It’s My SITS Day!

Posted on

Well hey, look at that.

Two posts in one day.

That’s because it’s a really happy day around here. Not just because it’s Friday, or Valentine’s Day (those are both pretty cool), but because it’s my SITS Day!

Not familiar with SITS? It’s an amazing community where you can connect with fellow bloggers and learn all sorts of blogging and social media tips. If you haven’t already, you should definitely go check it out.

If you are stopping by from SITS, thank you so much for visiting! I’m thrilled that you took the time to stop by my little piece of the internet. Check out this or this or this to get to know me a little better. I love making new friends, so be sure to say hello!

Want to stalk me a little more? I’m on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, or you can follow Rural Rookie on Bloglovin’.

Thanks for stopping by!

 


A Very Tasty Pinterest Fail {Homemade Bread 101}

Posted on

EasyItalianBreadRecipe

I had no idea how easy it was to make delicious homemade bread! I imagined a laborious, time-consuming project that had a high risk of failing if not properly executed. (I tend to over-think things, like imagining dramatic results over something as simple and common as a loaf of bread. It didn’t rise! The horror!) In reality, it’s pretty simple. And I found a recipe so fail-proof that -even when I screwed it up- made a tasty loaf of bread.

Growing up, our best meals were always accompanied by a loaf of fresh Italian bread. Don’t get it twisted, my mom didn’t make bread (save for a few unfortunate months when she utilized her then-new bread machine. Eh.). It just didn’t take much to hop down to the grocery store and return a few minutes later with a freshly baked loaf. Well, now that I live in the country, my current location does not allow for such luxuries. I set out to find a way to stock our pantry with fresh, crusty, chewy bread that didn’t include spending almost two hours in the car.

Armed with my new KitchenAid stand mixer (thank you, Santa), I scoured the wonderful world of Pinterest for a bread recipe. I’d tried a few in the past, but was never very impressed with the results. My go-to bread/dinner roll recipe was a loaf of Rhodes frozen white bread with olive oil, sea salt, and rosemary sprinkled on top of it. Yummy for sure, but I hoped I could do better. I finally stumbled across this recipe over at Pass the Sushi, and decided to give it a shot. {Sidenote: how cute is that blog? Thank you Pinterest, for giving me another great blog to enjoy.}

My first loaf turned out great. It was golden and crunchy – but not hard – on the outside, and chewy and perfect on the inside. Mr. B and I devoured it in record time, so I set out to make another. This time, overly confident in my new-found baker skills, I didn’t read the recipe quiiiite as carefully as I should have. I added too much water to the sponge and ended up with a sticky, gooey mess that didn’t exactly have the consistency of bread dough. To compensate, I added more flour. Much to my surprise, it still worked! It made a much larger loaf, which added more fluffy goodness to compliment the crusty edges of each slice.

My whoopsie made a much bigger loaf than I wanted/needed. Like, it overflowed over the edges of the baking sheet. Opps. But, after a little bit of experimenting, I was able to figure out just the right size loaf. So here you go. Step-by-step instructions for a deliciously homemade, crusty, braided Italian bread. You’re welcome.

First, we need to make the sponge starter: In a large bowl combine 2 cups flour, 1 cup water, and 1/4 teaspoon yeast. Cover the bowl with a towel and set in a warm place. Let this rest for about an hour. It will be ready when it has formed lots of bubbles and looks like this:   (The recipe I used said to let the sponge rest 12-16 hours, but that was far too long. It may be because I used quick-rise yeast, but my sponge was ready in about 2-3 hours.)

DSC_7996

When your sponge is good and bubbly (like in the photo above), mix in 3/4 cup water. Mix in 1 1/2 tsp. salt and the rest of the yeast packet (about 2 tsp.). Then add in 3 cups of flour, one cup at a time. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes (3 minutes if you are using a stand mixer), adding the remaining flour as needed to form a smooth, slightly sticky dough.

Roll the ball of dough around in a greased bowl and cover with a clean towel.

DSC_7983

 

Set in a warm place to rise until doubled in size (about 1-2 hours). (I usually set mine by the fireplace.)

DSC_7984

Once or twice during the rising, fold the sides of the dough into the center and turn the dough over. This helps develop the gluten and distribute the yeast’s food. Divide the dough into three equal parts, rolling each into a thick rope.

DSC_8002

DSC_8005

Braid the ropes, pinch the ends together and gently tuck them under the loaf to secure the braid.

DSC_8008

Place the braided loaf on a greased baking sheet and cover loosely with greased plastic wrap (waxed paper works well also). Allow to rise in a warm place about one hour, or until doubled in size.

Beat together 1 egg white and 1 Tbsp. water. Brush the loaf with the egg white mixture.

DSC_8018

 

Bake at 425 degree for 25-35 minutes until golden brown. Enjoy!

DSC_8025


The Day We Got a Corgi

Posted on

Today is a very special day. This is the anniversary of the day we brought little baby Joey home. (Edit: Yesterday was the very special day. I’ve come down with a nasty bug that hindered all productivity yesterday, including this post.)

Mr. B and I spent the better part of a year weighing the pros and cons of getting a puppy. Some days it was the best idea ever, and other days we considered the responsibilities of puppy training and thought “nah, better not”. We researched breeds, scoured rescue shelter websites, and talked about the joys and messes that another dog would bring into our lives.

Mr. B fell in love with Corgis, and after considerable research, we decided a stubby little herding dog would be a perfect fit for us. Still, we weren’t sure we were ready for the commitment of adding another dog to our busy, on-the-go lifestyle. It wasn’t until the beginning of last year that we were once again perusing tricolor Corgis on the internet, that Mr. B declared that was what he wanted for his upcoming birthday: a puppy. I didn’t give it much thought, he’d been making similar declarations for a year, and the dedication to this particular decision never lasted very long. This time was different, though. The next morning, the first words out of Mr. B’s mouth were “I’m getting a puppy!” Holy crap, I realized, he’s for real this time.

And so, it was an unseasonably warm Sunday in January when Mr. B and I made the three-and-a-half hour journey to visit a Pembroke Welsh Corgi breeder. As we pulled into her driveway, the breeder stood on the stoop holding the puppy that we immediately fell in love with. From the moment we met him, Joey stole our hearts. He was friendly, sweet and playful, not to mention so stinkin’ cute! We couldn’t believe no one had snatched him up yet – so we did just that. We loaded him in the car and brought him home. (And took about 3,937,569,348 grainy phone pictures of him.)

Joey-car1-1024x681

Joey-car3-967x1024

Joey-new-home2-681x1024

Joey-new-home-1024x681

Joey-first-night-1024x474

Over the last year, Joey has brought so much joy to our lives. He is the happiest, kindest, friendliest soul, and I can’t imagine our little family without him in it. Bringing home a new puppy is a huge commitment, but even with all of the chewing, the dog hair, the obeying-commands-only-when-he-feels-like-it, I’d do it all again in a heartbeat. The love I have for this fuzzy little creature is at crazy-obsessive levels. HE’S JUST SO CUTE.

Thanks for making us smile, Joey. We love ya, little buddy!

Signature


This is Only a Starting Point

Posted on

I’m not where I want to be. Mentally, physically, emotionally – this is not where I want to be.

I ended 2013 with such optimism for the year ahead. After all, this is the year I marry my hunky homeboy. We’ve decided to build a life together and we get to celebrate that decision – and the love behind it – with our nearest and dearest.  In freaking MEXICO. How could 2014 not rock?!

Welp. So far, it hasn’t rocked. It’s done the opposite of rocking, actually.

Yesterday, I was reading a post that Ashten wrote about facing her weight and her choices and making some changes to get where she wants to be. It’s a great post. Go read it; be inspired. I’ll wait.

Welcome back. Did you catch the part where she said she left the doctors’ office with a “starting point”?  She decided that her current situation isn’t just something she doesn’t like, it’s something to be improved upon. It’s a place to begin moving forward onto better things. That really stuck with me. Because you know what? I’m at a starting point, too – I just hadn’t looked at it that way. And now that I am looking at it in that light, I’m much more excited about my world and all that lay ahead of me.

It’s time to make some changes. I need to do some serious purging in almost every area of my life; I need to figure out what I’m keeping, shine it up with appreciation and care, then I pick up some new goodness to add to the mix. It’s a daunting task, one that has felt like it is lurking over my head. Until I read the words “starting point”.

It’s such an optimistic idea. A starting point isn’t just where you begin; it’s something you launch from. You leave it behind, and burst onto better things. Sometimes, a starting point is left behind you in a cloud of dust. Other times, you slowly, methodically venture away from it. But no matter what, you take a step that moves you away from the starting point. Then another step. And another. Eventually, the starting point is so far behind you that you can barely see it through the fog of your own progress. So a crappy place is never really that bad after all; you just need to start seeing it as your starting point.

As the journey progresses, you remember the starting point. You know the feel, the taste, the smell of the starting point, but you also know that you can never truly go back there. Even if you can physically return, you will never again be the person you were when you were standing on brink of more. The steps you’ve taken to move forward have changed you; you’ve grown. You’ve changed.

The starting point is filled with doubt, fear and uncertainty. Can I really do this? Must I? Maybe I shouldn’t? It is also filled with hope, possibility, and a drive unlike any other. I can do this. I will do this. I know how to get there, and I’m going to fight like hell. The road is clear before you. The steps are well-defined, if not smooth or easy. The starting point is filled with a very specific desire to move forward.

So, I am at a starting point. Several, if you want to get specific about it. I am moving forward. Away from what isn’t working, and onto something better. I am moving away from what is defeating me, and away from the person I do not want to be any longer. I am not trapped by past choices, traditions that no longer fit, a misguided sense of loyalty, or the expectations of others. I will step away from what is dragging me down, because after all, this is only a starting point.

Signature


Defeated

Posted on

I’m an optimistic, positive person. I really do try my best to see the bright side, the silver lining, and all that other happy bullshit.

I do. I promise.

But this is not going to be a cheerful, upbeat, I-love-life kind of post. Come back tomorrow if you are looking for a half-full glass. My glass today is filled with Ketel One (dirty, up, 4 stuffed olives – in case you were wondering), and while it’s nearly full at the moment, we are barreling toward empty at a mind-boggling pace.

2014 sucks. We are only six days into it, and I am not impressed. It has been chock-full of disappointment. Some of the disappointment has been expected (though no less disappointing), and some of it has been so rough and unforeseen that it knocked the wind out of me. The kind of shocking disappointment that leaves you gasping for breath as you lose all control of your tear ducts. The kind that makes you ugly cry. Repeatedly.

My family has let me down in unimaginable ways, all to pacify someone who hasn’t been honest with them. They have hurt me in ways I could never fathom because they are being manipulated by someone so whose self-centered, cold nature continues to astound me. Based on past experience with this person, I can only imagine that there are lies being told which I will never be able to guess, let alone correct.

I am not hurt by the instigator. I am not shocked by them. I am not grieving the loss of their support or unconditional love, because I never truly believed it was there. I am, however, blown away by the reach they have. By the family members who let me down because of this person. I am heartbroken by the people I thought were my biggest supporters, my most loyal allies, my steady supply of strength. I am discouraged that they could be convinced to abandon me when I want and need them by my side the most.

There is no bright side to this, no light at the end of this particular tunnel.

I am defeated.

Deflated.

Tomorrow I will pick myself back up. I will stand up, forge ahead, and I will enjoy every moment of a beautiful, amazing experience that I will cherish for years to come. But tonight I will collapse into the strong, steady arms of my love. I will cry an ugly, ravaging cry while he strokes my hair and calls on karma to right the wrong. I will let the grief and disappointment invade my body until I am consumed with sleep. Tonight I will give into the hurt, the pain, the unbearable betrayal. I will just feel it; that is all I can do right now.

Tomorrow will be brighter, but tonight I am defeated.

Signature



Our Christmas Festivities Lasted an Entire Week

Posted on

While I won’t be disassembling the Christmas tree or packing up the holiday decorations until after the first of the year, it seems the Christmas season is officially over. {sad face.}

This year, our Christmas celebration lasted an entire week. Since we both have multiple, separate families to spend holiday time with, it would be impossible for Mr. B and I to spend quality time with everyone in one or two days.

We started the Sunday before Christmas, with a ham dinner at our house with Mr. B’s mom, grandmother, sister, and future brother-in-law. We spent the evening sitting around eating, drinking, and catching up. Even though they all live nearby, we don’t get together often enough, so it was great to see everyone.

Monday night I ventured back to my hometown for dinner with my dad to spend the night at his house. Christmas Eve morning my dad and I woke up before the sun to head to Pittsburgh’s Strip District. This is one of the coolest parts of Christmas, so it’s totally worth getting up at the asscrack of dawn. We got to Pennsylvania Macaroni Co. around 6 am, and joined about 4 million other folks in the pursuit of fresh Italian goodies for our Christmas feast.

This is the line at the bulk cheese  at PennMac at about 6:30 am on Christmas Eve. It looks crowded and miserable, but in reality everyone is in a great, festive mood.

This is the line at the bulk cheese at PennMac at about 6:30 am on Christmas Eve. It looks crowded and miserable, but in reality everyone is in a festive, friendly mood. AND DO YOU SEE ALL THAT CHEESE?! Happiness. Pure happiness.

After purchasing (for 4 people, mind you) no less than 5.5 pounds of cheese, 2 gallons of olive oil, 4 sticks of Margherita pepperoni, I have no idea how much deli meat, plus some stuffed olives and sundried tomatoes for good measure, we figured we should probably find some breakfast.

You know how they say you shouldn’t go grocery shopping on an empty stomach? That’s some solid advice.

Maybe we’ll try that next year.

Eh. Doubt it.

Anyway, breakfast was ah-mazing. This pretty much sums it up:

IMG_0440

 

Afterwards, we meandered to the spice store, the pepperoni roll cart (from Sunseri Brothers, naturally, because I couldn’t settle for one that wasn’t bigger than my head. Duh.), the wine shop, the sausage shop, and of course, the bakery for some fresh Italian bread. If you couldn’t already tell, we like food.

We eventually headed home for naps and to meet up with Mr. B, who had to work that morning and wasn’t able to join us on our little shopping excursion. That night my dad made his famous “dad’s spaghetti” for us. It’s not your typical spaghetti, it’s actually penne in olive oil with banana peppers, hot sausage, sundried tomatoes, and broccoli. IT’S DELICIOUS. But it’s also super spicy, so Mr. B had steak.

The rest of the evening was spent drinking, laughing at Joey, and exchanging gifts. My cousin had planned on visiting with us, but she wasn’t able to squeeze us in to her schedule after all. (No worries, I got to spend the entire weekend with her, which is way better than an hour or two.)

Early Christmas morning, Mr. B and I headed back to our house to exchange our gifts. We bummed around the house watching Christmas movies and swearing we’d never eat ever again. Then we took a little nap and ate some leftovers.

Christmas bums.

Christmas bums, enjoying a little snuggle sesh.

Christmas evening we ventured across the farm for dinner with Mr. B’s dad’s family. We ate more and watched the little kids play games. Some how, Mr. B got pulled into a game. I’m not clear on the objective of this particular game, but it involved putting cookies on his head.

Our final Christmas gathering took place last night, when my cousins came up for dinner.

IMG_0531

Nate was here this summer, and Tyler is going to school nearby so we get to see him all the time these days, but I hadn’t seen their sister, Danielle, in about 5 years. She actually spent the weekend with Mr. B and I, and her brothers joined us yesterday. Before they moved across the country, Dani was my little buddy, and I’ve missed her so much.  It was so nice to see her again and spend some quality time with her. She’s not exactly my mini-me anymore (since she’s as tall as me these days), but she’s even cooler than I remembered. Hopefully, it won’t be another five years before I see her again.

Even though I’m sad that it is over, it was a wonderful Christmas. The entire week was filled with fun, food, and lots of love and laughter. I can’t wait to do it all again next year.

How did you spend your holiday? Has anyone else sworn off eating for the rest of forever?

Signature


A Year Ago Today {Our Proposal Story}

Posted on

One year ago today, Mr. B made me the happiest girl in the world when he asked me to be his wife. In honor of our little anniversary, I’ve dug up one of the first blog posts I ever wrote: the story of how Mr. B put a ring on it.

———————————–

In our corner of the world, it can be kind of hit-or-miss when it comes to appropriately timed snowfalls. I’ve gone trick-or-treating in the snow, and I’ve worn shorts on my birthday in the middle of January. Last year, however, Mother Nature got it right. Well, at least for the week of Christmas. A few days before the jolly fat man in a red suit came to visit, our town was blanketed in gorgeous snow. It was beautiful. It was the kind of snow that sticks to the branches and the rooftops and makes everything so very pretty. Then, the sun came out, which is a rare treat for us between the months of November and March. The sky was blue and the world was white and everything was so dang lovely that for one day, I didn’t mind winter. So when Mr. B suggested taking the horses out for a trail ride, I happily saddled up Sally. We even, at Mr. B’s suggestion, bundled up Daisie Mae in her fluffy, pink vest and let her ride along in the saddle bag. (Being a Chihuahua, she’s not one for snow, or getting her feet wet, or long hikes through the woods.)

Daisie, all bundled up in the saddlebags and ready for a horseback ride. Somehow, this is the only photo we managed to take on the day we got engaged.

Daisie, all bundled up in the saddlebags and ready for a horseback ride. Somehow, this is the only photo we managed to take on the day we got engaged.

We set out on my favorite trail, which runs though a beautiful pine forest along a small creek, “down in the hollow”, as Mr. B says. As you can imagine, it was made even more stunning by the sunlight pouring through the trees and reflecting off of the snow. Mr. B suggested that we veer off the trail a bit and walk down to the creek to take a look at the icy waterfalls. I found this odd, because he’s not one for hiking either, but I didn’t think much of it. We tied the horses up, unloaded Daisie from her perch in the saddle bag, and I followed him through the woods down to a point in the creek where a huge rock jutted out over a little waterfall. He really was on the cusp of an ideal engagement proposal. But then Daisie and I mucked it up.

When Mr. B and I stepped on to the rock to admire our surroundings, I realized that Daisie was no longer behind me. I spotted her back on the trail, whining and looking anxious about her inability to get over (or under, it could have gone either way) a log that had fallen across the path. So obviously, I lost focus on how amazing Mr. B is to have taken me on such a lovely outing, and began trying to coerce the dog into hurdling the log and joining us on the rock. Mr. B, in all of his nervousness, was not prepared for such a hiccup in the plan and blurted out “Hey!” to regain the attention of his clueless fiancee-to-be. It worked, and when I turned around he pulled a diamond ring from his pocket and asked, in a much sweeter tone, “Will you marry me?” Overcome with love and joy and excitement, and blinded by the sparkly diamond, I said “of course!” and promptly forgot about Daisie and her troubles. Mr. B and I spent a few sweet moments on the rock in the middle of the beautiful winter scene, reveling in our love and the life we share, and laughing about the silly little dog and what a pitiful attention span I have. It really was wonderful. It may not have gone according to plan, but the whole thing was just so very “us” that I can’t imagine a better proposal!

Oh, and on our walk back to the horses, we realized that Daisie wasn’t nervous about clearing the log after all. Turns out, her fuzzy vest was snagged on a stick, and she was unable to free herself. Oops.

————————————-

To Mr. B (a.k.a. Ryan) (a.k.a., my hunky man-friend) (a.k.a. the love of my life),

In exactly 138 days, I will be stealing your last name, and I cannot wait! You’ve made me so deliriously happy, not just in the last year, but in every single day that I’ve known you. It hasn’t always been easy, and I know it won’t always be smooth sailing in the future, but there is nowhere I’d rather be than by your side. I truly believe we are better together. Hand-in-hand, we can take on the world. You are my love, my best friend, my comfort, my teammate, and the man whose smile I can’t resist.

It’s so strange – I can’t believe it’s been an entire year since I said “yes”, but at the same time, I can’t believe it’s only been a year. It feels like such a whirlwind, and yet, I can’t imagine my life without you in it. I’m so lucky to be able to spend the rest of forever with you.

I love you, baby, and I can’t wait to be your wife.

Love, Me

Signature


Christmas Wishlist {12 Days of Blogging}

Posted on

I’m joining Amber and Erin as part of the 12 Days of Blogging Christmas linkup. Today’s prompt is “Christmas wishlist”

———————–

Since the prompt today is wishlist, I figured I’d dream big. So Santa, if you are reading this, please know that while I don’t expect to find any of these things under the tree, I also wouldn’t hate it.

ChristmasWishlist2

1// This mixer wouldn’t really match my kitchen, but it’s just so pretty!

2, 3, & 4// I would really like some accessories for my fancypants camera, like these lenses and a tripod.

5// I’m SO over all this winter weather crap. I’d really like to hit the river with this pretty wakeboard, ASAP.

6// This camera bag would be an adorable way to tote around my camera and new accessories.

What’s on your wishlist this Christmas?

Signature


My Favorite Christmas Tradition {12 Days of Blogging}

Posted on

I’m joining Amber and Erin as part of the 12 Days of Blogging Christmas linkup. Today’s prompt is “favorite Christmas tradition” (I’m a day behind on this one. Just go with it.)

———————–

Growing up, our Christmas celebration centered more around Christmas Eve than Christmas day. I mean, sure, getting a bunch of presents was cool as hell, but Christmas Eve was when the really awesome stuff happened.

Each year, our extended family would gather at my great-aunt and uncle’s house (and later at my grandparents’) to spend the holiday together. For most of us, this just meant driving across town, but for my mom’s cousin and his wife, it meant making the trip from Buffalo to Pittsburgh with a van-load of children. The Buffalo cousins are close in age to my brother and I, so this was always a blast. Plus, our younger cousins would be there too. They lived nearby at the time, but I still got excited every time I’d get to see them.

I'm not sure when this picture was taken exactly, but it was a while ago. See the little cutie in the polka-dot dress? Yeah, she has a driver's license now.

I’m not sure when this picture was taken exactly, but it was a while ago. See that little cutie in the polka-dot dress? Yeah, she has a driver’s license now.

Each year we spent Christmas Eve the same way. First, we’d get all dressed up and head to church for the Christmas Eve service. I’m not much of a church-goer, but I love Christmas Eve service. The candlelight service and singing the songs of the holiday just warm my heart. After church, we’d head back to the house. I loved this short drive, where we’d see the houses all lit up and the beautiful luminaria lining the streets of the neighborhood.

Back at the house, my grandmother and great-aunt would have a feast waiting for us. Ham, turkey, and all the fixin’s, not to mention enough sweets to give us all diabetes. It was amazing. We’d stuff ourselves until we couldn’t eat any more, all while excitedly bouncing in our seats because we knew that the best part of the entire Christmas celebration was coming up next.

I don’t know who has connections with the jolly man in a red suit (though I suspect it’s my grandmother), but someone managed to talk him into stopping by before he started his night of globe trotting. Each year after dinner, we’d hear the distinct jingle of Santa’s bells, followed by the ringing doorbell. (Clearly, someone had an “in” with him, since it was casual enough for him to use the front door.) He’d waddle through the door, plop himself in a comfy chair, and dig deep into his sack of gifts. Each child (and sometimes a well-behaved grown-up or two), would be called up to sit on Santa’s lap and receive one early gift. He’d bring the rest of the loot when he stopped by again later that night on his usual route, but he always had a present for us to open on Christmas Eve before we snuggled into bed. Wasn’t that just so thoughtful of him?!

I know, I know. There is an awful rumor going around that Santa Claus isn’t real. It’s crap. Don’t believe them. I can assure you, he exists. And if you know someone who knows the right people, he can even be talked into knocking on your front door if you behave yourself in church. (I know there are many, many pictures of this somewhere – I just wasn’t able to dig them up. But I promise, there is proof…somewhere. I’ll find it.)

What is your favorite Christmas tradition?

Signature