Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Kate Spade Surprise Sale

I've been waiting on this day since February! This (and the 80 degree weather... and being woken up to John making breakfast - what can I say, it's been a good Tuesday:)) definitely made my morning. It's the Kate Spade surprise sale today and tomorrow. Up to 75% off:) The perfect time to buy a baby bag I think...


Thursday, May 9, 2013

Soft Pretzels

Way back when, I mentioned my craving for homemade soft pretzels. I actually made these in February, during primo football season, and they were FANTASTIC - chewy and perfect. However, then first trimester nausea hit and I couldn't face, much less write about anything with sea salt. Now that I'm back to a normal, sea-salty diet, I'm excited to share this recipe that (I promise) is much less intimidating than it looks. 

OK, get all your kitchen tools ready and clear off a counter top. While fairly easy, this recipe will take over your kitchen and cover it in flour. Or maybe you're a much more organized cook and that was just me... No judging.

1 1/3 cups warm water
1 tbsp sugar
2 tsp kosher salt
2 1/4 tsp (one packet) yeast
4 1/2 cups flour
4 tablespoons melted butter
water (for boiling)
2/3 cup baking soda
2 tbsp melter butter or egg wash (egg mixed with a bit of water)
Sea salt or kosher salt (I picked mine up from the spice bins at Whole Foods)


1. Mix 1 1/3 cups water with the sugar, yeast and salt. Let this sit for a while until it starts to bubble (activate the yeast).

2. Add flour and the 4 tbsps of butter. (Technically, you should use the paddle attachment for the first part and the dough hook for the second part, but I used my regular mixing whisk and it turned out just fine. Work with what you have.) Mix it on low. If you don't have a dough hook, you'll want to do a bit of kneading by hand until the dough bounces back when touched.

3. Place the dough in a bowl (it will double in size, so keep that in mind when choosing your bowl) and set it in a warm place for about an hour or until said doubling in size has occurred.

4. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees, line a large baking sheet or two with parchment paper, and start boiling a pot of water with the baking soda. (Yes, you will both boil and bake the pretzels.)

5. Take about an eighth of the dough out of the bowl to make your first pretzel. Cover the bowl with a wet paper towel to keep the rest of the dough from drying out (trust me, it dries out fast!).

6. Roll out the pretzel dough (use flour to keep it from sticking) until you have a rope that's about a foot to a foot and a half. This is the part that took me the longest amount of time. Once you have a decent rope of dough, make a u-shape, then pull each side down and across to make a pretzel formation. Pinch the dough in the areas where it connects to keep the pretzel from falling apart in the next step. (See photos below.)

7. Use a flat, slotted spatula to lower the formed pretzel into the boiling water. Let it stay in the water for 30 seconds then remove the pretzel from the water and set it on the baking sheet. Brush the pretzel with melted butter or egg wash and sprinkle with sea or kosher salt. (With the sea salt I found it easiest to push each piece of salt into the pretzel). Repeat this process until all of your pretzels are salted and on the baking sheet.

8. Bake for about 12-15 minutes or until the pretzels are golden brown.

Adapted from...

A few variations...
I ended up making six pretzels and braiding the remaining dough with white cheddar cheese. I boiled and baked the same as the regular pretzels. I'd think you could also stuff the pretzel dough with cheeses or deli meat to make stuffed breads (or mini pretzel bites!)

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

We're Going to be Parents:)

This year marked our seventh trip down to Louisville for the Kentucky Derby. Here's our official Derby day shot for those who don't already know the news!:) Cheers with mocktails all around!

Yesterday marked the start of our 17th week and the baby is the size of a turnip. (I didn't know exactly what a turnip looks like either, so here's a photo.*)

We're really excited for this new chapter in our lives! I actually found out while I was away on a work trip (not the best timing!) But I kept it a secret until I got back home and surprised John with an 'early Valentine's Day' present.

We told our parents around week seven. My parents are in Kentucky, so we called them with the news. John's parents live about an hour away and we were able to schedule a Sunday evening dinner with them. They received 'belated Valentine's Day' presents - wrapped up onesies. There was A LOT of screaming. Good thing baby's hearing hadn't developed at that point. Everyone is very excited -- especially since this will be the first grandchild on each side:)

Baby Gap has the cutest onesies! I bought these in Las Vegas and the cashier asked how old my son was. I turned bright red and mumbled something confusing about gifts.

No wonder I thought about this nonstop all day was craving this on my trip! I should have known.

We've started cleaning out our second bedroom for a nursery (and even bought a crib already -- thank you Pottery Barn sale!) I'll try not to make all my posts about this, but I'm also not making any promises:)

*P.S. I made a trip to Whole Foods in between writing and posting. Let me say that there is quite a large spectrum of turnip sizes! This baby could be huge.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

My Bookworm Months

My 'stack of books'

One of my New Year's resolutions this year was to read at least two books a month. I started off really strong... then started getting 'bus sick' (i.e. - I've never gotten car sick. ever. and recently Chicago bus drivers have been making it hard for me to ride and read.) Don't worry, the nauseas feeling goes away after I turn off my Kindle and focus on looking out the window, but it's cutting down on about an hour of my reading time each day!

Here is what I've finished thus far. Thought I would share, because I really enjoyed many of them!

The Fault in Our Stars, John Green - This one was one Time magazine's best books of the year. It is young adult fiction... I'll admit that - so a quick read, but really good regardless.

Where'd You Go Bernadette, Maria Semple - This story is told through emails, letters, and other written documents. It's put together in a clever way and I found it to be a quirky, well-written mystery.

Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides - I believe this book won a Pulitzer, so yes, it's good:) It follows several different characters through one intertwined story.

Sharp Objects and Dark Places, Gillian Flynn
I had read Gone Girl a few months back and loved. it. In February, Gillian Flynn's earlier novels, Sharp Objects and Dark Places were my Costa Rica beach reads. They are both rather twisted and dark - just putting that out there. I enjoyed them and they made my plane rides tolerable and kept me glued to my beach chair. You can feel her writing developing with each of the books -- her characters and methods of story-telling become more intricate. I can't wait to see what's next after Gone Girl:)

The Virgin Suicides, Jeffrey Eugenides - Another dark one! But a quick, gripping read. I read this in a few hours on my way to and from Nashville. After reading Middlesex and the Marriage Plot (I finished that one in December, so it didn't make my 2013 resolutions cut), I figured I might as well finish up his trio.

NW, Zadie Smith - This wasn't my favorite. I really liked Zadie Smith's White Teeth and On Beauty, but I found NW difficult to follow. I appreciate the changes in pace and narrative, but the story never went anywhere. I didn't feel compelled to keep picking it back up.

I slacked off a bit in April, due to my motion-less reading predicament. But I am almost through Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In. So far, so good. A great message of knowing what you deserve and asking for what you want. She doesn't sugar coat things or allude that you can easily have it all, but she does talk about balance and making time for what matters. I've highlighted a ton of this book, so maybe a full post on that is in my future.

Ok so pretty much I recommend all the books I read (except maybe NW, depending on your reading preferences.) That's partially because if I don't like a book I don't tend to finish it. (I do give adequate benefit of the doubt - I never quit before I'm about a third through, just in case.) A few of those include The Year of Living Biblically; Mennonite in a Little Black Dress; Eat, Pray, Love; and the Happiness Project. Maybe it just depends on my mood or the height of my expectations. And maybe I'd end up really liking those books if I gave them another try. Who knows.

Any suggestions for the coming months?

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Happy Seven Years!

It's our seven year anniversary today! I admit I keep track of both our 'dating' anniversary, as well as our wedding anniversary. May 1 has been an important date for us longer than June 19, our *real* anniversary, and is also the date of our engagement, so why quit acknowledging it? (I also celebrate my dog Spud's birthday, which was yesterday if you were wondering.)

We've fit a lot into the past seven years. A move to Chicago, a combined total of six jobs, nine apartments/condos, one master's degree, 13 countries, one dog, one wedding and one home purchase. I'm excited to continue on our adventure:)

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