Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Tasty (and fast) Gluten-free Dinner

Tonight I made an amazing dinner: baked salmon with balsamic roasted Brussels sprouts. It was delicious and easy. I cleaned the Brussels sprouts like I did yesterday, then made the same olive oil, salt and pepper mixture, but added a little bit of balsamic (probably a tablespoon). They baked for the same length of time. For the salmon, I sprinkled on some Magic Salmon Seasoning (it's g-free) and baked the filets for about six minutes at 450. Easy and tasty - it really doesn't get much better than that!

Gluten-Free Halloween Candy

I bought the biggest bag of Halloween candy yesterday at Costco.  Of course, I opted for the good stuff - chocolate.  Thank goodness I only had a few kids come over to trick-or-treat (we have beggar's night the day before Halloween in my 'hood), so I have a lot of leftovers.  Then, today, I found a great website ( that shows a listing of g-free Halloween candy.  Below are my favorites (and almost all of them are in my bag of chocolate candy leftovers!).

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Happy Halloween

Tonight was beggar's night in town. Sophie dressed as a bumble bee. She didn't try to eat her costume this year, but she hated the hat (even though it had really nice holes for her ears). It was my first year handing out candy. Next year, I won't buy a giant bag from Costco. I still have about three pounds of candy leftover...since only ten or so kids stopped over. I loved seeing the little kids dressed up in costumes (the lion and Captain America were adorable)! Maybe Sophie will go door-to-door next year...

Fab Finds: Roasted Brussels Sprouts

I love Brussels sprouts. Ever since I can remember, I've obsessed over them. I always wanted them for my birthday dinner growing up. My mom used to have to plate them one by one so my sister and I wouldn't fight over who had more (because we both wanted to have the most). Now, as a mature adult, I still obsess. Today, while at Costco, I thought I'd try out the packaged raw Brussels sprouts. I've only cooked them when purchased frozen, and I always steam them. However, I try to experience new things periodically, so I made the recipe below.

Roasted Brussels sprouts
1 pound of Brussels sprouts
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Mix olive oil, salt and pepper in a quart ziplock bag. Wash produce thoroughly and trim any excess stems from the Brussels sprouts. Cut in half and toss in bag, allowing mixture to cover well. Spread on a baking sheet and bake at 400 for 20 minutes.

Monday, October 29, 2012

I Love Eggs

I love eggs. Growing up, my mom always made big homemade breakfasts...and almost always they involved eggs.

Yesterday, on my way home from visiting Josh, I stopped by Jessica and Craig's farm. Sweet Baby J had a bit of a cold, but was still as happy and smiley as ever! On my way out the door, Jessica offered me some farm-fresh eggs from her chickens. Of course I obliged! Who wouldn't? I can't believe her chickens from my visit earlier this summer are already popping out eggs! I'm feeling very lucky to have these eggs in my possession and look forward to sharing with my mom (when she makes breakfast for me on Wednesday!).

Friday, October 26, 2012

Blast From The Past

This week, while working like crazy to meet a very tight deadline, one of my favorite people stopped over at my photo shoot location - my former high school yearbook teacher and adviser, McR. Of course, I had to take a break (probably my only break this week) and catch up with her. She was back in Des Moines (her former stomping grounds) to visit old friends. It's been years since we last saw one another, and I was really missing her. Though we only met for a few minutes, it was wonderful, quality time. I'm so grateful to have her in my life. She encouraged me to go to college (at the University of Iowa) and to be a Kappa. I got half of that one right!

Anyway, some people come and go, but I'm so glad that McR has been there for me over the past ten years and always seeing the best in me, constantly encouraging me to do more and be better. I hope I can one day be as wonderful as she is.

As I reflect, I can't help but think about how what I do for work is really like yearbook for grow ups. I try to stay on trend. I get to know lots of people and feature a diverse selection in the book. I am obsessed with getting the most beautiful shot possible... Seriously, it's kind of a dream job I I've been training for over the past decade.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Gluten-free Pantry Staples

I love my pantry. I love to keep staples in it, so I'm not running to the grocery store on a regular basis (or even weekly). Even though I follow a pretty strict g-free diet, I still manage to find things that can last for a little bit on my pantry shelves.

I also find solace in having an organized pantry. I organize it like a grocery store - I make departments for all my "like" items. For instance, the top shelf has cereals, chips, popcorn (and the popcorn maker), and coffee goods. The second shelf has canned veggies, soups and broths, snacks (at eye level), root vegetables, rice, quinoa, and dried beans. The next shelf has ingredients for Italian, Asian, and Mexican meals next to sweets (peanut butter, Nutella, dried fruit, and coconut), and then drink mixtures (tea, hot chocolate, emergen-c, etc.). The shelf below that has baking supplies and Sophie's treats. The floor (that you can't really see) is where I store large carrying cases (for my Pyrex and cupcakes), sun tea jar, grilling utensils, wine, and my crock pot.

I have my pantry down to a science. It works for me and I love it being organized (without the hassle of having everything in coordinating containers).

Long Days

Today, I worked from about 8 AM until about 10 PM. It was a long day, and I'm having a hard time winding down. However, Sophie is not. She's ready for bed. I wish, for just one day, I could be Sophie. I think her life is pretty divine. And I'm a really good sleeper, so I think I could manage it...

Sunday, October 21, 2012

I Voted

Tonight, Josh and I filled out our official ballots for the 2012 General Election. Every time I vote, I feel so proud to be an American. I am, however, a little bummed I didn't get one of those "I voted" stickers, but Josh snapped a photo of me with my Secrecy Envelope...which is essentially the same thing! I'm hoping for a real change this next presidential term!

Saturday, October 20, 2012


Today Josh and I went up to Lake Mills for the day. Grandma Bev decided after 19 years of managing the golf course, it was time to retire. I'm so happy for her and was thrilled we could make it up to celebrate with her. With almost all her grandchildren tat the party (including one great-grandchild in the oven), we had to get a group photo.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Fab Finds: Lisa Frank Revival

In grade school, one of my favorite parts of getting ready for a new school year was planning my new year's worth of school supplies.  I'm sure it will come as a shock to everyone that I planned out everything I needed for school (I've talked about my office supplies obsession here and here).  For years, I also kept a detailed list of everything I wore each day including my socks, shoes, jewelry, etc.  I digress... 

A couple days ago, Jaime posted a link on Facebook about the "vintage" Lisa Frank items at Urban Outfitters.  If you're a child of the 80s, you probably had Lisa Frank in your backpack...and loved everything hot pink and purple.  Or, you were a major dork.  There were two groups.  Also, I find it a little bit sad that these are being categorized as vintage items.  Does that make me vintage?  I was pretty shocked when I learned Saved By The Bell and all the shows from TGIF were on Nick at Night.  But I still don't think that makes me vintage...

Lisa Frank Limited Edition Vintage Under The Sea Designer Desk Set
Lisa Frank LImited Edition Vintage Tri-Fold Binder Set
Lisa Frank Limited Edition Vintage Vinyl Zip-Pouch

I'm about 99% sure I had a Trapper Keeper with the three bunny ballerinas on it.  I was that cool.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

There's No Place Like Ames

I love Ames.  I love Iowa State.  I love Kappa at Iowa State.  Ames has a very special place in my heart.  Today, I read that Ames was voted the number two Best College Town in America (read the full article here).  Ithaca College in New York came in first; The University of Iowa in Iowa City came in fourth.  I'm proud to say I'm part of the proud group of Iowa State alumni.  And I'm happy to learn Iowa City isn't as trashy of a town as I once thought (it is still the current #2 party school according to Princeton Review)...until about six months ago...


And here are some fun facts about Ames (taken directly from here):
Population: 89,575
Student concentration: 285.4 (per 1,000 people)
2-bedroom apartment: $740/month

Earning Potential: $35,426

Colleges: Iowa State University
Read more here.

A Good Laugh

So, the Presidential election is coming up in the next few weeks.  I'm actually pretty pumped for it.  This year, rather than fighting the lines at my local polling office, I am filling out an absentee ballot.  It arrived in the mail this week and I can't wait to fill it out.  You probably already know who I'm voting's a guess...his last name rhymes with comney...

Anyway, as my Facebook feed is polluted with political opinions (I'm all about having an opinion on polarizing topics such as religion and politics, however, I feel there is a time and a place to share said opinion...and Facebook probably isn't the most appropriate platform for it), my good friend, Jaime posted this hilarious video.  I want to watch it again.  Ok, I did.  It's hilarious.  I love the part where the little girl is distracted by the sequins on her shirt...reminds me of someone I know...

My Nephew, The Football Star x 2

Tonight was my youngest nephew's last football game of the season (Jeramie's last game was last week).  Justyn is in fifth grade, and gets to play on a combined team of fifth and sixth graders.  Before his game started (nearly an hour later than scheduled), I watched tiny little football players run around (literally...they had no idea what they were doing).  I didn't know such tiny people played football in full uniform, but it was quite entertaining.

Anyway, I'm proud of Justyn for sticking with it all season long (they didn't win a game).  I hope he gets to be on a winning team next year, but if not, I'll still be his super-proud Auntie Rachel!

Also, I feel it's worth noting we posed exactly the same without even discussing it.  We had to rock through this photo quickly so he could get down to serious football business.  Justyn is so adorable. He's also kind of bossy on the field.  It must be genetics...

Friday, October 12, 2012

Fab Finds: Custom Street Sign

My friend, Heidi from My Kids Eat Candy, made a custom street sign (see below) that she hung in her beautiful new home (I'm dying to see it!).  She and her husband listed all the streets they'd lived on, then she put it in an InDesign document, saved as a .jpg, and printed it at Costco for about $70.  I love this idea.  I've lived in a lot of places, but it seems like a lot of fun to write down all the streets.  I also love that Greeley Street, Ash Avenue, and Stanton Avenue are places Heidi and Nate lived during their college career at Iowa State.  I lived on Lynn Avenue for three years; it was one block from Ash Avenue (where Emily and I lived at a fraternity during one summer between sophomore and junior year of college).


Combined, the streets Josh and I have lived on are below.  They include two countries, two air bases, and three states.

Some street on Clark Air Base (mom, I'm going to need help on this one)
State Highway 101
Teak Avenue
Franklin Avenue
Railroad Street
Front Street
Rockford Road
Westown Parkway
Richardson Court
Union Drive
Lynn Avenue
Gray Avenue
Ash Avenue
SW 35th Street
Oakcrest Street

Thursday, October 11, 2012

(G-Free) Comfort Food

The weather has cooled down quickly (last week's cold snap did me in), and now I'm in the mood for soups.  This week, I've made two soups - mixed bean and squash.  Below are beautiful images someone else took (and they also created the recipes).  You should make them.  I'm loving both soups and think you will, too!

Mixed bean and ham shank soup from Bliss (source)
Creamy garlic butternut squash soup from Undressed Skeleton (source)
For my birthday, Kristina made me the best g-free chocolate cookies (and she delivered two platters of them to my desk).  She got the recipe here.  You should make these, too.  They're heavenly.

Flourless fudge chocolate chip cookies from Chocolate and carrots (source)

Home Sweet Home

I love the weekends.  I love staying home.  And I love being at home with Josh and Sophie.  Last weekend, I was thrilled to have Josh home.  He made an amazing dinner on Sunday - grilled Iowa pork chops with grilled acorn squash and steamed peas.  He and I enjoyed our meal; Sophie enjoyed the pork chop bones.

And I love it when Sophie cuddles...especially when she cuddles with Josh (because it doesn't happen all that often).  It just makes my heart smile.

Birthday Cupcakes

After I ran The Color Run on Saturday, I picked up a dozen g-free cupcakes from Creme (remember when I discovered them a couple weeks back?).  The cupcakes were heavenly - from the tantalizing aroma to the creamy frosting, I couldn't choose from the chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter frosting and the red velvet I ate one of each of them...each day...for three days.

The cupcake selection, my mimosa cupcake I tried on Friday, and their g-free section.

Happy birthday to me and Luke!

The Color Run

On Saturday, I participated in The Color Run in Des Moines.  There were two waves of races - one at 1 PM, and another at 4 PM - with a total of approximately 27,000 participants (and 600 volunteers) according to the Des Moines Register.  Gena and Luke drove down from Minneapolis, and Kari drove down from Ames, and we all ran together (well, we walked and talked a lot, too).  We arrived around noon for the 1 PM race, and ended up being in the first wave of the race (there were about 13 waves).  I had a blast.  I would love to do it again.

Check number13 off my 30 before 30 list!  And then Gena found this other fun run, The Glo Run.  I think it sounds super fun to run at night with a glow-in-the-dark shirt and three other pieces of glow swag.  Sign me up!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Cold Snap

The weather last week was beautiful. The high on Wednesday was in the 80s. Then, by Saturday, we had a hard frost. After waking up wondering why my house was so cold (it was a crisp 63 degrees inside), I decided it was time to turn on the heat. I guess this means it'll probably be on until April...which, according to my math, is about six months away.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Happy Day

Yesterday, when I was at a stoplight on my way home from the doctor's office and Walgreen's, I spotted a very wonderful thing:  a sign indicating a Caribou Coffee is opening in Ankeny.  Oh, happy day!  My dreams are finally coming true!  If only the new HyVee would open right by house, I'd be set!  And who knows, maybe the new HyVee will have a Caribou (because there are already three Starbucks locations in Ankeny - we don't need another one).

Having a Caribou within a seven-minute drive from my house is truly a wonderful thing!  I hope they'll carry Joia sodas, too.  That would be even more spectacular! 

On that note, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month (and National Bullying Awareness Month - thanks for the heads up, Ellen), which means my favorite tea is for sale at Caribou - Amy's Blend.  If you haven't had it before, you're missing out.  It's delicious - almost like chai tea without all the crazy calories.  I like to stock up on it since they only carry it in October...which is my birthday month in case anyone needs ideas...for my birthday...which is on Tuesday.

Upon further research, I learned the property located at 909 SE Oralabor Road in Ankeny (thanks to the City of Ankeny September Building Report) was purchased in 2003 by Denny Elwell Co., and they've been sitting on the property since then, hoping the economy would improve.  I'm guessing the opening of Caribou is good news.  According to the property summary, Caribou is scheduled to open in Fall 2012...which I'm guessing is pretty darn soon!  I plan to be there with bells and whistles on...just wait for it.


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Slow Down

Every year, I get at least one sinus infection. I haven't had one since January, but this week I felt one coming on. They always start out as "allergy" problems that quickly escalade to major congestion, sinus pressure, sore ears, coughing, sneezing, and a fever. I felt it coming on last week, but it hit me hard on Monday night.

I took today to slow down and go to the doctor. Then, when my mom got off work, she stopped over with soup and a pumpkin spice latte from Panera. She's amazing. Sophie loved mom playing with her, and I loved the menthol face massage and her help cleaning up the kitchen. It's pretty wonderful to have such a thoughtful mom. I'm a lucky girl.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Spinach Artichoke Dip

The holidays are right around the corner (it's October 2 already!)...and that means lots of family get-togethers...with lots of food.  I typically struggle at any pot-luck as not many people bring gluten-free options.  I'm pretty sure this spinach artichoke dip recipe I found on the Undressed Skeleton blog (below) is going to make the cut this year.  Paired with some Food Should Taste Good chips, I'm pretty sure no one will notice it's gluten-free!  However, if they do, there will be more for me to eat...

Healthy Spinach and Artichoke Dip

Monday, October 1, 2012

Fab Finds: Desktop Calendars

It's October 1, which means it's time for me to update my desktop and iPhone calendars to's new desktop calendar.  I look forward to the first of the month every month because it means a pretty new desktop image.  Here's October's desktop calendar below.  I love everything about it.

Also, if you're in the mood to be a nice person and send cute cards to your friends and family, download the Red Stamp iPhone app (it's free - why wouldn't you download it?).  I love making (and sending and receiving) their postcards (via email or snail mail).  Below is one of the cards I sent to Josh earlier today. 

Stingray Photo Bomb

I've been looking for something to make me smile today, and remembered this picture I found on last week.


And this, my friends, is one more reason for me to fear nature.  These ladies do not look like they're loving nature...

So long, Grandpa John

Remember when I told you about growing up in North Dakota?  Well, one thing about living in North Dakota as a military transplant, is the fact that likely none of your family lives there.  This was the case for me.  Military families have a tendency to befriend others and assimilate a sort of family with those around them; Grandpa John and Grandma Bonnie were this for me.  They were the closest thing I had to grandparents growing up.  They lived on Highway 2 between Larimore and the Grand Forks Air Force Base.  From my first memories, I remember only fond experiences at their house.  It was beautiful - lots of white (the exterior, the carpet, walls); their home was like a fancy palace to me.  They were the most kind-hearted people.  They were educated and always supported my education.  They attended my kindergarten graduation - I remember being so proud to count, read, and tell time in front of them. 

Grandma Bonnie always had bars or some sort of dessert on hand, ready for any passersby.  Grandpa John always had handfuls of vitamins he'd share (whether we wanted them or not).  I used to swing on the tire swing and watch cars pass along Highway 2 when mom and/or dad were inside chatting with them.  It was a good time.  Grandpa John and Grandma Bonnie had their Ham Radio licenses, and I'm pretty sure that's why my family became so close to them.  The summer after my mom moved to Minnesota, and I lived with the Rohls on the base, I drove up to the Peace Gardens to take the Ham Radio test because I knew it would make Grandpa John happy.  He escorted me to the test site...and back to their camper when I didn't pass the test - he was devastated.  I hope he found joy in knowing I made my mark in other aspects of technology.

When Grandpa John and Grandma Bonnie used to go on cruises (two a year), they always shared their experiences with us when they returned.  That's probably why I was so excited to go on a cruise my senior year of high school - I wanted to experience something I'd always heard was so fantastic.

Grandpa John passed away last week after a long battle with cancer.  I still have a card at home from Grandma Bonnie she sent a couple months back.  She mentioned how happy she was that I was doing so well, and how Grandpa John was fighting cancer again.  The funeral is tomorrow in Bismarck, North Dakota.  I wish I could make it to give Grandma Bonnie a hug.

I'm a firm believer that God puts people in our path who will forever make an impact - and Grandpa John was certainly that for me.  He was a hard-working man.  He was passionate about the military, ham radio, traveling, and his family.  He was a good man.  I'll miss him and always remember him fondly.  Rest in peace, Grandpa John.

John E. Stiles
May 17, 1930 - September 26, 2012