Moving Across State Lines

Since Josh and I have been together, I often tell him how wonderful my home state of Minnesota is. I don’t think I really appreciated Minnesota until I moved away from it. I also, ironically, never pictured myself wanting to live in Minnesota as an adult. I thrive on movement and change, so why would I ever want to stay in the state where I grew up? And now, well, here we are.

In the last year, I’ve been showing him all the things Minnesota has to offer. Like the Great Minnesota Get Together- the state fair:

And then I won wife of the year and got him Vikings tickets for Christmas (touch the new stadium- check):

The more conversations we’ve been having and the more we attempt to pretend to map our future, we have realized that at this moment in our lives, Minnesota is where we need to be.

And with that…

HERE WE COME MINNESOTA.

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While there were several factors in the two of us deciding to move, the biggest factor was me going to grad school. After years of “what do I want to do with my life”, I have finally landed on a career I feel confident in. I looked into going to school while living in Nebraska, but it just wasn’t realistic. This fall, I will start school to obtain a Master’s in School Counseling. Josh will hopefully be able to work in the same company, just at a different location. We will be going from home owners to renters again. We will be about 1-2 hours away from my family and close friends. All of which is very exciting..but have you ever moved somewhere 7 hours away? Hello mess. We have this sign in our kitchen that says “Caffeine Chaos & Cuss Words”. That has never applied to my life quite as much as it does at this moment.

The hardest decision was what do we do first. Being that there really is no right answer. Do we sell our house first? Do we find a place to rent first? And how will we find a place to rent when all of the information on our application is Nebraska information? Do I apply for jobs before or after we move? When does Josh talk to the plant manager up there? What size moving truck makes the most sense? There were a lot of questions that really had no answers. I am a bit Type-A and a list driven person, so this lack of answers doesn’t really bid well for my internal happiness. And I’m not a person that feels stress very often, but I’m definitely starting to feel it. Thankfully, our timeline is a little fluid. As long as we are there before I have to show up for classes, we’re good.

While I am excited to move to Minnesota, I am also feeling a little sadness. Nebraska has been good to me and to us. I went from a fresh faced college graduate to a young professional here. I met my husband here. We brought our fur child home here. We bought our first house here. I will forever be grateful for the experiences I had here and the people I met along the way. Nebraska made me grow as a professional and as a person. I will always look back on my time in Nebraska very fondly. But I am looking forward to the next chapter of our life in Minnesota. I’m excited to be the closest I’ve been to my mom since I graduated high school. I’m excited about going back to school and move forward in my career.

I don’t know if Minnesota will be the place that we land and stay for the rest of our life. Because almost every new place I visit, I say “Oh, I could live here”. Call it commitment issues or a gypsy soul or whatever. But I know that at this moment in our life, Minnesota is where we need to be.

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No Baking Required- S’more Bars

Right now, I really wish it was summer and we weren’t in a blizzard warning. You know what reminds me of summer? S’mores. On top of that, no baking required recipes are sometimes the best recipes. Whenever I need to make a quick treat, my default is something that doesn’t require a lot of effort or thought. I obviously love baking and decorating baked goods (otherwise this blog wouldn’t exist), but I’m also all for a no bake.

S’MORE BARS

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I feel like everyone and their mom has a recipe for these bad boys. I first found this recipe in a Taste of Home book. I’ve also seen it on the side of cereal boxes. I have made it enough, that I tweaked it a little bit over time.

This recipe is super simple. It’s basically like making rice krispie bars. Fact: I used to be so afraid of making rice krispies because I thought I would burn the marshmallows (and that, you know, they’d burst into flames). But once I concurred that fear, the world opened up. In place of the rice krispies, these use Golden Graham cereal. And you throw in a chocolate chips. There really is nothing better.

DSC_0402These bars are so sweet, sticky, and gooey. What more could a person want?

DSC_0398S’more Bars

3 tbls butter

1 16 oz bag marshmallows (regular or mini)

1 teaspoon vanilla (optional)

12 oz box Golden Grahams cereal (or the store brand works too)

1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

1- Heat butter in a large sauce pan until melted. Stir in marshmallows (big or small, whatever you have on hand). Stir until smooth and combined.

2- Take off the heat. Stir in vanilla, if using. Add cereal. Mix until coated and combined.

3- After cereal is all mix in, stir in chocolate chips. The chocolate chips will became all melty. That’s what you want- keep stirring.

4- Pour mixture into a greased 9×13 pan. Let cool before cutting.

Notes:

*You can use up to 5 tablespoons of butter. I just don’t like too much of a butter flavor coming through.

*Vanilla isn’t required for them to be tasty. Kind of related to what I said above about not liking much butter flavor. I like what the vanilla adds.

*If melty chocolate isn’t your thing, you can also sprinkle the chocolate chips on top after putting the bars into the pan.

img_1664You can bet we are eating these today while watching the Vikings game. SKOL.

 

Trust Issues- Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

I’m basically a grandma. I try to eat dinner around the same time every night, my hobbies include reading and baking, and I like to be in bed before 9:30. Day in and day out. And, I will never turn down an oatmeal raisin cookie. Oatmeal raisin cookies have always been gas stations cookies for me. I have never once made them- until now.

I always thought they were a “healthy” cookie. And maybe they are healthier than a double chocolate cookie, but there is still quite a bit of not great stuff in there (I’m looking at you sugar and shortening). Mixing in all those oats though, that’s the good stuff.

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I love these scoops. I have one this size, and two in the perfect cupcake scoop size. It makes everything look a little more uniform.

The cookies came out a little crisp. I read the directions as 10-15 minutes. So, I baked them for about 14 minutes. It wasn’t until I was typing this that I realized the directions say 10-12 minutes. This is what happens when I try to read fast. And, in general, I’m not super confident in knowing when a cookie is done. I was thankful these looked like oatmeal raisin cookies though. Nothing is worse than thinking it’s a chocolate chip cookie, when it’s actually a oatmeal raisin cooking. That my friend is how trust issues start.

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All in all though, they made me very happy. Next time, I might sub out some of the shortening for butter. I just don’t find shortening as appealing as butter, that’s all. At first, I was worried it wouldn’t be enough raisins, but it turned out just right. I ended up getting 53 cookies with this recipe. Cookies for days! And the grandma inside me has never been happier.

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Oatmeal Raisin Cookies– from Taste of Home Baking book

1 cup shortening

1 cup sugar

1 cup packed brown sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 cups old fashioned oats

1 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1/2 cup golden raisins

**I omitted the walnuts and increased the amount of raisins. I used regular raisins, not golden raisins.

1- In a large bowl, cream together shortening and sugars until light and fluffy. Add in eggs and vanilla and beat until combined. In a separate bowl, combine the oats, flour, baking soda, and salt. Gradually add into the creamed mixture and mix well. Stir in walnuts (if using) and raisins.

2- Drop by tablespoons 2 inches apart onto ungreased baking sheets (I used parchment paper and it worked well). Bake at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on wire racks.

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Milo is a little bit camera shy. :D

Cosmic Brownie Points

A few months ago, I made Twinkies for my moms birthday. When I posted that, Nick challenged me to make cosmic brownies.

I do love a good baking challenge. I also love learning how to make snack cakes. Because really, what’s better than eating a food that basically sums up your childhood? When Josh asked what I was making, I explained what cosmic brownies were and showed him a picture of the final product. He didn’t think he had ever tried a cosmic brownie before. He asked me what the candy crunch pieces tasted like. So, apparently cosmic brownies don’t sum up his childhood… I guess you were raised in a snack cake family or you weren’t.

I found the recipe I was using on Pinterest. Where all food lovers can lose themselves for hours. Phase one of the recipe was making the brownies. The recipe gave the time and said “they are done. Don’t keep them in or they will be dry”. Weirdly, when I pulled them out after my timer went off, they 100% did not look done. But I pulled out a toothpick and popped it in a few places, and it came out clean every time. So they were right, just trust that they are done.

Next was the ganache. That was just 2 kinds of chocolate chips and heavy cream. What more could a person want? Not going to lie, this is now my phone home screen backround..no shame.

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Melt that all up, and spread it over the top of the cooled brownies. These offset spatulas are one of my favorite baking tools. It makes frosting things such a breeze.

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I found the little candy pieces somewhere…I truly don’t remember where. Gosh, that’s sad. It wasn’t even very long ago. I’m almost thinking Ace Hardware of all places. The Ace in my town has a nice baking section. Weird, I know. But they are Wilton brand, so you could probably find them wherever you can find Wilton stuff (JoAnn’s, online, etc). As much as I covered the brownies, I barely used an eighth of the sprinkle bottle. So these babies should last awhile.

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I then covered them and let them sit overnight. Because I wanted to let the ganache set a bit and for the candies to get pretty stuck into it. The next day, I cut them, individually wrapped them, and tried one. There was of course a difference. I would say my brownie was softer. But, I’m not going to complain about soft brownies. These bad boys were also super rich. Like, could’ve been cut into bite size pieces rich. I would say I got brownie points for this one.


Homemade Cosmic Brownies

¾ c (1.5 sticks) butter, melted

1 c sugar

2/3 c brown sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract

2 eggs

1 ¼ c all purpose flour

¾ c cocoa powder

½ tsp baking powder

1 tbsp cornstarch

Pinch of salt

3 tbsp milk

1 c semi sweet chocolate chips

½ c milk chocolate chips

½ c heavy cream

Candy crunch chips to top (or mini M&M’s would work)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 9×13 pan with foil and lightly spray with baking spray, set aside.
  2. In bowl, beat (stand mixer or hand mixer) melted butter, sugars, and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing until combined.
  3. In small bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, cornstarch, and salt.
  4. Mixing on low, alternate adding dry ingredients and milk. Mix until combined. Batter will be thick! (Even Josh noticed how think it was :D). Pour batter into prepared pan in an even layer.
  5. Bake for 20-25 minutes. (I baked mine for 21 minutes, and they were done. They did not look done, but do the toothpick check). Allow to cool in the pan.
  6. To make the ganache, use a 2 cup glass measuring cup. Combining chocolate chips and cream in measuring cup. You can use half power on the microwave to microwave or just do short period on full power (start with 45 seconds). Take out and stir. Continue warming and stirring until all the chocolate chips are melted and the ganache is smooth. When smooth, pour over the top of brownies and spread evenly. Top with candy chips.

Recipe I used: http://lifemadesimplebakes.com/2014/03/homemade-cosmic-brownies/

 

Milo Love

Two Monday’s ago, March 6th, marked 1 year since we got Milo. I’m obviously not super on top of my life- otherwise this would’ve been posted, oh, two Monday’s again. But being the good dog mom that I am, I did schedule him to get his shot updates on that day. Oops.

Milo came into our lives because there was a space that needed to be filled. I was working days, Josh had no schedule with the railroad- but he primarily worked evenings, overnights, and weekends. We moved into our house in November 2015, and very quickly the big house we bought to grow into felt very lonely. We were planning our future together, but we were just sharing a house- we felt like roommates who just passed each other in the hall sometimes.

We both grew up with dogs. We both consider ourselves dog people. Almost immediately after getting into our house, which had a prime dog backyard already fenced in, we started looking on PetFinder and all the possible rescue agencies within a couple hundred miles of us. We met a couple other dogs and filled out some applications- but it was never right.

In March, we saw a picture of a dog online. They were at the Council Bluffs Humane Society. We were in Omaha, so we figured we would drive over and see this dog. The dog we were going to see was not Milo.

When we arrived, we walked into where the dogs were. Milo’s spot was right inside the door. We looked at him and he sat and looked at us and wagged his tail. We walked down the row to actually look at the dog we came to see- that dog didn’t look like we thought it would from the picture. So we walked back and stared again at Milo. Literally. My memory is of Josh and I just standing there looking at him, and him looking back at us. He was the only dog in that whole place not barking. We asked to see him.

They brought us into a small room and brought him in. I sat on the floor and he sat on my lap. He played catch with Josh. About 10 minutes later, they asked us if we wanted to take him home. We must’ve had a look of shock and panic and joy, because they said they would give us a few minutes to think about it. We couldn’t let him get away. So as two people who, quite frankly suck at making impulse decisions, we did just that. We brought him out to our car to go home. (The photos below were the pictures we took meeting him at the humane society and then 2 hours after we busted him out of there).

Turns out, that was his first hour on the adoption floor. He was an owner surrender- so we kept his name as Milo. He was surrendered probably by a military family that was getting relocated. He knew how to sit, was kennel trained, and was potty trained. Where ever he was before, you could tell he was loved there. We are happy he ended up in our lives. He had adapted to our life in less than a day. His hobbies include sitting on the patio, chasing a laser, car rides anything involving water, and watching the neighborhood out the front door. As you can see, he has a very hard life :D.

He bridged our lives when we couldn’t be together. He filled the space that once felt very empty. He gave both of us something to come home to. Milo provided each of us with someone to talk to and someone to cuddle with.

On March 6th 2016, we rescued Milo. And on that same day in March, he rescued us.

Travel Thoughts and Twinkies 

This past weekend, I made the journey across states to head back home. I haven’t done the trip by myself in quite a while. Typically, I would have at least Milo with and sometimes Josh too. With Josh having a better work schedule now, he is able to fulfill more of a role as pet parent and he kept Milo for my weekend with my family in Minnesota. One way, it’s about a 7 hour drive (so 14 hours round trip). I spend 2 days just traveling. Which is why I only make the trip about every 6-8 weeks.

Some people say they worry about me when I do the drive on my own. But I relish it. 14 hours is a lot of think time. And snack time. Let’s be serious. It’s amazing where the mind can take you when all you have to do is sit and drive across 3 states. Here’s how my solo drive went, in no particular order.

*Gorging on cheddar sour cream chips and caramel bugles. Caramel bugles are salty sweet goodness. Make sure you have some in your life.

*Reliving moments in time. Because there’s something about replaying memories to help pass the time.

*Filling the full cast of several musicals. My current guilty pleasure is Hamilton. History has never been my subject of choice, but I can throw down a historical rap with the best of them.

*Planning out logistics of going back to school-with several different timelines.

*Shopping plans, to-do lists, meal planning for next week, and so on.

The reason I traveled to MN was for my mother. She turned 50 on Monday. One time when we were traveling, she said to me “If I was ever in an accident, I would want it to be with a Twinkie truck. Because then all the Twinkies will come flying at me.” I recently got the book “Duff Bakes”. I got into baking from watching Ace of Cakes on Food Network in the basement of my childhood home. I like to think that Duff is my baking spirit animal. In his book, there is a recipe for homemade Twinkies. And since my moms dream is to have Twinkies come flying at her, it seemed only fitting to change it up from cake to Twinkies for the big half century birthday.

The pan I used is the “delectovals” pan from Wilton. Aka, a pan with Twinkie shapes. I obviously overfilled a little bit. The recipe said it would make 18, and I got 12. But I now see that I could’ve easily got 18.


Because I overfilled, I cut a straight edge with a serrated knife. It was pretty easy to see where my straight edge should be. Serrated knives are my favorite- so great for cutting cake and bread.



Then I mixed up the filling. The filling included marshmallow fluff. Marshmallow fluff tops the list of my least favorite things to bake with (it’s right up there with sour cream). It’s so sticky and you feel like you have it in all the crevices of your hands and kitchen for days. To put the filling in, I took a circle piping tip and pushed it into the straight edge of the cake in 3 spots.

The reaction of everyone seeing the container on the counter was “Are those Twinkies?!” My brother decided they were “Winkies” or “Twankies” because they weren’t exact Twinkies, but they were close- like an off brand. :)

When I make these again, I might substitute with all-purpose flour instead of cake flour. The cake part itself was good, but I’m just more likely to have all-purpose on hand. Also, my filling didn’t really go inside the Twinkie. It was just on the bottom. In the future, I will be pre-carving out little holes and then filling.

Can you believe this lady is 50?! Here’s to the best decade yet (aside from your 20s, because, you know, that’s when I appeared in your life :D). I’m so grateful to have such a strong and beautiful lady as my mom.

 

A White Dress and a Gray Suit

I could write a lot about our wedding day. I probably will- and I have no shame. We’ve been married for awhile now. Really, it’s been a little over a month, but for some reason it feels much longer than that. And on that day a month ago, I cried. More than I thought I would. More than anyone thought I would. But as I was walking down that aisle in the shadows of the two men who have raised me, I’ve never felt more sure of anything. Because through my tears, I saw my person. The one person that I couldn’t imagine my life without smiling back at me- waiting for me. When I hugged my 3 parents, they all told me a variation of “you did it”, “you’re doing good” and “you’re almost there”.

I’m not an overly emotional person. Blame my mom, blame my college major, whatever. I cry irrationally in private (because sometimes we all need a good cry so we can pick up and keep going). But in public, I’m not one to cry. In my choice of work,  I’ve learned how to keep my emotions in check. Keep my non-verbals under control. I used to work with a sexual assault/domestic violence program, and now work with families whose children are 3 years or younger and are getting special education services (some being diagnosed medical conditions, and other being things like speech delays). If I cried every time someone told me something sad, that just wouldn’t work well. I figured I would cry at the ceremony, because that’s the important part where we pledge before our family, friends, and God to commit our life to each other. I imagined I would cry at the first look, but only when Josh started crying (and that’s what happened). I was more surprised than anyone that I spent almost the entire day of October 15th wiping tears from my eyes. I would like to say it was because I’m wearing eyeliner, and I usually don’t wear make up. But the reality is that there was so much love and happiness surrounding Joshua and I that day, that my little body couldn’t handle it and hold it all inside. I will forever be grateful for all the people who traveled to share in our day.

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The ladies who do the organizing at the church told us that our wedding was the most respectful wedding party they’ve had in a long time. We seriously couldn’t have asked for a better wedding party. All of our closest friends, siblings, and cousins came together, in matching outfits, and helped make our day a beautiful one. Before the ceremony, the entire wedding party (with the exception of Josh), and some of the parents were ushered to the “baby cry room”. It’s a room off the back of the church that parents can bring their loud kids to during the services. The room has the sound system hooked up and also has a two way window- so the people inside can see out, but the people on the outside can’t see in. As the time to start was drawing near, the parents were ushered out of the room and the wedding party was told to line up. As the wedding party was walking out of the room, it left me with my former college roommate personal attendant and the flower girl in the room. When the doors were closing, Josh’s best man, Nick, turned around and winked at me. We have always joked that Nick is Josh’s boyfriend and I’m, well, now I’m the wife. Nick is like a brother to Josh and has turned into a brother to me (just like a brother, he is always there when I need him, but sometimes I really just want him to go away :D). I like to think that Nick winking was his way of giving his approval- that we were all about to walk down that aisle, and what was meant to be was going to happen. And with that wink, the tears started forming and Kristin offered me a tissue. I said I didn’t need it. Then Kristin and I stood behind that window and watched Josh seat our parents. Then our moms went up to light our baptism candles. Then all of our closest friends started walking. I rounded the corner out of that room, and there were my dads standing there with tears in their eyes. And I needed that tissue, because I couldn’t handle it anymore. I don’t think I have the words to describe that feeling of those 5 minutes of my life. I don’t think I ever will.

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Marriage. In the several weeks leading up to “the day”, Josh and I talked about how scared we were but how excited we were at the same time. We have some solid examples of marriage in our life, but we also both have divorced parents. And because we both have divorced parents, statistics would tell you that a lifelong marriage might not be in our cards. And you know what, that’s scary. But we’re going to try so hard to make it work, and at this moment in time, we couldn’t imagine our life without each other- and that’s exciting. In between the ceremony and reception, the wedding party hopped on a bus and went to a winery. As we were taking pictures, one of the owners came out with an unlabeled bottle. He said they just bottled the wine that afternoon, so it was probably about the same age as our marriage. He brought out a marker and had all of our wedding party sign the bottle. He told us to put some scotch tape over the seal, and tuck the bottle away for 5 years- because that’s when this kind of wine is best. He suggested we write ourselves a letter to stick with the bottle- with things like what we hope to have accomplished in 5 years and where we want to be. And on October 15, 2021- pull out the bottle and pull out the letter- and drink our wine and talk. We aren’t naive enough to think it’s going to be easy. It might not even be easy getting up to the time where we open the bottle. Because a lot can, and probably will, change in 5 years. We know we are going to have to work hard and choose love. But we made a promise and a vow that we would do just that.

 

Our day was spent at St Peter Catholic Church in Delano, Parley Lake Winery, and Lake Waconia Event Center. Our lovely pictures were taken by Halfway Creek Photography. A Facebook album of all our favorites will be coming in the near future.