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 warm...so 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.)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Who says you can't go home?

Bon Jovi is on the Today show this morning, hence my title. I love the Today show. I always suggest my patients watch it in the morning. Also, we went home last weekend. For less than 48 hours. But it was still glorious. Who knew Kansas City was so wonderful? I didn't. Until I moved away. Funny how that works.

Anyway, Caleb had to go back for a Kiewit meeting. I tagged along. I was going to take like a million pictures but ended up taking about 10. Go figure. I will share them anyway. Because going home for the first time in three months was great, even if it was for only 48 hours.

We connected in the Atlanta airport, which is a fantastic airport. They have Starbucks and Chick-fil-a in all the right places. Which are just the best, especially when you get there at 7:30 am after your 6am flight.

I'm starting to run out of positive adjectives, I better slow down.

I snapped a couple pics in the plane with my phone...
Good morning! 

Went out to lunch at Mi Ranchito with my bffs. Cream cheese enchiladas and best friends...I miss you!
So cute!

Caleb and I went out for dinner with Mat and his cutie date, Sarah. PF Changs and the Cheesecake Factory on the Plaza. Let's not add up how many calories I consumed that day.
Now that is just adorable.
I highly recommend the red velvet cheesecake.
Good morning to 435 from the 18th floor!

While my hub was in his meeting, I went with my parents to visit my grandma. She is turning 90 this month! Crazy. I brought our wedding album to show her. She has Alzheimer's and was very surprised that I was married. But she loved seeing the album. She said my husband is a very good looking guy with large teeth. Well said, Grandma.

I'm not sure why, but I have no pictures of any other family members. Except, of course, George.

Reading the Foot Book with Uncle Caleb.
Note about George's grandparents: I've heard legends about how they are in love with this child. Its really true. They are totally obsessed. They won't even let you hold him. You are like, hey can I hold George for awhile? And they actually tell you no. Or they pretend they didn't hear you and walk away. This is the honest truth. If you want to hold your nephew that will be like twice as big the next time you see him, you have to physically take him out of their arms. Poor kid, so unloved.

The one photo of my cute hubby and I during the trip:
Love this.
Kansas City, we love you! People in Kansas City, we love you more.

Things I'm thankful for today:
1. Amazing family and friends
2. Airplanes
3. The Pioneer Woman and her wonderful recipes, check out her website and her throwdown with Bobby Flay on Food Network next week! http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/
4. Weather in the 70s in November!
5. Living in a beautiful place, even if its not home. Check out my view from the hospital earlier this week.
Beautiful sunset. And yes, those are mountains way back there.

Gearing up for a weekend of work. Planning on tackling Grandma's cinnamon rolls next week! Documentation to come! Enjoy the beautiful weekend!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Pink Party!

As everyone knows, October was breast cancer awareness month. So we got to see lots of pink ribbons and talk about our ta-tas. I think breast cancer awareness month is everyone's favorite thing to be aware of. No wait. I know that.

Anyway, at the beginning of October Caleb and I were very surprised to see strings of bras hung on our street. At first we thought it was an advertisement for the lingerie store (which would be clever) then found out it was (surprise!) to promote breast cancer awareness. You could drop off your old bras at this radio station and they would hang them on our street. It was called "Bras on Broad." I thought it was hilarious.

There were four rows of bras. It looked like someone did some major laundry.

At work we have a very sweet secretary who just went through a battle with breast cancer this summer. We decided to throw her a party and it was very pink. Pink decorations, pink food, pink presents.

I made cupcakes. The batter was pink and I did the pink ribbons. Caleb helped.

Pink deviled eggs. Hilarious.

Some coworkers. My boss is the one in front.

Lynn, our secretary is the one in the middle showing off some of her gifts. What an awesome lady! 

Yay for Breast Cancer Awareness! In case you were wondering, November is Alzheimer's Awareness, Lung Cancer Awareness, Diabetes Awareness, Healthy Skin Awareness, TMJ Awareness, COPD Awareness, and Pulmonary Hypertension Awareness (holla to Unit 66!). I am going to a pulmonary nursing conference this month and I suddenly understand why.

And just because its November and we are all getting thankful...here is a list of things I'm thankful for today:
1. My job...and that I have four days off
2 My sweet friend Breehan who went on a lunch date with me
3. Panera on rainy days
4. A washer and dryer
5. That the shoe store downstairs is now selling clothes starting today!

Have a beautiful weekend! Lots of pictures to come next week!

Monday, November 1, 2010

George the Monkey

I love being off on Mondays after working all weekend. Sleeping in until 7 (two hours past when I usually wake up), a slow cup of coffee, the Today show, and blogging! Caleb's brother Zach and his wife Audreyand their sweet baby George came to visit us last weekend. We had SO much fun...eating, shopping, playing with George, just hanging out and catching up. Looking through my pictures I realized that most of them are of George...because everything a baby does is cute. Eating, sleeping, smiling, frowning...seriously we just took pictures of everything he did.

I'm trying out a new photo collage program that Audrey introduced me to...so here we go.

While Caleb was working, we went antique shopping and to the hotdog store on our street.
I love the lady looking adoringly at George.

FYI, George adores me. All other aunts, beware. I am his favorite.

Men love blondes. What can I say?

He also adores his uncle Caleb. Who let him play with the new Harry Potter wands. (See previous post!)

This was hilarious. And adorable. 

Of course, George loves his parents most. He lights up whenever Zach is around. Seriously, the sweetest thing ever!

Zach and Aud even cooked us dinner one night. Which was awesome. Who doesn't love a great meal that is delish, cooked for you, AND cleaned up for you? Yes, I would love to hold your child while you cook me dinner...

More of George just being an awesome baby...

Love all his expressions.

I bought him a monkey costume for Halloween. It was probably the cutest thing ever. He hated it. Go figure. Don't worry George, I will stop buying you costumes with built in footies after you can walk. (Unlike the aunt in the movie A Christmas Story.)

Note the look of terror by George. Sorry kiddo.

Much happier naked!

We love this kid and our awesome brother and sister! 

Sweet family shots!

Zach and Audrey: Thanks for making the trip to East Tennessee! We loved having you! Please come back!

Let me know what you think of the collage...I just realized that I should have made all the backgrounds black. Oh well...next time!