Didn’t get the couch, but I got a husband instead

If you’re on Facebook I’m sure you know the “Facebook memories” notification you get every day that dredges up old memories. For me, they are usually the things I want to forget. But, every once in a while, they bring up some of the best memories. Today, my memories were some irrelevant college statuses about class, a picture of Mara laying across my face and some photos of my first ever trip to a rock gym. The memory that really made me smile was the one with the rock gym photos. Why? Because that was the night I met my husband. Doesn’t that just give you the warm and fuzzies? Seeing those photos really got me thinking.

On February 20, 2014 I never imagined that I was going to ask a friend for help picking up a couch and end up meeting the love of my life. Romantic, right? Let me tell you the whole story.

At the time, I was living on my own in my little one bedroom apartment in Cranston. I had been single for only a couple of months and was NOT looking for any sort of relationship. I was in my “I give up on men” phase of life again because my recent ex was another idiot. Anyway, I had ordered a new couch for my apartment and asked a friend, Scott, who had a pick-up truck to help me pick it up from the store and bring it home. He had a buddy with a bigger truck so he asked him to help, which thankfully, he agreed to. I was just about to get out of work when I had gotten a call from Big Lots saying that accidentally sold my couch and that if I wanted they could order me a new one, but I could not pick it up that night. I called my friend in a rage and told him to forget it, I didn’t need any help. Unfortunately, the boys were already an exit away from the store on I-95 in the middle of rush hour traffic after driving all the way down from Massachusetts (about 1 hour away without traffic) so his buddy was a bit pissed to say the least. He told Scott that since theyCentral Rock Gym in Worcester, MAdrove all the way down here they were going to pick me up and I was going to go rock climbing with them – whether I liked it or not. I argued for a minute or two until the truck guy got on the phone and told me I had no choice and they would be there soon. I got off the phone thinking the guy was a total asshole. If you haven’t caught on by now that asshole was Josh. I got home, changed into gym clothes and we were on our way back up to Massachusetts for some rock climbing. Scott and I entertained ourselves climbing with each other after a quick lesson from Josh, while the more experienced climbers did their own thing. After a couple hours of climbing we went out and grabbed a drink or two before heading back. Josh dropped off the two guys first before taking me home. It was a long drive back and I still thought Josh was a jerk, but as we talked more I decided he was somewhat bearable. We ended up getting to my apartment and continued talking outside until about 4 am. We had already exchanged numbers earlier in the night, so we continued our conversation over the next couple of days. Once I got a feel for his humor (which is very unconventional and takes time to understand) we got along great. He finally asked me out on our first date, where we went to Friendly’s and had Jim Dandy’s. Any guy that gives me ice cream gets bonus points – but a guy that gives me 5 scoops of ice cream, 3 toppings and bananas wins! It was a couple weeks later that he officially asked me to be his girlfriend. The rest is history.

I think back to that day and never would I have imagined that the rude guy with the weird, twisted humor would one day be my husband. It’s amazing how everything really does happen for a reason. It’s like when your mom says “you’ll thank me later,” well, Big Lots, thank you. Thank you for selling my couch to someone else. As someone who plans her life and tries to calculate her future in spreadsheets and Gantt charts, I’ve finally realized that you can’t. My path has also made me realize that certain people are put in your life for a reason. Without Scott, we never would have met. He was meant to be in both of our lives so that we could find each other. So thank you too, Princess. It’s amazing the way the universe works, huh?

Thank you Facebook for bringing up this memory today. It just makes me remember how grateful I am for the little things that up end being the best things in life.

I’m back…Again…No…Really… I Swear

Oh hey, how are ya’ll doing? As I’ve already acknowledged I am way to busy to blog. Life is busy happening and blogging has not. Thank god no one actually reads this blog, otherwise I’d be a complete jerk for leaving you all high and dry.

I promise tonight I will sit down and hammer out something fun when I get home. I don’t know what yet, but it’ll be awesome. Yea, awesome.

Caramel Apple Cupcake Recipe

This seems like a great recipe to post as we are rapidly approaching the fall season. I am not a fan of pumpkin spice anything, but apple…apple I will do. This was another office birthday request for anther one of my IT support people. If you can’t tell by now they’re my favorites.

I made an apple cupcake with a salted caramel frosting and a caramel drizzle. The apple flavor was incredibly subtle and the homemade caramel added a nice touch on top. The sea salt sprinkle lent itself nicely to the sweet and salty balance. One request I received to make them better was to add apple pieces to the cupcake to give it a bit more flavor and texture. I will definitely have to try that out next time.

Apple cupcakes with a salted caramel frosting, homemade caramel drizzle and a sea salt sprinkle

Apple cupcakes with a salted caramel frosting, homemade caramel drizzle and a sea salt sprinkle

Ingredients: 

Cupcake

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup white sugar
4 eggs
1/2 cup apple juice concentrate
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup butter, softened

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350°. In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, sugar, eggs, apple juice concentrate, milk and butter. Beat until well combined, about 2 minutes. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the top of the cupcake bounces back when you touch it.

Frosting

1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp water
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
12 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 tsp fine salt
1 cup powdered sugar

Directions:
Mix together granulated sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Continue cooking, without stirring, until mixture turns dark amber in color, about 6 to 7 minutes. Remove from heat and slowly add in cream and vanilla, stirring until completely smooth. Allow to cool for about 25-30 minutes. Combine butter and salt and beat on medium-high speed until light in color and fluffy. Reduce speed to low, add powdered sugar, and mix until completely incorporated. Turn mixer off and scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add caramel. Beat frosting on medium-high speed until airy and thoroughly mixed. Cover and refrigerate about 45 minutes before using.

Caramel

1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions:
Bring brown sugar, butter, and milk to a boil and cook until thickened, about 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat; add vanilla extract.

My Notes:

  • Let the caramel cool before putting it on the cupcakes, otherwise it will melt your frosting and make a big mess
  • Other garnish ideas can include apple slices or caramel candies
  • Caramel can burn very quickly, so be careful not to keep in on the heat for too long

Primal Friendly Banana Nutella Cupcake Recipe

This is a recipe that is extremely popular with my boyfriend, Josh, who lives the primal lifestyle. For those who are unfamiliar with the primal way of life, it essentially cuts out grains, starches, excessive carbs, legumes and pretty much all happiness in life. Just kidding…sort of. Since cupcakes are traditionally made from wheat flour, I usually need to get creative with some substitutions using coconut or almond flour – both primal friendly alternatives. Since almond and coconut flour are drier than wheat flour the substitutions are not 1:1 so converting a recipe over is not as easier as it seems.

These banana cupcakes are probably one of my more successful recipes. The primal diet also preaches the avoidance of sugars and processed foods, so my usual choice of Nutella frosting is a bit taboo, but sometimes Josh likes to live life dangerously and break the rules. Here are my “half-way healthy” primal-friendly banana cupcakes with Nutella frosting:

Primal friendly banana cupcakes with Nutella frosting and chocolate chips

Primal friendly banana cupcakes with Nutella frosting and dark chocolate chips

 

Ingredients:

Cupcakes

4 bananas
4 eggs
1/2 cup almond butter
4 tbsp butter, melted
1/2 cup coconut flour
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla
pinch of sea salt
dark chocolate chips (optional)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350° degrees. Combine your bananas, eggs, almond butter and butter in a mixing bowl and mix well. Add in your coconut flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, vanilla, and sea salt and mix well. Fold in chocolate chips, if desired. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Nutella Frosting

1 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
3/4 cup Nutella
3 to 4 tbsp heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
salt to taste (optional)

Directions: Beat softened butter on medium speed. Beat for 2-3 minutes until smooth and creamy. Add 2 cups of powdered sugar and continue to beat on medium speed. Add the Nutella and continue to beat on medium speed. Add 3 tablespoons of heavy cream and the vanilla extract. Add salt to taste.

My Notes:

  • If you want to make into a loaf for more of a banana bread style, use the same recipe and bake for 55-60 minutes.
  • I like to add dark chocolate chips as a little added bonus. I use mini chips in the muffins and regular sized chips in the loaf.
  • I add a bit of salt to the frosting to even out the flavor and cut the sweetness.
  • Heavy cream will make a creamier frosting. Regular milk will work in a pinch, but the frosting will be less creamy.

Key Lime Cupcake Recipe

My key lime cupcakes are definitely an office favorite. I end up making these multiple times a year. Of course out of all the cupcakes in my recipe catalog, these are one of my least favorite to make. The people that usually request these are just lucky I like them a lot!

Below are two frosting recipes – I rarely ever make the cream cheese version of the frosting but instead, opt for a plainer vanilla frosting. Baker’s choice! The cupcakes pictured here were a birthday treat for one of my IT support people.

Key lime cupcakes with vanilla frosting, green sugar crystals and lime flavored Peeps

Key lime cupcakes with vanilla frosting, green sugar crystals and lime flavored Peeps.

Ingredients:

Cupcake

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup full-fat sour cream
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 tsp key lime extract
1 egg plus one egg yolk, at room temperature
1 1/2 tbsp fresh key lime juice

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350°. In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; whisk well and set aside. In a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth and creamy, about 30 seconds. Add in both sugars and lime extract and beat until well combined. Add in the egg and egg yolk and mix well. Reduce the mixer speed to low. Add in 1/2 of the flour mixture and mix until just combined. Add 1/2 of the sour cream and mix until just combined. Repeat with remaining flour and sour cream, being sure to mix on low until just combined. Turn mixer off. Using a rubber spatula, quickly fold in the lime juice. Bake for 16-18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cream Cheese Frosting

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
8 ounce block full-fat cream cheese, softened
4 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tbsp fresh key lime juice
1/4 tsp key lime extract

Directions:
In a medium bowl, beat the butter and cream cheese on medium-speed until smooth and creamy. Reduce the speed to low and slowly add in the powdered sugar and lime juice, beating until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add in the salt, key lime juice and extract; beat smooth.

Vanilla Frosting

3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 to 2 tbsp milk

Directions:
In a medium bowl, beat powdered sugar and butter. Stir in vanilla and 1 tablespoon of the milk. Gradually beat in just enough remaining milk to make frosting smooth and spreadable.

My notes:

  • The order in which you combine and introduce ingredients matters. My first attempt to dump everything in at once failed miserably. Make sure you follow the directions closely!
  • Temperature matters! I can’t stress this enough! If I have indicated that something should be softened or at room temperature there is an important reason for it. I am all about as many short cuts as possible, but it will mess up the batter and/or frosting consistency if you don’t play by the rules.
  • If you don’t want an overpowering key lime flavor I recommend a plain frosting like the vanilla above, if you want to punch someone in the face with flavor then, by all means, go for the key lime cream cheese frosting.
  • The lime peeps happened to be available as it was Easter time, but some other options for garnish can be a lime twist, zest or graham cracker crumbs.
  • I prefer to use the extract for a more definitive flavor in the cupcakes. I used to use some ridiculously expensive extract because it worked well and I liked the flavor, but I recently found a much more inexpensive brand that has a better flavor from LorAnn Oils. I order it right off of Amazon, and since I have Prime I get the 2 day shipping for free. If you want a 30 day free trial click here.

Root Beer Float Cupcake Recipe

Just last week one of our IT support guys at work left us. As a parting gift to thank him for all of the terrible IT problems I’ve made him resolve over the last couple of years I made a batch of root beer float cupcakes.

This was the first time I made these, but the overall feedback I received was that they were “wicked good.” For those of you that don’t speak New England that means awesome. I believe the only request was for an additional side of cherries next time. This was the final result:

Root beer float cupcake with chocolate sprinkles and a maraschino cherry

Root beer float cupcakes with root beer frosting, chocolate sprinkles and a maraschino cherry

Ingredients:

Cupcake
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups of your favorite root beer soda (I used Mug root beer)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350°. Place all ingredients in a large bowl and beat until smooth. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Frosting
3 cups powdered sugar
6 tbsp root beer
1 tbsp vanilla
1 cup softened butter
optional – brown food coloring

Directions:
Whip together sugar, butter and vanilla. Beat until smooth. Add root beer and food coloring and beat until fluffy.

My notes:

  • Be careful not to add too much root beer to the frosting. The more liquid you add the runnier it will be. The soda only gives a hint of flavor, so if you want a more intense flavor try using root beer extract instead.
  • I added a bit of brown gel food coloring to the frosting to make it a little darker but it’s not necessary.
  • I love to use a pastry bag to decorate my cupcakes. The presentation is far superior that smearing on with a knife or spatula, but I guarantee they will be delicious either way!
  •  I happened to have maraschino cherries an chocolate sprinkles on hand so that’s what I used. Other ideas would be: root beer hard candies, root beer drizzle or a whipped cream topping instead of frosting and a straw (for a more authentic soda shoppe feel).
  • If you use maraschino cherries: rinse them off and dry thoroughly before adding them to the cupcake. If they are wet they will “melt” your frosting and it will start sliding everywhere.
  • I was battling an incredibly hot and humid day and they held up relatively well – cupcakes were only a little bit sticky after transferring from the car to the office.

Every pet owner should have this grooming tool

If you own a dog that sheds a lot you understand my pain. Mara is part Shepard, part Lab so she has the shedding down part from every angle. I can vacuum the entire house and five minutes later watch a tumbleweed of fur go rolling by. It is a never-ending battle that I lose every time.  I’ve ask a lot of groomers about how to help shed her on my own time with a good tool. I’ve seen a million different brushes, some good some bad, but recently a groomer recommended to me the ZoomGroom.

ZoomGroom Pet BrushI used to use a slicker brush, but it always seemed to scare Mara. I found out that it is easy to hurt dogs with them in you go too deep. The brush is metal can scratch their skin and make brushing really unpleasant for them. For fluffier dogs it make be more ideal, but for most dogs I’ve found that it’s really not. Mara just hated it.

The ZoomGroom is made by Kong, and is all rubber, just like the chew toys. They come in various sizes depending on the size of your pet and also make one specifically for cats – same brush but a different shape. Mara is 55 lbs and the large size is perfect for her. One of the great things about this brush is that it can also be used in the tub for shampooing. It works up a great lather and helps pull out the loose undercoat at the same time. I highly recommend brushing your dog outside if possible because it will pull off a lot of fur, probably more than you’d think. This also works great on all types of coats. I’ve talked to other dogs owners who use it on their big fluffy Chows and people who use it on their Boxers, while Mara falls in between. I also find the brush doubles as a doggie massage for Mara. She’ll near fall asleep on me while getting brushed.

The brushes are very reasonably priced between $5 and $10 and well worth the small investment. After a while the brush will start to wear down and become less effective, but it will be quite a while before that happens. When it does, the brush can become a great chew toy and you can get a new one for grooming. Since the toy is all rubber, same as the Kong toys, your dogs can play with the brush without worry. Occasionally Mara will swipe hers and chew on it for a bit. No harm, no foul.

I  have used many different types of brushes on Mara and my boys back home who all have very different coats and enthusiasm for brushings. I highly recommend this over any other brush no matter the coat. If you groom your dog at home or you just want to be able to vacuum a little less, then definitely make the small investment in this brush.

Back into Blogging!

As the name of my blog clearly states, I’m too busy for this most days – and by most days I mean 6 months straight (oops). The only time I seem to have is when Josh goes away for some sort of military training for an extended time period. I’ll be a super blogger when he deploys. Count on that!

I am going to make a new conscious effort to start posting again. Not many people may actually read this but that’s ok. I do it for myself anyway! Stay tuned for some new posts about all of the cool stuff I do. Just kidding. I don’t do anything cool unless cleaning the bathroom counts, which I’m pretty sure it doesn’t. But I do have some things to talk about so please make me feel better about myself and give me a pity read every once in a while. It’s always appreciated!

Now Hiring: Workout Companion

As I sit here and nom down on a quart of Chicken Lo Mein, I feel as though I should make this official post looking for a gym buddy to get me back on track and hold me accountable for my gym schedule.

Workout Companion
Company: Amanda Needs To Workout More
Location: Planet Fitness

Job responsibilities:

  • Nag me when I say that I’m too tired to workout
  • Personally come drag me out of bed if necessary
  • Push me to work out harder
  • Show me everything I am doing wrong
  • Show me how to do everything right
  • Drink celebratory wine with me after a workout
  • Other duties as assigned

Requirements:

  • Experience using gym equipment
  • Proven track record of positive results
  • Must have more motivation and determination than I do
  • Enthusiasm for working out

Skills:

  • Persuasiveness
  • Strong negotiator
  • Dependability

If interested, please send your resume and cover letter.

10 Cool Facts About Leap Year

Happy Leap DayHow about a few little know leap facts to get you through the day:

  1. Julius Caesar introduced the idea of Leap Years when he ordered his astronomer, Sosigenes, to simplify the calendar. It takes Earth 365.242 days to orbit the sun, so Sosigenes opted for the 365-day year with an extra day every four years to scoop up the extra hours. But, he created too many leap years. Every 400 years, there are three extra days, so to compensate, centuries must be divisible by 400 to count as leap years. Years like 1700, 1800 and 1900 are only 365 days long, rather than 366.
  2. The chances of having a birthday on a leap day are about one in 1,461.
  3. Leap year babies, called leaplings, are said to have unusual talents by astrologers.
  4. Two women have given birth to three leap day babies, according to the New York Daily News. The Henriksen family from Norway had their children on leap days in 1960, 1964 and 1968. The most recent family to tie the record is the Estes family from Utah. Their children were born in 2004, 2008 and 2012.
  5. Even more rare, the eighth premier of Tasmania, James Milne Wilson, was born on a leap day and died on a leap day in the 1800s, according to the World Heritage Encyclopedia.
  6. In Ireland, 29 February is called Bachelor’s Day, when women are allowed to propose to men. Queen Margaret of Scotland began the tradition in 1288. If a man refused the proposal, he would be fined a kiss, a silk dress or 12 pairs of gloves.
  7. One in five engaged couples in Greece will plan to avoid getting married in a leap year. They believe it is bad luck.
  8. In order to gain the trust of the indigenous people of Jamaica, Christopher Columbus used the lunar eclipse on February 29, 1504, to trick them. The local chiefs had stopped helping his crew with the food and provisions they had been supplying. Columbus warned them that God was going to punish them by painting the moon red. During the eclipse, Columbus said God would end the punishment if they cooperated. The chiefs capitulated and agreed to give them supplies, and saw that the lunar eclipse had ended.
  9. In Russia it is believed a leap year is likely to bring more freak weather patterns and a greater risk of death all round.
  10. In Taiwan, married daughters traditionally return home during the leap month as it is believed the lunar month can bring bad health to parents. Daughters bring pig trotter noodles to wish them good health and good fortune.

A happy birthday also goes out to my wonderful Aunt, and proud leapling, who celebrates her 15th birthday this year! You’re most definitely 1 in 1,461. Love you!