Monday, July 7, 2014

a gilmore girls inspired dessert

lorelai: what is right anyway, you know? who defines right? and if eating cake is wrong, i don't want to be right. 

that's basically my mantra in life.

i made this dish last year for our family's july 4th celebration and it was big hit. i told everyone it was sugar free and fat free. it's not. but it is delicious. like, stupid good. it's so unhealthy that i limit myself to enjoying it only once a year and our independence day festivities make the perfect occasion. 

gilmore girls has inspired a lot of things in my life over the years from winter jacket purchases, to books i've read, and even who i married. seriously. think about it, alex is basically a bald luke. he cooks all my meals, loves camping, and bless his heart he loves me despite the quirkiness. if only he owned more flannel.

my mom helped me with this dessert which is only fitting considering ya know, gilmore girls..mother daughter...yeah. 

i think that if i could go to the dragon fly inn and steal sookie's apron for a few minutes while i whip up this ice cream sandwich cake and serve it to lorelai and rory they would definitely approve. i wish i could have thought of this years ago and told amy sherman-palladino so they could have served it during their willy wonka movie night back in season 1. oh, season 1...the good ole days. 

4th of july was nothing short of spectacular. the other 364 days of the year i try to only eat healthy, whole foods but on this special day i celebrate my freedom by eating whatever the heck i want. get over it, food babe! i will not listen to you on this day! i enjoy the fact that i lose count of how many hot dogs and beers i consume on this wonderful perfect day and no investigation of yours will change that!! 

i've named this dessert "quite decadent but what the hell, why not" (if you know the episode i got that from plus 1000 cool points for you.)

i completely forgot to get a picture before we cut into it and when i remembered 10 seconds later it was already like this.

do you see all those layers of deliciousness? waaaaah! i want to make another one right now!

quite decadent but what the hell, why not is super easy and quick to make, which is also very gilmore girls-esque because as much as they loved junk food they only made stuff that was easy. i looked up recipes today for this same dessert and a lot of them look really good but require so many more making chocolate pudding to add as a layer. please. the whole point is for this to be as easy as possible! 

ice cream sandwiches 
cool whip/whipped cream
maraschino cherries 
magic shell chocolate 
caramel (optional)
oreo's (optional)

i used a 13"x6" glass pan and put a thin layer of cool whip all over
1 layer of ice cream sandwiches
another layer of cool whip
light layer of maraschino cherries
light layer of walnuts
another layer of ice cream sandwiches
cool whip
magic shell chocolate 

if you want to make it even more decadent add caramel and oreo's! that's what i'm going to try next year. 

that last layer of magic shell is messy! i put the glass pan on a sheet of foil so that as the chocolate drizzled over it wouldn't get every where in the freezer before it hardened. put it back in the freezer for a few hours before you eat it and then....

dig in! 

disclaimer: you will feel like a boiling bag of trash the next day. you can't say i didn't warn you.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

our chicago adventure

two years ago today we headed to chicago feeling pretty excited about our lives. we boarded the plane in greensboro in our shorts and tshirts only to land in a frigid downpour at o'hare. and 1 year ago today we packed up everything again and moved back to north carolina.

let's back up - 2 months prior to our big move i was driving down 85 and my car broke down. technically it just overheated and needed a little coolant but i was sitting at the rest stop, late for work, cold, and not a clue how to fix it.

when it happened again 3 days later and made me late for work yet again the irrational-over-dramatic-needs-to-take-a-chill-pill side of me took over and i grabbed my phone and sent alex a very resolute text:

"we are moving to chicago. don't ask any questions."

alex is pretty easygoing but even he was a little hesitant that a little car trouble made me want to uproot our lives and move 800 miles away. i made my case that night and a few days later as we were driving down 85 and passed the very spot where my car broke down we shook on it. we weren't sure when or how but we were going to make it happen.

that all happened in the middle of march and by april we had found someone to sublet our apartment and we sold 2 of our 3 cars. by may we had packed up all of our belongings and moved into alex's parents old house.

we flew up to chicago may 31 to find an apartment. we traipsed around the city with one of those apartment finder people who showed us several places. despite going to depaul and living in the city prior to that i was overly optimistic in what we would find.

the very first studio apartment she took us to was so small that i could stand in the center of the room and touch both walls by just extending my arms. i'm honestly not sure a bed could have fit. it didn't even have a closet. it also didn't have a stove. just a mini fridge and a pathetic excuse for a bathroom. you actually had to step into the shower to be able to close the door.

and it was $650 a month. plus utilities.

alex and i looked at each other. we were sopping wet, completely unprepared for the rainy day, and even more unprepared for living in the city. we gave each other that "what have we gotten ourselves into?!" look.

each apartment she showed us got a little worse. the one with walls so thin and neighbors playing music so loud that the floor actually shook was when we called it a day.

we walked to the caribou on clark and arlington and sipped coffee as we both tried to pretend that we hadn't made a huge mistake. i sat there going over in my head if there were a way to get out of it and move back home.

we couldn't tell people the truth. i had too much pride for that.

"you guys are coming back?? why?"

"um, well, we kind of didn't plan it very well and it was raining the day we got there and the apartments we saw were either too small or too loud..."

um, no!
so we had to lie. i must have thought up a dozen ridiculous stories that weren't even plausible and only made sense to a shivering, emotional me.

"you guys are coming back?? why?"

"it turns out that the city of chicago requires a 3 month notice to move there...."

"alex was offered the position of ceo at chipotle but he has to stay in north carolina to accept it...."

and my personal favorite:
"we went up there and there are literally zero apartment vacancies. there was actually no where to live in the entire city. crazy..."

after a grueling week of fruitless apartment hunting alex flew back home and i stayed to continue the search. i'm not exaggerating when i say i called 100 different places and viewed dozens of apartments. when i did find something in our price range it was either in a really inconvenient part of the city or as i mentioned earlier, had no closet.

i was walking down clark one sunny afternoon to go to molly's bakery to decompress. i got a decadent cupcake (chocolate ganache filled, cream cheese icing, with oreos and gummy bears on top) and turned left onto wrightwood to head back to my sister's. i had done enough searching for the day and i know myself well enough to know that when i resort to cupcakes topped with candy it's gotten bad and i need to take a break.

i stuffed the last bite into my mouth and resisted the urge to lick the wrapper (oh, don't even. you've done it too) when i spotted a beautiful gothic style building on my right. there was a sign on the front entrance that read 'studios and 1 bedrooms for lease' with their number at the bottom.

keep in mind i was in my absolute favorite neighborhood in chicago. it's been my favorite long before i ever lived there and some of my favorite memories have been in that little 6 block radius of lincoln park. favorite and least favorite - i could live to be 100 and never forget the date at dunlays where the guy paid our $67 lunch bill with 1's, 5's and quarters. yeah, seriously. but that neighborhood is expensive and way out of our budget. i had viewed an apartment right down the street and a 1 bedroom was almost $2000 a month. ahh!!

i looked at the sign on the front entrance and kept walking, feeling defeated and knowing there was no way it was in our price range. but then i saw their number. the first 3 digits were the same first 3 digits of my parents phone number.

i took it as a sign telling me not to feel guilty about the thousand calories i'd just inhaled and to keep my head up. i called and asked their prices and to see an available apartment. her next availability was at 3pm, which was a couple hours away, so i went home and called my old roommate from depaul who still lived in the city and asked her to go with me.

we walked the few blocks there and it was a particularly hot day (that's the thing about chicago - one day it's raining and 50 and the next it's a blistering 90). we were more excited about getting out of the heat and in the apartment to cool down than we were about seeing the place i'd potentially live.

i should have suspected something when we walked in and the hallway to apartment #5 was just as hot as it was outside but without the breeze. she fumbled with the key for a while and my impatience grew. 

could we just get this over with?! the rent was only $775 and that just seemed too good to be true. i was sure i was about to walk into something the size of a coffin. 

but to my surprise there was actually enough room for a bed! and a couch! and there was a stove and a fridge and....a....closet!!! my reality was obviously distorted because had i seen this studio at any other time in my life i would have laughed at the idea of living in only a 300 square foot space. but it seemed so spacious and most of all doable. but there was no air conditioning. not even a wall unit.

i sent a few pictures to alex and got the go ahead from him to sign the lease. we moved in a couple weeks later on what i am convinced was the hottest day of the year. after hours of sweating and hard work we walked to home depot and bought as many fans as we could carry and placed them strategically throughout our tiny place.

we kept them on the highest setting and they worked great blew hot air on us for the rest of summer. 

the first few weeks there weren't bad. maneuvering around our apartment and figuring out what worked best felt like a game there for a while. i quickly realized it was a game i was losing and conceded to the fact that no matter many times i rearranged i could not make it feel or look any bigger. when you were sitting on the couch you could rest your feet on the bed. when you were sitting at the foot of the bed you could open the oven door. and no matter where you were, even the bathroom, you could watch the tv. on days when i felt cramped and imprisoned i told myself, "hey, you know what, i can make chocolate chips cookies and not even have to get out of my bed! how many people can say that!?"

i ended up really liking our tiny living space. you know you married the right person when you can live in such cramped quarters and not drive each other crazy. i loved everything about our little studio and our big neighborhood. i loved being newlyweds and exploring the city together. i loved that we had a rabbit that lived outside of our window and he felt like our pet. we named him walmart. because i don't like rabbits and i also don't like walmart so it seemed to fit. 

i loved getting to walk to work every day and not having to depend on my car's radiator. i loved our super lazy mornings when i'd walk to trader joes and get orange juice and alex would walk to einstein's to get 2 everything bagels and we'd meet back and lounge around for hours just enjoying each other. i loved sipping tea every sunday afternoon with my sister as we discussed what we read in the new york times earlier that week. we'd talk for hours while alex and brad tried to tune us out with football.

we didn't have internet while we were there and although i didn't think much of it then i am glad we never did. so many more adventures were taken because we weren't busy binge watching netflix. however, we did find a really cool used dvd store on broadway and may or may not have purchased every single season of 24 and Lost and stayed up til 5am many many nights. "just one more episode" said every addict ever.  

when we go back in july i think the first thing i'll do (besides smother my nieces with kisses and squeals) is go to the salvation army on clybourne. my love affair with that place is incomparable and admittedly a little unhealthy. we went back and forth for weeks trying to decide if we should fly or drive up there. we weighed the pros and cons of each and then it hit me...i can buy so much more if we drive.

i am happy that no matter where we are in life with jobs, kids, whatever, we'll always have our year in a 300 square foot studio apartment in chicago.

our street through the seasons. summer, a short lived fall, and a very long winter. spring does not exist there.

the air and water show. pros of living really close to the lake: it only took a few minutes to walk there. cons: it sounded like we were being bombed the week leading up to the show because they were practicing just a couple blocks from us. it was terrifying!

our favorite park. usually had it all to ourselves and right across the street from uncle julios, one of our very favorite restaurants. you haven't lived until you've eaten at uncle julios.

our secret spot. it could be difficult to find a secluded area within the city. this is where we would retreat to when we wanted to get away. it was a 30 minute walk but no one else was ever there. 

got bored one night. so a nose piercing seemed fun. the 3rd and final time i'll ever pierce my nose.

i heard about a really cool thrift store in the west loop and convinced alex to go with me. we passed harpo studios where oprah used to film her show and of course i had to take a picture. oprah taught me everything i know about proper bra sizes!
it was unseasonably warm one day in january. it was 61 and we had to take advantage of it despite the forecast. there was an 80% chance of rain. we got about a half mile from our place and it started pouring. it was so much fun!

alex's little chipotle. i loved how close it was to our apartment and getting to walk and see him whenever i wanted.

our bunny, walmart. this was the first snow of the year and we laughed when we woke up that morning and opened the blinds to see this. sun or snow he always rested in the same little spot right outside our window.

sometimes we did touristy things like this. we sipped martinis on the 95th floor and after our date we were walking around downtown and saw common signing autographs. i was feeling so 'city' and fancy for a while until my feet were hurting so bad that i had to take my heels off and walk from the fullerton redline to home barefoot. the fanciness wore off quickly.

our teeny tiny and messy apartment. you see those mirrors behind the couch? that was the closet. we kept big bins full of seasonal clothes in there. i used to hide in them and scare alex when he got home from work. he didn't find it quite as amusing as i did.

despite everything the city had to offer there was nothing as fun, silly, hilarious, and cool as these two. they made our year up there worth every below 0 day. i miss walking in their house and hearing their little feet stampeding toward me with shouts of, "aint beeeeeeeeeeeee!" i'm so glad i got that time with them while they were still so little. i'll miss when they get old enough to realize that calling me aint b is weird and switch to aunt b.

thank you, chicago for a fun and crazy year. i'll always have a deep dish pizza size hole in my heart.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

diy blanket ladder - a how NOT to tutorial

between my desire to feel cozy and my mother's obsession love of knitting, i have found myself with many blankets over the years and they all hold special memories.

my purple blanket my sister got me for my freshman dorm has depaul university written in big letters across the front and it brings back memories of covering up with it every afternoon that first year of college to take a much needed nap, the pink serape blanket alex and i picked up in mexico while we were on our honeymoon came in very handy when we landed in north carolina - it may have been 80 in cancun but was below freezing in charlotte and i still had on shorts! alex's grey uncg blanket that has a dozen garlic butter stains on it (i'm not sure how or why but if we are eating papa johns we inevitably spill the garlic butter and it always manages to land on that particular blanket), and my two very favorite blankets that my mom made me, and i'm not just saying that so she'll make me more, they really are my favorites!

our wedding present from my mom was a cream colored hand knit wool blanket. when i curl up on the couch with it i always feel like someone should take my picture and photoshop in a fireplace and put in on the cover of country living magazine. it's that pretty. or maybe i just want to be on the cover of a magazine.

this past christmas my mom handed me and my sister similarly wrapped presents and told us to open them at the same time. if you have siblings and you've ever been asked to open something at the same time you just know you're about to unwrap something that matches that your parents thought you'd  both love and you're preparing yourself with an academy award winning "oooh! i love it! how cute!!" followed by "oh my gaw what were they thinking?!" to each other as soon as they aren't looking.

but fortunately, when it comes to my mom, we always open the coolest stuff! finger-less gloves, infinity scarves, and this last christmas she out did herself:

100% cashmere blankets. she felted dozens of cashmere sweaters, cut them into squares, arranged the colors, and sewed them together.

if you've never had a cashmere blanket i feel sorry for you. i had no idea what i was missing out on but it's truly the most cozy, soft, warm, lovely thing i've ever owned.

my mom used different colors that go best with our personalities. my sister got the calm, neutral colors, the ones that say, "hi, i live a life of focus and chic sophistication and i have good taste." and i got all the bright colors, the ones that are like, "heeeeeeeeeey!!!!!!" they fit us well :)

with the cold winter wrapping up i didn't know what to do with all of my beautiful blankets. i didn't want to pack them away but they also take up a lot of space so i took to pinterest, of course. i saw lots diy blanket ladders and got to work!

we had a chuppah at our wedding and i've kept the wooden dowels from it hoping to make something out of them to commemorate our wedding and this seemed like the perfect opportunity!

i'll admit that our first attempt at making this ladder was the closest i've ever come to checking myself into a mental hospital. all those diy bloggers made the project seem so easy. HA! we spent hours measuring, remeasuring, drilling holes, and gluing the rungs into the 2x4's only to have them pop out and get wood glue all over the floor, trying again and again and again until i actually got to the point where i thought it just wasn't going to work. but we finally got the rungs to stick long enough and we put weights on them so they'd dry in place only to leave it overnight to dry and find out that they'd slipped out of the holes and dried unconnected to the rest of the ladder.

i about lost my freaking mind. alex just stood there watching me. i grabbed that ladder and stormed outside, started banging it as hard as i could against the pavement and then threw the broken, mangled mess off the side of our deck and let out a roar that didn't even sound like me.

alex: what on earth just happened?
me: i freaked out! i got irrationally mad and lost it!!!!

it took me weeks to calm down and get over whatever it was that came over me. when i asked alex to help me try again with a new method he made me promise i wouldn't throw anything this time.

i obliged. we skipped the evil wood glue this time and just drilled quarter inch holes in the 2x4's and then drilled screws in to keep the dowels in place.

a little walnut stain, a coat of paint, some sanding, and a few curse words later....i have a cool ladder to hang my beautiful blankets on year round!

***ok, i would just like to say that everything written above this was done before i actually finished the ladder. you know, back when i thought it would turn out well***

i sent my mom a picture of the completed ladder and her reaction, the woman who loves everything i say and do, said "umm...well, hmmm..maybe it won't look as crappy once you put the blankets on it..."

yeah. so it didn't turn out like i had hoped. i was going for rustic chic and i got this:

 maybe it looks a little better with the blankets on it. now that it's mostly covered you can't see as much of the awfulness.  i did exactly what the other girl did! i used to same stain, the same paint, the same sander. hers looked like a beautiful, rustic antique ladder you see in a home decor magazine. mine looks like i found it in a scrap yard. so maybe it's not a total pinterest fail but it also isn't something i should be proudly blogging about. if 'not exactly what i was going for' ever goes into style this ladder will be so cute.

this made me also realize my career in placing blankets gracefully across the rungs of ladder will probably never take off...

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