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31 October 2012

The Zombie Family

Just wanted to wish y'all a Happy Halloween from Bella, Tommy, and I!  Don't eat too much candy and whatever you do don't get eaten by Zombies.

Pictures were all created in PicMonkey.  An awesome and FREE photo editing website.

30 October 2012

New Recipe Time

When I first started this blog I promised you recipes and delivered... for awhile (search for "recipe" in the search box above to see all).  Then as the blog, my photography and cooking fell by the wayside I stopped posting pictures and recipes.  I got on this crazy eating out spree and it spiraled out of control to where I barely cooked for weeks at a time. Well I'm trying to turn that around. I want to bring you recipes from my adventures in cooking and I want to start cooking more.  I hate that because while it IS easier to eat out, I truly enjoy cooking and trying new things. It's fun.

Anyhoo while I do love cooking, I don't normally bake.  Baking is much too structured for me.  I'm no good at paying attention to exact measurements as any of my friends can tell you.  I distinctly remember making a recipe for whoopie pies and "accidentally" adding one tbsp of baking soda, instead of 1 tsp. I then tried to scoop what I thought was the extra out to no avail.  The recipe turned out fine, but it proved to me that I am horrible at following directions. However I saw a recipe for pumpkin and brown butter blondies (dreamed up by Rasberri Cupcakes) on the internet one day and I immediately pinned it.   I love anything pumpkin so it was a need-to-try.  I also love changing leaves, falling leaves, s'mores, campfires, and anything else fall related, but that's neither here nor there. Last week I was craving sweets and I saw a Pinterest Challenge post from Young House Love so decided I need to bust out this recipe. The Pinterest challenge was created by Katie and Sherry so that people would actually make some of the things they have pinned be it DIY or recipes which is a good thing since I pin a lot and actually follow through with very little. Despite my shitty measuring (and following directions) track record I figured I would make a batch, eat a couple, and bring the rest to work if they were good.  If bad I would consume them all. Just kidding (maybe). Shockingly I did nothing wrong, except maybe not brown the butter long enough, and they were amazing.  As in, I wish pumpkin desserts were accepted year round and not just fall. Check the recipe below and prepare yourself to amaze everyone with your stellar baking skills at your next potluck, thanksgiving meal, work cube, or surprise freezer find. 

Pumpkin & Brown Butter Blondies
1 stick unsalted butter
1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/3 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup pumpkin puree fresh or canned
1 cup plain flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice or (3/4 tsp ground cinnamon,1/8 tsp allspice, and 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg)
1 cup white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F. Brush a 8-inch square baking pan with some melted butter; line pan with a piece of baking paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on two sides. Butter paper.

To prepare the brown butter: place butter in a small saucepan on low heat until it melts, continue to stir over low heat but keep a close eye on it, as it begins to bubble and the milk solids separate and settle at the bottom of the pan. Stir it frequently at this point, so that the milk solids do not settle at the bottom of the pan for too long and burn. Continue until the mixture turns brown and smells nutty but take care not to leave it for too long or it will taste burnt. Remove from the heat.

In a large bowl, lightly whisk browned butter and sugars until smooth. Whisk in the egg, vanilla, and pumpkin puree. Add pumpkin pie spice, flour, and salt; stir just until moistened (do not overmix). Fold in 1/2 cup of white chocolate chips. Transfer batter to prepared pan; smooth top. Sprinkle with remaining white chocolate chips.

Bake until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 30-35 minutes.  Set pan on a wire rack, and let cool completely. Using parchment overhang, lift cake from pan and transfer to a cutting board; cut into 20 pieces. Blondies can be stored for several days in an airtight container in the fridge. Serve at room temperature.

FYI: I tried topping a couple of the bars with butterscotch chips, instead of white choco chips because a work friend isn't a fan of white chocolate (despite them still being inside the bar...sneaky), but while she liked them I wasn't the biggest fan.  A little too sweet for me.  Just know that you can top them with other types of candied "chips".

Here are the other ladies "Pinterest Challenge" posts: Katie, Sherry, Caramel, and Sarah

23 October 2012

Wedding Bells

Not for me, but for my bro.  I attended his wedding two weekends ago and had a great time seeing family and old friends.  The wedding venue was gorgeous and the wine was plentiful.  I also got my dance on which is possibly my favorite thing about a wedding, other than the booze, food, and people. I didn't bring my camera along, which was a good thing so I don't have pictures, but I do have some pics I snapped pre-wedding. One is of my bro, new wife, and son.  The other is my cuz' Rachael, her partner, and their 2 kiddos.   

Other than this fun not much else has been going on.  I'm in talks with Dames for Danes rescue on fostering a great dane so there might be a new temporary member of my household soon. 

I've also been cooking at home a lot lately instead of going out to eat at every chance I can get.  Some delicious things I've been making have been: eggplant parmesan and gnocchi (hands up for meatless mondays), salmon sliders, (You must try them! They are amazing!!), mediterranean eggplant and barley salad, shrimp and grits casserole, salt-wrinkled potatoes, and migas (my for-now fave brekkie). 

I also planted a lot of new plants in the backyard to try and make it look a little better.  It does, but the out of control liriope pisses me off. Sad to say, but unless I resod the whole yard I'm stuck cutting that nasty shit down. I'll try and post before and during pics soon.  There are no afters since the yard isn't done. 

I went and saw the Lumineers this past weekend.  I dig them.  They only have one album out so there aren't a bunch of things for them to play, but they had a good vibe and their music sounds great. Next weekend I'm going hiking so get pumped for fall colors pictures.

12 October 2012

Bratislava, Slovakia (4 of 4)

Well friends and foes the time is upon us.  It is time to give you the last glimpses of my Euro Vacation. All these posts were brought to you free by my pockets.  Feel free to say thanks or throw a penny in a well. Is it sad that it has taken me a whole month to posts the last pictures of the bunch? I'm so ready for another vacation.  Too bad I've got no vacation time left.  You know how it is.

B and I train it over to Bratislava bright and early in the am. Her dude is going to meet us later that night.  The train ride from Vienna to Bratislava takes about an hour or so.  The double decker train is empty or at least out level is.  Feels kind of lonely. We arrive to the lonely train station that is more in Petrzalka than in Bratislava.  We try and figure out where we go to catch the bus. Finally we make our way to the street.  As we are waiting some Brits come over and ask us which way Old Town Bratislava is, we had assumed we were standing on the proper side of the road- we weren't.  Good thing Brits ask questions. We make our way over to the proper side and get on the bus heading away from Petrzalka and the many communist era buildings that are located there.  Did you know that Petrzalka housing estate is the biggest communist-era concrete block housing in Central Europe?  Nor did I.  They now try and paint the concrete housing bright colors to make things look a bit more chipper. 

The bus finally lands at our stop and we get off walking through the Old Town's cobblestone streets with our suitcases.  That wasn't fun.  When we arrive at our delightful hostel 20 minutes later I am so thankful I can FINALLY ditch the luggage.  B, her man, and I are sharing a 3 bed single.  Nice, except for the bathroom shared with 4 other rooms.

After the luggage drop we head out to the city. Cute place, tight streets, no real car traffic. Lots of cafes and tourists. Street performers abound. 

my first glimpse

souviner shop

floating performers


The other thing I notice as we walk is the amount of graffiti marring the old buildings.  Sad.

bright tile

St Micahels Gate

We climbed a top the tower that you see in the picture above, St Michael's Gate, and got some fabulous views of the city.  The gate is the only remaining gate to the city and was built in the 14th century.  I pretty much had a heart attack when trying to walk out on to the skinny cat walk. I plastered myself to the walls and used one hand to hold on while, I walked step by step around.  My fear of heights is out of control.  I mean sweaty palms, fast shallow breathing, trembling, one hot mess.  I'm sure the other people out there gave me the stink eye for being such a baby.  Of course B had no such problem.  She was cool as a cucumber.  FYI if you ever go it costs money.  They charge you 9 euro to see the weapons museum and that price includes getting to go out on the balcony. I'm pretty sure most people skip the weapons and go straight to the view.

No fear of heights

palace on the hill

From St Michaels Gate

Musical Street Performer

After checking out the view we decided to leave the Old Town area to check out the sights.  There weren't many.  We did find Grassalkovich Palace where the Slovakian president lives.  We even got to see the changing of the guard.  What an absurd production that was; horn blowing and marching all for the 4 spectators watching.  I'm not sure how often this goes down, but however often it is not many people care. The palace was built in 1760 and was rather gorgeous. There is apparently a large public garden behind it, but we missed out on this.



Changing of the Bratislavan Guard


A little more sight seeing went on as well as some eating. Bryndzové halušky is the national dish of Slovakia and it was delicious.  Basically it's just gnocchi covered in a sheeps milk cheese sauce and topped with bacon.  I got mine without bacon.  Still awesome. I have dreams about that gut bomb of a dish.

About this time jet lag started to catch up with me, as well as being with someone for a week straight.  Keep in mind I'm a single girl and am used to being alone. It's hard to be around people all the time.  I just needed a little me time before I turned into a raging biotch. I took a nap while my friend went out. 

Later in the night we walked about the town some more (pretty much saw everything you could see in the tiny historic area), had a drink at the street festival that was going down, then popped into the cutest library pub I ever did see.  It was this tiny little place with a couple of cafe tables and flowered window boxes outside, and a couple of tables and bookcases filled with books in. The bar is actually a part of the owners flat that he opened up during the weekends.  He had some jamming music playing and had a small menu of a couple of beers and wines. The windows and door were wide open, the furniture was mismatched, the lighting was fantastic.  If this place was in my 'hood I would never leave.  I mean it was that amazing. It's the kind of place a person dreams of owning.


Reading Pub

 Finally we had dinner at the fanciest restaurant in Old Town.  The prices were outrageous for the area, but in reality only set me back $30 or so for an entree.  While dining al fresco we observed numerous young people dolled up in their finest.  I'm assuming most were headed to one of the 5 million clubs that dot the area.  The funniest thing was these girls in their 5 inch stilettos trying to not to break their ankles while walking over cobblestones.  I had flashbacks to my college days of walking along River Street in Savannah on my 2 inch heels.  Not quite the same, but still tough. After heading back to the hostel, we past out only to be woken at 5 am by some young foreigners discussing their night and heating up their breakfast.  The joys of staying in a hostel.

The next day we headed over to Bratislava castle.  It was pretty disapointing.  Slovakia spent loads of money rebuilding this castle, but I felt that it seemed like a brand new place with no history.  I would rather have seen the ruins of the orginal built in the 9th century than the stuccoed shiny castle of today. The only positive was the views it offered.  You could see Old Town Bratislava, the Danube, and the massive housing estate of Petrzalka.

New Age Castle

Novy Most Bridge

Commie Housing

Iphone snap

After seeing the castle we headed back over to the hostel to pick up our suitcases and head back to the train station.  On our walk we saw the headquarters of Slovak Radio.  The building is super cool looking and this pictures does not do it justice.

Slovak Radio

We made it to the train station just in time to grab a sandwich and catch the train back to Budapest. I wish I had taken a picture of how massive this 1.5 euro cheese sandwich was.  It was probably the size of my head and a 1 inch thick piece of fried cheese was nestled inside the gigantic bun. B and I both lunched on the one sandwich. I have to make note that most of the random street food I get on international trips tends to be the best and most memorable.  It is always the worst calorically, but always tastes the best. The sandwich looked like the one in this blog post:!/2011/02/fried-cheese-sandwich.html .

Train reflection

We arrived back in Budapest at about noon, went back to B's flat, regrouped, and then headed out to one of the famous turkish baths, Széchenyi Spa . Sadly I didn't have my camera so I have no pictures, but here are some that I found from around the web.  I'm mean look at the pics below.  How amazing right?

I was so glad we saved this for the end of the trip.  You pay 3550 forints ($16.30), which covers admission for a day.  Some people get in for free because they have a prescription from a doctor saying the medicinal baths are necessary for treatment. Kinf of awesome!  Leave your stuff in the locker room and then head to the outside pools.  There are 3 pools; a lap pool, a warmer pool (38 C), and a slightly cooler pool (32 C).  The warmer of the two has a fountain and streams of water that you can position yourself under to allow the water to massage you.  The cooler one has a weird circular pool in the middle that you can get in and the current spins you in circles.  Kind of odd.  It's hard to get out once you are in the current, I was flung against some random as I was trying to leave. Inside the building are multiple hot tubs (of all different sizes), saunas, and steam rooms. They are all different temperatures.  So you go into a hot sauna/ steam room, then get in the hot tub, then take a cold shower, and rinse, wash, and repeat. They even had some ice dunk pools that you get in.  Coming from a blazing hot steam room and dunking in ice water is an interesting experience to say the least. Feels quite nice.  Sometimes the water is cloudy and sometimes it smells like sulfur, but that is due to the "natural" composition of the thermal spring water. 


After the baths we were pretty wiped, but managed a side trip through Heroes' Square. Heroes' Square, circa 1900,  is a major concrete landmark that is chock full of statues.  The statues are of leaders of the seven tribes who founded Hungary and other main Hungarian historic "players". Surrounding the park are gorgeous old homes, most of which are now embassies. 

After this sight seeing tour we again head back to the flat and then out to dinner at a Thai restaurant.  It was surprisingly good.  I kind of wish we had gone more traditional, but it's what my hosts wanted so I wasn't going to deny them their favorite restaurant. Bedtime came early as did the morning when I had to catch a cab back to the airport.  The flights home were uneventful.  All of my seat companions spoke english and/ or didn't ask me to open things. 

I hope you enjoyed my re-telling of my one vacation in the past 10 years.  If you want to see more pictures of my vacation (not really that many more, but still) then click HERE. Be back next week to give you the deets on my brothers wedding spectacular, which is this weekend.

08 October 2012

Hey There Superstar

This past weekend is in the record books and it was a good'in. 

Friday night: pet sitting and bed by 11. Ahhh delightful.

Saturday: 5 year old t-ball game (Ben won the game ball), VIP for a day at Hotoberfest beer festival in O4W, and a show at the Masquerade (Vacationer and Bombay Bicycle Club) with pet sits interspersed throughout.

Sunday: Brunch at Atkins Park with a friend. Pet sits. Lazy Sunday sitting on the deck reading.  Can I just say how pumped I was to be sitting bug spray free on my back porch.  Watched a movie or 2 as well. Best Sunday in awhile.

Game Ball Bad Ass

MMMhhhhh Stout!

T and I cheesing- the pretzel necklaces are on loan

03 October 2012

Cycling through the Austrian countryside (3 of 4)

So the day has come to describe my journey cycling through the Austrian countryside. Basically this trip came about when googling things to do close to Vienna or Wien as the Austrians call it. Melk is an hourish train trip away from Vienna.  You leave out of the Westbahnhof station (this train is always going elsewhere and is super nice) and then have to get off in St Polten and wait for another train (this train is not so nice; one car and it's pretty ragtag). I got off the train and immediately rented my bike.  It cost 8 Euro or so. 

There are numerous companies you can rent bikes from.  I happened to pick NextBike.  *The pain in the ass thing about NextBike is that you have to have a phone to call a number in order to rent the bike (using the number on the bike you picked) and to get the code to that bikes lock. Pay attention to the bikes and pick a good one. I picked one that had plenty of air in the tires, but after I picked it and called, I found the seat lowering clasp wouldn't work.  During my phoning the company and arguing with them, some random Austrian came out of the train station and used a wrench to get the clasp to move.  Of course, the clasp wouldn't close well after that so my seat fell down about 4 times before I got the seat in the right spot and the clasp semi-closed.  Since it wasn't closed all the way it hit my leg on every single stroke of the pedal which left me with a gorgeous bruise as a souvenir.  Grrrrr.

Once the bike sitch was settled I moved on to Melk.  The train station is about a 2 minute walk to downtown Melk (it's tiny) and 5 minute walk to Melk Stift (aka the abbey). You immediately notice Melk Abbey because it towers over the town and it's a giant ornate yellow and white building.  Inside the opulence is even more pronounced, especially in the cathedral.  I don't understand why religious people back in the day agreed to paying for such opulence. I guess I'm not religious so I'll never understand. The Stift is still a working abbey today and there are monks who live there.  Sadly, I saw none. I went the route of paying to just view the open bit of abbey myself instead of following a guide.  It costs 10 euro.  I sort of wish I had done the guided tour so I could spout more info, but at least I got to wander at my own speed.

The Abbey Looms Over

Abbey on a Hill

The Stift

Heading to the Abbey

Hallway in the Abbey


View from the Abbey
Great view of the countryside

Melk Abbey Library

Inside the Cathedral

After the Abbey I wandered in to a few of the shops to check out the wares.  They had a great pottery shop where everything was made in house. The owl I purchased is one of my only mementos of the trip.  Once the purchase was made. I hopped on the bike and got rolling.  I decided to stay on the Melk side (Southern) of the Danube for half the trip and then take a ferry over to the opposite side (northern) for the second half of the trip. I could have hopped over the bridge right outside of Melk and saved the ferry boat fee (3 euro), but I wanted to have the experience of taking the ferry.  I will say that the northern side has most of the vineyards so if you want to ride through vineyards the whole trip go that route. The coolest thing about the southern side was that for the first 2 hours I saw maybe 6 cyclists.  The other side is much more heavily trafficked by people on bikes. During the ride to Spitz (where the ferry was) I was mostly riding directly along the Danube, which provided for gorgeous views of the mountains.  I saw multiple castles, one of which is Burgruine-aggstein which you can tour, but I didn't. I also road between the Danube and miles of apple orchards.  It was so peaceful.

On the way to Schonbuhel Castle

Cycling along

More ruins - Burgruine-aggstein

Bike trail through a small town

My dream home

Wine and God

No cars, just bikes

The ferry boat was cool. It's a cable powered boat so no motor.  Very quiet ride.  There were no cars on our ride, just cyclists and very few at that.  There is also a camera obscura on board in a viewing room so you could see a still image that looked like it was moving. After the 5 minute ferry ride, i got off in the lovely wine village of Spitz and had some lunch at this great cafe overlooking the Danube.  The food was good, the server spoke a bit of English, and the pastries were amazing.

I then continued my bike ride through the vineyards and along the highway.  This path didn't hug the Danube as much as the opposite side path did.  It also went through more villages and was much more populated.  My next stop was Durnstein, where I was planning on hiking up to the ruins. 

For whom gardening is life

Church towers over


Fuzzy Dürnstein

Durnstein was this tiny packed out town with the castle ruins towering over.  I could never find a place to leave my bike chained and was sort of pooped by this time so I didn't wind up hiking up to the ruins.  I'm still disappointed about it.  Durnstein castle was the place where the Duke Leopold of Austria stashed King Richard I Lionheart after he kidnapped him during the third crusade in 1192.  Then the pope excommunicated Leopold for kidnapping a crusader. Cool stuff right? 

Biking to Dürnstein

Dürnstein cyclists

Small Town Dürnstein

Dürnstein on the hill

I biked through some more tiny towns and vineyards and then made it to Krems - the "big" city (in these parts at least).

Random Town

Villa or Church?



City of Krems

After the day was up I biked 24 miles and had a lovely bruise forming on my leg.  I also made off with multiple bottle of apricot liquor for friends as well as some local pottery.  I caught the train back to Vienna from Krems. A good day! 

The last post of the trip will be about Bratislava.  I hope to have it up next week, but who knows.