snow day!

Happy snow day!

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We had a fun day full of ice, snow and studying and working from home.

Here was our adventure walk in pictures!

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snow 10And the question of the day: do you want to build a snowman?!  Well, we really have mostly ice, so we won’t be joining you.  Hope you had a great day, whatever your weather!

 

sunday sweets: sugar cookies

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Did you have a wonderful Valentine’s Day filled with flowers, love and sweets?

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Growing up, my mom, my sister and I went to a Valentine’s party each year with the other girls and moms in our play group.  We all dressed up in our pink and red dresses, drank tea and ate finger sandwiches and impeccably decorated sugar cookies.  Ms. Alice, the mother who hosted the party every year, is famous for her delicious sugar cookies.  She makes them for every gathering, has the perfect cookie cutter for every occasion, decorates each one uniquely and beautifully with different icing colors, designs and sprinkles.  Everyone makes a beeline for her cookies at get-togethers.

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These cookies are soft and chewy and not oversweet-which means you can add all of the icing and sprinkles your heart desires : )

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Who doesn’t love cute sprinkles?  Copious amounts are acceptable and expected.

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Each time we have these, my dad exclaims that they are “some damn fine sugar cookies,” so we now call them Alice’s Damn Fine Sugar Cookies.  Make these cookies, extend your valentine’s day celebration and enjoy!

Alice’s Damn Fine Sugar Cookies

Ingredients
3 ¾ cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 ½ cup sugar
2 eggs
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 cup butter
2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and salt.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter, sugar and vanilla. Add the eggs to the butter mixture, one at a time. With the mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients.

Pat your hands, a rolling pin and a flat surface with flour and roll the dough until it is about ¼-inch thick. Using your cookie cutters of choice cut out the dough and transfer the shapes onto the parchment covered cookie sheet.

Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until cooked but not yet golden around the edges. If the edges begin to brown your cookies will be crisper rather than chewy and soft. Place the cookies on a wire rack and let cool completely.

Royal Icing

Ingredients
4 cups confectioner’s sugar
3 egg whites or 2 tablespoons meringue powder
Water for thinning
Food coloring or gel colors*

Combine the confectioner’s sugar and egg whites (or meringue powder) in the bowl of an electric mixer until the ingredients have combined. Mix for about 5 more minutes. If your icing is too thick to pipe add a few teaspoons of water at a time to the mixer. If you add too much water, never fear! Just add a bit more confectioner’s sugar.

Once your icing is the appropriate consistency (a little runny but still stiff enough to control), mix in food coloring or gel colors.

To ice the cookies, transfer your icing to a pastry bag fit with an icing tip. This is easier to do if you place the open pastry bag upright, tip down in a cup. Make sure all icing not in use is always covered so it does not start to harden.

Pipe your cookies with all the fun designs your heart desires. If you are going to use sprinkles, make sure you pour them on the cookie while the icing is still wet. Let the cookies dry, uncovered, for 6-8 hours, or overnight.

*Gel colors are more concentrated and require less color. They can be found at Michaels or other arts, crafts and baking stores as well as online.

link love

Feb 13 Link LoveThis picture is of a bird’s nest Will and I found while on a walk in the beautiful weather this past Sunday.  RIP 60 degree Sunday, welcome 25 degree Sunday.  At least we aren’t in Boston.

Here’s a look into what I’ve been reading this week:

These heart-shaped tea bags are the cutest, and just in time for Valentine’s Day : )

I’ve never been to New Orleans, but this seems like the right time of year to go.  King cakes for everyone! One shop makes king cakes filled with salted caramel, roasted pecans, mascarpone cheese and caramello, covered in a praline glaze.  It’s things like this that make me rethink why I haven’t visited.

When you go over to a friend’s house, are you ever the teensiest bit curious about what is in their fridge and their pantry?  I always think seeing someone else’s pantry is like transporting to a secret world.  Are they a cereal, oatmeal or pop tarts kind of person?  Are they a spaghetti hoarder or do they stock up on chocolate chips like they are going out of style (guilty on that last one)?  I just feel like there is so much you can learn about someone from their pantry!  Welllll, lucky for us nosy folks, Grub Street Diet, New York Magazine’s column about what’s eating what, gives us some insight.  One of my favorite food bloggers, Joy the Baker, is featured today, professing her love for Donuts and Girl Scout Cookies.  Be nosy with me, I dare you : )

This week is New York Fashion Week.  In its honor, this article raises an interesting point about the racial divide in the fashion industry.

This is an awesome project.  What would you do before you die?

This is a link I do not love, but I do think that it is important to disseminate it.  The crime that occurred in our community this week makes me sick.  Being around Chapel Hill, it is easy for us to hear the story through local news, but seeing the story and the hashtags (#ChapelHillShooting, #MuslimLivesMatter) spread throughout the world has been encouraging and hopeful for the future of equality.  Our hearts go out to those in our community who lost these three amazing young people this week.

To end on a better note, happy Friday and happy (almost) Valentine’s Day!  What are you doing for your sweetheart tomorrow?

Over and out.

 

 

snow memories

A year ago this week, a winter storm hit the South.  North Carolina has a tendency to shut down at the mere mention of a flurry in the forecast, but this was a real snow-and-ice, gridlock inducing storm that was particularly bad for two reasons: the ferocious speed at which it came and the melting and refreezing of the snow, which subsequently created lots of ice on the roads.  It hit at what I thought was a very inconvenient time (funny how snow seems to do that), but turned out to be a great memory.

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February 12th was the long awaited UNC-Duke basketball game in Chapel Hill.  As seniors, all of my friends and I were ecstatic and ready to go see a Tar Heel victory.

That morning I was working in Durham at the Children’s Hospital Radiothon when we saw the first flurries out the window around noon.  As the snow fell rapidly, a quick decision ended the call-in fundraiser early and we scrambled to contact families scheduled to come in later in the day while also packing up all of our supplies so everyone could head home.  By the time I got to my car it had been snowing for 2 hours and most people were already on the road.  Massive gridlock allowed me to go all of 2 blocks in an hour.  Luckily, Will only lived a few blocks away and walked to my car to help navigate our way to a parking deck where we left the car and walked back to his apartment.  At that point I was bummed that I probably wouldn’t make it to the game, but hopeful that the Duke basketball team wouldn’t be able to make it either.

Around 6pm, the rivalry basketball game was postponed-something that has never happened in its 236-game history.  I was snowed in with Will and his friends for three days with the Winter Olympics, no class and the two outfits I had from Radiothon.  It was delightful.  We baked cookies, watched all of the figure skating, luge and ski competitions you would ever want to see and found a yard sign to turn into our own sled (it worked surprisingly well!).

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I also built a (mini) snowman : )

If last year’s weather was any indication of what this year will be like, bring it on-our sledding hills are ready.

sunday sweets: brownies

I got a valentine in the mail from my grandmother yesterday complete with chocolate and a poem.  The poem was:  Roses are red, chocolate is edible, I hope your Heart’s Day is really incredible.  : )

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In honor of the upcoming holiday, here is a nice bit of chocolatey goodness for your valentine.  These brownies are rich, dense and chewy (none of that cakey business).  I don’t like it when people say “these are the best ___ ever,” but these truly are the best brownies I have ever made.  You know brownies are going to be good when you want to eat the chocolate studded batter by the spoonful (is that just me?).

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You should get out your dark chocolate and your baking mits and bake up this chocolatey goodness for your valentine this week.  If they weren’t your valentine before they eat these, they sure will be after.

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Dark Chocolate Chunk Brownies

Ingredients
1 cup all purpose flour
2/3 cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder
½ teaspoon salt
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
½ pound (2 sticks) butter, melted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon strongly brewed coffee
1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
1 cup (6 oz) dark or bittersweet chocolate chips*

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Lightly spray a 9×13-inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.

Stir the flour, cocoa powder and salt in a bowl. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the eggs, sugar, butter, coffee and vanilla until well blended.

Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix just until all the dry ingredients are moist and blended. Do not over mix.

Fold in the walnuts and chocolate chips.

Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until the brownies are firm to the touch. They will be slightly soft in the center when tested with a toothpick. Remove from the oven and cool 30 to 40 minutes before cutting (if you have the self-control for that…)

*you can use semisweet or a mixture of semisweet and bittersweet chocolate chips if you prefer.

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link love

valentines 6Who doesn’t love a good pink and red sprinkled heart-shaped doughnut?  In the battle of cute foods, it wins.

Here are some corners of the internet I have loved this week:

An “immersive” art exhibit opened in London.  It was a ball pit for adults.  You know, like the ones you played in while your mom kept your Happy Meal warm.  Sanitary? No.  Ballin’?  Yes.

These bacon cookies!  Okay, so they aren’t really bacon flavored cookies, just shortbread cookies that look like bacon.  But doesn’t that make them even cooler?

Advice from a 29 going on 30-year-old.  It is so easy to fall into the negatives of life.  Let’s focus on the positives, stop comparing, have some fun and be happy!

One reason it is hard to gauge emotion and sarcasm from a text: emojis and emoticons.   Now making their appearance in court as potential evidence.

Did you watch the Super Bowl commercials?  You go girls.

Words on why people (like me) work for nonprofits.

Happy Friday!

be my valentine?

Spoiler alert: I love making valentines.

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Homemade valentines are the best.  In elementary school, when everyone brought folded rectangular cartoon, princess and superhero valentines for each classmate, I always thought it was so fun to decorate my “mailbox.”  Sometimes it was too much work to make homemade valentines for 20 other kids, but decorating the mailbox was where we could spread our creative wings.

Fast-forward to January 29th of my senior year of high school.  It was a dreary Friday and with the weather forecast promising flurries in the evening, our track coach cancelled after-school practice.  My best friends on the team and I all lived within a mile of each other, so we decided to run together on a trail that backed up to our neighborhood.  The leaves were slippery, the roots were hidden and the trail disappeared under the forestry during parts of our run.  I jumped over a root, landed on the slick leaves and slid, twisting my ankle along the way.  My friends helped me hobble (more like carried me) out of the woods and to the street where one mom came to pick us up and take me back to my house.  After a quick visit to urgent care and an x-ray, I came out with crutches and a diagnosed 3rd degree sprain.

As predicted, we did get snow and ice that night.  Awesome for everyone who wants to go sledding…not so awesome for the one with the newly sprained ankle.  While my siblings and friends spent the weekend outside in the snow, I was stuck inside.  However, we had lots and lots of red cardstock, white paper and floral magazines, which for me meant a weekend to hole up inside making homemade valentines for everyone.  I vividly remember these days of crafting and the red and pink gifts they produced, and every year around this time I get excited to make my own valentines again.

Here’s to a good start!

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super bowl sunday

2-2-2015

Last night Will and I got together with some friends to enjoy a potluck and watch the Super Bowl (or the commercials, depending the person).  We ate a delicious assortment of food, chatted with everyone, exclaimed over commercials and the game and watched Katy Perry before the disappointing Patriot victory.  I have any particular affinity toward the Seahawks, I just really don’t like the Patriots. This seemed to be the sentiment of everyone else watching with us.  Down with the Patriots!  But not this year, I guess.

Did you know that after Thanksgiving, Super Bowl Sunday is the second biggest day for food consumption in the US?  Yay for gluttony!  I was a little shocked, but the National Chicken Council (yes, someone has to represent the poor chickens that are now wingless) projected that 1.25 BILLION wings would be consumed during the Super Bowl this year.  The National Chicken Council also reported that if that many wing segments were laid end to end, they would stretch back and forth from CenturyLink Field in Seattle to Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts almost 28 times.  Gross.

Not only does wing consumption skyrocket on this special Sunday, pizza, chips, avocados, and beer are at the top of the list as well, with 100 million pounds of avocados, 11.2 million pounds of potato chips, 8.2 million pounds of tortilla chips, 11 million slices of pizza just delivered by Domino’s and over 300 million gallons of beer.  What, America?!

I do admit to consuming my fair share of tortilla chips and dip and my unfair share of brownies (hey, homemade are better for you than boxed, right?) but I never realized how much American’s consumed during this one football game.  After this eating frenzy, the real question is, how high were antacid sales today? Yum.

[to enhance your learning experience, you can learn more in these links]

 

link love

01-29-2015

Some links I’ve been loving lately:

This is such a relevant post in this 21st century world of constant communication and social media.  When should we actually watch what is going on versus looking at it through a lens?

Yes yes yes to this article about Everything for Everyone and doing away with gender in design.  I’m love glitter and everything pink (as evidenced by the hyperlink color), but really, why does pink mean feminine and blue symbolize masculinity?  Did you know that pink and blue weren’t used to signify gender until soon before World War I?  Let’s use all the colors!

I hope I can think of myself like this woman does when I get older.  Rock on.

These salted caramel brownies.  Um, yum.

Art amazes me sometimes.  How amazing are these paper designs?!

Speaking of art, this tree heart installation is awesome and perfect for Valentine’s Day!

Happy Friday!

mountain weekend

This past weekend Will and I went on a trip to the mountains.  We stayed with family on Saturday and enjoyed the wonderful company, views, food and weather while we were there.  Sunday morning we woke up to a few inches of snow and took it as a sign to take a slow morning.  After a bit of sunshine and some scrumptious pancakes, we headed out and spent the day in Asheville before driving back home.

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This was the view from the grocery store parking lot.  Seriously.

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The Basilica of Saint Lawrence loomed as we entered and exited Asheville.

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Asheville has a lot of art deco style architecture.  The flashy architecture and elaborate gold trims seem like such a contrast to the earthy, hippy style of the shops and people in the town.

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We stopped at Chocolate Fetish for a treat to eat on the car trip home and everything they had looked (and tasted) so delicious.  Along with a few truffles, we got a chili dark chocolate disc, which was just a huge flat circle of dark chocolate sprinkled with spicy chili pepper flavor.  It didn’t last long.  Next time I’m aiming for the sipping chocolate (aka melted chocolate that society has deemed acceptable to drink…yum).

 Thanks so much for hosting us, Riccardi family!  We had a great time!

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