Monday, October 31, 2011

The Quest for Tallahassee

 I figure since we've been in Tallahassee almost 1 week, that it is about time I share with you the particulars of our journey here! It was filled with many interesting things, and a few realizations about the midwest and other areas of our country. So buckle up!

We started our grand journey, or "quest" for Tallahassee early in the morning, two Sundays ago. We were up before the sun even decided to come up! First thing, the car had to be given a little jump from Michael's dad because it was pretty darn cold outside. We've never had a problem with the battery before, but I think the fact that there was frost on the windows had something to do with it. I think Blanche is going to be happy not to freeze in snowy conditions this winter!

We spent a lot of time sitting on our butts. And staring into the sun. Hence the picture above. I think the craziness was beginning, and only into the first day! We drove 16 hours from Salt Lake City, Utah, to Lincoln, Nebraska, where Michael's awesome cousin and her family put us up for the night. I don't think it ever felt so good just to lie down and sleep on something flat. Thank you Keller family! 

I think this tunnel was actually somewhere in Wyoming. Michael wanted to see if he could hold his breath all the way through, and...he was successful! Story about Wyoming: It really is insanely windy there. We stopped at a grocery store and walking through the huge gusts of wind in the parking lot made us realize that we definitely never want to live there. :)

 Our second day was the long journey through the last little bit of Nebraska, through A LOT of Missouri, a smidgen of Arkansas, and ending with Memphis, Tennessee. Missouri, had a whole lot of nothing, we decided. But, we loved see the Kansas City Temple (still in construction and on the right) and the St. Louis Temple (left) along our drive down the freeway!

 Living in Utah, I definitely missed seeing bridges like this. You can tell that we're further South now. 

Lovely traffic somewhere in Missouri.

 We stayed the night at the Courtyard Marriott in Memphis. The King Size Bed was amazing. And Michael found us a great deal for only $65/night on Priceline. That hotel room was over twice the price originally. Score!

 Michael setting our course on the GPS as we head out on our last day toward Tallahassee. Thank goodness for that little piece of technology. Saved us on more than one occasion.

Obligatory morning picture in the car. Notice the USU Aggie flag in the back. It was a great sun-blocker and representation of our Aggie Pride!

We planned the trip out to decrease by about 2 hours each day, so our last day from Memphis to Tallahassee was only about 10 hours. We were glad when we finally entered Florida. Alabama was very green, but maybe driving diagonally across the state, we missed some of its better parts. We weren't too impressed until we got to Dothan, just on the border. Now that was a pretty town.

 It's kinda hard to tell, but those lights say, "Peace on Earth". Apparently, someone on in Florida was already decorating for Christmas. Made me happy to see that.

We arrived to our new apartment around 9 p.m. on Tuesday night and our landlord met us there with candles, seeing as we didn't have any utilities set up yet. Tallahassee makes you go in person to turn in the request if you've never had power in the city before. Silly, I tell you. We were without electricity for almost 24 hours, but thankfully the water came on early Wednesday afternoon, so I could clean up to go to a meeting at Big Bend later in the day. 

We're enjoying getting our place all put together, with the few things we were able to bring with us in that U-haul. But we're comfortable and happy as long as we are together. Our landlord is the nicest lady and we have some nice neighbors. It's definitely an adventure being back in the South. Things are coming back to my mind after being gone for 5 years. I forgot how outgoing people are, and how someone will tell you their whole life story in 5 minutes waiting in line at the store. It's fun.

P.S. People should come visit us ASAP. We have a nice air mattress waiting for you!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

My Best Friend's Wedding

 Meet the new Camille Berry, and her husband Justin. I love these two. They are a great couple, and so cute and happy together. Originally, I didn't think I'd be able to go to their wedding because we were scheduled to leave for Tallahassee on the exact day of their wedding. But, I talked to my awesome supervisors at Big Bend Hospice, and they let me postpone my arrival for pre-internship particulars by a couple days. So, we were able to make it to the wedding in the Logan Temple!

I was so happy, I cried. Course, I always cry at weddings. Michael has to hand me his handkerchief every. single. time. He thinks it's kinda funny and cute. 

 But, you know what, I think that this couple is kinda funny and cute. It makes me so happy that Camille found such a perfect match for herself. Justin is as good as they come. A total goofball, just like Camille, and one of the sweetest guys I've ever met. Score, Camille, score. 

 The duo. We've been best buds ever since my first semester at USU in 2006. I think we bonded over crazy opera rehearsals and lack of sleep. I can't imagine not ever having her as a friend in my life. I've always been so lucky to find best friends wherever I go, and Camille is 1 of the 3 who holds that title in my book. I love her dearly, and miss her so!

We wrote throughout her entire mission, and are planning on starting that tradition again, for old times sake. Although, we will be able to talk on the phone now, which is an added bonus. That'll help to keep me sane!

Yep. We're cool. Look at that silliness. By the way, isn't she just a gorgeous bride?

Congratulations to the new Justin and Camille Berry!

Pre-Birthday Weekend

 A couple weekends back, before Michael and I moved to Tallahassee, we went down to Midway, to have a little stay in our friend Hunter's parent's vacation home there. It was a little pre-birthday celebration for me with friends, seeing as we were going to be moving away right before the actual date of my birthday. 

The weekend consisted of hot tubbing, sweating out all our impurities in the sauna, eating unhealthy food (amazing cobbler by Hunter, by the way. I'm still dreaming about that.), watching the new X-Men First Class movie, and of course, a little XBOX dancing action. You can see the proof of our mad dancing skills in all these pictures. 

I think that Michael and Jen were the best dancers, by far.

 Look at that man of mine. He's so cute. 

Although, I gave them a run for their money...not. I've always said, I'm a really good "car dancer". Hips and above are great, but once you put my feet into it, that's a different story. ;)

Friday, October 14, 2011

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

 I got a serious craving for chocolate last night. This craving may or may not have come right after dinner when Michael's dad said, "You know, I haven't had any chocolate all day long!" What can I say, I'm gullible. And a sucker for any excuse to bake. 

This may be a shock, but I had never before baked pumpkin chocolate chip cookies until last night. This fall classic had just passed me by each year, and I knew that now was the opportunity to make it happen. So, I researched and found a good recipe I wanted to play with. Thanks to Two Peas and Their Pod, I found the inspiration I needed to bake something wonderful. I loved their recipe for the following reasons: the addition of oatmeal, applesauce, and whole wheat flour as ingredients. Just reading that made me feel healthier!

These came out wonderfully moist and the perfect fall cookie. A little spice, a little chocolate, and of course, that nostalgic presence of pumpkin. Yummy! A bit of advice I would give is to maybe add a bit more flour, just to ensure the cookies don't fall apart. They are really moist and dense, and could benefit from more flour to make them cake-ier (in my opinion)!

Oh, and I almost forgot...double or triple the recipe, because they will be gone before you know it. Happy Friday!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
(adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod)

4 tbs. unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup applesauce
3/4 cup pumpkin
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla

1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

1/4 tsp. allspice

3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/4 cup old-fashioned oatmeal
1 cup chocolate chips

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

  2. In the bowl of a standing mixer, cream the butter with the sugars until light and soft.

  3. Add in applesauce, pumpkin, egg, and vanilla and mix on medium low speed until all ingredients are mixed well.

  4. In a separate bowl, combine and whisk the salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and flours together.
  5. Add flour mixture to the wet ingredients, with the mixer on low. Mix until well incorporated.

  6. Add the oats and chocolate chips and mix just until incorporated.
  7. Scoop tablespoons of dough onto a greased baking sheet and bake the cookies for 12-13 minutes. Remove from oven, cool on a baking rack, and serve with a large glass of milk!
Makes about 3 dozen small cookies

Monday, October 10, 2011

Weekend in Logan

 Michael and I visited my mother in Logan this past weekend, considering we technically only have one more of those before we move away to Tallahassee. Michael spent Saturday morning down in Salt Lake working with his dad on the old Jeep. My mother drove down and picked me up early in the morning, then we headed back up to Logan. We, of course, stopped at Target in Centerville, because my mother LOVES Target. I still can't believe there isn't one in Logan yet. That town NEEDS a Target.

Anyway, she was in search of old Halloween DVDs, which we didn't find. So, we made it back to Logan in time to visit the Gardener's Market. It was cold, damp, and definitely felt like fall. Sadly, the less than perfect weather made many of the booths scarce. But the produce stands were abundant. Look at all the beauty.

  After the Gardener's Market, my mom and I perused some local shops for holiday decor, then went shopping for my birthday! Kohl's had its Power Hours, and so we took advantage and my mother bought me a LOT of jewelry for a really good price. I'm trying to get back into accessorizing. I've never been really big on it, because I always feel like I'd rather buy a shirt than a necklace or earrings for the same price. But we got super lucky and found some really cute stuff.

Michael eventually came up to Logan and made it to my mom 's house where we had Homemade Vegetable Beef Soup along with a yummy loaf of Asiago Bread we purchased at the Gardener's Market, watched her old Halloween videos (yes, the were actually VHS), decorated around the house, and snuggled Jack (the coolest dachshund in the world).

It was really nice to just relax on Saturday after a really busy (and somewhat stressful) week. I even got to see my dear friend Natalie! She came over to watch movies, then we stayed up talking and visiting until about 1:30 a.m. Boy, was I tired for 9:00 p.m. church the next morning!

Church in my mother's ward was nice. She is in the Logan 1st Ward, which just celebrated its 150 year anniversary. The chapel itself was beautiful with old pipes, pews, and sacrament trays that you deposit the used cups in little tube thingy-s on top. It was cool!

After a nice nap after church, we headed back to Salt Lake, happy from our nice relaxing weekend. It was good to just do some fun things that we wanted to do, and to get a little bit more in the holiday spirit. This is definitely my favorite time of year!

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Cookies & Cream Ice Cream Cake

We went up to Midway for our friend Hunter's birthday party this past weekend. His family owns a vacation home there and about 10 of us piled into the place for some fun and celebrations! We didn't really have to "pile" into the place, because it's 3 stories and has lots of room for any gathering anyone would ever want to have there. The place has 7 bathrooms, steam showers, a sauna, hot tub, theatre room, and many other fun and wonderful catch my drift?

Back to the birthday part. Hunter was turning another year older and so we had a good time celebrating with him. Michael and I bought blow dart guns at Dollar Tree and a bunch of us ran around the house, trying to hit each other with the darts. We also brought a package of balloons of varying shapes and sizes, which were all around the kitchen and main living room floor. Bryant made a game of popping a balloon, then laughing at my frightened reactions. every. time. I can't help it that loud noises freak me out! I literally jump a few inches in the air when balloons pop. Glad I could provide such thrilling entertainment!

Hunter really wanted a Cookies & Cream Ice Cream Cake for his birthday, which I offered to take care of. Now, I know that I could've just gone to Coldstone or some other ice cream shop to purchase one, but I liked the challenge of making my own. And I also liked the fact that I could make one at a fraction of the price it would cost me to buy one already made. So that's exactly what I did. I happened upon this recipe for a Cookies and Cream Cake and instantly knew it would be my cake portion for the recipe. 

 Most cookies and cream ice cream cakes use just layers of plain chocolate cake, then mix cookies and cream ice cream in between. But I wanted this to be ALL cookies and cream. And the recipe was so simple, using a cake mix as the base, that I had full confidence it would turn out well. And it did!

It may look a little messy and not perfectly together, but I think that made it all the more fun. It sure tasted good, I'll tell you that. And this recipe made A LOT! We're still eating leftovers. Oh, and if you can tell by the photos, I didn't use brand name Oreos in this recipe. Instead, I found the Market Pantry brand from Target to work just as well in the recipe, and the package was half the price. Taking a bite out of the individual cookies definitely tastes different than Oreos, but mixed into a cake and icing, you can't even tell the difference. So, save yourself the extra dough and buy the cheap brand.

Doesn't that just look amazing? I'd be fibbing if I didn't admit how proud I am of myself for dreaming and creating something that turned out so well. The whole group kept saying, "This is so good!", "Wow, Becca!", and other positive compliments in between mouthfuls of the rich cookies and cream-ness. 

So you can get on with your life and be one step closer to making this cake, I will share the recipe with you now. Happy Wednesday and enjoy!

Cookies & Cream Ice Cream Cake
(adapted from The Cake Mix Doctor)
Cake Ingredients:
18 chocolate sandwich cookies or Oreos
Vegetable shortening and Flour, for cake pans
1 package white cake mix (18.25 ounces)
1 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs

  1. Place 18 chocolate sandwich cookies, in a food processor and process until you have crumbs (still chunky, not completely pulverized). You should have about 2 1/4 cup crumbs.
  2. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees Farenheit.
  3. Generously grease two 9-inch round cake pans with solid vegetable shortening, then dust with flour. Shake out the excess flour. Set the pans aside.
  4. Place the cake mix, water, oil and eggs in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then increase the mixer speed to medium and beat 2 minutes more, scraping down the sides again if needed. The batter should be well combined.
  5. Fold in the cookie crumbs until well distributed. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans and place them in the oven side by side.
  6. Bake the cakes until they spring back when lightly pressed with your finger or when a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, 28 to 32 minutes. Remove the pans from the oven and place them on wire racks to cool for 10 minutes.
  7. Run a dinner knife around the edge of each layer and invert each onto a rack, then invert again onto another rack so that the cakes are right side up. Allow to cool completely, 30 minutes more.
  8. Double wrap each cake separately in cellophane and store in the fridge or freezer overnight, to solidify.
Cookies & Cream Whipped Cream Frosting Ingredients:
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tbsp. vanilla
10 chocolate sandwich cookies or Oreos

  1. Chill your mixer bowl and beaters in the freezer while preparing all the ingredients. 
  2. Pour the whipping cream into the bowl and beat on high until it forms soft peaks, about 2 minutes. Add the vanilla and powdered sugar and beat until it forms stiff peaks, about 1 1/2 minutes more. 
  3. Crush sandwich cookies into small chunks and fold into whipping cream. Set aside. 
Cake Assembly:
  1. Remove cakes from fridge or freezer (if stored in freezer, allow to thaw slightly at room temperature). With a large serrated bread knife, slice the cakes in half horizontally, so as to make 4 separate layers. 
  2. Place the first layer on a serving platter and top with a layer of cookies and cream ice cream that has been thawed slightly, so it is easily spreadable. Top with another layer of cake, then ice cream, until you have 4 layers of cake and 3 of ice cream sandwiched in between.
  3. If the ice cream is really starting to melt outside of the layers, cover the cake with cellophane and pop in the freezer for about 10 minutes, for it to solidify. 
  4. Frost the cake with the Cookies and Cream Whipped Cream Frosting and leftover chocolate sandwich cookies. If desired, serve immediately, or replace in freezer in order for frosting to solidify. 
  5. Cut into wedges and serve with a large glass of milk!