Category Archives: birthday

Introducing Emma Irene

Hey guys! New Mom here. That still feels weird to write but it provides me with a new excuse for my delay in posting to the blog so I’m going to run with it.

Cool?

If you’ve been following along on social media, you’d be crazy not to know that Matt and I were greeted with an early Christmas present last month in the form of 6 pounds 5 ounces of sugar and spice and 20 inches of holy crap now we have a lot of pink clothing.

Emma Irene, birth story, newborn photos, baby girl, christmas eve, newborn, welcome emma irene
Definitely not a boy despite nearly every stranger and friend’s prediction, Emma Irene Zalewski joined us at 1:20 a.m. on Christmas Eve and our world has been brighter ever since.

Emma Irene, newborn, birth story, newborn photos, baby girl

Leave it to me to bring you on a roller coaster of a journey of life and death in just two blog posts, but if you’ve followed our story for any amount of time you’d know that timing isn’t really our thing so it’s no surprise that these two major familial changes happened just a few weeks from one another.

If I told you we were a few weeks away from buying a new house too would you believe me?

It’s tradition in our family to tell your birthday story each year somewhere between when the plates are cleared from dinner and the cake is served. You may think this sounds redundant and in some cases it might be, but in our family, each year provides a new opportunity for relatives to share their perspectives from the day and bicker over ‘alternative facts.’ And if you play your cards right, each year provides you the opportunity to fine tune your birth story for oversharing with friends and family in the future.

I’ve also heard its tradition in the blogosphere to share a child’s birth story as a token post shortly following their birth.

So in an effort to make sure Emma is equipped from the get-go on both fronts, I thought I’d share a few details from the day she decided she’d like to share a birthday weekend with Jesus.

#blessed.

Emma Irene, birth story, newborn photos, baby girl, christmas eve, newborn, welcome emma irene

The Friday before Christmas, Matt and I drove up to Springfield to celebrate the holiday with the Murphy/Bosch side. My mom was hosting her side of the family on Saturday and if all went well, we could stay and celebrate Christmas Eve with my family the next day. If we’re being technical, Springfield was just outside of the recommended distance for a 37 week pregnant lady but I was feeling good and had no indications that she would arrive early. In fact, I was fairly certain that she would be late, likely 8lbs and a boy so that just goes to show how good I am at this kind of thing.

Disclaimer: I’d like to clarify that my gut is typically right on nearly everything except apparently babies.

Emma Irene, birth story, newborn photos, baby girl, christmas eve, newborn, welcome emma irene

I woke up around 4:30 Saturday morning with what I thought was just a reaction to the rich food we had the night before. (Shout out American Harvest for your labor-inducing seasonal handmade short rib ravioli). At this stage in the game the wake up time was not unusual nor was the random discomfort, although I hadn’t had any contractions previously. It wasn’t until the 30 minute mark of consistent every 5 minute cramping that I determined they might be contractions so I did what any wife might do, I let my husband continue to sleep and downloaded a contraction timing app on my phone and laid there and tracked them for the next hour, absolutely sure with each one they would eventually stop and Christmas could go on and we wouldn’t have to drive back to St. Louis and we’d have two more weeks to finish work projects and we’d get the tax break next year and my child would never come early unless it’s just like his or her father so it’s for sure a boy if this is for real and so on.

holiday sugar cookies, iced sugar cookies, christmas cookies, baking, dessert, sweets

After about an hour of consistent every 5 minute contractions I finally woke Matt up and brought him up to speed. I would tell you we rushed out of the house to get back home but once again convinced labor would either 1) stop or 2) take a really long time so instead we had breakfast, called the doctor, helped my mom set up for the party and then finally came to terms with the fact the contractions weren’t stopping and packed up to head back mid morning.

For the sake of time, I’ll fast-forward through the labor portion of the day which consisted of little more than a drive back from Springfield, a car seat installation, some present wrapping and hospital bag packing with a side of 7-minute apart contractions before we decided to head to the hospital around 5:30 pm. once again convinced they would tell us to go back home and come back another time.

Here’s a tip for all you winter Moms-to-be. Go into labor on Christmas Eve Eve and you practically get the entire labor and delivery floor to yourself.

Emma Irene, birth story, newborn photos, baby girl, christmas eve, newborn, welcome emma irene

I don’t know why I was expecting more noise and urgency when we arrived at the hospital, but I was. Not so much for me but for another mom-to-be who I pictured rushing past me in a wheelchair while yelling at her husband just like the movies.

Instead we arrived on an eerily quiet labor and delivery floor to ‘susan’ who pressed the copy button slower than that frog lady from sing.

In the assessment room we found out 1) my OB just so happened to be the on call for the holiday weekend so he would come in and say hello and then 2) how loudly he could laugh when I asked if we were going back home after he checked me.

Instead he told us we’d likely have a baby somewhere between midnight and 3 am on Christmas Eve because we were already halfway there.

Um. Say what?

I would tell you the next few hours were spent killing time until I progressed enough to push but let’s revisit the fact this child clearly has her father’s sense of punctuality so we had just enough time to say hello and thanks for leaving your Christmas parties to come sit in a hospital waiting room for us to both sides of family before (as predicted) Emma Irene Zalewski arrived at 1:20 a.m. the morning of Christmas Eve.

Emma Irene, birth story, newborn photos, baby girl, christmas eve, newborn, welcome emma ireneEmma Irene, birth story, newborn photos, baby girl, christmas eve, newborn, welcome emma ireneEmma Irene, birth story, newborn photos, baby girl, christmas eve, newborn, welcome emma irene

Key accomplishments in her first few minutes of life:

1. A solid set of locks. Perhaps our first and only indication that she was a she was our OB noting that her hair was at least an inch long just prior to her arrival. #hairgoals

Emma Irene, birth story, newborn photos, baby girl, christmas eve, newborn, welcome emma irene

2. It’s a…girl! I had a feeling after point number one was established late in the delivery but we were both shocked and delighted at the surprise.

Emma Irene, birth story, newborn photos, baby girl, christmas eve, newborn, welcome emma irene

3. An escape attempt by Emma when the nurses tried to weigh her. All staff and parents quickly learned that this girl could not only roll over to her side from birth but she had the potential of pulling herself out of an incubator if not monitored closely.

Emma Irene, birth story, newborn photos, baby girl, christmas eve, newborn, welcome emma irene

Emma Irene, birth story, newborn photos, baby girl, christmas eve, newborn, welcome emma irene

4. Future middle hitter-sized hands and center midfielder-worthy feet, much to the joy of her sports-enthusiast parents.

Emma Irene, birth story, newborn photos, baby girl, christmas eve, newborn, welcome emma ireneEmma Irene, birth story, newborn photos, baby girl, christmas eve, newborn, welcome emma irene

5. A strong will and a surprisingly cute face. Disclaimer: I never doubted Matt and I would have cute kids but the baby portion of the journey I was a little doubtful on. Fortunately God gave her a deflated version of my cheeks and Matt’s hairline so she’s off to a good start.

Emma Irene, birth story, newborn photos, baby girl, christmas eve, newborn, welcome emma irene

Emma Irene, birth story, newborn photos, baby girl, christmas eve, newborn, welcome emma irene

Emma Irene, birth story, newborn photos, baby girl, christmas eve, newborn, welcome emma irene

Emma Irene, birth story, newborn photos, baby girl, christmas eve, newborn, welcome emma irene

It’s hard to believe we’ve had this sweet girl in our world for 4 weeks now. Provided I haven’t already overwhelmed all of you with Emma photo overload, we’re looking forward to sharing monthly updates with you as we continue on our new journey as a family of three.

Emma Irene, birth story, newborn photos, baby girl, christmas eve, newborn, welcome emma irene

We can’t thank everyone enough for the kind words, meals, flowers, gifts and did I mention pink clothes? It sure is easier bringing a new life into this crazy world knowing she’s immediately surrounded by so much love and support.

Emma Irene, birth story, newborn photos, baby girl, christmas eve, newborn, welcome emma irene

Emma Irene, birth story, newborn photos, baby girl, christmas eve, newborn, welcome emma irene

With love, Sarah, Matt and Emma Irene.

Confessions of a lonely extrovert

Editor’s note: I started writing this post two weeks ago when Matt was still in France. Then I picked it up and finished it a week ago after my family left town except I never hit publish. Please forgive me for the segmented nature of the following excerpts. Just further proof of my struggle as a halfway blogger.

They say introverts relish in quiet time alone. That spending too much time in a loud setting with lots of activity and people can cause them to shut down in an effort to conserve energy. That downtime is not a waste of time but rather necessary and satisfying.

I am not an introvert.

So you can imagine how an extremely extroverted person deals with their spouse being away on a work trip for 12 days?

  • First and foremost, she has a lot of conversations with her dog.
  • She also shops because well, shopping, but also the majority of retail workers are also extraverts and she finds comfort in random musings with strangers.
  • She spends equal amounts of time at the gym and fresh kitchen.
  • She bakes.

Yes, you read that correctly. She bakes. She finally throws some flour and sugar in a bowl a bakes a flippin’ cake. Remember when this blog actually had photos of cakes in regular rotation?

layer cake, easter cake, baking, pastel layer cake, rainbow layer cake, vanilla cake, dessert, Easter, birds nest cake topper, robin eggs, white layer cakeMuch to the delight of both my mother and mother-in-law, I did not spend Easter alone. Which is good, because it would have been incredibly awkward to eat this entire cake by myself while binge-watching Fuller House* on Netflix. Instead, I took it over to my co-worker’s house in celebration of both Jesus and she and her husband’s birthdays that weekend. The spouses birthdays and Jesus houdini-ing himself out of the tomb of course.

I appreciate the concern of my mother(s). After all, I do mention nearly every month that [insert holiday] is my favorite holiday so I can understand their sympathy calls and flight searches at the thought of me spending one alone. Fortunately, both seemed happy to hear that I was bribing my way into someone else’s home with four layers of sugary sunshine and the return of Matt and a visit from my sister just a few days later.

*Let’s discuss the awkwardness that is Fuller House another time

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Easter Layer Cake 

  • 1 1/2 C unsalted butter, softened (can substitute 1/2 C vegetable shortening if you want)
  • 3 C sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 3 C flour (sifted)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 C whole milk
  • 1/2 C buttermilk
  • 2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350. Ideally this is the time to grease and flour all four of your cake pans. Oh you don’t have four cake pans? Me neither. I somehow only have three so grease and flour what you have and set aside.

In a stand mixer, whip butter until light and fluffy. Add sugar 1 cupat a time. Add eggs one at a time until each is combined.

In another bowl, whisk flour, baking powder and salt.

In a liquid measure, combine milk, buttermilk and vanilla.

Add dry ingredients into wet one cup at a time, alternatingbetween milk mixture and flour. Try not to overmix.

Place four medium bowls out on your counter. Divide batter into each bowl evenly. For me it was just under 2 cups of batter per bowl. I like to use gel food coloring as I find it’s a little more accurate. For this version, I just used my pastel set of gel colors and added them separately to each 2 cup bowl.

Once your layers are colored, pour the first two into your two baking pans andbake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. These layers are thin so they will cook relatively quick.

Remove from oven and let cool on rack for 5-10 minutes. Add a layer of parchment or wax paper to your rack before you flip them out of the pan to make turning easier for you when they are cool.

layer cake, easter cake, baking, pastel layer cake, rainbow layer cake, vanilla cake, dessert, Easter, birds nest cake topper, robin eggs, white layer cakeButtercream Icing

Once your second batch is out of the oven and cooling you can start on your buttercream icing. This stuff is indulgent so I usually keep it pretty thin. That being said both times I’ve made this cake I’ve had to make extra buttercream icing to get it covered so go ahead and make a bunch.

Buttercream Icing

  • 3-4 C powdered sugar (sifted)
  • 1 1/2 C unsalted butter
  • 3 tsp vanilla
  • 3-4 TBL whipping cream

Sift the powdered sugar into a large bowl. Cream butter in a stand mixer and add powdered sugar slowly so as not to go all King James on your kitchen. Add vanilla and cream and whip it until peaks form. Refrigerate it until you are ready to ice the cake.

Once your layers are cool, wrap each of them in plastic wrap and freeze them for a few minutes. this will make the icing process much easier. Do a rough ice and then finish it off with, you guess it, more buttercream.

Top it with a little toasted coconut and Cadbury mini eggs and your ready to go! layer cake, easter cake, baking, pastel layer cake, rainbow layer cake, vanilla cake, dessert, Easter, birds nest cake topper, robin eggs, white layer cakelayer cake, easter cake, baking, pastel layer cake, rainbow layer cake, vanilla cake, dessert, Easter, birds nest cake topper, robin eggs, white layer cakelayer cake, easter cake, baking, pastel layer cake, rainbow layer cake, vanilla cake, dessert, Easter, birds nest cake topper, robin eggs, white layer cake

 

on missing birthdays

I don’t hate much. In fact, I’m one of those optimists that manages to see the teeny tiny glimmers of hope in generally pretty awful people even when I’m trying not to. Current exceptions being Donald Trump and fire ants but let’s get into that once both pests are no longer affecting us, shall we?

But if I had to place ‘hate’ on one thing in my life, it would be missing birthdays. A learned behavior I’m sure, I have a really tough time not physically being there for loved one’s birthdays. OK, anyone’s birthday really. I was looking at the calendar and realized that Finn may spend his 4th birthday with a dog sitter this coming July and actually felt a pang of guilt 4 months ahead of the date for goodness sake.

Birthdays are big in my family. We’ve chatted about this in previous posts (examples here and here), specifically referring to my physiological need to be present at any and all family birthdays, something I’m trying to adapt to living a few states away now. But as each day approaches, I can’t help but feel a little FOMO (fear of missing out non-millennial readers) for “missing” another birthday.

So on this sunny March 12th spring (ok, high of 82 spring) morning, my body may be out avoiding the fire ants in the garden and possibly hitting the pool this afternoon, but my heart is back in Illinois celebrating my mom’s 65th birthday.

And yes, despite the fact that stranger’s assume she’s also my dad’s daughter sometimes, she’s 65 today!

IMG_4617 wedding shower, bridal shower, babies, wedding season, spring bridal shower, champagne bar, wedding cake, save the date cookie, familywedding shower, bridal shower, babies, wedding season, spring bridal shower, champagne bar, wedding cake, save the date cookie, familyzalewski_bk_0039zalewski_bk_0148zalewski_bk_0150zalewski_bk_0268zalewski_bk_0643zalewski_bk_0236

And based on that last photo, I’m starting to think she may care that Matt’s not there a little more than me. Geesh!

So while I can’t be there to enjoy the delicious looking birthday/St. Patrick’s day themed cake that Jake picked out for mom last night, thanks to technology I was able to sing along and watch her blow out the candles from afar.

I’m blessed to have a mom that squeals with as much excitement for scone and a cup of coffee as she does for a new sweater and cookbook, the former being what you can look forward to the next time you visit.

Happy Birthday, Mom! Here’s a photo of a cake from three years ago. We love you!

st. patricks day layer cake, ombre layer cake, white birthday cake, buttercream icing, colored layer cake, st. patrick's day, holiday, baking,

 

Wedding Snapshots: The Groom

You know who doesn’t get enough fuss at a wedding?

The Groom.

wedding, groomsmen, groom, navy blue suit, springfield illinois wedding, spring wedding, downtown springfield, gray suits,

And why not? Last time I checked, they were just as much a part of the 1+1+1=1 equation as the bride. (For those of you who with an engineering background, the extra one is representative of God) And yet, here they stand on the wedding day, looking all relaxed and sipping bourbon after their long morning workout. Meanwhile, when their bride attempted to go for a run, she got 10 minutes out and realized she didn’t in fact have time for it and spent the rest of the morning just trying to stop sweating long enough for the makeup artist to finish up thus killing any chance at an endorphin release for the next 12 hours.

wedding, groomsmen, groom, navy blue suit, springfield illinois wedding, spring wedding, downtown springfield, gray suits,

But this is about the groom, remember? And what a handsome groom he was. And today, some 65 days since we made our vows to love one another as long as we both shall live, we celebrate the birthday that puts him two years closer to the finish line than I am.

groom, wedding, springfield illinois wedding, blue suits, jcrew, tommy hilfiger, family, wedding

 

Kidding.

I think we all know he’s far too healthy and stubborn to go before I do.

groom, wedding, springfield illinois wedding, blue suits, jcrew, tommy hilfiger, family, wedding

 

So here’s a montage of my handsome groom in celebration of his 33rd birthday. A post he’ll 80 percent scoff at, and 20% secretly love.

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groom, wedding, springfield illinois wedding, blue suits, jcrew, tommy hilfiger, family, wedding

 

Birthday lessons

July is a huge birthday month in our family. Beginning early in the month, we celebrate 10 human birthdays and one very large dog’s. And the following month doesn’t slow down much either. There must have been something in the water from the years 1925 to 2006.

The month kicks off with the birthday celebration of my oldest nephew Owen and ramps up a few days later as we mark the 90th birthday of my grandfather, Ed. Our recent wedding travels limit us from being there in person to celebrate this year but from 9 to 90, there are plenty of lessons these two have taught me over the years. Things like:

The meaning behind the phrase, “I remember the day you were born.”

owen birthday, birthday lessons, nephew

Your choice in beer should align with that of your favorite sports team, whichever relationship develops first.

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And when it comes to extracurriculars, choose something you can play as you grow older.

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Blondes really do have more fun.

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You can dance if you want to.

owen turns 7 surfing birthday party simply social blog

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And more than anything, remember, family is everything.

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Happy Birthday to all of my favorite guys this month!

 

 

 

Super Spring Break

If you couldn’t tell from my overgramming last week, my nephews (and my sister) came to visit us to celebrate their spring break. Unfortunately I spent most of the week at work, but I’m grateful for the afternoons and evenings I spent brushing up on my toilet humor, identifying fire ant hills and avoiding getting jinxed.

Days were spent punching water spouts at the splash park and evenings cheating at mini golf. We even managed a second attempt at the beach since the first time was ‘too boring.’

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On Thursday, we celebrated Jake’s 5th birthday the only way Jake prefers to celebrate, with superhero masks and store-bought cookie cake.

IMG_4663IMG_4664IMG_4669IMG_4670IMG_4671Friday we had a picnic at the beach and then spent the afternoon drop-kicking waves to cap off the trip. And is it just me or did we do so right next to a Nana lookalike? IMG_9943

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We miss them already but we’re soaking up the quiet and resting up the busy months ahead.

30!

I’m thirty. 30 years old!

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Thirty! I did it. I finally passed the last milestone birthday that all of my friends passed nearly a year before me! Being the youngest of the group, I was used to being last in line for all age-related events. Last to drive at 16, last to do whatever a non-smoker is allowed to do at 18 and the last to legally drink at 21. Now don’t feel too bad for me. Looking back, I can see now that it actually worked out in my favor. I had cool friends to drive me to and from school, to book rental cars when we went on trips and to illustrate which liquor you should not make your best friend on your 21st birthday. Tequila maybe. Whiskey no way. I remember thinking that when they all turned thirty, I would still be 29. And how cool that would be to still be 29 when all your friends were old and thirty. turning 30, birthday, friends Well I realized about a year ago that it’s neither cool nor old. Thirty is not the old age I (and probably every other 24 year old who is reading this) thinks it is. There’s a shift that happens about the age of 26 or 27 where you suddenly realize that you are rapidly approaching the thirty year-old you thought was so old just a few years ago. I am now that thirty year-old that kids just out of college scoff at. Only I don’t feel very different than them. Minus pretty much all of these things. I stayed up until 2 a.m. this weekend. Only it was because my mom and sister’s flight got delayed, not because we wanted to hit up the late-night bar and watch the sun come up. I cannot tell you the last time I willingly stayed up that late. And I’m ok with that. As if last weekend’s surprise party wasn’t enough, my mom and sister came down to visit me in Florida this weekend to celebrate the official birthday. You don’t realize how loved you are until you live really far away and people go out of their way to make you feel special on your birthday. turning 30, birthday, friends   On Saturday, we headed down to St. Armands and Lido Beach. Lido Beach, St Armands, Florida, family, birthday   And on Sunday we spent most of the day at Siesta Key, followed by a sunset dinner along the beach on Anna Marie Island. beach, florida, family, birthday, swiss mountain dog, sunset, anna marie island, siesta key beach, florida, family, birthday, swiss mountain dog, sunset, anna marie island, siesta key   It was so nice to spend some quality time with just my mom and sister. If the next two-thirds of my life look anything like theirs, I can’t wait to get there. Thank you again for all the well-wishes over the weekend. I’m excited for the year ahead.

Approaching 30

Do you know how hard it is to write a recap of a weekend you aren’t ready to let go of yet?

Hard.

Chicago had everything going for it this weekend. Great food, perfect weather, a music festival that keeps hundreds of thousands in Grant Park so you can enjoy the rest of the city crowd-free and a surprise birthday party with nearly all of my friends and family.

Wait, what?

chicago skyline, north avenue, summer, Chicago, city, reflection

I flew back to Chicago this weekend to celebrate one of my best friends and former roommate at her baby shower.

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I was expecting to cuddle a few babies, hoping to catch up with my Chicago friends and planning on eating as much ethnic food as I could to get me through until the next visit. I love your sunshine Florida but nothing compares to Chicago for food.

cafe creme, bucktown, wicker park, breakfast, brunch, maccarons, Chicago, dining

We decided on a small get-together Saturday evening to make it easy on the new parents in the group, not much changing from our parties of the past except an inverse ratio of sip cups and flip cups and a universal awareness of the potential of finger pinches and stair falls.

surprise 30th birthday party, kids, toddlers, babies, Chicago

I was thrilled that all of my friends made the effort to come over with their kids, especially considering bedtimes might be off and meltdowns might occur. And I was pleased yet confused to see each of them show up with a dish to share, while I the out-of-towner had nothing to contribute to the cause. If you know me well you know how much something like this troubles me.

babies, photography, toddlers, summer, surprise party, Chicago

I was completely content and happy, enjoying a perfect summer night with some of my favorite people when my mom walked onto the deck, followed by my sister, Owen and Jake. Dad would show up a few minutes later in typical Murf fashion as I tried to quell my tears and perspiration from the shock.

I flashed back to my 15th birthday when after finishing a family dinner at home, I was told I had a present in the basement that I should go “check out.” I embarrassingly descended the stairs to be greeted by my closest Freshman guy and girlfriends who were waiting to surprise me, each adorned with a different color plastic lei. I was equal parts mortified and excited. Mortified that they had been waiting in my wood-paneled basement throughout dinner and excited to jam out to some TLC and BSB songs for the rest of the night. 

family, surprise party, birthday, chicago, summer

The good news about approaching 30 is that selfless acts of kindness no longer embarrass you.

The bad news is they make you sob uncontrollably.

friends, surprise party, birthday, chicago, summer

A good friend is someone who lets you believe you are celebrating her all weekend and then goes and throws a surprise party for you along the way. Or someone who with her own family in town and a 4-week-old baby, coordinates cake and fruit platters to celebrate. The one who sits in traffic longer than the party probably lasted to be there. The one you’ve known since you were 10 who was in attendance for the wood-paneled basement surprise and just hours ago returned from a cross-country flight back from California with a toddler.

Note: the husbands, too. Even though I didn’t get any photos of any of them, they deserve a little credit as well. 

babies, photography, toddlers, summer, surprise party, Chicago

And a great family. A great family will detour their way through the northern part of the state and back, spend the better part of the day at LegoLand and then trek all the way into the city just to be there to celebrate with you and your friends. On Lollapalooza weekend no less.

These people and that city make it hard for a girl to recap a weekend she wishes she was still in the middle of.

Nonetheless, I’m feeling pretty good about this whole 30 thing.

Currently I’m…

In the middle of a full-on middle school crush with The Mindy Project. It’s been about 4 years since I had sophisticated TV equipment so I’m on technology overload as of late. How did I go so long without this show in my life and why can’t all OB/GYNs be that funny?

Finding it hard to concentrate on much else besides my trip to Chicago this weekend. Don’t get me wrong Florida is sunshine and blazing hot temps and all but I can’t wait to get back to the city and catch up with my friends and celebrate their offspring. After this past winter, I feel like I’m entitled to enjoying above freezing temps with the people I suffered alongside.

wind chill chicago, polar vortex, nbc chicago

 

Wondering how my dog is more proficient in yoga poses than I am. Here I am practicing three times a week in a studio and all I have to do is pull out the vacuum for him to do a perfect downward dog. I’m going to see if my teacher will let us try out the “twisted swissy” next class.

finn, yoga, dog, swiss mountain dog, puppy,

Really starting to feel my age. According to this Health survey, my true age is only 25.6, but if you ask my joints, I’m feeling a wee bit older than that. It seems fitting though, to start a glucosamine supplement just a week before your 30th birthday, doesn’t it?

glucosamine supplement, exercise, joints

Really wishing I wouldn’t have thrown away the rest of Matt’s birthday cake last week.

birthday layer cake, ombre layer cake, white birthday cake, buttercream icing, blue ombre layer cake, birthday, holiday, baking,

Willing to grill just about anything if it means avoiding using my stove these days. Last night we did an entire meal on the grill and I’m not upset about it. Not one bit. We even swapped out a salad for grilled romaine just to keep it simple. Just kidding, we did it because I was too lazy to chop up the other ingredients.

grilled shrimp with chimichurri, parsley, cilantro pesto, marinated shrimp recipe, herb pesto,

 

Grilled Shrimp with Chimichurri

  • 1 C parsley, rinsed and patted dry
  • 1 C cilantro, rinsed and patted dry
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp ground red pepper
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/4-1/2 C olive oil (I kept mine more acidic than oily)
  • 4 TBL fresh lemon juice
  • 2 TBL red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1-2 TBL water (if needed)

Place all ingredients except oil and water into a food processor. Add oil slowly until it reaches pesto consistency. Since we were originally planning on using this as a steak marinade, I made it lighter on the oil. Good news, it’s great on shrimp too.

Peel and devein uncooked shrimp and place on a metal skewer. Heat grill to medium. Baste chimichurri on shrimp towards the end of the cooking process.

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We got two uses out of this batch. The first night for shrimp and whitefish tostadas and the second for skirt steak and shrimp the next night.

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And in celebrating for Matt’s trip to Mexico we washed them down with a two-ingredient margarita I hacked up just before we sat down. Still on that lazy cooking kick if you can’t tell.

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Two-ingredient Margarita

  • La Croix Lime
  • Tequila
  • Fresh Lime juice
  • Honey or agave
  • Salt

OK so I lied about the two ingredient part but in reality you can just make this with tequila and La Croix. The fresh lime juice and sweetener just helps it taste a little more traditional. The key here is using a good tequila. The stuff so good it doesn’t even taste like tequila, tequila.

I get bored talking to myself all the time. What are you currently into?

Have a great day!

Lessons in layer cake

Some of you may remember when I made my first attempt at an ombré cake back in March for my
Mom’s birthday.

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It wasn’t a complete flop but I rushed through it, failing to execute the preschool-mastered skill of color order. Yes, it still tasted good and fit in with the whole St. Patrick’s day theme that weekend, but I knew I’d need to try it again when I could devote the time and patience it took to not screw it up.

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So in celebration of Matt’s birthday this week I decided to give it another shot.

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My first tip with making this cake is to do it on a Sunday afternoon when you have no commitments other than careful measuring and wait time. If you’re anything like me, you often try to multitask when you cook and bake.

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This is not the cake to do that with. This layer cake is a special occasion type of cake because it is equal parts time-consuming and indulgent. From the cake to the buttercream icing, there’s no shortage of butter and that’s a good thing. Throw out your paleo/whole/vegan/healthy eating plan for enough time to eat a slice. You can thank me later.

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Ombre layer cake 

  • 1 1/2 C unsalted butter, softened (can substitute 1/2 C vegetable shortening if you want)
  • 3 C sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 3 C flour (sifted)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 C whole milk
  • 1/2 C buttermilk
  • 2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350. Ideally this is the time to grease and flour all four of your cake pans. Oh you don’t have four cake pans? Me neither. Grease and flour two of them and set aside.

In a stand mixer, whip butter until light and fluffy. Add sugar 1 cup at a time. Add eggs one at a time until each is combined.

In another bowl, whisk flour, baking powder and salt.

In a liquid measure, combine milk, buttermilk and vanilla.

Add dry ingredients into wet one cup at a time, alternating between milk mixture and flour. Try not to overmix.

Place four medium bowls out on your counter. Divide batter into each bowl evenly. For me it was just under 2 cups of batter per bowl. Add no food coloring to the first bowl. I like to use gel food coloring as I find it’s a little more accurate.  Add one toothpick of color into the second bowl and mix until combined. Two for the next and closer to four for the final one. The key here is to only mix the batter until the color is combined as the colored layers already tend to be a little tougher than those that aren’t.

Need another photo to take a break from the instructions? Me too.

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Once your layers are colored, pour the first two into your two baking pans and bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. These layers are thin so they will cook relatively quick.

Remove from oven and let cool on rack for 5-10 minutes. Add a layer of parchment or wax paper to your rack before you flip them out of the pan to make turning easier for you when they are cool. Trust me it helps. Wash and dry your pans to bring them back to room temperature before you bake your other two layers.

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Once your second batch is out of the oven and cooling you can start on your buttercream icing. This stuff is indulgent so I usually keep it pretty thin. That being said both times I’ve made this cake I’ve had to make extra buttercream icing to get it covered so go ahead and make a bunch.

Buttercream Icing

  • 3-4 C powdered sugar (sifted)
  • 1 1/2 C unsalted butter
  • 3 tsp vanilla
  • 3-4 TBL whipping cream

Sift the powdered sugar into a large bowl. Cream butter in a stand mixer and add powdered sugar slowly so as not to go all King James on your kitchen. Add vanilla and cream and whip it until peaks form. Refrigerate it until you are ready to ice the cake.

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Once your layers are cool, wrap each of them in plastic wrap and freeze them for a few minutes. this will make the icing process much easier.

When you are ready to ice your cake, check your layer order several times before you place them on your cake stand. Trust me. The two middle layers look a lot a like and can be very deceiving. Do a rough ice and then finish it off with, you guess it, more buttercream.

I like to keep this cake in the fridge between servings because let’s face it, it’s going to take you at least a week to eat it all. Offer it up to friends or strangers that you just met. Everybody loves a good layer cake.

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