RAVE: Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes

A few months ago, one of my favorite bloggers posted a recipe for Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes. I was a bit intimidated at first because it was a two-day process - but it was worth the wait! Without a fancy camera, these were the best shots I could get. For really beautiful pictures of the whole process and for the complete recipe, be sure to check out Amanda's original post.

Check out that cookie-dough goodness!

Then, I had a brilliant idea. Brownies and chocolate chip cookies are my all-time favorite dessert. So I decided to whip up a batch of brownies, and plop my cookie-dough in the middle. The outcome was the most glorious (and slightly sunken-in) dessert EVER:

Turns out, the sunken-in middle made for a the most perfect place for a dollop of coolwhip:

The cupcakes were good, but I think I found a keeper with this brownie-chocolate-chip-cookie mix:

True Happiness.

RAVE: Dinner hosted by The Waxed Bean

After 8 months of working together, Wayles, Margaret and I finally found a date that worked for us and our significant others to get together for dinner. It really is unbelievable how long it took us to set this up. I do love him, but I'm going to blame Mike for the fact that this has taken so long...being gone Monday-Friday almost every week can make social gatherings a little challenging. But I guess that is neither here nor there.

After work, the three of us headed home with Wayles to start dinner. Being the spectacular host she is, we kicked things off with a bottle of champagne. That girl knows her priorities. After a quick toast it was time to get the cooking started (we were already 4 minutes behind schedule according to the planned timeline).

Margaret and I anxiously looked on as Wayles started pulling out ingredients to make a chocolate cake from scratch. From scratch. That means, no box. Who knew!?

Confession time: It wasn't until some time around age 15 that I realized cakes could be made any other way than from a box.

I thought that by reading the recipe out loud I had found a way to be helpful. But I soon realized it was a bit futile after observing that Wayles wasn't too big on measuring. Lucky for us she has great cooking instincts!

While she trusted her instincts, Margaret may, or may not, have trusted Wayles' ability to open the champagne safely...decide for yourself:

James (Wayles roommie & significant other) came home about an hour into our bottle of champagne. Mike arrived soon after and that proved to be too many people for us to stay in the kitchen. So it was off to the living room where Ashes took to Mike instantly, but who wouldn't? :)

Once Matt (Margaret's then significant other and now fiance!) arrived, Wayles served a lovely tomato-mozzarella-basil appetizer. I wish I had a better camera to truly capture them, but even so, aren't they pretty?

After lots of good conversation and Wayles slaving in the kitchen, dinner was ready. I kicked the meal off by falling backwards in my chair. Yes, you read that right. It was one of the moments that was just so funny, I had to distract myself for the next 10 minutes to not think about it or else I'd burst out laughing again. In fact, thinking about it still makes me laugh. Pretty sure it's one of those had-to-be-there moments though...

Our dinner was delicious. Chicken with mango salsa, cous-cous, asparagus (with butter of course), and salad with homemade dressing. Yum, yum, and yum! You should definitely head over to The Waxed Bean to read how Wayles made it all. It's definitely worth repeating.

Even though we were stuffed, nothing was going to stop us from eating that chocolate cake we watched get made from scratch just hours before. And it did not disappoint. So divine!

Amazing food and fabulous company made for a great night. And the Phillies won too...does it really get any better than that? I submit that it does not.

Thanks for hosting Waylesies!

RAVE: The Phillies

Last weekend, my Savoy group had the chance to sing the National Anthem at the Phillies game. So exciting! When we arrived we were escorted down to the locker room area where we quickly rehearsed and solidified our parts. Then we waited. And waited. And waited some more...

Mary and I in the locker room...waiting :)

When it was finally time to go, we quickly tried to assemble ourselves into two lines and were rushed out onto the field. The Phanatic kept us distracted from the heat while were on the field with his shenanigans. Luckily they set up the microphones quickly so we weren't standing there too long - it was over 100 degrees and the humidity was insane! And then before you knew it we were singing. I was surprised how nervous I was. Even in a group of 50, a 30,000 person stadium was quite intimidating. I can't even imagine singing it alone!

bonus points to anyone that can spot me in this pic

After singing the shortest rendition of the Star Spangled Banner ever composed, we were back in the locker room changing from our white dresses into our Phillies gear. Of course, we had the worst seats possible - the highest deck with no shade. Did I mention it was over 100 degrees?

Mike and I took bets on how long we'd last. He gave us to the 3rd inning. I was hoping for at least the 5th. Mike won. We were out of there at the end of the 3rd...the heat was unbearable and rain was coming. Our timing was perfect. It POURED in the 5th inning and they had an hour and a half rain delay. By then, we were enjoying chips and salsa (and ranch, or course!) at Chilis.

It was a good day.

p.s. You can watch a rough video of our performance here.

RAVE: NYC with My Favorite Mom

Goodness! I meant to blog about this ages ago. For my birthday this year, my mom and I decided to spend a weekend in NYC. Mom had a conference during the week, and I left work early on Thursday and took the train up to meet her to start our whirl-wind weekend of fun!

I normally would have taken the bus, but since I was going to be heading up there in rush hour, I wanted to take the more reliable train to make sure that I got there in time to catch our show - Jersey Boys!

[insert nerdy theater commentary] Jersey Boys was a good show. Not sure I would have voted for it to win a Tony for the Best Musical of the Year...but good none-the-less. The songs by the Four Seasons were cleverly strung together to tell the story of Frankie Valli, but I'm limited in my appreciation of a show with no original music. Thus the same reason I have for failing to love Mamma Mia. I'd say I knew about half of the songs and mom knew every one. She loved it.

We grabbed a late night dessert at a diner next to our hotel and then crashed because we had an early morning tour to see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. I wish I had a picture of our tour guide...or better yet a video! He was quite funny (not convinced he was trying to be) and started every sentence with "oh look" and then proceeded to tell us what place we had "stumbled upon" on our tour.

We couldn't go up to the statue's crown. Those tickets were sold out until the end of August. Let that be a lesson to anyone ever thinking of visiting New York in the summer, be sure to book your tickets for the Statue of Liberty a good 6 months in advance. We didn't feel like we missed out on much though.

view from the ferry

at the statue

Then it was off to Ellis Island to look up our relatives. Not sure any of them actually came through Ellis Island, but it was fun to search for them anyway. If they did come through, we were definitely lacking in info to find them...

After a long morning of being quality tourists, we found a cute cafe and had a delicious, and overpriced salad (have I mentioned EVERYTHING in NYC is overpriced? It is.), then crashed in our hotel room before heading out to the theater...again!

This time to see Kristin Chenoweth and Sean Hayes in the revival of Promises, Promises!

[insert 2nd nerdy theater commentary] So the only reason this show had a prayer of being revived was because of the Mad Men craze. And I can't imagine it will last long after Kristin and Sean leave. Sean Hayes was amazing. I think he deserved his Tony nom. Kristin Chenoweth was good, but honestly, I was surprised she took this role. It really wasn't that challenging or interesting. The best part of the show was the first 2 scenes of the 2nd Act. A-MA-ZING. Katie Finneran stole the show and the tickets were well worth the cost of her two scenes alone. (Not that I paid for the tickets - thanks again Mom!)

My main goal after the show was to get pics with Sean & Kristin. Unfortunately, we waited at the stage door for an hour only to learn they don't DO pictures. Lame. And while I'm not a fan of getting things autographed, I thought I should have something to show for my long wait. Both Sean & Kristin were great to the fans. Kristin is unbelievably tiny. Seriously, she's SO tiny. And her one diva thing is that you can't use a flash on your cameras as she signs playbills. Her bodyguard will actually take your camera. Not cool. So, since I couldn't use a flash, this was the best shot my little point-and-shoot could muster:

We decided to conquer Central Park on our last day in NYC. We met a lovely pedi-cab driver from Istanbul named Charlie (I sensed he got tired of telling Americans how to pronounce his actual name and finally decided to just go with Charlie when asked). He was the best tour guide ever - so sweet and very thorough. As far as tourist-traps go in NYC, I definitely recommend the pedi-cab tour over the horse & carriage ride...much better value.

We had a blast together and are now brainstorming where we can go for our 30th & 60th birthdays...any recommendations!?

RAVE: Going "Home"

Mike and I had the chance to fly "home" to Minnesota for the 4th of July weekend. It was SO much fun to see all of our friends and family. As usual, the trip was too short and we weren't able to see everyone we'd hoped to! And, as usual, we hardly remembered to snap any pictures. To prove it...I'll show you all 3 of them!

Our first night in town we got together with our good friends Megan & Jared. You may remember we crashed their New Year's trip to NYC earlier this year. We had such a great time catching up that we closed down the bar! (We NEVER close down bars. We're usually those lame people that go to bed at 9pm on Friday nights at the ripe 'ol age of 27ish)

mystery shots!

We spent lots of time with the Siegel-crew on this trip because it was our official reunion. Our weekend was filled with lots of family gatherings with tasty food and delicious margaritas! We topped off our time together with a boat cruise on the Hudson (or maybe it was the St. Croix?) to watch fireworks. This pic of my favorite sister & brother-in-law is the only evidence I have of our 3 days together!


Like usual, we stayed at mom's house. Her new cat Sadie is the first of her cats to actually like Mike...she's pretty great!

so cute!

I wish I would have captured the fabulous time we had with Debbie, Mary & Leah, the Girls, Steve & Melissa, my CSP-crew, our families, and others. The trip was definitely too short but such a good time. We miss you all!

RANT: Missing Birthdays

It never seems to fail. Every year I am surprised by how fun my birthday is. I go into the day thinking that I'll hear from a few close friends, go out to lunch with co-workers, and go out to dinner with Mike. All-in-all, a pretty fun day if I do say so myself. But what makes it even better is hearing from all those people that I never expected to hear from! I'm always pleasantly surprised to get cards, emails, facebook messages from friends who I haven't connected with in forever. It's such a wonderful feeling to receive so many unexpected birthday wishes! And every year, I say to myself..."you should be one of these really cool people who make your friends' day on their birthday." And yet, I am still far from being one of those people. I even forget to send a card or a quick note to those really close to me...let alone my long-lost friends!

This month, two very special people's birthdays have passed me by...

Jenny, my Kindred teammate, was a bridesmaid in our wedding and is one of the funniest, kind-hearted, and all-around coolest person you will ever meet. I'm always telling her I thought she was too cool for me. She always laughs when I say this...as if it couldn't be true. But seriously people, she's SO cool. I hope you get the chance to meet her some day. You'll want to be her friend. She's one of those friends that calls you on your birthday every year without fail. Ok, to be completely honest, every year she first calls our other teammate Emily because she gets our birthdays mixed up. But now I always looking forward to the email or call on June 3rd where she says, "I can't believe I did it again!" I just love her and wished we lived closer.

Miss you Jenny - Happy (belated) Birthday!

Rachel, my spunky and beautiful cousin turned 25 this year! And she's handling the "quarter-life-crisis" like a champ! This girl is one of the most driven, kind, and generous people I know. She's finishing up her degree to become a Physician's Assistant and it's been so fun to watch her accomplish this goal and see her passion for what she's doing. I'm envious of her confidence, her strength, and her heart for others! I couldn't be any more proud to be her cousin.

Love you Rach -Happy (belated) Birthday!

RAVE: Visiting Best Friends

When Mike and I moved to Philadelphia and I left my job at Concordia, I knew there would be some tough times over this year. In particular, I suspected that not being able to attend the National Youth Gathering with the Concordia crew would be a sad part of my summer. So I started to think of what I could do instead at that time that might be even more fun. It didn't take much time to figure out that visiting Christa in California would be a perfect way to spend the time I would have been at the Gathering. Knowing that she was going to have an 8-week old at that point, I had a hunch she wouldn't be able to go to the Gathering either and might need some company since her husband was more than likely going to be attending.

While I was sad I wasn't able to see Dave this trip, I had a blast hanging out with Christa and finally getting to meet her son, NOAH! Isn't he cute!?

Here's a quick re-cap of the trip...
The first day we played hard at the beach and needed to stop at Starbucks to kill some time to wait out traffic before we treked back to Brentwood. Who would have guessed this cute face was going to have such a meltdown on the way home? :)

The next day we walked to the Farmer's market, watched chick flicks, and then headed to Noah's 1st musical - Guys & Dolls!

On Sunday we headed to church and then off to visit Kevin! It was so fun to see his new house and catch up. And I learned that if anyone is looking for a refurbished Kirby vacuum...he's your man. Kevin treated us to pizza at his favorite place and we even remembered to snap a picture of us all together....wish even more of the Irvine gang could have been there!

After an eventful few days, we decided to lay low on Monday...

It's no secret I'm not a fan of goodbyes, but this was one was particularly hard. Not only was I saying goodbye to Christa, but this guy had really grown on me too...

Who wouldn't have a tough time saying goodbye to that face?!?