Goodbye 2012!

Well, despite the fact that 2012 was the worst year ever for this blog, it was a pretty good year for me in real life!

I started off 2012 with my best friends Kaitlin and Pam at a raging party at Miss K’s house (no photos of that, thankfully). Daniel and I also rescued a stray dog last New Year’s Eve, and reunited him with his owners on New Year’s Day.

Here is a picture of me and my bestie Kaitlin at our last dinner party in Seattle:

Kaitlin and me

In Spring 2012, I traveled to several medical school interviews, and on May 1, I was accepted to Rosalind Franklin University! Just three months later, Daniel, Walter and I packed up all our belongings and road-tripped to our new home in Waukegan, Illinois. We were incredibly sad to leave our adopted hometown of Seattle, and our best friends Kaitlin and Chris. But after spending 3 years in a dead-end job, I was so happy to finally be going to medical school.

Me and my bestie Pamela when I was in Illinois to find and apartment:

Pamela and me

For the past 4 months, I have been pretty much living the dream, being a full-time med student, while Daniel has also been living his dream of being an elementary school general music teacher. We have a lovely home (which I know I owe everyone pictures of, sorry!) and lots of great new friends. Our neighbors are wonderful and they adore Walter.

Daniel and I hosted our first-ever Thanksgiving in our home this year. We had 10 people over for a fantastic feast. And 2 weeks ago, Daniel and I went down to Chicago for the weekend to celebrate 10 years together as a couple:

Anniversary

2012 has been a great year. A year with lots of change, some difficult, but most happy. Honestly, I don’t know if 2013 can top it, but I am looking forward to the future. Yes, even the surprises!

Walter

Love,
Sarah

dinner parties

Daniel and I just spent a couple of hours at a coffee shop planning our next dinner party. I don’t want to brag, but we throw really great dinner parties.

We usually do 3 or 4 a year, and sometimes we repeat stuff, but other times we try to do all new dishes. And we’re always trying to outdo ourselves – I think our personal best for a dinner party was 6 courses PLUs cheese course PLUS drink pairings. (Although we’ll never be able to outdo the really big party we had this summer, of course!)

So yeah, we’re pretty badass. We have a system: I make the dessert and usually one other dish, Daniel does all of the heavy cooking. I decorate the apartment and set the table. You have to get the timing just right, but it works out really well.

Here is a strawberry shortcake I made for dessert for our very first dinner party in spring 2007:

strawberry shortcake

I made the exact same cake by special request at Pam’s going-away dinner party in July.

And here are some delicious snowball cupcakes I made for Daniel’s and my joint birthday dinner party last year:

snowballs

And a magnificent caramel tart from ’08:

Caramel pudding tart

Sometimes setting the table is more fun than cooking, like when you have llama place cards:

dinner party table

Here are some other table settings I was particularly proud of:

Sep '09 dinner party

June '09 dinner party

Of course, the best part about dinner parties is the company. We have had such awesome times with our friends at our parties. Talking, arguing, singing, eating, and drinking – it is always an honor to host our closest friends in our home. In fact, we tend to have so much fun that there are hardly any photos of the actual parties.

Pam's going-away party

Pam's going-away party

June '09 dinner party

This “entertaining” thing is one of my favorite things that Daniel and I do together. It’s how I’ve always pictured myself as both a friend and as part of a couple. It’s so fun being the ones who are always down for hosting, who always have a place for people to hang put and get fed. As a co-host, Daniel is just about perfect, and our skills complement each other. Can’t wait for our next party in 2 weeks!

test run

So I’ve got two major wedding DIY projects that I’m going to have to pull off just days before the wedding. I’m making the wedding cupcakes, because I am known for my baking, and I’m doing the flowers, because I just love flowers. Last weekend was Daniel’s senior recital, so I decided to make the reception an opportunity to do a test run of a new cupcake recipe and to try my hand at flower arranging.

flowers and cupcakes

This was the first time I’ve done arrangements with floral foam and stuff (I usually just dump them in a tall vase or pitcher that can support the stems). My bridesmaid Pam bought the flowers for me as a birthday present and then I put the flowers together with my future MIL. We used the vintage milk glass vases she’s been collecting for me for the wedding. It was really fun! I learned a lot about how to combine and arrange the flowers and I’ve gained anew appreciation for interesting greenery. Best of all, now I’m sure I’ll be able to do it all for the wedding.

flowers and cupcakes

flowers and cupcakes

flowers and cupcakes

Being creative is really relaxing for me. It is going to be so much fun to do 15+ of these for the wedding! (Oh yeah, and there will be PEONIES!)

flowers and cupcakes

Halloween recap

We had a very chill Halloween last night. No trick-or-treaters, as usual, which is kinda lame. On Friday night we carved pumpkins and last night we had a few friends over to watch an appropriately Halloween-y, but not to scary movie. We saw Låt den rätte komma in, which is a Swedish movie about vampires and first loves. (Thankfully, the movie had very little else in common with Twilight.) Then we went to bed early, and enjoyed the extra hour of sleep. The end.

NEVER FORGET

tableau

I’m going to try to do NaBloPoMo again this year. To try to keep myself going all month, I’m telling myself all I need to do is post a new picture every day. Hopefully with bonus words next to it. We’ll see how it goes.

spring flowers

I’ve been buying flowers once a week lately. It all started with these gorgeous gold ranunculus back in January.

ranunculus

They’re from Trader Joe’s.

ranunculus

It’s too bad ranunculus are only available in late winter. They last forever and they would be amazing wedding flowers. And it’s just fun to say “ranunculus”.

I bought a couple more bunches from Trader Joe’s for Daniel and my birthday dinner party. Don’t they look nice next to the snowball cupcakes?

snowballs

And there have even been a few blooms from my little patio garden.

first spring violets

Lately I’ve been getting daffodils, which look terrific in the living room. Waiting on a new bunch to open up so I can take pictures.

Oh, and I promised to show a picture of the apartment the night Daniel proposed. He made a delicious dinner before he met me at the airport with a bunch of red tulips. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to me, our friend Joel was lighting a bunch of tea lights in our apartment. This was the effect when I walked into the house:

a surprise
How could I not say yes?

woo-hoo!

Just checked my grades…and it was my best quarter ever, by far! I’m really happy, because this time last year I was a chemistry major, and I was really not enjoying school, and questioning why I was even majoring in chem. But last spring I changed my major (just slightly) to biochemistry, and this fall I began the core class series for biochem. The classes are so interesting. I was really feeling like I made the right decision in changing my major, because this stuff is really cool. And then today I found out I got a 4.0 in the class!

Anyway, our anniversary was great, and dinner was so good. I felt sick afterwards, I ate so much. Daniel was so impressed by the brussels sprouts that came with his fish that he asked our server where they get them, and it turns out Chez Shea uses Full Circle Farm as well! Now we just have to find out why they haven’t been including them in our box every week.

Our dinner party was fabulous. There were just 6 of us, so it was really small and intimate. Our guests were wonderful, and they brought a couple of bottles of delicious wine, too. We’ve decided we need to entertain more, especially now that we’ve accumulated the dishes, silverware, and glassware to make it easy to have people over.

I’m in Spokane now, at my mom’s house. We just finished baking eight dozen cookies to fill some cookie jars that Mom bought to give to friends. Mom’s cookies are the best — take a standard chocolate chip oatmeal cookie recipe, replace half the oatmeal with coconut, and add butterscotch chips. They taste great.

Anyway, Daniel and I are about to head out to Old Navy to pick up some gifts (and maybe some $40 cashmere for myself…)

strawberry shortcake

A few weekends ago Daniel and I hosted a very small dinner party with a few friends. He was in charge of dinner, and I got to make the dessert. We popped over to the U-district farmer’s market and grabbed a flat of strawberries, and then went to Target for a hand mixer (Daniel burnt out the motor on our last mixer making masa for tamales). The recipe for the “hot milk spongecake” (shortcake) turned out to be delicious, so I’m going to share it with you:

Hot-milk Spongecake
recipe (with some of my own comments) from “American Desserts” by Wayne Harley Brachman

1 1/2 cups cake flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup milk
3 tbsp. butter
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1 1/4 cups sugar

1). Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease two 9″ cake pans
2). Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt
3). In a saucepan, scald the milk and butter by cooking over medium heat until the mixture just barely begins to boil. Remove from heat and add the vanilla.
4). Beat the eggs and sugar until fluffy, then drizzle in the hot milk mixture, while still beating. Fold in the flour mixture.
5). Pour the batter into the pans and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, or until golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool pans on a rack.
6). Assemble the cake with a layer of shortcake, then a generous portion of sliced, sweetened strawberries, followed by a big dollop of whipped cream (homemade, of course). Repeat with the second layer and top with a few of your prettiest strawberries. We probably used a quart and a half of strawberries for the cake.

Halloween

One of the best things about having our own apartment is being able to entertain. We had some friends up from Salem for a couple of days a few weeks ago, and on Tuesday we threw a Halloween party. (And we just discovered that the University will let students borrow projectors for free for a week, so there will definitely be some movie nights in the near future).

Anyway, I’ve been pleasantly suprised at how impressed our guests have been. Little things seem to impress more than I would have thought — things like making guacamole (so easy! and the avocados were on sale!) and using glasses made of glass for drinks (we’re not camping or at a frat party, are we?) It’s actually kind of hilarious, because I think now our friends are beginning to see us as “the classy ones”, which is equally flattering and sad.

Anyway, I’ve been having a lot of fun playing hostess. I made the chocolate cupcakes with orange frosting that I mentioned earlier, (which were a big hit at the party and at work today) and the guacamole. Daniel made some delicious homemeade caramel apples, and Tatiana made the punch. On Monday night the three of us stayed up late decoarting the apartment — there were tea lights all over the place, and we opted to display our jack o’lanterns indoors as part of the decor, since we’re on the third floor of our building, so no one would have been able to see them from outside anyway. The goal was to get so many tealights burning that we didn’t have to leave any of the house lights on, which worked well. I got some good pictures of the effect.

I didn’t actually decide what I was going to dress up as until the day of the party. I went to the U-district Red Light on my way home from school to pick up a fedora, but I didn’t end up wearing it very much, because the brim wouldn’t stay the way I shaped it and it didn’t really fit. I was originally going for an Ingrid Bergman look, but after I did my hair, I settled on Veronica Lake as my style icon for the night. I was pretty pleased with my hair and makeup, and I love that dress.

death by chocolate

I love El Día de los Muertos. Ever since the day my high school Spanish teacher introduced me to this Oaxacan holiday, I’ve been fascinated by it. What a cool way to look at death! I love all of the little skeleton figurines and sugar skulls, but my favorites are the ones where they’re not just dead, but also have some other occupation–the skeleton priests, the dead mariachi band, the corpse bride and groom…

So I made my first journey to the legendary Home Cake and Decorating Supply last Saturday to pick up some mini cupcake liners, and I came across these amazing Día de los Muertos bride and groom chocolate lollipop molds. Greil, the owner, told me that the her supplier, Mexican Sugar Skull, said that they were discontinuing that particular mold, so of course I just had to pick one up. And aren’t they wonderful? Apparently los novios is a popular Day of the Dead motif.

I’ve been making them in my spare time for the past week to get ready for our Halloween party on Tuesday. The brides are white chocolate and the grooms are semi-sweet, and then they’re getting wrapped in foil and decorated with Sharpies to make them colorful. I also picked up a little acorn-shaped mold for decorating the tops of the cupcakes, which I’ll be making tomorrow.

I love Halloween!

(P.S.: Christmas is next!)

mini cupcakes

Two weekends ago Daniel and I went downtown to grab some Flagship at Beecher’s and a baguette and a giant levain at Le Panier. The weather was gorgeous; we snacked on the bread and cheese in the sun. It was a lot like the delicious picnic that Daniel, Tatiana, and I went on last spring, minus the brie and pears. One of my favorite weekend things to do.

Of course, I also had to go pick out a gorgeous bouquet at the Market for $5 (!)

Naturally, all of that was merely tangential to my original point, which is that I got a mini-muffin pan at Sur la Table, and I wanted to try it out. So last weekend I searched around for some recipes and went to it. Daniel had also bought a sweet new microplane, so I decided I might as well make lemon cupcakes so that we could zest some lemons.

I ended up baking the lemon cupcakes from The Artful Cupcake, the recipe for which I found at geek_kitten’s site. I’m not sure how much I liked the recipe, because the cupcakes seemed a little dry. But maybe that has something to do with the fact that I refrigerated the batter overnight, since a regular batch of cupcake batter makes a TON of mini-cupcakes, and I didn’t have the energy to make 4+ batches after midnight.

For the frosting, I used this buttercream recipe, and I love it! Next weekend I want to make some chocolate cupcakes using a new cake recipe, but keep the buttercream, with orange this time instead of lemon for Halloween. The lemon was nice, but a little spring-y. I think some rich chocolate with a hint of orange will be delicious and a little more seasonal (no pumpkin cupcakes for me though–blech!)

These were a big hit at work, too.

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