Is it too late for an Easter post?

According to my priest it’s not.

Easter marks the beginning of a season of celebration and new beginnings so technically I’m not late in delivering this Easter cupcake recipe to you.

Technically, I’m right on time!

And I’m not just emphasizing my punctuality because my husband told me mass started at 8:30 last Sunday when it really started at 8:45 to get me out the door in time.

I’d like the record to show that I made it to church on time for many years before I met him.

Thanks, mom! 

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Planned out or last-minute, these cupcakes are great for any spring celebration. I’m actually not a big fan of coconut, but I’m a sucker for a cute bird’s nest and toasted coconut makes the cutest bird’s nests so coconut it is. (note: If you are a coconut lover, you can add coconut flavoring to the icing and/or shredded coconut to the batter)

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Banana Carrot Cupcakes (adapted from How Sweet Eats)

  • 2 C flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 C melted butter (substitute coconut oil)
  • 1 C sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 ripe bananas
  • 2 C grated carrots
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 C buttermilk

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Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cupcake tin with liners.

Toast coconut in a thin layer (I use a silpat) until just slightly browned. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk flour, salt, baking soda and cinnamon together. Set aside.

With an electric mixer, blend sugar and butter. Add eggs. Add bananas, carrots and vanilla until well combined.

Add half of dry ingredients and mix together (being careful not to overmix). Add buttermilk and remaining dry ingredients.

Using a 1/4 cup scoop, fill cupcake liners until they are 3/4 way full.

(Or, if you’re like me, accidentally forget the buttermilk and remember after you’ve already filled your cupcake liners, scrape everything back in the bowl and add buttermilk)

Bake 16-18 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Let cupcakes cool completely.

Cream Cheese Frosting

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    1 1/2 blocks of cold cream cheese

  • Blue Gel Food coloring
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Toasted unsweetened flaked coconut
  • Cadbury mini eggs

In a stand mixer, whip cream cheese until fluffy. Gradually add powdered sugar. Add in vanilla extract and food coloring until you get a robin’s egg blue (or until your sister tells you it looks unappetizingly gray).

Ice cupcakes and top with coconut and cadbury mini eggs.

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Oh and I almost forgot to mention the best part, these cupcakes are basically more fruit and veggies than they are dessert so you can eat them without any guilt whatsoever.

 

Hello Spring. 

So how do you survive your first winter back in the Midwest after living in Florida?christmas in florida, holidays, florida,
Don’t blog about it and it’s like it didn’t even happen.

Not sure whether there is a joke or an excuse in there, but I needed a transition so take it for what it is.

Truth is our first winter back has been pretty mild. And only in terms of temperature.

But if you’re gauging it on social engagements and work schedules, it’s been red hot. Most likely from a combination of living closer to friends and family, low housing inventory and increased demand for local athletic training services.

I’ll save you the apologies for my absence in this particular corner of the internet and instead bring you up to speed with photo montages and random things our dog has eaten (and had surgically removed) since we last talked (spoiler alert: it’s my favorite cashmere scarf).

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Super Bowl Sunday

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Galentine’s Day Brunch

St. Louis Blues Hockey, Blues,

First St. Louis Blues Game

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Visiting Flowers at Whole Foods

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Saeger Gender Reveal Tassel Garland

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A Valentine’s M&M cookie recipe not worth sharing

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Watching my favorite show on T.V.

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Showing off my new belly scar

And since I’ve had this draft for several weeks now, it seems like as good a time as any to do a St. Patrick’s Day recap of recipes I used to make when I was fun.

Christmas Cookies: New Additions to the Family

If you follow me on social media and/or are a co-worker or family member (which let’s face it is about 99.9% of my readers), then you know I recently finished up a batch of sugar cookies.

I know what you’re thinking.

We get it Sarah. You bake. Blah. Blah. Blah. 

If that’s what you’re saying in your head right now, you’ll be happy to know I was ‘over them’ about a week ago. Truth is, if I don’t post about them today, we’ll be into the New Year and my sugar cookie-filled jolliness will be overwhelmed by resolutions and complaining about all the new people at the gym.

So in an effort to not repeat myself from year’s past posts about similarly shaped cookies, I’ll simply focus today’s post on the new additions to the Murphy Zalewski Christmas Cookie Family.

Fun fact: Did you know that Matt doesn’t even like these sugar cookies? Each year I end up making alternative batches of cookies and treats each year for him because he prefers a soft cookie to a hard one.

#peoplepleaser

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This year’s bunch featured some old favorites (see presents and trees) and a few newbies.

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It’s amazing what opportunities open up when you decide to add two new colors to the mix. The trees got trunks, Frosty got a hat and nose and Frosty’s faceless friend Gingerbread George made an appearance.

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In other news I finally discovered that the squiggly portion of the ornament was actually the metal part so they joined the fam again after a few years of being shunned for their awkwardness around the holiday.

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And let’s not forget everyone’s favorite Santa, who got a spray tan and his brows done for the 2016 holiday season.

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In an effort to always improve, I thought this year might be a good time to share how far we’ve come with this particular Christmas cookie family.

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And just like the holiday season, some years your tree is pretty and some years Santa threw back one too many before the annual family photo. The important thing is that you all spent time together.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m off to make a long and unrealistic list of fitness and organizational goals for the coming year. Here’s to giving it the old college try!

Happy New Year!

 

On Christmas cards 

Oh hey guys.

I’ve got good news and bad news for you. The bad news is that I have not prioritized spending quality time with my blog as much as I should have lately. Turns out when you move closer to friends and family you actually end up spending more time with friends and family. In person. Like real life BFF and heart eye emojis. I suppose that’s actually good news packaged as bad news but I’m an optimist so sue me.

The other good news is that my wordpress domain automatically renewed itself so at least one half of this relationship is committed for another year.

You may be wondering, so Sarah what’s it like to have all these words and random musings in your head but not making enough time to share them with the blogosphere regularly?

You’ll have to ask Matt but I’d imagine it’s equivalent to the reaction you’d get by bringing your husband with you to Target two weeks before Christmas. #somanythresholdmusthaves #somanypeopleintheaisle

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Speaking of husbands, it’s time for double Jeopardy.

I’ll take things husbands say each year when it comes time to order Christmas cards for 800, Alex.

People actually pay professional photographers to take Christmas card photos? Seriously? Well, we will not be those people.

Can’t we just buy some with snowmen or holly on them and be done with it? 

They cost how much? 

We might as well send Valentine’s Day cards at this point 

Next category is things you hear when your sister asks you to bring home your camera for the weekend to ‘get a few photos’ of she and the boys for Christmas cards and you have approximately 35 minutes of daylight and 10-12 minutes of patience from 3/4 of your subjects.

I’m cold.

I’m cold.

I’m cold. 

Think we got any good ones? 

Ok let’s go I’m cold. 

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By the power of the Christmas spirit we survived another Christmas card season. Even with Jake in tow.

 

Bad karma and good chocolate

Have you ever had one of those days where you knew the whole day was going to be off before you even left the house?

You know the kind. You’re just leisurely walking the dog (emphasis on the leisurely because your dog suddenly walks like a 90-year old who needs a hip replacement) when your phone jumps out of your pocket and shatters on the wet cement.

This weather has us all like…

A post shared by Sarah Zalewski (@slmurphy) on

There’s something off in the universe, you think.

And how could you not wonder. Just a few hours prior the Chicago Cubs won the World Series. No seriously. They did. And they deserved it. Life will never be the same.

Do you ever think door frames and counter corners are out to get you?

Me neither.

Pop quiz.

Which of these items are essential for a successful post-work gym session?

A. Hair tie

B. Workout underwear

C. TWO socks

D. All of the above

Any guess what all these situations have in common? They require you to adapt. To shift. To consider wearing your glasses more often and to put out as much good karma as you can by texting your Cubs fan friends and family and telling them how happy you are for them.

Chocolate helps too. So here is a chocolate recipe I planned to post separately, but will now be forever linked to a really random few paragraphs about a string of bad luck and the team that finally broke the curse.

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Spooky Spiderweb Trifle 

  • 1 package instant chocolate pudding
  • 3 C Milk (I used unsweetened vanilla almond milk)
  • Oreos (I used Halloween Oreos)
  • Brownies
  • Chocolate syrup
  • Cool Whip

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In a large bowl, mix cold water (or milk) into chocolate pudding mix. Refrigerate for 10 minutes.

Chop brownies and Oreo cookies.

Fold half of Cool Whip into pudding mix.

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Beginning with brownies, layer brownies, pudding mix, chopped Oreos in a trifle dish. Repeat until you run out of ingredients or reach the top.

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Add remaining Cool Whip to top. Drizzle chocolate syrup in a spiral. Using a toothpick, pull toothpick from center out to edge as if you are slicing a pie or a pizza.

Bonus points if you have a fake spider to add in the center. I didn’t so my spider is hiding under the whip cream and all you can see are her creepy eyes.

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All the fall things

I’ve been meaning to write this post for several weeks now but the truth is I’ve been too busy taking 1,000 photos of trees with changing leaves to get around to it.

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That’s what fall will do to you after a few years away.

It’s science.

And judging from the physiological reaction I had the first time I smelled a bonfire this season, consider me well-conditioned.

I realize that not everyone shares my love for crunchy leaves under their feet and nearly every iteration baked goods containing pumpkin you can squeeze into a few short months, so I thought I’d share a few of ways you too can fall in love with fall this season.

1.Check out a local fall festival. We were fortunate to get into town just in time for the 30th annual St. Charles Oktoberfest, complete with commemorative beer steins, traditional dancers and some of the best latkes I’ve ever tasted.

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2. Go for a brisk fall run. Or in my case, train for half of a half marathon while living in Florida, get one magical long run in where it was 60 degrees and then try not to melt on race day when temps reached the mid-80s. (coming soon: a fall running tour of the katy trail)

katy_arch3. Get into the Halloween spirit. (coming soon: oreo mummy recap. Pumpkin muffin recipe can be found here.) oreo_pumpkin

4. Buy a pumpkin. Or two. Or Seven.

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5. Make a big batch of chili. And eat it as you begrudgingly delete all of the leaf and tree photos on your phone. (solid vegetarian chili recipe here.)

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Bonus points if you have a dog that just so happens to perfectly match all things fall and loves the weather so much he happily sits on the front porch to feed your fall habit.

finn_fall

Happy fall y’all!

Relocation: One Penske Truck at a Time

Oh hey guys. Sarah here. Sorry it’s been a while, but things have been pretty crazy with the move back to the Midwest. If you’re thinking to yourself, how crazy can it be just loading your life into a truck and driving it 16 hours? Well, if you want to go ahead and grab yourself a 5 hour energy and a Red Bull, I’ll tell you. And don’t skimp on the good stuff. No amount of coffee will be enough for this ride.

Let’s start back at the end of August. The sun was shining and a yet-to-be named yet storm system was gaining strength out in the Gulf just in time for us to pick up our first Penske truck from the local dealer in Sarasota.

And then, as if Sarasota was showing it’s emotion at our leaving, the rain started to fall. Hard.

As Matt waited for the truck to arrive in the rain, I headed back towards the house to meet the movers, pausing briefly as I drove through an already flooded road just outside the Penske lot.

Timestamp: 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday, August 31, 2016.

Per the advice of Brock at the Sarasota Penkse (let’s go ahead and name each one by location for future clarification purposes), we waited to pick up the car hauler until after the truck was loaded. That meant 3-4 more hours of rain before we had to drive a moving truck and a CR-V back through the flooded road, which was now a full-on river.

Should we have seen the signs we were set for an adventure when we were blocked by floodwaters at the only road that would lead us to Penske?

Or perhaps when they told us the trailer we rented wouldn’t fit on a 22-foot truck and we’d need to swap it out for a different one before we even left? Perhaps. But we documented our exit from the Sarasota Penkse with a hopeful smile as the weather guy reported that I-9 was now a Tropical Storm projected to make landfall as Hurricane Hermine near the panhandle of Florida by Thursday.

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We’ll be on our way to Tennessee by that time, we optimistically thought. 

We were just north of Ocala when this happened.
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And if you’re asking yourself, well how far did you make it before the first truck broke down?

This far.

sarasota_ocala

A mere two hours in the rain to a truck stop just north of Ocala.

And unfortunately that’s as far as we’d make it for a few hours. Lisa’s husband, or brother or ex-husband informed us that we were not going to make it far with this particular sounds like its going to die, floor boards are melting my feet, jerking, shaking, AC and radio shorting out truck that is currently packed to the very edge with all of our belongings.

Now the good news is we were just 10 miles away from the Ocala Penske where they informed us that they had another truck of the same size waiting for us. We could spend the night in Ocala or they could call another set of movers to come over that night and ‘swap the load.’ We opted for the latter to try stay ahead of the storm, still hoping to make our reservation in Atlanta that evening.

Here’s a snapchat snapshot of what followed:

So they swapped the load and we set off for Atlanta Wednesday night but only made it as far as Valdosta to sleep for the night. The truck seemed better but as we set out Thursday morning, we ran into similar problems around Macon. After a brief stop at the Macon Penske dealership we were told nothing was wrong with Truck #2 and on we went.

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By this point I was googling Penske dealers out ahead of our drive and basically calling them to tell them we were coming. Just before the mountains on Thursday afternoon, we made a call into the Dalton, GA Penske and told them we were bringing our second truck in for service as there was no way we were going to make it through the mountains with it.

I’ll never forget the look on the lead mechanics face when he came into the break room and gave us the news as if we were getting a terminal diagnosis from a physician.

Unfortunately we’ve seen this issue on a lot of these trucks before guys and it’s not good. It looks like this truck was just serviced for the same issue a few months ago and they didn’t fix it. It’s not good guys. It’s at least a 4-day job. But you came to the right place. We are the place all of the other dealers bring their trucks because our technicians are diamond certified. 

And then he said the words that became oh-so-familiar to us so quickly.

Guys, we’re going to have to swap the load. 

Why don’t you go enjoy a nice dinner on us while we see about getting the movers here. 

And then he said the words that would save us for the rest of the trip.

We’re not going to give you another 22-foot truck. We’re going to tow a new 26-foot truck down from Chatanooga. It has air brakes and less than 17,000 miles on it and should be a more comfortable ride for the remainder of your trip. 

So we went and enjoyed a nice dinner at Chilis and tried to find humor in the last two day’s events.

Timestamp: 9:00 p.m., Thursday, September 1, 2016

Timestamp: 8:00 a.m., Friday, September 2, 2016

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Our new truck was amazing and we finally made it to St. Louis Friday evening, just a few days later (and a few more swapped loads) than we originally planned.

I’ll be back for part two where we unpacked boxes and found out how much of our stuff broke in the aforementioned load swapping.

And if you are wondering whether we would ever use Penske again after three trucks and as many days of moving, the answer is maybe. I don’t plan on ever moving ourselves again so that shouldn’t be a problem, but I will say their roadside and customer service made up for the crappy line of 22-foot trucks they acquired.

Until next time!