Everyday Inspirations

Dog birthday cake
I know, I'm one of *those* dog people. But seriously, how cute is she?
My puppy turns one today. The switch to adult food makes me a little sad, but she is definitely a lot easier to handle than when she was a teeny tiny pup. She is the sweetest, smartest, most playful girl I could ask for. After a day full of cake, tutus, running, playing, treats, a photo shoot, and plenty of love, I think she had a wonderful birthday.

Since it is her first birthday, I thought she deserved a cake of her very own. So I baked up a confection (if you can call it that without sugar) made of two of her favorite human foods to beg for -- bananas and peanut butter. Using just dog-friendly ingredients means it's not very sweet (though entirely edible by humans if you wanted...) but it certainly got Daisy's seal of approval.

{Banana Peanut Butter Dog Cake}

Dog-friendly cake recipe
A partially loved cake.
For the cake:
1 ripe banana, mashed
1/4 cup peanut butter
2 eggs
1/3 cup water
3 tablespoons honey
1 cup oat flour (you can use whole wheat, though many dogs have wheat allergies)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon

For the frosting:
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
3 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

For the cake:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, blend banana, peanut butter, eggs, water and honey until smooth. Add all dry ingredients and mix until a thick batter is made. Grease a small baking dish (I made a mini cake but you could double or triple the recipe for a full size) and bake for 30 minutes or until a fork comes out clean. Let cool.

For the frosting:
Whip cream cheese, honey and vanilla and spread on cooled cake.

Bone appetite!

cherry custard
I bought this big old bag of cherries and my hubby and I simple couldn't eat them all casually eating them. So, lest they go bad, I decided I needed to make a cherry delicious dessert! I just sort of winged it with what we had in the cupboard, but it turned out incredible. Enjoy!

{Cherry Custard Pie}

They are so pretty -- couldn't let them go to waste.
For the crust:

4 graham crackers
1 1/2 tablespoons Nutella
1 teaspoon butter

For the custard:
2 eggs
2/3 cup plain or vanilla yogurt
3 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
a couple cherries from the cherry mixture

For the cherries:
1 cup cherries, pitted and sliced in half
1 2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoon wine

Grind the graham crackers in a food processor or by hand (I used my Magic Bullet). Melt Nutella and butter and mix with graham cracker crumbs. Press into 4 small oven-safe containers (ramekins would be perfect). Reserve a few crumbs to sprinkle on top.

For the custard, beat eggs until fluffy, then mix in the yogurt, sugar, vanilla, lemon juice and cherries until blended. Set aside in the refrigerator.

Mix cherries with sugar and wine and saute in a pan on high until caramelized. 

Put cherries on top of crust and pour custard over the top. Sprinkle extra crumbs on top and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Chill and serve.

Share |
My skating girls, from left to right: Amy, me, Haley and Alyssa
Goodbyes are sometimes bittersweet. I just had to see off my dear friend Haley as she moves off to New York to grasp her dreams. Bitter because, well, she will no longer live half a mile away so sipping wine and doing crafts just won't be quite as easy from 2,000 miles away. Sweet because I am so proud of her for taking a leap and taking a great job she deserves. 

For the last couple years, Haley has been in law school and with her ambitions involving many opportunities out of state (or country), we all knew her leaving was inevitable. So this talented girl graduates and literally missed the call where she was offered the job as she walked across the stage to accept her diploma. If that's not fate telling her to take it, I don't know what is. 

We skated together as teenagers and stayed in touch through college, but I think our friendship really has been enriched in the last couple years since she moved back to Utah. Between her witty, sarcastic sense of humor and her mutual love of learning, cooking, Twitter (@hales5), blogging, crafting, and let's not forget bedazzling, we were destined to be close. We were good friends in high school, but I'm so glad we have had the last few years to really let our friendship steep to the level it is now. 

She truly inspires me with her many talents and her determination to live her passions. While I will miss seeing her all the time (this is the part where I have to take a deep breath to keep from tearing up...again), I'm so truly proud of this amazing woman. And I'm not going to let it feel like goodbye -- between Facebook, Twitter and our new obsession with Words with Friends, I'm hoping it will feel like she is still just down the street. Love you Haley and so happy for you.  
Share |
It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine. Had a good girls' night last night, snuggled with my husband and puppy and enjoyed a fantastic margarita. If it was going to end, at least it would end well. But now it turns out we all survived the rapture (if it was at 6pm local time that is) which is a good thing because while I had a good day, don't think I would have chosen to spend it working. Plus, now I can actually have a date night with my husband and hopefully see Pirates of the Caribbean. So alas not the end of the world as we know it, but I still feel fine. 
Share |

ice rink
It make look icy cold to you, but this is one of the most comforting sights for me.
I've been thinking about skating a lot lately. Why? Because as I get older and older, this hobby, nay, lifestyle I took on at age six seems harder and harder to fit into my life. I am overly busy, yet I still find myself making time for this sport, no matter how inconvenient it is to fit around my schedule. With the way it has completely shaped who I am, I just can't bear to give it up. Even beyond the fact that it lead me to some of the most amazing friends, has given me almost two decades of regular exercise, and has provided me with incredible opportunities, skating has taught me so many life lessons that relate to lots other areas of my life. So here's to the rink -- my home, my gym, my playground, my meeting place, my mentor. 

1. When you fall, get back up and try it again. 

2. Perfection is unrealistic, but is something you should always strive for.  

3. Take competition seriously, but don't let it ruin your day.

4. Set big goals so you have a place to aim.

5. A big, cheeseball smile goes a long way. Fake it until you make it.

6. The best results come when your blades are sharp.

7.  Always warm up and stretch.

8. When you're having an "off" day, sometimes it's best to just walk away and try again tomorrow.

9. Most of your obstacles or inabilities are a mental game. Success or failure -- it's all in your head.

10. There is nothing more rewarding than facing huge challenges, working your tail off and performing your best followed by a big round of applause. 
Share |
Magic Bullet
Dear readers,
It's not often I ask you to do anything for me. Okay, it's pretty much never, but I have a bit of a favor. I entered to win the Magic Bullet Kitchen Magician video contest. Winner gets $10,000 and I would love to at least make it to the top three so I have a chance in the final round in Hollywood. I mean, has it not been my lifelong ambition to be in an infomercial? Seriously, as kids my brother would play the "product inventor" and I be the amazed by how it worked and that is was only three easy payments of $x.99. Apparently playing house or cops and robbers just wasn't enough. 

Anyway, I truly am in love with my Magic Bullet (as I have told you here and here). That being said, I totally wasn't convinced at first because I didn't see how it was different than the blender I already had other than it came with smaller cups -- until I tried my best friend's. 

When I first tried it I was impressed by the fast blending and grinding ability. It blends really smooth in a matter of seconds, I think partially because they are designed to move the liquid up to the top and back around -- something a normal blender can't do without spraying everywhere.

I also love how convenient they are because you blend in the same container you drink from. I thought it would be annoying because you can mostly just make single servings, but I feel that actually makes it more convenient 95% of the time. No taking apart the blender or hand washing it every time I use it. I now only have to rinse the blade right away, then the cup is dishwasher safe. It's really pretty easy to make multiple servings too since you just put pieces into several cups then blend one and a time or use the larger blender top. Because you're blending in the cup you drink from, it's easy to measure quantity so you don't end up with too much smoothie, soup, etc.    

There are so many uses for them, but I use them the most for smoothies (I know, cliche). I make fresh smoothies nearly everyday now as a result (usually one part frozen fruit, one part fresh fruit, protein powder, water and a big handful of spinach) and it's a great way to get in fruits, veggies and nutrients super quick. It's also small, so doesn't take a lot of space in your cupboards and comes at a pretty low price (only one easy payment of $29.99 at Costco last time I checked).  

No, I'm not their saleswoman and this doesn't count for the competition (though it should!). I just wanted to share that I truly love them. 

Anyway, without further ado, here is my recipe submission for Magic Bullet Dog Biscuits. I made peanut butter and oat flour biscuits from scratch for little miss Daisy and she love, love, loves them. I actually had to shut them away in the freezer so she'd stop whining for more. Plus, they are healthy and I control the ingredients, which also means you can sneak in vitamins and such if you want. 

{Magic Bullet Dog Biscuits}

2 cups rolled oats
1 cup unsalted peanuts
3-4 teaspoons oil
2 teaspoons honey
dash of salt
2 eggs
baking powder
water to moisten (as needed)
Dog vitamins/supplements if desired (it's a great way to sneak in the stuff they need)

In a large container, grind oats using the flat blade. In a small container, grind peanuts until large pieces are mixed. Add 1 teaspoon oil (to start), honey and salt, switch to cross blade. Add the rest of the oil and blend until smooth. Transfer peanut butter to the container of oat flour, add eggs, baking powder and a little water as needed. Pulse and shake, then transfer in a bowl. Hand mix, adding any additional water to add moisture. Roll into balls, place on a cookie sheet, and bake 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Your dog will love these! Great for training or to sneak in those extra nutrients.

Share |
To me, Suave was the brand we used when I was little because it was cheap. I stopped using it as soon as I hit junior high because I had already grown out of its lack of coolness. I know, I know, did anyone really know what hair products I used? But somehow when you're 13 your hair products are part of what define you.

The other day I'm at the store and run down the aisle to get some hairspray for my hubby. He uses what I call the cheap brand -- again, Suave, though their standard line. I generally avoid using his because it's just too sticky for my liking, but works great for his man hair. While I'm on that aisle I glance the Suave Professionals. I had seen some commercials for it, but wasn't fully convinced it was going to be any better than the original. I figured it was like most of those "special lines," basically the same product but at a slightly higher price. I was out of hairspray too, but I generally buy a more expensive salon brand so I'm on the fence.

I decide to go for it -- it was just over $2 so it could at least fill in until I got my normal stuff and I figured Nate could use it if I didn't like it. There were two options, lightweight hold or maximum. I went for the first because I don't like it super strong. I'm not much into using a ton of hair product and, in fact, don't use stuff in mine everyday. I don't find that so weird, but some people gasp when I say that. (My hair dresser tells me my hair is almost too healthy though, so I must be doing something right). I use a little hairspray to add volume or to hold a curl, but in my experience, hairspray almost always tends to make my hair even frizzier so I avoid it unless needed. It will look good to start, but the minute I get out into the world, it feels sticky, gets frizzy and/or the curl just falls -- reasons 1, 2 and 3 I rarely curl my hair. It starts looking great, it just doesn't stay looking great for very long. 

So after my first use of Suave Professionals I am thoroughly impressed!* The lightweight hold held my curls and volume for not just one day, but two! Both photos of me on this post are from day two -- over 24 hours after a curling iron had come near my hair and it had been slept on. Only thing I did was add a little extra hairspray on day two and the frizz was gone and squeeze to make the curl bounce right back. Not too shabby! It truly felt lightweight too even though I used plenty to hold those curls. My fingers could run through my hair and it was not a bit sticky to the touch, but actually soft. I don't think I have ever experienced that. I think I just might be sold. The excellent hold, non-sticky feel + it's under $3? Um, yes please. 

I was doing research for this post and I also found on their website you can play "can you tell which is Suave and which is the salon brand?" game. Pretty cheesy, but if you do it, you can win coupons for discounts or free products. I played and won 2 free Suave Professionals products so I will be sure to try a couple more things. I'm interested to try their dry shampoo as I don't wash my hair everyday to keep it healthy.

Anyway, give it a try and see what you think. The best part is it's still so cheap, the barrier to entry is pretty low. :)

*I am not being compensated in any way to write this.


{ash and angie}

When we have conversations about strong, inspirational women, we inevitably talk about our mothers. Both of us have been blessed with beautiful, amazing role models, and we are beyond grateful for the love we have shared with them. Today, we are expressing thanks for these women and passing on some of the most valuable lessons they have taught us over the years.

Happy Mother's Day!
{lessons from ash's mom}

Family is the most important thing in the world.
Pursue your passions. Happiness is what life is all about.

Fall in love with someone who challenges you to be a better person--and return the favor.
Life is a gift. Be humbled and grateful for all your blessings.
Above all else, give and receive love.
{lessons from angie's mom}

When you're making a big decision, make yourself wait for as long as possible before you get it. 

Don't spend money you don't have. 

Always be a good friend and the best representation of you, even to those that don't reciprocate. Karma will be kind.

Working hard is just as important as playing hard. 

Don't do your best to please anyone else but yourself. 
Share |
"All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That's his."  ~Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest

I am definitely like my mother and I'm certainly not pining. I am proud to be a chip off the still young and beautiful block. Can you believe she is only 29? Yep, gave birth to me at four-years-old. ;) 
Share |
fajita recipe
Happy Cinco de Mayo! Today we celebrate...well, what is it we celebrate? Cinco de Mayo, or the fifth of May, is observed primarily in the United States and regionally in Mexico as a celebration of Mexican heritage and pride. For many of the Americans that "observe" it, it's another excuse to eat good food and drink. How many invites did you get for tacos and margaritas for lunch today? It's a much bigger deal here than it is in Mexico. Why do I know this? I always wanted to be Latina. The olive skin, dark eyes, beautiful language and incredible culture of family always drew me in. Plus, let's face it, when people ask your heritage and you say, "yeah you know those countries in Western Europe? My ancestors are from all of them," it's just not that exciting. 

So what's the best way to honor my wanna-be heritage? Fajitas. Now if you think fajitas are Mexican food, you're definitely a gringo. Fajitas are sort of like me, the wanna-be Mexican that is actually American dish. Alright, so after a little research they started in Texas but were made by Mexican vaqueros (cowboys), so I'll give them that. 

Either way, they are delicious and are a family tradition at my house. Since I was a kid, we regularly hosted fajitas parties, inviting plenty of friends to join in for the fun. They are fast and easy to make, a crowd-pleaser, relatively healthy, and inexpensive. Great to whip up for 1 person or 20, I cook fajitas probably nearly once a week and to me, and I never get tired of them. So let me share my ever-changing recipe (I don't really measure so it's always different) that is so ingrained in my brain I have never bothered to write it down. Because I make it so often, I have figured out every time-saving and dirty dish-saving tactic in the book. I will share.

{Homemade Fajitas}

2 medium cuts of meat (chicken, pork or steak)
2 bell peppers 
1/2 red onion
2 cloves garlic
handful of cilantro, chopped
3 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons chili powder
cayenne pepper, to taste
salt, to taste
lime juice
olive oil
toppings as desired (guacamole, sour cream, cheese, salsa, etc)
Slice bell peppers vertically, about 1/2 inch thick. Still have the produce bag? Move on top of that until cooking time. Slice onion in 1/4 inch rings, then cut in half. Put a little olive oil in a saute pan, then toss in onions (don't turn stove on yet, you're just setting them aside). Chop cilantro and set aside with peppers. Chop garlic (if you don't have a press) and set aside. Slice meat in long, thin pieces. Turn heat of stove on high and stir onions until a little juice is let out. Add in meat, salt, lime juice and 2/3 of the spices (be sure to grab the cumin and not curry powder...been there, done that) and saute until meat is cooked. 
Push meat to the sides of the pan in a circle and add the bell peppers and additional salt and spices. Mix together, stirring meat on top of the peppers.
how to cook fajitas
Turn to medium heat and cover for 2-4 minutes or until peppers begin to soften.
To steam tortillas, place on top of the fajita mixture while on low. Salud! 

*Recipe is 2-4 servings depending on size of peppers and meat. If you're cooking for a group, each person will likely eat about 3/4-1 piece of meat and 3/4-1 pepper each. 
how to steam tortillas
Share |