Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Glad Tidings We Bring...

Hi everyone,

I managed to get an electronic copy of our Christmas card! Here it is:

Merry Christmas from all of us (Molly included)! :)

I ordered 40 of these through Walgreens (the design I chose is called "Posh Paper Merry Moods"), and they only came to around $40 with shipping, which is super cheap for Christmas cards. Plus they came with envelopes, and they were matte prints. I did a lot of online searching for cards, and my favorite stationary site I found is Tiny Prints. They're more expensive, but not totally unreasonable, and they have really cute, modern designs. Definitely an option I will keep in mind for the future. Another site I loved is Pear Tree Greetings. Their prices are actually very reasonable - close to Walgreens' - and their designs are beautiful. The only reason I chose Walgreens over them is because I could fit more photos on this card. :)

{Edit: I just discovered the best iPhone app EVER for Christmas photos... I wish I had known about this a couple weeks ago! It's called Red Stamp. The designs are awesome, you can add a photo straight from your phone or even from Instagram or one of your Facebook albums, and you can send the cards via regular mail, email, text message and/or post them onto Facebook and Twitter. SO COOL. I'm making some just for fun to text to people!}

In other (related) news, Mr. G and I are driving down to Nashville on Friday for Christmas! We'll be bringing back some of my stuff (ie: mattress for the guest bedroom) since it's our first opportunity to finally do so. The only downside is that Mr. G has some pretty severe back pain, which doesn't bode well for a long road trip. I may be doing most of the driving. Also good timing - poor Molly has diarrhea. She woke us up at 4 am this morning with an early Christmas gift that took us 30 minutes to clean up. It was lovely. The good news is that all of our actual presents have been purchased and wrapped and are currently sitting under our tree! Can't wait to be back in my childhood home with my family, my husband and my pup around me - I can't imagine anything better. :)

You probably won't hear from me again until after the weekend, so I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas! Wishing you safe travels and many blessings.

<3 Mrs. G

Sunday, December 11, 2011

New Christmas Favorites: DIY Decor & Cake Balls

If you read my previous post, then you're aware that I spent the little free time I had last week making DIY Christmas decorations for our Christmas party on Saturday. See my last post for my inspiration (via Pinterest, of course). Here are my final products:

Styrofoam cone + floral pins + LOTS of ribbon!

Tall vase + fresh cranberries and dill + floating candle

Mason jar + Epsom salt + small candle + twine

Free Christmas printable from this blog that I found on Pinterest

I also made my spinach dip (my favorite go-to party dip), Pillsbury Christmas cookies (so easy...) and, for the first time, cake balls! I've been wanting to make them ever since they started popping up all over the internet. I ate them on Thanksgiving for the first time and they looked easy to make. Since I didn't have enough time to whip up a batch of homemade cupcakes for the party - plus I had yellow cake mix leftover from apple crisp - I thought I would give these a try. They turned out to be pretty simple, but having the sticks to go in them (a la cake pops) would have been better, since toothpicks are too small and flimsy for dipping, and barbecue skewers are too fat and just look ridiculous (yes, I tried them). I know there are a lot of ways to make these, but here's how I did it:

Chocolate Cake Balls

  • Betty Crocker SuperMoist yellow cake mix (I used half a box, which was enough for a 9x9 pan and 18 large cake balls) - see back of box for remaining cake ingredients
  • Vanilla buttercream frosting (from my 200 Cupcakes book - I made half):
    • 10 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
    • 2 cups confectioners' sugar
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • 2 tsp hot water
  • 2 bags semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • Sprinkles to decorate
  • Bake cake according to box directions - in a 9x13 pan for a full box and a 9x9 pan for half a box.
  • Make frosting while allowing cake to cool. I made vanilla buttercream, but I've heard cream cheese is really good, too. If you're short on time, just use a half-tub of store-bought frosting.
  • When cake is cooled, crumble all of it into a large mixing bowl. Add frosting and mix together so that it's mushy.
  • Roll little balls from cake-frosting mixture and place on wax paper or foil.
  • Heat chocolate chips in microwave, mixing every 30 seconds until smooth and creamy. If necessary, add some hot water to make the consistency thinner (I did this).
  • Dip cake balls into chocolate, coat evenly, and place back on paper/foil. Use sticks if you have them. If not, just drop the cake balls in and use a spoon to cover them with chocolate. Toothpicks didn't work for me because of the thickness of the chocolate, but they may work for other toppings.
  • If you want, add sprinkles as you finish coating each cake ball with chocolate.
  • When finished, place them (covered) in the fridge to sit. Serve and enjoy!

If you're a visual learner, here's a helpful video I found on YouTube for making cake balls.

If you have any delicious cake ball/pop recipes, please feel free to comment and share! These might be my newest obsession... :)

Now, time to watch Love Actually and drink some egg nog (another favorite) after a day of Christmas shopping at the Mall of America - yes, we braved it. Good luck with all of your shopping/crafting/baking/traveling this holiday season! Lots of love from snowy Minnesota. ;)

<3 Mrs. G

P.S. Our Christmas cards came in this week! If I can figure out how to upload them on here, I'll show you what they look like. I actually ended up buying them through Walgreens because I could fit a lot of our cute Christmas photos into one card. :)

Monday, December 5, 2011

Have Yourself a Crafty Little Christmas...

As I mentioned in my last post, my focus this week is on DIY Christmas decor. I'm on a bit of a tight schedule, because Mr. G and I are having friends over to our house this Saturday for a Christmas party, so I want my halls to be decked and ready by then. We've already got our tree up - as you may have seen in my last post - as well as our stockings, Christmas lights on the deck, a berry wreath on the door, some holiday-scented candles, and a couple nutcrackers from my vast collection. But that's about it. It was enough to fill up our tiny apartment in Connecticut last year (let's be honest, the tree pretty much filled the apartment), but our townhome requires a little more TLC to look merry and bright. Instead of paying $200 for Christmas decorations from Target, I decided to try making some myself for cheaper (surprised?). Even less surprising, I drew all my inspiration from my favorite website - Pinterest.

Here are my thrifty muses:

Snow Candles using Epsom salt! I added twine around the top. 

Ribbon Tree

Berry Garland Centerpiece

Cranberries in a Mason jar

 As for my progress, I finished the snow candles, I'm halfway done with one of my two ribbon trees (until I ran out of ribbon), and I put together the vase with the berry garland, but the berries were fake and apparently not waterproof... They started melting! The water wasn't even hot! So bizarre. I threw them away and cursed myself for paying $7 for fake, crappy berries. I think I'll get some real berries next and try for the last project pictured.

I'll show you pics of all my projects when I finish them. In the meantime, I'm taking suggestions for snack items for my Christmas party... I was planning on making spinach dip, but I'm open to other ideas. Thankfully I don't have to make a ton of food, because all our guests will bring something to share - wine, snacks, etc. I'm also open to cocktail suggestions. :)

How are you decking your halls this year?

<3 Mrs. G

P.S. If you want to see more DIY projects I have up my sleeve, check out my {next projects} board on Pinterest. :)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Redefining Home: My First Thanksgiving in Minnesota

Hello everyone,

In the spirit of the season, I thought I would take a post to express some gratitude, talk a little about home, and share how I made my first ever Thanksgiving turkey.

Let me begin by saying how thankful I am for my husband. He is still my favorite person in the world, and he knows me better than anyone. Plus, we make an awesome team. He regularly does the dishes and laundry and sometimes even cleans exactly when I need it, but I don't have to tell him. He just knows, and he does it. He also gets up with me every morning at 6 am even though he doesn't need to wake up for another 2 1/2 hours. And he listens to me go on and on about work, sometimes for my entire 40-minute commute home. And yes, sometimes he drives me nuts and occasionally embarrasses me in public, but in our own way, we're perfect for each other, and I wouldn't have it any other way. The longer we're together, the deeper our love grows. Nothing is better than being able to spend every day with your best friend.

Another thing I am thankful for is my wonderful, ever-growing family. Just this past weekend, my brother-in-law got married to a sweet girl who will be a great addition to the family, and my sister-in-law started planning her wedding for next May. I am also super excited to be going home to visit my side of the family over Christmas. I got a little homesick for Nashville on Thanksgiving, and I wasn't able to be there for Christmas last year. It's time to come home.

This brings me to my last point of gratitude - my new home here in Minnesota. "Home" has taken on a new meaning for me since moving away from Nashville last September. I was born there and spent my entire existence in the same house (with the exception of college dorms/apartments) up until my wedding day. I remember how weird it felt that night before - knowing that as soon as I came back from my honeymoon, that room, that bed, and that house would no longer be mine. It would be my parents' home, and even though I would love coming to visit, I would never see it the same way again. Connecticut never felt like home. It was beautiful, and we made some wonderful memories there starting out our marriage, but it was also very lonely. I cried a lot in the beginning, not because I was homesick but because I felt homeless. When we came here to visit in January, I immediately felt what I had been waiting to feel for months in Connecticut - that sense of comfort and belonging. I knew this was where I wanted to live, that this is where my home would really be. Thankfully, God worked it out (in some amazing ways - see my very first post for details), and we were able to move here and finally start a home together. And you know what? I really do love it here (to the shock of my Southern friends and family). I love the snow, the evergreen trees, the outdoor hockey rinks, the corn fields, the Twin Cities, the sports teams (even though most of them suck) and the accents. And I love my little townhouse that I've been decorating with homemade crafts, thrift store finds and IKEA awesomeness. Now that we have our Christmas decorations up, I love it even more. I look forward to buying a nice house someday with Mr. G, but for now, this is perfect. I feel very blessed to call Minnesota my home.

And now for the food! Many thanks to my mother and Mr. G's mother for all the turkey tips. :) I struggled a little at first (my turkey was still frozen on the inside, so my fingers kept going numb trying to find the giblets), but once it was prepared, cooking it was super easy!

Here's my Thanksgiving turkey how-to:

1.  I started by washing and dry patting my turkey, including rinsing out the inside. 

2.  Take out the neck from the top (it's impossible to miss) and the bag of giblets from the bottom. Rinse again. Your turkey should be empty now, like the picture above shows.

3.  Cook for 4 hours at 325 for a 14-lb turkey. See the directions in the package for other sizes. I covered it with foil even though it said not to, because it keeps the turkey from drying out. Keep in mind that if you do this, it usually takes longer to cook than the directions say (mine said 3 - 3 1/2 hours). To make gravy, add a cup of water to the bottom of the roasting pan (again, even though it says not to) and then boil it afterward with flour/corn starch and salt. It's seriously the best gravy I've ever tasted...
4.  To check if the turkey is done, stick a fork in the leg and see what comes out - if the juice is clear, the turkey's done; if the juice is pink, it's not done. Then carve and serve! Here's how mine came out - I would show you the whole turkey, but Mr. G decided to pull all the skin off of it first, so it turned out looking like something from a horror movie. It still tasted amazing, but if you want a more "picturesque" bird, leave the skin on for photos.

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving! Feel free to share any family recipes as well as any Christmas crafts you've made. I have a few planned for the weekend... Inspired by Pinterest, of course. ;)

Also, I would love to hear your comments on what "home" means for you. Here's a blog entry that really resonated with me about celebrating the holidays and creating traditions, no matter where you are or who you're with. It makes me even more fuzzy inside that she has a child with special needs, something that has always been close to my heart.

Happy Holidays!

<3 Mrs. G

Monday, November 21, 2011

Pumpkin Cupcakes

Hi everyone,

As promised, here is my pumpkin cupcake recipe that I found on Pinterest:

Pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese frosting
Salted caramel drizzle

Even the mix looks like fall. :)

All 48 cupcakes!

On my new cake stands - one DIY, one a thrift store find!

I think this might have been my best batch yet, and at 48 it was definitely my largest... I made them because we had 16 people over to our house last week and I was in charge of dessert, plus I had to make extra to bring to work, of course. I had been wanting to make pumpkin cupcakes for quite a while anyway. Molly and I finished off the last two tonight. :) Still delicious!

Are you ready for Thanksgiving? Mr. G and I bought our turkey this week. We're actually having Thanksgiving with his family and his brother's fiance's family since their wedding is on Saturday and her whole family is in town. There will be a ton of people there, but I'm only responsible for green bean casserole. Still, we bought a turkey because Mr. G loves turkey leftovers, so after a big Thanksgiving lunch we'll have a 14 lb. turkey for dinner. Just the two of us... At least his sister and brother-in-law will be staying at our house to help us finish it off. Between Thanksgiving, bachelor/bachelorette parties, the rehearsal and the wedding, this will be a busy week for us... Wish me luck! It will be fun, though.

Happy Thanksgiving! Feel free to share any yummy recipes. :)

<3 Mrs. G

Thursday, November 17, 2011

You know you're a hipster when...

Hey guys!

I'm interrupting my usual programming to give you another random list of things I find humorous. As you may remember from a previous post, I was a hipster for one of my Halloween costumes this year (see photo below). So after taking on the persona of one and then enlightening my boss as to the fascinating subculture he has been missing out on, I've come to realize that I have a slight obsession with hipsters. Maybe it's because they are so defiantly maverick and at the same time hilariously conformist (I swear they all own the same plaid button-down... It's a conspiracy). Or maybe it's because, in spite of their questionable wardrobe and occasional body odor, they have a certain charm to them. Or maybe it's because I keep waiting to see one of them pass out on account of his/her skinny jeans being suffocatingly tight. Regardless, I find them interesting, and I enjoy observing them in their natural habitats. Here's what I've gathered from my observations (these are generalizations, mind you):

You know you're a hipster when...

  1. You live in Portland, Brooklyn (Williamsburg to be exact), San Francisco, East Nashville or Minneapolis.
  2. You know the differences between East Coast and West Coast hipsters.
  3. Your favorite band is Foster the People.
  4. Your favorite movie is either Little Miss Sunshine or (500) Days of Summer.
  5. You wear skinny jeans every single day. Hot... Cold... You even wear them swimming.
  6. You own at least 2 pairs of Toms.
  7. Your go-to shirts are deep v-necks and flannel button-downs. That's it. Nothing else.
  8. You always wear a hat - either a beanie or one of those shapeless, unflattering sock hats. When you're not wearing a hat, you hair is parted Mad Men style if you're a guy, and if you're a girl, you just pretend like you've never heard of a comb.
  9. You wear big retro glasses. Even if you have perfect vision.
  10. You're either ridiculously skinny or have the start of a nice beer gut.
  11. You work at some obscure, off-the-beaten-path coffee shop, dive bar or cafe.
  12. You probably own a bike but may not have cable.
  13. You have a lot of Twitter followers who can appreciate your witticism.
  14. You are currently "occupying" whatever city you live in (see #1 for list) even though you probably still get an allowance from your parents.
  15. You expect to achieve your eventual fame either through your blog, your blossoming music career, your brilliant iPhone app idea, or YouTube.

Feel free to add onto my list. ;)

Next post: back to my usual programming with a pumpkin cupcake recipe!

<3 Mrs. G

P.S. As a disclaimer, I have hipster friends and have even been guilty of a few hipster-like habits myself (for example, that sock hat is mine...), so no hate! I love hipsters; I just think they're hilarious.
P.P.S. I wrote all this on my iPad. Winning!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

For those who love cake...

Hello all,

Hope you've had a nice weekend. I went to another bridal shower today, which was a nice end to my relaxing but productive weekend. An example of my productivity: I finally made my cake stand! I actually bought the materials a few months ago but kept forgetting to make it. One of the things holding me back was that I knew I wanted to paint something on the plate I bought (which is plain white), so that requires more thought and work... But a couple weeks ago I went craft shopping and bought a black paint pen (best invention ever), so that got things going.

Cake Stand Tutorial

As it turns out, cake stands are really easy to make - all you need is a plate, a candlestick and some hot glue! Even better - it's cheap. I bought my plate and candlestick from a thrift store for a total of about $5, and I got my glue gun from the Dollar Store. I decided to paint a monogram on my plate (surprised much?), mostly because it's easier than trying to replicate some intricate design. I recommend it for those who aren't painters or those who want to add something but don't have a ton of time. :) And I highly recommend paint pens!

Here are some photos:

To attach the candlestick to the plate, just run a line of hot glue around the top rim of the candlestick and then flip it over and press it into the middle of your overturned plate. Hold firmly in place until attached and then, after a minute or so, flip the stand over (carefully!) so that the plate can weigh it down. I tried using super glue, but all it did was make the candlestick slide around; it never stuck. I'm no glue expert, but if it doesn't stick, it doesn't work, so I moved on. Hot glue wins yet again.

If you paint your plate, I highly recommend buying a glaze to protect the paint since cake stands are meant to be used. :) I bought Delta air-dry PermEnamel satin glaze (from Michael's). Time will tell if it's a good one or not, but if you buy it I do recommend buying a large brush to use with it because it tends to show brush strokes. It supposedly takes 10 days to dry as well, so definitely paint the glaze after attaching the candlestick to avoid messing it up. Side Note: it also smells really bad.

And now for the next cake topic - Mr. G's birthday banana cake recipe!

Banana Cake Recipe

old man ;)

For those of you who followed my previous blog, you'll remember this recipe from when I made it for Mr. G's birthday last year. However, I have added a couple ingredients, so maybe it's worth posting again. Regardless, it's a delicious cake, so that alone makes it worth the repost. So here goes:

  • 3 ripe, mashed bananas
  • 3 eggs
  • 2/3 cup shortening or softened, melted butter
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk (3 tbsp lemon juice + milk)
  • 2 1/3 cups flour
  • 1 2/3 cups sugar
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp (ish) vanilla extract - I added this and didn't measure... 
  • Preheat oven to 350.
  • Grease 9x13 pan.
  • Mash bananas while oven preheats. 
  • Mix liquid ingredients. 
  • Mix dry ingredients then add to liquid mixture and pour in pan.
  • Bake for 45-50 minutes.
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 4 tbsp milk
  • Pinches of cinnamon - my other addition, and it was a good one!
  • Mix together and frost onto cake when cooled.
  • Enjoy! This is a really good cake. :)
That's all for now. Inspired to eat some cake yet? ;) I just had some cake batter ice cream, so apparently I was... I never said this blog was for dieters.

Have a good week!

<3 Mrs. G

Friday, November 4, 2011

'Til Divorce Do Us Part... Right?

Hi everyone!

I'm writing this post on my new iPad! It's a little challenging and may take a while to write, but I don't really have a choice seeing I'm at Mr. G's hockey game at the moment. And let's be honest, I don't normally have time to blog during the week, so I take advantage of it whenever I can! Mr. G has been wanting one of these for quite a while but finally decided to splurge on one after an unexpected (but well-deserved) bonus. :) God has been blessing us quite a bit lately, particularly in the financial department, which has been a very nice reprieve. We're finally starting to pay off some debt, too. This purchase is probably a little extravagant, but my computer is borderline impossible to use, so this thing has already made my life easier.

In other news, as I'm sure you already know unless you're living under a rock, her majesty Kim Kardashian is divorcing her husband of 72 days, Kris Humphries (a Minnesotan) while their $10 million wedding special is still playing on tv. If you follow me on Facebook and Twitter, then you already know how I feel about all this, which can be summed up in a word: disgusted. I'm not going to vent much on here, but let me just say this: marriage is a commitment, not just a ceremony and a party. At some point the wedding and honeymoon will end, and you're stuck with that person for the rest of your life. And you should be absolutely thrilled beyond belief about it - if not, you have no business getting married. Regardless of Kim's motives for marrying and divorcing Kris (which I still think have to do with $), 72 days is all you can manage?? Seriously? What a waste.

Now for a more positive perspective on marriage, let's switch topics to my brother-in-law's fiance's bridal shower this past weekend. I was responsible for the games, so I came up with a bridal bingo game and a groom trivia game (based on the Newlyweds game). Both involved me getting facts from the betrothed. Did you know there are websites that generate random bingo cards for you using your words? I didn't either, but I used one called It was free, and I totally recommend it for showers and/or classrooms. Check out the cards I made with facts about the bride and the couple:

Bridal Bingo!

Gorgeous (that's my G in the back!)

Pretty legit, right? The groom trivia game was fun because I quizzed the bride with mildly obscure questions about her almost hubby. I've always wanted to play this game because I think I would nail it with Mr. G. After a year and a half of long-distance dating, I think we pretty much covered all the questions there were to ask. The bride did pretty well, but most of the ones she missed were arguable. He didn't make it super easy on her. :) But it was a fun shower, and it concluded with some delicious leaf-shaped pound cake. Very cute.

I'll report on my crafts and recipes soon! Promise! In the meantime, here are some pics from our Halloween:

squirrel + mouse

waiting for trick or treaters!

sleepy squirrel

Hope you all had a fun Halloween! FYI - I got second place in the office costume contest with my hipster costume (not pictured) AND I hijacked Molly's squirrel costume at one point as well... It was amazing.

Happy Friday!

<3 Mrs. G

P.S. can you believe I typed all this on my iPad??
P.P.S. Mr. G's team lost. :( But he scored his first goal! :)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Mossy Monogram Tutorial + Fall Festivities

Hi everyone!

Hope you enjoyed your weekend! I had a good one - Mr. G and I went to a corn maze with his sister and her fiance and we all carved pumpkins afterward. :) Unfortunately, much like the glue gun incident, pumpkin carving proved to be more dangerous than expected... I ended up carving my finger more than the pumpkin, so I needed help finishing. Whoops. At least the pumpkin turned out well! Here are our masterpieces (guess who made the monogram):

Mine is the G (of course), and Mr. G's is MN Gopher hockey themed. :)

In other news, as an update on our bedroom furniture, we've pretty much decided on a set, but it's actually none of the ones I previously posted haha. As it turns out, Ashley furniture got REALLY bad reviews on quality and customer service, so we eliminated those two options. I wanted to look around some more, so we went to the furniture capitol of the world (Edina, MN) and ended up finding our perfect bedroom set at Crate & Barrel. I fell in love with the canopy bed and the modern design of the pieces. Plus, I like that there are no handles... It means I can add some later if I want without having to take anything off. :) Here's the collection (click the link below to see the rest):

Pavillion Canopy Bed

We also decided to wait a little longer to start buying the furniture since they're more expensive and we have other purchases that take precedence (such as an iPad...). Speaking of which, I upgraded my iPhone to the 4S! We decided to go for it because Mr. G was due an upgrade anyway and we were able to sell my iPhone 4 on Craig's List for more than we paid for it lol. So, we made money and I got a new phone! Not a bad deal... And yes, Siri is awesome. And yes, I got it the day after it came out and I felt pretty cool.

Another purchase we made this weekend was an IKEA picture I've had my eye on since we moved here 6 months ago. It's a HUGE canvas picture that fills a lot of our expansive wall space (thank you, vaulted ceilings), and it was well worth the wait. :) I had a bit of a scare, though, because IKEA took it down from their website this week! I literally saw it on there last weekend, so naturally I freaked out, but thankfully our store still had plenty in stock. Otherwise, I probably would have thrown a fit... Seriously. Here it is (sorry no link):

Please ignore the ugly, off-center light fixture. 

And last but not least, here is my (finally!) finished mossy monogram:

Here's how I did it (get ready for all these steps):
  1. Supplies needed: cardboard letter (I got my big one from Michael's), hot glue gun + LOTS of extra glue sticks, moss sheets (mine took 2-3), craft scissors, and ribbon for hanging (I used burlap ribbon from JoAnn and LOVE it)
  2. Cut out strips of moss and hot glue them to the letter. I recommend cutting strips for the top and then each of the sides. Don't bother with the back unless it will show. Use spare moss chunks to fill in bald spots.
  3. Hang with the ribbon (if using nails, go just below the bow). That's it. You're done! It's not hard, but if you're not skilled with a glue gun (like me) you'll probably burn yourself a lot since moss isn't very thick. So be careful! But all the burns were worth it, because it's definitely my favorite part of my living room now. :) Well, that and my IKEA picture.
Coming soon: lots of recipes! Banana cake, apple pie, apple crisp... Good stuff. :)

I also have more upcoming craft projects... Namely, another pumpkin project (no knives) and a homemade cake stand. So stay tuned!

<3 Mrs. G

Monday, October 10, 2011

Seeking Furniture Help!

Hi everyone,

Mr. G and I have decided to (finally) purchase some new bedroom furniture! Right now we're mainly looking at dressers and chests, but we're also looking at full sets (to complete over time) if we like all the pieces. I'm not dying to have a matchy-matchy bedroom suite, but it would certainly be a lot easier to buy everything from one place, and Lord knows I don't have the time to shop everywhere under the sun. As of today, we have narrowed our options down to four. One is from IKEA (of course), two are from Ashley Furniture, and one is from HOM Furniture. Here are their links:

IKEA - HEMNES Collection (this is just the dresser; the rest of the collection is at the bottom)
Ashley - Diana Collection
Ashley - Shay Collection
HOM - French Quarters Collection 

The IKEA and Ashley suites are matched pretty close in price thanks to good discounts at Ashley, but the HOM suite is quite a bit more expensive, so we would probably only buy one piece at a time. I've seen all the sets in person with the exception of the Diana set by Ashley, and they all seem to be pretty durable (even the IKEA set) plus all the drawers open/close easily. They all seem like great options, but they're fairly different from one another, which is why I'm having a hard time deciding. Mr. G already has his favorite (the HOM set), but I'm not so sure. Here's my pro/con list for each:

French Quarter Collection (HOM):
  • PRO- beautiful and dramatic
  • PRO- best materials
  • PRO- silver knobs
  • PRO- gentleman's cabinet (Mr. G is obsessed, and it comes with a full-length mirror)
  • PRO- 4 poster bed :)
  • CON- no fabric headboard :( (still don't know which I'd rather have)
  • CON- most expensive; will take longest to get everything
  • CON- cherry-brown color (I prefer black or black-brown)
  • CON- slightly old-fashioned
Diana Collection (Ashley):
  • PRO- perfect color - dark espresso finish
  • PRO- unique details on the mirror and the knobs
  • PRO- modern and a little flashy
  • PRO- taller with more drawers
  • CON- shallower than others (16" deep)
  • CON- smaller drawers
  • CON- not a fan of the bed (no leather)
  • CON- maybe too flashy? haven't seen in person
Shay Collection (Ashley):
  • PRO- pure black color
  • PRO- silver knobs
  • PRO- cool detailing on the mirror
  • PRO- sleek and simple; fairly modern
  • CON- funky swirl design on the knobs
  • CON- lacquer paint (chips easily)
  • CON- not crazy about the bed
HEMNES Collection (IKEA):
  • PRO- original favorite
  • PRO- simple, sleek, modern
  • PRO- perfect black-brown color; matches our current IKEA bed
  • PRO- smaller, unattached mirror (especially if you buy the lamps on either side of it in the showroom :) )
  • PRO- best use of space (20" deep)
  • PRO- cheapest option
  • CON- very plain
  • CON- matching black-brown knobs (I prefer silver or something that stands out)
  • CON- lightest weight; not the best materials (it is wood, though)
  • CON- don't care for the bed at all
  • CON- assembly required :/
As you can see, I'm pretty torn. I would LOVE to hear your opinions and advice, so please share!! I'm looking for a set that will last us quite a while (but not necessarily something I'll pass on to my grandchildren) as well as a look that's modern, sleek and comes in a pretty color. I can live with so-so knobs since they can be replaced, mirror size is not of utmost importance to me, and beds/nightstands are neither a deal-sealer nor a deal-breaker at this point.

Now pass along your wisdom! Thanks in advance for the input. :)

<3 Mrs. G

Monday, October 3, 2011

Mexican Shrimp Bisque

Hi everyone,

Hope you've all had a lovely weekend. I had a simple but relaxing one that ended tonight with one of my favorite soups: Mexican shrimp bisque. I made it for the first time last fall but tweaked it a little this time, and I have to say it was better! If you followed my previous blog, you'll recognize this recipe, but note the changes. Also, I've doubled (and occasionally tripled) everything from the original recipe to make enough for 3-4 (which is usually enough for Mr. G and me). This is another great fall soup, but like the southwestern corn chowder, it is a bit spicy.

P.S. This was my third soup this weekend and the second I've made in a couple weeks. I think fall is officially here?

Mexican Shrimp Bisque

  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 3 tbsp chili powder
  • 5 sodium-free chicken bouillon packets/cubes
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander (I recommend buying it ground as opposed to grinding it yourself)
  • 1 pound uncooked medium shrimp, peeled and deveined (I bought them cooked this time, but either way is fine)
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • In a large saucepan, saute onions and garlic in olive oil until tender.
  • Pour in stock pot and stir in flour until blended.
  • Stir in the water, cream, chili powdeer, bouillon, cumin and coriander - bring to a boil.
  • Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Cut shrimp into bite-size pieces and add to soup.
  • Simmer 5 minutes longer or until shrimp turn pink.
  • Gradually pour 1/2 cup hot soup into sour cream; stir and return to pan, stirring constantly.
  • Heat through (do not boil).
  • Enjoy!
I also have to catch you up on a couple other recipes - Mr. G's favorite banana birthday cake (also with a couple tweaks from last year) and my mom's amazing sauteed mushrooms. So stay tuned for those! I also have a nearly complete bucket list ready to share soon.

Unfortunately, I still haven't finished my mossy monogram... I'm finding lately that I just don't have the energy for crafting AND cooking, so I tend to pick the one that keeps us alive. Go figure. I bought the extra glue at least, so my hope is to have the G done by next weekend. In the meantime, I'll continue gathering inspiration on Pinterest. :)

<3 Mrs. G

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Southwestern Corn Chowder & Mossy Monogram Project

Hi everyone!

I finally have a recipe to share! As promised, I cooked a warm fall soup this weekend: southwestern corn chowder. I got the recipe from my Betty Crocker app, and be forewarned - it's pretty spicy. Here's the recipe... FYI: I tripled mine and it was enough for about 4-6.

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion (1 medium)
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 cups chicken broth (I used chicken bouillon cubes, but you can do either)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp ground red pepper (I didn't have cayenne so I just used flakes)
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half cream
  • 1 can (11 oz) Green Giant southwestern style corn (I only found Mexican, which seemed close enough)
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh chives
  • Additional chives for garnish, if desired
  • In 2-quart saucepan, melt butter over medium heat.
  • Add onion and cook 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender.
  • Stir in flour until well blended. Gradually stir in broth.
  • Stir in salt, black pepper and red pepper - heat to boiling.
  • Reduce heat and cook, stirring frequently, until thickened.
  • Stir in half-and-half, corn and chives. Cook until thoroughly heated.
  • Serve hot and enjoy!
This was the perfect fall meal, and Mr. G made a delicious broccoli side to go with it (fresh broccoli + butter + water + chicken bouillon + garlic salt + red pepper flakes). I want to make chili soon, too, as well as some pies and fall-inspired cupcakes. I was also hoping to make hot cider this weekend. I even bought apple cider at the store, but I ran out of time. :( Hopefully I'll get a chance to make it sometime this week or next weekend. Nothing makes me think of fall more than hot apple cider. :) Good news is, I have leftover corn chowder to bring to work tomorrow! Much better than a Lean Cuisine.

In other news, I also finally got started on one of my craft projects! Remember the mossy monogram I mentioned way back in April? (if not, here's the link to my post on it). Well, I bought the supplies for it forever ago, but tonight I finally got to work on it. Maybe the fall weather inspired me? Anyway, I'm actually almost done with it. I would have finished it, but I ran out of hot glue.. Didn't expect to use the whole bag! It's not terribly hard to make, but it is pretty frustrating because the moss keeps falling off and the hot glue gun and I are NOT friends. I burned my pointer finger countless times and then actually gave myself a second degree burn on my knee, of all places... I had my pants rolled up and some glue oozed out of the gun onto my knee as I was replacing the stick. I screamed bloody murder and scared poor Mr. G and Molly. I'll have a nice scab there now, and I might walk a little funny for a couple days because it's on an awkward part of my knee... My coworkers will get a kick out of this injury. Not to mention this was my second burn of the day - my first was this morning with the curling iron. Who knew hair styling and crafting would be so dangerous?! But hey, after icing my knee, I kept on crafting like a champ. ;)

I'll post pics and a tutorial for the moss letter after I finish it. I have two other letters to go after this one, and I'm still deciding whether or not to go through with them... They're smaller at least, and I have a great place to put them. So I probably will. But I may wait a few more months...

Do you have any funny crafting horror stories? If so, please share! I hope I'm not the only one with a glue gun handicap...

<3 Mrs. G

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Chocolate Cupcakes & Fall Bliss

Hi everyone!

Hope you're all having a lovely week. I don't know about elsewhere in the country, but our weather here in the Twin Cities has been AMAZING this week. Fall suddenly came with a vengeance; the temperature hasn't risen above 60 the past couple of days, and I couldn't be happier about it. I'm so excited to break out my boots again. :) Fall is definitely my favorite season - I love the weather, the leaves, the clothes, the holidays, the activities and, of course, the food! In fact, I was thinking about making some fall treats this weekend... namely apple cider and either chili or corn chowder. I would also love to make some pumpkin spice and/or chai cupcakes soon. So many ideas! Let me know if you have any goodies to recommend. :)

For now, though, I have another cupcake recipe as promised! For my mother-in-law's birthday last weekend, I made classic chocolate fudge cupcakes topped with a yummy coffee buttercream. I wasn't crazy about the recipe I used for the cakes - they were a little bland and very dry. The dryness may have been my fault, though, because I stuck them in the fridge without covering them. Nevertheless, the buttercream was delicious. I decided to go with coffee because Mr. G's mom is an avid coffee drinker and it's more fun than plain buttercream. :) I got my recipes from my 200 Cupcakes book. If you have a delicious chocolate cupcake/cake recipe, please share!

Chocolate Fudge Cupcakes


  • 1/2 cup lightly salted butter, softened (I always use unsalted - not sure if that makes a difference)
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup self-rising flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • Line muffin pan with paper cake liners.
  • Put all ingredients in a large bowl and beat for about a minute, until light and creamy (I started with dry ingredients then added wet).
  • Pour mix into pan - fill each cup about 2/3 full.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until risen and just firm to the touch. 
  • Make buttercream while cupcakes are baking.
  • Makes 12 cupcakes.
Coffee Buttercream

  • 1 tsp espresso coffee powder (I just used regular coffee)
  • 2 tsp boiling water (add any more and it's too runny)
  • 7 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 3/4 cups confectioner's sugar
  • chocolate chips for garnish
  • Beat ingredients in a bowl until pale and creamy.
  • Spread or pipe buttercream on cupcakes after they are cooled down.
  • Makes enough for 12 cupcakes.
  • Enjoy!

I have to admit that I almost messed up the buttercream, too... I wasn't thinking and put the whole stick of butter in, then I tried to fix it by adding more of the other ingredients, which was a complete fail. So I ended up throwing it out and starting over. Ha oh well, at least I got it right the second time.

Let me know your fall recipes! I'll post mine if I end up making them this weekend. 

P.S. If you're on Pinterest, you should follow me. :) If you're not, read my post from yesterday to see why you should be!

<3 Mrs. G

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Favorite New Apps

So I'm using the Blogger app for iPhone right now, and it's pretty nifty. About time they came out with one, too! Blogger mobile just wasn't cutting it. The only thing that's missing is the Analytics feature (unless I just overlooked it), which is unfortunate since quite a few businesses use Blogger. I'm sure it will come around before too long, though.

Another app I'm all about right now is Pinterest. I hesitated to get on the Pinterest bandwagon at first because I have enough social media in my life and I didn't want to overcommit again (case in point: my sad Tumblr). And that may still happen, but as of right now I love it. It's like a combination of Tumblr, StumbleUpon and Flickr - you showcase your interests by "pinning" photos from the web (or "repinning" from other users) and organizing them on boards by topic. It's simple, creative, and actually pretty fun. Best of all - the social component takes very little time. Though it is easy to get sucked into browsing other pins for hours... It's a great outlet for (minimal) artistic expression, it's perfect for gathering inspiration (for weddings, home decor, etc.) and it's a useful tool for companies and bloggers to get exposure in a creative and unique way, provided their audience is women who like pretty photos (I have yet to encounter a male Pinterest user). So far, count me as a fan; time will tell if I remain active or get bored and move on.

Let me know your favorite apps - I'm always looking for new ones (especially if they're free).

Stay tuned this week for a new cupcake recipe. :) Happy hump day!

<3 Mrs. G

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11: Ten Years Later

I couldn't not post on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. It is still such a vivid memory for me, as I'm sure it is for any American who was alive that day. Naturally, I remember where I was - I was sitting in my 8th grade Spanish class. I remember not knowing exactly what the World Trade Center was or why everyone was talking about it. I remember wondering what went so wrong that a plane would hit a building and why none of the teachers were saying anything to us. After the second plane hit, the hallways were abuzz with panicked discussions and suspicions. Everyone assumed now that it was an attack, and there was mention of the Pentagon and the Capitol. That's when I started getting seriously concerned. I thought of the former nuclear power plants not too far away in Oak Ridge, TN, and couldn't help but think, how far is this going to go? Some kids just wanted to know if school was going to let out early, which it did. As soon as I came home - to an empty house - I turned on CNN and caught up on what I had been missing. In complete shock, I was transfixed for hours. I know I called my parents, but I don't remember what I said. I don't even remember what happened the rest of the evening. For the first time, I realized that my country was not as invulnerable as I had been led to believe, and that was the most disconcerting thing I felt all day.

Now, as I watch and listen to all the tributes to that day, I still can't believe it happened. And what I really can't grasp is that there are children now who have no recollection of this happening outside of their history classes. Even more, that my own children will only view this event as a part of history, not as the real, unbelievable and horrific tragedy that it was to us. It's hard for me to comprehend that I would ever see something like this happen in my lifetime, and I wasn't even there.

The following is an excerpt from a post I wrote for a previous blog about those who leapt from the towers that day:

"As far as uncomfortable topics go, I think suicide probably tops the list. I watched a documentary about a month ago on the suicide "jumpers" of 9/11 who leapt out of the burning towers in desperation and resignation; the video was inspired by an article in Esquire that was based on the controversial photograph of the Falling Man that circulated widely after 9/11. Interestingly enough, the deaths of the jumpers were not documented as suicides or even jumps but as accidental deaths. I remember watching the live media coverage on that day and seeing some of the jumpers leap to their fates (before the media was instructed not to show them anymore). Those images haunt my memory more than anything else I saw that day - more than the limbless people, more than the blood, more than the fire, and more than the final collapse of the tallest towers in the world. I remember how I felt - it was a bizarre mixture of horror, sorrow, and paralyzing helplessness. It's hard enough to comprehend suicide abstractly, but being forced to face it directly - that's something else entirely."

Despite all the tragedy of that day, there was also an unparalleled resolve. When I think of modern-day heroes, I think of the firefighters and policemen of New York who risked their lives many times over to save others, I think of the passengers on United Airlines flight 93 who overtook the hijackers and crashed the plane to prevent another attack, and I think of the individual New Yorkers who came together - despite differences in race, religion and class - to help their fellow citizens.

I can't pretend to know what it feels like to have experienced 9/11 firsthand, and I would never presume to understand the grief that the victims' families have gone through. All I have to offer is my own perspective and memories of that day.

Here are some others:
Chicago Magazine: "9/11 and Social Media" (via @MNPR)
KDWB Remembers 9/11
The Wall Street Journal: "The Public Remembers"

I would love to hear yours. Please feel free to comment with your own memories of 9/11.

May God bless all those involved on that day and every day since.

<3 Mrs. G

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Nashville Trip

Hello all!

Sorry for the delay in posts - I've had a crazy busy week! Mr. G and I got in from Nashville Tuesday night and have been going nonstop since.

We had a great trip, though. As I mentioned in my last post, we stayed at the Opryland Hotel for our Anniversary on Sunday, and we ate at a delicious restaurant in the hotel called Old Hickory Steakhouse. We had escargot (for the first time! Mr. G didn't know they were snails, though...), mashed potatoes, sauteed mushrooms, and of course, steaks (I had filet mignon, Mr. G had New York strip). It was fantastic. After that, we exchanged gifts, sipped champagne (a delicious pink moscato given to us by my parents), and we ate our wedding cake topper. Believe it or not, the cake was actually pretty good. It was slightly dry, but other than that it tasted as fresh as a year-old cake could possibly taste. No freezer burn, either! I was impressed.

Here are some photos from our trip:

at the church where we got married last year
my anniversary flowers from Mr. G :)

my Tiffany earrings from Mr. G

my gift to Mr. G - a Michael Kors watch
wedding cake!

As for the rest of our trip, I got to see my friends (and yes, we went to Las Palmas) as well as my family, and we even made time to play several rounds of dominos, none of which I won...

This weekend, Mr. G and I are going to a wedding and celebrating his mom's birthday. Maybe I'll have another cupcake recipe to share. ;)

Hope everyone had a wonderful Labor Day weekend!

<3 Mrs. G

Monday, August 29, 2011

State Fair & First Anniversary :)

Hello all!

I hope you had a lovely weekend and as happy a Monday as is possible...

I had a very relaxing weekend. Mr. G and I went out to his family's house on Saturday and to a church picnic yesterday, and that about wraps it up. On Thursday, though, we did something Mr. G has been looking forward to for a LONG time - we went to the Minnesota State Fair! Our "Great Minnesota Get-Together" is the third largest fair in the nation and the first in terms of average daily attendance. And the food? Amazing. Here's what Mr. G and I ate (however embarrassing to admit):

Australian Battered Potatoes

Chocolate Covered Bacon

Mini Donuts

Cheese Curds - my favorite :)

Chocolate Malts

Unfortunately I have no new recipes to share with you this week, but I did cook more lemon salmon tonight, and it was delicious!

In other news, Mr. G and I will be traveling down to Nashville this weekend to celebrate our first anniversary. :) We'll be staying at the beautiful Opryland Hotel on our anniversary night and eating dinner at a steakhouse in the hotel. The rest of the time we'll be staying with my parents and hanging out with friends. I can't wait!

Hope you all have a great Labor Day weekend!

<3 Mrs. G


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