Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Cancun: Part Dos


Happy Wednesday!

It's not so happy for me. True to form, vacation has caught up with me. I have fallen victim to a nasty fall cold. Right now, I'm a sniffly, snotty, stuffed up hot mess. Really, I'm just glad I didn't catch this cold on the way to Mexico. Talk about miserable. But today, it's resting and reading. And trying to find a way to breathe. 

So let's continue talking about the belated honeymoon. What better time to show pictures of me looking my best when I'm the complete polar opposite of that today? I'll take my cheering up where I can get it! The hubby and I booked what the resort called a "mini" session with a professional photographer while we were in Mexico. Basically, we got to spend about 30 minutes with a photographer and we weren't obligated to buy anything. A full session was an hour, and I wasn't about to spend an hour of my vacation with a  photographer. We ended up being super pleased with the mini session. The photographer took about 80 prints and we left with 40, totally satisfied. The pictures turned out wonderfully. Along with the 40 prints, we also got 6- 5x7's and 2- 11x17s. I can't wait to find frames for all my photos and hang them up. Without further adieu, here's a look at how a few of them turned out-


I just love the black and white. Can't help myself. It's so artsy and wonderful. Plus, the photographer knew all the best locations to take pictures at the resort (duh, that's her job!). This was taken in a rustic Mexican-inspired gazebo on the property. 


This was one of the hubby's favorite pictures. 


We ended up getting a couple of photos of us as individuals. Mainly because the hubby loved this photo, and I really loved a few of him by himself. Good presents for family :)


I went with a lot of black and white, but don't fret- here comes color!


I got a few comments from family that this photo was their favorite. I have to admit, the more I look at it, the more I like it.


This was my favorite of the hubby by himself. He just looks so handsome :)



So, let me tell you about shooting pictures on the beach. Without sunglasses. It's freaking hard. The wind is blowing in your eyes and the sun is beating into them. It was extremely difficult for me to keep my eyes open wide without them watering. All I could think of was an episode of "America's Next Top Model" years ago when one of the girls claimed she had "vampire" eyes and therefore couldn't shoot in the sun. She said her eyes would water if she tried to open them. I remember at the time thinking, "Suck it up! It can't be that hard!". Well, it is. I learned a lesson in empathy during this beach shoot. 


I just love the background in all these pictures. 


Here's another favorite among my friends and family. This one is near the top of the list of my favorites. It's just a perfect picture. 



And these 2 pictures, to me, are just perfect. I love them. We had the bottom picture printed in 11x17. Once I find a frame, I think I'm going to hang it in our bedroom. Our bedroom is one room I haven't completed decor in, and it's badly needing wall art. Cancun pictures to the rescue!


I love this picture. The hubby is a much better "head to toe" model than me, exhibited by my goofy face in the picture. I don't care though, it's such a cool shot. 


I'm just so pleased with how all the pictures turned out. It was worth the wait, in my opinion. So was the trip, for that matter.

Ok, I'm done showing pictures from Mexico! Since I came down with this cold yesterday, I haven't had as much time to prepare posts as I would have liked, but I'm on it. Friday, to wrap up this Mexican fiesta, I'm going to post my favorite Mexican recipes. Monday will be the start of new food posts, so I'm hoping I have a lovely, sunny weekend to prepare. 

Have a great day everyone!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Cancun: Part Uno


I'm back!

From outer space!

Wait. No, that's the start of a different post. LOL. But yes, I am back! Refreshed and re-energized, and thrust back into reality with a very busy week. I was going to try to post tomorrow morning, until I looked at my schedule and realized I have an 8 am doctors appointment. Yeah, no time for writing tomorrow morning. But that's boring, let's talk about Mexico! And by the way- this post is picture heavy

We had the best time. Ever. We both told each it was the best vacation either one of us had been on. The beach was gorgeous (see picture above!). The weather was, eh, pretty good considering a tropical depression formed on top of us while we were there. We had a couple of either mornings or afternoons that were rainy, but we didn't lose any full days. And even though there was rain, it was still 85+ degrees, so no complaints there! I'm in love with the wildlife-


These are coatimundas. They are relatives of raccoons but waaaaay tamer. They were all over the resort. They traveled in big packs, scouring the ground and overturning rocks for bugs. And maybe potato chips :) The packs they travel in are about 20 of them, and there are usually numerous babies with them. They were so darn cute! They would eat potato chips right out of your hand. I was in love, and almost sad to leave because I wouldn't see any more of them. 


One of our first beach days, I believe this was Sunday after we got there. The weather was gorgeous. That's me and the hubby's legs, in case you are wondering. We did go with a group of 8. We went with 2 of the hubby's cousins and their wives, along with another couple. 


Hubby and I on the beach.


Nothing like a beach selfie.


I'd never seen so many wild iguanas before! They were everywhere. You couldn't walk 10 feet in the resort without seeing numerous lizards sunning themselves. They move surprisingly fast. I was startled multiple times by a large lizard running out in front of me. Of course, after I jumped 5 feet in the air, it always made me smile. The hubby and I saw one lizard (not an iguana) that ran on 2 legs, like a raptor! It was small, but it still freaked me out!


In fact, that's a large lizard right behind me.


A very small lizard. More my style :)


This is how close these coatis get to you! Actually, this was the resident restaurant coati that never leaves. The staff calls him "Poncho". He runs all the other coatis off, because the restaurant is his territory. Several mornings he was asleep on the roof, and all you could see was his tail. The waiters said he loves sweet breads and will come up to the tables at the edge of the restaurant and beg for bread.


Like this!


Needless to say, Poncho got quite a bit of sweet bread from us.


One of the hubby's cousin's wives and I soaking up the sun.


A drink in hand at all times!


The day before we left was just gorgeous. Enjoying this view for a week went so fast!


I went back to my room to nap at some point, when I noticed a pack of coati outside my room. I couldn't resist, I crushed a bag of potato chips and gave it to them. It's funny, sometimes you start out with 1 and then they call their buddies with little squeaks. Then you end up with this!


This was a little baby. I loved the baby ones so much. Another funny thing is that after they eat all the potato chips and you go inside to hide from their demanding ways, they'll all come on the porch and stare in the glass door at you. As if to say, "What are you doing in there?? Give us more food!". It's amazing how different these guys are from raccoons. There didn't even seem to be a similarity, other than kind of looking like one. 


Playing a little beach volleyball. Beach volleyball is so hard! I played regular volleyball in high school, inter mural in college, and also coached while I was in college, but let me tell you, sand sucks. It's like jumping with your legs weighed down with concrete. On the plus side, I was always dying by the end of the game, so it was definitely a good workout. And after a couple margaritas, I would dive all over that sand court! LOL. 


Crab enchiladas at the Authentic Mexican restaurant. The hubby got these as an appetizer, they were so yummy. We ate some amazing food while we were there. The resort had 6 restaurants, all different types of cuisine. We are talking Japanese, Italian, Indian, French, Mexican, and an American Steakhouse. The French restaurant was my favorite, hands downs. I tried escargot, foie gras, and a tasty French Onion Soup for the first time. I finally know what real French Onion Soup tastes like, and I'm excited to recreate it :) Oh, and the escargot and foie gras? Simply amazing. Yes, escargot is snails. But damn! They be good. And the foie gras was so creamy, salty, and delicious. It's good to step out of your comfort zone. I will say, the only meal I didn't enjoy was Lamb Vindaloo at the Indian Restaurant. I did not enjoy their red curry. I'm left wondering if I just didn't like their red curry, or if maybe I don't like red curry at all? Experiments are in order for that one. 


Kissing under the sombrero at the Mexican restaurant. 


A shot of the main pool. It might look stormy in the background, but most of the time, it was just clouds passing over. It was still super warm. Just the way I like it :)


Another ocean shot. The water was so warm and clear. A 180º difference from the water on the Oregon Coast where I grew up. 


Hubby and I taking a shadow selfie.


Hubby and I on the beach.


Our group, minus one of the hubby's cousin's wives. It seemed difficult to get the whole group in one shot. It seemed someone was always missing. Isn't that how trips go with a big group? And it's kind of the best part. You can always sneak off to catch a little alone time or a much needed nap. This introvert took advantage a couple of times too :)


A picture of all the boys. The hubby, 2 of his cousins, and the guy with his thumbs up is half of the other couple who traveled with us. I just love this underwater shot.

I apologize for all the pictures, but we ended up taking 300! There were just too many to share. In case you were wondering about the "Part Uno" part, I do have more pictures to share. The story is this: When the hubby and I got engaged, we were planning on getting married in Las Vegas and honeymooning in Jamaica. The hubby ended up getting laid off during this time period, due to the crash in the commercial construction industry in Portland. We scrapped all of our plans, got married in my parents backyard, and spent 3 days on the Oregon Coast as our honeymoon. We never got a lot of things that went along with a traditional wedding, most specifically professional wedding pictures. So we ended up buying a lot of professional pictures of the hubby and I when we were in Cancun. And on Wednesday, I want to share a few. So, look forward to "Cancun: Part Dos" when I return on Wednesday.

Happy Monday friends!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Carrot Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting



It's finally time for...

The hubby's birthday cake!

This cake was a smashing success. It was gone in 3 days, and the only reason it lasted 3 days was because I asked the hubby to leave a piece for me to take pictures of. You know, when it was sunny and I had all this wonderful, natural light. Luckily, I was blessed with light on the 3rd day and by bedtime that night, the cake was a distant memory. Probably the fastest a birthday cake has ever gone in this house. I guess we really know what the hubby's favorite cake is now. 

This cake worked for everyone. I had bought mini-vanilla cupcakes at the grocery store for the kids, as I wasn't sure if they would eat the cake after they learned it was called carrot cake. We are talking, like, extremely picky eaters here. To my pleasant surprise, only 1 of them put up a fight over the carrot cake and by the end of the day, even he had tried it and liked it. You know it's good when the kids devour it. My niece said she wanted this cake for her birthday. Minus the walnuts, of course. Psssh, kids.


I'm not the world's best baker. I get really nervous every time I have to serve cake to a large crowd of people. Will it be dry? Will it taste good? Is it too sugary? Too dense? I get worked up every time, imagining all the ways the cake could go wrong. Does this feeling go away with time and experience? I don't know yet, because I was beyond nervous as we cut into this cake. Turns out I had nothing to worry about, because I was immediately met with rave reviews. The cake is super moist and flavorful. Not too dense. Not too sweet. Just flat-out mmm, mmm good. 

My other worry? It wasn't big enough to feed a crowd. This concern turned out to be a non-issue. The cake feeds plenty.


Everyone loved the frosting in the middle. The hubby's aunt exclaimed her excitement as soon as the first piece was cut (she's a frosting nut!). The maple-y, creamy frosting works amazingly with the cake. 

The hubby's family just loves to celebrate birthdays...


Putting candles on the cake.


My MIL and I lighting the candles.


Birthday boy blowing out his candles.


Instead of a crazy picture of the whole family, I thought I'd share one where we all look quite normal. You know, because we are normal :)

I'm afraid I have some bad news, and you all probably saw this coming. I'm taking next week off from the blog. Boooo. Yes, I realize I took 2 weeks off in September. The audacity. However, this is technically, technically, my honeymoon. Plus, after calling AT&T yesterday, we realized we have no international plan on our phones. Sooooo, the internet is not something I'm going to be using a whole lot of down in Mexico. I'm sorry to take so much time off this fall, but that's just the way the cookie crumbles. 

Ha ha. What a perfect foodie metaphor!

See y'all in a week!


Ingredients:

Cake-
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 cup canola oil
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup pineapple puree (I took 8 ounces sliced, canned pineapple and pureed until smooth)
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 eggs, room temp
3 cups grated, peeled carrot
2 inches fresh ginger, grated
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)

Frosting-
2 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 cups confectioners sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup pure maple syrup

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350º. Butter and flour 2 (9 inch) springform pans. 
2. In a mixing bowl, combine flour through nutmeg. Whisk to combine. Set aside.
3. Combine oil through pineapple puree. Whisk until well blended. Mix in the vanilla. Mix in the eggs, one by one. Add the flour mixture, mix until well blended. Using a spatula, fold in the carrot and ginger.
4. Divide batter evenly among pans. Bake in oven for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out with moist crumbs. Cool in pans for 10 minutes, then remove to a cooling rack. Cool completely before frosting. 
5. To make the frosting, combine cream cheese through maple syrup in a large mixing bowl. Using a hand mixer (you could make this in a stand mixer as well), beat until fluffy. Let chill for 20 minutes in fridge before using, to hold its shape.
6. To assemble the cake, frost one entire cake. Then place the second cake on top, and continue frosting the whole cake. Sprinkle the walnuts on top, if using. Slice, and serve. Store leftovers in an airtight container for 2-3 days. 
Recipe by Rasa Malaysia.
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