Yurtcation 2013. A Photo Dump.

In September Karl, Mira, and I roadtripped out west to Utah to celebrate Karl’s impeding 30th birthday.

Our route out took us west on I70 through Illinois, Missouri, (never-ending) Kansas, Colorado, and finally Utah. The return route took us through Durango, CO and the Colorado mountains, and back to I70.

Our digs varied from a KOA campsite in Limon, CO, to four nights in a yurt in Monticello, UT (think Genghis Kahn goes glamping), to an inn in Ouray, CO that Mira and I are convinced was haunted after a hairy mountain drive in the dark, to my cousin’s house in St. Louis, MO.

We explored Moab one day as hail fell from the desert skies and questioned Utah’s low ABV content law.

We stood under arches, marveled at nature’s ability to balance rocks on top of each other, and scrambled up rocks at Arches National Park.

 

 

We rafted on the Colorado River.

We followed cairns through Canyonlands National Park’s Needles District and off-roaded with Karl’s Subaru Forester, Jake.

We had coffee in an Airstream in Cortez, CO., ate well and hiked in Durango, woke up in the mountains in Ouray, stood on the Continental Divide, and barely made it out of Kansas with our lives.

 


What do we wish we could’ve done? Spend more time in Denver and Colorado in general, camp and explore more in Canyonlands, and visit Zion National Park and Goblin Valley State Park (but we know that Leave No Trace applies to the boulders there, *cough* *cough* Boy Scouts of America).

 

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On Turning 29 and Peanut Butter Pie

So far 29 has taught me…

that cinnamon sticks do not light on fire and therefore cannot double as birthday candles, and also smell not like cinnamon when burning.

sometimes taking care of a sick person can be a blessing in disguise. It’ll lead to lots of cuddle and couch time.

a good birthday present to yourself upon turning 29 is disinfecting the entire house.

birthday parties at this age include some little people who may not even be able to join in on the conversation. This does not make parties any less enjoyable. We may be growing up, but everyone is still game to adjust their grown up schedules so we can all still hang out and be friends like normal.

time goes by so. fast. In the blink of an eye I’m a year away from 30. I remember when 30 sounded so old. Now it feel like NBD, just the next thing that’ll happen in this life.

Perfection is not something that comes on the first time. Well, rarely anyway. Who among us can say their first time having sex was awesome? Bad first date that turned into many more amazing dates? Who doesn’t feel there was some room for improvement in the first real job they took, the way they handled themselves in their first job? Perfection, let’s be honest, 29 years have taught me that it doesn’t exist, thank God. But ecstatically amazing, drool-worthy, break out the happy dance? That does exist. Twenty-nine says it exists if you admit to your mistakes, learn from them, don’t kick yourself, and give it another go.

Perfection did not exist in the first peanut butter pie I made for Michael, and at the tender age of 27 I did not know how to admit that. For the last two years I have heard endlessly about the perfect peanut butter pie from Smokey Bones.

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Birthdays. Chocolate Cake with Raspberry Buttercream.

Let’s be honest for a second. Is that OK? I’ve sat in front of my computer about fifteen times in the last week and a half staring at the big, blank “Edit Post” screen. I’ve typed a bit. I’ve brainstormed a bit. Mostly I’ve just felt anxious as more time passes and my planned birthday cake post goes unpublished. Unwritten, really. Nothing is coming.

I want all this inspiration in the start of the new year. I’m really thankful that my friend Sam got me this really cool journal, 642 Things to Write About, because I want to be inspired, but in small and not overwhelming doses. I want to plan big for 2013, but big plans give rise to anxiety. I did make one successful plan: I signed up for a marathon in November. A mother fucking marathon. Oh shit.

This is the year I turn 29. One more til 30. Instead of resolutions I’m making a 30 before 30 list. Thirty things I’ll do this year. Number 26: Run 26(.2) miles by completing a marathon. Number four: Send flowers to four friends. Number 12: Go to shabbat services 12 times. Number 20: Take pictures of 20 of my favorite things. Do you have any things to add? I need helping filling in the numbers. I’ll post my whole list next week, after the birthday happens.

Birthdays come with cake. Always cake. My favorite part of birthdays. I love making cake for other people.

Happy birthday Marnie

I hate asking other people to make me cake. I always lust after these complicated layered things, covered in frostings, drenched in flavored syrups. And it’s not that I don’t trust my friends to come through, I just feel bad asking for something complicated.

After all, a birthday cake should be filled with a good, joyful energy that you bake into it. Not a stressed out, this will never live up to expectations energy. In reality, I’m a fan of a simple cake, a cake with good flavors, one that I can even make on a weekday, because sometimes that’s when birthday celebrations happen, but that looks and tastes dang fabulous.

One that I am proud to put on my pretty silver cake stand, but that didn’t take hours for me to make, because, after all, we are busy. It’s a fact of life. But that doesn’t mean we don’t want to shower cake on our loved ones on their birthdays. So, simple and lovely cakes for busy people who are looking in every corner for simple inspirations and have birthdays to celebrate!

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A Lemony White Chocolate Birthday Cake

When one of your best friends turns 27, you throw down in the cake department. At least that’s what my friends and I do.

So I started planning for Samantha’s birthday cake weeks in advance. Sam’s birthday is in the beginning of April, right when Spring starts to tease you with a few warm, sunny days. So a cake that says Spring! She doesn’t really like chocolate in an obsessive way, which is OK because in my book this time of year rings in the beginning of fruit-baking season.

So when I saw a white chocolate cake filled with lemon curd, I figured I’d found my cake. I like white chocolate in certain situations, where you don’t want a chocolate flavor perse, but you want a nice, sweet cake. I looooove lemon curd. Have you ever had it? Seriously, it’s worthy of eating all by itself with a spoon. Creamy, tangy, delicious. Balances out the white chocolate perfectly. I was completely inspired by the original cake’s pretty pastel-colored frosting and polka dots, but not so much the fact that it was cream cheese based. Too heavy. So I opted for whipped cream. I felt really good about giving this cake to Sam to celebrate her life.

Also, a note. I’m normally terrible at assembling layer cakes. As in they end up lopsided, the icing melting down the sides, and the layers sliding apart. This cake was supposed to be four layers (bake two layers, slice each in half). The idea of four layers scared the shit out of me. I went with two. I also think the whipped cream as icing really helped. It slathered on easily and I didn’t have to do a lot of smoothing. The pink and yellow really helped the whole thing look nice, too I think. Sam said the yellow dots looked like popcorn. I’ll let you decide!

I did use some layer cake tricks that I’ve picked up on various blogs. I’ll bold them in the directions below. I did do the cake over two days. Actual cake (and curd if you make your own) day one, whipped cream and assemblage day two.

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A 27th birthday

The last six months I dreaded January 20. I dreaded turning 27. It would tip me on the close side of 30. And oh 30. That’s a real grown-up age. Hell no.

But 27 came and went and I feel no different. No older, no wiser. Well scratch that, I feel much older and wiser now than I did even four months ago. (I don’t want to be negative about the past, but there was a heavy weight bearing down on me for the majority of last year and I’ve felt so incredibly light the last few months. I think I’d forgotten what happy for more than a few days in a row felt like.)

So how did I celebrate? I know you are just dyying to know. I had dinner at my parents’ house. My mom made Oma macaroni. We got a birthday cake from Parcha Sweets, a new and wonderful bakery here in Indianapolis.

Last weekend my friends took me out to dinner to celebrate. Jen and Samantha made the most wonderful caramelized pear and ginger cake. Perfect after our fancy-schmancy dinner at R Bistro.

In non-birthday news, little miss Lola is happily bouncing around the house minus her cone…and one eye. Meow!

Almond Cake with Raspberry-Lemon Whipped Cream

Well this is a huge embarrassment. I made this wonderful cake for my wonderful mother’s birthday and I forgot to post it.

And now that summer is over, you may be all sad when you see the beautiful berries piled on top of the cake. But, don’t worry! This cake will be equally tasty minus the berries, add some other kind of fruit on top of the whipped cream, no fruit and just whipped cream, different flavored whipped cream (think vanilla, amaretto…), chocolate frosting or caramel on top…are you starting to understand the wonderfulness of this cake yet?

Birthday Momma and Pappy

OK, so back in August, my mom had a birthday. My mom likes berries, tortes, pies, coffee, things like that. Last year I made her this espresso chiffon cake with fudge frosting. Out of this world. This year I went with almond and David Lebovitz. Does FTW apply here?

So like I said, top this cake with anything really. It can even be sliced into two layers if you want to get fancy. Really the cake is the star. It’s got a rich but not overpowering almond flavor and an incredibly moist (sorry, sorry!!) crumb. Honestly, it’d probably be good all on it’s own. Just hop on past the jump and check out the recipe!

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Chocolate beer cake

I wonder at what point in my life I’ll stop having no money. Will that time ever come? I honestly cannot see an end right now. And the thing is I do not spend excessively. I do not. Lunch out once a week, maybe dinner once a week, groceries from Farm Fresh Delivery once a week, the occasional extra trip to the regular grocery to get baking supplies, gas for my car, the occasional trip to Target to buy toilet paper and soap. That is literally all that is on my credit card statement for the past month. Gas. Food. Target. One J.Crew charge, items which were on sale, and one of which I returned. I bought a cardigan thing in June from Anthropologie, but I wear the thing once a week at least. In fact I’m wearing it today. I feel like all my money goes to bills, rent, and paying for the uber-expensive work that was done on my car last month. I also bought a swimsuit last month, which probably wasn’t completely necessary, but if I do ever come upon a chance to wear a swimsuit, it will not be a two-piece. Not anymore.

Seriously, does anyone have any tips on saving money? Because I am at a complete and nearly tearful loss. (Mom, if you read this, I WILL NOT take your money! Don’t offer :D)

OK, on to happier things. Much happier things. CAKE. CHOCOLATE. BEER. I realize I may have lost your attention as I spilled my money woes, but do I haven it back now?

bro and sis

My little brother turned 24 last Wednesday. Yikes, 24. I remember my 24th. It doesn’t seem that long ago, and in reality it wasn’t. Only three years ago. But it was in this Indianapolis-Adam-Jack and Jill lifetime. Last year when little brother turned 23, I fondly remembered my 23rd, in that faraway Raleigh lifetime. So, Last Monday my mom texted me (yes, she’s an expert texter!) asking to keep Wednesday open for birthday festivities. I, naturally, responded with “OK, want me to bake a cake?” Because 1. I have no money to buy birthday presents and 2. Baking is my middle name. Yes, she said. Problem. My brother is not a big fan of sweets. (OK, this causes more problems than just the birthday cake one, because I can’t feed him things that come out of my kitchen.) But he does love chocolate. He also loves good, dark beer. So when I found a chocolate stout cake on Smitten Kitchen, I knew I’d hit the jackpot.

This cake is rich and flavorful, but not so much that you feel sick after one piece. It’s moist and stays moist through the next day. And it doesn’t require any crazy ingredients.

Recipe after the break!

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