every girl

Him: “So nice to finally meet you.”
Me: “Me? There must be a mistake, I don’t think we know each other.”
Him: “Oh, you’re not Sarah/Chrissy/Anna?”
Me: “No, sorry – My name is Jen.”
Him: “Oops.”

Two minutes later, a 5’5” girl with brown hair and hazel eyes enters and the man approaches Sarah/Chrissy/Anna.  This time, however, the two of them walk off hand-in-hand to order coffee from the barista.  My guess?  It’s their first date, and the guy confused me with the itsy-bitsy photo he’d seen on Sarah/Chrissy/Anna’s online profile.
IMG_8242I’m often told that I resemble so&so’s sister, a co-worker’s friend, or a stranger’s cousin.  All the comments got me wondering: what does the average person look like?  I did a Google search and found a project called Face of Tomorrow that documents what the average person looks like in every country.  The artist hasn’t reached America yet, but I kinda look like a composite of girls from other countries (including Australia):
Screen Shot 2014-07-21 at 9.09.57 PM
All the research on ‘the average person’ made me wonder if people present themselves differently on internet dating profiles.  A little more digging and I learned, “fifty-three percent of American people surveyed said they lied in their online dating profiles.”  And when it comes to photographs, “the more attractive the picture, the more likely it is to be out-of-date.”  Interesting, right?  No wonder people have trouble finding their date in a crowd.photo (72)
That’s all I’ve got for online dating, but I’d love to hear from you: any tales from Match, Tinder or Hinge?  Any stories that make you laugh or cringe?view
My dinner club met last night, and we spent a good 20-minutes talking about how much we enjoy going to the movies.  By the end of the meal, we decided to forgo August dinner and do brunch and a movie.  I started making a list of August releases, and my top picks were Belle and What If.  photo (73)While I was watching trailers, a friend called asked if I wanted to see Boyhood in an hour.  The movie got 99% positive reviews from Rotten Tomatoes, and so we spent the afternoon cozied up in the theater.  Final verdict?  See the film.

Do you go to the movies often?  Is there anything you’d recommend seeing?

love quirks

Internet dating sites match people based on similar characteristics akin to the resume that you might provide to a future employer. But what does that tell you about the nature of a person? About their early morning quirks, their allergy to peanut butter or the way they laugh when you touch their elbow?

We don’t fall in love with someone because they graduated with honors or stand 6 feet tall or “really love going out to eat but could cook you dinner any night of the week.”

We fall in love with someone because they understand the tiny details that make us unique. For better or worse, no two people are alike, but when we find someone with an appreciation for our originality, we’ve found our match.

I fell in love with the multitude of quirks that make Jon unique. From the get-go, he was unlike any guy I’d ever dated – calling at 7am (on a Saturday) to see if could hang out, going to dinner in his sweatpants because ‘dinner should be comfortable,’ and immediately letting me know that I was the girl he wanted (an email after the first date).

Birthdays are a special time to recognize the unique things we love about the people in our lives. I’ve always made a bit of a fuss about birthdays, but, what can I say — I think the people in my life deserve a big fuss.
Jon’s birthday was yesterday, and aside from some gifts, I made him strawberry cheesecake and took him out for a steak dinner. We laughed, we laughed some more, he ate a massive steak (I had the lobster cakes), and then we drove home and hopped into bed, exhausted and happy.

I went to the market armed with recipes for making an actual strawberry cheesecake (Jon’s favorite), but when I saw strawberry cake with cheesecake frosting, well, the deal was done. I opted to make the cake in mason jars so that we could share one after dinner, and then Jon could bring the rest to work for treats after lunch (the gift that keeps on giving):

searching for jingle bells (literally)

Confession: I’m incredibly selfish.  So selfish, in fact, that simply making this confession makes me feel like a weight has been taken off my chest.  Besides, now we have one less secret between us.

My selfish behavior sparkled bright this weekend when Kaitlyn and Sarah suggested that I join them in baking cookies for a cause.  Cookies are my favorite, and the only thing better than giving them to others would be, well, eating the cookie dough.  My point here is that I’ll bake cookies for just about anyone – not because I’m nice, but because I’ll thoroughly enjoy eating so much of the batter.  Do you blame me?

I spent most of Sunday (read 5 hours) baking with my good friend Brittany who, for reference, could be related to Betty Crocker.  The assortment of cookie cutters, sprinklers, and icings in her apartment made me feel like I was visiting the Keebler Elf factory.  We decided to make gingerbread and sugar cookies.

In between frosting and sprinkling and cutting, we ate plenty of cookie dough:
As we baked, Brittany neutralized my selfish tendencies by suggesting we give the cookies to the Salvation Army Bell Ringers.  Sweet girl, right?  I immediately agreed.  The next day we took our finished goods to the Minneapolis Skyway, and we offered cookies to the volunteers that try to make the holidays a little nicer for others:
The number of cookies baked greatly outweighed the number of bell ringers  (okay, okay, probably not if everyone got on a scale, but as an expression) and so we gave the rest of the cookies to people keeping warm in the plaza center:
A wonderful day spent spreading Christmas cheer, all because of this girl:
Spread some sweetness of your own and vote for Kaitlyn & Sarah in Cooking Light’s Bake a Second Batch competition.  Hope y’all bake treats for others and get to eat all the sweet cookie batter 🙂

you got this

It’s a tale as old as time that our greatest strength is also our greatest weakness.  I found that to be particularly true for my rah rah rah projects, where everything I do to make others happy is inspired by something that I would like to happen to me.  

For instance, I’m absolutely terrible about carrying cash — I tend to spend it like wildfire (these green things? get them out of my purse!), and so I avoid carrying it at all costs.  The downside of this is that everytime I pass a vending machine I’m forced to stare longingly at the delicious candies, soda pops and all other types of sugary-goodness.  Sigh.  
To help others with a similar problem, I placed little pouches of $1.25 on the machine with a note that simply said “random acts of happiness” (a gorgeous design by Sarah).  

My hope is that someone with a very large sweet-tooth and a strong aversion to carrying cash passes the machine and realizes that they can finally choose anything they want (yes yes yes.. the most expensive item is $1.25 so I got you!!)
In the spirit of remembering to treat yo’ self, I used some of my extra change to get a Reese’s.  Aww, modern convenience.. watching the peanut-buttery-chocolate-goodness slide out of the machine and into my hands almost made me rethink my decision to avoid cash. 
Maybe I’m responsible enough to carry cash without tossing it in the air like a parade?  Should I try it out? What do you think?  Do you carry cash?

opposites don’t attract

Jon and I didn’t get along the first three times we met.  Well, okay, he liked me just fine (he kept asking me out, after-all), but I went home and told my friends that he was ‘”a business-type who loved sports and never read books.”  I didn’t think we had much in common, and so I gently explained that ‘although you’re a really nice guy, this probably isn’t going to work’ right after our third day.

He likes caramel.  I like chocolate.  He likes movies.  I like books.  He likes sports.  I like theater.  He likes business.  I like art.  He likes planning.  I like spontaneity.  He likes staying home.  I like going out.

We ended up running into each other at a music festival a few (7) months later, and, despite my belief ‘that we were just too different,’ we ended up making jokes and laughing for nearly an hour.  I learned then that we had the same sense of humor.

He called me after the festival and asked me out to dinner.  I agreed, and we spent the entire meal talking about our brothers and sisters.  I learned then that we’re both extremely close to our family.

We spent almost every.single.day together after that dinner, and we began discovering how much we had in common: we were both sincere, motivated, loyal, and easy-going.  I began to realize that surface level descriptors like “business-type who loves sports and never reads books” doesn’t really tell you anything about a person’s core.  Soon enough, I learned that we were identical when it came to important things like values, believes, and, of course, a sense of humor.

Our differences allow us to step outside our comfort zone and try new things — little foray’s into the other person’s world, if you will.   I’ve always enjoyed making homemade chocolates, for example, but since Jon doesn’t like chocolate (IMAGINE THAT) I spent today learning how to make caramels.

My experiment is your gain — these caramels are soft, chewy, and delicious.   Trust me: even a chocolate-lover can appreciate this gooey goodness.  The recipe is below:
Here is the recipe:
-2 cups white sugar
-1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup of water
-2 tbs of white corn syrup
-1 stick of butter
-3/4 cup of heavy whipping cream

Mix sugar, water, and 1/2 stick of butter in a pan and bring to a low boil.  When the mixture is at hard crack (You could use a candy thermometer want wait for the temperate to reach 300 degrees Fahrenheit , or  you can wait use s a glass of water to test the temperature.  If using the glass of water, drop a few drops of the hot caramel into a glass, and if it sticks together you’re good to go).   Take the caramel off the heat and add the other half of the butter and the heavy cream.   Put back on the heat until boil reaches 240 degrees (or when you drop in water it forms a ball that feels soft but still holds together).   Finally, pour batter onto buttered parchment paper and let cool for an hour.   You’re done 🙂

Artwork by the lovely Rhianna Wurman.

under where?

I hate making people jealous of me, and so I almost didn’t post today.  But then I thought about it a little more, and I realized that what I accomplished today is truly ‘blog&brag’ worthy: gluten-free pumpkin muffins with marshmallow&raspberry toppings.  These muffins were delicious the entire way though – from licking-the-bowl-clean to eating all 6 muffins as soon as they popped out of the oven.  I’m not even kidding.

But, if I’m totally honest with myself, I owe about 75% of the recognition to Dating Dish.  She came up with deliciously healthy (I couldn’t have combined those two things on my own) recipe for making strawberry oatmeal muffins, and I just twerked the recipe a bit to make pumpkin muffins with marshmallows and/or raspberries.  Got to roll with the season, right?
Anyway, definitely check out the original recipe by Dating Dish, and when you can’t eat anymore, switch it up and try these delicious bits of pumpkin heaven.  If we’re both eating them, then you can’t really be jealous anymore, can you?
2 1/2 cup   Oats
1/2 cup      Canned Pumpkin
1/2 cup      Nonfat yogurt
2               Eggs
1/2 cup      Stevia or other sweetner
1 1/2 tsp     Baking Powder
1 tbsp        Pumpkin Pie Spice
1/2 tsp      Baking Soda
1/2 cup     Marshmallows
1/2 cup     Raspberries

1.  Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Grease muffin tin pan made for 12 muffins.
2.  Place all of the ingredients (besides marshmallows and raspberries) in a blender until smooth. Pour mixture into muffin tins and then top with marshmallows and raspberries.
3. Bake for 20.
4. Enjoy!!

sorry, im26c4u!

Which came first: the cake or the book?  It’s a hard question to answer because it’s difficult to imagine a world without sweet treats or engaging novels.

My friend Clare and I created a book club called Bookmarks and Napkins to celebrate our mutual love for literacy and lemons.  Okay, not literacy and lemons, eating and reading, but literacy and lemons sounds much more eloquent, doesn’t it?  The basic premise of the club is that we read a book, and then we each make a dish inspired by the novel.
The Cuckoo’s Calling was the novel for October, and since the book takes place in London, I used the map above (a guide to London’s culinary scene) for inspiration.  I googled and yahooed and yelped all the noted hot spots, and at the end of it all, I was just craving something truly American: Apple Pie.

Since I live in Minneapolis, I decided to make pies from “mini-apples.”  All in all, I absolutely failed to follow the rules of book club, but I did manage to make some pretty delicious “mini-apple” pie:
PS: I learned about im26c4u yesterday, and it’s been making me giggle ever since.  Do you have any coded messages that make you smile when you see them?

to rome with love

When was the last time you felt like anything was possible?  Childhood dreams have been on my mind lately, and, more specifically, how the dreams of our childhood shift and change as we grow older.  According to the Washington Post, the top 5 childhood career goals for children are the following:

1. Professional or Olympic athlete
2. Scientist or Pilot (tie for 2nd)
4. Lawyer
5. Astronaut

2. Veterinarian
3. Writer/Journalist/Novelist
4. Singer or Nurse/Doctor (tie for 4th)

How many people accomplish their childhood dreams?  Decide to pursue a goal at a young age, and then, slowly but surely, take steps to make their vision a reality?  Do you think that they are tempted and swayed by other opportunities as they proceed?  Do they feel fulfilled when they accomplish their dreams, or do they reminisce about missed opportunities?

And then, just as interesting and worthy of discussion, are the group of people who, either by choice or circumstance, leave their childhood dreams behind as they grow older.  Perhaps natural talents lead them toward a new dream, or they pursue something else that comes.. well.. easier.  Are these people content with the choices they made, or do they wish they’d pursued their dreams just a little bit longer?

The important thing, I suppose, is not about accomplishing our dreams, but about living a life that we find fulfilling.  With any luck, we are able to channel what impressed us about our childhood dreams (ie: teacher helping others, scientist making great discoveries) into our daily life.  In the end, it’s not about perfectly following the path you planned, but arriving somewhere  you feel content and fulfilled.

As for me, I grew up wanting to be the Ambassador to Italy.  Not a joke.  My eight year-old self told my father that I didn’t want to be the President, but I might like being the President’s helper.  My dad told me that the  Ambassador to Italy ate lots of pizza and helped Italians and Americans become friends.

The case was solved, the issue closed — I would become the Ambassador to Italy (I was also influenced by my dad’s assertion that Shirley Temple was an ambassador).  Until, of course, I realized I would much rather write stories than engage in politics.

Anyway, dear Readers, I was thinking about all this yesterday when I had some sort of divine inspiration for a fall dessert.  I love frozen yogurt enough to become the Ambassador of FroYo, and when I had a near perfect swirl of pumpkin pie and roasted marshmallow, I knew what I had to do :  I invented pumpkin-pie filled chocolate-covered marshmallows.  Can you say that three times fast?

It’s funny how life comes full circle, but I bet the President would make me the  Ambassador to Italy if he tried my marshmallow dessert.  It’s honestly that good.  ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

do you carrot all?

An easy way to find out if your friend ‘carrot alls’ is to ask them to watch your puppy for a weekend.   For some reason, ‘carrot all’ made me think of ‘carrotalls’ – like carrot overalls, and I ended up drawing this picture:

But, dear reader, what we’re here to talk about today is not carrot alls, but thanking people with carrots.  Jon and I are going out of town for my birthday, and I sent my next-door-neighbor a text to see if she would mind puppy sitting for me:

I know, I know, she is the best.  She said presents aren’t necessary, but I disagree 100%.  I figure everyone loves carrot cake, and what could be nicer than carrot cake in a mason jar?  An ‘Eat now or save for later’ sort of thing?  I decided to fancy-it-up a bit and do three layers: caramel,  carrot cake, and homemade cheesecake frosting.

I used a box cake:
Made the cream cheese frosting from scratch:Image
Put caramel bites on the bottom of the jar:
Added the carrot cake:
nd then topped the cake with the homemade cream cheese frosting:ImageImage

Lastly, I gave Kinzie a bath to prepare for her weekend away.  Here is the during and after photo:Image

yolo rolo

Knock knock
Who’s there?
YOLO who?

Laughing? Probably not, but that’s because the joke only works while eating YOLO ROLO cake.  Now, after you make this cake, you can say the joke, and then eat the delicious treat.  YOLO ROLO! Get it?

Okay okay, still maybe not that funny.  I don’t think the Lonely Island rappers meant for me to get comedic with their song, but it makes perfect sense: YOLO, so why not eat chocolate caramel ROLO cake?

The ROLO YOLO cake is easy as 1-2-3: simply prepare the batter for an angel food cake, mix in rolos, and top with chocolate caramel frosting.  Enjoy, and remember: YOLO!