Friday, January 3, 2014

New Year's Resolutions

Hello, friends! Sorry about my absence, but I'm back! (Although I won't be blogging as often as I was.) Today I'm here to share with you my New Year's Resolutions, mostly to put them down into words and make myself feel more accountable since they're public! 

This year, I've decided my One Little Word will be "home." Both in honor of the fact that we will be moving home back to Omaha soon, and because I want to be more present in my home. My resolutions are an extension of that theme. They are as follows:

1. Minimal-ize, and organize.

I spent New Year's day going through my email and unsubscribing from anything that was just taking up space in my inbox, and taking up time to just delete it, and it felt so good. 

I want to extend that to the rest of my home. This is a good time to do that, not only because of the motivation that comes with the new year, but also because we'll be moving in a couple months and I have to do it anyway. I want to go through my home and get rid of anything that I can. Anything that's just taking up room or wasting time to try and keep organized. I want my home to be streamlined, and easy to keep tidy, so that I'm not spending precious time simply trying to keep up. 

This also, of course, includes my wardrobe, but more on that in a second. I also want to organize my photos, and my computer in general, since I spend a lot of time on it and want to be able to find pictures easily.

2. Improve my body image.

Notice I didn't say anything like "lose x pounds." I don't want my end goal to be losing weight, because if I set a specific weight goal, I may be disappointed. What I want is to be healthier and feel good about my body, and set a good example for my daughter.

While I take my blog pictures from the most flattering angles, every time I see a candid picture of myself, I don't like how I look. I recently saw one picture that was a huge blow to my self-esteem. So I got back onto My Fitness Pal, and have been eating healthier and exercising the last few weeks. I already feel better, but I have a long way to go. This is the main reason I haven't blogged any outfit pics in awhile-- I no longer feel good in any of my clothes. I don't think my style has changed so much as I've adopted an attitude of "why bother?" due to not liking how I look. 

Once I start feeling better about my body image, I will re-visit my wardrobe to see if it's still my style, or needs some tweaking. For now, I'm not bothering with buying new clothes, except workout clothes, because obviously I need to have cute workout clothes in order to want to work out. ;) 

(Please note that I'm not saying anyone built like me, or anyone at all for that matter, should feel bad about the way they look. This is something personal that I'm going through, and trying to overcome the best way I know how. I think you all are absolutely beautiful the way you are.)

3. Read at least one book per month.

This is the only resolution I actually managed to keep last year. The books I read, if you're interested, are as follows:
  1. Ghost in the Wires, by Kevin Mitnick
  2. Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern
  3. Goodnight, Nebraska, by Tom McNeal
  4. Reamde, by Neal Stephenson
  5. Naked, by David Sedaris
  6. The Zookeeper's Wife, by Diane Ackerman
  7. 13 1/2, by Nevada Barr
  8. The Recipe Box, by Sandra Lee
  9. Devil in the White City, by Erik Larson
  10. Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
  11. Catching Fire
  12. Mockingjay
  13. The Dinner, by Herman Koch
I love reading, but usually when I'm just sitting around at home, I'm either on my computer or watching TV (or both). Sometimes I forget that reading is a viable and enjoyable option for my free time, so setting an easy goal like one book per month keeps me from forgetting to read altogether. 

That's all I've got for now. So what does this mean for the blog? I'm not sure. Since the bulk of what I post is outfit photos, and I'm taking a break from those and my wardrobe in general right now, and it'll probably be awhile before I start posting those again, I'll be posting a lot less frequently. I'll probably share recipes with you when I come across ones that are easy and healthy, but I don't want this to be a strictly healthy living blog. And I'll post occasionally about what's going on with my family, as usual. I have a couple of picture-heavy posts planned, but after that, who knows. I plan on just sitting back and seeing where 2014 takes me. 

Sorry for the long-winded post, but it was stuff that I needed to get out of my head and into written form, and in a public space to keep me accountable. Thank you all for sticking with me in 2013, and I hope you'll do the same in 2014! Happy New Year!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Zimtsterne (Cinnamon Star Cookies) Recipe

 I took German in high school, then the summer after my senior year was fortunate enough to visit Germany via a class trip. Ever since then, I have had a special place in my heart for German culture and cuisine. So it seemed appropriate to end this series with a traditional German Christmas cookie. 

Zimtsterne (Cinnamon Star Cookies) Recipe
originally found here
2 1/4 cups powdered sugar, plus more for rolling
15 ounces sliced almonds, with skin (about 4 1/2 cups)
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 large egg whites, room temperature
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest

1. Sift the powdered sugar. Put 1/2 cup of the sifted powdered sugar, 10 ounces (3 heaping cups) of the almonds and all the cinnamon in a food processor. Process until the nuts are finely ground, with just a few larger pieces.

2. Whip the egg whites in the bowl of an electric stand mixer on high speed (about speed 6) until they hold soft peaks, about 1 minute. Gradually add the remaining powdered sugar while whipping, until the whites are thick, creamy and somewhat stiff, about 2 minutes more. Set aside 2/3 cup of this meringue for topping the cookies.

3. Fold the ground almond mixture and the lemon zest into the remaining meringue to make a stiff dough.

4. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

5. Lay a sheet of parchment or waxed paper on the work surface and lightly dust with powdered sugar. Turn the dough out onto the dusted paper, flatten and dust with more sugar as needed, and then lay another sheet of parchment or waxed paper on top. Roll the dough between the papers until it is about 1/4-inch thick. Flip the dough over and gently peel off the top sheet of the paper. For ease when cutting, lay the paper back on the dough, flip again and gently pull off the other side of the paper so that the dough is fully released from it.

6. Cut cookies with a 3-inch star cutter and place about 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Reroll excess dough using process from step 5 until you have used all of it. 
Zimtsterne (Cinnamon Star Cookies) Recipe
7. Use a small spoon to spread the reserved meringue (about 1 tsp per cookies) over the top of each cookie, taking care not to let the meringue drip over the sides. 

Zimtsterne (Cinnamon Star Cookies) Recipe
8. Press or sprinkle remaining sliced almonds in a decorative pattern into the meringue. 
Zimtsterne (Cinnamon Star Cookies) Recipe

9. Bake cookies until bottoms are light golden brown and meringue is set and crisp, about 30 minutes. Turn off the oven and open the oven door to release heat and dry cookies out in the oven for 10 more minutes.
Zimtsterne (Cinnamon Star Cookies) Recipe

Normally, I take care to get pictures of the entire process. I am a visual learner, and I appreciate when recipes show in-process photos so that I know what I'm doing looks right. This time, I did the recipe in two parts: I made the meringue and the dough, then went to pick E up from school, then finished the recipe. So I completely spaced on taking photos of the making of the meringue and the dough. I hope you can forgive me. ;) 

On the plus side, making this recipe in two parts is totally an option. You can make the meringue, then set aside what you'll need for the topping in an airtight container in the fridge. Then you make the dough, roll it out between the parchment paper, and store it in the fridge. It can stay that way for about 12 hours if need be. 

On the other plus side, these cookies are delicious-- sweet, but not too much, and very nutty and spicy. They are very different from anything I've ever made before, but remind me a bit of macaroons. Bonus: they're gluten-free!

I've had a lot of fun with this series, and I hope you have, too! My house is just the way I like it: completely overrun with delicious cookies. 

As always, don't forget to check I do deClaire for Laura's recipe, too! How amazing do these sound?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

One Year

This past Sunday was J's and my one year wedding anniversary. I am so grateful to have him in my life. He is my partner, soul mate, best friend. I can't imagine where I would be without him.

Our wedding was very simple, with just a few close friends and family. We found out last October that J was getting sent out here to California, then we got engaged in November and married in December. We had a small ceremony at sunset in the Old Market in Omaha (under the archway at 12th and Farnam, if any of you Omaha folk are curious). We were taking a risk having an outdoor ceremony in December in Nebraska, and freezing rain was forecast for that day, but it held off until we had moved to our reception venue, for which everyone was extremely grateful. 

We had our reception in the party room of Blue Sushi, where we had our first date. We had hands-down the best food I've ever had at a reception, and I'm not just saying that because it was my reception. 

While our wedding was small, and the planning happened over the course of three weeks, it was still very meaningful to us, and one of my happiest memories. I look forward to making many more memories with this man throughout the rest of our lives together.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Candy Cane Cookies

Happy Friday, and welcome to another weekly installment of Christmas Cookies with myself and Laura! This week, E helped me tackle candy cane cookies. It's sort of like playing with Play-Doh, but with cookie dough instead. Also more delicious.

originally found here

1 box (or bag) sugar cookie mix
1/2 stick butter, melted
1 egg
1/3 cup softened cream cheese (which is 2 and 1/3 oz of a stick)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour, plus additional for surface
Red food coloring
1 1/2 teaspoons peppermint extract


1. Preheat oven to 325. In a bowl (I, as always, used my stand mixer), combine sugar cookie mix, melted butter, egg, cream cheese, and flour; mix together to form dough. 
2. Separate dough into 2 equal portions and place in 2 different bowls. I divided the dough then put one of the halves back in the stand mixer bowl.
3. Add red food coloring gradually to one bowl of dough, kneading together until desired shade of red is created. I kneaded the red dough in my stand mixer (with the dough hook attachment) to keep the red food coloring from getting all over the place.

4. Add peppermint extract to uncolored dough and knead together. (This was E's job.) 

5. On a floured work surface, takes small chunks of each dough, and roll into 1/4-inch-wide ropes (or "worms," as E so charmingly called them), each about 6 inches long. For each cookie, carefully twist  the red and white ropes of dough together and shape into a candy cane. 
6. Spread candy canes out on cookie sheets and bake on the top shelf of the oven for about 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool before serving.
can you guess which ones E made? :)

E had a lot of fun with this recipe, but it is NOT for the perfectionist. I had a hard time letting go of my need to make the candy canes look like candy canes and just having fun with it, but once I did, we had a blast. :) And then things got weird...

Once we got tired of making candy canes, we decided to use cookie cutters on the rest of the dough. The only cookie cutters I own are Star Wars (Yoda, R2D2, and Vader), however, so it looks like Santa is getting a candy cane, some nerd-dom, and a peppermint candy (or planet?) -shaped cookie for his snack this year. ;) It's okay, they're delicious no matter what form they take. 

Don't forget to check out I do deClaire for another Christmas cookie recipe! Looks like this week is mint themed! 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Stay-At-Home Mom Style: The Cardigan Uncertainty

Stay-At-Home Mom Style: The Cardigan Uncertainty
Stay-At-Home Mom Style: The Cardigan Uncertainty
Stay-At-Home Mom Style: The Cardigan Uncertainty
cardigan, tee/ Target | necklace/ laurenelainemoore | jeans/ Old Navy | boots/ JustFab

I am seriously loving cognac and black looks right now. This cardigan is the last of my Target haul. I grabbed it because the color is PERFECT (I've been looking for more of a camel than tan), and the length is about where I want it. But now looking at the pictures, I think the fit might be off. Ideally, I'd like something with a v-neck, and something that doesn't look so baggy and sloppy (but still has room to layer). This has plenty of room to layer, but it looks like there might be a bit TOO much room. Thoughts? Help a girl out.

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