Saturday, September 28, 2013

Welcome, Autumn!

During football season, Matt always cooks up something incredible for us to eat before the game. This week, he made smoked macaroni and cheese, which I can't even talk about standing up. I decided to make a fall treat to bring over to Dan & Bean's house tonight (where we will inevitably watch more football and snack).

I got this recipe out of All About Baking. It's pretty easy, especially if you have a stand mixer. It does take about an hour to bake, but it fills the house with all sort of autumn-y, cinnamon-y, warm smells. And when you're in the sun room drinking coffee, reading and waiting for the house to wake up, it's quite lovely. 

The recipe calls for an 8x8x2 pan, so that it's truly a cake, but I wanted more of a loaf/bread situation. It came out perfectly fluffy and soft. I think next time I'll make it in a cake pan, the height of the loaf pan was a bit much and it tends to fall apart. What can I say, the recipe knows what's best.

There's an entire chapter in this book about how when you bake, you need to use the right flour. It raves about Swans Down Cake Flour for cupcakes, cakes, etc. It's really affordable, available at any grocery store and made a huge difference in density and fluffiness. I'm use to baking with various gluten-free flours or all-purpose flour, which is fine, but this cake turned out light and delicate due to the cake flour and lots of sifting. I'm sold!

Spice Cake

2 cups sifted Swans Down Cake Flour (or flour of choice)
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder (make sure it's still active!)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 pinch nutmeg 
1/2 teaspoon all spice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
4 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 egg, well beaten
3/4 cup milk

-Sift the flour once, then measure (spoon carefully so it remains light). Add baking powder, salt and spices and sift together three times. Using a mixer, cream the butter until fluffy. Add sugar gradually and cream together thoroughly. Add the beaten egg and mix again. Alternate adding a bit of the dry mixture, beating it until smooth, and then adding milk, a small amount at a time. Beat after each addition. Bake in a greased 8x8x2 pan for 50 minutes at 350 degrees. If you're using a loaf pan, decrease to 325 and add an additional 15 minutes.

 Now, let's talk about the frosting. I wanted something that dried like a glaze but was thick like a frosting. Oh my goodness. Let's just say after I glazed the cake and was moving it to the breakfast bar to let it cool, I came back in the kitchen and all my housemates were gathered around the mixing bowl shamelessly licking it clean. It's amazing. I want to put it on everything. I found the recipe for it here.

Brown Butter Frosting:

4 tablespoons butter
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons warm water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Once the cake has completely cooled, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally. After about 5 minutes, the butter will get brown specs on the bottom of the pan and give off a nutty aroma. Pour the browned butter into a mixing bowl and whisk in the powdered sugar slowly. Add in the vanilla and stir. Add the water, a little at a time, until it's still thick, but pourable.

Place the cake on a wire rack with paper towels under it and drizzle the glaze over it.


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Ashby & Abram

After nearly four weeks of being back in the Pacific Northwest, I'm back in California. My suitcase is still in the corner, untouched and fully packed, as I find myself in denial that Ashby's wedding is already over! My trip home was incredibly productive, but also incredibly wonderful. I haven't been home that long since I moved down here and I found myself forgetting that I don't live there anymore!

My days were spent working on various wedding crafts (I'm officially obsessed with making flower crowns), watching Gilmore Girls and soaking up time with family and friends. Which in my book, translates to the ultimate vacation. Although I missed Matt terribly, I enjoyed every day that I was home.

So to ease my homesickness as I return back to my life down here, I thought I'd share the few pictures I have from the weekend, mostly taken with my iPhone (lugging the Canon around was tempting, but I figured it would get in the way of my MOH duties..)

Here's a shot of Ashby & Abram during the rehearsal dinner. It had rained terribly that day, making for a very soggy and muddy wedding site. Our good friend Bethany put on her Wedding Coordinator hat for the night and directed us around joyfully, wine glass in hand. After tiptoeing around the grass for a while, we headed back inside for an incredible dinner.

After saying good bye to his bride-to-be that night, Abram went out for brotherly-bonding time with Matt and my brother at the pub downstairs. Ashby, Bethany and I sipped coffee and picked through the left over desserts as the staff cleaned up around us. It felt so surreal to me that she was getting married the next day! I don't think my sister has ever been described as a "calm" person, but I know she never cracks under pressure and was especially relaxed for someone who was getting married in a mere 15 hours.

The next morning, after scarfing down a continental breakfast while simultaneously doing my hair and makeup, I headed over to Ashby's hotel. (Note to self: next time, have girls stay in your hotel too so that your poor husband doesn't have to answer frantic questions about eye liner and bobby pins while half-asleep.)

Ash let me do her make up that morning, which in wedding world is a pretty big privilege, but in Ashby's world it's an even BIGGER privilege because she doesn't normally wear make up. She looked absolutely gorgeous, and later, Abram told me he couldn't even tell she had make up on. (Success!)

After that, I zipped over to the venue to start setting everything up. It was quite the group effort and things went seamlessly, thanks to all the help from my family (and to the extra large iced latte my husband showed up with). Seriously family, thank you! As you can tell from our squinting eyes in the picture, it was SUNNY! 85 degrees, in fact. I set up as much as I could and then handed everything over to my Aunt Jackie before slipping on my bridesmaid dress and getting ready for pictures. This part was the most hilarious and most memorable. In new shoes that were digging into my ankles, (didn't break my shoes in beforehand, what an amateur), I ran back and forth from the alter to the parking lot in attempts to smuggle Ashby into her dressing room without Abram getting a peek at her. When she pulled into the parking lot, she was barefoot, brushing her teeth and holding her dress bag. Classic.

She stepped into her dress while I placed her flower crown on her head and waved the photographer in for a few shots of us tying the satin bow in the back. A few sniffling bridesmaids were crammed into the room with us and (thankfully) took a picture that captured the moment perfectly.

After a few hand signals and more sneaking, we got Ashby from the dressing room without Abram seeing her. We all stayed back (but of course secretly spied) as Ashby greeted her soon-to-be husband.

I somehow managed to keep a dry eye the whole day (I was focused), but almost lost it watching Ashby stop to take a deep breath before walking towards Abram. After years and years of attending other people's wedding, it was finally her turn. Her day to be the bride.

About an hour and a couple flower girl meltdowns later, it was time to watch Ashby walk down the aisle!


The ceremony was beautiful and the reception was a blast. I was zipping around most of the day, but still managed to enjoy a drink with my friends, take pictures of the bride and groom, dance with Matt to "Sweet Home Alabama" and step up to the mic to make a quick toast.

I've never really been that involved in a wedding, besides my own, but I tried to do as much as possible for Ashby so she could simply enjoy. I've never seen her as happy as I did on Saturday. She even came out on the dance floor for a couple songs!

Ash, it was an honor to get to serve and help you! I rarely get chances to do so, as you are older, wiser and wildly independent. And live in Africa. That day was beautiful, fun and went by way too quickly. I love you!

I'm sure I won't be able to resist posting more pictures as they surface; but for now, that's a pretty quick version of what Saturday was like!

Congratulations, Ashby and Abram! 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

2 years

I took this picture a few moments before saying to myself "I want to marry him".

It was April, just a few months after we started dating, and we were in Alabama for his Grandma's 80th birthday party. As soon as she walked into the room, she ran past the twenty or so other people who traveled out of town to see her, straight into Matt's arms. Throughout our visit that weekend, my preconceived notions of Matt were proven right: he's loyal, caring, thoughtful and honest. I saw how much his family adores him and listened as Grandma told me story after story about her wonderful grandson. (Good PR move, Matt...) This picture is particularly dear to me now, after spending a couple months living with Grandma this summer and falling very in love with her as well.

Today marks two years of being married to this incredible man, a mere drop in the bucket of this life together, I hope. We won't be together until Thursday evening when I tackle him at the airport, so I'm spending today re-watching this a lot and sending him sappy texts. 

I love you, Matt!