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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

10 Year High School Reunion

Here it is. One of my first official "where has the time gone?" adult moments.


This Saturday is my 10 Year High School Reunion in St. Louis.

Lately, I have been thinking about how much different a 10 year reunion would have been 10 years ago. Not just because I was still IN High School with no reason yet to re-unite, but because back then there was no myspace, facebook, twitter, linkedin, blogger, flickr... you get the idea.

Back in 1999, when you went to your first HS reunion you probably knew the whereabouts and whatnots of your slightly extended circle of friends but would be truly surprised about the rest of the characters that you were about to run into again.

But let's fast forward to 2009, where I am connected to probably 20% of my class of 500+ in one way or another online. Probably the same % that would show up to a reunion because they're type that likes to "stay connected". This means that we may not have spoken to or seen each other face-to-face in years, but I already know what they currently look like, their relationship status and where they work or what they do for a living.

Sheesh! So much for the small-talk to break the ice! I see many conversations on Saturday starting awkwardly with, "Yeah, I saw your daughter's first b-day party photos on facebook, she's a doll!" or "I see from LinkedIn that you just got a new job." While I think that social media is SUCH an interesting phenomenon, I also think that knowing so much about someone that you never really see or talk to will make for an odd encounter when you finally DO see each other again. Does anyone else think this maybe strange?

One cool thing about this online frenzy though is that in honor of our reunion, many classmates have began scanning in old HS photos and adding them to our reunion facebook page. So just for kicks, here's a picture that a friend found of my husband Dave and I at our high school: Homecoming 1997!


Either way, I am really excited to go home this weekend! I know a lot of people say that they would never go back to high school, but I seriously loved my high school years and wouldn't change them for the world. I made many great friends that I still have today and believe it or not there are still friends that I have lost touch with (and have been unable to find online), that I'm sure I will be very happy and surprised to see.

Here's to wondering where the time has gone!

Artery Clogging Coconut Cake

This weekend I tried my hand at baking my first ever, completely from scratch, cake. I took the new KitchenAid mixer out of the box for the first time since receiving it at a wedding shower last year and got to work.


After reading some reviews online, I slightly adapted the Barefoot Contessa's Coconut Cake Recipe as my guide. The link shows her recipe but I changed out a few things that I'll list here. (Warning: With as much butter that is in this recipe, you'd think Ina Gardner took a page from Paula Dean's cookbook!)

Substitutions: I used coconut milk instead of regular milk, more vanilla/less almond extract, cake flour instead of regular flour, adjusted baking time, and toasted the coconut topping instead of using it as is.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pans
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 5 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 3 cups cake flour, plus more for dusting the pans
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 4 ounces sweetened shredded coconut
For the frosting: (this made way too much frosting for my cake, but I guess I could have used some more between the layers.)
  • 1 pound cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon imitation coconut extract
  • 1 pound confectioners' sugar, sifted (I used a bit more to thicken it)
  • 6 ounces sweetened shredded coconut (PLEASE NOTE: I preferred the color and texture of toasted coconut for this part, so I baked it on a baking sheet at 325 degrees for about 12 minutes. Mine was already sweetened, but here are instructions for sweetening and toasting your coconut.)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 2 (9-inch) round cake pans, then line them parchment paper. Grease them again and dust lightly with flour.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium-high speed for 3 to 5 minutes, until light yellow and fluffy. Crack the eggs into a small bowl. With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs 1 at a time, scraping down the bowl once during mixing. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and mix well. The mixture might look curdled; don't be concerned.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the dry ingredients and the milk to the batter in 3 parts, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Mix until just combined. Fold in the 4 ounces of coconut with a rubber spatula.

Pour the batter evenly into the 2 pans and smooth the top with a knife. Bake in the center of the oven for 35-45 minutes (she suggests 45-55 and that is too long!), until the tops are browned and a cake tester comes out clean.

Cool on a baking rack for 30 minutes, then turn the cakes out onto a baking rack to finish cooling.

For the frosting, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the cream cheese, butter, vanilla, almond and coconut extract on low speed. Add the confectioners' sugar and mix until just smooth (don't whip!).

To assemble, place 1 layer on a flat serving plate, top side down, and spread with frosting. Place the second layer on top, top side up, and frost the top and sides.

To decorate the cake, sprinkle the top with toasted coconut and lightly press more coconut onto the sides.


Serve at room temperature.

Enjoy! But with over a pound of butter and a pound of cream cheese, don't enjoy TOO often ;-)
Happy end of your Birthday Week, Dave!

A Day at the Races

On Saturday Dave & I packed a picnic and ventured to Arlington Park for a day of betting on some horse races and soaking in the sun. This was our second celebration of Dave's birthday since we rushed to the Elton John/Billy Joel concert (which was AWESOME!) on the night of his actual day, but we never shared a meal or cake or anything so we just made it a birth-week instead!


The night before, I went to the brand new Whole Foods in Lincoln Park, which is my favorite Whole Foods, or grocery store in general, on earth! There I spent way too much on way too scrumptious picnic food, including really good roast beef, gouda and pretzel rolls for sandwiches, edamame & carrot salad, pasta salad, cheese & crackers, fresh pineapple chunks, deviled eggs, etc., etc.,

Then on Saturday we got to pull out all of those lovely summery wedding gifts that we have yet to use, like out picnic basket, picnic blankets and more, packed up the Volvo and drove to the burbs!

The weather was perfectly gorgeous and my favorite summer beer Leinenkugel's Summer Shandy was on draft, what more could we ask for?

Here are a few photos from the day. Our spread:

Our mini bottle of wine we "snuck in":

And the stars of the day:

This park is GORGEOUS and we WILL be back again. It's only $7 general admission and they allow coolers for food and non-alcoholic drinks. Now that's affordable fun!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Shaken and Stirred

Shaken and stirred, but unfortunately, this post is not about a martini. 


It is about the unfortunate news we were made aware of at work today that has truly shook me. Since it also has a St. Louis connection, and I know many of my readers are in that area, I thought I should share my very small connection to the victims of this tragic event. 

On Sunday, there was a brutal in-home attack in Seattle that left one woman dead and one woman wounded. 

The wounded victim, who was thankfully released from the hospital, is the manager of my company's Seattle office. 

The murder victim is our colleague's partner, and she also happens to be a St. Louis native and a graduate of DuBourg and UMSL. They were planning their wedding/commitment ceremony for September.

News like this can really stir me to the core. It makes me realize how precious life is and how crime, whether hate-related or random, is all so senseless yet can leave you feeling so helpless.  

As our manager reminded us today, 'go home and hug the ones you love and realize what is truly important in life'. I know thoughts and prayers can go a long way, so please keep the victims and their families' in yours.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Happy 29th Birthday Hubby!

Happy 29th Birthday, Dave! I love you more than words can say.



You are my rock... My old rock ;-)

And I'm so excited to have a fun night out with you at the Elton John & Billy Joel Concert @ Wrigley tonight!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Happy 27th Birthday, Jill!


Liss_0558
Originally uploaded by Steph1673
It's great to finally have a sibling live so close to me. I'm happy you moved to Chicago and glad I get to be with you on your birthday. Have a great one :-)

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About Me

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I'm a St. Louis native, but I have been living in Chicago since 2005 and am loving every windy minute of it. I enjoy cooking (more-so eating), home decorating and really anything creative. I'm a supporter of DIY & handmade goods, a fledgling foodie and a connoisseur of kitsch. I spend my days filling online shopping carts, emptying them and repeating the process all over again. Most of all I love spending time with my husband, Dave, our first child, Claire and my dog, Louie.

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