Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Baker's One Bowl Brownies from Scratch

A ways back my friend Nancy from high school was talking about the best brownies - made using the Baker's recipe. I recently happened across it again, and I figured I'd give it a go this weekend. I've never made brownies from scratch. I've always used the box. I will not be using the box any more because these brownies are tops. They're also super easy and require one bowl just like if you were using a brownie mix. MFD is on board. After eating one of these he said, "Steph? Duncan Hines can suck it." Did you hear that Duncan Hines? He's serious.

4 oz bar (or four 1 oz each pieces) Baker's unsweetened chocolate, chopped
3/4 c. (1.5 sticks) butter
2 c. sugar
3 eggs, room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. flour

1 c. chopped nuts, optional, or peanut butter, cream cheese, nutella to swirl through - all optional

FYI, the ingredients in the mix of a box of Duncan Hines chewy fudge brownies before you add anything:
Sugar, Enriched Bleached Wheat Flour (Wheat Flour [Enriched With Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid], Malted Barley Flour), Powdered Sugar (Sugar, Corn Starch), Cocoa Powder Processed With Alkali, Vegetable Oil Shortening (Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil). Contains 2% Or Less Of: Wheat Starch, Dextrose, Salt, Cornstarch, Artificial Flavor, Carrageenan, Leavening (Sodium Bicarbonate).

For not much more work, I might as well go with the straightforward six ingredients that I recognize.

Pre-heat oven to 350°F.

Microwave chocolate and butter in large microwave-safe bowl on high for two minutes or until butter is melted. Stir until chocolate is completely melted.

Stir sugar into chocolate. Mix in eggs and vanilla until well blended. Stir in flour and nuts if using. Spread in greased 13 x 9-inch pan. If you're adding a swirl, now's the time.

Bake 30-35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out with fudgy crumbs. Cool in pan; cut into squares. Makes 24 fudgy brownies. 

Note: When using glass baking dish, bake at 325°F. For cake-like brownies, stir in 1/2 cup milk with eggs; use 1 1/2 cups flour.

Go ahead, lick the bowl. Maybe take a photo of yourself doing it with dirty hair and no makeup while you're at it so you can share it with the world at large. No? Just me?
Try them from scratch. You won't be sorry. Thanks again to Nancy for the recipe!

Brownies from Heaven.
Fudgy chocolate goodness.
Fat Albert nods, sighs.

Tomorrow is October 1. I'll be damned. September's nothing more than a fart in the wind.

Choose Your Own Adventure: Food Theme starts tomorrow. What's your goal? Are you trying new recipes? Trying to eat more or less of something? Bringing your lunch to work? Tasting a new to you food? You choose your goal around the food theme, then share your results the first Thursday in November.

October Wallet Watch starts tomorrow too! Batten down the hatches. 
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Linking up for
Martinis & Bikinis

Monday, September 29, 2014

TWTW - first official one of fall

1. Friday night involved Brother's Pizza, purging bins and baskets, trips to Marburn Curtain and AC Moore, washing window treatments, and some more decor updates (plaque & vases from The Magnolia Market - thanks for the intro Lauren- and Philly neighborhood typography from Paris Photo Shop).
2. Saturday morning errands - car wash, Target, groceries - and some more stuff around the house while Geege stood guard.
3. Weekly food prep: sausage/egg/cheese muffins for breakfasts, veggie noodle soup for lunch, greek yogurt/celery/red peppers for snacks, homemade meatballs and a pot of sauce for dinner with pasta/garlic bread/salad, baked salmon with steamed veggies and sweet potatoes (will make mid-week). Oh, and delicious brownies from scratch. See them here in all their glory tomorrow.
4. Amanda's 35th birthday celebration at Pinsetters in Merchantsville. She was kind enough to share her cake with other September babies - Russell, MFD, and Debbie.
5. Sunday involved hellish yard cleanup beginning at 9:30 a.m. This included shed purging, furniture rearranging, major stick cleanup, slip sliding away in dog poop the dogs dropped like a mine AFTER I cleaned up the rest of the poop, and my favorite: discovery of a spider hotel housing adults and babies and 2987428384 resultant spider bites. I was like a woman possessed with a shovel trying to get them the hell away from me. The dogs were tired like they did the heavy lifting and bending and spider war waging. Then I read magazines, re-hydrated, and itched my bites for an hour before finally heading inside at 2:45.
6. Last minute invite to dinner at my Mom's with some family. It was a nice night to sit outside, share a meal and shoot the shit.

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On Mondays I'm doing a picture linkup called Picture Practice with Kelli at Just Beachy. If you'd like to participate, here are the prompts through December. Share on your blog, or if you don't blog on Twitter or Instagram every Monday with the hashtag #PicturePractice. This is my photo for the prompt what makes me happy. It was hard to choose, because I could make a mile long list of the things that make me happy. So many things, friends. So many things. I hope you can too. So I'll choose one of the things that makes me the happiest, yet is also one of the simplest - relaxing at home with MFD and the dogs. We're going and doing and working and all the things all the time, so I really appreciate time down time I have at home. Preferably in a clean house, because I can't really relax in a dirty one.

Today, my cousin Tyler's birthday. Happy happy! Tomorrrow, baker's one bowl brownies. Today is also National Coffee Day, a day they made up for us who obsess about coffee. Anywho DD is giving out free medium iced or hot dark roast coffees. I got one because free is for me! You should too if you like coffee and free things. Tomorrrow, baker's one bowl brownies.

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Linking up with Kelli for

Linking up with B Loved Boston for Weekending.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

October Wallet Watch - The Rules

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The rules for the October Wallet Watch are that you make your own rules. Hey ohhhh.

Really, you need to watch your wallet. I can't watch it for you. I need to watch my own. This is not a spending freeze unless you want it to be. Otherwise, this is a wallet watch. In the wallet watch, you make the rules - maybe you want to spend $10 less on coffee, $20 less at the grocery store,  pay off $50 more on a bill, save a certain amount for the holidays, or see how little you can spend period. Your watch, your rules.

Whatever goals you set for yourself, be realistic. Make changes to your spending habits for the next month that can work for you so you don't hate me and yourself by Halloween.

Once you set your rules, live by them. Write down any expenditures that aren't in your budget, grab the button and report in on your experience on Wednesday, November 5. Bloggers, link up your posts. Non-bloggers, prepare to share your list of wallet watch victories, failures, and reflections in the comments here or on Facebook or twitter.

In my quest to update my wardrobe from my socks/underwear/bras on up, I have burned quite a hole in reserves. Thus this time around my wallet watch is happening to curb shopping and not go overboard in the wardrobe upgrade. I'm not looking to curb spending on outings/meals/coffee out - all of those have remained at acceptable levels.

My parameters:
1. Wallet watch lasts from October 1 - October 31.
2. Do not purchase any shoes, apparel, or accessories. Exception:  jewelry for Stephen & Aubrey's wedding if I need to (not sure if anything I have will work yet or not) and black combat boots - if I find the perfect pair I need to purchase, I've been on the hunt for an eternity.
3. Just say no to beauty products or makeup unless something runs out and there is not a feasible substitute.
4. Stay within budget for all outings: I have events every Saturday in October and one Sunday.
5. I can use giftcards on whatever I please.
6. I must share how I did honestly on Wednesday, November 5.

Are you joining me? What are your parameters?

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Friday, September 26, 2014

Friday Five: Roles I Play in my Relationship

In keeping with the marriage theme this week since yesterday was our wedding anniversary, today I'm talking about roles I play in my marriage.

1. The Schedule Keeper - If you want to know if we can make it, you should probably just ask me. If you ask MFD,  he'll say I think so and then text or call me immediately to see if we're actually free, already booked, or have planned to not be free (AKA do nothing at home).
1a. The Vacation Planner - This is number one's little sister. Once the destination is picked, I make all of the arrangements and check in with him for opinions on restaurants, excursions, make sure his must dos made the list, etc.

2. The Detail Person - I'm concerned with how things go on a day to day basis and what we're doing/seeing/spending/saving now (which translates into The Bookkeeper). MFD is the big picture guy. That's an important balance to have, we remind each other of things the other one does not consider.

3. The Straight Man - In our comedy duo, MFD is the genial funny man and I'm the one who delivers the sarcastic line. We play well off one another.

4. The Hard Ass - When someone needs to be the heavy (with a company, about service, with someone who's being an asshole) or when someone needs to be told no...that's me. This week's shit list included Comcast and Verizon.

5. The Cook - We're actually both good cooks, but I end up doing most of it for various reasons including scheduling and the fact that I like to plan and prep ahead in regards to meals. I also really enjoy it. MFD typically makes a meal when he's seen it on TV and has a burning desire to make it. In that case he'll go out and do all of his own shopping for it as well.

What roles do you play in your relationship?

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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Thursday Thoughts - anniversary edition

1. Four years ago today, we were doing this. September is also the month we met in 1989 at Neshaminy Junior and the month we started dating in 2002. We've known each other a long time and born witness to the very best and worst of each other. The fourth year of our marriage has seen each of us weather the most individual challenges, which have brought about a lot of change and resulted in a big upswing for us as a couple. I'm grateful for the hard times that have made us stronger, the sense of humor that exists in our home always, and the love. Happy anniversary MFD!
2. Our fourth year of marriage has been full and pretty fun.
Sept - on our anniversary in 2013, Oct - Halloween, Nov - Thanksgiving, Dec - one of the many snow storms, Jan - New Year's Day, Feb - Mexico for the Van Riojas wedding, Mar - heading out, April - in Cape May, May - Memorial Day Covered Bridge Touring, June - Salem for the ShO'connor wedding, July - at Lori & Jacks, Aug - OCNJ, Sept - Lake Michigan
3. One week from today (Oct 2) is the linkup for Choose Your Own Adventure Goal Challenge for September - fitness. Commit to finishing strong! Then link up and let us know how you did next week. Non bloggers, be prepared to share your story in comments/on twitter/FB. Looking ahead, the theme for October is FOOD. Start thinking on your goals within the theme of food!

4. Since I'm a challengeful mofo, I'm also doing an October Wallet Watch. A few people have expressed interest in joining me, get your rules ready! If you're new here, look out for a Saturday post detailing the October Wallet Watch. To read my recap on my last wallet watch, click here.

5. Happy birthday to one of my BFFs, Amanda, who was kind enough to give me some recommendations for yesterday's September Recommendations post.

6. The Kitchenaid Stand Mixer. Let's discuss. This has been on my wish list for over five years and I've never pulled the trigger. It's the last item I could possibly want in the kitchen. What's stopping me? A) Since I've made it so far without it, would I use it enough to justify the price? I cook a lot and bake some. B) I could make room for storage but don't want it on my counter top. C) Is my main desire for one because I can get it in an awesome color? SO...Kitchenaid pros and cons? If you have one, how do you use it?  Help a sister out.
Image via Amazon
7. Are you familiar with The Marshalls Law? I beat it this week! I went back to get the one remaining matching mirror and it was there. I like the pseudo symmetry - it can't be level or the mirror next to the window will look weird, and I didn't want to move the one near the door.
8. Is Vegas on your list? Check out these 10 fascinating Vegas facts from Iva @ Why I'm Cray. You may also want to check out her latest edition of GTFO. She's sharing eight facts that made me shiver. Iva has a way of putting it out there that makes me want more while hiding my eyes sometimes. NUMBER FIVE. I am legitimately dying.

9.Things I loved on the Internet this week: Emma Watson's UN speech on feminism (edited to add: I originally had Emma Stone's...I always confuse them, thanks to Laura for tipping me off to my error), this freaking hilarious dog video, and 10 Things Only Your Childhood Best Friend Understands . I sent this link to my girls immediately, feeling nostalgic and fortunate to still have these friendships.

10. Ecard of the week, marriage edition - truth. My favorite is when MFD calls me at work because he can't find something.
Check out this sweet giveaway I'm taking part in over at Martinis & Bikinis:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Linking up with Kristin for Stuff & Things

Linking up with Rachel at Can't Google Everything for Fall Style Linkup
Fall Style Link Up

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

September Recommendations

Skimmers, recommendations are in bold. Anything underlined is a link you can click on.

This month some of my September babies take the reins to give you recommendations - Debbie, born on September 1, and Amanda, born on September 25. Enjoy!

1. Drink hot water with lemon in the morning to start your day.  I have found this to be very energizing, refreshing and good for you.  It’s recommended by Dr. Oz too.

2. Say hi, smile or compliment people as you walk by.  You never know who you may meet and just saying hi will make their day.  I do it all the time, but I also have no sense of stranger danger!

3. Go out and have a meal by yourself, whether it’s brunch, lunch or dinner.  You never know who you may meet.  I have met three sous chefs, two mayors, their friends and some very interesting people that way.

4. Take the ghost tours in any city you go to visit.  This is a great way to learn about the history of the city and hear some wonderful stories.  I take them everywhere I go and I have to say San Francisco was the most intriguing and fun!

5. Always accessorize with Debbie Rae Designs!!  Accessories can take an outfit from ordinary to extraordinary!!

Bonus recommendation- to all of the vans out there driving too slowly, mini or pedophile, STAY OUT OF THE LEFT LANE on the highway.  You are in my way and shouldn't be there.  Left lane is for passing, right lane is for lollygagging!!!!

Hello all! Amanda Sannelli here. You might be familiar with my husband Frank who has guest blogged a few times. Steph has been friends with Frank since high school. When Steph and I met five years ago we clicked right away so now she's MY friend that I have claimed in any divorce.  I thought long and hard about my recommendations so hopefully you'll enjoy!

1. The Mindy Project: Do yourself a favor and check out this underrated sitcom. For two years, my brother told me to watch it. Thanks to Hulu Plus, I was able to binge watch the first two seasons while pulling all nighters with my newborn, Eva. I think most sitcoms are total crap anymore. I pretty much watch one or two because they just aren't funny. I loved Happy Endings but that got cancelled. Lucky for me my favorite guy from that show joined Mindy last season. There's something relatable about her and the writing is hilarious.She has a lot of great guest appearances too...Seth Rogan, James Franco, Dennis from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia to name a few (sidebar- Always Sunny is the funniest show ever so you might as well put that in your queue as well). Mindy's awesome and I really want to be friends with her.

2. Rockabye Baby! Lullaby renditions of (enter artist here)...: To say Frank is a Pearl Jam fan is an understatement. Don't even get me started.  One of our favorite gifts for Eva was the lullaby renditions of Pearl Jam from his cousin Michelle. It even has a lullaby version of our wedding song on it. Rockabye Baby has pretty much any artist you can think of. If you know anyone having a baby it's a great gift. And it's really not just for babies. I think it's very relaxing and nice back ground music. You'll appreciate the lullaby renditions of your favorite songs, trust me. We also bought the Radiohead one and shockingly the lullaby versions of their songs are far less depressing than the originals. The Beatles, Pink, and the Foo Fighters will be making their way into the rotation this week.

3. Microchipping your pet. Please please please do this. I'm a huge animal lover and can't stand to see posts on FB of people searching for their pets or a pet found and being taken to a shelter because they aren't microchipped. Any vet or shelter clinic can chip your pet for you.The peace of mind is worth the cost of chipping (which is not expensive to begin with).  I never knew anything about microchipping until I adopted my dearly departed Eddie, who came with a chip provided by the shelter. No one expects to lose their pet but shit happens. If the pet is found, any vet or shelter clinic can scan the pet and locate the owner. There are a few stories where pets turn up hundreds of miles away and have chips so they get reunited. Tags are good but they can fall off. They just found a dog from outside of Philadelphia in Oregon due to a microchip. Read the story here

4. Diapers.com.  I came across this webpage pretty much by accident and have used it since Eva came home. If you follow Steph's blog you'll remember Eva was a preemie born back in April. Due to her preemie status she was on lock down for the first two months of coming home and even now I hesitate to take her out and about. I really limit her exposure to stores because I just think most are dirty. Frank works long hours so leaving her with him while I run out is not always an option or convenient. All of these things forced me to become an internet shopper, which I actually have come to love. There's a lot more on diapers.com than diapers, they have pretty much any baby supply and kids stuff too. The bulk diapers are cheap because they always have some promo going on so I get over 200 diapers for about $37 but the best part - free next day delivery on $40 purchases. Diapers at my door step tomorrow for free?? Yes please!

5. Celebrate the shit out of your birthday. Steph has talked about this and I agree a million times. I've always been one to celebrate my birthday. I have never dreaded getting older. Even when people were boo hooing about entering our 30s I thought yes, bring it and planned a weekend away in Baltimore. I've had two people close to my heart die young (18 & 23) so  getting old doesn't bother me. Now I will admit, I am guilty of saying last year, "Wow, 34 just sounds old."  Cut to seven months later...due to sudden complications during my pregnancy I almost went out like Lady Sybil on Downton Abbey and this story almost ended at 34. Suddenly 34 sounded very young. It feels cliché to say things can happen so fast but well...they can. So this birthday I won't be boo hooing that I'm half way to 40 and I certainly won't say, "Wow, 35 sounds old."
1. Read your bills. Both Comcast and Verizon tried to pull shyster-y shit with our bills this month. I spent about 3 hours total getting to the bottom of the bullshit but it was worth it to emerge victorious with credits from Comcast. Verizon, we're at war. I will be showing up at your store every day until you right your wrong. 

2. Make this super simple chicken orzo soup It's really easy, it has spinach, and the tomato paste and broth base is delicious and just a little different. 

3. The Pocketed Waterfall Cardigan from LOFT. I have one in each color (there are only three), it was part of my wardrobe upgrade. You may refer to me as the Cardigan Queen. I wear one most days.
4. Nordstrom. I never used to shop there because I thought it was too expensive/above me style-wise. They actually have good stuff for comparable prices and they run good sales. There is super expensive stuff on there, of course. I just don't buy it.

Thanks to Debbie & Amanda for sharing this month! 
What about you? What do you recommend this month?

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Not Linking up with Kathy for Humpday Confessions but you should.

 Linking up with Shanna for Random Wednesday

Linking up with Liz for Fitness Blondie's Blog Hop:
The Hump Day Blog Hop

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Fall goals

Fall represents a digging in to me: time to pause and take stock, to return to serious pursuits, to prepare for the oncoming winter, to find soul sustenance for the darkness I'll soon see more than the daylight. Since I function best within a routine, I welcome the return to it after the lazy, let it fly, it can wait, set adrift summer. I always relished the return to order and discipline that back to school represented, and that's no different even though I last returned to school as an undergrad in the fall of 1998. I do not relish the lack of daylight, that is truly the dingleberry on the ass of fall and winter for me. So until the clocks turn, I'll be soaking in every available second of daylight that I can. Here are some other things I'll be doing this fall: 

1. Major wardrobe overhaul - both summer and winter - all clothes and shoes, special occasion clothes, everything down to socks. Purge, update, and upgrade. And dry clean the winter coats while I'm at it.

2. Get up 15 minutes earlier three days a week.

3. Stretch every night before bed.

4. Daily dog walk unless it's raining

5. Try new recipes: one new app, main dish, veggie side, Sunday soup, dessert, and pie crust/pie from scratch.

6. Outdoors:
       a) Clear out both sheds and find new storage for cushions
       b) Winterize flower beds
       c) Major cleanup of side yard
       d) Pray for Yard Crashers to materialize as I'm working my ass off and fending off spiders

7. Go see a beach sunrise at the shore.

8. October wallet watch.

9. Vacuum/wash window treatments and clean baseboards.

10. Take my car in for a tune up.

What's on your to do list this fall?

Smooth Operator.
Not sure where that came from...well,
Aside from Sade.

Happy birthday to one of my favorites.
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Monday, September 22, 2014

TWTW - last official weekend of summer

1. Friday night was full of hausfrauing (basement level, both baths, kitchen), setting out fall decor, and making corn dip for Saturday. I nearly broke my face with the vacuum cleaner. Hausfrauing can be dangerous, you guys. MFD vacuumed the main floor and couches because I couldn't face it after the incident.
2. Saturday back on the horse with the injurious vacuum cleaner. I cleaned the top floor including vacuuming the walls and baseboards - hated chores. I also finished two books between Friday and Saturday.
3. Doyle family party at cousin Colleen's. It was great to see everyone even though we were missing a few.
4. A trip to Marshalls where I got nothing I was looking for and a bunch of shit I wasn't looking for, isn't that always the way? The rest of the night we were sacked out on the couch with The Wire and in bed before 11.
5. We slept in on Sunday. When I got up I headed right to Target for some home decor items.
New mirror from Marshalls, new lamp & shade from Target, hanging candle holders from a zillion years ago
6. I also took a lot of pics down off various walls and expanded the gallery wall. I love how pictures are thrown up there with no rhyme or reason. Hell I didn't even straighten them before I took this photo. I mean, life has no rhyme or reason and doesn't exist in straight lines, why should a gallery wall? I changed a few items out on the entertainment center and ordered a few things for other walls as well. Time to freshen up the wall decor a bit, it's been quite a while. More to come when that stuff comes in.

7. Weekly food prep: breakfast is multigrain english muffins with PB; snacks are hard boiled eggs, apples, carrots; lunch is chicken orzo soup; dinners are pasta salad with brie and tomatoes, steamed veggies, baked chicken, chicken/apple/onion sausage
8. Sunday wound down with MFD enjoying an Eagles win (thanks to that I will be enjoying a free DD iced coffee today), more of The Wire, fresh sheets, a nice long shower, some work stuff, and reading some mags.
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On Mondays I'm doing a picture linkup called Picture Practice with Kelli at Just Beachy. If you'd like to participate, here are the prompts through December. Share on your blog, or if you don't blog on Twitter or Instagram every Monday with the hashtag #PicturePractice. This is my photo for the prompt fall. My harbingers of fall are mums, Sweetzels, and Yankee fall candles. They're all in the house.

Tomorrrow, fall goals. Check here to see how I did on my summer goals. Speaking of, happy official last day of summer.

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Linking up with Kelli for

Linking up with B Loved Boston for Weekending.
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