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June Wrap-Up: A Month in Photos

Can you guys believe it’s already almost July?? It feels like June came and went in the blink of an eye somehow. I decided to do something a little different with this month’s wrap-up post, and showcase what I’ve been up to through mostly photos. πŸ™‚

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LAZY DAYS: As has been the case for much of the past few months, there’s been a lot of time at home. Here’s a pic of Bailey curled up for a little catnap in a pile of blankets. ❀ Rest assured, if there is a comfy spot she WILL find it and she WILL nap on it.

GARDENING: Hostas, Rhododendron, Columbine, Peonies, Poppies, Oh My! It was a good month for gardening and learning. We planted more lilies, new bushes, moved some stuff around, and did a lot of other outdoor projects.

BAKING: I finally slowed down my baking spree I had been on. πŸ˜› I did, however, make a really yummy peanut butter ice cream pie (graham cracker crust, thin layer of hot fudge, Reese’s peanut butter ice cream with thin sheets of chocolate, whipped cream, Reese’s peanut butter sauce drizzle, and chopped up Reese’s cups as pictured above). I also baked another loaf of Garlic Cheddar Beer Bread (soooo good!) ❀

DRAWING: I’ve been on a drawing binge lately that you can check out on my Instagram if you’re interested, but here’s a little sample of what I’ve been up to this month. πŸ™‚

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WORK: I got to go to work a couple times (staff only) to start setting up for all of the social distancing/PPE changes we will have to put into effect upon our return. Also got to redecorate a little. Pictured above is the head start I got on one of my room’s bulletin boards. We’re supposed to return to work July 6th, but with COVID cases back on the rise, we’ll see what happens. We can’t open back up until our state enters Phase 5 of our reopening plan, and thankfully our Governor has been taking this very seriously since day 1 so I don’t think she’ll rush us into that until it is actually safe to do so.

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LOSS OF A LOVED ONE: The pic above isn’t from this June, it’s actually from last year when we celebrated my parents’ pug BeeBee’s birthday party for her Sweet 16. ❀ She was such a sweet and adorable little dog and was so loved by our entire family, but unfortunately we were forced to say goodbye to her this June. It is sad not having her around anymore, but she lived such a good life while she was with us. She was adopted by my family a decade ago, and by that point she had already lived through a lot. BeeBee was a puppy mill survivor who didn’t even get to feel the grass beneath her paws for the first 3 years of her life. She was rescued from that awful situation and found a home for some time with a woman who loved her, but eventually her owner became too sick to be able to take care of her any longer. My mom was in contact with a woman from a pug rescue league and she told my mom about BeeBee and that was that. She came to us blind, but this was nothing daunting for our family. We’ve taken in several animals with special needs over the years and her inability to see was no big deal. She was sassy and fun, and my dad especially spoiled her with so much love and affection. She had a new brother and constant companion in my parent’s other pug, Brutis. They were attached at the hip and formed an instant bond with one another. ❀

She had the cutest little “bubble bark” that sounded more like “Borp Borp Borp” than the normal kind of bark you hear, loved being held, liked to adventure forward without a care in the world like she could see where she was going even if she was always bumping into things or barking in the wrong direction while trying to be “tough” like her brother. She preferred to be inside the house and wasn’t shy about making sure you knew it by finding her way back to the door and doing her little bubble bark to announce when she was “over this outdoors bullshit”. Haha

Her vet sent a very sweet card and a package of Forget-Me-Not seeds for my parents to plant and grow in BeeBee’s memory. ❀ I thought that was such a touching and thoughtful thing for the vet’s office to do.

That’s it for my own personal June Wrap-Up. How was your June?? Can you believe the year is already halfway over? With how 2020 has been going I’m sure we’re all hoping for a better second half of the year. As always, take care and be safe, guys! ❀

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Blue Ocean Floats: Shark Week Recipe

Today was cooking day at work so of course we had to make some shark themed deliciousness to enjoy. I was so happy with how these cute drinks we made turned out. Much like your classic Root Beer Float or Boston Cooler, this Blue Ocean Float involves soda pop and vanilla ice cream. The blue soda was a berry flavored soda we found at one of our local grocery stores, but any blue soda will work, so feel free to get creative if you try this at home! And who needs a cherry on top when you can put a candy shark on top instead?? πŸ˜› My participants loved these! ❀

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We also ended up making some “shark week crunch” which is essentially muddy buddies but made with Bugles instead of Chex so that each piece resembles a shark tooth when coated with the powdered sugar mixture. πŸ™‚ Anyway, this week has been utterly exhausting so I think I’m going to leave off there for the night, curl up with the kitty and go relax and watch some Shark Week. ❀

Posted in Baking/Cooking/Nomming, Uncategorized, Whatcha Reading??

Book Club, Buddy Reads, and Vegan Chocolate Mousse– OH, MY!

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This weekend has been a blast. We had some good friends over to the house for the first time, which was very exciting. I hosted this month’s book club get-together, and my boyfriend and Cupcakes and Machetes‘ husband went out to one of the nearby breweries so we ladies could have the whole place to ourselves. Which basically involved a lot of snacking, inappropriate conversation, a tour of the house (the reading nook and giant bean bag were both a hit!) and more snacking. Most of the girls in our book club are strictly vegan, so I made a variety of vegan dishes for everyone to nom on and everything turned out great. The chocolate mousse was definitely a success, so I’ll share the recipe at the bottom of this post in case any of you are interested. πŸ˜‰

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C&M and her hubby brought us an amazing bundle of goodies, which was so sweet and thoughtful. Aaaaand she and I decided to do a buddy read for Kevin Hearne’s A Plague of Giants in August, so there’s that to look forward to as well.

3 Ingredient Vegan Chocolate Mousse Recipe:

This recipe is SO EASY. You just need 3 ingredients:

  • 2 small boxes of Jello brand instant chocolate pudding mix
  • Chocolate almond milk
  • “So Delicious Dairy Free” coconut whipped topping

In a large mixing bowl, whisk your pudding mix and chocolate almond milk together, adding enough almond milk so that it gets to a cake batter consistency. Then, using a rubber spatula, fold in the coconut whipped topping so that it is fully blended but not over-whipped. Refrigerate until you’re ready to serve.

I served ours with graham crackers for dipping and it was seriously addicting. I think it would be great for dipping strawberries or sliced banana into, too, though. The great thing about this mousse, is how versatile the recipe can be. If you want to use vanilla or plain almond milk instead of chocolate, the pistachio, banana cream, vanilla, and lemon flavors of Jello instant pudding are also vegan-friendly, so you could make a mousse in any of those flavors just as easily. The mousse is also great for filling or topping cupcakes, or even just eating plain or parfait-style, so you can really do a lot of different things with it.

And, if you are not interested in making it vegan, just use regular milk and a tub of regular whipped topping instead, and you can use whatever flavor of instant pudding mix you want, so the possibilities are unlimited. Go crazy, this stuff is so easy and delicious.

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Posted in Baking/Cooking/Nomming, Uncategorized

Pineapple Coconut Rum Cake

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Deciding to try out a new recipe is always kind of exciting. Will it turn out like you’re hoping? . . . Or will it turn into a radioactive pile of mush even your pets turn their noses up at? Being as sick of winter as I currently am, I decided to go for one of the more tropical kinds of recipes I found online. So here we are, with this delicious pineapple coconut rum cake. I tweaked the recipe I linked above just a smidge since I didn’t have any actual rum extract or pound cake mix. I was also lacking crushed pineapple, but it turned out pretty well even with the “chunks” style. (Which, by the way, who in the hell in marketing decided “chunks” sounded appetizing to begin with??)

Here’s the ingredients I used:

  • 1 box vanilla cake mix.
  • 1 20 oz. can of pineapple (chunks) in 100% pineapple juice.
  • 1/2 Cup shredded sweetened coconut.
  • 1 tsp. Malibu coconut rum.

Following the recipes directions, I mixed it all up, poured it into a lightly sprayed pan, and popped it in the oven for 35 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. It certainly doesn’t rise quite as much as your typical cake might, but it was a good, light cake with a pleasant flavor. Especially when there is whipped cream added on top, as pictured above! πŸ˜‰ And for those of you who despise coconut, one of my testers who also loathes coconut said that it wasn’t even really noticeable, and also enjoyed the cake. So, all in all, I chalk this one up as a pretty decent success. πŸ™‚ The flavor was good, but I don’t think it will really win many points for overall presentation any time soon. But if you’re just looking for an easy tropical dessert to enjoy at home, it does the trick quite nicely!

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Getting Festive

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Happy Holidayyyys! ❀ Today is Christmas Eve and with all the recent and upcoming festivities I wanted to squeeze some time in to pop in and say Merry Christmas since I don’t know if I’ll get a chance to tomorrow. πŸ™‚

Last night we met up with my boyfriend’s family’s for their annual bake-a-thon, where we baked and decorated an arsenal of Christmas cookies. Shapes ranged from reindeer to unicorns and everything in between. Seriously, I mean everything in between. We also had an armadillo-shaped cookie and a penis-shaped cookie because inappropriate baked goods are funny. His mom also made these delicious pastries called Rugelach.

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We’re celebrating tonight’s Christmas Eve at my boyfriend’s parents’ house, and Christmas over with my family so I’m pretty excited. I feel like I did a lot of holiday stuff this year. More than I think I usually do, so while all the running around can be stressful and tiring at times, it did make for a particularly festive holiday season so far. πŸ™‚

Some of the holiday highlights included:

Visiting a historical village’s Holiday Nights event. It was really cool walking around after dark, learning some interesting stuff and seeing the rambunctious β€œmurmurers” in action. I didn’t know anything about this old β€œmurmuring” holiday tradition, but apparently it involves revelers of the season dressing up in disguises to go house-to-house for food and drink and partying it up. So, it’s kind of like Halloween at Christmas for adults, except you get booze instead of candy. Not too shabby, in my opinion. Why the heck did we do away with this awesome tradition?

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Goings to an outdoor Kringle Market and shopping around for lots of goodies, including my new favorite dessert, The Christmas Kronut. This was my second year going, and although the crowd can be a bit much, I plan on going again next year. It was a lot of fun. πŸ™‚

Christmas shopping for my loved ones is always a fun thing to do. I love when you find someone the perfect gift and then seeing the look on their face when they open it. I will say, though: I normally quite dislike wrapping the presents. It’s just tedious. lol My attention span has never been in it. I moaned and groaned the whole way through it, but I think I actually did a decent job wrapping gifts this year. I’m not known for my wrapping skills, in fact, I’m known for purposely wrapping the gifts in a manner that makes it look like a toddler did it. Or a drunk uncle. One or the other.

The work holiday party was also a lot of fun. I’ve mentioned before that I work as a program instructor at a day program for adults with special needs. I love my job every day, but seeing all their faces light up when they got to meet Santa Clause and taking our room caroling around the entire building was just so nice. We sang fun, upbeat songs like Jingle Bell Rock, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, etc. and had a bunch of fun instruments for everyone to play. We did a big potluck and since I baked a bunch of stuff for the last couple work parties I decided to take it easy on myself for this one and brought in rolls and made a some delicious Garlic Parmesan Butter to go with them.

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Minus some stressful family medical issues that have luckily since been improving, the last month of 2017 has been a pretty good one. πŸ™‚ I’m excited to see what the new year will bring. I hope you guys all enjoy what’s left of the holiday season and have plenty of festivities of your own! ❀

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The Christmas Tag!

I’m feeling festive this year, so when I saw this cute little Christmas tag posted by The Happiest Pixel I decided to join in on the holiday fun! πŸ™‚ Fun Fact: I used to be a total Grinch til Cupcakes and Machetes made it her personal mission to show me the joys of the holiday season. I was skeptical at first but have slowly come to enjoy Christmas and the chaos that comes with it. πŸ˜›

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1.) What is your favorite Christmas film?

I actually have a few. πŸ™‚ It’s no secret that I love The Nightmare Before Christmas. It’s definitely a holiday staple. I’ve also always enjoyed Will Vinton’s Claymation Christmas Celebration and the more recent Krampus film from 2015.

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Will Vinton’s Claymation Christmas Celebration

2.) Is your Christmas tree real or fake?

It’s always been fake, except for one year. That was the year my cat turned into the Hulk and took down an entire pine tree, bringing it and all it’s decorations crashing to the floor. Cats seriously up their dickhead game this time of year.

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3.) What is your favorite Christmas song?

Carol of the Bells has been my favorite for a good while now. πŸ™‚

4.) What is your favorite Christmas scent?

Hmmm . . . I really like cinnamon scented things, especially around Christmas. It reminds me of when my mom helped my brother and I make cinnamon ornaments for the tree when we were kids. For several years I was pretty obsessed with Bath & Bodyworks’ Vanilla Bean Noel scent, but I kind of burnt myself out on it.

5.) Do you have any Christmas Eve traditions?

It’s usually pretty laid back. I pretty much just enjoy the company of who I’m with and we open one present that night. I’ve always done that since I was a kid. I think a lot of people do it, too.

6.) Do you open any presents on Christmas Eve?

See the above question. πŸ˜‰

7.) What tops your Christmas tree?

Well, this year the only tree I’ve decorated so far is the one my room at work decorated, and we have a big beautiful silver bow on top. We’ll see what the other two trees I have yet to help decorate will be topped with this go around.

8.) What is the best thing about Christmas for you?

Spending time with my loved ones and doing all the festive activities with them leading up to the actual holiday. Also, the book club I’m in always has a fun Christmas party to look forward to.

9.) What is your favorite festive food or treat?

As of this year, I’d have to say that damn tasty Christmas Kronut I was just raving about in my last blog post. Other faves include the chocolate candy cane doughnut from Tim Hortons, the Bigby Peppermint Mocha Latte . . . basically anything chocolate and peppermint, apparently.

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10.) What is on top of your Christmas wish list this year?

Trump’s removal from office. A girl can dream, can’t she? πŸ˜›

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If you’re up to doing this holiday tag, have at it, and please let me know because I’d love to read your answers! πŸ™‚

Posted in Baking/Cooking/Nomming, Uncategorized

Christmas Kronut: Holiday Dessert Review

I don’t usually do dessert reviews, but when you find a new sweet that “takes the cake” as your favorite dessert ever, well, that warrants a post . . . and a bad pun. Allow me to introduce you to the Christmas Kronut!

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Picture from Home Bakery’s website. (I didn’t think to photograph my actual kronut before devouring it in pure bliss.)

I found this delectable treat in downtown Rochester in my home state of Michigan. This was my second year attending the Kringle Market there, a big event with Christmas lights, as well as tons of vendors and entertainment to kick off the month of December. It was a lot of fun and there were plenty of neat vendors, but this Christmas Kronut was the #1 thing I was excited about purchasing.

The vendor selling these bad boys actually has a gorgeous bakery located right downtown called Home Bakery. They describe the dessert as “deep-fried croissant dough, filled with vanilla bean pastry cream, tossed in cinnamon-sugar, dipped in a vanilla bean glaze, and finished with white nonpareils, and red and green holiday-themed sprinkles.”

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It was utterly amazing. Every single part of it brought something special to the dessert, from the cinnamon-sugar kronut itself to the oh-so-delicious vanilla bean cream that it was stuffed to the brim with. The different elements of this holiday themed sweet manage to shine on their own but also blend together perfectly as you eat it. It’s also adorably festive-looking, so it makes for a wonderful seasonal treat.

I’d easily give it 5 out of 5 stars, though I think it deserves some extra credit for being what I personally deem to be the best dessert I’ve ever had. πŸ™‚

What’s you’re favorite holiday treat to enjoy this time of year? Or just your favorite dessert in general?

Posted in Baking/Cooking/Nomming, Uncategorized

Sunflowers, Sweet Potatoes, Lemon Trees & Cream Puffs Galore!

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Hey, guys! I hope everyone had a great weekend. Mine was a lot of fun. My boyfriend and I went to see the new It movie, so expect a review of that to come soon. πŸ˜€ Since my previous post was about scary clowns, I thought I’d mix it up with something a little sweeter before delving back into that. πŸ˜›

Speaking of sweet, check out this growing sweet potato bush from the green house. I feel like with Fall quickly approaching I’m running outta time to share these gardening photos so pardon this random post.

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We’re also growing two different types of lemon trees in the green house. They’ve been doing really well so far this Summer, but we’re going to have to move them inside pretty soon so they survive the coming winter.

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So, plant business aside, I’ve been meaning to share the photos of those cream puffs I mentioned making before for my dad’s birthday. πŸ™‚ Here’s some of the Work In Progress pics, and then the final product, topped with powdered sugar and filled with a light and fluffy cream filling.

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Here they are as little dough balls, ready to go into the oven
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Fresh from the oven and ready to cool on the cooling rack.
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Stuffed to the max and topped with powdered sugar.
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Banana Blueberry Bread + Spring Photos

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Hey, guys! ❀ Just sharing some baking and outdoors photos. This weekend was pretty busy but I managed to squeeze in some yard work and baking. The weather’s been so nice that I even did the little reading I could get in outdoors. (I’m loving Six of Crows so far!!)

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Banana Blueberry Bread
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Fresh From The Oven!
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Lilacs Out Back.
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Cute Little Winged Buddy.
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The Rhubarb is getting HUGE! Hoping to try some new rhubarb recipes this year.
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Firewood.
Posted in Baking/Cooking/Nomming, Uncategorized

Purple Pop Cake!

Tried a new pop cake experiment the other night!

I found a bubble gum flavored soda at the store and ended up mixing 12 ounces of it with a box of strawberry cake mix. The resulting cake was a pretty snazzy purple-magenta color. The lighting in the pic doesn’t really do the color enough justice, but here was the result:

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The pink-canned bubble gum soda was surprisingly bright blue when poured out of the can, so when mixed with pink cake mix, it created quite the lovely color. The fizzy batter literally looked like cotton candy when I was stirring it.

The flavor was pleasant, not-too-sugary-sweet, and is pretty good when topped with whipped cream (like most things, I suppose). πŸ˜‰

Though, I gotta say, it really didn’t taste all that much like bubble gum.