Project Runway: Ep. 2 Faves/Flops

Are you guys as obsessed with season 15 of Project Runway as we are?!

The winning looks for Alice and I were Alex’s dress pant and sheer crop top, Mah-Jing’s dress, and Sarah’s pencil skirt and blouse.  We love how these looks can transition from the work day to a night out:

Top Left: Mah-Jing’s design | Top Right: Sarah’s design | Bottom: Alex’s design

As a bonus fave, we loved Brik’s blazer.  We know the judges were not a fan. We agree, knit pants are not something we go for either, but we would pair that unique blazer with some dark wash skinny jeans or a cigarette dress pant:
blazer.png
Brik’s design
The flops for us were Jenni’s low crotched pants, Dexter’s oversized jacket, and Erin’s dress.  The oversized shapeless styles do not appeal to us. We agree with the judges, a sleeveless version of Erin’s look would have sold us more (we both loved the way her belt accentuates the waist):
Top Left: Jenni’s design | Top Right: Dexter’s design | Bottom: Erin’s design
See you next week, Designers!

Stowe, VT in a Nutshell

It’s hard to put an entire vacation into one post so I thought to myself, “What better way than to let the pictures do the talking?”

I present to you… Stowe, VT: A Photo Journey

The entire trip was fantasically filled with outdoor adventures, great local breweries, and all kinds of foods. Can’t wait to make a return trip next year!

-Alice

Gift Giving in the Office of Student Affairs

The malls are packed, alerts are set for online sales.  You have your lists color coded and organized by store for all your gift giving needs – for friends and family at least.  Holiday gifts for co-workers can get tricky.  How much should you spend? How much do you want to spend? How much can you spend? Where do you draw the line?

We have a lot of co-workers in student affairs.  I stick to my immediate departmental colleagues and our student staff.  I am one of a nine person team so this is a manageable number.  If your immediate department creeps into the double digits it’s okay to minimize the number of people you get a gift for.  If you are not giving something to everyone, keep in mind your immediate supervisor, anyone who directly reports to (student staff counts) and administrative support.    

Food is also a really cost effect way to cover a lot of colleagues.  This year I went with chocolate covered oreos and cake batter cookies with Christmas sprinkles!

Beautiful holiday gift boxes from Homegoods (inexpensive and easy packaging!)

Beautiful holiday gift boxes from Homegoods (inexpensive and easy packaging!)

Cake Batter Cookies and Chocolate Covered Oreos (Festive sprinkles courtesy of Homegoods)

Cake Batter Cookies and Chocolate Covered Oreos
(Festive sprinkles courtesy of Homegoods)

Here are some other really cost effective ideas:

Tea or Coffee from a cutesy speciality store that you coworker might not regularly treat themselves too, a nice a way to spice up the morning routine.  You could also give a one big office gift and add some speciality teas or coffee to your office common space or kitchen. (Too Tea)

Tea or Coffee from a cutesy speciality store that your coworker might not regularly treat themselves too, a nice a way to spice up the morning routine. You could also give a one big office gift and add some speciality teas or coffee to your office common space or kitchen –  One time wrap, many receivers.
(Tea Too)

A small decoration such as an ornament or tiny nick-nack for a seasonal decoration.  These ornaments come in a set of two and can be given individually (H&M)

A small decoration such as an ornament or tiny nick-nack for a shiny seasonal decoration. These ornaments come in a set of two and can be given individually.
(H&M)

Plants! Plants like succulents or cacti that don't die (minimal plant owner responsibility) are fabulous desk additions and can spruce up a messy desk (Grounds of Alexandria)

Plants! Plants like succulents or cacti that don’t die (minimal plant owner responsibility) are fabulous desk additions and can spruce up a messy desk
(Grounds of Alexandria)

Wishing you the happiest of holiday work parties!

Joy

What’s For Dinner?

Pintrest is a fabulous platform for finding new ideas.  I use Pintrest for fashion where you will find boards for everyday work attire, casual Friday outfits, styles appropriate for office parties, and nail polish ideas any career woman can pull off.

Aside from Pinning all my fave fashion finds, I search Pintrest every Sunday before I make my grocery list and look for delicious recipes.  In some cases, Pintrest has given me a false sense of confidence in the kitchen.  Other times it actually works out.  As a rule of thumb, I avoid recipes with ingredients that I have to Google.  If I don’t know what it is, it means one or more of the following: it is probably a really expensive item sold in tiny quantities, it is inexpensive but sold in bulk quantities, I will never use it again, or I will have to venture to Whole Foods or a specialty store for it.

This weekend I got creative with spaghetti squash and oreos.  Don’t worry, not together.  I was on the hunt for a creative baby shower dessert and healthy meals for the week.  


IMG_20150822_182153_704

I love spaghetti squash but one little squash makes sooooo much. So much comes out of one squash that I quickly tire of the entree I made because it will last me for a whole week of lunch AND dinner.  This week I spread one spaghetti squash over three different recipes.  This took a little adjustment of ingredient quantity on my end but fortunately the math was not too difficult for the novice (terrible) cook that I am.  I started by cutting the squash in half, scrapped out the seeds, then baked for an hour on 350.

IMG_20150823_152817_410

See?! Sooooo much squash!

Recipe #1: Spaghetti Squash with Mushrooms Parmesan 

Mushrooms are relatively new veggie for me in the past year.  I really don’t know what to do with mushrooms so I was pumped when I found this recipe.  I went with portabella mushrooms because I can buy those by the pound instead of the giant box of button mushrooms.  Same problem as spaghetti squash, I love button mushrooms but I never seem to see the bottom of the container.  Please don’t let the picture deceive you, it was quite tasty but my display doesn’t compare to the Pintrest visual.  

IMG_20150823_111259_373

Portabella mushroom sauteed in olive oil and garlic

Mushrooms

Recipe #2: Spaghetti and Meatballs

This one is my own “creation,” if you can call spaghetti and meatballs a creation.  Not the most complicated but an all time favorite classic in my house.  Usually the freezer is stocked with homemade meatballs and sauce, but I cooked that a couple of weeks ago.  So forgive the frozen meatballs and jar sauce but it worked for this go around and hopefully my mom whips up another batch of her amazing meatballs and sauce soon.  Definitely not ready to try that on my own.

Mushrooms

Recipe #3: Pizza

I cannot believe it worked and how delicious this came out.  This was a really ambitious recipe for me.  I was a little nervous about breaking out unfamiliar equipment, the food processor has not been my friend in the past.  And anytime I open the bag of flour it looks like a dusting of snow fell on my shirt.  It was a little time consuming so my weeknight pizza craving will have to be put on hold until the weekend, but it was worth the effort.  

IMG_20150823_161854_603

Spaghetti squash pizza dough

IMG_20150823_164807_627

Turkey pepperoni pizza

Recipe #4: Chocolate Covered Oreos

The mother to be has some pretty specific dietary restrictions but I know oreos are one of her approved dessert items.  I wanted to mix things up a bit and a couple bags of melting chocolates and decorative candies later, I ended up with a pretty fancy looking dessert plate.  This was my first attempt at a double boiler so I was really worried about botching it.  Of course I Googled first. The page cautioned several times against getting water in the chocolate.  This was mentioned so many times that I thought the boiling water was going to leap out of the pot and jump into my chocolate and destroy my dessert.  I spilled chocolate all over the kitchen.  It didn’t occur to me to move the cooling rack closer to the stove top.  Otherwise, this was a really successful dessert experience.

Double Boiler

IMG_20150822_185749_664

IMG_20150823_102553_565

Beefing up my cooking skills (haha pun intended) is super necessary because I cannot live off Cheerios, cheese plates, wine, and ice cream.  Please send me any recipes even a newcomer to the kitchen can’t botch.

Talk soon,

Joy

Devil Went to Down to Georgia (and South Carolina too)

Back in 2010 I was very fortunate to take a couple of graduate classes through the Semester at Sea Student Affairs at Sea program.  Semester at Sea is a really different take on study abroad.  Instead of immersion into one country for a semester or summer, you can travel to several different countries, study and attend classes taught by visiting professors from all over the U.S.  While stopped in each port you have the opportunity to tour and travel throughout  the country and participate in service and educational trips. During my summer in the Mediterranean, I met some amazing people. My friend Kerry from college was able to go and took graduate classes through the Teachers at Sea Program. I also became very close  to Two Wisconsinites, Emily and Beth. We ended up traveling a lot and spending time on the ship together.

Emily, Joy, Beth & Kerry in Turkey Semester at Sea Summer 2010 Voyage

Emily, Joy, Beth & Kerry in Turkey Semester at Sea Summer 2010 Voyage

Since our voyage we have been able to keep up with an annual girls trip. We don’t get to see each other as frequently as we would like but the minute we all get together we pick up right where we left off. Our last four trips we visited each other in our respective home states. This year we decided to mix it up and visit a new place we have never been, Kerry suggested Savannah, GA and Charleston, SC #southerncharm.  

Other than a family trip to Disney, I have not ventured too far down the east coast so this was an awesome adventure and I highly recommend a visit to these cities.

Day 1

1:45 PM: Taxi driver immediately asked if we are from the North.  Guess our accents were pretty noticable south of the Mason-Dixon Line.

2:20 PM: Checked in at the Cotton Sail Hotel, we didn’t even ask for an early check in but a room is ready!  Tossed our luggage down, freshened up a bit and headed out to explore. EVERYTHING is walking distance from our hotel.

3:15 PM: The concierge helped us purchase tickets for the hop-on/off Old Savannah Trolley Tour.  We planned to do the trolley tour on day 2 but since it was late in the afternoon we only paid for one day but still got to ride the Trolley that afternoon. Score! #bargain

3:30 PM: Hopped on the trolley and took a full tour of Savannah. Being the super organized (ok fine, geeky) travelers that we are, we made a list of all the stops we wanted to hop off and visit the next day.  This tour company is also super fun because (warning more geeking out) at several stops there are actors dressed as historical figures who jump on the trolley to provide a more historical overview.  #historyisfun #Lifelonglearner    

5:00 PM: Not super southern but we were starving so we grabbed pizza at Vinnie Van Go Go’s Pizza. Delicious. FYI, cash only so go prepared.

780

6:15 PM: Shopped around City Market and walked through some of the smaller parks. Popped into lots of great locally owned shops, something for everyone’s style.  Grabbed an ice cream at Leopold’s.

8:00 PM: Headed back to the hotel to freshen up before hitting the River Street bars. We ended up talking, planning the next day and falling asleep.

Day 2

9:30 AM: Quick breakfast at Goose Feathers Cafe  and ran over to the visitor center to catch the trolley.

10:45 AM: Waited in line at Mrs. Wilks Dining Room. When I say line, I mean we waited two and a half hours.  Well worth it and totally the norm for this restaurant.  It’s all about the experience.  We took turns stepping into the air conditioned shops and chatted with the people waiting near us.  Fortunately, Jones Street is lined with Spanish moss covered trees so the sun wasn’t too bad. It’s family style dining so we ended up sitting with a couple in who went to culinary school. They agreed it was some of the best fried chicken they had during their visit.

796

795

The line starts at the brown pillars up ahead and continues down the sidewalk and around the corner

797

The spread (fried chicken wasn’t even out yet)

799

1:45 PM: Spent the rest of the day sight seeing.

Forsyth Park (Where the opening scene of Forrest Gump takes place)

Forsyth Park (Where the opening scene of Forrest Gump takes place)

The bench from Forrest Gump was actually a prop brought in just for filming and is on display at the Savannah Visitor Center Museum

The bench from Forrest Gump was actually a prop brought in just for filming and is on display at the Savannah Visitor Center Museum

Cathedral of St. John the Baptist

Cathedral of St. John the Baptist

8:00 PM: This time we actually made it to River Street.  It was a beautiful night, we walked along the river, the bars have music playing, shops are open. And, Savannah allows open containers.  Sweet tea vodka and lemonade was my cocktail of choice for this vacation     

825

Day 3

9:00 AM: Gobbled a ham, cheese, and egg crepe at Mable’s Cupcake Emporium.  It was very hard to resist the confections.

10:30 AM: Picked up the rental car and headed up to South Carolina.

790

1:30 PM: Enjoyed touring the beautiful Magnolia Plantation.

827 857

843

856

6:00 PM: Checked in at the Francis Marion Hotel. Again, walking distance from EVERYTHING. So convenient.

7:00 PM: Indulged ourselves with more more mouthwatering southern cuisine at Hominy Grill.

Ribs, fried chicken, corn bread, apple sauce, grits, mac & cheese

Ribs, fried chicken, corn bread, apple sauce, grits, mac & cheese, potatoes

9:00 PM: Obviously following a huge meal we needed cupcakes from Cupcake Down South.  Don’t worry, we each saved a cupcake for the next night and spread the dessert decadence over two days.

861

Day 4

9:00 AM: Started the day shopping on King Street.  This street is a combo of typical mall stores, local shops, and restaurants.  It was early for a Sunday so not much was open quite yet but we came back later for Second Sunday festivities.

11:00 AM: Jumped on a See It All Bus City Tour to get our dose of history. Unfortunately, this one is not hop on/off.  But, in addition to be a totally walkable city, Charleston has a FREE trolley system.

1:45 PM: Checked out the local artisans at Old City Market. We had ice cream and fudge for lunch because that’s what you do on vacation.  Walked along the Battery and throughout the historical streets.

884

881

872

3:30 PM: Mosied back to King Street for Second Sunday festivities.  Second Sunday is a monthly tradition in Charleston.  King street shuts down traffic so pedestrians can roam the street.  We shopped some more, tasted free samples and restaurants put tables and chairs out in the street in front of their restaurants.

5:00 PM: We figured we had enough fried chicken to last us a few years and being a coastal city we wanted to try the local seafood.  Crab cakes at Old Town Grill and Seafood have a unique flavor, very tastey.

6:30 PM: Now, brace yourselves. Several scenes from The Notebook were filmed in Charleston!!!  The Notebook was my first Nicholas Sparks movie and my college roommate and I watched it all the time (Ever After was another one of our favorites.)  Fortunately Kerry and Beth geeked out with me and we found some of the scenes filmed in the city.

The movie theater where Noah and Ally kiss

The movie theater where Noah and Ally kiss

The intersection where Noah and Ally lay down in the street

The intersection where Noah and Ally lay down in the street

Day 5

8:00 AM: Ended our vacation with a hearty breakfast at Kitchen 208 (I pretended to be healthy for a second with the egg whites.)  Then it was off to the airport.       

895

I have to thank Beth and Kerry for being such fun travel mates and I am so glad we can keep up our annual visits.  Unfortunately our fourth musketeer, Emily (who graduated from nursing school this year, congrats!) could not get out work but we are all on board for summer 2016!  Any suggestions?

Talk soon,

Joy   

Late Night Baker

I am incredibly lucky to have found a husband who doubles as a chef. Gear loves to cook and I love to eat which makes for a very harmonious partnership in the kitchen. While I am not allowed to stray too far from my three go-to recipes (that I can cook without disaster) I somehow have a knack for baking.

I have heard that people either fall into one of these categories and am grateful to bring something sweet to the table. Gear is also appreciative of my skills and is more than happy to be my taste tester for new creations like last nights cookie & cream cupcakes with milk chocolate frosting.

I got the hankering to bake something in the evening and perused Pinterest until I happened upon this recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction.

Cookies 'n Cream Milk Chocolate Cupcakes - if you love chocolate, you have to try these. So unbelievably delicious!

Sally’s glorious cupcakes!

I had 80% of the ingredients listed so took a quick trip to the store and bought my remaining items. Gear was pleasantly surprised that I would be whipping up some cupcakes for his work (that is what I do to get them out of the house and away from my mouth) so set up on the couch and watched TV waiting for his role as taste tester.

I gathered my ingredients and gave the recipe a once over to make sure I didn’t miss anything like making sure the butter was set out to reach room temperature.

The loot.

The loot.

Handling the dry ingredients was quick and easy. The wet ingredients went easy enough but my end result didn’t match the description of “… until combined and uniform in texture”.  I am not sure if I whisked a little too hard but my wet mixture was congealed and looked curdled. I combined it into the dry ingredients with fingers crossed and was delighted when it mixed beautifully and the lumps quickly dissolved.

Next I chopped my Oreos ( I splurged on double stuffed) and folded them into the batter.

Fun Fact: Oreos taste just as good in chopped up pieces ;)

Fun Fact: Oreos taste just as good in chopped up pieces 😉

This recipe made the perfect amount of batter for my standard sized muffin tin and after 22 minutes in the oven at 350 degrees I had them cooling on the counter while I got to work on the frosting.

Nom Nom Nom.

Nom Nom Nom.

Making the frosting was a piece of cupcake! I was so excited to get these babies dressed that I didn’t take any prep pictures of my kitchen aid blending the sugar, cocoa, vanilla, and cream but I am sure you can imagine.

No matter the recipe I always find (after the fact) that I have way more frosting than necessary so these cupcakes got the full treatment and were piled high.

Making Sally proud!

Making Sally proud!

I veered a bit from Sally’s cookie crumbles as garnish and decided to plant a full Oreo on top of each cupcake. The word from Gear was very positive and he was sad that he had to share the rest with co-workers. Always a good sign!

While the cupcakes were wonderful the real star for me was the frosting (my new favorite) and has been pinned for future reference.

Maybe I’ll start moonlighting my baking talents… Student Affairs Professional by day, Dough Puncher by night. A girl can dream 🙂

-Alice