Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Ten on Tuesday | Shopping Locally

Perhaps you were in line before eight o'clock on Thursday, perhaps you stayed out all night in search of the season's best deals but unlike many, Trevor and I skipped out on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Though I've managed to snag luggage and expensive sweaters on Black Fridays past, this year, I've been focusing on keeping my Christmas spending local, handmade and small. (Plus, it's Tuesday and I'm really confused about why I'm still receiving Cyber Monday e-mails.)

You've undoubtedly heard of Small Business Saturday, a product of American Express. Am I the only one who finds this ironic? But, I've tried to make shopping small a bigger part of our holiday shopping. In Montana, our shopping options are limited in many ways. Our only affordable local grocery stores, chains.  (Though, we are glad to support Hennessey Market for our gluten free needs and the Good Food Store when we make it to Missoula.) For that reason, we unfortunately do much of our grocery shopping at Walmart. Perhaps its that guilt that's led to my newest insistence for support independent artists and local businesses.

I know that the idea of not shopping big box stores seems revolutionary to some and so, I've dedicated this week's Ten on Tuesday to ways to support local and small businesses.

1. Independently owned restaurants. Rather than grabbing chicken fingers and fries at Applebees or a microwave-cooked meal at Red Lobster, try eating at local dives and family owned restaurants. When out shopping with friends, grab a sandwich and soup at a local eatery instead of a burrito from Chipotle. A second way to support local restaurants? When you don't know what to get someone, grab them a gift card for food. Perhaps your friend or in-laws haven't had a chance to check out the new local place but buying them a gift card is not only a great holiday gift but also a great way to spread the word about supporting local.

2. Local coffee. Yes, we all love Starbucks. Especially those holiday cups, right? But, most towns have their own coffee shops - even in Montana. Actually, here, we have these adorable little coffee huts. You drive up to a little wooden shed, order your coffee and get on your way - without the Starbucks line. When family is in town to celebrate, consider picking up your morning joe from the local coffee shop instead of Dunkin Donuts. Gift cards and locally roasted coffees also make great stocking stuffers.

3. Microbreweries. Let's be honest, most of the guys in your life would prefer a six pack of unique beers to a new sweater. Chances are you can find a local brewery near you to - according to CraftBeer.com, most Americans live within 10 miles of one. If you need helping finding local beer, check out their search. In Montana, we have Big Sky Brewing Co. and Bayern Brewery in Missoula for beers and Headframe Spirits (located in uptown Butte) for various liquors.

4. Florists. Many florists now network with companies like FTD or Teleflora but making a purchase still benefits the small business front you are shopping through. A great gift for your boyfriend's mom or perhaps even grandmother is a holiday wreath. Wether you're looking for real or fresh, chances are, you can find a great option through your local florist. And, after years of working for a florist myself, I know that hurricane centerpieces are also a big hit when you're hosting holiday dinner. If you're in the central Pennsylvania area, I highly recommend Pealer's Flowers but no matter where you live, there are plenty of choices.

5. Handcrafted jewelry. If there are women on your shopping list, chances are that you have jewelry on your holiday radar. Though big box stores offer plenty of choices, local and handmade jewelers offer even more unique options. My personal favorite? Tina Steinberg's line of clever charms, personalized lockets and fingerprint jewelry.

6. Clothing. New clothes are a girls best friend. Or at least their best weakness. Though I will always love swooning over Anthropologie's newest finds, I have tried to add more handmade clothing choices to my wish list. During winter, new hats, gloves and scarves make great gifts for friends and Etsy is full of hand crocheted and knitted options. For Aiden this year, I chose a Montana shirt from local Montana mom & maker, Nici Holt of Dig This Chick. And personally, I'm hoping for one myself.

7. Non-profit Giving. Making a donation to a community non-profit in a friend or family member's name is a great choice for someone who is impossible to buy for. Eventually, this donation comes back to benefit the community where you live, as well. Other options include purchasing toys for families in need or donating holiday dinner ingredients to local food banks.

8. Shopping on Main Street. Like I mentioned this weekend, Anaconda held a great Christmas Stroll on Black Friday. The idea? To get locals shopping on main street. While your town may not host a christmas event dedicated to shopping locally, you should take the time to check out your downtown or local farmers market. In Wellsville, we had Weaver's Meats - and who doesn't want a gift certificate to buy meats and cheeses? I mean, that'd be a great gift in our house. Anaconda, on the other hand, has gift shops, clothing boutiques, and bakeries.

9. Christmas bazaars. Another way to support handmade gifts is to frequent the little bazaars that seem to show up this time of year. These craft shows usually feature an array of products - candles, candy, clothing, something for everyone - even pet treats! Better yet, these events are a great way to spend time with family or friends. Check your local newspaper and store bulletin boards for dates and times.

10. Pampering. Spas, hair salons, and nail salons are typically locally owned and operated. For the guys in your life, massages are also a great option. For a meaningful gift, take your girlfriends for a pedicure on you before all your biggest holiday party. Go for a couples massage with your boyfriend. Get your mom a gift certificate for a hair cut and color.

While there are other ways to support local and handmade businesses, I think that these suggestions provide a great start for changing your shopping habits.

So tell me, what are your favorite handmade or local businesses? 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Giving Thanks?

Thanksgiving is a holiday that I tend to find a lot of fault with - it seems strange to take one day of the year to sit down and give thanks for the things that we love, the things that we have been blessed with. I also find frustration in the comparisons made this time of year. "I'm thankful for the beautiful house that we have because others are living without a home." "I'm thankful for a great job because so many are unemployed". It seems unfair to give thanks by looking at what others are lacking. Instead, we're trying to be thankful every

That being said, we spent our holiday weekend in the most unorthodox ways. On Wednesday, I left work and our plan was to grab dinner at a summer favorite. Unfortunately, the indoor decor was lacking and the fries? Well, I thought I was dying a few hours later when I realized that they were fried in peanut oil. But hey, at least I could spend the next day thankful that I only ended up with terrible hives and the inability to breath for a few days.

On Thursday, we made a trip to Butte to take a glance in the depressing, toxic, Berkeley Pit - but unfortunately (maybe, fortunately), it never really happened. Instead, we spent the afternoon hiking up a set of trails uptown. From there, we were able to visit a memorial for the Granite Mountain Mining Disaster. Afterwards, with frozen toes, we went to our least favorite place in Butte to buy Christmas lights and movies for the evening. While I didn't end up eating any stuffing or pecan pie (trust me, I tried), we enjoyed roasted sweet potatoes and hard cider - favorites in our house.

Black Friday was spent preparing for the Anaconda Christmas Stroll, a fun annual event. While it was our first, we enjoyed the night. The local downtown stores stay open in the evening with a button contest, the judging of live mannequins, and other fun specials. For me, it was a great opportunity to network and promote my photography.

As for today? A four day weekend left plenty of time for cleaning the house, doing the laundry and grocery shopping. I just wanted to take a moment to stop in and let you know that I survived my first holiday away and in the time off work, I managed to fix my computer, too.

That means you can look forward to more posts this week. In fact, we're busy decorating for Christmas and even planning a party. This means recipe posts and decor ideas for you. And, the Making Time series will be back next week with a post on exercising. Perfectly timed after the biggest food holiday of the year, right?

So tell me, how did you spend your Thanksgiving? Was there stuffing involved?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Not for the Faint of Heart

I wanted to stop in to let you know that things may be quiet around here. And well, let's be honest, it was a quiet start to the week already.

You see. My MacBook is struggling.

I tried rebooting from disk and managed to lose Photoshop, great start. Well, rebooting didn't seem to fix the problem. After realizing it wasn't a software issue, I ran a nifty built in hardware test - thanks, Apple. As it turned out, the temperature sensor wasn't working in my computer, a diagnosis that made sense given the fact that my issue was the constant running of my fan and a CPU usage of over 300%. 

Ugh. This all happens just after I book two more Christmas mini-sessions. 

So, (after crying uncontrollably for six hours) I did what any brave 21 year old girl would do - I opened my computer. And inside, I found a messy logic board covered with sugary residue. PSA: Don't keep liquids near your computer, people.

According to Apple, and every mac repair center in Montana (all like, four, of them), the cost for repair would be no less than $500. But, according to Google, the issue could be possibly solved with some time and rubbing alcohol.

Tonight was spent removing my logic board and cleaning it thoroughly  Now, it is airing out and the goal is to reassemble it in the morning. Wish me luck.

While I am typing this on Trevor's laptop, it may be quiet here for a few days while I resolve my computer problems & get caught up on my homework.. After all, I've been thinking about nothing other than my Macbook this week.

So tell me, have you ever spilled liquid on your computer? Or taken one apart yourself? 
It's definitely not for the faint of heart.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Making Time | To Be Creative

The Making Time series began last week with a post about making time for yourself. This is a weekly series dedicated to time management. As a busy college student, I've had to learn a few things about this subject, the hard way. With the busy holiday season approaching, the daily balancing act is about to get even more difficult and so I asked a few friends to share their advice on managing a busy schedule.

This week's post is brought to you by a school friend of mine, Liatra, and focuses on staying creative and motivated. If you're looking for some motivation of your own, check out Liatra's blog or instagram feed! (Her artwork is drool worthy, people.)

As a working college student with many activities to juggle and events always happening, staying creative and working to consistently improve my art isn’t always at the top of my to do list. But as anyone even just sort of interested in art will tell you, it is very, very important to always strive to improve your skill and stay motivated. I, for one, have found that I even become more vulnerable to becoming depressed or moody whenever I’m not working on a project of any sort!

First things first, music is one of the main factors in my sanity. Some days I find myself halfway through the day without listening to any music yet due to business, phone calls, etc. But if you want to be in the best mood possible, you have got to listen to some good jams. (Can I add an "amen sista" in here..?) We also alter our state by the selection of artist, so keep that in mind if you’re looking to accomplish a large task.. For instance, trying to finish that essay while listening to Bon Iver is NOT going to fly.

Environment is everything. It also helps me to concentrate on tasks by giving myself a reward system. For example, go to your work shift and then you get to come home and practice embroidery, or do two hours worth of homework and then you get to finish that illustration! Time intervals (along with coffee and chocolate) are the best self-bribery systems available.

Being creative is sometimes challenging when you’re having a dry spell on ideas. I, for one, have a few specific things that always keep my thinking fresh and innovative - holidays, birthdays, blogs, and current events. Halloween consumed all of my creative thoughts throughout October and now I’m already coming up with ideas for December - including throwing a ‘Reindeer Rapture’ on December 21st. (I should totally copyright that. -- yes you should. I'm already convincing Trevor to let me throw my own!)

If you’re someone who wants to be creative or craft but has no idea where to start, don’t feel bad by going off of other people’s ideas! People publish blogs with the intent of spreading their ideas and projects, not to make you feel inferior for not thinking up that marshmallow reindeer pop yourself. We’re all in this together, and I certainly would have been lost this Halloween without Martha Stewart’s annual Halloween publication. The lady is a domesticated genius. Rookiemag.com and designsponge.com are also two of my favorite places to go when I’m feeling artistically uninspired. The ladies that run those websites are extraordinary and know their way around the craft store and kitchen.

Besides holidays, I usually draw influence from some of my favorite books and movies to base projects off of. I’ve been very into making collages and trying to learn embroidery lately, and every time I see a good movie I think to myself, “that quote is totally going into my next project.”

So always draw inspiration from your surroundings and never limit yourself to one media to work in. My favorite form of art has morphed from graphite, to ink, to 3D works, to needlepoint and back again. Learning multiple forms of art is also important to expand your artistic vocabulary and appreciation. I NEVER thought much of embroidery until I started myself, and now I have the upmost respect for any lady brave enough to pick up a needle.

Another thing I always try to do is create little nothing presents for friends and family. Care packages are the cutest things in the world, and lift your spirits as well as the recipients. A handwritten letter with personalized illustrations also goes a long way!

All in all, creativity is a choice and requires dedication to always be producing your best work. Switching things up never hurts anyone and allows yourself to develop more than you ever thought possible. (Me, enjoying watercolors? Never. Until I gave them a try and now we’re BFF status.) Always keep an open mind, never get discouraged over that portrait you’ve been trying to finish for over a year, and never stop exploring. (And make sure you check the Sunday newspaper for Michael’s coupons. So worthwhile.)

A lot of this advice was exactly what I needed to hear! With a busy schedule, I sometimes even struggle finding content to blog about. Staying creative can be difficult but Liatra's advice provides a lot of tips and tricks for continuing to work on your art.

Do you enjoy painting? Embroidery? Drawing? Photography? Do you find more inspiration during the changing autumn months or near the holidays?
Personally, I can't wait to start crafting for Christmas but, that kind of inspiration doesn't last all year for me. Rather than being a "spring cleaner", I've noticed that most of my motivation for decorating our home and designing new art for it comes during the start of fall. Hopefully we'll see  here again to share some of her other work!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

WIAW | iPhone Edition

It's hard to believe that it's time for another edition of WIAW - where do the weeks go?

Each week, Jenn over at Peas and Crayons hosts a linkup called "What I Ate Wednesday". This week I decided to look through the many iPhone food photos I've taken lately and share some of our recent eats with you. While I make my best effort to get out the camera for photographing our meals, sometimes it's easier to just take an iPhone picture, instead. Plus, don't we all love to instagram our eats? And, to make it better, instagram finally came out with online profiles! but that's beyond the point.

The snow has led to nice hot breakfasts every morning. After last week's WIAW, we ended up eating pancakes for a midnight snack - embarrassing, I know. So, this week we tried to eat more eggs with extra veggies - and lots of sauteed potatoes too. Have you ever had sweet potatoes for breakfast? If not, you need to try it.

For lunch, we've been trying to balance our winter diet out with some lighter choices, though - soup and fresh salads all week. This weekend Trevor made a potato and leek soup that is to die for. I wish I was kidding when I say that I just ate my fifth bowl of it. In fact, Trevor's soups seem to be a recurring theme in my WIAW posts lately.

As for a guilty pleasure this week, we've been enjoying a fall staple - hard cider. Like I said, we found Angry Orchard on tap this weekend but on Friday night, after a long week of work, Trevor came home with a six pack of my favorite Hornsby's flavor and a bag of Hershey's Nuggets with Toffee and Almonds. There's a reason I love this guy. 

So, this week's eats in photos: 
1. Scrambled eggs with bacon, tomatoes, scallions & cheddar.
2. Chicken corn chowder with a fresh spinach salad & a side of hard cider.
3. Pork chops with roasted garlic quinoa and sauteed broccoli, cauliflour, squash & zucchini. (And more cider, of course.)
4. Filet with broccoli & red skin mashed potatoes.
5. Kielbasa with roasted red skin and sweet potaotes over a sauteed blend of peppers, onions, snap peas, broccoli & carrots.

Apparently we liked vegetabes even more than we liked cider this week.
Who would've thought?

Monday, November 12, 2012

Our Town | Griz Football

I'd like to pretend I'm not more than two weeks late in posting these photos but, unfortunately, that is the truth of things. Having a three day weekend has finally given me a chance to get caught up on things. Yesterday, the house and laundry. Last night, homework. Today, a marketing paper is being written, photos are being edited, Christmas shopping is getting worked on, and perhaps I'll even get around to grocery shopping before my three-day holiday comes to an end.

Thanks to Scott and Michelle, we got to enjoy our second Griz game for the season. While the first was sunny and hot (In fact, I've still got the tan lines from my sunburn), this time I spent the game with hand warmers in my boots. I may or may not have also put on two extra pairs of pants, three pairs of socks and four shirts on the side of the road before the game. It happens.

That morning, we hit quite a snow storm on our way to Missoula. I chose to take my GMAT at the college I will hopefully be attending in the fall and that meant a two hour drive at 6:00 in the morning. While I did well on the test, it was still a stressful way to start the day. Thankfully I got to finish it off with hot breakfast at Food for Thought and another winning football game. But, the icing on the cake? Trevor surprised me with a new Griz hat.

We're trying awfully hard to become Montanans.
Yes, it is "Montanans." I asked.

Snowy Saturdays

This weekend proved full of winter adventures.

Wednesday night, the snow started to fall. On Saturday morning, it was still falling. After nearly three days without seeing the sun, Trevor and I decided to take Saturday as our day - a day to drive around, play in the snow and attempt to take a reasonable Christmas card photo. Not hard when you live here.

In some areas, the snow was above my knees. And yet, we ran across a group of ten campers - campers who were worried they might not get out without the help of a few pick up trucks. They had been hunting for elk. It seems to be the time to do it. The other day, deer crossed through our fenced yard in town. On Friday, Trevor saw a moose on his way to pick me up from work. Unfortunately, our pups aren't enjoying the snow as much as the other Montana wildlife seem to be. 

So, yesterday, we took off from Anaconda and headed toward Montana's capital, Helena. Trevor had fallen in love with the view from atop the Cromwell Dixon Campground but unfortunately, the snow had made the campground all but impassable. Still, we pulled to the side of the highway for some scenic shots and to throw snowballs down the mountain side with strangers taking a rest stop from their drive home to Missoula.

While I was excited to take our photos, I was more excited at the chance to browse through Target. Unfortunately, though, I left the store with only a box of my favorite chocolate covered cherries and new makeup brushes. But, I made up for it with an hour spent in the Christmas section staring at ornaments, convincing Trevor that our pups need pajamas, and making a list of all the things we need before December 1st arrives. And, after our "shopping," we managed to find a good lunch (and Angry Orchard on tap!) at the Brewhouse Pub and Grill.

In the end, we captured a few Christmas card photos - some silly, some serious - but you'll have to wait for those. Until then, you can enjoy our snowy view from the warmth of your home. As for us? It's 16 degrees and windy, but for now we're enjoying it with hot cocoa and an even hotter fire.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Making Time | For Yourself

As a student paying my own way through college, I've been forced to learn a thing or two about time management. It's always a struggle to balance work, classes, homework, activities, and time for friends & family. Even with a busy schedule though, I have found that I must always make time for certain things - things like eating well, exercising, and relaxing. Though I've learned a few things that work well for me, I know that my advice might not work for everyone and so, over the next few weeks, on Saturdays, I will be hosting a series called "Making Time". With holiday season approaching (quickly!), balancing a busy schedule is bound to become even more difficult and so, I thought now would be the perfect time for a few friends of mine to tell you about their own balancing acts. If you have a topic that you think would fit into the series, please let me know - I'd love to feature your contributions! 

This week's post is all about making time for yourself - perhaps the topic that I struggle with most! 

[clock via urban outfitters]

Hello sweet Live Beautifully readers! I’m Sam from Samantha J. Bird and I’m so happy Jen asked me to guest post for her (it’s my first time). I’m going to talk about how I make time for ‘me time’ - those little moments where I get to be with myself and recharge. Most people benefit from spending some time alone or at the very least doing something that is just for ourselves rather than considering what others may want to do. It’s so important that I was actually ‘prescribed’ it by a therapist earlier this year as a way of managing anxiety and depression. It’s been incredibly helpful for treating those issues and it helps keep me in a good place mentally and emotionally. Time for ourselves can give us a sense of calm, relaxation, joy, bliss. It can help us to feel cared for, pampered and lucky, among other things. These positive effects are ones that we could all do with and are worth making time for. I can be pretty busy though, so finding time to fit in this me-time can be challenging. Today I’m going to share what I do, in four steps, and I hope it can be useful for you, too!

Firstly, letting go of any guilt you might have over taking time for yourself is really important. I don’t know about you, but I get terribly influenced by things I think I have to or should be doing, like studying, housework or doing things for others. Those activities seem to have found their way to the top of my priority list and me-time can seem like a ‘waste’. That’s ridiculous though, because if we don’t look after ourselves then we can get burned out (see: me, earlier this year). If that happens, it becomes really difficult to do anything at all, for ourselves or others. When guilt and worrying about other tasks are present during me-time, you can be sure they will put a downer on the whole experience. So, kiss your guilt goodbye. Or kick it in the pants, whatever works for you!

Secondly, work out what me-time looks like for you. What activities would you like to do? Very occasionally, when my bank account permits, I like to get a 30 minute massage or my nails done (especially the latter because I absolutely hate doing my own). If I don’t have much money to play with but want to get out of the house, I like window shopping with a giant cup of something delicious. Other favourite things include reading, practising relaxation techniques, watching a favourite show snuggled in bed and sometimes just sitting doing absolutely nothing at all. The possibilities are endless, really, as long as whatever you are doing - or not doing as the case may be - is something you find enjoyment in and doesn’t really involve other people. The point is to be with yourself and focus on what you want in those moments, but if you have a friend gabbing to you then you will probably get distracted. Another thing I find really nice sometimes is to make the activity a really special one, like those massages, because it feels a lot less ordinary and that can amplify the positive effects of me-time.

Thirdly, work out how long your activity will take. I let whatever I want to do dictate how long me-time is going to take. So, for a 30-minute massage, it’s about 30 minutes; reading might be an hour. I try to fit me-time in every day, but most of the time the activities are really basic like drinking a cup of tea while catching up on blogs for 20 minutes, or blogging. If you have a really busy schedule then you might like to aim for 1-2 times a week instead, or do something daily that doesn’t take lots of time, like a 10-15 minute meditation. If you won’t being engaging in me-time as often (say, a couple of times a month), then take longer. If you need to, set a timer or an alarm to remind yourself when the time it up and you need to get back to ‘reality’. It’s really easy for 20 minutes of blog reading to turn into 3 hours of Pinterest which isn’t very helpful for my to-do list!

Finally, figure out when you’re going to be having time to yourself. The key here is that you have to the make time. I have to consciously decide that I’m going to have some me-time and then find a way to make that time available, like I would when hanging out with a friend. Other activities might need to be sacrificed or cut short. I’m not a very strict schedule person and prefer to have general windows of time when I tend to do certain things, but which can be easily shuffled around if necessary. I often find myself with unexpected plans or things to do, so flexibility is key. I schedule all my classes, appointments and regular things I have to do in my Google calendar and everything else goes on to-do lists. That way I know what I have to do on any given day and I can create a mental outline of how much time I’ll need for each item. The most useful thing for me is to schedule in me-time like I do with appointments and classes - it becomes more of a non-negotiable activity. Then, I prioritise the to-do list items from most to least important. If I end up cutting a least-important task some days then it’s not the end of the world.

So, there you have it, my four-step guide to creating time for myself. I hope it helps you to see how you might be able to fit time for yourself into your busy life. I would absolutely love to hear about any other ideas you might have, too. I am by no means an expert at fitting in time for myself, so tips are always welcome! xo

Thank you Sam for taking the time to share your advice with my readers! 
Like Sam, I find that using a calendar and lists to record all of my activities and to-do's helps me to stay on task. This way, I can get all of the things I need done so that I can have some much needed time for myself.

How do you find time for yourself? What are your favorite activities that make up "me-time"? 
For my busy week days, "me-time" usually consists of staying snuggled in bed for an extra fifteen minutes in the morning. I use the time to check my e-mail, catch up on my favorite blogs and if I'm lucky, to snuggle my boys.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

WIAW | Autumn Eats

We've been eating plenty of fall inspired eats, lately. So, in honor of What I Ate Wednesday - a weekly linkup hosted by Jenn over at Peas and Crayons - I thought I would share some of the things we've been loving this week.

Though we've been making an effort at healthier eating the past few days, we celebrated the first day of November with gluten free pumpkin pancakes for breakfast. And with it, bacon and sausage from our favorite Montana spot, the Western Meat Block. While Trevor had his with a cup of coffee (of course), I chose my favorite store bought hot chocolate.

This week, I've also managed to make it to the gym almost everyday! (I'm surprised, too). Often though, that has meant getting up early for a morning workout. Knowing that I'll be hungry after, I've simply been snacking on gluten-free apple cinnamon muffins before we leave. Truth be told, I've also been snacking on them at work.. before bed.. all day. (Especially since I've run out of these cookies.)

For lunch, we've been eating soup, and more soup. While I occasionally have to rely on Progresso's Chicken Corn Chowder, I'm lucky enough to live with a man who loves to make soup. How's a girl get so lucky? In the past few weeks, we've enjoyed a saffron, potato & sausage soup, a moroccan lentil soup, and this incredible mafe - a South African stew. While the ingredients seemed a bit abstract - peanut butter, sriracha, and absinthe? apples and sweet potoates? - I have never been more in love with a bowl of soup. (And to be honest, never more in love with the chef who made it.)

As for dinner, all I have to say is UGH. I can hardly look at this pictures without craving a late night snack of steak and sweet potatoes, with a pumpkin pancake for dessert. (Don't worry, this week our fridge is filled with plenty of produce.) Last night, Trevor made a simple, hearty dinner of filet, the kind that most literally melts in your mouth, with roasted sweet potatoes. But the important part? The smoked paprika caramel sauce that he drizzled dumped over everything. You might remember it from this WIAW post?

So tell me, what is your favorite fall recipe? Homemade soup? Pumpkin-anything?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Ten on Tuesday | Seasonal Teas

1 // 2 // 3 // 4 // 5 // 6 // 7 // 8 // 9 // 10

It should come as no surprise that come fall, I am all about hot tea - especially loose leaf tea. When I received this awesome tumbler (and a whole selection of teas!) for my birthday, it only fueled my obsession. Now, I can brew tea by the cup, while at work. Not only that but the tea stays hot for hours. May I suggest penciling one of these onto your Christmas list?

I know it's still early so instead of a "teas I'd like to find in my stocking" list, I thought I'd share with you some seasonal choices that I'm really looking forward to. These all come from three favorite companies - Teavana, Mightly Leaf and David's Tea. If you want to know more about the flavors or you want to send me some for my stocking, you can do so by clicking the links above!

Of the tea's shown, I've only tried the Masala Chocolate Truffle tea from Mighty Leaf, and the Sumarai Chai Blend that came as a sample with my tumbler from Teavana. From my recommendation, you can deduce that they were both delicious! I think the chocolate truffle is my new favorite! I will need to order some more tea soon and I can't wait to try to Toasted Marshmallow. Though, with -2 degree weather (and two feet of snow) projected, I'd be happy with any of the above.

So tell me, what is your favorite seasonal beverage? Are you a fan of loose leaf tea?

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Recipe: Pumpkin & Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

On Friday night, Trevor and I planned to snuggled in to bed to watch yet another cheesy-supense-crime-thriller movie on Netflix - my favorite weekend activity. But before the movie started, photos from my flickr account played as a slideshow across the screen. While I was busy changing into long john bottoms and my favorite t-shirt, these cookies showed on the AppleTV. Trevor was quick to ask when I planned to bake cookies again - they're a baked goods staple in our house. With an empty weekend, void of any real plans, I promised to put it on my list.

The original cookies included peanut butter in the list, and so, while delicious, eating them made me sick. And really, who wants to bake a few dozen cookies when they shouldn't even enjoy one? So, I decided to skip the peanuts this time. Either way, I needed chocolate chips and so while Trevor dealt with our two overly-energetic pups, I snuck off to pick up a library book and to wander through the new Christmas aisles at Albertson's. Thankfully I left the store with just chocolate chips and Trevor's new favorite coffee. But lord knows if I could eat wheat, that new hot chocolate brownie mix would've been in my cart. (Someone please tell me you've bought made and enjoyed these? Oh, the temptation!) And holiday kettle corn? Drizzled with dark chocolate and tossed in sea salt? Ugh.

The entire store was filled with end caps of holiday favorites. Starbucks peppermint hot chocolate. Almond bark. Chocolate covered cherries. Coffee in christmas flavors. Snowflake sprinkles. Red and green cupcake wrappers. It took me nearly a half an hour to buy two things, my mind was so distracted by the holiday sparkle.

Unfortunately, it's only November though. And so while I'd love to start the Christmas music and hang our stockings, I think Trevor would prefer I wait at least three more weeks. So, I decided to spend my afternoon making autumn inspired treats, including these Gluten Free Pumpkin & Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies. (A mouthful, I know.)

To be honest, these didn't turn out to be the same type of cookie as their peanut butter counterparts but that didn't mean they were any less delicious. In fact, I think I enjoyed these more - perhaps because they didn't give me migraines? Imagine that. While the others were rolled and baked into perfect puffy circles, this dough needs to rest in the fridge before being dropped onto the pan - meaning that they are textured and imperfectly shaped.

The pumpkin flavor is subtle but makes for a thick, chewy, cookie. Trevor ate three or four, never realizing they were pumpkin. Note though, they are bright orange in the center - it's hard to miss. These also boast some warm autumn spices and a lot of vanilla, flavors that seem to go naturally with pumpkin. The oatmeal softens in the cookie but tends to keep its texture toward the outside, giving the cookie an even better chewy-ness. And the chocolate chips? The perfect touch of sweetness to a cookie that itself is not overly sweet. I used ghiradrelli semi-sweet, you should probably do the same. 

This is a hearty recipe and makes plenty of cookies to share - about three dozen.

1 cup of Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free All Purpose Baking Flour
1 1/2 cup of white rice flour
(feel free to substitute 1 1/2 cups of any gluten free flour mixture or even regular flour)
3/4 tsp xanthum gum
1/2 tsp of baking soda
1 tsp of cinnamon
1 tsp of pumpkin pie spice
A pinch of salt
3/4 cup of brown sugar
1/4 cup of white sugar
3/4 cup of butter (softened)
1 egg + 1 yolk
1 cup of pumpkin puree
1 3/4 cup of certified gluten free rolled oats
1 tablespoon of vanilla
1 cup of chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine both flours, both sugars, xanthum gum, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg and extra yolk.
Add the butter and vanilla.
Mix in the pumpkin puree.
Then, dump the dry ingredients into the wet, mixing until combined.
Add the rolled oats and chocolate chips.

Cover the mixture with plastic wrap and let rest in the fridge for 30 - 40 minutes.
Then, after cooled, use a spoon to drop cookies onto a greased pan.
Bake for fifteen minutes or until the cookies are golden on top - careful not to over bake.

These cookies stay nice and soft, even after they've had time to cool - even the day after. While Trevor likes them best with a cup of french roast, I've been enjoying them with some spiced chai. Unfortunately, the other two house members have taken an interest in the cookies, too, so we have to make sure they're kept out of puppy reach.