Category Archives: 33 before 33

Pizza 1; Tears 0

I made a list of 33 things I want to do before I turn 33 in June 2014.  See the full list here.

22. Grill a pizza without tears.  I realize this does not seem difficult.  But attempts #1 and #2 last summer were disastrous.  I’m blaming the humidity.


YOU GUYS, I DID IT.  Attempt #3, nearly a year later, resulted in tasty homemade grilled pizza and NO TEARS.  Success.


First up – the toppings.  Goat cheese, mushrooms, roasted peppers, Parmesan, spinach, and their good friend (not pictured) crumbled Italian sausage.

Oh, actually, the real First Up – spend 20 minutes Googling “how to grill a pizza.”  I got this.


And, the crust.  I used Trader Joe’s original pizza dough, purchased earlier in the day, and kept in the refrigerator right up until I was ready to use it.  I read some reviews that said to take it out of the fridge 20 minutes before using, but last time my dough was super sticky, so I decided to risk the chilled dough.  It worked just fine.


I split the dough into 3 lumps on a floured countertop with floured hands, and patted them out.  I read that they should be about as big as a human head, but that didn’t seem to happen for me.  Next time I might use a rolling pin ’cause I think a thinner crust would taste better.IMG_4115

I transferred each dough to an oiled piece of parchment paper, then spread a little olive oil and sprinkled salt on to the actual dough.  One blog noted that TJ’s dough isn’t very salty, so this seemed like a good idea.  I thought our final pizza was the right saltiness, so I’ll keep this step next time.

Transporting the dough was an issue last time, but the oiled parchment worked well.  If I do get dough as large as a human head, I would probably use a cookie sheet instead of just my hand.


Then we did the awkward “what angle should we do this at?” dough flip, and eventually successfully got all 3 crusts onto a very hot, oiled grill.

3 minutes on one side, then 1 minute on the other side.


Next up:  Toppings.  We put them on the side that was more well-done.  On two of them.  The other, I forgot, and spread the goat cheese on the less-well done side.  That one seemed to be a little soggy, so I’d definitely recommend putting the toppings on the side that is more cooked at this point, especially if you’re using a thinner sauce like marinara.


Topped it all off with cheese then returned to the grill until it was melty and browned and a little charred on the bottom and super delicious.



REALLY, REALLY delicious.  Grilled Pizza, I think we might be friends now.

Edited to add: a friend followed this post and the 3 minutes on her really hot grill burned her crust. So…maybe less time, depending on your grill. Keep an eye on your crust. Sorry, K!

Dear Cheese

I made a list of 33 things I want to do before I turn 33 in June 2014.  See the full list here.

6. Take a cooking class with Chad.  Super fun date night, am I right?


Dear cheese, I love you.

During a recent lunch stop at the Whole Foods salad bar, I saw a sign advertising a cheese class.  Nay, a FREE cheese class.  I haven’t found a cooking class yet that has worked with our schedules, so I decided that a free class about cheese (plus wine pairings, they said!) was pretty perfect.  We invited our friends from the I Thee Wine blog to join us for our little date night.


Our class was about sheep’s milk cheese, and since not many people showed up for the class, we got to sample two pieces of each – maybe 8 or 10 different kinds.  It was a lot of cheese.  And not enough wine.  Whole Foods, take note.  Definitely not enough wine. Our teacher did a great job and knew a lot about each of the cheeses. I may have a new dream job, you guys.


My friend Andrea introduced me to Manchego several years ago, and it’s one of my faves to this day, but I had no idea that it was a sheep cheese! So good, Manchego.

There are a few different cooking classes offered in Omaha that still look interesting, including one on smoking meats that Chad would love, but on behalf of my love for cheese, I’m calling this goal accomplished. Say cheese!

Pie Day

I made a list of 33 things I want to do before I turn 33 in June 2014.  See the full list here.

26. Make a pie. I really need to conquer my fear of baking.


“When [Almanzo] began to eat pie, he wished he had eaten nothing else. He ate a piece of pumpkin pie and a piece of custard pie, and he ate almost a piece of vinegar pie. He tried a piece of mince pie, but could not finish it. He just couldn’t do it. There were berry pies and cream pies and vinegar pies and raisin pies, but he could not eat any more.” — Farmer Boy, Laura Ingalls Wilder

My dear mother came to town to help with bread baking, but when it came time to tackle making a pie, I turned to my mother-in-law.  I grew up enjoying Mom’s bread, cinnamon rolls, cookies, crisps and cobblers, but she wasn’t a pie mom.IMG_3513

Corinne, however, was a State Champion pie baker (Entrant No. 10, actually).  So on Mother’s Day, she pulled out her old recipe card and we baked a pie.  Two pies, actually.  Over achievers.


Isn’t that cookie jar just the cutest?  I’m totally putting a sticky note with my name on it in hopes of inheriting it someday.  And you guys.  LARD.  Corinne said she found it with the cottage cheese, not with the butter, like we both had sort of expected.


Anyway.  We cut in the butter and lard until we had little peas, being careful not to overwork the dough.

Corinne floured up the pastry cloth on its little frame and slipped the sleeve on the rolling pin.  I remembered my sticky dough near-mess from baking bread and sighed in relief.  I rolled out the dough for a 9-inch pie pan.

Then I tried (not so successfully) to get the pie crust into the pie pan without tearing it or poking holes through the tender dough.  Corinne showed me how to patch the holes  – no one will see the inside, she reminded me.  IMG_3530

Then time for the cherries.  I am not sure if I’ve ever had tart cherries from a can before  – these were in water not syrup – but they are SO good.  I had to restrain myself from eating too many before they made it in the pie.  We mixed the sugar and juice and cornstarch and heated until thickened, the stirred in the glossy butter and plump cherries.  Mmmm.  So good.IMG_3531

I used a nifty tool to cut the pretty lattice strips.
IMG_3533But don’t look too closely – I was not good at the weaving part, and the lattice strips kept breaking so I gave up and faked it a bunch.IMG_3534

Then we made an apple pie, because two pies is better than one pie, clearly.  I actually did a pretty good job moving the top crust on this one.   IMG_3544

We put them in the oven, and when there was about 30 minutes left, the tornado siren went off.  Not even joking.  A tornado warning vs. my beautiful pies!  What were we going to do?

We all went down to the basement and watched the news as the storm moved closer.  And closer.  Straight line winds and rain-wrapped tornados in the area prompted us to move into an interior bedroom, so I dashed upstairs, and with 10 minutes left on the oven timer, I turned off the oven (but left the pies in), ran back downstairs, drank more wine, and hoped for the best.  20 minutes later, the storm had passed and I went up to check on my pies.

Overall, I think they would have been better baked at the proper temperature for the full time, but considering their low-temp long hangout, they sure were good.  And pretty.  IMG_3535

I’m thankful for the time that Corinne spent with me, and I feel good enough about making pie crust that I’ll try it again.  Above:  Totally the best part about pie making, amiright?  Below:  The woman who gave life to the man I love.  She has a pretty special place in my heart.  Screen Shot 2014-05-16 at 7.32.52 PM

Carpet cleaning

I made a list of 33 things I want to do before I turn 33 in June 2014.  See the full list here.

5.  Get our carpet cleaned.  A few years of normal wear and tear plus several construction projects have left it in rough shape.


It’s the most wonderful day of the year!  By “a few years of normal wear and tear” I really meant that the carpets hadn’t been cleaned since Chad bought the house…5 years ago.  And, I’m pretty sure the previous owners had pets.  They were in rough shape.  Sorry, everyone who has ever been at our house.

But, today. Today was carpet cleaning day.  I got a couple of estimates and went with the guy who was cheapest, who also happens to be the closest to our house.  Who also happens to own a paint ball company.  So there’s that.

2 hours later, and you guys.  It’s amazing.  The carpet looks (and smells) fresh and clean and the big weird stains that I pretended to ignore are gone.  Hooray.

Cleaning 1

Exhibit A of the nice clean carpet – weird spots in the guest bedroom upstairs.  Gone.

cleaning 2Exhibit B of the nice clean carpet – weird spots (and feathers…don’t keep extra pillows under the bed, I guess).  Gone.

I couldn’t be more pleased.


Surviving No Money March

I made a list of 33 things I want to do before I turn 33 in June 2014.  See the full list here.

18.  Institute a No-Spend month.  31 days of not buying stuff.  Read this for more.


I did it!  I survived my No-Spend month!

  • I didn’t buy any clothing or shoes for myself.  We did replace Chad’s bum around the house sweatpants after he ripped an unfortunate hole in them.  Because comfy pants are considered a necessity around here.
  • I didn’t buy any home decor or throw pillows, or even go to Home Goods just to look.
  • I didn’t buy any craft supplies or books or clearance necklaces or makeup or other super fun but unnecessary Target splurges.
  • In fact, I didn’t go to Target at all.  The whole month.  This alone should be celebrated.
  • I didn’t spend my little Starbucks budget on lazy solo trips – I used it on visits with friends. Okay, truth?  I did once dig spare change out of my car to buy myself a Bad Day Starbucks.  It was Secret Starbucks at the time, but I’ll come clean here.
  • I DID actually manage to clean out my refrigerator, organize my freezer and purge my itty-bitty pantry of out of date food (Clam sauce from 2008?  How was that still in there? And why did my husband ever buy clam sauce?)

Overall, I’m calling it a success.  Hooray.

She works with willing hands

I made a list of 33 things I want to do before I turn 33 in June 2014.  See the full list here.

1.  Make yeast dough from scratch.  My mom makes wonderful bread and cinnamon rolls, but I’m terrified of baking.



 I have my mother’s hands.  Small wrists, sharp angled knuckles, prominent veins.  We’ll never be hand models.  But we are women who work with our hands, making, creating, cleaning, caring, loving.  Baking.

Well, at least Mom bakes.  An oven with uneven temperatures, a high-humidity house, and a few unfortunate sticky-dough experiences later – I’m officially scared to bake.  So, in order to conquer #1 on my 33 before 33 list, I knew I’d need help.  Mom took a day off work and came to Omaha to teach me how to handle yeast dough.

2PicMonkey Collage.jpgWe started with a herbed peasant bread recipe that I love – it makes the best toast and grilled cheese sandwiches.  We dissolved the yeast, mixed the herbs and flour (by hand, thankyouverymuch – no Kitchen Aid here!), and then came the kneading.

Grease and flour the counter, oil your hands, turn and knead the dough, turn and knead, turn and knead.  Feel the rhythm, count the minutes, learn the dough.  The dough rested on its heating pad nest, the yeast doing its growing work, the balls doubling in size in time.  There’s no rushing dough rising.

PicMonkey Collage.jpgWe worked on whole wheat cinnamon rolls while the bread dough rested.  Turn and knead, turn and knead.  I had to call in reinforcements (Mom! Help!) when the dough got sticky.  Turns out keeping a steady rhythm is important.  No stopping to chat while turning cinnamon roll dough.

After the cinnamon roll dough had rested, we mixed the butter, sugar and cinnamon, rolled out the dough, spread the filling and rolled up the dough.  Rolls get cut with string, just like Grandma did it.  Her hands look like ours, too.


Golden brown and delicious.  I need to work on consistent roll sizes.  Still a lot to learn.  IMG_2416

Also?  Do not forget the frosting.  More butter more cream cheese more better.  That’s important.

IMG_2418I love spending time with my mom.  I love getting to know her as a grown up.  I love the way she shares her heart and her story with such grace, the way she’s finding her strength and voice, the way she pours into her family and community from the deep wells of her faith.  I love learning about her and learning from her and I’m so thankful for the time she gave me this weekend.

IMG_2363But sometimes, Mom learns from me.  Like what it means to “Let’s get a Sonic.”  Excellent.

No Money March

I made a list of 33 things I want to do before I turn 33 in June 2014.  See the full list here.

18.  Institute a No-Spend month.  31 days of not buying stuff.  Read this for more.


28 more days of not buying stuff, actually.  Hello, March 3.   I was inspired by Rachel at Small Notebook‘s no-spend experiment a few years ago, and have always wanted to try one of my own.  She defines the process as “no spending except for basic necessities” and I think that’s a good way to define it for me as well.  Here’s my guidelines for myself this month:

  • I won’t buy clothing.
  • I won’t buy home decor.
  • I won’t buy colored markers, lip gloss, washi tape, or a new pair of shoes, simply because we did actually need toothpaste.

Target, I’m looking at you.

  • I will spend my small monthly Starbucks budget while getting together with a friend, rather than on days when I’m feeling lazy or just have a craving.  I’m a junkie, it’s true.
  • I won’t get a haircut or pedicure or buy makeup or skincare products unless I legitimately run out of lotion. Because winter.
  • I will be intentional about meal planning when we are home, organize my small food cabinet to use up what I have on hand, and eat out less.

I will still buy groceries, I will still buy gas for my car, we will still go to Denver for a pre-planned weekend getaway with a friend, we will still pay our regular bills.  Since we never know how many days each month we will actually be home rather than traveling for work, I haven’t set a specific lowered budget for the month.

The goal is to not spend money on anything other than necessities.  The goal is to allow a little more space in my brain. Space to think less about what I could buy that might improve my home, appearance, or productivity.  To be grateful for what I have.

Let’s go.