously minutes from the Capitol, so it's going to be a lot of fun walking around and exploring this week! I'll have to take some pictures and share them, but for now, here's a pic of the front of the place.
Today we went to Union Station and had lunch, then jumped on the train to go and see a few sights: the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, WW2 Memorial, Korean War Memorial, Vietnam War Memorial, and a couple other little ones along the way. Everything was impressive, but we stayed the longest and were most amazed by the Lincoln Memorial. I never knew how huge the statue was! The whole building itself is beautiful, made out of gorgeous white marble.
In front of the Washington Monument
We're tiny!
Side of the Lincoln Memorial building
Three Feely boys
More to come this week!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Pinned It, (Carly) Made It - Brown Butter & Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookies

On Saturday, my parents, Carly, Robby and I had a little unofficial celebration of the beginning of fall. Now in no way did the weather feel like autumn, but our kitchen sure did! Mom and I made a spiced apple/pear tart with (of course) salted caramel, and Carly whipped up some delicious cookies, which I immediately pinned to make again.

Carly found and pinned the recipe--Brown Butter and Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookies-- from Ambitious Kitchen, a super cute blog she likes. The recipe is different in a few ways: First, as the name says, you brown the butter, which gives a richer, fuller, even nuttier flavor. Second, you use two types of chocolate, which my chocolate-loving husband actually picked out without us telling him! (Carly came up with that part on her own.) Third, you sprinkle a bit o' sea salt on top just before baking. Finally, you undercook these babies. Turns out I've been overcooking my cookies all along! These were amazing out of the oven and just right the next day.
The bearer of these delicious cookies...and her dog Honey
Brown butter & sea salt chocolate chip cookies
2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt, plus more for sprinkling
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon plain greek yogurt
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips -- Better yet, do half and half of something else!
3/4 cup milk chocolate  chips
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl and set aside. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. The butter will begin to foam. Make sure you whisk consistently during this process. After a couple of minutes, the butter will begin to brown on the bottom  of the saucepan. Continue to whisk and remove from heat as soon as the butter begins to brown and give off a nutty aroma. Immediately transfer the butter to a bowl to prevent burning. Set aside to cool for a few minutes.
3. With an electric mixer, mix the butter and sugars until thoroughly blended. Beat in the egg, yolk, vanilla, and yogurt until combined. Add the dry ingredients slowly and beat on low-speed just until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.
4. Chill your dough for 2 hours in the refrigerator, or place in freezer for 30 minutes if you are super eager.
5. Once dough is chilled measure 1/4 cup of the dough into a ball. It doesn’t have to be perfectly rolled. Place dough balls on cookie sheet, 2 inches apart and sprinkle each dough ball with a little bit of sea salt.
6. Bake the cookies 9-11 minutes or until the edges of the cookies begin to turn golden brown. They will look a bit underdone in the middle, but will continue to cook once out of the oven. Cool the cookies on the sheets and sprinkle with a little extra sea salt if desired. Remove the cooled cookies from the baking sheets after a few minutes and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Have a Pinned It, Made It to share? Please do! Add yours to the list below. Make the name of your recipe or project the title, and then link up. Be sure and grab the button! (It's on the right sidebar.)


Saturday, September 22, 2012

Happy Fall!

Happy fall, dear friends!

Bring on the cool mornings and warm colors,
brisk evenings and steaming drinks,
crunchy leaves and snuggly covers,
salted caramels and toasted sweets.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Tidbits Tuesday

That's right, friends, I'm bringing it back! It's time for a Tuesday of tidbits. To be honest, I feel so swamped that it took a lot of prodding to make myself write a blog post instead of get some work done. I'm afraid that has been the battle for the last few months, hence the lack of blogging.

But...I remind myself that I do indeed enjoy writing. Even though getting work done is quite satisfying, nothing brings joy quite like a few moments of reflection and sharing.

So enough of the backstory! On to what's new!

  • First of all, Rob is tons better. Thank God! He's back to most of his usual duties, cutting out a few things that are just a little too labor-intensive. (Our lawn looks like a meadow!) I'm glad to have things nearly back to normal.
  • A few weeks ago, Rob and I took a group to the college retreat at Hume Lake. The last time we were at this retreat was ten years ago when he and I were in college and had barely started dating! The weather was beautiful and the speaker was fantastic. And the main highlight was getting to see Shane Bernard and Shane Everett sing! We have loved them since we first heard them perform at Biola, so it was a real treat. Overall, Hume was a nice getaway and a retreat I hope we do again.
  • We are in our sixth week of school, and I finally feel like I'm getting the hang of things. Last year, I taught English in small-group settings, anywhere from three to ten students. I met with each grade-level once a week, and our time felt like a typical class-time setting. This year, I work with students in Independent Study and meet with them one-on-one. I assign their week's work for their classes, go over their assignments, make sure they're taking assessments, and overall serve as their supervising teacher. There is a lot more paperwork and data-keeping this year, as we must report all kinds of information, and I keep up on all of their grades and progress. In addition to being a supervising teacher, I also run a few writing labs and am still putting together all the English curriculum. It's a lot, but I seriously love it. (Not just saying that because anyone can read this!)
  • Piano teaching continues. I have about ten students right now, all crammed back-to-back on Mondays. It's a long day! I'm amazed with how far they've come, though, especially those few who began with me three years ago. It's pretty awesome to know I'm part of what they are now :)
  • All of our ministries have started up again at church with the new season. I'm helping Rob now in youth group, hopping on-board as his junior high leader Wednesday nights. It's been fun!
  • We've had hot weather here, but I think we're all feeling the hints of fall on its way. I made some caramel and bought apples, so I may just take another break from work tonight and whip up a tasty treat.
  • And last but not least, very soon Rob and I will be headed off for a Feely family trip to DC! We're super excited and are looking forward to time with Jeff, Deb, and Nathan.
Hope you've had a terrific Tuesday!


Saturday, September 15, 2012

Free Fall

It's September, so Fall is on our minds. It's sad, though, because here in the Valley we are experiencing 100 degree weather this weekend. Yes. Heartbreaking. I stay inside with the air conditioning and try to pretend it's cool beyond our doors, enjoying all the free printables, templates, patterns, and of course recipes that get my creative juices flowing, like the neat leaf print above. This came as a freebie from The Crafty Scientist and would be too cute as a card.

Moving on to more fall fun, how about this fantastic fall wreath from Flaming Toes? (Gotta love that alliteration!)
This chocolate leaf tutorial involves a little crafting and food -- the best combo. You use real leaves as the mold/stencil, lather on some melted chocolate, and peel the leaves off once cool. Pretty neat and could be used to top about anything. I'm thinking this would be beautiful with some glamorous hot chocolate!
These cute tags just have to printed and cut. We already have a couple of get-togethers planned over the next couple of months, so I'm looking forward to making a little something (perhaps involving caramel and apples, the ultimate fall duo!) and tagging it up with these from it is what it is.
And last up is a recipe I must try: Pumpkin Spice Creme Brulee. I think I'm finally over my pumpkin-flavored aversion I picked up last year (not sure how that happened...), and this is just pretty enough to try even if I have to force it down!
Pumpkin Spice Creme Brulee

Friday, September 14, 2012

Pinned It, Made It! Honey Lavender Cake and Caramel Budinos

It's been awhile since I've shared any Pinned It, Made Its. So even though it's not Monday, I need to take advantage of this blogging mood! These recipes I actually made over summer when Kelly was here visiting. One was fabulous; one was a little odd.
Let's start with the fabulous!
Caramel Budino with Salted Caramel Sauce
Okay, this was un-be-lieve-able!!! I love nearly all things custard or pudding, but this particular recipe was in a class of its own. The caramel budino (which is Italian for pudding) was so creamy and warm and buttery and flavorful. It calls for rum, and I'm pretty sure that is what sets it apart. I used my usual salted caramel recipe for the topping because I have it down and it's great. The cookie crumbs are made from store-bought chocolate wafers.  Make this for a dinner party, and you'll be everyone's hero.
I'm not going to reprint the whole recipe, but here's just the budino part, to give you an idea of its greatness.

--3 cups whole milk, divided
--1/4 cup cornstarch
--3/4 cup dark brown sugar
--5 eggs
--3 T unsalted butter
--2 t dark rum
--1 t kosher salt

Whisk 1/2 cup milk and cornstarch in a small bowl and set aside. Heat remaining 2 1/2 cups milk in a small saucepan just to simmer; set aside. To make caramel, stir sugar and 3/4 cup water in a heavy saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat; cook without stirring until thermometer registers 210 - 220 degrees.

Line a sieve with a double layer of cheesecloth (or papertowels) and set over a large pitcher. Whisk egg yolks in a large bowl. Gradually whisk in hot milk, then cornstarch mixture. Slowly whisk in caramel. Return mixture to saucepan. Whisk constantly over med heat until mixture thickens and registers 175 degrees, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat; whisk in butter, rum, and salt. Pour through sieve.

This gets place on top of salted and buttered cookie crumbs with a layer of thick salted caramel and a fresh whipped cream placed on top. More cookie crumbles finishes this off!

And now for the odd:
I tried this for three reasons: First, the photograph was beautiful. Second, I love lavender. Third, I've always wanted to know what lavender would taste like in a recipe. I've seen people put it in cupcakes, and I wondered if it was any good.

Well, friends, as much as I love lavender, I do not love it in my food. It tastes exactly as one would think lavender would taste! I even halved what the recipe called for and still had to choke down the bitterness. And yes, if you're wondering, I did use the correct culinary lavender. It didn't matter. The cake was all right, much like a sponge cake, but I figured if I was going for a good sponge cake, I would find a better recipe. It was easy enough, though, which the caramel budino was not.

Nonetheless, here's my "Made It," which I was proud of because it looked fairly similar to the original. That's always fun!
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It Takes Two!

For the past week, my hub has been pretty much incapacitated. A strange little "pop" in his neck a few weeks ago eventually led to horrible pain and an inability to move without such pain. Muscle relaxers, pain killers, heating pads and ice packs became his best pals. His usual busy life was whittled down to time on the couch, time in bed, and--if he was feeling really ambitious--a walk down the path in the backyard. It was the first time in the seven-plus years we've been married that he missed church for a reason other than a planned vacation. He has never missed, not even when he has been so sick he could hardly move.

So where has that left me? Exhausted! I've never said my husband is lazy or unhelpful or anything of the sort because that would be a flat out lie. That man is busy and about as Type A as me. However, the reality is that many things he does I simply don't see or appreciate. Sure, I know he keeps our yard immaculate and takes out the trash each week. But I forget that he picks up the mail, sends off the bills, drives us around, straightens up, cleans out the cat box, waters the patio plants, sprays for (and kills!) bugs, puts away dishes, makes the bed, helps with dinner, pulls weeds, folds clothes, feeds Calla, makes coffee, goes to the bank, and so much more. All of those things were on me this week!

And perhaps what left the greatest void was what he does best. He takes care of me. Even if I don't realize it, even if I deny it at times, he's always taking care of me. How I missed his little snack plate of cheez-its and pickles at night, his insistence that I drink more water (with a glass of water placed in front of me), his ability to pick up on the fact that I'm about ready to collapse and follow up with, "I'll make dinner tonight."

We're a pair, he and I, and we've become accustomed to working and living as a pair. It was more than exhausting this week. With him either in pain or knocked out from medication, it was a bit lonely. I need that guy, and I'm betting he needs me, too. And, tired as I am, I love it that way :)

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Summer Highlights

Summer seems like an eternity ago, a very busy eternity ago. After New York, there was 4th of July, VBS, Kelly's visit (which coincided with Rob heading off to camp), caring for a very sick Calla (yeah...five visits to the vet in two weeks), lots of dinners with friends and family, and Carlsbad. It was a good summer, but in between all of the events, my hours were spent creating the English curriculum for my school. All in all, I made forty-five lessons, fifteen assessments, and much more. I'm still working on it, as the (unreachable) goal was 180 lessons, but little by little I'm achieving it.

When life is busy, some things must be placed on the back-burner, and one of those things was blogging. I'm trying to get back into it, but catching up on nearly three months of life is difficult. So, here is my summer post. Thanks for reading!

4th of July - The Feely's and VK's gathered together for food and fireworks. Robby was our fire director, and thanks to him, we had a great show!
VBS was the next week. Courtney and I led our fourth year of music and had fun dressing up for the Aviation theme. It was an awesome five days -- kids got excited about Jesus! What more could we ask for?
The week after VBS I hid and tried to accomplish as much as I possibly could so Kelly's visit wouldn't be tainted with work. Rob headed off to camp, and Kelly came soon after. We cooked, baked, and crafted among the easy stuff of talking and watching tv. My cat got really sick during that week, which was not pleasant to deal with at all, especially with Rob off at camp with no cell phone service. She pulled through, though, and is back to her bratty self. Kelly and I thoroughly enjoyed each other's company and had a pretty fabulous week of cooking with practically everything turning out, the focaccia and caramel budinos ranking among the faves. (Recipes to follow!)
Carlsbad was blissful, a whole week of sunshine and lounging and spending time with people we love. I don't have a lot of pics (that are bikini-less, at least), but these were some favorite moments: Johnny burying Kara's boys in the sand (they loved it at first, then were terrified), John and Kelly's visit with the kids, morning coffee with an ocean-view, shopping and more shopping, an extra weekend in San Diego with Robby, and all four of the Vander Kooi girls spending two days together! That hasn't happened in years! It was a great end to summer.
The day after we got back from Carlsbad, I hit the ground running with school. Sometimes I really forget that summer has already come and gone! But I'm looking forward to Fall, which is just around the corner. Cool mornings, crisp leaves, orange and white pumpkins, steaming-hot soups, and lots of cinnamon and spice!