Heeeey Ya (I’m Just Bein’ Honest)

 

charlotte

Hey, all. It’s been a little while, but this is a post I’ve been thinking about for a couple of months. See, last year, Sarah posted a 25 Before 25 bucket list for her 25th birthday, and Jeannette has been writing about 25 life lessons leading up to her 25th birthday. Mine was this past August, and I thought about doing something similar, but I wasn’t sure what. Around the beginning of that month, a certain meme started showing up quite frequently on Imgur, one of the sites I browse when I’m bored. According to Know Your Meme, the Confession Bear allows people to post fairly anonymous confessions (linked to their user account for Reddit or Imgur, of course) “about taboo behaviors and controversial opinions that are often kept secret for fear of being ostracized.”

After seeing all of these, I figured I would go a completely different direction: 25 confessions, or 25 not-so-well-known facts about me, because I’m not ashamed of any of these, really. But, this was a lot harder than I thought it would be. I started making a list at the beginning of August, and as my birthday approached, I only had about 8 confessions. My birthday passed, and I still hadn’t written anything. I started getting busy with other stuff (new job!) and work (still my old job, too!) and I’m just now getting around to posting this. As it has been some time since my last post, I wanted to put a good effort into it, so I wrote it list + image style, like my other time-wasting site, Buzzfeed. So here they are… in the words of Usher, these are my confessions…

1. I can never spell “occasion” correctly. (I misspelled it typing up this post.)

2. I can’t ride a bike or whistle. (But you probably already knew that.)
Sadly, this also means that I cannot whistle while I twerk.

3. Charlotte and I have this Secret Single Behavior in common.char

4. I’m afraid that my hair will be completely white or grey by the time I’m 30.
I *am* Grad School Barbie. (via joannarenteria.com)

5. I don’t get the hype of Dr. Who, nor do I care enough to find out. (#sorrynotsorry)

6. I want to ride a zipline, and drive my car really fast on a closed race course, but don’t worry, that’s as far as my James Bond-esque aspirations go.

7. One of my biggest pet peeves is when people spell my name wrong… and it’s like, right there.

8. I have a hard time getting rid of “good boxes.” (It’s possibly a genetic thing. As far as I know, my Pop originated the “good box” concept.)

9. Contrary to popular opinion, I think that Godfather Part II is actually the worst of the Godfather movies. It goes 1, 3, and then 2.
Except for this part. The rest of the movie is too 70’s, but I love this scene.

10. I have this weird thing about being curious about how people decorate the inside of their homes while I’m driving by. (Definitely not in a creepy, “just for future reference” way. We’re guilty of it, too: big front window, sheer blinds, and always with the lights on. Its not my fault I can see that you watch FOX News while I’m in my car, going the speed limit.)

11.Ok, maybe not a whole pizza, but its good to have ambition and hold yourself to high standards.

12. I have a hard time taking an “adult” (and I use that term loosely) seriously when they’re wearing something with trademarked or licensed cartoon character (Disney or Looney Tunes, mostly) on it out in public.

13. Liz Lemon is my spirit animal.
Ask my mom about it sometime… if you dare.

14. I will NOT keep calm, and I’m so over those signs/posters. Same with mustaches. Don’t mustache all the things.

15. I have zero intentions of trying to “feel like a princess” on my wedding day. I’ve never asked to be coddled like a perfect princess, I’m a big girl, and I want to have a big girl, grown up day where my husband is equally as important as me, gosh darn it. (None of that, “this is your big day!” It’s his big day, too.)
However, I’m equal parts terrified and intrigued by My Big, Fat, Gypsy Wedding.

16. Growing up, there were never any babies or little kids around, so I have no idea how to interact with elementary aged kids. Now that I have friends with babies, I’m starting to understand it, but I still don’t get baby talk.

17. I have an overwhelming urge to smell all the candles in stores. Never go in Yankee Candle with me unless you’re prepared to be there for at least a half hour and to indulge me by smelling candles I like.
rage

18. You might be a bit surprised by the amount of time I spent in detention during the 5th grade. I was also sent home on the last day of 8th grade for wearing colored hair mascara (it was dark red on my dark brown hair) for our talent show. I guess you could say I’ve always had a kind of “fight the power” attitude.

19. I used to think that the negligees and fancy slips in JCPenney’s catalogs were really pretty dresses and wanted to wear one for my someday-wedding.

20. If I didn’t find a job in higher ed within two years of graduating with my master’s degree, I was planning on giving up looking for one. I was getting worried that things would get awkward with me for my friends who have been working in higher education.

21. I’m afraid no one will dance at my wedding.
Even if it’s like this, that’s ok. Please dance.

22. I won’t use a public restroom unless I absolutely have to.

23. If my feet are cold, I will more than likely bury them under you while sitting on the couch.

24. I can’t stand Seinfeld. I don’t get it’s popularity. I just don’t think its funny.

25. I get annoyed when my phone tries to autocorrect words that my sister and I have made up. Know our language already!
textAlright. There they are. Tell me something about yourself!

Life Lesson #3: It’s a Small World After All

What do you get when you combine six degrees of separation with the song, “It’s a small world after all?” Well, fine readers, you get:

Life Lesson #3: It (really is) a small world after all!

Disney World – one of the most magical places on earth!

A place where kids beg their parents to go on vacation, where newlyweds spend their honeymoon, and where generations of families gather together to take in the magic found here.

There’s so much to see and explore between the various parks that it’s often hard to decide what to do first! Should I go to the Animal Kingdom and go on a safari ride?

Or, should I start with Epcot where I can travel to Italy, France, AND Morocco without ever leaving the park?

Maybe it’s better if I just start in Magic Kingdom, see a parade and some of my favorite Disney characters, ride some timeless Disney rides, and go from there?

Growing up, I was lucky enough to travel to Disney World twice- once with my family and once with my high school band. Both times were wonderful and I can safely say that I was never able to see or do everything that I wanted while I was there. I saw many parades, watched fireworks shows, took pictures with my favorite Disney characters, and rode many rides. Thinking about the rides, the ones that stick out the most to me are: Splash Mountain (awesome, but wet-clearly), Space Mountain (super fun), the Buzz Lightyear ride/game (I rocked that game), and the It’s a Small World After All ride.

If you’ve been to Disney World/Land (or even if you haven’t), you’re probably familiar with “It’s a small world after all.” If you’re not, here’s what you would experience if you were on this ride:

As a kid, I didn’t really understand or appreciate the meaning of the song or the excitement of the ride. Don’t get me wrong, I loved seeing all the different cultures and countries represented in the display…although, the song did get a little annoying after awhile. Nevertheless, I didn’t really see how everything was connected or realize how small of a world we actually live in.

 Now that I’m older and yes, even somewhat wiser, I’ve come to better understand how the song and ride is applicable in the real world.

Most of you may be familiar with the theory of six degrees of separation. It’s a theory that asserts that everyone in the world (yes, all 7.2 billion people) are connected to everyone else by six links or people.

Wow.

It’s such a crazy idea when you take a moment to think about it.

When I think of this theory, it’s hard not to imagine I’m back on that ride in Disney World. Is it possible that a girl from a  small town in Ohio can be connected to a random stranger half way across the country? It seems crazy and doubtful.

I’m not saying that I buy into this theory completely, but I can appreciate it in the context of realizing that it really is a small world after all. When you move to a new place, start a job in a city where you know no one, and are feeling completely alone – remember this.

Remember that we are all connected in some way, shape, or form. Maybe not by six people. Maybe it’s a connection through an activity that you participated in when you were in high school. Maybe it’s through a university you attended for undergrad. Or, maybe it really is by a person. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy. Finding those connections may not even be intentional. You may have to work to make those connections and to put the puzzle pieces together, but I have a feeling that if you look for it, you can find the link.

Here’s why: When my family was in Egypt when I was a baby, we were in the Cairo airport waiting for our flight. From across the airport, someone began frantically waving to my family. From what my parents tell me, they had no idea who this woman was or why she was trying to get their attention. As she approached them, she addressed them by their first names. My parents didn’t recognize her. At all. Literally. It was 2:00 am in an airport half-way across the country from our real home and here’s this woman who knows us. Apparently, she was the sister of the priest of our church in Ohio and had recognized us from a single mass when I was baptized. Connection number one.

In July, Joni and I (and Sarah, too, but she wasn’t there for this part) attended a bachelorette party in Cleveland. As Joni and I were riding in a taxi that evening, we began talking to our driver. We were talking about various topics, when it somehow came up that we had attended the same university for graduate school (not at the same time). It was so random to be riding in this taxi in Cleveland and accidentally find out that we had the same alma mater. Connection number two.

During my first year of grad school, my mom came to visit me. Naturally, this trip involved shopping because what mother-daughter trip doesn’t?! When she was there, we went to Sam’s Club. Shortly after we entered the store, we saw a man who was clearly a Coptic Orthodox priest. So, not to be too creepy or anything…my mom and I followed him and his family to the checkout lane…to talk to them. As we introduced ourselves to the family, we realized that he knew my uncle (who is a priest) who still lives in Egypt. Seriously? In a country with over 80 million people, how could be possibly know my uncle? What are the chances that when my mom and I serendipitously (is that a word?) ran into this family that we would be connected?

It’s a small world.

So, why am I telling you this? I think it’s as much for you as it is for me. I think it can help you realize that no matter how far you go from home that you’re not alone. You’re not disconnected. The connections are there, you just might have to look for them. You might think you know no one. You might think that there’s no one around who can possibly understand the uniqueness of where you came from. But, in some way, the connection is there. It may be unexpected and not in the way that you had anticipated, but I have confidence that you’ll figure it out.

Now, go forth and enjoy the ride! Find those connections.

Who knows, maybe you’ll discover how you’re connected to your favorite actor, musician, or politician!

Cookie Table Project, Part Deux: Spritz Cookies

You’d think that since summer was over that would also mean that wedding season was over too — but not for me! In fact, my wedding season is just getting started for 2013. And, just like last year, that means cookies. If you don’t know what the heck I’m talking about, check out my series of posts from 2012 talking about the Cookie Table tradition that we have here in Northeast Ohio.

My cousin gets married in two weeks and my mom and I have been making a variety of cookies for the event. Last year, I blogged about how Pinterest helped me find new cookie recipes. This time around though, I decided to focus on tried and true recipes that I or my family have been making for awhile.

First up: Spritz Cookies.

Spritz cookies are great because they’re versatile. You can make them using a cookie press (like in this recipe) or you can simply make the dough, roll it into balls, and drop them on the cookie sheet. They really don’t need frosting or a lot of ornamentation — a little decorative sugar is a perfect complement. They’re also a great Christmas cookie to make.

photo (3)Makes 6-7 dozen small cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup margarine, softened
  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • Decorative sugar

Equipment Needed:

  • Stand or hand mixer
  • Spatula
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Electric or manual cookie press (optional)*
  • Cooking spray
  • Cookie sheets
  • Cookie cooling racks

*If using a cookie press, I highly recommend purchasing an electric one.

Instructions:

1. With the mixer, combine the margarine and shortening. Beat thoroughly approximately 2 minutes.

2. Once the margarine and shortening are thoroughly beaten, add the sugar gradually. Continue to beat the mixture for approximately 5 minutes until it becomes light and fluffy.

3. Add the egg and vanilla extract. Continue to beat the mixture.

4. Add baking powder. Gradually add flour, mixing the dough slowly until all ingredients are fully incorporated. Mix well for approximately 1 minute, making sure you stop to scrape the sides of the bowl to incorporate any lingering ingredients.

5. Once fully mixed, the cookie dough will be stiff.

6. If you are using a cookie press, now is the time to assemble and fill it. Please follow the directions included with your cookie press as they differ from one brand to another. For this recipe, I used a Cuisinart Cookie Press (available for less than $30). If you are not using a cookie press, simply make drop cookies.

Using a cookie press takes practice. Do not expect to make "prefect" cookies the first time you use a cookie press.

Using a cookie press takes practice. Do not expect to make “perfect” cookies the first time you use a cookie press.

7. Once you have assembled and filled your cookie press with dough, press the cookies onto a greased cookie sheet. Leave approximately 1-2 inches between each cookie.

I used the Flower design.

I used the Flower design.

8. Decorating the cookies with sugar is optional, but since the color scheme for this wedding is purple, I went with purple decorative sugar.

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9. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for approximately 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are lightly golden brown. Reduce temperature to 325 if needed. Be careful not to overbake.

10. Remove cookies from cookie sheet immediately and place on cooling rack.

11. Serve and enjoy!

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A Few (More) of My Favorite Things

favorite things

I’m sitting here, windows open, on this lovely day in late August, listening to the dulcet tones of construction equipment and heavy machinery. There is no way that the high school football stadium behind my apartment will be anywhere near ready for the beginning, or let’s be honest, the end of the season this year. Wonder how that’s going to work out for them. Hmm. Anyway

Things are coming together for the wedding, which is pretty exciting. Once we find our DJ, I’ll probably feel like I can kind of relax for a while. I’m looking forward to looking at dresses for my BridesDames and my co-MOHs, and we have our engagement photo session at the end of next month. There is still much to be done, but just not right now. Since I announced that I was engaged on a previous favorite things post, I thought it could do another one with other things I’m loving right now, like…

1. Beauty: CoverGirl Outlast Lipstain

I currently have two different shades in my purse to go with whatever attitude of outfit I wear to work. I bought my first tube of it prior to my cousin’s summer 2010 wedding in Houston. I knew I was going to need something that would last all day and wouldn’t sweat or shmear off in the heat. CoverGirl had just come out with this line, so I thought I’d give it a shot. Besides staying on all day, it has more of a matte finish than a glossy finish, so that gives it more brownie points. I also like how light-weight it is, and the fact that its basically a Sharpie for your lips. My personal favorites are Teasing Blush (415) for everyday looks and Wild Berry Wink (440) for something a little more dramatic.

2. Food & Drink: Chobani Flips Almond Coco Loco

The first time I tried Greek yogurt, I wasn’t too impressed, and actually thought it was somewhat bitter. Of course, I love frozen Greek yogurt, especially Ben & Jerry’s Banana & Peanut Butter flavor, so when I saw this the last time I was out grocery shopping with Brian, I thought I’d give it another go. When I was younger, I loved the Yoplait Yo’Crunches where you’d mix in the M&Ms or Oreo cookie crumbles in the little tub on top of the yogurt cup, but they weren’t that healthy and slightly expensive. The Chobani Flips were on sale for 10/$10, so I couldn’t pass that up. I’m a fan of dark chocolate anything, so this was pretty tasty, in my opinion.  Now I just need to go pick up a few more… maybe the Key Lime flavor?

3. Music: Lorde – “Royals”

I heard this song on The Summit while heading home from work, and thought it was super catchy. (I discover so much good music on The Summit. I don’t care to hear One Direction or Miley on my drive to work.)  Ella Yelich-O’Connor (better known by her stage name Lorde) is a 16 year old New Zealand singer-songwriter. According to Huffington Post, Lorde is the first woman to be on top of the Alternative Music chart in 17 years… so.. since before she was born.

4. Internet: Disney Ladies From Last Night — Not entirely SFW

Somewhere near NYC, Wendy needs some assistance.

I think I came across this website via Imgur, another photo-sharing site that Brian and I like to look at together for the LOLs. The format is simple: take a random Text From Last Night and then superimpose it on a corresponding screen cap featuring a female character from a Disney (or Pixar, some people are so picky…) movie. Many of these are not suitable for work, considering the state most people are in when they send a text worthy of making it on TFLN, but here are a couple of my favorites:

Someone in Philadelphia is missing a kitten.

Can’t be Pittsburgh Dad. Jeffy stole all his books.

5. End of Summer Sales, Whaaaat??!?!

Clothes. (Treat yo’self.) Fragrances. (Treat yo’self.) Massages. (Treat yo’self.) Mimosas. (Treat yo’self.) Fine leather goods. (Treat yo’self.)

There’s not much I love more than a sale, online or otherwise, and this summer, I think I’ve done pretty well with my sweet, sweet deals. I’m signed up for email alerts and online coupons for pretty much all of my favorite stores. Some of my best scores include:

  • $120 of stuff from Bath & Body Works for $45, including gifts for all of my bridesmaids and a few treats for my mom and sister.
  • $111 of clothing from Old Navy for $37, all on clearance + 30% off, and then free shipping.
  • $60 in shoes from Target for $25 — 2 pairs of flats for work and a pair of strappy sandals.
  • $57 worth of stuff from Kohls for $1.25. Yes, the period is in the proper place. Two candles and a set of makeup bags for less than a vending machine soda.

Always wait for the end of the season, when stores start to put out things for the next one. My Old Navy and Target finds can all easily transition from summer to fall. My B&BW haul happened during their Big Semi-Annual Sale. Look for ways to stack coupons on top of in-store percentages off, which Kohl’s is awesome for. This past spring, I was able to get a Vera Wang purse for 27% of the original price through a combination of in-store sales + mobile coupons + a store grand opening gift card we got at the apartment.

What are your favorite things right now? Introduce me to something I might never have seen before. 🙂

Fantastic Frosted Zucchini Brownies

When I was a kid, my Grandma and my Aunt Susie always made (and still make) these amazing frosted brownies. But I was never allowed to help make them. Why? They wouldn’t say. Eventually, I discovered/figured out that the brownies had a “secret ingredient.” They were afraid that, as a child, if I knew what that ingredient was I would never eat the brownies again. They were probably right to keep the truth from me. If I’d known that there was Zucchini in my brownies I don’t know if I’d have been able to eat them.

But I love Zucchini now, so the fact that there is a vegetable in my brownies doesn’t bother me at all.

Even if you’re not a big fan of Zucchini, you’ll never know that it is in the brownies.

This recipe really produces a fantastic and a pleasantly different kind of brownie that the fudgy variety you get in the store or out of a box.

These Zucchini Brownies are very moist and very cake like. They are also frosted and rich, so small servings are suggested.

photo(98)

Fantastic Frosted Zucchini Brownies

Makes: One 13 x 9 pan of thick, cake size brownies or one jellyroll pan or thin brownies

Ingredients for Brownies:

  • 2 cups of sugar
  • 1 and 1/2 cups oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 Tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 3 cups grated zucchini (You will need 2 large zucchini or 3-4 small ones — use your best judgement.)

Ingredients for Frosting:

  • 3 to 3 and 1/2 cups of powdered sugar (you made need more, you may need less)
  • 1 stick margarine, softened
  • 1/2 cup cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Hot water

Equipment:

  • Stand mixer or handheld mixer
  • Grater
  • Potato/vegetable peeler or paring knife
  • Spatula
  • 13 x 9 pan or jellyroll pan
  • Cooking spray
  • Flour to dust the pan

Instructions for Brownies:

1. Rinse and dry the zucchini.

photo(94)

2. Using a vegetable peeler or a paring knife, peel the skin off the zucchini.

photo(100)

3. Grate the zucchini until you have 3 cups. Grate the zucchini from the side — You DO NOT want any seeds to end up in your brownies! Set the zucchini aside.

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It took almost both of the large zucchini’s I had to get three cups.

4. In a mixer, combine the oil, eggs, vanilla, and sugar. Beat until smooth.

5. Add flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Mix until fully combined.

6. Add cocoa powder. Mix with other ingredients.

7. Now it’s time to add the zucchini. Before doing so, drain most of the extra liquid from the zucchini. Add zucchini a little at a time, mixing as you go, until all has been added and completely combined with all the rest of the ingredients.

8. Grease and flour your baking dish. Pour the batter in and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 to 40 minutes. Beginning at 30 minutes, check the brownies with a toothpick every few minutes until the toothpick no longer has batter on it.

photo(96)

Frosting Instructions:

NOTE: Frosting is a must for these brownies.

1. In a mixer, combine the softened margarine, vanilla, and cocoa.

2. Slowly, a little bit of a time, add the powdered sugar until the frosting takes on a thick consistency.

3. Add approximately 1 tablespoon of hot water at a time until the frosting takes on a spreading consistency. Simply alternate the powdered sugar and the hot water until the frosting is how you want it.

4. The best way to judge is to taste the frosting as you go — you’ll know if it tastes and feels right.

5. After the brownies are cool, frost them! Don’t frost before the brownies are cool — the frosting will melt!

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Suggestion: While refrigerating these brownies is not necessary, I highly recommend it.

Slice up a piece, pour yourself a cold glass of milk, and ENJOY!

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