Wednesday, July 30, 2014

What I'm Reading Wednesday

Back in December, my book club read the first book in the Cormoran Strike series, The Cuckoo's Calling. After a little hiatus (life can get busy!) we met again on a beautiful patio overlooking the lake and picked our book for the month. 

In this second book of the series, Cormoran is investigating the disappearance of a shifty author in the London area.  I'm hoping the twists and turns start to pick up soon like the first one. I really enjoyed The Cuckoo's Calling and I hope to say the same for this one!

Buy it here

Next on my list to read....

Buy it here

What are you currently reading? Do share!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Our FIRST Iron Chef!

Last night, we got together with a group of friends and participated in our first Iron Chef competition! Prior to the evening, we all suggested secret ingredients and they were tossed into a hat. Then the youngest member of the group (i.e. a 1-year old) picked the ingredient and assigned each couple a "course" to prepare. 

The secret ingredient was.....


Scott and I were responsible for coming up with a main dish using apple as its star player. Our wheels were spinning all weekend. Finally, we decided to make ribs with some sort of apple glaze to drizzle over the top. 

Before tossing the soon to be applely-tasting ribs in the oven, I used Twisted Belly All Purpose Rub to coat the ribs for extra flavor. I may be biased, but Twisted Belly is my favorite rub - the only one I ever use. :) Even Chip is a big fan of the product!

Next, after consulting my fellow chef, my ribs cooked at 300 degrees in a pan of apple cider for about two hours. Oh, I added a few apples on top of the ribs for kicks. After two hours of cooking, I scorched my fingers and flipped the ribs over to cook for another two hours. 

While the ribs were cooking, I prepared the an apple glaze to add an extra apple-punch to the ribs. 

Apple Glaze adapted from Food & Wine Magazine
You'll Need:
  • 2 cups apple cider
  • 1/2 C Apple Jelly
  • 1/2 C Maple Syrup
  • 1/4 C Spicy Brown Mustard
  • 1/2 t All Spice
  • Pinch of Ginger
  • 1 T Corn Starch
Make It!
  • Bring the apple cider to a boil and let it reduce by half. Add the jelly and syrup to the reduced cider. Next, add in the mustard and spices. Add in cornstarch to thicken the glaze. 

Once the glaze was ready, Scott coated the ribs and stuck them back in the oven for a few more minutes. After a while, we turned on the broiler as well. 

To top off the ribs, we diced one apple and sprinkled the apple bits over the ribs as a garnish with the glaze. 

I don't mean to brag - okay, I will brag - but the ribs were amazing. 

We each gave scores for the other dishes in the competition and rated them on Taste, Plating, and Originality. 

The results were tallied... calculated.... recounted.... analyzed... and

WE WON! Not only did we win bragging rights, but we get to take home a pretty stellar traveling trophy with a fork on top! 


Now, it's time to spruce up the trophy and start planning our next Iron Chef dish!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Soaking Up the Last Ray - A Bachelorette Bash!

A few weekends ago, I had the great honor of hosting a bachelorette bash for my best friend and SOON to be Mrs.! And I thought....

Thanks to PrettyPaperParties and her adorable Etsy shop, I was able to get the word out about the par-tay back in April. I highly recommend working with Brooke while party planning. She was great to work with and very flexible when I forgot a thing or two...

After what seemed like an eternity (yes, I'm mildly dramatic...) it was finally bachelorette weekend! Before Abby arrived, I decorated the house with a few bachelorette goodies including this banner:

Using free templates... YES FREE! .... from, I printed the backdrop for the banner and topped it off with letters cut from my Cricut. Notice anything missing? Yes, a few rings and the word the didn't make the trip across town. Oops! I had time to fix it. 

Waiting for Abby when she arrived into town was a little gift bag with a personalized t-shirt from DearAddieWomen's Etsy shop. It was the perfect gift to kick off the weekend! Plus, she shipped the shirt within a few weeks to me - talk about great service!

On Friday evening, we started off the weekend with a Mexican-themed Honeymoon Shower. All of the ladies showered our bride-to-be with honeymoon themed gifts and a rousing game of Bride Scattegories. It was fantastic! Plus we had a piƱata and delicious bikini cookies... 

Another Etsy favorite was Rachel Carl's shop. (Visit her Etsy shop here) I ordered these adorable, and personalized, straws back in April and had been anxiously awaiting their debut! 

The banner looked even cuter with the bride-to-be (and the word the... oops) posing in front of it!


The rest of the weekend was spent soaking up the beautiful Missouri sunshine at the Lake of the Ozarks and a delightful night out on the town. 

A great weekend - one for the memory books to say the least!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Letter to Future Me

Tuck this idea away for the start (and end) of the school year....

 I was inspired to do this project by a teacher at my high school who had her students write letters to themselves in her classroom. Her promise was mail the letters back to each student several years down the road. Imagine the surprise when my friends opened up the letters they had written in high school to themselves! I wanted to create the same type of nostalgic experience for my students... with a slightly shorter time period. 

On one of the first few days of school, I have my brand new 5th graders write letters to their "future selfs". After discussing goals for the school year, I have students write a letter to themselves for the last week of school. Then, once my students leave my doors for the last time (and I've dried my tears), I send their letters to them in the mail. Of course, I always take a peak once more at their writing and admire how much they have grown over the past school year. I'll admit, it's a neat experience for me as a teacher. 

This year, I had several students remind ME about my promise to send the letters in late May. They were not going to let me forget that I had made them a promise on the first day of school!

Calling Mr. Postman!

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