Friday, January 31, 2014

Foodie Fridays: Valentine Edition

Confession: I didn't make this recipe this week (well, yet). I made these last week, but held off on sharing them until today. Gotta get a little closer to V-Day, right? (This week we made burgers on the stove, which really didn't involve too much of a recipe, just know that Italian dressing makes a yummy wet rub when topped with garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper! The burgers were juicy and delicious!)

These cookies are the wonderful confection, and my husband's favorite cookie, Spritz. If you've never heard of or made Spritz, the main thing that makes these treats different is that they are made with a cookie press. So after you make the dough, you don't have to cool it, you just put it in the press and get clicking! Also, when you buy a cookie press, you get a variety of disks that help you make lots of cute shapes, sans cookie cutters. This past week, I made hearts and a circular, wreath-like shape.

If you have or buy a cookie press, it will come with recipes, but this one I'm sharing is my favorite, and I think the best. The trick is substituting in some almond extract. Spritz are sweet enough that you really don't have to frost them (you can add food coloring to the dough to tint them, or top them with sprinkles before baking), but everyone in my family loves the frosted kind the best. So I'm including a simple frosting recipe that can be used for any sugar cookie.

Classic Spritz Cookies
Makes 6-7 dozen
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) softened butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. almond extract (if you don't have almond extract, use 1 tsp. of vanilla extract)
3 1/2 cups (14 oz.) whisked, not packed, flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1. Beat butter on medium speed until creamy.
2. Add sugar, egg, almond and/or vanilla extract, beat well.
3. Add flour, one cup at a time, mix well. Dough will be soft, do not refrigerate.
4. Follow directions on cookie press for use. If you're not frosting your cookies, remember to add colored sprinkles prior to baking, if you want them.
5. Bake 10-12 minutes or until firm but not brown. (I have dark cookie sheets so I top them with a piece of parchment paper before pressing the dough onto it. Then in my oven, I only need to bake the cookies for about 7-8 minutes.)
6. Cool for 2 minutes, then remove to cooling rack. Cool completely before frosting.

Vanilla Butter Frosting
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup softened butter
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
About 2 tblsp. milk
1. Mix powdered sugar and butter.
2. Stir in vanilla and milk.
3. Beat/stir until frosting is smooth and of spreading consistency. If frosting is too thin, add more powdered sugar. If it is too thick, slowly add a small amount of milk.
4. Add a little food coloring to tint your frosting if you want.

To decorate the cookies shown above, I put the frosting into a piping bag and used several different tips to create the designs. I used several dots of red food coloring to create the pink color and added red sugar sprinkles to some of the cookies for variety.

Making your own version of Spritz cookies? I'd love to see what you create! Email a photo to me at eliseloyola[at]gmail[.com] and I'll include it in an upcoming blog post!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Currently List

Making: Graphics and updates to my cousin Crystal's blog for her flower business. Thoughts?
Cooking: Way too many sweets these days. From cookies to cupcakes to coffee cake. Yummm.
Drinking: Coffee. Lots and lots of coffee, to the point where I think it's affecting my sleep. :/
Reading: 'Texas Trails: Lone Star Trail' for an upcoming book review I'll be writing.
Wanting: Nothing and everything, all at once. Life is so good and yet challenging. Above all, I want peace.
Looking: For a new job out here in IC.
Playing: 'Ends of the Earth' by Lord Huron. Love, love, love.
Wasting: Time doing things I like. So maybe it's not too wasted. ;)
Sewing: Some holes in my leggings need sewing. Or I could just get new leggings...
Wishing: This cold would get a little less cold. Spring, anyone?
Enjoying: My sweet husband and fuzzy kitty. They make life so much better.
Waiting: To make adult-y decisions. Sometimes I still don't feel like a grown up.
Liking: This thing called community that we've been getting involved in since moving. It has been such a blessing.
Wondering: What I would change about my life and the way I lived if I just had a five-second glimpse of eternity.
Loving: The wisdom of those who have walked this road before.
Hoping: We can go to Chicago sometime in the not too distant future. I miss that city.
Marvelling: At the way God works in our lives, through the good times and through the bad, to bring about His amazing plan.
Needing: A shower. This is what happens when I get up and do everything but get ready for the day.
Smelling: The best candle scent ever: Volcano by Capri Blue Candles.
Wearing: Sweats, yo! And a Sevenly t-shirt.
Following: My new favorite Instagram feed, @teni_komo.
Noticing: It's a good time for a snack. ;)
Knowing: Change is inevitable.
Thinking: Friends are the best. :)
Bookmarking: Cupcake and frosting recipes from Martha Stewart.
Opening: Emails (and the occasional letter).
Giggling: With besties.
Feeling: Warm and cozy. :)
List source.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Foodie Fridays: A Dang Good Dinner

This week we whipped up a delicious dinner of bacon-wrapped filets, broccoli with garlic, oven fries, and corn bread muffins. It was so yummy, I knew I had to share! And everything was pretty easy to prepare, though I made the cornbread earlier in the day. This saved time and oven space.

Broccoli with garlic is not a new recipe to this blog, so you can find it at the bottom of this post (along with a tasty almond-crusted salmon recipe). It is so easy to make and only takes about 10 minutes once you get the water boiling. And, it's safe for Whole30 dieters, another plus! :)

For the filets, we topped both sides with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder, then seared them with butter for about two to three minutes on each side. We then transferred the filets to a baking sheet lined with tin foil and baked them in the oven at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes.

Oven Fries
Makes 3-4 servings
Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Ingredients (As for the herbs/spices, these are some options, you  can use whatever you like.)
4 small baking potatoes
1 tblsp. olive oil (you can also use 1 tblsp. of butter or vegetable oil)
1/2 tsp. garlic salt (or part garlic powder, part salt to taste)
1/4 - 1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. parsley flakes
1/8 tsp. onion powder
1/8 tsp. pepper
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1. Scrub potatoes thoroughly, then cut each lengthwise into eight slices, or cut into small pieces.
2. In a bowl combine oil (or butter) and herbs/spices. You can vary the amounts according to your taste. I added extra garlic powder to ours and withheld the Parmesan.
3. Stir potatoes in the mixture, or use your hands like I did. ;)
4. Spray an 11x7x1 1/2 inch baking pan with a non-stick coating (or just use whatever size baking sheet you have).
5. Arrange potatoes in baking pan and bake uncovered for 25-30 minutes or until tender. Potatoes are best served hot.

Corn Bread
Preheat oven to 425 degrees
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup corn meal (yellow or white)
1/4 cup sugar
4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 cup milk
1/4 cup oil
1 egg
1. If you decide to cook your corn bread in an 8- or 9-inch square or round cake pan, grease it with Crisco before using. If you use a muffin pan, insert the liners.
2. In a medium bowl combine the dry ingredients.
3. In a second bowl combine the wet ingredients.
4. Stir wet ingredients into the medium bowl of dry ingredients, beating by hand until smooth.
5. Pour batter into prepared pan, or ladle into muffin cups.
6. Bake for 20-25 minutes (less time for muffins) or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Got a recipe to share? Pass along your recipes, I'll try them and share the ones we like on the blog!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

DIY Weddings: Adding Custom Touches

It's been a while since I wrote about wedding planning, but even though the wedding is over, I still have plenty to share!

Sometimes when you're planning a wedding on a budget, you may worry that it won't be unique or reflective of you. The last thing a bride wants is for her wedding to look like "everyone else's" wedding. I wanted to make sure my wedding reflected both my personality and my groom's, so I looked for opportunities to customize, personalize and create.

One of the ways I did this was by creating my own customized guestbook with Shutterfly. I had already used Shutterfly to create a little engagement photo album, and I knew it was easy to use and often offered discounts (either on-site offers or coupons). So I decided it would be the perfect way to put my own touches on what could otherwise be a very generic guestbook.

If you decide to create your guestbook with Shutterfly, you'll find that you can start from scratch or use a pre-designed template. I went with a template to save time and stress. The template also offered some ideas--like creating pages for just the parents or the wedding party to sign--that I never would've thought of on my own. I filled the pages with photos from our engagement session to make sure the book maintained a sleek, professional appearance. I was also able to choose from various page layouts, embellishments, and creative designs.

I also had fun personalizing and getting crafty with the bags we put together for our out-of-town guests (see the full post here with photos). It was a chance to turn something inexpensive, like simple paper bags and swing tags, into a customized masterpiece filled with goodies and relevant information.

We also decided to save money by designing and printing our own programs for the ceremony. It wasn't a complicated program, just a half-sheet of glossy card stock paper (which we found on sale), printed front and back. We designed a monogram letter with our names to adorn the top and added some simple swirls as breaks in the text. My advice, if you're going to design your own program, is to make use of creative fonts. We used one for the "M" in our monogram and another for the swirls. If you don't have many fonts--or ones you want to use--on your computer, you can download just about anything you'd want from

Finally, I looked for ways to add personal details, handmade items, or finishing touches to the ceremony site and the reception. Items like decorative paper fans (how-to is in this post), cardboard or wooden monogram letters, antique bottles, paper confetti, or handmade tags tied on with decorative string, are all simple ways to personalize.

Please feel free to ask questions or share your favorite wedding crafts, suggestions and tips in the comments!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

A Mini-Milestone: 25,000 Views!

Today Life Unscripted rolled over 25,000 all-time views! I am now taking a brief moment to celebrate and throw confetti. ;)

In the grand scheme of things, 25,000 pageviews might not seem like all that much, especially when you start comparing it to other sites. (But who likes comparing? It makes you feel like crap.) However, to me it represents 25,000 times lots of someones decided to read my little blog, and that is exciting.

I know some days, I write about fluff, or how to do something crafty or I share a recipe to try. But to me, that's not all blogging is about. Sure, it's fun and silly at times, but I think it carries a responsibility too. Blogging is a platform to get a message out, to have people stop and listen, to tell them something they might not otherwise hear, and to hope it makes an impact. The biggest waste of blogging, in my opinion, is to have thousands of followers and millions of pageviews, but never get past outfits and cookies and DIY projects. To never go deeper is to miss out on a huge opportunity to share something amazing with someone (or lots of someones) who may need to hear it.

Through the years I've included heavier topics along with the light, fun ones. And today, in celebration of the milestone, I'm looking back at some of the posts that weren't so fun to write, that took effort and guts and heartache. These are the posts that to me, really meant something. Something more than clicks and pageviews. They are my heart on a page, a story I am thankful I can share, I message that I want to spread, and I look forward to writing more.

From the Top 10 Most-Read Posts: What I Learned From... Unknowingly Befriending a Sex Offender
This post was important to me because it was an opportunity to share a vital message of protection and safety for children. I learned some important things through my experience and I wanted to make sure I shared the lessons, hoping to spare at least one child from harm.

From the Top 10 Most-Read Posts: Life Right Now: What I'm Learning About Plans and Faith
Sometimes lessons are hard to learn, sometimes they hurt. Heck, sometimes life hurts. I was so glad to be able to share my life and lessons I was learning through this post last year. And I was thankful for the support of those around me. [This follow-up post was an honest look at how I was dealing with the changes a few months later, and a message I needed to hear.]

From the Top 10 Most-Read Posts: How 7 Words Should Shape Youth Ministry and the Church
Two topics that make people cringe: sex and church, now together. So this post wasn't just about sex, but I did talk about the subject of premarital teen sex in this post. I was so sick of hearing all the wrong things people thought the church should do with this issue, and thus, this post was born.

Judgement, Planks and One Universal Truth & Accountability, Trees and Hope for Messed Up People
These posts turned into a two-part series looking at touchy "Christian-y" topics like judgementalism and accountability, two things that sometimes seem to be the same but are so vastly different. One, judgementalism, isn't our job. The other, accountability, absolutely is our job, along with finding the line between the two.

When You Believe Every Human Life is Sacred
This post didn't just talk about the issue of abortion, it was about the entire issue: the sanctity of every human life. Because if you look at history, the issue started small, but steadily grew into what we encounter today. And until we go back to the most basic level, things will never change.

And a few more:
Life Revelations, A Few Years Later
The Descent
We Run the World
For the Extremely Driven

Thank you, friends, family, and random readers, for your love and support over the years, and for reading these words in my little corner of the world!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Foodie Fridays: Coffee Cake

Lately I've been getting more into cooking and baking, thanks to the Food Network. Once you watch enough cooking shows, you want to get into the kitchen and get cracking. So I decided to start a new series on the blog: Foodie Fridays. I'll be sharing a recipe or two that I've made in the past week. Because I also enjoy baking, I can't guarantee that everything I'll be sharing is entirely healthy, but I'll try to strike a balance. :)

For the first Foodie Friday, I'm sharing my Grandma's recipe for delicious Coffee Cake. It's best served sliced and spread with a little soft butter.

Grandma's Quick Coffee Cake
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Cake ingredients:
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/4 cup oil
Topping ingredients:
- 3 tblsp. flour
- 1/4 cup sugar
-1/2 tsp. cinnamon
- 2 tblsp. butter
1. Sift/stir together four, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
2. Add and mix egg, milk, and oil.
3. Pour into an 8x8 pan.
4. Sprinkle topping on batter.
5. Bake at 375 for 25 to 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
6. Cool. (I like my coffee cake completely cooled to room temperature. For some reason it tastes better than warm coffee cake.)
7. Cover when completely cool.

Got a recipe to share? Pass along your recipes, I'll try them and share the ones we like on the blog!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

So Long, to the Best Year Yet!

You know that feeling when you get so caught up in something it feels like it will last forever? That's sort of how 2013 felt for me, a year that would never end, because I didn't want it to. Yet, here I am, finally updating my blog on the SECOND day of January in the year 2014. Yes, despite my best efforts to ignore it, 2014 came anyway.

An early 2013 snowfall.
Last year began with a lot of anticipation because I was preparing to get married and well, weddings are pretty redonk these days. Thank you, Pinterest and celebrity weddings for setting ridiculously high expectations. So Nick and I began 2013 preparing for our wedding, first with a much-needed Whole30 diet. We set January as our month to complete the fast-diet and get back into the gym, and I'd say we were successful.

Celebrating Nick's birthday.
The months that followed were filled with tons of wedding planning--since we were doing everything ourselves--interspersed with normal life things. In February we celebrated Nick's birthday. Then there was some fun work stuff that happened for me, including some awards for my and my colleagues' work. March brought more awards and my birthday.

Angie just before her wedding.
In April, I was a bridesmaid in my good friend Angie's wedding, which was exactly three months to the day before my wedding. In May we did fun things, like shop for stuff to wear on our honeymoon and travel to Chicago for the annual Rockies-Cubs game (at which we got engaged the year before). Then I went on a "blog about wedding planning" spree through June.
At the Rockies/Cubs game in May.
Nick was sad to trade in his New Jersey
plates for Iowa ones.
In June we physically received our award at work, and Nick and I joined the church softball team. Later in June, my mom threw me an awesome bridal shower in an old mansion, which was really fun and very special. Then came July.

My mom and I at the Curtis Mansion.
At the Fourth of July parade in Clinton.
The first two weeks of July were a blur, a mad dash to finish up the smaller details and simultaneously work on job stuff for Nick (which I would later write about in September). And then everything came together and it was like dominoes falling down: people arriving, decorating for the reception and ceremony, parties, practicing, putting on the dress, flowers, photos, vows, a kiss, cake cutting, dancing, jumping in the getaway car, jetting off to Jamaica.

With my bridesmaids at my bridal luncheon.
My bouquet, designed by my cousin Crystal.
In my dress, all ready to go.
Our first dance.
There are some moments now when I think about that day, that I would love to do it over, just to relive it and go on our honeymoon again, because it all flew by so fast. I tried to remember as many details as possible, and write them all down, but there are so many things I missed or have simply forgotten.

Shortly after arriving in Jamaica, snapped this
from our tour bus as it took us to the resort.
Sunset on our resort.
On our way home, flying over a rainbow.
We spent the last night of our
honeymoon in Chicago.
We had a lot of fun on our honeymoon, which we spent at a Sandals resort in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. It was all-inclusive which was so nice. We could go to any restaurant or bar and order anything we wanted. We also got a couple's massage (divine!) and went on a cruise which featured snorkeling over a coral reef and hiking up Dunn's River Falls. I still haven't written a full post about the honeymoon, so maybe I'll do that this year for a "look back." :)

Our little home in Clinton.

After the last softball game of the season.
Jade loved the stairs in our new home.
Things didn't really slow down like I thought they would when we got back. We jumped right back in to job searching for Nick and trying to figure out what we were going to do when his job in Clinton ended. We also had to move everything out of my apartment and into Nick's place which we were now sharing. August started with the end of the church softball season, then our friends TJ and Serina's wedding, followed by a trip to Ohio and Michigan (during which we got to visit Brielle, my cousin's adorable baby girl).

The church where TJ and Serina
got married in Fulton, Ill.
On the way to visit Iowa City.
Our time in Clinton began to wind down in September. Nick accepted a job at a church in Iowa City and we started preparing to move--including house hunting and telling my job that I would be leaving at the end of the month. On September 28 we left Clinton and moved into our condo in North Liberty.

Moving day!
In October we took a trip to San Diego for a youth workers' conference (our first time in California and we had so much fun). It included a trip to the beach as well as some sight seeing. The conference was also a lot of fun, with great music, speakers and vendors. We even made some new friends!

A day at Mission Beach.
More pics of the beach and site-seeing.
California was so beautiful.
We spent the rest of the month settling in, exploring the area and visiting an apple orchard. In November we attended our first Iowa football and basketball games, went to see "Catching Fire" and traveled back to Clinton for Thanksgiving. I also found out I was losing my part-time job working from home for a news organization effective in December.

On the road, close to our new home.
Jade loved the pumpkin we got for Halloween.
On a hike in a park near our home.
This past month has been challenging, with some health problems for both of us and many trips to the dentist for me. But, we still found time to enjoy the season and were able to spend Christmas with my family in Clinton.
On our way to Clinton for Christmas.
Jade in her Christmas sweater by the tree.
My parents' new puppy, Sheeran,
just after a refreshing bath.
Overall, 2013 was a year of huge changes, even more than we had anticipated, but at the same time, it has been an amazing year. Nick and I have been able to grow together through the challenges we've faced and we've been able to make some new, close friends who, along with old friends, have come beside us and supported us through the difficulties. It was a truly great year, and I am excited to see what 2014 will hold for us. :)

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