Monday, January 30, 2012

Showers

We had showers this weekend...figuratively speaking, that is.  Friday night we gave Chels her bachelorette party and Saturday was her bridal shower.  Here are just a few shots of the two parties.  It's clear to see from these that Chelsea is going to be the most beautiful bride ever!  She looks like wedding barbie.

Holding her bow bouquet
Lots of lovely gifts!
She does.
In case anyone was wondering...
Delicious food!
Steph, Chels, and me
Along with Chels, the four of us actually shared an apartment our senior year of college!
Mmm...all our favorites!
Hanging out in Carly's perfect-for-entertaining kitchen
Playing a game!
Sara and Esther
Dad and Chels
He snuck in for a quick hello on Saturday
Rosalinda, Carly, and Camille
Auntie Di and Mom
Enjoying our delicious meal!
And here's the lovely bride!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Twenty-Nine and Feeling Fine!


Funniest cat birthday card ever!  Thanks, girls!
Yesterday I celebrated my twenty-ninth year of life!  But of course, I celebrated days before because around here we do weekend birthdays.  Friday night we went out to dinner with Ben, Steph, and Ellie (lame me...no picture of that night) for some tasty Henry's Mexican food, then games and fun at their house.  Steph's "book theme" of gifts was perfect!   A new ATK cookbook--healthy style--and the Hunger Games trilogy.  I cannot wait to begin these, and I'm pretty sure she's wanting me to have them read ASAP so we can finally talk about them.

Saturday night Robby and I went to dinner, using up a nice Fugazzi's giftcard we received at Christmas.  We had to travel all the way to Hanford because Visalia's Winter Formal crowd took up every spot downtown.  Hanford's Fugazzi's is great, though, so I'm glad we were forced to try it.

Sunday was the real day.  I received many birthday wishes at church, then had a quick birthday lunch at The Habit (pastrami sandwich...delicious!!!).  A couple of hours of doing what I love most--sitting around, drinking coffee, enjoying a fire--then we went to my parents' house for more celebrating.  The Feely's joined us, as well as Chelsea Boyd, so we had a great party!  My mom made my Italian favorites and brought out a fabulous cheesecake, and as usual, all of my family and friends spoiled me with thoughtful and generous gifts: new clothes, shoes, and accessories; Harry Potter books and dvds; car washes from my dad; and then a nice little bit of cash in case I wasn't spoiled enough.

Did I mention I'm spoiled?  Steph gave me the Hunger Games trilogy e-book because the gift Robby gave me was a new Kindle Touch!  I love it!!!  I feel like a kid totally excited about a new toy.  He also gave me a beautiful purple leather case for it, the prettiest case I've ever seen.

We did snap lots of pictures, but Robby was using his newly-handed-down-to-him camera, and I don't know how to get the photos on my computer yet.  The photo montage will have to come another time...

Thank you all for making my birthday so special and my twenty-ninth year of life so amazing!  I love each one of you!



Saturday, January 21, 2012

Low Sugar Oat Pumpkin Muffins

I know it's no longer fall nor pumpkin season, but I made these awhile back, and they were good for a low-sugar breakfast or treat.  Top them with a sweet frosting, and you have a dessert!  The problem I found was that as soon as I made them, I was sick of pumpkin, so much so that I really didn't get to enjoy them.  Maybe I'll be up for them next fall, but until then, I might try swapping out the pumpkin puree for banana or carrot.
Oat Pumpkin Muffins

1/3 c oil
1 ½ cups oat flour
½ cup almond meal
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. salt
¼ tsp. allspice
1 ½ cups pumpkin puree
¼ cup honey (I did a bit less even.)
2 large eggs
½ cup sour cream

1.     Preheat to 350 degrees.  Line muffin tins.
2.     Whisk dry ingredients.
3.     In a separate bowl, whisk pumpkin puree, honey, eggs, sour cream, and oil until well combined.
4.     Stir in flour until just combined.
5.     Fill tins about half full.
6.     Bake for 20-25 minutes, until they spring back when touched.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

New Year's Resolutions

Calla's Resolutions:
1.  Sleep 80% of my life away.
2.  Eat the best catfood the marketplace has to offer.
3.  Play in at least 100 boxes this year.
4.  Chase butterflies, birds, and any other flying creature.
5.  Remind Candace and Rob who's boss...daily.
I'm late sharing my New Year's Resolutions, but just as well.  I've had a couple of weeks to try to keep them, and I'm not doing too badly.  Here they are:

1.  Spend time reading the Bible daily.  I did this two years ago and read through the "Everyday Bible."  Last year, I thought to myself, I don't need a daily reading.  I can read the Bible everyday just on my own.  Wrong.  For me personally, it helps to have a schedule laid out for me.  Sure, I'll miss days, but it becomes somewhat of an accountability partner, a little book that says to me, "It's January 14.  Did you read today?"

2.  Work out three times a week.  (Which means if I can at least do two times a week, I'll be thrilled!)

3.  Continue to cut sugar and eat more protein and veggies.  I have, so far, eaten more protein and veggies, but the sugar-cutting isn't easy.

4.  Practice piano two hours a week and work through a collection of classical pieces I've had forever.  (I've already worked through two!)

5.  Work on my music, and have a completed piece every month.  (I already have so many incomplete pieces...I need to finish them!)

6.  Have my week's lessons completed and copied the Wednesday before.  (Yay, first week back to school, and I did this!)

So, those are the hard ones, the resolutions that will take lots of energy, even if it is with things I deeply care about.  But I've heard you need to include a few easy resolutions, so here they are:

7.  Spend time with friends every week.  This includes my weekly phone-calls with Kelly :)

8.  Buy cute clothes...or at the very least borrow from my sisters, two of which now live three minutes from me.

9.  Sew fun projects, any from my new book Sewing in a Straight Line will do!

10.  Create and decorate just because I love to, and spend lots of time with design books (like my new Design Sponge at Home), sites, and blogs.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Frosting!



My sister Carly's birthday last week inspired me to try a new frosting.  Her favorite cake is funfetti cake with the rainbow sprinkles frosting, so I was hoping to be able to recreate such a thing.  I didn't.  The reason I couldn't recreate the funfetti cake and rainbow sprinkles frosting is those flavors are fake flavors!  Real vanilla doesn't taste like that; real butter doesn't taste like that.  So, although I didn't recreate Carly's favorite cake, I did make a tasty vanilla cupcake that looked like funfetti cake, and I topped it with a beautiful (albeit too buttery) Italian Buttercream frosting.  I'm sharing the frosting recipe, although I am going to adjust it next time and make a sweetened meringue before adding the simple syrup.  This particular one came from Sprinkle Bakes.

Also, if you want to create the look of a funfetti cake, all you have to do is make your favorite vanilla cake batter, then just before baking, fold in 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup sprinkles.  That's it!  It really does turned out to look like confetti!

Italian Buttercream (from Sprinkle Bakes)

2 cups sugar
2/3 cup water
4 large egg whites
6 sticks softened butter (yes, six!!!)
1 teaspoon vanilla

To make a small batch, I did:
1 1/2 c sugar
1/2 c water
3 large egg whites
4 sticks softened butter
3/4 teaspoon vanille

Dissolve the sugar and water over medium heat and bring to a boil until it registers 240 degrees.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk the egg whites (and sugar...see note) until they are foamy.  Once your simple syrup is 240 degrees, slowly add it in to the foamy egg whites and mix on low to cool the mixture.  KAF said not to add the butter until the mixture is below 100, so I did do that, although few recipes required that step.  

With your paddle attachment, add in the butter one piece at a time.  Add in your vanilla.  It will look curdled, but just keep mixing!  Soon, it will smooth out to a lovely buttercream that tastes just as it sounds -- butter and cream (and a bit of sugar, of course).

Next time, the only difference I'll try is adding 1/3 cup sugar to the egg whites so that the frosting is altogether sweeter.

I have a couple other frosting recipes that I've come to love, so I thought I'd share them again.

Swiss Meringue Chocolate Frosting (from ATK)

1/3 c sugar
2 large egg whites
pinch salt
12 T unsalted butter, softened and cut into 12 pieces
6 oz. bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled to between 85 and 100 degrees
1/2 t vanilla

Combine sugar, egg whites, and salt in bowl of a standing mixer, then place over simmering water.  Heat, whisking gently but consistently, until it registers 150 degrees.

Using the whisk attachment (or a hand-mixer whisk, which I did because mine didn't seem to fluff up enough), beat on medium speech until it looks like shaving cream and is slightly cooled, a couple of minutes.  Add the butter, one piece at a time, until smooth and creamy.

Add the cooled melted chocolate and vanilla and mix.  Increase speed to med-high and beat until light and fluffy.

One more Buttercream Frosting, the strangest recipe I've ever found, but my favorite!

2 sticks butter, very soft
1/4 cup flour
1 cup milk
1 cup sugar
1 t vanilla

1.  Over med high heat on the stove, carefully and consistently mix together the flour and milk.  Do this by placing 1/2 of the milk in the pan, then sifting in flour with while hand and whisking with the other.  You don't want any lumps, so the sifting helps tremendously!  Add more milk as you need to.  It will look like glue.

2. Let it cool, whisking occasionally so it doesn't stick to the pan.

3.  With the mixer, beat butter until smooth and creamy.  Add sugar and beat until fluffy.  Add cooled milk/flour mixture and beat until thick and creamy.

4.  Add flavoring.

Note: This frosting may be slightly grainy at first, but the sugar dissolves quickly.  If possible, make it a couple hours before frosting, so that the sugar has time to dissolve.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Get some color!


It's piano day here, which is a day I get to peruse blogs and websites.  The reason is there are only so many things one can do with a half hour break here and there, and finding interesting reads and photographs online is a welcomed way to fill that time.

I have two minutes before my next student comes, but I wanted to quickly share this beautiful and amazing site called Design Seeds.  For any who loves color, this is for you.  (And wouldn't that be all of us?)

Enjoy the site!  And let me know what you think!

Happy Birthday, Carly!

Yesterday Carly, the third of the sisters, turned twenty-four.  It was an exciting birthday because it was the first celebration in Carly's new home!  The family gathered to share a delicious meal and celebrate Carly's life.

I love this picture - it captures Carly's personality perfectly!
Pretty with the pink cupcakes I made!
Carly, Mom, and Dad
Camille sitting on the gift she gave Carly -
a cool faux fur pillow to go by the fireplace
Modeling her new apron!
My mom made her a whole basket of baking items and other much-needed goods. 
January Girls!
Happy birthday, Carly!  May you be richly blessed this year!!!

New Year's Menu

Back when I began my low-sugar/high-protein diet, many people asked me about it.  For one of my sister's, I made up this basic diet for her to follow, so I decided to post it.  It's a good reminder for me as I try to eat better with the new year.  Going on the candida diet really helped, so I plan on sticking to a similar eating style with a little more give and grace.

Carly’s Power Diet (Low sugar, High protein)

Do Eat:
Veggies—any and all except potatoes and summer squash
Meat—chicken, fish, beef, especially
Eggs—boiled, scrambled, even over-medium is okay
Low-sugar fruit—raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, green apples, fresh pears, grapefruit, lemons and limes for flavoring
Milk products—plain regular fat yogurt, sour cream, cream cheese, cottage cheese; some butter and heavy cream okay, as well; do whole milk and cheese in moderation; remember that the lower the fat, the higher the sugar
Beans (not canned)—most any are okay, but use pinto beans in moderation
Spices and Extras—no sugar, but a bit of honey or stevia is okay; cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, pepper, lemon juice, lime juice, any fresh spices really (try not to do things with additives in them, like mesquite flavoring)
Olive oil (or other cold-pressed oils) and apple cider vinegar for dressings

Whole Grains – Limit your daily intake
NO white flour whatsoever; wheat flour sparingly
Other flours okay, such as oat flour, buckwheat, etc.
Cous cous and bulgur in limited amounts
Rice, except white rice
Millet

NO:
Sugar, brown or white, ever!
White flour
Caffeine (or limit to one cup of coffee or tea in the morning)
Packaged foods
Fast food
Alcohol (or limit to one drink a week); remember that alcohol is basically pure sugar

Meal Ideas
Breakfast
Oatmeal with raspberries or half a banana sliced, some butter, a tad of honey
Omelet with spinach, olives, tomatoes, avocado, cottage cheese
Yogurt with a handful of berries mixed in
Apple, chopped almonds, yogurt parfait
Scrambled eggs with fresh salsa and beans
Berry-yogurt smoothie with spinach blended in
No additives pork can work, too (bacon, ham)
*Remember that breakfast is the easiest meal to control, so keep sugar out of it if possible!  

Snacks
*Be prepared to need lots of snacks! Try to purchase things fresh and always check labels for those with the lowest sugar. 
Celery with almond butter
Yogurt
Sunflower and pumpkin seeds
Boiled egg
Veggies with sour cream
Avocado and tomato with cottage cheese and basil
Low sugar fruit with yogurt or a sprinkle of cinnamon
Organic hummus with veggies or organic wheat crackers
Tomato, Cucumber, Onion salad
Almonds
Salads

Drinks
Sparkling mineral water with a squeeze of lemon or lime, a couple fresh berries
Decaf coffee with cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon
Fresh herb or low fruit teas—mint, ginger, lemon
Spice tea with cream, like a chai

Lunch
*If possible, make your own condiments and dressings or limit the use.  They have lots of sugar.  Try substituting sour cream, olive oil, vinegar in place of mayo and ranch.
Lettuce wraps with tuna salad (tuna, celery, tomato)
Salad with anything and everything, especially boiled egg
Brown rice with chicken
Brown rice veggie bowl
Tuna salad over greens
Chicken salad over greens
Egg salad over greens
Cold rice with chopped onion and tomato
Bean salad with apple cider vinegar
Quinoa—use as a salad

Dinner
*Lunch works here, too!
Fish over rice – spice fish with smoked paprika and cayenne
Meatballs with home-made tomato sauce
Chicken fajitas (hold the tortilla) – bell pepper, onion, chicken, rice, black beans
Cream of cauliflower soup
Mock mashed potatoes (made from cauliflower) and turkey
Cream of broccoli soup
Chicken soup (no noodles)
Stir-fry with broccoli, snow peas, carrots, chicken or beef, and rice
Baked sweet potato with butter and a garden salad
Taco salad (no tortilla chips; limit cheese)

Treats (Enjoy these sparingly)
No sugar added banana bread (made with oat flour)
Pumpkin and Cream Cheese muffins (oat and almond flour)
Berry yogurt parfaits with a smidge of honey
Whole wheat chocolate chip cookies with low-sugar bittersweet chocolate
Frozen banana with semi-sweet chocolate
Low sugar home-made berry ice cream
Pears and fresh ricotta cheese

Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy New Year!

It's hard to believe 2011 has passed and we are beginning 2012!  There is something special about January 1st.  Even though there's hardly any difference between December 31st and January 1st (one day is about it), I know many of us feel a hopeful expectation with the coming of a new year.  It can be a time for forgiveness, release, renewal, commitment, and rededication.

I'm feeling a bit of all of this.  I admit this past weekend included a few tears for me.  It was nearly a year ago that I had my surgery.  At that time, my doctor had great statistics to share with me about women becoming pregnant within a year after such a surgery and was sure that I could be one of those success stories.  Clearly, that wasn't the case.

So, there were tears on December 31st, but renewed hope on January 1st.  Yes, 2011 wasn't the year for us to have a baby.  But 2012 is here, and who knows what God has in store for us now?

Here's to 2012, friends!  I pray that God is your hope and portion this year.  May His name be blessed for His love and grace to all of us!

Ringing in the New Year!
Grateful for another wonderful year with my husband!
Cheers!
Thankful for good laughs,
intense Wii games, 
and amazing dance moves!
Most of all, thankful for friends!