Thirty One

It’s my 31st birthday today! I’m spending the day with my hubby. He’s my favorite person 🙂 We’re exploring Austin, TX all weekend and are having the time of our lives!

A weekend getaway to a new place often heightens my senses to the world around me. The air, sights, and sounds all stand out a bit stronger because it’s new and different. That got me thinking – I hope I take enough time to appreciate the little things that I adore in life. I used to be better at that.

Throughout high school and college I’d escape for a few minutes (or hours) and add to a list of what I loved. Totally random things…like…how people tilt their head when they eat a taco, or a much needed outburst of laughter after something has gone horribly wrong and that poor moment needs some comedic relief. Before I knew it, my list had exceeded 1,400 things. The sad truth is that I have no idea where that book is now. But the idea of doing that, of writing down the little things that I love about life, well I think today’s a brilliant day to bring it back.

So, in honor of my 31st, here are 31 little random things that I love:

  1. Snuggling with my yellow lab, Stella.
  2. Stovetop popcorn.
  3. The entire experience of walking around an Anthropologie store.
  4. Slowly sipping red wine on a cold night.
  5. The 1st cup of coffee in the morning.
  6. Finishing a long run.
  7. Writing.
  8. Star gazing.
  9. Small town America.
  10. Getting positive results from using little pockets of time wisely.
  11. Country music.
  12. Cowgirl boots.
  13. An unforgettable culinary experience.
  14. Dark chocolate.
  15. Laughter from my favorite people.
  16. The distant smell of a campfire.
  17. Swivel chairs.
  18. HGTV & The Food Network.
  19. Needed hugs.
  20. A new dress.
  21. Baking.
  22. Stained glass windows.
  23. Coffee shops.
  24. Windows open, kinda weather.
  25. Sushi.
  26. Getting asked to take strangers’ group photos.
  27. When a baby smiles or yawns.
  28. Zumba. 
  29. Hearing perfectly beautiful harmony sung a cappella.
  30. People who don’t complain, appreciate life, and embrace each day.
  31. Choosing happiness.

More than any of these, more than anything in the world in fact, I love and adore my family and friends over all. I’m a very lucky lady to have such joy surrounding me all the time. Not quite sure how I got so lucky, but I thank God everyday for y’all.

So…what’s on your list?!

Happy day, friends!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

It’s a recipe for fall, y’all! It’s been a while since I’ve posted…anything. I started two other special posts which have both been patiently waiting to be finished and published, but work kinda took over while I was traveling so I’ll get ’em up this week. Promise!

What’s up next? So glad you asked! Two new “TOP 5” posts: one is on my top five travel tips, while the other is on my top five tips for those of you considering blogging. Stay tuned!

Snow!I’m really excited to share both of those, but just for today I had to start with this bad boy of a post in honor of a perfecly snowy Sunday here in Oklahoma! We only got a little snow…but of the little we got – it was enough to inspire the crazy wannabe baker in me to get started. I felt compelled to bake something pumpkin-like with the cans of pumpkin puree lining the aisles at the local grocery store, the fire in our fireplace, and the simple fact that I’m home. Home home home.

I love being home.

I found a recipe that deliveres a perfect little dose of pumpkin as my favorite season of autumn comes to a close: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins. High fives for this post goes out to Marg from food.com – thanks for the recipe!

Now, I’ll have you know that before I left for my last two week stretch of work-travel back East, I put on my fancy pants and actually made pumpkin puree from scratch. Like, from an actual pumpkin…not a can. Totally did! I was so proud of myself. I followed the instructions from my favorite Oklahoma homecook, Ree Drummond. Check out how to make it from scratch here: Homemade Pumpkin Puree.

I made it, froze it, and when I came back from my trip it was gone. Gone. I was devistated. No wonder Justin Timberlake wrote a song about it. Gone. It’s heartbreaking to make something from scratch and then have to start over when you’re toooootally not in the mood. It wasn’t Sean’s fault, btw. Just for the record – there was an issue with our new fridge/freezer’s power while I was gone and the poor guy had to throw everything out and buy new stuff. Sooooo those cans of pumpkin puree were lookin’ pretty good today.

Here’s what you’ll need:

Ingredients

2 Eggs (the picture above looks like 3, but 1 was a double yolk…so I just went with it!)

1 cup – Sugar

1/2 can (8 oz) – Pumpkin Purree

1 & 1/4 cups – Canola or Veg Oil

1/2 tsp – Vanilla Extract

1 tsp – Ground Cinnamon

1 tsp – Baking Powder

1 tsp – Baking Soda

1/2 tsp – Salt

6-8 oz – Semi-sweet chocolate chips

 

*Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees.

STEP 1:

Mix the eggs, pumpkin puree, vanilla, and oil into a bowl until it’s nice and smoooooooth lookin’.

STEP 2:

Then add the cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

STEP 3:

Easy, right? Then the flour…in stages. Dumping it in all at once means that you will be wearing most of the flour. Ain’t no time for that. So add it in slowly, but steadily. It’ll look like this: Steps 1 and 2

STEP 4:

Then, remove the whisk/paddle/whatever if you’re using an electric mixer, and make sure you fold in the chocolate chips with a spoon/spatula.

STEP 5:

I’m a HUGE fan of these parchment paper wrappers. They’re so easy. Now, this recipe calls for about 15 muffins but I wasn’t about to use two different trays, so I just made all 12 a little larger and it worked out beautifully. So, either spray or greeze the pan or fill the paper cups about half way. IMG_7821

STEP 6:

Into the oven they go for about 20 minutes or less! 20 minutes was great for these rockstars since I filled ’em pretty well.

STEP 7:

Let them cool for about 5 minutes and enjoy!!! IMG_7846

Boom. Delicious muffins prepared, baked, and enjoyed in under an hour.

Happy baking!

 

Newlie News: “The CIA”

Happy Saturday morning, friends. I have some news to share.

So after nearly 3 years at George Mason University, I will soon be leaving my role as an Associate Director of Admissions for a new regional admissions position with the world renowned culinary school that I completely adore – The Culinary Institue of America (www.ciachef.edu), or more affectionately called “The CIA.” The CIA’s main campus is located in Hyde Park, New York and it overlooks the beautiful Hudson River. The campus is breathtaking. Seriously. Its main academic & administrative building “Roth Hall” was renovated from an old Jesuit seminary. Check out some photos of campus:

cia alumniMy commute from Silver Spring, Maryland to Fairfax, Virginia each day has really gotten to me. For about a year and a half I’ve commuted an hour in the morning (which I feel is pretty average for DC commuters) but then an hour and a half to sometimes two hours each afternoon.  I can’t take that drive anymore. I needed my life, exercise, and sanity back. When I stumbled upon this position it was like everything I’ve ever wanted out of my career – the ability to work from a home office (no more commuting!!!), and to focus my time solely on admissions recruiting. Right now my position is very marketing and recruitment heavy, but I’ve learned that it’s not necessarily my passion to balance the two. I now get to counsel students in Maryland, DC, Virginia, Delaware, and West Virginia who are interested in attending the CIA’s main campus in Hyde Park. The professionalism and prestige of this institution has blown me away. Did you know that Anthony Bourdain is an alum? So is the Founder and CEO of Chipotle, Steve Ells! And many, many more. Click on the alumni image to see who else is kind of a big deal.

I have LOVED working for Mason. When you work in college admissions, you absolutely have to believe in the school that you’re promoting to students. You lose sleep in the fall and spring seasons attending evening college fairs and morning high school visits. You spend hours on the phone and in person at work with perspective parents and students answering their 47302908 questions about what courses they could take in 2 years time, what the campus life is like, what internships are readily available, etc. You carefully review application after application, essay after essay, and transcript after transcript each winter to ensure that your institution will have the best possible incoming freshman class. That said – ya kiiiinda have to whole heartedly love and admire your university. Mason was and always will be easy to love. I will absolutely miss working for them, and more importantly working with my talented, hilarious, energetic admissions team.

My last day at Mason will be May 3rd. Then, after a week off to get my new home office ready, I start my new position at the CIA on May 13th. I’m SO excited!!! The first two weeks will be especially fun as I’ll travel up there to Hyde Park and stay there… TWO WEEKS! I get to shadow a few of their culinary classes, taste test their creations in some of their student-led restaurants, go for a run alongside the gorgeous Hudson River, and I even get to take a culinary enthusiasts’ course one day! HELLO HEAVEN!!! Get ready, cause I plan to post, Tweet, and Instagram like crazy those two weeks as I document my new career-home. I’m so thrilled for my new life to start.

Anywho…go enjoy this gorgeous day. Just had to share 🙂

Happy weekend.