Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Peace out 2010!

This is because I just got home from the gym, had a nice chat with my mom, Caleb is working late, and I am eating leftovers for dinner. Which include but are not limited to green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, baby carrots, and a slice of pizza. And because I should be doing something productive like laundry or washing dishes. And because this will be my last post of 2010. Because I have to work the next two days and after that it will be 2011.

The year in review. Because its fun! And it has been a crazy year. Check it out.

Christmas 2009
Why is the pictures of my family a full body shot? No one wants to see that!

January: the only pictures I have of this month are snow. So that was basically the whole month. Snow, snow, snow.
I hate you snow. Even if you are beautiful.

February 2010: Our five year dating anniversary (the flowers), Caleb's 22nd birthday (with Joe, of course), and our adorable friend Abbey Dunbar being super preggers.

March: Clearly the month of the car. Caleb fixed up his Civic. My Buick died and I got a new car. Chloe is a Toyota Corolla sport. And we are bff. March is also the month that KU lost in the NCAA tournament. That we were supposed to win. A sad day.

April: I went to Chicago with my super cute friend Leah Dickter. We had a great time and I am officially in love with Chicago!
If you watch my weight throughout the months, you can see what marriage has done to me.

May: A family birthday dinner for Zach and Audrey. Also trying to squeeze in time with friends before we make the big move to Tennessee! Including brand new baby Ava Dunbar, who obviously hates me!

June: On June 1st we moved to East Tennessee. All our stuff went in a truck and we drove down here. We found a new apartment, Caleb started his new job and I started my new job on my birthday, June 21st. But our apartment is awesome and right across the street from a yummy hot dog store, a shoe store, a gym, a sushi place, and a cupcake bakery! Love it. I also headed up to Indiana at the end of the month for my cousin Alex's beautiful wedding. It was gorgeous and we all had a great time!

July: The Bakers came to visit for Fourth of July! We introduced them to the great state of TN and hung out on the roof watching fireworks. We also went to Gattlinburg and met Smokey the Bear. Perfect.
I seriously love the 4th of July!

August: Our very first nephew, George Alden Baker is born on July 22nd and we trek back out to Kansas to visit him. We are in love with this child.
Baby George, you are the person of 2010. Seriously! You changed lives dude. Especially Zach and Audrey's!

September: Caleb gets his hair cut for charity. We went whitewater rafting and to a rave. And we worked. A lot.
Whitewater rafting and a rave. We sound so cool.

October: My parents came to visit. We went to Orlando for our one year wedding anniversary, loved HP at Universal! And Zach, Aud, and sweet baby George came to visit. Super fun month!
October was def my favorite month!

November: We went for a brief visit home. I saw my sweet Grandma Voth and my bffs. And George of course. Thanksgiving was at Caleb's cowoker, Jim's house and we had a great time shooting guns and riding horses. We also woke up at 3am to buy gifts on Black Friday!

December: I baked. A lot. We partied it up with Kiewit and had a fun Christmas together!

Oh 2010. A year full of change. We have been so blessed with great jobs, supportive family, and a God who has been with us every step of the way.

"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'"

Blessings to you as you wrap up 2010 and start 2011! I can't wait to see what it will bring!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Spaghetti+Settlers of Catan=Christmas 2010

We had a wonderful Christmas weekend! Here is the breakdown...not a ton of pictures. Mostly our weekend consisted of sleeping, eating, and laying around. And I had to work two days, but thats not important!

I had to work Christmas Eve, so Caleb got an early Christmas gift he could play with all day while I was gone.
Serious xbox headphones with microphone. So now he can't hear anything I say unless I yell. Merry Christmas to him!

The hospital did the opposite of slow down over the holiday weekend. It was ca-razy all weekend long. But I came home on Christmas Eve ready to party. And this is how we get down.
Settlers of Catan, coffee, and Christmas movies.
Coffee, because if you are going to stay up late after 13 hours of work, you need some. The answer is yes, we do keep vitamins on the coffee table. And 10 points if you can name the Christmas move on tv. That is an easy one.

Christmas eve was fun because we drank lots of coffee, played games, watched movies, and cooked a steak dinner at 10pm. And didn't go to Christmas eve service because it was at 11 at night and we just didn't feel like going anywhere then.

And then the blessed Christmas morning. It was a white Christmas but not like last Christmas where I had to drive to work in a blizzard. Ahh the memories.
An acceptable amount of snow.

I would like to say on behalf of all healthcare workers and others who still have to go to work on Christmas: I would be happy if there was never another white Christmas ever again. Jesus didn't have one. Amen.

We opened gifts. It was kind of crazy. And I actually loved that it was just the two of us.
The living room full of opened presents!

Some of Caleb's highlights:
I bought him lots of stuff but I'm pretty sure the math book is his favorite. The Chick-fil-a gift basket was a hit too! Thanks to his mom and dad, he had a KU snuggie to cuddle up with all weekend!

He got me one beautiful amazing gift.
Check out that bling!

After the present opening, I made some coffee cake. Its amazing and you should make some. But not if only two people live at your house. Because then you have to eat a whole pan of buttery, sugary goodness by yourself. And your waistline will expand. I also made a few things for our Christmas dinner at the Gilliam's house: layered salad, green bean casserole, and artichoke heart dip (recipe to come). I would like to add that green bean casserole is one of my favorite things to eat during the holidays. I could eat like a whole pan of it by myself. Add that to the coffee cake and that is a bad combo.

We headed over to spend Christmas afternoon with our friends and one of Caleb's coworkers, Ben and Crystal Gilliam and their adorable 2 year old son, Cash. We sucked them into our Settlers of Catan cult and had a wonderful Christmas dinner of spaghetti and the above mentioned items.

Cash playing Guitar Hero and being adorable.
Ben, Crystal, and Cash
Wearing our new Christmas jackets!

We missed our families but had a great Christmas! Thanks JESUS for heading our way a couple thousand years ago! We were both off again yesterday and again spent the day sleeping, eating, and laying around. I did go to the gym though. The coffee cake has to go somehow! We did leave the house for a bit to go to the store and stock up on "essentials." And I leave you with a couple final photos.

Caleb's essential grocery items.
Love this man. And he loves his Nesquik.

I am on call today...due to low census. Not sure why we couldn't be low census all weekend when I wanted to be off but its ok. I just get to wait for more sick people to come in and I can go get my overtime pay. Ch-ching!

T-11 days until the Bakers are in O-town! Have a wonderful Tuesday!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Extreme Christmas Cookie Madness

You can't avoid it. You can't beat it. You can try to work it off, ignore it, fight it, run from it. But eventually you just have to give in. To Christmas cookies. Delightful, delicious, fattening, full of butter and sugar. Come on people, its just once a year. And for goodness sake, just give them away. You don't have to eat them yourself.

I decided to tackle a Christmas cookie project this weekend. But not the typical sugar cookies with gross icing in various shapes and colors. Nope, I decided to go all out and make a variety of cookies for the ultimate cookie tray. I wanted to make five different kinds of cookies. I did my research and found five cookies that were different and interesting. Lemon bars, nutella cookies, ginger molasses cookies, chocolate peppermint cookies, and sour cream sugar cookies.

Saturday morning I ambitiously started out with my cookie baking schedule. Lemon bars were first up. I decided on lemon bars because I needed a. a bar cookie, and b. a fruit cookie. Perfect.

I found the recipe from this awesome cooking blog, In Erica's Kitchen. Here is the link to the lemon bars. I obviously covered mine with powdered sugar. I used two fresh lemons, which didn't quite make the 5/8 cup of lemon juice this calls for. So I added some lime juice I had in the fridge. The color was still a beautiful yellow and the flavor was nice and citrus-y. 

Next up, nutella cookies. These were actually the only cookie I had made before. Nutella cookies are so so so good. Chocolate-y but unexpected.
The hub loves these.

This awesome recipe comes from another fantastic cooking blog, Simply Recipes. Here is the link to the nutella cookies. This recipe is also great because it makes about a million cookies if you stick to the tablespoon size of dough per cookie. I also only bake them for 10 minutes because I like my cookie a little chewy on the inside. These cookies got rave reviews from a Christmas party we went to.

I wanted a classic gingerbread or ginger snap but I don't love hard gingersnaps that kinda snap off your teeth. These ginger molasses cookies were soft and full of flavor. They were also quick and easy to make. Also, I've never used molasses before and it was fun. Just saying.

My darling cousin Nicole directed me to this awesome website for like any kind of food you would ever want called Food Gawker. OMG I could spend hours looking at recipes and gorgeous food pictures here.  Here is the cookie link.  This website is where I found these yummy cookies, which were featured on this super cute food blog, Living Lou. Here is the ginger molasses cookie recipe. These little babies are good warm with a glass of milk and a Christmas movie. Someone at work asked me if they were homemade. I said yes. Ha.

Ok, after three batches of cookies I was starting to get pretty winded. My fourth batch of cookies requires some fridge time so I decided to make the dough and call it a night. These chocolate-covered peppermint cookies caught my eye because they looked like Thin Mints, the classic Girl Scout cookie. Since I was a devout girl scout until the 5th grade, I will always love a good thin mint.
Beautiful beautiful beautiful.

The cookie was easy because you just shape the dough into a long roll and slice it up as thin or thick as you want. The hard part was dipping all the cookies in chocolate and not making a massive mess. I used a slotted spoon and knife to kinda get the excess chocolate off the top. Also found this recipe from Food Gawker. Its another cutie blog, Becky Bakes. Here is the cookie link! These cookies got the most rave reviews. People at my work couldn't figure out how I made them. The Christmas party loved them. And they are so so yummy cold or frozen. And it also makes like a million cookies. Perfect!

Ok so I was pretty much Christmas cookie'd out by this time. Caleb kept asking when I was going to stop baking cookies and hang out with him. Also my kitchen looked like a tornado had gone through it. So I'll leave the sour cream sugar cookies to my bff Kerry who promised she would blog about them soon. I'll post the link when she does!

Do yourself and everyone you love a favor and make some of these!
I sent four plates worth of cookies (middle pic) to work with Caleb. He said they were gone by 9:30am.

I finally got the last of my Christmas cards sent yesterday. I feel a little late but that's ok. I've been picking up overtime and between that and a weekend of cookie baking there hasn't been much time for anything else. So today I'm going to wrap the hub's gifts, make appetizers for work tomorrow (holidays at work=lots and lots of food), clean our place, maybe go to the gym...

Enjoy the weekend! Eat lots of food, enjoy your family, have fun giving and opening gifts, and remember that God loves you so much that he sent Jesus as an itty bitty baby two thousand Christmases ago! To our families: we miss you SO much and wish we could be there SO badly! I even tried to switch out a few days to make it possible but no one would switch with me (imagine that!). And then I asked my boss if she would just take me off the schedule. She said no. Then I told Caleb I could just call in sick. He said "We don't do that." In a very stern voice. But anyway, we love you and we miss you and we will be there in two short weeks!

Thankful List:
1. That I'm taking care of sick people during the holidays...and not one of the sick people!
2. My sweet husband and that we get to spend Christmas together this year
3. That my gym is just across the excuses for burning off cookie calories!

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Christmas Par-tay, Kiewit Style!

Ahh,  a lovely day off. Especially good since I had to drive through snow and ice to get to work the last two days. And people in Tennessee do not know how to a. prepare for snow/ice, b. clear off snow/ice, c. drive in snow/ice, and d. not freak out when a flake of snow falls. But no worries, I made it just fine.

So here is a recap of our past few weeks full of Christmas fun. We finally got a Christmas tree. Its real. We did not go out to the woods and cut it down. We went to Home Depot, where they trimmed it for us and placed it in a tree stand. Now that is customer service.

Also I included my kitchen table in the Christmas tree collage. Delightful.

I hung the stockings on the bookcase. Since we don't have a fireplace. And we got a real live wreath too. It smells amazing when you walk through the door.

Look closely and you can see the Harry Potter display on the bookshelf. And laugh at us. We don't care.

This past Friday night we went to the Kiewit Christmas party. It was at the Marriot and was pretty sweet. Good food, hilarious band, and they even paid for our rooms. Nice. 


The band was very funny. Love the lead singer's hair.


In case you haven't met my husband, here is something super fun about him. He hates smiling in pictures. He loves making weird faces and messing them up. I think the only time he made a very legit attempt at good picture taking was our engagement and wedding photos. Because I told him they were very expensive. Ha.

See the picture where he is smiling? Its at someone else. He was caught off guard.

Anyway, we had a great time. I can't believe its the middle of December. Which is why I'm doing my Christmas cards TODAY!  Tomorrow I may attempt Christmas cookies. Hmmm...

In case you still have Christmas shopping to do (hello, everyone!), check this out. My mom is a new Mary Kay consultant! This is her website!!! Mary Kay is an awesome line with tons of makeup and skin care products. They have tons of great gifts for cheaper than you think! My mom will also do a FREE facial for you! Think holiday parties, girls nights, or a fun gift for yourself. She has a great selection of beautifully wrapped gifts, as well as gorgeous personalized gift certificates! Oh, and she does FREE shipping! My mom, Kaye Voth, lives in Olathe, KS but will ship to anywhere for free! Check out her website for all her info as well as the full line of products!

And off to clean my house, workout at the gym (yes I joined one), watch Hoda and Kathie Lee, and write Christmas cards! Have a wonderful Tuesday!

Thankful List:
1. Chloe, my car, who got me to work in the treacherous conditions
2. Forever 21, sponsor of my sparkly cocktail ring
3. The fab Kiewit Christmas party, which reminded me of all the great people who are far from home with me
4. The amazing patients I had the last two days: one invited me out to his farm to ride horses, another told me she loved me when I left every night.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Tennessee Thanksgiving

Ahh Thanksgiving in Tennessee. Our first major holiday away from home and family. But it was pretty great. And here is how it went.

First of all, I didn't have to work Thanksgiving or Black Friday, which was a miracle. So we slept in and enjoyed the morning. Until we got into a tiny argument because I was making us late (truth) with all my pie making and shower taking. So the journey over the river and through the woods was a little tense. Never fear my friends, this is just the beginning of a good day and a rather important part of where this story is going. We went to a coworker of Caleb's, Jim and his sweet wife Angel's house for Thanksgiving. They have quite a bit of land and a bunch of Caleb's coworkers were meeting up there in the morning with their various firearms. Hence the reason for the argument (doesn't that sound better than fight? ha). Caleb is a recent gun owner (stop judging us) and was anxious to get his shoot on.

The day was 70 and sunny. Let's just say after a couple rounds, neither of us were mad anymore. People: shooting guns makes you feel so much better. (Clarification: NOT at other people or the person you were in an argument with!)

Yes Dad, we all wore ear plugs. No hearing loss here.

Caleb, being awesome:
Love this.

Next up on the Thanksgiving to do list: riding horses. Super fun, mostly hilarious since Caleb and I haven't ridden horses since we were kids.

After the horse riding we ate Thanksgiving dinner. Which was totally amazing. I didn't take any pictures for some strange reason. So fast forward to after dinner. When we sat around the fire pit and my husband chopped wood. Which is basically his favorite thing.

All in all, it was a wonderful Thanksgiving. We spent it with sweet people and had a blast. Driving home in a much more thankful state, we talked about all the things we are thankful for:
1. Our jobs, that are really pretty cool
2. Our families, who are totally awesome and supportive
3. This totally random placed that we were transferred to, because its hilarious and beautiful
4. Our amazing God, who not only saved us from our sins, but takes care of us and loves us and provides for us

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

How to Build a Power Plant

Update: this is no longer a tutorial on power plant building since the photos are confidential. And I was unaware of this, my bad! You are lucky if you saw them! You will just have to come see the power plant after it is built. In an undisclosed location.

I got called off my overtime shift this morning due to low census. I guess the docs are being kind and getting people out for Thanksgiving. So I have been super productive by watching the Today show, researching Black Friday deals, catching up on blogs, and drinking coffee. We had a great weekend of shopping, watching the new Harry Potter movie, and  hanging out with friends. But alas, I took no pictures.

After my big cinnamon roll day last week, I wanted to bake something quick and easy and successful. Its also rainy and gross today. Perfect for pumpkin bread. The right way to start off Thanksgiving week.
You can see my reflection in the oven door. I guess I stick my pinky finger out when I focus??

This is so easy and so yummy. Here is the recipe: pumpkin bread from Simply Recipes
I did half the flour as whole wheat flour, so we can pretend to be healthy. This recipe isn't really too bad for you, pumpkin is good for you and so is olive oil. Yum!


Things I'm thankful for today:
1. Surprise day off!
2. My new Target Red Card (5% off at Target all the time! Holla!)
3. A good convo with my grandma last night
4. Being off Thanksgiving and Black Friday!

Happy Thanksgiving! We love and miss you all!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Grandma Voth's Cinnamon Rolls: Epic

I love Thanksgiving. A holiday devoted to family, food, football, and being thankful. Growing up, we always spent Thanksgiving at my Grandma Voth's house. And it was magical. Grandma was an amazing cook and I loved absolutely everything she made. This is how Thanksgiving at Grandma's would go:
1. Arrive Wednesday night, welcomed with some kind of delicious soup. I don't know what went into it but whatever it was, it warmed you to the core.
2. Wake up on Thanksgiving morning and eat a pan of cinnamon rolls and watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. Because that is the best thing that was on one of the three channels Grandma got out in Montezuma, KS. And it was fantastic.
3. There would typically be some sort of turkey fiasco: the turkey wasn't defrosted enough, the oven wasn't on, the turkey didn't cook through, the turkey was cooking unevenly...and on and on. This would result in Thanksgiving dinner being served sometime in the afternoon, depending on the degree of turkey crisis.
4. And there it was in all its glory: Thanksgiving dinner. The turkey (which I totally don't care about, I could do Thanksgiving without the turkey), and then all the glorious sides. Mashed potatoes: creamy, fluffy, wonderful. Brent and I could eat the whole batch. Stuffing, cranberry salad, rolls, sweet potatoes (Mom's favorite), carrot and raisin salad, among many other salad-y things that were mostly sugar coated fruit or veggies. And then there was the sauerkraut. I realize this isn't a staple in most Thanksgiving dinners but being the good German family that we were, this was a star. Sauerkraut with sausage. My dad loved this and since I adored my father and wanted to do everything he did, I ate the sauerkraut too and eventually learned to love it. I think the two of us were the only ones that ate it. Which is perfect, more for us.
5. After this amazing feast, we would pick at our pumpkin pie before lumbering to the living room to watch football in a food coma. Always leaving Grandma and Mom to clean up, which doesn't really seem fair now that I think about it.

And that was Thanksgiving, in all its wonderful glory. The leftovers lasted through the weekend and were always as good or better than the first time.

Now rewind to the cinnamon rolls of Thanksgiving morning. These cinnamon rolls were things of legend. Epic. Life-changing. Brent and I lived for these cinnamon rolls. Grandma couldn't come visit us without bringing them or have us visit her without a large stock of cinnamon rolls. Gooey, soft, warm, light crunchy icing, we could eat these forever. On our birthdays (or almost any occasion actually), she would let us eat a whole pan of them by ourselves. (Grandma clearly wasn't concerned with childhood obesity.) I made them with her a few times but never really knew how to make them. There wasn't a recipe. Grandma didn't have recipes for anything, she just kinda made stuff and it turned out wonderful. Now Grandma has Alzheimer's and can't remember how she made the cinnamon rolls. But I decided I should carry on this tradition and so went looking for the recipe.

A good family friend learned how to make these very cinnamon rolls from Grandma herself. She was kind enough to send me the recipe...which wasn't exact but sounded just like Grandma. So yesterday I decided to attempt the cinnamon rolls. Here we go.

The victims:
What you need: flour, sugar, oil, milk, water, eggs, rapid rise yeast, butter,  and cinnamon
My partner in crime:
I love you, KitchenAid mixer

1. Mix two cups milk with two cups water and heat in the microwave for two minutes.
2. While this is happening mix two eggs, one cup sugar, and one cup oil in a large bowl. (I used the wire whisk attachment and my KitchenAid bowl)
3. Add the milk/water mixture and mix well
4. Add 4-6 cups flour (I added 5 just to be safe) and 2 packs of the rapid rise yeast and mix well.

Things are going well at this point.

6. Continue to add flour and mix with a large spoon (I just switched to a different mixer attachment) and add until mixture is stiff and sticky. The recipe states it takes about 4 lbs of flour. (FYI: 2 cups=1lb) I think I put in 9 cups total before I decided the mixture was stiff and sticky. But then again, I didn't know what I was doing.
7. Dump out the dough onto the counter (flour it well!! or you will spend forever cleaning your counter like I did) and knead until "as smooth as a baby's butt." Well, I was elbow deep in dough before I realized that I've never kneaded a single thing in my life and I don't know how to knead.  But I did the best I could. Somehow my mixture never resembled a baby's butt...

Not very smooth.

8. Put dough back in the bowl and let it rise until double. At this point, I ran to the store because I realized I didn't have very much cinnamon left.
9. Once it has risen, take out the dough and split into four balls. Roll out each ball into a large rectangle. I repeat, flour the counter well or it will be very difficult to to roll up your rolls! Evenly rolling out the dough into a rectangle is important or else you will get different sized rolls like I did.
10. Spread softened butter onto your rectangle.

Look at that butter.

11. Sprinkle with your cinnamon sugar mixture: 1 part cinnamon to 2 parts sugar.


12. Roll it up. I finally got the hang of this by the third ball of dough. Seal up all the edges and the ends.

13. Cut into 1.5 inch slices and place onto a buttered pan or cookie sheet. I used round aluminum cake pans like Grandma did.

14. Punch down the rolls a bit so that they are all the same height. Cover and let rise until they are all touching, about an hour.
15. Throw em in the oven! 375 degrees for 12 minutes. I think I did mine for 14 minutes because I like to see a little browning on the top.

And now your house starts to smell yummy...
16. Take them out and let them cool for about 10 minutes while you make your icing.

17. The epic icing (the easiest part of the cinnamon rolls): 4 cups powdered sugar, 2/3 cup milk, 1 tsp almond extract. Whisk until smooth.
Mmmm...this is what makes the cinnamon rolls magical
18. Ice the cinnamon rolls while they are still really it gets all melty and absorbs into them a little bit.

19. Now sample one of your rolls. Or multiple, to make sure you got things right and to figure out how you would do things different next time. (Stop judging me, I ate baby carrots for lunch and then did a Jillian Michael's workout)

I was pretty skeptical. But the rolls were actually reminesent of Grandma's. The texture and flavors were there. I almost threw out the dough halfway through because I was frustrated with the consistency. But I'm glad I stuck it out.

Notes for next time:
1. Add a little more flour
2. Learn how to knead dough
3. Roll it out thinner and more evenly
4. Add more butter and more cinnamon/sugar mix
5. Try only baking for the recommended 12 minutes... which might give me more of the gooey texture that I remember

Thanks Cindy for the recipe! Cinnamon rolls=ultimate holiday goodness.

Some things I am thankful for today:
1. A great and easy weekend at work with the sweetest patients ever
2. That I found a new doc for the hubs and I
3. My awesome holiday work schedule: Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve only!
4. Rascal Flatts on the Today Show

Have a terrific Tuesday!

(PS I think that my current track "Who says you can't go home?" applies to this post as well! Cinnamon rolls=home.)