Thursday, September 15, 2011

Forgot How Much I Miss It

Photography has always been one of my passions. I am getting out of practice because I work in a studio most of the time. I forget how much I love going out and about on location to take photos of couples. This past Monday, I had the opportunity to grab some girls from work so I could do their photos.

Another thing I love is doing makeup and hair...and now that Ben is gone I don't concentrate on either very much (although on the up side I have gotten my morning routine down to about 15 minutes!). So I told the girls that I would do their pictures if they let me do their hair and makeup too! I had so much fun!

One of my favorite things is doing someone's hair and makeup, and then watching others reactions to their new "look." I wish I could have filmed the boys reactions when they saw the girls (I had kicked them out of the room). It was so sweet. I love seeing couples so in love :)

For photos, we headed out to a pretty park in Belton. There's two couples- April & Henry, and Heather & Exel.

I had so much fun with these two couples. Thanks for allowing me to photograph you.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Pumpkin Cheesecake Brownie Goodness

A friend of mine recently hosted a fall dessert party. What an awesome idea, and a great day for a bunch of women to get overloaded on sugar and catch up together! I am getting so excited for fall- this is one of my favorite times of year. Looking through Pinterest did not help narrow down my search. If you look for "fall dessert" it pulls up so many decadent things! After looking through the recipes- I finally narrowed down to two things. Why is it that baking a complicated recipe doesn't phase me, but cooking a simple chicken casserole makes me think I'm going to burn our house down?!

One of the recipes I found combines two three of my favorite things...pumpkin, cheesecake and brownie. At first I was really nervous...chocolate and pumpkin? That can't taste good. But lo and behold, and though extremely rich- they turned out SO good. Here's the recipe. I don't suggest these for the "dieter" and/or people who do not enjoy sugar.

Pumpkin Cheesecake Brownie Bites
This is for an 8x8 pan.

*The Brownie Batter*
3/4 cup butter, melted
1 cup sugar
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon

*The Cheesecake Batter*
  8oz cream cheese, softened
1 egg
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp & 2 tsp flour
2/3 cup pumpkin puree
1/3 tsp pure vanilla extract
2/3 tsp cinnamon
1/3 tsp each ground ginger and ground cloves
Brownies before the oven
1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease an 8x8" square metal baking pan.

2. Beat together melted butter, sugar, and vanilla, then beat in eggs one at a time. Combine dry ingredients and then gradually stir into butter mixture with a wooden spoon. In separate bowl, beat together cheesecake batter ingredients.

3. Spread about 2/3 of chocolate batter into prepared pan, and spoon cheesecake batter over. Dollop remaining brownie batter over cheesecake batter. Swirl the batters together by running a butter knife back and forth through the pan.

4. Bake for 40 minutes, or until center is set. Cool completely on wire rack and chill before cutting and serving.
(recipe from

As you can see, they are super good, but really bad for you. If you're looking for a lighter fall recipe...I'd try a pumpkin roll. It's easy to make and lighter on the stomach.

Powdered Sugar Pumpkin Roll

When I say jelly roll pan, you can use a cookie sheet! It's always cute at the end to wrap the roll in raffia and place on a fall platter- adds an extra touch to the dessert.

1 cup sugar
3/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3 eggs
2/3 cup mashed (canned) pumpkin
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup powdered sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 15 X 10-inch jelly roll pan. Cut wax paper to fit the bottom of the pan and leave an inch overhang on each of the short ends of the pan. Lightly grease the wax paper and sides of the jelly roll pan.

2. Mix the sugar, flour, salt, soda, cinnamon, eggs and pumpkin in a large bowl. Once mixed, pour mixture over the waxed paper. Sprinkle the walnuts, if using, on top of the mixture. Bake for 14-15 minutes until edges pull away from the sides of the pan and center is done.

3.Lay a large dishtowel on the counter top (it is best to use a dishtowel without any texture – a tea towel or similar towel works best). Spread a thick dusting of powdered sugar all over the towel. When the cake comes out of the oven, turn the pan upside down on the powdered sugar-laden towel so the wax paper is on the top. Gently peel off the wax paper, being careful not to tear the roll. Starting at one of the short ends, roll the pumpkin cake up with the towel to cool. 

4. While the roll is cooling, mix the cream cheese, butter, vanilla, and powdered sugar together until it is light and creamy. Once the roll is cool, unroll and with an offset spatula, carefully spread filling in an even layer over the cake. Roll it up without the towel and place in the refrigerator (covered with plastic wrap or wax paper) for about an hour before serving.

There are so many more recipes I want to try! I will keep updating throughout the fall season! I hope I can still reach my weight loss goals but at the same time try everything! :)


Thursday, September 1, 2011

Mom is here!

I know I'm a big girl now, but throughout my life I have always been very close to my mom. When I'm sick, I don't want anyone but mom to take care of me. Now, she's not just my mom, she's one of my best friends. After Ben left she came up a week later-  what a perfect time for her to come, get my mind off him being away (AND replenish my coffee and splenda supply)! Yes, to the left there, you'll see the 1000 packets of splenda and 7 bags of coffee that she brought me. :) Gotta have some way to roll out of bed in the morning!

I can always tell when mom's in town. My fridge and freezer go from super empty (because we all remember my love of cooking) to packed with fruits, veggies, healthy choices, and frozen meals.
She also taught me a few simple recipes for me to make (without burning the house down). We were so productive while she was here! I was able to get 6 days off...which never happens! It was good to spend some girl time together. I am so blessed that she was able to be here.

While she was here, we decided to redo my office. Being an artist, I am what you would call a "spread outer"- meaning when I am doing a project, that project is spread all over my every room in the house.

Since I moved here, I only had a very small, cramped desk. We decided to brave IKEA for the day to get some new work tables. We packed my little "roller skate" (as B calls it) full of everything we could,We kept a budget of around $200- and now I have a more functional workspace.

 I even have a special table for my painting and calligraphy. All of my books and art supplies are all nicely organized- now I just need to add some pops of color. I want to add a reading chair too...but design can wait. I need to go back and get some more things to organize.

Another thing we worked planning! We were finally able to get somewhat of a budget down (HOW do $$ add up so quickly!)

It was harder than normal for her to leave...maybe because I've had to say goodbye to two people I care about in such a small amount of time.

I am so thankful for everyone who has been checking on me! Every time I think I can't miss Ben any more than I do...I miss him even more. But this is just one more week down.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Showing my support... is one of the best websites. If you haven't discovered it (or, or are missing out. People around the world sell their handmade, craft, and vintage items and it's a great website for home decor ideas as well as gifts. Once Ben left, I decided to canvas the site to see if they had any fun things for military wives...well little did I know...there's pages and pages of jewelry, signs, keychains, clothing, mugs etc that support military families and people who have loved ones overseas. I went right away to ordering some fun stuff to remind me of Ben while he's gone.

First of all, we all know my love for anything coffee. I found the neatest mug online that you can personalize. It's two little birds on a tree branch. On the tree trunk the girl painted a yellow ribbon and our names to look like they were carved on the tree. I now drink coffee out of this every thing to order is a personalized tervis! lol.
You can order it here
Another neat thing I found on Etsy was a yellow ribbon bracelet. Works really similar to tying a yellow ribbon outside on a tree (but I will not do because i live alone....)...Except it's on your arm. It's a little brass bow and a black cord. You're supposed to tie it on your arm and wear it constantly until your soldier gets home. Then break it off! I ordered this as well. I have friends whose husbands are leaving soon and think it's an awesome gift idea as well! :)

Having these things help remind me that there is a bigger purpose to this than just Ben being away from me. He is helping in the fight for our freedom, my freedom. I am so proud of him and so thankful for what he is doing.


Of course I didn't want Taco to feel left out. I ordered him a new dog tag with a yellow ribbon. Now he jingles everywhere he goes, and I smile every time I see that ribbon on his tag.  He also gets to wear a cute little bandana around his collar- "I'm on duty while dad's deployed."

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

and just like that...He's gone.

Day One.

My husband left for Afghanistan this morning...our first deployment.

Since I've moved to Texas it's been this dark cloud hanging over our heads. You wait for months, wondering when you're going to get THE date, wishing, hoping, praying that time will just please slow down. Then you get that date. Then the counting down starts. You always have this countdown left of the days you have left together before he leaves. Eventually the stress and anxiety of a deployment can really take a toll on a relationship.

I didn't have any idea how I would feel when he finally had to walk out that door. I spent the week stressing about how upset I was going to be and how I was going to get through the day.  As hard as I wanted to be strong for him, I couldn't get my mind away from how hard it would be to say goodbye. Most of yesterday was spent in sporadic bursts of tears- a song, a sign, hugging him.

We woke up at 3:25am, helped him pack the last of things. And then I hugged him tight, kissed him, told him I loved him and blew one last kiss as he walked out the door. And then...

I was okay. While it felt (and continues to feel) like a part of my heart was missing already, I felt this strange sense of calm and relief. Its. Finally. Here. No longer do we have to count up, now we can count down. No longer do we have to wish time would slow down, only for it to speed up. Deployment in a military life is inevitable, and while this will be a difficult time for both of us, each day brings us back to being together once again.

I am overwhelmed with the support from friends and family. There are so many people who have offered prayers, thoughts, and encouragement over the past few days. It means the world to both of us, and I can't thank everyone enough.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

He put a Ring on it!

I have the sweetest husband. He likes to plan nice weekends for us to go enjoy together when we both have a few days off together. Last year he took me to Cancun, in February he took me to San Antonio for Valentine's Day.

So, when he said he wanted to go away for a weekend over Easter, I agreed right away, not thinking anything out of the ordinary. In the morning we agreed to sleep in, and as soon as we woke up I gave him his Easter basket!

Side note: Easter has always been a fun holiday for me, especially being a pastor's daughter (yes, I am one of those). My parents *excuse me* I mean, the Easter Bunny, would always hide my basket in the house for me to find. And it became a tradition every year to get a chocolate bunny. One year my mom introduced me to frozen chocolate- and every year I began putting my bunny in the freezer so I could eat it frozen later.

This year, our first Easter together, I packed B's basket with all sorts of silly things. After I gave him the basket, he told me that I had to wait for mine until we got to The Hollows- the place where we were staying for the weekend. So we finish packing and go on our way.

The Hollows is a vacation spot on Lake Travis, a large, gorgeous lake in Texas. We checked in at the front gate- little did I know that he had rented our own condo! We actually had to drive about 3 miles from the visitors center. We get there...and this is not any condo.

TWO bedrooms, TWO bathrooms, a LAUNDRY room, a GARAGE, a full kitchen, a BBQ grill and a huge porch with a dining area and a couch too! I was in awe (and yet still clueless that anything was up).

So with an open mouth, we proceed to unpack our bags and explore our new surroundings. Ben brings in my Easter basket and hands it to me. Explains: its not as packed as the one you gave me because this weekend is your Easter present (duh). There was a large chocolate bunny sitting on top of my basket. So B asks, "Why don't we go explore the Hollows and find a place later to watch the sunset and we can bring the bunny and eat it?" And I say, "Okay! Good idea. Let's put it in the freezer!" He looks at me strangely but proceeds to put the chocolate bunny in our freezer.

After spending the day exploring, we found a spot to watch the sunset. We cooked a delicious dinner in our kitchen, grabbed the bunny, and headed out to our special spot to enjoy the rest of our evening.

We chose a spot called  "the amphitheater", a hollowed out place with a beautiful view of the lake. After sitting and talking for awhile, B asked me if I was ready to eat the bunny. I said, sure! (STILL utterly and completely clueless). Then he goes, "Do you want the feet or the ears?" And I said, "The ears." Then, "I'm going to show you a trick. Count to three..."


He breaks the bunny open, and nestled inside was the most beautiful, unexpected sight. A little black box. And inside, is the most beautiful ring I've ever seen.

And the rest is history :) I said, "yes!"

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Super Easy Spinach Dip

I have a spouses group from B's squadron that I get together with every once and awhile for dinner/a get together. Our most recent get together was a pot luck and makeup party. I go through stages with food where I crave certain things all the time (does anyone else have this problem?). Most recently it's been spinach dip. I normally just buy it from restaurants, or TGI Friday's frozen version, but for our pot luck I wanted to try my hand at making it from scratch! I found a super easy recipe here.

I was nervous about picking a recipe with frozen vs. uncooked spinach- this one had uncooked.

So here it goes:

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1 bunch baby spinach, rinsed (you need a TON of spinach- at least two bags)
  • 1/2 cup white wine (a nice chard)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • hot sauce to taste 
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onion
  • 3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise (i added cream cheese instead)
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese (this wasn't on there but i added it)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat, and add garlic, baby spinach, and white wine. Cook until spinach is wilted. Mix in salt and pepper and hot sauce. 

I cooked the spinach for at least 7 minutes. And oh boy, does your kitchen smell good.
After the spinach is cooked, remove from heat and transfer to a medium bowl.
Mix the green onion, mozzarella cheese, cream cheese (or mayo) and half and half into the bowl with the spinach mixture, and then transfer to a medium baking dish.

I found that I didn't use nearly enough spinach. It's hard to judge how much you are using when the measurement is a "bunch." I think next time I'm going to try one package of defrosted frozen spinach, and see if that adds a little more to the recipe.

Bake the mixture until bubbly and lightly browned, around 20 minutes.
Everyone loved the recipe (despite my lack of spinach). You can't really go wrong mixing cheese and white wine together and baking it...

Can't wait to try this recipe again and I would definitely suggest bringing it to a party!

I am so thankful to have found this group of ladies. They understand all that I am going through and I know that I'll be able to lean on them throughout Ben's deployment. We always have a blast and I am looking forward to our next get together! If you're a 3WS Spouse please feel free to shoot me a message on my facebook- we'd love to have you join us!

I wanted to bring a dessert to our little potluck as well, and decided to try these next Cheesecake Brownies by Pillsbury. Add some chocolate chunks on top and they are to die for. I would definitely suggest them as an awesome "out of the box" recipe!