Coming Up For Air

It’s been a rough year. Now I understand that the word “rough” is subjective. I didn’t lose a loved one. I wasn’t seriously injured. But while there was good in 2016, it was mostly hard, stressful, and depressing.

First the good…
houseMy husband and I bought our first home! It was quite the learning experience as neither of us had purchased property before. Looking back on it all six months after closing, we are happy with our decision. There are some quirks here and there that we will need to figure out down the road, but this house is becoming home and we are settling in quite nicely. I think it helps that we had our first round of holidays soon after moving in. Getting to decorate for Christmas for the first time here was fun!

Now the not so good…
Early in 2016, I broke my foot. Not fun. And while it may be healed it’s not the same. Most of the time it just aches and too much impact causes tremendous pain. Again, not good. So I still struggle with working out and wanting so badly to run and being unable to. I am hoping that this year I will be able to find some relief as I am tired of being in pain.

Also in 2016 I found out that the company I worked at for over 9 years was being “absorbed” into another company and that I, and many others, would lose their job. It was quite a blow. The news of the “absorption” came at the end of 2015, but no one really knew what was going to happen with the corporate jobs. Then in April the news came down that only a select few would be have jobs with the new company. Meanwhile, I had been sending my resumes out since January and had not received a single bite. So in April, when I was told I had until the end of the year to find something new, I was worried.

In the time between January and May many of my closest friends (who also happened to be co-workers) left the company as they had found new opportunities. And I would have too, had the opportunity arisen. And little by little, more and more left or were laid off. And so I waited and worked at a company that was slowly dying; eight people doing the work of 20. I was being added to processes that I had no reference point for all the while doing the job of about four people. It was a long, arduous process and it was incredibly depressing. I couldn’t get enough sleep. I ate to mask pain and stress. I worried about finding a job. I stressed about money. I was concerned for those I worked with. I found little joy in anything I did. I barely baked a morsel and couldn’t find the energy to do my makeup.

Then my last day came just three weeks ago today. At this point there were only five people left and two of us were leaving. I had become really close to those four souls. When you go through something like this with a small number of people it forces a connection. We had been through the trenches together. Endured frustration and anger and sadness together. We had waded through the sewage that is being laid off together. Now, after 0ver nine years, it was going to be over. Just like that. Saying goodby to my manager and friend, Aaron, was probably the toughest. He had been a stable point in my work life. Like an older brother almost. I had learned about his family and felt as if I knew them personally. We shared stories about our childhoods and he knew about the pain I still feel surrounding the loss of my father. It was incredibly hard to goodbye that day not knowing when I would see him again.

lastdayAs I walked to my car, tears streamed down my face. What was going to happen? Where was I going to go? What was I going to do? Was everyone I left behind going to be OK? I took a picture of the front doors I had walked in and out of every Monday through Friday for almost a decade of my life and drove away still crying.

I don’t know that I would ever wish this experience on my worst enemy (if I had one; I don’t have a “Newman” in my life). The last six months of 2016 were rough and took a toll on me emotionally and physically. No one tells you what the process of losing your job will feel like. Probably because they don’t want to talk about it. But all I can say is, it sucks. Like, a lot.

I feel like I am on the other side of it all now. I can see now how God brought me through with awesome friends and family and a very understanding and loving husband. Without those things I don’t think I’d be where I am right now. I’ve had three weeks of down time and I’ve slept in, watched movies, caught up on my DVR, done some crafts, cleaning, and organizing, and am preparing to start a new job on February 1st.

After 12 long months feeling like I’m drowning, I finally feel that I am coming up for air. Big, full gulps and clean, fresh air. My mind feels clear, my heart feels grateful, and I am ready to kick some serious rump in 2017. I am going to find new ways to exercise around my (stupid) foot. I am starting a new job in a completely different and exciting atmosphere. I have a new home that I feel like I can finally really enjoy and have fun decorating. After a long run in the trenches I’m finally in a good place emotionally, spiritually, and mentally and I can’t wait to see what awesome events transpire in 2017. It feels like it’s going to be great year filled with new adventures and awesome new beginnings!

On to the next…

Advertisements

Cranberry Holiday Bread

 

This weekend I saw a recipe over at Two Peas & Their Pod for Orange Cranberry Bread. It looked so lovely and the flavor of cranberries and oranges is very holiday to me. I had been looking for a good recipe to gift and this was definitely it.

This bread recipe is so amazing and uses lots of orange zest and fresh juice along with FRESH cranberries (no dried or canned cranberries here!). The method also had you zesting the orange into the sugar and rub it together with your fingers as to bring out the fragrance of the orange. This was new to me and I had no idea how much it would add batter. I will surely be using this again in the future. The recipe is great on it’s own for sure, but  I wanted to add a few things to really make it my own. I decided to fold in some semi-sweet chocolate chips and then, once the batter was in the pan, I sprinkled the top with some sliced almonds. Almonds, oranges, cranberries, and chocolate? How can you go wrong?

The recipe makes one loaf, so I decided to split it into several smaller loaves that would be baked in a individual paper pans. One batch of sweet batter makes four mini loaves that are perfect for gifting.

The loaves smell so amazing baking in the oven. Our home is filled with the sweet tangy scent of oranges and cranberries. So very festive!

baking, homemade, cranberries, crafting, gifting, homemade gifts, juteTo dress the loaves up, I just used clear bags, jute, a cute gift tag, and a teeny-tiny clothes pin.

The clear bags fit the small paper pans perfectly and they come with a twist tie so you can secure the bag before tying a bow with some jute. The tag simply gets attached to the jute with a tiny, decorative clothes pin. All of these items were purchased at Michael’s but could easily be found in any other craft store or big-box store (like Target).

bread, loaves, gifts, crafting, handmade, christmasOnce the whole thing comes together it’s pretty enough to put under the tree. But not for too long. You’ll want to save one for yourself and dig in right away. The fresh cranberries burst in the batter while baking and marble the bread with their lovely pink juice. And the sweet orange glaze on top counters the tartness perfectly. Trust me, you’ll want to keep one for yourself.

 

If you want to make the recipe as created by Two Peas & Their Pod click through here. Otherwise the recipe is listed below with modifications.

Happy baking my friends!
The Blushing Baker

Orange Holiday Bread

Adapted from Two Peas & Their Pod

Ingredients for Bread:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup granulated sugar
Zest of 1 large orange
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup fresh cranberries
1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup sliced almonds

Ingredients for Almond Orange Glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon orange zest
1/8 teaspoon almond extract (don’t over do it!!)

Method:
Preheat oven to 350° F and place four paper baking pans on a large sheet pan – no spraying or greasing needed.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder. In a small bowl, combine sugar and orange zest. Rub together with your fingers until fragrant. Add sugar to to the flour mixture and whisk.

In a separate smaller bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, orange juice, and vanilla. Slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Stir until just combined. Fold in the cranberries and chocolate chips. Pour batter evenly into paper loaf pans only filling about halfway full.

Bake for 50 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean. All ovens vary so watch your loaves to ensure they are not browning too quickly. If they are, you may need to cover them with foil for the remainder of the baking time. I also needed to rotate my pan halfway through baking.

Remove bread from oven and place on the counter or cooling rack until cool.

Prepare the almond orange glaze while the break is cooling. In a small bowl, combine powdered sugar, orange juice, orange zest, and almond extract. Whisk until smooth. Drizzle the glaze over the bread.

Wait until loaves are completely cool before wrapping to give.

Mani Monday: OPI’s Black Cherry Chutney

nails, nail polish, nail lacquer, opi, mani monday, beauty, nailed it
Happy Mani Monday everyone!

I thought I would share with you my latest nail color because it’s so pretty! I got this OPI color on clearance and I love it! It’s called Black Cherry Chutney. There is a subtle red sparkle to this deep purple and when the sunlight hits it this color makes my heart leap. This is a great color for fall!

If you can get your mitts on a bottle of this gorgeous lacquer pick it up and add it to your collection. You will be so happy you did!

Make it a great week, friends!!
The Blushing Baker

Pumpkin Spice Scones

pumpkin, autumn, fall, baking, copy cat, starbucks, scones, icing, pumpkin spice, PSLThis year autumn is flying by way too fast and I am a firm believer in waiting until after Thanksgiving to start celebrating (and decorating for) Christmas. The Pilgrims and Pumpkins will still have their day! So I am making sure that I still give pumpkins and apples their day in the sun.

To that end, I spent this afternoon working on some pumpkin spice scones. I followed a Starbucks copy cat recipe that I found online. It seemed easy enough and I already had several of the ingredients. I just swapped out the ground clove (I didn’t have it) for allspice. It still has the same warmth and depth so I figured it would be ok.

Simply put these scones are amazing. They are soft and tender and fluffy and, if I’m being honest here, they are better than the Starbucks version. And another plus? Our little home smells so good right now. I wish you could be here to experience it. It’s so cozy and filled with that distinctive autumn spice. I’d make you a cup a of tea and we would sit together on my couch cuddled in blankets eating these yummy scones and watching HGTV. Doesn’t that sound awesome? I think so, too. 🙂

For this recipe, just click through to Cooking Classy’s blog and have at it. I don’t know Jaclyn, but her blog is filled with amazing recipes. You’ll love it!

Happy Fall!!
The Blushing Baker

Spooky Halloween Nails

nails, nail art, beauty, Halloween, spooky, full moon

One (of the many) things I love about October is Halloween. It’s fun and spooky and, if I’m being honest, the candy is pretty awesome. I love decorating my home for fall, too. A few days ago I put out all of my pumpkins and jack o lanterns, candles and votive holders. I’ll take pictures this week and post them so that you can see. It’s super cute and so inspiring! When our home is dark and lit with candles and the jack-o-lantern’s glow, it’s so magical! The other night the wind was even howling. The perfect and most inspiring environment for spooky Halloween nail art!

nails, nail polish, nail art, Halloween, spookyI decided to go with a nighttime sky scene. To create it I layered a few of the new colors from the China Glaze Fall 2015 collection, The Great Outdoors, which is amazing. The gradient is made up of Change Your Altitude (soft grey) and Sleeping Under The Stars (inky blue) on a latex cosmetic sponge. I used Color Club Black Striper brush (available through Cult Cosmetics nail art kits) to create the eerie, dark branches.

Next, to create the full moon nails, I laid down two IMG_2457[1]beautifully spooky, coats of Starry Night by Sinful Colors (this shade is part of their Dressed to Kill collection out for Halloween this year). It’s blacker than night with small pieces of glitter that pop through and gleam so bright. It’s a great polish and for only $1.99 you need to pick this one up. The moon was created using Essie’s Steel-ing The Scene and a large dotting tool. I added the clouds by using a sponge eye shadow applicator and El Porto polish (white) by Cult Cosmetics. I topped it all off with Seche Vite fast drying top coat.

I really like how these spooky these nails come out! The gradient could have been cleaner, but I still think they look good 😉 It’s a fun start to the Halloween season and I can’t wait to try more spooky designs to share with you!

Until next time…
The Blushing Baker

Pumpkin Pie Dip

pumpkin, dip, cookies, pumpkin spice, potluck, dish to pass

It’s finally October! I love this month. The chilly breezes and warm sun. The leaves turn gorgeous shades of red, orange, and yellow. I get to pull out my Halloween decorations and scarves. Yes this time of year is my absolute favorite!

This time of year also brings about Mission & Heritage Week at work which is always during the week leading up to the Feast of St. Francis (I work for a Catholic non-profit). During this week we always hold a potluck lunch and every year I struggle to find something different, delicious, interesting, and easy to bring. I usually do some sort of baked good but have also gone savory with a one-dish-wonder (i.e. casserole) like Shepherd’s Pie. But this year, I just didn’t have the time to invest in an intricate dessert or a even a crockpot casserole. So I thought, what about an easy pumpkin type dessert? It’s fall after all (yay!) and as has been the case the last couple of years, fall is all about pumpkin spice everything (#PSL). I didn’t want to make pumpkin pie or bread or cupcakes – too much work. So I Googled for a pumpkin dip. Who knew that there were so many out there! I finally landed one that was easy, with simple ingredients and sounded super delicious.

It’s base is cream cheese – as are most dips – and it took me all of 7 minutes to whip up. You also get to dip gingersnap cookies in it. I love an excuse to buy gingersnaps in the box because they remind me of my Grandma Schultz. Yet another reason I just love fall. This dip is basically like pumpkin cheesecake with a gingersnap crust. And it only takes 7 minutes to make. Love it!

If you have a potluck or fall gathering to go to, you need to bring this along. It’s easy and can be made a few days in advance if you need to (it’s even better that way). It also transports really well. Don’t like gingersnaps? Not a problem. It would be delicious with graham crackers, pear or apple slices, or vanilla wafer cookies. This dish is yet another way to enjoy all thing pumpkin spice. Enjoy!!

Happy fall everyone!
The Blushing Baker

Pumpkin Pie Dip

from Taste of Home

2 cups of powdered sugar
1 8oz. package of cream cheese (at room temperature)
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup 100% pure pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp ginger
1 tsp vanilla extract (optional)

In a large bowl whip together powdered sugar and cream cheese until smooth. Add remaining ingredients and whip together until fully combined and smooth. Serve with gingersnap cookies (also good with fresh apples and pears). Refrigerate any leftovers. Can also be refrigerated overnight prior to serving to let flavors develop. Makes 4 cups.

Store Bought Mixes For The Win: Beer Bread

beer bread, baking, easy baking, mixes, bread

Our lives are busier than ever these days. Between work, home, family, and friends we don’t always have time for things we HAVE to do let alone the things we WANT to do. I would love to always have home-baked treats at the ready. But I simply don’t always have time to whip up a delicious loaf of bread or muffins or cookies after work. And quite honestly, I don’t always feel like baking after work either. And I have come to the conclusion that it’s OK!! Let’s just give ourselves a break and use a mix! There are so many mixes out there – some are good; some are not so good. Through some trial and error I’ve figured out what works and what doesn’t. Thus begins a new series…Store Bought Mixes For The Win! We start this series with an all time favorites: Tastefully Simple’s Bountiful Beer Bread Mix.

Tastefully Simple Bountiful Beer Bread Mix

baking, bread, beer, apples, cheesy, cheddar, baking mixThis mix is a pantry BFF of mine. I love it and it’s so easy to whip up. All you need is 12 oz of your favorite beer or soda (any carbonated beverage will work), 3 tbsp of melted butter, and a pan to bake it in. It’s a versatile mix that can be whatever you’d like it be, even dessert! You van visit the Tastefully Simple website for ideas or you can try the version I whipped up this weekend.

Apple Cheddar Beer Bread

sharp cheddar, apples, bread, beer, baking

1 box of Tastefully Simple Beer Bread Mix
1 12 oz bottle of Hard Cider (I used Cider Boys First Press)
1 1/4 cups Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese
1/2 cup chopped dried apples
3 tbsp butter, melted

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Empty cider into a large bowl. Pour bread mix into the beer and stir gently – do not over mix. Fold 1 cup of the cheese and the apples into the batter. Pour batter into greased 9×5 loaf pan and bake for 40 minutes. Remove pan and sprinkle 1/4 cup of reserved cheddar cheese on top of the bread. Continue baking for 10-15 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely before serving. Excellent toasted!!

Until Next Time…
The Blushing Baker

Sparkly-Strong Nails!

nails, nail polish, glitter, green, Cult Cosmetics,

I recently rediscovered OPI’s Nail Envy. It has saved my nails! For the longest time my nails were peeling and breaking and I was miserable. I love painting my nails and I couldn’t. I just wouldn’t last. My nails would peel away and the polish would obviously go with it. I tried vitamins, strengtheners of all brands, nail masks – everything! And none of it was working. And then I decided I would try Nail Envy again. It’s pricey – but here’s the thing: it works! It took some time (about three weeks of treatment) but I finally started to see results. Most of my nails stopped peeling after the first full week and they were growing really fast!

Nail Envy, OPI, Nail Strengthener, Nails, before and afterThe final result was posted on my Instagram feed a week or so ago, but I am posting it again. Look at these beauties! Amazing before and after, if I do say so myself!

My new manicure routine is as follows:

1) OPI BondAid
2) OPI Nail Envy
3) Gelish Base Coat by American Classic Treatments
4) Two-coats Polish (whichever color/brand is tickling my fancy at the moment)
5) Seche Vite Fast Dry Top Coat
6) OPI Drip Dry
7) Pacifica’s Indian Coconut Nectar Body Cream (I’ve been using this all summer! It smells ahhhhmazing!!)

For the sparkly mani pictured above, I chose Cult Cosmetic in Runyon for a sage-green base (it’s a lovely summer-to-fall transition color) and then topped it off with Carnival by Essie for some pretty glitter. I love how sparkly it is!! It would be a good clear coat glitter topper for galaxy nails. I’m working on those for a coming post as well. Stay tuned!!

Until Next Time…
The Blushing Baker

Millionaires Shortbread!

I am going to try these out in my kitchen!! Now you try them in yours!!! Amazing recipe and photos. ❤️

Jane's Patisserie

Light & Buttery Shortbread topped with easy Homemade caramel, and Chocolate – decorated with Malteser’s, and Gold!

IMG_1459_1

I have had so many requests for this recipe since my Blog has started, and I have neglected to post it till now – I am sorry for the wait! I hope it doesn’t disappoint!

I have always been a fan of Shortbread and Millionaires Shortbread but I often find that in bakeries these days or even coffee shops, the pieces are so small and thin! I love my shortbread to be thick and butter, along with the caramel and chocolate on top of that! I am not meaning to sound greedy, but as my boyfriends Mum said to me the other day – “Now THAT is how Millionaires Shortbread should be! Nice and thick and just how my Mum makes them!

IMG_1481

This recipe is surprisingly easy, even if it does…

View original post 448 more words

Must Eats in Chicago

chicago, metra, train ticket, train ride, commuter, tripsI was recently in Chicago for a two-day training and while I know that I should feel super lucky to live so close to this city, I don’t always go and I because…well…I don’t always like to go. I know, I know! But it’s true! Now that that confession is out there, let me get on my with story. For this two-day training, I was lucky enough to not even have to leave the train station! The training center was right upstairs from the Ogilvie Transportation Center but what I didn’t know was that a gem was waiting for me under the train tracks.

Once you enter the train platform and walk between the tracks you’ll find a stairwell that leads you to the bottom level of the station. Once you get to the bottom you’ll find the most amazing sight…The French Market filled with vendors selling all kinds of different fresh foods. From French to Asian to Barbecue. The first day I settled at a stall that sold French sandwiches, Le Cafe De Marche. The classic Croque Monsieur was my choice, although I could have had a Croque Madame or any other of the delicious menu items, but the Croque Monsier is my favorite; it’s simple and delicious. And this vendor did not disappoint. The bread was soft and fresh and filled with thinly sliced smoked ham and grainy mustard. And in the classic fashion, the top of the sandwich was covered bechamel and gruyere and then warmed until the cheese was brown and bubbly. My meal was complete with a fresh Honey Crisp apple and bottled iced tea from City Fresh Market. My sandwich was delicious and filling and fresh. Nothing to complain about there!

chicago, grilled cheese, foodie, food reviews, restaurant, french market, apple pie, shop localOn day two I wanted to try a different vendor so I ended up walking around until I found just what my tummy grumbled for. A grilled cheese sandwich. Oh yes. There is a grilled cheese sandwich vendor and this, my friends, is where my mind was blown. The vendor, Loop Soup, makes all different kinds of grilled cheese sandwiches. There was a tempting turkey bacon, a mouth watering BBQ pulled chicken, and a classic American style grilled cheese. But eyes landed on the stunning Apple Pie Grilled Cheese. Yes, you read correctly. Apple Pie grilled cheese sandwich. Soft white bread, thinly sliced Granny Smith apples, cheddar cheese, bacon, and brown sugar. Oh-ah-my-ah-gosh. I could not wait to get my hands on this treat! The flavors in this sandwich are absolute perfection. Tart apples + salty bacon + creamy cheddar + rich, sweet brown sugar = Heaven. One taste and you’ll understand why I could barely contain myself while eating lunch. It’s a large sandwich so I was only able to eat half. Which was fine, because I had the other half at break that afternoon. I honestly cannot wait to go back and get another one. Even if I just take the train in, grab a sandwich and get on the train back home. Worth it!

I couldn’t possibly end this blog without telling you about the dessert portion of my trip. As you enter the French Market you are promptly greeted on your right by a lovey patisserie called Vanille. Row upon row of lovely little macarons are the first thing you see. Too many flavors to possibly name here; but I took home a coconut and a raspberry. Both were outstanding. Soft and pliable with just a touch of crunch on the outer layer with a lovely buttercream filling. I also brought home one of their HUGE cupcakes. There were four flavors to choose from that day: Chocolate on Chocolate, Vanilla, Red Velvet, and Chocolate with Vanilla Frosting. I decided on the Vanilla, that I think was called “Chad” (white cake with vanilla Italian buttercream) mainly because it had rainbow sprinkles on it. Now, I have to add that each of the cupcakes were beautifully and simply decorated with Italian buttercream, a chocolate button that said “Vanille” and a full sized macaron who’s flavor complimented the cupcake. You read correctly. A FULL SIZED MACARON. I digress. I didn’t eat this cupcake until two days later in the comfort of my own home with mug of tea. And it was still fantastic. Utter perfection. I could try to compare it to Sprinkles, but that would simply make Sprinkles feel bad. The Italian buttercream was so creamy and smooth and full of flavor but not overly sweet. The cake itself was dense and moist with a perfect crumb. I wouldn’t change anything about this cupcake. It was, as I’ve said, utter perfection.

In a whirlwind two days of training and commuting I was able to have a mini foodie adventure. I am already planning my next trip to the market and this time I’m bringing the hubs so that he can experience it with me. Food is great on it own, but when you can share the experience with someone you love, it’s even better. If you are in Chicago, please, please, please stop by and see these vendors who are not only serving wonderful food, but incredible customer service. And try some other vendors while you’re there. My fellow classmate Susan said that da lobsta was outstanding, too (and she is from New Hampshire and lives in St. Petersburg, FL so she knows seafood!) I know I plan to try as many as I can…but it will be hard to walk past Loop Soup and not get an apple pie grilled cheese.

Until next time…
The Blushing Baker