Friday, July 31, 2009

Happy Birthday Ellie!

Happy Birthday to You,
Happy Birthday to You,
Happy Birthday Dear Ellie.....

Ellie is 3 today!
This was taken by the breeder when she was about a month old...she looks awfully innocent!
Ellie and her 'friend' the day she came home...7 weeks old

First encounter with Molly...

...soon to become her best dog friend

Playing on the tennis courts - about 3 months old

Running in the backyard - about a year old...I think

Happy Halloween! - 2008

...and Merry Christmas! - also 2008

The Birthday Girl! (today!)
She was a really good sport about wearing the bow and posing so nicely...

I guess she knew she would be rewarded!

Protecting her new zebra toy...

Happy 3rd Birthday Ellie!

You're now 'legal' in dog years!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Cupcakes and a Movie Sunday

I was so excited when my grandmother gave me the new Martha Stewart Cupcakes book a few weeks ago. As soon as I started perusing the glossy pages, I was dying to make several of the recipes. Have you seen this book? It is GORGEOUS! Seriously – if you like cupcakes, you should buy this book. It would also be a great gift!

For my first endeavor, I decided to make the Mint Filled Brownie Cupcakes. I invited my mom over to help and watch a movie and let me say it was MUCH easier and much more fun to make cupcakes with someone than by myself. This way we were both cleaning and splitting up the steps, it was actually pretty relaxing!

So we’ve done this “cupcakes and a movie” thing on a Sunday twice now. Might be a nice little tradition to start!

As I said, our first go round was with the Mint Filled Brownie Cupcakes. I am a sucker for anything with mint and this recipe only makes 12 cupcakes so it seemed like a safe place to start. The recipe was easy to follow and the cupcakes were great! I do think we cooked them a tad too long though so be sure to watch yours starting at about 25 minutes if you try these at home. The peppermint patty candy ended up being kind of hard and chewy instead of soft, as in the pictures in the book.

Mint Filled Brownie Cupcakes - Martha Stewart Cupcakes
Yield: 12 cupcakes

8 oz. semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
¾ tsp salt
3 large eggs
½ cup all purpose flour
¼ cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder (I used regular Hershey's)
12 small chocolate covered peppermint patties, such as York

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a standard muffin pan with paper liners. Place chocolate and butter in a heat proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Stir occasionally until just melted, 4 to 5 minutes.

Remove from the heat. Whisk in the sugar and salt until mixture is smooth, whisk in eggs to combine. Gently whisk in flour and cocoa just until smooth.

Spoon 1 heaping tablespoon of batter into each lined cup. Place 1 peppermint patty on top, gently pressing into batter. Top with two tablespoons batter, covering patty completely. Bake, rotating tin halfway through, until a cake tester inserted halfway into centers (above mint patty) comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached, about 35 minutes. Transfer tin to a wire rack to cool completely before removing cupcakes.

The movie that accompanied the Mint Filled Brownie Cupcakes was “Last Chance Harvey”. It was alright. Good for something to have on in the background but not really something I’d want to watch over and over.

This past Sunday we had “Cupcakes and a Movie”, Round 2. This time it was Martha’s Peanut Butter Cookie Cupcakes and “27 Dresses”. We were going to watch “Confessions of a Shopaholic” but once we saw all the steps involved in these cupcakes, we thought it might be better to just have something on that we’d seen several times before.
As it turns out, the cupcakes were not that labor intensive. It was just the time spent waiting for them to cool and then frosting that took awhile but we just watched the movie during that time anyway. Really though, there is nothing to be intimidated about here, it was actually pretty easy and the end result is fantastic!

I love how the frosting looks like real peanut butter cookies!

Peanut Butter Cookie Cupcakes – Martha Stewart Cupcakes
Yeild: about 2 1/2 dozen (I only got about 2 dozen when I made them)

1¾ cups all-purpose flour
¾ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp baking soda
¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup natural, creamy peanut butter (I used Peter Pan)
3 large eggs
½ tsp pure vanilla extract
½ cup sour cream (I used light)

12 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature (I used 1/3 less fat)
1½ cups powdered sugar, plus more for decorating
3 Tbs unsalted butter, softened
1½ cups creamy peanut butter (I used Peter Pan)

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Line 3 standard 12-cup muffin tins with paper liners.

2. Prepare cupcakes: Whisk flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a medium bowl. Put butter and sugar into bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or use a regular mixer). Mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy. Reduce speed to low. Mix in peanut butter. Mix in eggs, 1 at a time, and vanilla. Add flour mixture; mix until combined. Mix in sour cream.

3. Spoon scant 3 Tablespoons of batter into each muffin cup. Bake until pale golden and a toothpick inserted into centers comes out clean, about 13 minutes. Transfer to wire racks; let cool completely.

4. Prepare frosting: Put cream cheese, powdered sugar, and butter into the clean bowl of a mixer fitted with the clean paddle attachment; mix on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy. Stir in peanut butter with a rubber spatula.

5. Spread 1½ Tablespoons frosting onto each cupcake. Refrigerate until frosting is firm, about 10 minutes. Using tines of a fork dipped in powdered sugar, score each top in a crosshatch pattern.
6. Cupcakes can be refrigerated in single layers in airtight containers up to 2 days.

These are good but they are RICH. I’ve still got several of these cupcakes left, even after taking some to work (this is when I wish my office had more people!), and I do have to fit into a bridesmaids dress in October so this "Cupcakes and a Movie" may not be an EVERY week occurrence but maybe every other week…there are lots more recipes I’d like to try!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Stuff White People Like #127...

While perusing another blog for the first time today, Everyday I Write The Book, I ran across this hilarious account of how people feel when they know a book they want to read is about to be released as a film otherwise known as "Stuff White People Like #127":

"...these announcements create a ticking time bomb where by a white person must read the book in ADVANCE of the release of the movie. This is done partly so that they can engage in the popular activity of complaining about how the movie failed to capture the essence of the book. But more importantly, once a book has been made into a movie, a white person can no longer read that book. To have read the book after the movie is one of the great crimes in white culture, and under no circumstances should you ever admit to doing this. Literally dozens of white friendships have imploded when it was revealed that someone read Fight Club after 1999."

Once again, I could not have said it better myself...I cannot tell you how many conversations I've had with people EACH and every time a book based movie comes out.
"Oh yeah, I really want to finish the book so I can go see the movie...." - ALL THE TIME.

So of course with the impending theatrical releases of "Julie and Julia" and "The Time Traveler's Wife" I tell myself each day that I will start one of these books and work on finishing it quickly so I can go see the movie while it is still in the theater. I've been wanting to read "Julie and Julia" for some time now and just got my mom's copy from her last week but "The Time Traveler's Wife" has been on my to-do list for much longer. I think it was my book for book club last September... Maybe now that I've seen the amazing movie previews it will spur me on to actually start the book though. Love Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana is someone I could definitely stare at for a few hours.

Hopefully neither of these movies will end up being the great tragedy that was the "Confessions of a Shopaholic" movie or "My Sister's Keeper" whose theatrical adaptation can be described as nothing short of purely criminal. I did not see the movie but was told about the cheap-o ending, why Jodi Picoult signed off on that is beyond me.

(Anyone know if authors actually have to 'approve' things when they make a movie? If I wrote a book that was being turned into a movie, script approval would be in my contract for sure.)

Maybe today will be the day I start one of these books - they are both coming out in 2-3 weeks so I need to get started!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

NKOTB - Round 2

When I heard NKOTB was touring last year I was beyond excited. This was a dream come true! How many times do you get one more chance to see your teen idols?

So back in October, Hailey, Molly and I braved the crowds for the NKOTB reunion tour and had a blast!

Needless to say we were SUPER excited when they announced that they'd be adding more tour dates for this summer! We were able to get awesome 10th row upgraded seats thanks to my dad and see what they're calling their last show! I wouldn't be surprised if they had a few more up their sleeve sometime in the not too distant future, but for now - we saw the last concert they will ever perform!
Sadly Hailey could not join us this time as she was vacationing, er working, in the south of France! (She really is working really hard there and not having a super duper 'vacation' time - hopefully she did have fun on her weekend trip to Nice though which is technically where she was while we were at the show....)

The concert in October was a little more fun because with this one they were all very aware that it was the 'last show'. They were even crying at one point! We still had a blast though and I think its safe to say that if they do decide to 'reunite' again - we'll be there!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Master Bathroom and Upstairs!

This is the final installment in the 'home improvement series' - the master bathroom.

Here's a reminder of where it all began...remember this house had been vacant for about a year when we were looking at it - it was cleaned up when we bought it but it had a LONG way to go!

The first thing my dad wanted to do was demo that jetted tub to make room for a much larger shower on the other side...

So in this picture, the tub used to be there on the right and the old shower was on the left.
The original plan was to only demo the old tub and shower but somehow that got lost in translation and they took out all the old cabinets, sinks, etc as well.
So then we, ahem - my brother, had to learn to be a cabinetmaker and start from scratch on new ones.
Progress on the new shower...

And this is where the tub used to be - its now a dressing area.

We have countertops!

And paint!

Finally...the finished product!
I LOVE this shower!

The chandelier is my favorite part though!

And here's a few more pictures of the finished rooms upstairs, etc.

Upstairs bedroom #1 aka - my old living room

Upstairs Bedroom #2 aka "The library"

And finally upstairs bedroom #3 - its my old college room! It was during my 'shabby chic' phase. I love having the bedroom set up this way, something about it is so comforting and its so funny when friends come over and see it because they always say "Its just like your old room!"

Hope everyone has a great weekend!