Monday, September 29, 2008

Road-Trippin', Across the Universe...

Okay, so maybe not the universe. But definitely across the state line! We just got back from a week-long road trip that was mostly business but with a whole lot of fun thrown in. I'm not even going to discuss the business parts (who wants to read about that?), but the fun parts - let's just say this trip provided some much needed down time.

We spent a big portion of our trip in Springfield, MO. Springfield holds so many special memories for me: being away from home for the first time, falling in love, renting that first apartment as a married couple (green shag carpet, Harvest Gold appliances - priceless!)... Not to mention all the little things like barn swinging, thrifting, caving, and solving all the world's problems while sipping huge mugs of coffee. It's where I really began to find out who I am, although that journey is nowhere near completed.

This time around, we had a jam-packed itinerary. Of course, tradition held that our first stop be the happiest place on earth: Hong Kong Inn.

Hong Kong Inn is a kitschy little fast-food Chinese restaurant that has hands down THE BEST egg rolls around. I always get the Sesame Chicken Plate, and it always makes me happy. We've been eating there for over 12 years now. It's the one "American" Chinese restaurant I actually miss when we're overseas.

After Hong Kong Inn came Andy's frozen custard, Cider Days (where I met the lovely Silje and Rachel of Red Velvet Art - they are both so sweet!), bookstore browsing, coffee, thrifting, more coffee, more bookstore browsing, more thrifting, cd hunting, and a whole lot of reminiscing. (This was all spread out over a few days, of course. We're good, but we're not that good!)

We were also pleasantly surprised at how the atmosphere in Springfield is becoming more and more family-friendly and community oriented. A couple of months ago, we were lucky enough to be in town for First Friday Art Walk. The area all around the square was literally filled with people of all ages, backgrounds, etc., people with strollers, people with dogs, people playing music or selling artwork on the sidewalk. It was such a contrast from when we were in college - all you would see back then were teenage wanna-be "vampires" (yes, they were teenagers who actually ran around the square in black trench coats and makeup pretending to be vampires), a few homeless guys, and drunk college students stumbling in and out of bars. Even Commercial Street, which was known mainly for its homeless shelter, has gotten a total revamp in the last couple of years. It really is amazing how much the atmosphere there is changing.

We're back home now, happy to be sleeping in our own bed again. The puppy is doubly happy to be out of the kennel! No more big trips for a while, at least not that we know of. Of course, that could always change!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Yummy Fall Goodness

Fall is my favorite time of year. I love the cooler weather, the crisp smells, the rich colors as the leaves begin to change... One of my favorite "fall" things to do is wake up in the morning, put on a snuggly sweater, and have a slice of warm pumpkin bread with a cup of coffee. De-lish! I can be anywhere in the world, but while I'm savoring that spicy goodness I'm HOME. I have several recipes for pumpkin bread that I've worked my way through, but today I made one that I thought was particularly moist and yummy. As a testament to its scrumptiousness, you will notice in the picture that we've already eaten our way through 2/3 of one of the four mini-loaves I baked. I can't wait till tomorrow morning!

In case anyone is interested, here is the recipe:
  • 1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 3 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1/2 c. vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 15 oz. pumpkin puree
  • 1/4 c. water

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease one 9x5 loaf pan (or 4 mini loaf pans). Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and pumpkin pie spice. Set aside.

In large bowl, beat together sugar, oil, eggs, and pumpkin. Stir in flour mixture alternately with water. Pour batter into pan(s).

Bake in preheated oven 60-70 minutes (40 minutes for mini loaves), or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. For best flavor, store wrapped in plastic wrap at room temperature for a full day before serving.

It's That Time of Year...

Fall is in the air, and with the changing seasons come life changes, as well. We're gearing up for yet another move, this time from our apartment on the lake to my inlaws' house. We'll stay with them for a couple of months before heading back overseas to our adopted hometown - Shanghai, China. In about a week, the sorting will begin: items to be purged, items to be stored, items to take with us overseas. While this has become a routine cycle in our lives, it inevitably brings with it a certain level of anxiety. However, it means we're that much closer to getting back to our life in China, and that makes it all worthwhile!