Monday, October 24, 2011

Turning 25

(Don't mind the two types of maroon and orange.
It clashed together but looked good separately.)

It's hard, you know, to go to college 7 hours away from friends and family. When I was a freshman, my early birthday meant I had few close friends and would probably be a little lonely. Luckily, I had one friend go to dinner with me - in the dining hall. Then my mom called my cousin and asked him to have a party for me. It was a wonderful birthday with him, his roommates and their friends. Ah, 19.

Then I turned 20 and being the lover of a good time, I invited 50 people over to our huge apartment. I did all the shopping, all the cooking, all the mixing. It was a great time, but terribly expensive and quite tiring.

When I turned 21, none of my friends were 21. Even though there are tons of places in town where "unders" could go, nobody would come down town with me. All I wanted was to go buy one beer in a bar. That didn't happen and I actually didn't get to celebrate my birthday at all.

22, 23, 24 - spent with L. We weren't dating yet when I turned 22, but he was there. 23 and 24 he made dinner and cake and we stayed in. They were lovely evenings, don't get me wrong. I do love to stay in.

This year, I decided turning 25 was the time when I would really celebrate myself. I deserved a vacation, a party, a re-dedication to things I love. So my mom, my godmother, little brother, three friends from high school and two friends from college all went to Massanutten resort in McGaheysville, VA. It was such an awesome time!

I took off Friday and met my mom and godmother at the resort around 12:30. Little brother came around 4. We all hung out, caught up, played with my new KINDLE (gift from L), and baked. Yes, I made some of my own birthday cake but it truly was one of the things I wanted to do on my birthday. Plus my mom made a second cake, so that one counts. My cousin and his wife don't live too far from the resort so they joined us for dinner. Other than hitting a deer in their Tahoe (which was fine, as were we) it was an awesome night. Buffet dinner, casting zings in each others' directions. Great family love.

Two friends arrived Friday night. Of course we stayed up late talking and catching up. Oh and learning that there are 58 different TYPES of bones in the human body. We played with 4S' Siri. We ate.

Saturday another friend arrived in the morning. We all played mini-golf in the afternoon. I came in 4th out of 7, but I was also the only person to get a hole-in-one! Woo-hoo! The vista from the mini-golf course was just amazing! Peak of fall colors, which we already know I love, and just so high up.

As if mini-golfing and hanging out wasn't enough, I got to cross something off my bucket list. WE WENT ZIP-LINING! I have always wanted to go and the resort offered it at a reasonable price so we went. It was so fun - four high-ropes elements and four zip lines: small practice one, one we had to go off backwards, one we sat down to get off the platform and the last we could run and jump off of. It was so much fun and I would definitely do it again. The guides were funny and reminded T and I of river guides - which it turned out one of them was. We had a really great time.
Although I haven't uploaded it, here's a VIDEO of our last zip line.

So that took a lot out of us, but it was so worth it. We relaxed a while at home and got ready for karaoke dinner! Little Brother and I sang "You're So Vain" and "Friends in Low Places" while I tried to eat buffalo chicken on a kaiser roll. Unfortunately there was simply not enough roll for the chicken so I only finished about half of it. It was still really good. The final two friends came that night after the Tech game. We stayed up late talking, laughing, dancing.

Late nights and early mornings. It was an amazing birthday weekend and I hope that leads into a wonderful year. Here's to the nights we felt alive.

A Pumpkin Project - Part 2

I know I left you with a cliff hanger about those pumpkin Cheerios and let me tell you - you have to try it!! I used the same pumpkin milk from the Pumpkin Spice Coffee recipe, still without the sugar, and uses that as my milk poured over plain Cheerios. It just made such a wonderful fall-tasting breakfast and I really enjoyed it.

Then today I made mashed sweet potato for the first time. I skinned it and boiled it, added salt, pepper, butter and milk, and mashed it like I would regular potatoes. I like lumpy potatoes so I didn't mash very long. It was really, really good. BUT THEN I MADE IT BETTER! I added some canned pumpkin puree to the mashed sweet and re-heated. I am sure the taste was just sweeter than it would be if you mashed pumpkin alone - but I've never done that and don't really plan on it. This was a great and EASY way to incorporate pumpkin into dinner. Paired it with some grilled ham steak and green beans. If there is one thing that makes any dinner better it's being extremely colorful on my plate! Pink, green and orange? Well, they didn't really go well together but it was still fun looking.

Stay sweet

Sunday, October 16, 2011

A Pumpkin Project - Part 1

So I have had this can of pumpkin puree for a year - I bought a couple during last year's "pumpkin shortage." The only problem is, L isn't a big pumpkin fan so my thoughts of pumpkin pie and pumpkin roll just never came to be. Then I fell in love with pumpkin spice lattes. I've decided this is my year to discover new pumpkin recipes - cookies, lattes, breads - anything and everything.

Attempt 1:
Pumpkin Spice Latte which became Pumpkin Spice Coffee (what really makes something a latte, anyway?)

1 tbs pumpkin puree
1 cup milk (I used 1%, whole would make it thicker and, if I had it, I would try almond or something similar)
1/2 tbs vanilla extract (I used imitation because I need to finish it so I can open my pure but pure would be better)
1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 cup strong coffee (I used half-caff)
1 tbs half and half
sugar to taste, whipped cream for the top and a sprinkle of nutmeg for aesthetics

This is a combo-recipe of a few I found. Except it's late-ish, I've worked all day and have tests to grade so lets say I made a lazy version of my own recipe.

Mix together pumpkin, milk, vanilla, and spice. I don't have a milk frother and didn't feel like getting out my mixer and whisk, so I used a fork to make it "frothy." Didn't really work. Anyway, heat it up in the microwave about 2 minutes.

Add half the new "pumpkin milk" to the coffee. Stir in the half and half. Put the rest of the milk in the fridge for tomorrow. Add sugar - I forgot this part and I'm only in the living room but I like what I have so I'm not going into the kitchen for sugar. I also don't have any whipped cream - which is clearly optional anyway. I couldn't find the nutmeg. Remember, I said I'm tired.

So what I've ended with is a delicious pumpkin spice coffee. Love it, really. So now I need to decide what to do with the rest of the pumpkin milk. Of course, I could make more pumpkin coffee in the morning. Or - I am thinking of using it in a bowl of plain Cheerios - delicious or disastrous? I'll let you know ;)

Love you Pumpkin ;)