Sunday, November 23, 2014

I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas (Tree)

Ever since Ryan and I have been married, I have wanted a white Christmas tree. This was because our apartment didn't allow for a real tree, which would've been my preferred medium for a Christmas tree. And my thinking was that if it was going to be fake, might as well have it look REALLY fake. But when we were looking for a tree that first year of marriage, the white ones were the most expensive for some reason. So we settled on a small, 4.5 foot green pre-lit tree. It was cute and it served its purpose of making the apartment more Christmas-y. We used that tree for 3 years.

Well, this year I put my foot down and said that now that we're in a more comfortable spot money-wise, I wanted my 6-foot white Christmas tree. Funny thing though is when we went to buy one, it cost the SAME AMOUNT as our weeny little 4.5-footer. So we got it without feeling guilty whatsoever.

I then argued that because Ryan and I will be in Missouri for Christmas, we won't have as much time to admire our tree and so we should put it up a week early to make up for lost time. He caved and yesterday evening we went about setting up and decorating our new tree. And it is ABSOLUTELY perfect. The only thing missing is a tree skirt, which I will be looking for this week to finish up the look.

Here's Ryan getting the tree all set up and fluffing up the branches. I also did a lot of fluffing. 
The trick to making fake trees look good is the fluffing of the branches. When I was working as a custodian at the Hinckley Alumni building, we set up around 8-9 fake trees and decorated all of them and the key to making them look fantastic was HOURS of fluffing. I spent most of my days in November fluffing those things (and replacing burnt out bulbs, yikes). So I have the technique down to an art.

The tree is all set up and mostly fluffed!
Ryan went to work putting on gold ribbons for our blue/gold themed tree.

The star is on top! Too bad the cord is too short to plug it in and get it lit. We have to figure out how to get that working...

First ornament on the tree! 
Lovely blue baubles. I am very glad we went with blue and gold. It's stunning!
I got a few hedgehog ornaments because why not? I love hedgehogs.



The tree in all its glory.
Here is the finished tree! Ryan didn't want to overload the tree with ornaments but I think it could use a few more. So when he isn't looking, I'll probably sneak a few ornaments on at a time. Really fill it with gold and blue splendor.

I'm a sucker for a good bokeh shot.
A couple of shots of the tree with the overhead lights off.


Overall, I am VERY pleased with how the tree turned out. I've seen tacky white trees in the past and I may be biased but I find our tree not at all tacky. But some people are just not fake tree people. I will say I miss the smell of pine, but to remedy that I'll just get myself a pine-scented candle :)

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas in the Merrill pad!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Healthy Pumpkin Muffins

A while ago, I came across this recipe for healthy and delicious pumpkin muffins and the recipe was full of ingredients that I recognized and I had them in my own cabinets so I figured why not try and make them? I gave it a go this morning while we were lounging around and waiting to go to our 1pm church and they were super quick and very delicious! Ryan ate 3 of them not even 10 minutes after they got out of the oven. So allow me to share this delectable recipe that will make your mouth and tummy happy without breaking your diet :) But first, a few pictures I felt like taking while in the making process.


What makes this recipe healthier than other recipes is using honey instead of sugar. Honey is better than sugar because it's more natural, or so the Internet says. I'm definitely not complaining. Honey is delicious and a lot of fun to photograph.





Yep. I just couldn't stop snapping the pictures as Ryan poured the honey out of the measuring cup. It's a crazy substance!


 I love baking anything because it gives me the chance to break out my kitchen-aid I got as a Christmas present just last year. I absolutely love it. It makes my mixing life easier. No more busting my arm mixing for minutes on end. But on the down-side, my arm isn't getting that extra workout, ha!


I love pumpkin recipes because it turns the batter this lovely warm orange color. It's not a color you see every time you bake something, unless you're always baking pumpkin things. Which wouldn't be such a terribly way to live, now that I think about it. Mmmmm, pumpkin!


 And here they are, the finished product! I opted for the cupcake liners because it's less of a clean-up at the end. And I've had some weird taste results with my silicone pan. Sometimes my muffins would come out tasting like the soap I used to clean it the last time. So to be safe, I used the liners. Don't want to ruin a perfectly good batch of healthy pumpkin muffins!






Healthy Pumpkin Muffins
makes 12 normal-sized muffins


Ingredients
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsps baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup honey
1 egg
1 cup pumpkin, packed solidly

Instructions
In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg; set aside.

Using an electric mixer, beat butter until light; beat in honey, egg and pumpkin. Gradually add flour mixture, mixing until just blended.

Spoon into muffin tin/cups, leaving a little space at the top (so about 3/4 of the way full). Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove from pan to wire rack. Eat when you can comfortably stand the heat :)


The rest of the morning, the apartment smelled of warm pumpkin and it was amazing, especially since today was another gorgeous autumn day. This fall has been so mild for Utah, most of the days have been in the 60s! I am definitely not complaining, but whenever Utah wants to bring on the snow I am certainly ready for that. Snow and the holidays are an absolute MUST.

Enjoy the muffins and happy Sunday!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

This is Halloween!

I have never been one to go out of my way to do a Halloween costume, especially in my college days when I was poor and wanted something on the cheap. Well, this year, after a couple of years of doing lame costumes for Halloween parties, I wanted to do something awesome. And this year's idea came to me the minute we walked out of our Valentine's Day movie date "The Lego Movie" and I realized that we would make a great Wyldstyle and Emmet.



So that's what we did. We got Ryan a construction vest and helmet (the pants on Amazon were out of stock, for some reason), I went out and got myself a black hoodie and some colored tape and we put together a really fun couples costume in no time and for a relatively small amount of money.

These pictures were taken Monday night for our church Halloween party and it was my first attempt at the colored hair. I bought temporary hair dye and it, well, didn't work terribly well especially since I was terrified that if I sprayed too much it would dye my forehead. For actual Halloween, I bought cheap hair extensions and used those for my work party.








The hands are trying to imitate LEGO hands. Yeah, I need a little work.

I took a couple of pictures of my jacket by itself. I was a little proud of my tape work on it, even though it kept curling up on the ends and was a little difficult to move in.



I hope everyone had a GREAT Halloween! As for me? I'm one of those Christmas freaks who listens to Christmas music the minute it turns from 12:00 midnight to 12:01. That is, if I'm awake at that time. Nowadays, I'm conked out by 10:45pm. I love Halloween for the time it's around but now I'm definitely in Christmas/Thanksgiving mode and am stoked for this Holiday Season! Bring on the snow, Utah, I'm ready :)

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Jaker's Pumpkin Patch

I've never been to a legitimate pumpkin patch before. I have always wanted to but while growing up in Missouri, I never really knew of one in the area and now that I'm in Utah I guess I just failed to make it to one because I was too lazy or something...?

But this year, I knew that I wanted to go. So Friday I bolted from work at 5pm and rushed home so that I could pick up Ryan and we could head down to Jaker's Pumpkin Patch in Springville before it closed at 7pm. I came equipped with a camera so that I could take lovely sunset photos of the pumpkins and our exploration as we found the best pumpkin around.

As usual, I cut back on the original number of pictures. I couldn't stop taking pictures of this place and the pictures don't do it justice: this place was spacious! The front end was already pretty sparse but we ventured pretty far back where the pumpkins were still on the vine and had a great time wandering around and looking at all the wide varieties.






This particular pumpkin stem was HUGE!
There were also tiny gourds, squash and tiny pumpkins there as well.

Tiny pumpkins! So cute :)


And white pumpkins too! I think they're really cool.

Smashing Pumpkins. (Not smashed by us)


I kept this tiny pumpkin/squash/thing because it was just too perfect and too cute. It's sitting on my desk as I type this.

Selfie time!


This was the pumpkin we chose. Too bad I was too focused on taking a good pic of my hubby otherwise I would've included the WHOLE pumpkin in the shot, ha! He has distractingly good looks.

The pumpkin patch had attractions for the kiddos. It was a very cute and fun destination!

Bright sunset over the patch (and lots of people)

I loved the color of these pumpkins!

It looks like a plush cushion.

Delectable winter squash for sale.



This place had a petting zoo. Fluffy geese!

A super scrawny turkey that might not be delicious enough by Thanksgiving time.

A BABY KANGAROO! So cute!



This pig was monstrous. It took 15 minutes for the poor girl to get on her feet.

Normal-sized children for scale. HUGE pig, I tells ya.
The trip was short (We were only there for maybe 40 minutes or so) but it was a lot of fun and we will DEFINITELY be going back and for a longer visit. They also had some nights where they screened movies (yesterday's movie screening was "Watcher in the Woods"! Ha!) and they had food trucks there and some nights they invited live music to be there...it's definitely a place worth going every autumn. Plus, it's FREE, except the pumpkins which you paid for of course.

Next week is Halloween. For the first time in a while, I'm actually pretty excited since we have costumes planned and a couple of activities leading up to the day. Happy Halloween!