Thursday, September 29, 2011

Decorating for Fall

I finally pulled out all our fall decorations this past Sunday...

Last year, I bought a few decorative "stakes" for our flower beds and put pumpkins on the porch steps...and the decorating was done!

This year, we have an additional 30-some feet of flowerbeds to decorate...and the amount of decorations we had from last year just seemed bare.

A quick trip to Jo-Ann's for their Fall Decor sale and I had enough decorations to get the job done!

I thought this pillow was kinda cute...and was nice way to bring some more orange onto the porch!

After taking the picture, I realized a pot of purple Asters would look great placed next to the chair! 

Pumpkins on the stairs are becoming our Fall decorating tradition! 

This year I added a leaf garland to the porch railing for an extra pop of color...It was way cheaper than buying a bunch of yard stakes for the original flowerbeds :-)

Yay for color!!!

Some of our yard stakes...

And more yard stakes...

Yard stakes on the other end of the flower bed...
I ended up running back to the store for these 2 sunflowers...with the other flowerbed having all the stakes, this side was a bit unbalanced.  Now it's not!

I'm not going to lie--my anxiety has skyrocketed since we put the decorations up on Sunday.  I'm not worried about them being "good enough" because honestly, we're the only ones on our block who decorate for the holidays/seasons.  Rather, I'm worried some punk is going to walk off with the yard stakes or decide to smash the pumpkins :-/  Because really, who wants to go clean up a bunch of smashed pumpkins?!  Anyhow, it makes no sense to worry because last year, nothing happened to the decorations--so here's to hoping that they'll stay in their place again this year!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Our Wedding (Looking Back)--The CakeS

Welcome to the last installment of "Our Wedding (Looking Back)."  Today's post is about not only our wedding cake...but our 1-year anniversary cake as well!  In fact, yesterday was our actual anniversary--if you're lucky, I'll post some pictures from our "celebration."

But back to the story...

When it came time to figure out a wedding cake, I was shocked by the limited choices we had in Manhattan.  There was one person I had heard negative things about, another person that I knew too much about to want to do business with and a few others who frankly, their cakes looked like they were made by a 12-year old.

I got on the internet and broadened my search to other communities.  That's when I found out about Karen Avery of Creative Cakes and Cookies, just outside of Wamego...The work on her website was amazing so I contacted her and set-up an appointment.

After meeting Karen and trying some of her samples, I knew right away that I wanted her to do our cake!  She took the time to get to know us, got a feel for what our wedding was going to be like, she was extremely professional, super creative, she listened to what we wanted and was effective at directing us toward the perfect design.

In my mind, I wanted a cake that Justin and I could cut...something that would incorporate our peacock theme but without being too peacocky-ish...I also wanted pops of color...some glitz...and all without being too fussy or gaudy.  I had no idea what my wants equated design-wise but this is what she came up with:

The cupcake tower and cutting cake...the cupcakes in the purple liners were Red Velvet and those in the teal--well, I think they were vanilla.  I really don't remember!

A close-up of the feathers on the cupcakes and cutting cake--it was a perfect way to incorporate the peacock theme without making the cake too gaudy!  The cutting cake was sprayed with edible metallic gold "paint"
An even closer view of the feathers...Karen made each one out of gum paste, handpainted the eye and sprayed them with edible glitter
This is the mold she used for the feathers--it was less than 1" long!

Justin's Groom Cake--it's a replica of his jersey and because he's from the south, it was only appropriate that it be made of *his personal favorite* Caramel Cake...Yup, just like the caramel cakes they talked about in the movie/book "The Help" ;-) 
Here we are feeding cake to each was during this moment that I realized I failed to tell him he could NOT smash the cake in my face!

As I suspected, he definately tried getting some cake on I kept trying to lean away from him!

So once he was done and thought it was all over with, I made sure to get him!  There may be a competitive streak in our relationship...

But then I was nice and cleaned him up!

This is what we found on the board to the cutting cake--such a sweet message from Karen!  If it's difficult to read, just click on the pic for an enlarged image

I couldn't have imagined anything better than what Karen created!  The cake was gorgeous but it also tasted uh-mazing.

But wait--it gets even better!

For our 1-Year Anniversary, Karen made us our very own complimentary cake to celebrate with!  Isn't it pretty?!

Before we cut into the anniversary cake, we had to try a slice of our orginal cutting cake that spent the last 364 days in our freezer!  Apparently, Justin didn't know it's tradition to save a piece of cake for your first anniversary...he thought I was pulling his leg at first but then decided to try a bite!

Just as I expected, it was still really good!   It was a bit drier than the day of our wedding, but the flavor remained in tact.  Now THAT'S the sign of a good cake!

Then it was time to cut into our anniversary cake.  We chose chocolate with buttercream this time around and it was DIVINE!  Something tells me the cake won't last more than a few days in our house :-)  Thanks, Karen, for not only an amazing wedding cake but the generous gift of an anniversary cake!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

What We Ate Last Week

Justin and I really don't eat out that much.  It gets expensive, it hurts my stomach and I'm not trying to brag--but I can cook a better meal than a person would get going out to eat at one of our many fast food places.  However, this week was definately an exception due to a crazy schedule, having company in town and celebrating our 1-year wedding anniversary!

What We Ate Last Week...

Monday: Honey Garlic Chicken* over steamed rice with sugar snap peas

Tuesday:  Beef Tips with risotto and maple-glazed carrots

Wednesday:  Panera--it was conveniently located between my office and my evening meetings!

Thursday:  La Fiesta!*

Friday:  Mongolian Beef over cabbage/steamed rice with edamame and crab rangoon

Saturday:  Chinese Buffet before the movies

Sunday:  We're headed to Houlihans for our anniversary!

The Learning Curve(s):
*Honey Garlic Chicken...I was not impressed with this new slow cooker recipe!  It was was salty.  It gave me horrendous heartburn.  This will never make it on our rotation again--unless it's from a Chinese restaurant!

*Mom was in town Thursday night and treated J and I to La Fiesta Mexican Restaurant...I love fajitas, he loves fajitas but I hate how pricey they are at supper time.  We decided to order the "Fajitas for Two" to keep the cost down and Justin said across the table to me, "I'll share my meat with you." In front of my mother!  It's only funny if your mind is naturally in the gutter ;-)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Our Wedding (Looking Back)--The "Disasterous" Dress

Welcome to the second-to-last installment of "Our Wedding (Looking Back)"...we're only 5 days away from our first-ever Wedding Anniversary!  Woo-Who!

When we got engaged and started planning our wedding, it became VERY obvious that I was not the girl who had her wedding planned since she was a little kid...but the one thing I knew right away--I did not want one of those huge, poofy dresses.  Just the thought of myself in one made me sick to my stomach...

I decided that a short, spunky dress fit the bill.  I called around to a bunch of stores to see if they carried any short bridal dresses and the answer was always, "No--but try the bridesmaid section.  We can usually order those in white or ivory."

The problem--all the dresses were obviously meant for a bridesmaid, not a bride.

I finally gave in and got on eBay.  And I found the perfect dress!

It was a Green Label Ralph Lauren dress made of raw silk and beading along the had never been worn, it still had the tags on it and the seller only wanted $60 for the dress.  I snatched it up and was over the moon with my find!

The problem?  It was a too big--especially in the bust.  Long story short, the seamstress had the dress from April-September and failed to tell me that she couldn't take in the bust because the beading was handsewn onto the dress--and they were all on ONE strand of thread.  After picking it up I was just plain disgusted with her so I took the dress to my local tailor.  We spent the better part of the week trying everything under the sun...but the dress just wasn't going to fit.

The Saturday before our wedding, I called my mom in tears.  I had spent that morning trying to convince myself that the dress WOULD, indeed, fit.  But who was I kidding?!

Mom dropped what she was doing, came to Manhattan and we spent the afternoon at the two bridal shops in town looking for a dress--ONE WEEK before the wedding.  Ordering a dress was clearly not an option and we didn't have time for alterations, either.  The term "buying off the rack" couldn't have been any truer in this situation!

In addition to those limitations, I wanted something that would go with my veil, headpiece and was already a budget-buster to start all over with the dress and I certainly couldn't afford to go buy a whole new ensemble!
My shoes!  They were exactly what I was looking for...and I found them in the basement of the Community Building in Cuba, KS for only $3!

Whoopsy-daisy...the comb of my veil was sticking out!  I loved my headpiece--feathers, pearls, rhinestones and a silver broach!

We narrowed it down to two dresses that I equally loved.  One dress cost the equivalent of a house payment + a car payment...the other one only cost about as much as a car payment.  You know what they say--money talks, bull-loney walks!

And with that, I picked the less expensive of the two gowns!  And it was basically a long version of the original Ralph Lauren dress :-)

A year later, the Ralph Lauren dress is in a the basement...waiting to be taken to the thrift shop.  In a way, I really don't want to part with it as it would be fun to look back at--and laugh about--some day.  Maybe that's why it still hasn't found its way to the Salvation Army???

The clerks at both stores kept commenting on how calm I was, given the circumstances.  At the time, my theory was that I just needed something to get married focus was on making a lifetime commitment to my husband and not winning some "dress of the year" competition.  And guess what?  The dress turned out just fine and I am still happily married 1 year later! 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

What We Ate Last Week

Here's another look at this week's menu.  It was another odd week so it's a bit hit-and-miss.  But isn't that how life is?!

What We Ate Last Week

Monday:  Tater Tot Casserole with green beans

Tuesday:  Ham Steaks with basil sweet corn, mashed potatoes and gravy

Wednesday & Thursday:  Oh, boy.  I came down with the stomach flu so there was no cooking OR eating for me.  Justin, on the other hand, took it as an opportunity to eat steak and french fries both nights!

Friday:  Margarita Chicken* with long grain rice and mixed vegetables

Saturday:  Tailgate food!  The Taddiken/Tillinghast crew always has a plentiful spread of food on K-State game days.  On top of the unlimited appetizers and snacks, Mom served up some yummy grilled chicken and potato salad.  There was no need to eat anything when we got home later that night!

Sunday:  Hot Dogs with potato chips, soda and ice cream at Youth Group.  Justin got roped into assisting with the group.  Then Justin roped me into assisting him.  Tonight was our first night and something tells me this will be an interesting project...

The Learning Curve(s):
* The margarita chicken was a new dish for us--the marinade was basically a can of frozen Bacardi mix and garlic.  Super simple and very tasty.  However, we decided to forgo grilling the chicken and cooked it in the skillet instead.  Big mistake.  As the chicken cooked, the marinade turned into a big, sticky mess.  The amount of sugar in the marinade definitely calls for grilling!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Our Wedding (Looking Back)--The Great Storm!

When we originally set our wedding date, we made SURE it would not coincide with a home K-State football game.  Living here, we knew that on game days traffic would be horrible; hotels would be booked a year in advance; and a game would create stiff competition for attendance!

Well, Bill Snyder decided to come back and rescue the team (if you can call it that) and as a result, the schedule was changed.  September 25, 2010 was now a HOME football game!

The morning of our wedding was finally here and as my Personal Attendant and I left our hotel room in Junction City--I told ya hotel rooms in Manhattan would be booked!--the sky was darkening.  Jill and I got my stuff to the church, I hopped in my dress and the sky grew scary.

I'm no meteorologist, but by the looks of the clouds, I was convinced a tornado was headed our way!  Thankfully, there was just tons of wind and rain...nothing that us Kansas folk haven't dealt with before.

The upside to our wedding being on a home football day???  There were tons of people around to get great pictures of the super weird cloud formations and they always remember the morning of our wedding!

And if you're in the mood for some folk gospel, off-beat humor and bits of ADHD, check out this YouTube video...I don't know why, but the storm clouds always make me think of this song!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Kyle & Lori's Wedding

Our friends and neighbors, Kyle and Lori, got married this past weekend at their family ranch just south of Clinton Lake (near Lawrence, KS).

As we arrived at the wedding site, the skies opened up and it started raining cats and dogs...they always say rain on your wedding day is good luck, but Lori was supposed to arrive at any minute.  Those last few minutes before you walk down the aisle are so nerve-wracking anyhow, then to have a game-delay because of rain?! 

Thankfully, the rain moved through pretty quickly and everything was put back out.  It was time for Kyle & Lori to get married!!!

All in all, it was a gorgeous wedding!  The evening turned out to be beautiful--not too hot or too cold--the pasture setting was spectacular, Lori's dress and all the detail work was breathtaking, the food and margaritas were super tasty and their "wedding dogs" were super adorable! 

We wish the two of you a VERY happy and blessed future together!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

What We Ate Last Week

I apologize for the non-existent "What We Ate Last Week" posts as of late.  But truth be told, when Justin is on the road, I don't cook full meals!  Some nights it might just be cheese and crackers for supper :-)  In fact, some of the meals right before he left weren't all that exciting--ie Chili Dogs--but I wanted to make sure he had some of his favorite meals to eat before he left!  If you missed the story of Justin going to New York City with Hurricane Irene, check it out here.

Now that Justin's home, things are back to normal with planned meals!  God only knows that if we didn't get back into a routine and soon, it'd be take-out for the next two months!


What Did We Eat Last Week?

Wednesday--Dirty Rice with Black Eyed Peas* and green bean casserole

Thursday--Coca-Cola Porkchops with Brocolli and Quinoa casserole

Friday--Chicken Jerusalem* over Saffron Rice with roasted brocolli, carrots and yellow squash

Saturday--We attended the wedding of our friends and neighbors, Kyle and Lori, at their family ranch just south of Clinton Lake.  We feasted on margaritas, a chips and salsa bar and an amazing Mexican buffet.  We wish the two of you a very blessed future together!

Sunday--Chichen and Black Bean Enchiladas Casserole

The Learning Curve(s):
*In the African-American community, black eyed peas are thought to bring good luck and prosperity to those who consume them on New Year's Day...well, we are still quite a ways from January 1st but I love black eyed peas with my dirty rice.  And honestly, can't we all use a little good luck and extra money every now and then?!  Rather than going the usual route of opening a can and seasoning them, I slow-cooked the peas with a hamhock and a bunch of veggies all day long.  When supper came, Justin was very appreciative of the extra effort and the tasty results.  As expected, a little pig fat always saves the day :-)

*I had seen a recipe for Chicken Jerusalem II on several weeks ago...As it involved making a reduction for the sauce, I knew it would have to wait for the weekend.  If you like chicken and artichokes, this is your dish...the creator definately knew what they were doing when they paired it with saffron rice.  Great combination!  Feel free to check out the recipe here.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Our Wedding (Looking Back)--The Not-So-Traditional Music!

I have to was kind of fun to write the post about our wedding's Save the Date card.  I won't bore you with every single detail of our wedding (it was just 1 year ago this month!) but I will highlight a few things over the next few weeks...especially those wedding "things" people tend to get excited about.

To begin this post, I need to admit one more thing.  I was NOT the most traditional bride (is anyone surprised?!) and when it came time to pick all the music, I definately wanted to avoid all the traditional songs.

Rather than using the usual, "Here Comes the Bride" ditty (which made me want to gag), I entered to Grand March by Verdi.  It was more unique and frankly, our pipe organ can take people off guard!  This song was much better suited to my personality and wouldn't scare people half to death :-)  Oh...and for your listening pleasure, I have included YouTube videos of each musical selection!

Once we got to the reception, we opted not to use another overly common entrance song--any pump-'em-up song that you would hear at a K-State game.  Yes, it would have been totally appropriate for us but again I didn't want something so, we weren't having a dance so this would have to be "our song" of the night.

What did we pick???  "You Rock My World" by Michael Jackson!  Justin wanted so badly to dance at our wedding so once we walked into the depot and posed for a picture, he started busting out his dance moves! Nobody was expecting it and it turned out AWESOME!!!  His surprise really set a fun, lighthearted tone for the rest of the evening.

As the evening progressed, we knew it was time to shake things up a bit and get everyone on their feet.  My girlfriends, Erin and Angie, are both from Western Kansas...if you know anything about Western Kansas weddings, the reception is not complete without doing the "Grand March."  I had never seen the dance until I went to Angie's sister's wedding in Hays and I have to say, it's awesome!  Thankfully, they were both willing to lead it as none of us "north central Kansas" folk knew how to do it.

Unfortunately, none of us could track down a copy of the original Grand March song (who knew so many "Grand Marches" existed!) I played around with iTunes and settled on "Love Train" by the O'Jays!  Amazingly, the beat worked well and everyone had a blast!

And those were our music selections in a nutshell..not too predictable but not too weird!