Wednesday, January 29, 2014

the night the kitchen crashed

What's the worst thing that could happen to you while you are sleeping? Secretly getting engaged to Sandra Bullock? Having a nightmare about being naked in public (those are thee. worst.)? How about waking up to a loud crash? That was me last night.

It was midnight. I was fast asleep. BOOM. I wake up. Panic. Jon goes to investigate. I hope he's not about to be attacked by a fire-breathing dragon, or worse, a home invader. He calls up to me to put on my tennis shoes and come down. Shoes? Why do I need shoes? Midnight run? Honestly, I would have rather taken a cold, snowy run last night than what actually followed...and I hate running. One of my canning jars has exploded. That's odd. How does a jar explode? It can't possibly be THAT cold downstairs.

He was right, and he was wrong. A canning jar (actually, multiple canning jars) had exploded, but only after dropping to the counter/floor after a kitchen shelf collapsed. Disaster. Of course it couldn't have been a dry goods shelf. Nope, it was a shelf full of home-canned jars of apple pie filling, apple chutney, and 1 large, unopened bottle of balsamic vinegar. It was a big 'ole apple & vinegar party all over my white cabinets, white floor, and white grout. My cleanfreak heart died a little on the inside.

*If gory details aren't your thing, now would be a good time to look away.*

Crime scene? 

Not pictured: all the goodness that dripped into that nice little space between the counter and the oven and the shards of glass, splatters, apple chunks that scattered all over the rest of the kitchen floor, cabinets & backsplash. Oh, and don't forget the inside of the upper and lower cabinets that were also covered in blood, er, apples/vinegar.

Let's break this down, shall we?

Let the cleaning begin. 

I love how the time was inadvertently captured in the photos. 12:07. 12:21. 12:47. (and not so inadvertently at) 1:18.

Lone survivors. 

All clean. Local time: 1:45 a.m.
You'll notice we cleaned out the contents of the bottom shelf. Lest history repeat itself so quickly. 

This has now replaced Jon-dropped-two-bottles-of-red-wine fiasco of 2011 on our list of all-time greatest messes. Sometimes you just have to laugh, and be very, very grateful that you forked over some extra cash for stain-resisting grout additive, and had recently stocked up on paper towels, a grout brush, grout cleaner, a good steam mop, and a helpful husband.

p.s. I've mentioned this before, but run, don't walk, to pick up a bottle of x14. This stuff works wonders on grout. You know, just in case your kitchen shelf ever decides to die.

Monday, January 27, 2014

child of the 90s

Have you seen this Internet Explorer commercial? It's been making the rounds lately, and I love it. I can't help it. I'm a Millennial. BUT I don't live with my parents, I have a real job, and I make my bed every please don't hate me.

This inspired me to share my pogs story (which was just auto-corrected to "pigs"). It's still a little painful, but time heals all wounds. Pogs were huge when I was in elementary school. HUGE. Of course, I wanted pogs. It was a matter of social life or death on the playground. But my mom wouldn't buy me regular pogs. I'm guessing she had a problem with some of the pogs' themes. Whatever that means. She insisted I get Christian pogs. It should be noted that I went to a private Christian school so all the other kids must have been real heathens for playing with *gasp* pogs. The horror.

Like most Christian merch, they were a little slow on the uptake. By the time our local Bible book store had pogs, and I had properly stocked up on "Jesus Loves You!" slammers, they weren't cool anymore. Yeah, it still hurts.

If you've ever been deprived of pogs or have a similar childhood story, I highly recommend you check out this blog post: 20 Signs You Grew Up a Church Kid. Sure, I missed out on pogs, but I had a pretty great Precious Moments collection and I got to listen to all the Adventures in Odessy tapes I wanted (Tapes. I'm old). So thanks, Mom.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

snow days & storage wars

This won't be the most interesting post, but life can't always be parties and caramel rolls.

We had a pretty quiet weekend. I worked from home on Friday, Monday was a holiday, and then today was a snow day. I may or may not have spent less than 5 hours in real pants over the last 4 days.

But we did get one major thing accomplished this weekend. We finally organized and packed up our Christmas decorations. Like I said, not very exciting to you, but hugely exciting to me.

We went from this:

To this:

I've never been so happy to see an empty room, and I love an organized closet.

We also finally hung a few things on the walls. We haven't hung anything downstairs yet because a quick google search told us we didn't have the right hanging mechanism to avoid damaging the plaster walls. It's kind of a pain. Have you ever been in an old house that had picture rails? Well, they aren't just for convenience - many homes had them to avoid crumbling walls. Plaster and wall art don't get along.

That didn't stop us from hanging our starburst mirror and some frames upstairs in the master bedroom, which was thankfully added to the house after drywall was invented.

This mirror is ridiculously difficult to hang.
Jon says we can never move it again. Deal.


It's still pretty sad, but this constitutes a snow day around here. I'll try to keep my northern weather snob comments to myself, but at least it actually stuck to the ground this time. My southern husband even got to shovel for the first time ever. He didn't know what he was missing. 

Friday, January 17, 2014

the friday happy list: kid furniture

No, we don't have any kids. No, I'm not pregnant. But this is one of my all-time favorite decorating tips: shop at kids stores. Crate & Barrel (Land of Nod), Pottery Barn, & Restoration Hardware all have furniture stores for wee ones, but that doesn't mean the furniture is just for kiddos. Some of my favorite finds have come from these stores.

Circulation chest. This is our newest piece of furniture - it actually just got delivered today! When we went antiquing this fall, I fell in love with several vintage card catalog & apothecary cabinets, but none of them were quite right for our space. When I saw this circulation chest, I knew I had to have it. It's the perfect fit for our entry where we need a small piece with decent storage. I love that this chest has the card catalog look, but with more practical larger drawers. 

Felt Nativity. I bought this a few years ago after looking everywhere for a nativity scene I actually liked. So many of them are, well, a little hideous. The glitter Merry Christmas banner we bought this year was also from PB Kids. Even if you're not ready to dive into the world of kid furniture, at least check them out for seasonal decorations - you might be surprised!

Kitchen rug. Land of nod also has great rugs. I searched high & low for a kitchen rug until I finally found this one....and then I had to talk Jon into it. I'm glad I did. It's amazing I have to talk him into things - as if he has any idea about decorating. When they make rugs with kids in mind, you know they are made to last - perfect for a high-traffic area like a kitchen.
Tuesday, January 14, 2014

oh baby, it's cold outside

If you haven't already noticed, I love throwing a good party. It's one of the things Jon and I talked about before we even started the home-buying process. We wanted a house that was conducive to hospitality & entertaining. Not just because entertaining involves food & fun, but because it's an opportunity to sacrificially love & serve others. 

When we found out our friends Peter & Melissa were expecting, we were absolutely thrilled. We'd been praying for this to happen, and now, in just 2 months, they will welcome their first child into the world! They are part of our "D.C. family" and we wanted to literally shower them with love. 

The Momma to be, Melissa, suggested a wintery theme for the shower. I loved that idea for an early January baby shower. It also really worked for a baby boy shower because what's more wintery than pretty shades of icy blue? And because I just couldn't resist, I planned everything around the phrase "Baby, it's cold outside." Of course, after several days of chilly temps, Saturday was warm and very rainy, but that didn't stop us from having a great time.

The inspiration board

We decided to have the shower in the late morning so we could serve brunch. Who doesn't love brunch?! The menu consisted of a waffle bar, yogurt, granola, fruit, breakfast potatoes, mini quiches, donut holes, mimosas, coffee, punch and, of course, cake! By far the biggest hit was the waffle bar. I used this recipe for overnight yeast waffles, which were perfect for feeding a crowd because the batter can be made ahead, and the waffles stayed warm and crisp in the oven until serving. They were even good leftover the next day, and any unused batter can be kept in the fridge for a few days.

not pictured - the sparkly snowflakes seen on the table also covered the wall behind the waffle bar...
my photog (ahem, Jon) failed to capture everything when I told him to go take pictures of the decor.

The best party leftover was the giant bowl of freshly whipped cream.
I may or may not have eaten most of it straight from the bowl with a spoon.
Lots of wedding presents finally being used in this photo - they had been hanging out at Mom's house until we had room for them!
This is also a great theme for after Christmas. I already had the table decorations from a white Christmas party I threw a few years ago, but I got all of the other decorations 50-75% off at after Christmas sales. The best part is that I can recycle all of them to use next year - I think I'll turn the kitchen into a winter wonderland!

Table decorations

Snowflakes hanging in the front windows - you can see what a gloomy day it was. :(
Remember these from the holiday house tour? They got to stay for the shower. 
Snowflakes hanging in the doorways
Party favors

Baby shower bingo cards
opening gifts! and no, we weren't watching TV. we had it turned on for the music station. :) a better hostess would have had time to put together a special party iPhone playlist. :/

Melissa & the other hostesses - I couldn't have done it without these 2 awesome helpers!
And just so you don't think it was all fun & games - this was my kitchen post-shower. 6 hours, 1 nap, 20 hand-washed champagne flutes, and 2 dishwasher cycles later, it was finally clean....or at least clean enough for our housekeeper to come the next day. Thank goodness for Flor!
And just because my hubby is awesome - I got a much-needed foot rub at the end of the day.
Friday, January 10, 2014

that time i got coffee with obama

Political leanings aside, Presidential sightings are pretty exciting - even here in D.C. where motorcades are abundant. Today, POTUS himself wandered into my work 'hood for lunch (and by wander I mean shut down our entire block with enough flashing lights to feed a disco) so, of course, we all stopped working and spent the next hour gawking.

But gawking from across the street isn't nearly as fun as gawking from 10 feet away so we wandered over to the restaurant for an up-close-as-the-secret-service-will-let-us sneak peek. After a quick secret service wanding, we were in. I played it cool and ordered a chai latte at the coffee bar while taking sneaky President photos.

Photo courtesy my co-worker David. His turned out better than mine.

Here are my thoughts on the prez since we're practically besties now:

He looked a little bored, a lot tired, and like he could use a caramel roll. Also, his head is smaller in person.

I think this tops the Friday happy list.

the friday happy list

Today brings my least favorite type of weather - freezing rain. If it's going to be cold, it might as well snow. Nothing is worse than very cold and very rainy, but I'm doing my best to concentrate on some happy things from this week.

Caramel rolls. The big theme this week has obviously been caramel rolls. I just can't get over the response to the recipe. By far, the best part has been hearing from people far and wide who have the same nostalgia over these rolls as I do. It took a long time for me to find a recipe that was comparable, and it makes me really happy to know that I've shared a little piece of home with so many people. Here are a few of comments that have warmed my caramel roll loving heart:

"My mother had a local cafe in the small town of York ND and always had these ready for when church got out. That was in the 70's and they were the best. I make them now also. Great treat."

"These look like what was served to us in school in Tulsa, OK on chili day! Have wanted the recipe for years and I am hoping this is the one! Tried a different recipe for Christmas, only to be disappointed. Can't wait to try these!"

"They are nowhere to be found in Colorado so definitely going to be trying this recipe. Thanks!"

Dubai. We booked a trip to Dubai this week! We aren't actually traveling until the first week of March, but on a miserable day like today, I'm dreaming about the warm desert. Our friend Rob is there on a state department assignment, and he has graciously agreed to host us. Rob is one of my favorites - I'm not sure if I'm more excited about seeing him or seeing Dubai!

Baby Shower. Speaking of good friends, I'm hosting a baby shower for my lovely friend Melissa tomorrow. She's a faithful blog reader, and we've mostly kept her in suspense about the shower, so I can't share too many details today, but I promise to do a full post next week. I'm so excited for her and Peter and baby boy Saharko. I can't wait to love on that little one when he arrives in early March!

Spiced tea. Over Christmas, Jon's grandmother Mee Maw made us all a cup of her spiced tea. Some people call it Russian tea. I call it Tang tea. Either way, I hadn't had it in a long time, but I've been craving a second cup ever since. I whipped up a batch at home yesterday straight from Mee Maw's cookbook. I brought some to work today to share - it's perfect on this rainy day. It couldn't be easier: 2 cups tang, 1/2 cup instant tea w/lemon (or add a few teaspoons of instant lemonade mix if not using lemon tea), 1 cup sugar, ground cinnamon & cloves to taste.
Thursday, January 9, 2014

north dakota caramel rolls go viral in north dakota. go figure.

I certainly wasn't expecting this. After posting the caramel roll recipe earlier this week - it took off - to the tune of 25,000 page views and counting. Apparently it's become a big hit in North Dakota. My hometown family friend Stacey really got the ball rolling (Thanks, Stacey!). She shared the link on Facebook and it just snowballed from there. She sent me a message yesterday with this funny tidbit:

I saw [a former neighbor of mine from Williston] at a local restaurant today and told her about your blog and she said to me, I kept seeing a picture of a carmel roll recipe on my Facebook newsfeed!!! Here it was your blog!!!

I guess you guys really like caramel rolls! I'm totally blown away by the response. If I had known so many people were going to stop by, I would have cleaned up the place.

I hope a few of you will stick around to enjoy future recipes and musings, but if all this traffic means North Dakota caramel rolls are hitting the mouths of people around the country, then I think my work here is done.

Monday, January 6, 2014

north dakota caramel rolls

Stop whatever you are doing and make these right now. I'm not usually this bossy (ok, sometimes I am), but these are just that good.

Caramel rolls are nothing new, but you haven't lived until you've had one from North Dakota. I'm not sure of their origin - maybe a midwestern thing? - but I've only ever had them (or at least had them this good) in North Dakota. In my hometown of Williston, the best ones were at Dakota Farms or Grandma Sharon's. If you didn't get there early, you didn't get one.

The North Dakota caramel (car-mel) roll is light and fluffy in texture, but not excessively tall. They come flat and large. A good one will barely fit on a salad plate. Caramel roll > salad. They are devoid of nuts, light on cinnamon and heavy on soft, creamy caramel. It's decidedly not a cinnamon roll or a sticky bun, which is what you'll find 99% of the time if you order a caramel roll at a bakery or restaurant. Huge disappointment.

This recipe came to my attention via Karen Riekeman - a sweet family friend. I want to say she got it from the North Dakota wheat growers association or something else wheat-related and official like that. I should start telling little stories to go with my recipes. Here is one of my favorites on Karen:

Her husband, my pastor at First Baptist Williston, officiated our wedding. Apparently, he brought a red (I think?) tie to wear. Afraid it would clash with our muted color scheme, Karen made a last minute trip to Walmart (the only shop in town) to get him a tie that would blend in better with our wedding photos. The red really wouldn't have bothered me, but you know you have a good friend when it bothered her!

I've adapted the recipe by using rapid rise yeast (ain't nobody got time for a double rise), doubling the caramel sauce, and a few other little changes here and there. These don't get quite as big as the ones from home, but Grandma Sharon won't share her recipe with me. These come pretty darn close in taste, though!

North Dakota Caramel Rolls

1 pkg rapid rise active dry yeast
½ cup sugar
½ cup shortening
2 cups buttermilk
6 cups bread flour
2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda

Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup of water. In a large standing mixer, cream sugar and shortening. Add buttermilk, yeast mixture, 2 cups flour, salt, baking powder and soda. Beat until smooth. Stir in remaining 4 cups of flour to make a very soft dough (I did this part with my mixer's bread hook). Turn onto a floured surface and knead 4-8 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic. 

Let the dough rest for 10 minutes while you make the caramel sauce. 

Caramel Sauce 

3 cups brown sugar
2 cups heavy cream
2 Tbs light corn syrup
2-4 Tbs butter unsalted butter, softened or melted
1 tsp cinnamon
3 Tbs white sugar

Combine brown sugar, cream and light corn syrup in a saucepan. Heat over medium heat until sugar is dissolved & sauce is slightly thickened. Pour caramel sauce in equal amounts in the bottom of two 9x13 pans. [I usually get 12-14 rolls out of one batch. In order to avoid crowding, don't place more than 6-7 rolls in each pan.] 

On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into a large 10x18 inch rectangle. Spread with the softened butter. Sprinkle cinnamon & sugar over the dough. Starting with the long side, roll up and press to seal. Cut into 1" thick slices.

Place the rolls on top of the caramel sauce in your 2 pans. Cover with a bread cloth & let rise near your warming oven until doubled in size - about 1-2 hours. Bake in preheated 375° oven for 25-30 minutes. Invert onto platter while rolls are still warm. 

Reheat leftover rolls (leftovers? ha!) in the microwave for 30 seconds. Perfection!
Friday, January 3, 2014

the friday happy list: best of 2013

You know you're a subpar blogger when you steal most of your ideas from other blogs. I got this one from Kat's blog - you may remember her from yesterday's post: married to Jon's cousin, mother to the adorable Elliot, superior blogger to me.

Here are the top things that made me happy in 2013. If you were on our Christmas card list, you can probably already guess a few of these. :)

1. Jon started a new job. This was the scariest change of 2013. I'll spare you the details of how "Big Law" works, but it wasn't an easy decision and it wasn't without risk, but we felt it was the right decision. I'm happy to report that so far, so good. God is good all the time.

2. We bought a house...not that you would have noticed from my obsessive blogging about it.

3. We celebrated 5 years of marriage. You can read more about what it's really like to be married to Ginger here, but the condensed version is that it's been 5 really great years.

4. We learned how to cook lobsters and finally put those skills to use on Christmas day.

5. We started our ballparks of America tour. I have no idea how long it will take us to visit every MLB stadium in America, but I'm looking forward to the adventure. We had quite a few inspirations for this idea: 1) I've visited 48 states. Since that milestone is almost complete, we needed a new challenge. 2) My mom got Jon a map of all the MLB ballparks for his 30th birthday. It came with handy pins to mark visited ballparks - all the more reason to start crossing them off our list. 3) We love baseball. 4) We love to travel. 5) I love hot dogs.

6. Megan turned 30. I'm not sure she'd call it a highlight, but she's in my top 5 favorite people (along with the Ginger, Mom, Dad & both Aarons - Rodgers and Kendrick - they count as one since they have the same first name) and celebrating with her was the most fun. Also, Aaron (Kendrick, not Rodgers) was baptized that Sunday. It was really special to be there for both big events.

7. Turks & Caicos. Self-explanatory why this was a favorite of 2013.

8. Going to a Packers game in Baltimore. I relish any opportunity to wear my cheesehead in public, and we won. Success.

9. We caught the end of cherry blossom season when the slightest wind gently blows the blossoms off the trees. Snowing cherry blossoms is a new favorite - right up there with munchkin cats.

10. We went to see Show Boat at the Kennedy Center exactly 15 years after I saw it in with my family at the Kennedy Center during my first visit to D.C. One of those really weird moments where life comes full circle.

11. I learned how to arrange flowers. I was so proud of my first effort (and we all know that pride cometh before the fall) that I haven't dared a second attempt.

Wow. I didn't realize we had packed so many fun memories into one year until I finished writing this post. And the list could be so much longer. If that's not a great exercise in remembering God's blessings, I don't know what is!