# the days of {a wyoming} summer

Bella and I had about five weeks in Wyoming to ourselves this summer. Here’s how we spent the time avoiding unpacking boxes:

We took lots of walks in our new neighborhood, which is shady, dog-friendly and beautiful. Wyoming: 3, Utah: 0.

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Since that first week was so rough, Joe surprised me the next weekend by driving back to help. She doesn’t look it here, but Bella was more thrilled than me…if that was possible.

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We tried out a few different places to eat, including a down-home joint that has Joe’s name written all over it. More gravy!

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The first week I was here, I realized there was a nest in our backyard that had the tiniest baby birds. I quickly became obsessed documenting their growth. Here’s one on the first day I found them…

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They grew so fast!

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This was probably my favorite stage. They looked ridiculously cute.

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Eyes open…

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The nest getting a little crowded…that’s one the babies sitting on the other two, not the mama.

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…and then by later that day:

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They were testing their wings and sitting in bushes before they all three flew away. I was a little sad, I’ll admit.

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It was fun to check on them every day, but man if those robin parents weren’t sick of me. By the end the male was dive-bombing my head every time I got close.

In other animal news, Bella has taken to a certain upstairs perch that allows her to creep on our neighbors. Totally my dog.

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Since I few solo for the Fourth, I made yogurt and blueberry popsicles to celebrate.

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Then I got a call to play one of the festival’s concerts back in Utah, so I jumped at the chance, loading up Bella early Sunday morning for the long drive back.

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I spent my days working and our nights hanging with Sean and Wallis–this was the only week they were going to be in Utah for the festival, so it couldn’t have worked out more perfectly.

We made runs to Cosco to try Chris’ obsession with their berry sundae…

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…and we hit up a massive surplus store Joe and I had always wanted to visit.

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We were quite impressed with their Zombie Apocalypse section.

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Really?

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Yes.

Joe and I had one last Utah date night for crepes…

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…and then we played the concert that weekend.

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(Not pictured: Pool time earlier that day.)

By the next afternoon Bella and I were back in Wyoming, getting ready for a trip to Colorado, which I’ll tell you about next. Whew — glad those weeks alone surrounded by boxes are O-V-E-R.

(But damn if I don’t miss those birds!)

# kentucky butter cake…at 7200 feet

Wyoming didn’t really feel like home until I was reunited with my stand mixer. Since we only seem to move in the summer, it’s convenient that I’m {insert air quotes} *forced* to try my hand at high- and higher-altitude baking for Joe’s July  birthday. First it was this coconut wonder at 4500 feet and, now, this beauty at 7200:

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Luckily Joe and I were able to be together for his birthday weekend thanks to a camp taking place at his new school. Hurray for small summer victories!

Speaking of victories…

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…this cake was everything.

And it couldn’t have been easier. You start by dumping every single ingredient in one bowl at the same time. Everyone in the pool!

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Then you mix…

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…and ta-daah! All you have to do after it bakes is drench it in a decadent butter sauce that will make you forget your first name. Extra glaze! {Next time I’m totally replacing the water in the glaze with bourbon. Who’s with me? It’ll just make it even more Kentucky.}

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It looks a little bare when you remove the cake from the pan, but that’s nothing a little sugar dust won’t fix. Ready…aim…

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*sprinkle, sprinkle, sprinkle* Make it rain!

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And you’re left with this perfection. See that butter glaze that’s seeped into the cake’s core? Gah!

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It wouldn’t be a birthday if these Bavarian Inn friends didn’t make an appearance. (They get around: Exhibit A, Exhibit B, Exhibit C…)

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Make a wish, my love. So happy to have another year and new adventures with you.

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Kentucky Butter Cake

Source: Cookies & Cups

Cake

1 cup butter, cubed and brought to room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
4 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk

Butter Glaze

⅓ cup butter
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons water (or bourbon…just sayin’)
2 teaspoons vanilla

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 325°F

Grease a 10″ bundt pan with butter or shortening very liberally. Dust the pan with flour and set aside.

Place all the cake ingredients in the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low for 30 seconds and then increase the speed to medium and mix for 3 minutes.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 65-­75 minutes until a toothpick entered into the center comes out clean.

When the cake is done, make the glaze. Combine all ingredients into a small saucepan over medium­-low heat. Stir continuously until the butter is melted and the sugar is dissolved. Do not bring to a boil.

Poke holes all over the warm cake using a knife (or a chopstick) and pour the glaze evenly on the cake while still in the pan.

Allow the cake to cool completely in the pan and then invert the cake onto a serving plate. Make this cake a day in advance–it’s more m-word and flavorful when it rests overnight.

High-Altitude Adjustments for 7200 feet

Cut the amount of leavening in half (1/2 tsp. baking powder, 1/4 tsp. baking soda); bake at 350° for 50 minutes

# a tale of two states

Hello, friends. I haven’t forgotten you. Despite the implication that summer has down-time, I have found myself working harder than ever and, more often than not, consumed by stress. There are some that wear their busyness like a badge of honor, but not me. I strive every day to find the work-life balance of my dreams, but certain work circumstances that prevented that lately and things that I would normally love to do in my free time, like blogging, have had to take a {very} back seat. And, oh yeah, among all that we moved to a new state. It’s been madness.

But!

I’m determined to catch up. To tell you all about birthdays and family trips and finally having Joe in Wyoming with me and all the books that kept me company while we were apart. There’s so much. But, let’s take it back almost 10 weeks ago, when the summer was fresh and my energy level was twice what it is now. When our address still read Utah, but not for long.

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We started packing about three weeks before our move, which is roughly 3 weeks later than any other move I’ve done. May was full of Miami and Tampa and friends/visitors and anniversaries. So much happy, it somehow seemed blasphemous to cloud up the fun with cardboard and tape. But when we started, there was no looking back. Thank goodness for garages to keep the growing number of boxes out of sight. This was early on in the game, when there was still room to move.

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Packing makes me feel like a total mess. Even though we kondo’d our stuff, there were still a few surprises, like this Chinese bus ticket from ten years ago found tucked in a necklace box…

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…and our senior pictures, which made me realize how much Joe and I look alike. Do you see it? The eyes, the blue, the non-smiles. Geez.

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Side note: When we were engaged we had no less than five different people ask if we were siblings, the funniest one being the lady who processed our marriage license. ?! We didn’t see it then, but I’m seeing it now in these pics. 

Since this move was relatively easy compared to our last two in terms of distance, we decided to do it ourselves with Joe driving the truck. I wasn’t convinced everything could fit into a 22-foot truck, so we went with the 26-er. When we went to pick it up, Joe warned me it was going to be big and to “not lose your crap” when I saw it. I’m glad he gave me the disclaimer, because I did have an internal mini freak-out, followed by immediate prayers that he’d be okay behind its wheel.

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We loaded it up the day before we left with the help of two “professional” movers which ended up being a guy and his 80-pound girlfriend in strappy sandals that managed to move our ginormous wooden music case. Color me impressed.

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The rest of the boxes we loaded with Jason. This was at the very end. Totally didn’t need the 26-foot truck. #oops!

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The next day it was Wyoming, or bust. We couldn’t have done this without our very good friend, Ben, who joined the caravan in Joe’s car so I could drive mine with Bella. Who, by the way, is the laziest co-pilot ever.

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It took us around seven hours, I think, and once we did arrive it was time to unload it all again.

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Every other move I’ve done has had a nice two-week window between when we packed up our stuff to when it arrived. Just enough time to forget about the hell it was to pack everything and to make it feel like Christmas when you open each box.

Not the case when you pack everything for weeks and your only day spent not packing is the day you’re driving and then, surprise, you’re unpacking items that night. UNCLE!

Speaking of that night…we took a break to grab some dinner and managed to lock ourselves out of the house thanks to me wanting to try locking the screen on the front door. Cue us having to break into our own new home and our neighbors catching us. Oh, hi, nice to meet you. Yes, we’re breaking into the house we just moved into. I promise we’re normal.

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Joe managed to get the garage door open and then made me swear on Bella’s paw that I’d never lock the screen again.

The next day we piled back in our caravan to return the rental truck in Cheyenne, which is about 45 minutes away. This time I got to ride with Joe and see what it was like spinnin’ the big rigs.

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I’m amazed at how well he handled it, but ohmygosh were we so excited to dump that baby and be done. This might be my very favorite picture and perfectly captures our joy.

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We. did. it.

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On the way back we stopped to say hi to Abe and then collapsed from exhaustion.

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Joe and Ben had to leave later that day to get back to Utah, beginning our summer apart. I wish I could tell you that I put on my brave face and tackled the staggering number of boxes with grace and determination, but mostly I just sat on the couch and watched Netflix. I couldn’t bring myself to touch the boxes I had just, JUST, sealed with tape. It was far from easy to make this move and stay behind to set up house while Joe went back to Utah for his festival, but I know why we had to do it. And now we’re here, building our new home, learning how to deal with temperatures in the 30s in August and so happy to not be handling cardboard.

Upcoming posts in my quest to catch up: Everything I did to avoid unpacking, a musical week in Utah, a killer birthday cake baked at 7200 feet, a family-filled adventure in Colorado and an interview with my favorite third grader. Let’s do this.

# the last of Logan

I cannot believe we’re halfway through July. That a month from now will bring band camp and, shortly after, school starting and a new season at NWS. This summer has been a blur of cardboard, asphalt and stress. That’s why this post is a nice reminder that before we moved, there were four great weeks in Logan with friends and family. Here’s the rundown of mid-May to mid-June:

# Rachel graduated from high school

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Thanks to modern technology, I watched in real time as she crossed that stage, all smiles.

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# I loaded up on Tallis Time

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We are all so smitten with this little guy.

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Chris and Chilali took me to Pocatello on one of their Cosco runs. It was a gorgeous day and drive, with a very special stop at the Pepperidge Farm outlet. Tallis, meet Goldfish.

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Chris, who won’t touch my homemade ice cream or any other, seems to be infatuated with Cosco soft serve with berries. Here he is trying to sell me on it….not working.

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On the way back, I took every opportunity to make fun of his geriatric sun glasses as revenge.

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Yeah, we have *no* fun together.

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I also combined my ice cream and Tallis time on Memorial Day…

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…and it wouldn’t be a real goodbye without a final trip to Charlie’s, our local hangout spot, the day before we left….

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…and a visit to Logan’s new ice cream shop BJ BUCKETS, where we mainly just went to laugh over the name and see what Tallis would look like with his dad’s hair.

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# Date Nights for days

Joe and I hit up all of our favorite spots one last time and I insisted on documenting my view for each. Clockwise from top left: Elements, Herm’s, Even Stephens and Paco’s.

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# Girl’s Week with Pammie

But the best part of the month was having my Aunt Pam visit while Joe was out of town.

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We had a total blast and laughed entirely too hard. When we weren’t laughing, we sampled great eats at Caputo’s…

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…saw all of the {LDS} sites…

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…ate all the crepes…

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…and made Jeni’s Darkest Chocolate Ice Cream in the World and tried our best to keep it off the walls. It was RIDICULOUSLY delicious. One of the best chocolates I’ve ever had.

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This was a fast month and filled with way too many goodbyes, but I’m so thankful for my friends and family for giving me so many bright moments and memories. And ice cream.

# tampa trip (May 2016)

Oh, how bittersweet to write this post! After my work trip to Miami in May, Joe and I drove to Tampa for a few days to visit my lifelong friend Bobbie, Robert and Abby. It was our last time to see them before they moved to E-N-G-L-A-N-D last weekend. *sniff, sniff* We wanted this trip to be about our shared Tampa Bucket List, which turned out to be–as it always does with me and Bobbie–a food bucket list. I’m not complaining! Here are all the pictorial highlights:

Joe and I arrived late on Friday night after Abby had gone to bed, so we woke to her sweet “goodmorning!” whispers and our favorite doughnuts from Datz Dough.

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These are the sprinkles of life, people! I’m glad Abby shares my affinity for these sugar bombs.

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She made Joe his own special breakfast in her play kitchen. He loved it — obvs.

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And she performed a lively ukulele solo for us, which you HAVE to watch by clicking here.

For lunch they introduced us to Bartaco, which was SO GOOD. The cauliflower taco with romesco sauce was mind blowing. Now I want romesco sauce on everything.

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Abby even found the England sticker by our table on her own.

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Afterwards we walked around Hyde Park….holding hands with our honorary niece….

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…sitting by the fountain…

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…and taking photo ops to celebrate their new adventure.

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Abby had one wish for our visit — to make sugar cookies! You don’t {ever} have to ask me twice! I’m well versed in my mom’s tried-and-true recipe, but we made Bobbie’s favorite recipe from Boston’s Flour Bakery. It was spectacular — thick and soft with just the right amount of icing. We added a 1/2 teaspoon (I think?) of almond extract to the icing that really pushed it over the top.

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If I wasn’t there when she was born, I’d think she was mine the way she’s drinking a LaCroix while baking.

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Or when licking the beater. Either way, she’s basically a Mini Marci.

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Flour Noses while we let the dough chill in the fridge!

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Before nap time (for all five of us), Abby requested story time with Uncle Joe. So sweet to watch!

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If Cora wasn’t trying to nap with me, she was trying to sleep in my suitcase. Silly kitty.

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Abby woke up a doctor and needed to check my vitals…

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…allll of my vitals, apparently. Ha! I feel like this is a photo we’ll be laughing over for a long time.

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We spent the evening taking a girl’s trip to the splash park and watching Abby go crazy in the water.

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The next morning we headed to Datz–our absolute favorite place to eat in Tampa–for brunch. Abby’s face is all of us when waiting for food.

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Post-brunch photos with cats and doughnuts!

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When you inadvertently dress exactly alike and don’t realize it until you’re in public.

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That afternoon was finally cookie rolling time. Oh, the excitement…in all of us.

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First order of all sugar cookie business: Flour those noses!!

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Expert decorating by our little artist

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While we waiting for those babies to set, we took Abby for a bike ride to the school track.

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On your marks…

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That night was truly the culinary highlight of the trip. Bobbie and Robert surprised us with reservations to Tampa’s speakeasy, Ciro’s, to celebrate our anniversary. We even got dressed up and everything.

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You had to say a password to get in. So fancy!

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And the food and drinks! Ridiculous. The drink menu was fun and long.

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We shared the wild mushroom fondue…

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…with our starter drinks. I had the “Hemingway Daiquiri,” because….Hemingway. I can’t remember what Joe had, but his is on the right.

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For dinner I had a luscious caprese salad (seen in the background).

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It was an unforgettable experience and the most perfect way to celebrate our anniversary with our dear friends.

With stomachs still digesting, we dropped Abby off at school the next morning and had a *light* breakfast at Oxford Exchange.

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Another place I had never been, but absolutely fell in love with every square inch.

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I had a carrot cake tea latte–my first tea latte–and a toast with lemon ricotta, strawberries, pistachios, honey and basil. Wowza.

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That afternoon we were treated to another ukulele concert, this time a duo. I looove Abby’s makeshift stage and bunny groupie.

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Annnd then I scarred her for life by trying to straighten her hair. She was on board at first, but as soon as she reached up to feel it she was screaming as though I had cut off her arm. I really thought she was going to throw up she was crying so hard. Aunt Marci Fail!

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That night was our last and we spent it with our mutual horn friend, Bob, with one last trip to Datz Dough for their doughnut ice cream cone. Yep, I did it.

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And then the next morning with our pants feeling tighter, we boarded a plane back to Utah. I am so, so, so grateful to have had this last hurrah with the Z’s while they were still living on US soil. Now I’m counting down the days until I can see them on the other side of the pond where we will undoubtedly find new culinary adventures to share. We love this family!

# miami trip (May 2016)

I’m baaaaack. And this time with a cold, hard truth: Moving when you’re in your 30s is very, very, very different than moving in your 20s. Needless to say I’ve been wiped out from our crossing of state lines into Wyoming. Seriously wiped out. But, I have a slew of posts in the queue waiting for their big reveal. So let’s power through and rewind the clocks to May with a trip to Florida!

By now you are probably well acquainted with my Miami hot spots — Big Pink, the beach, the iguanas, New World Center. But here’s a new one: WALLCAST concerts. I was able to be there for the final NWS concert of the season, which was also being broadcast on the side of the building to people in the park.

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When we started doing these in 2011 the audiences were large, but nothing like they are now. I truly love seeing thousands of people from all walks of life gather together with their blankets, wine and snacks for a free evening of classical music.

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If you go to Miami between October and early May, you must check these out.

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Just magical.

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I spent some very quality time with my BFF Julisa this time around, including an amazing home-cooked meal that was sooooo much better than the salad kits I was making in my tiny hotel-ish kitchen. This girl is such an inspiration to me, especially when it comes to cooking and baking. Here she is playing it up for the camera.

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Not pictured, but there in hilarious spirit: boyfriend Casey and NSFW poetry readings.

I got a glorious Round Two with Julisa when we met up with our other besties Michelle and Rebecca for dinner at this fabulous vegan restaurant, Full Bloom. With a pretty killer patio view.

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Too bad we didn’t relive this picture from 2011.

The A Team

This dinner was hands down one of the best I’ve ever had in Miami. I had never had tempeh before, but this chimichurri version over quinoa rocked my world!

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New goal: learn how to master bbq tempeh.

Joe flew in the next day and we met at Skyline with friends Michael and Tyler for dinner.

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It’s always Skyline Time. Michael and Tyler had never had it, but became instant fans.

And then my 10 days there were over and we headed to Tampa. Of course I went to Big Pink and of course I have a million pictures from my building’s roof. But, these are the new highlights. Can’t wait to get back there again.

# sixth anniversary : easy candy bar tart

Remember me? I’m so behind thanks to work, packing, almost taking my entire knuckle off with a cheese grater and, oh yeah, sheer exhaustion. But I’m determined to catch you up on our trip to Florida, this blog’s third anniversary and all the other latest and greatest from Utah. Moving day is in less than two weeks, so let’s get crackin’….

Joe and I celebrated anniversary #6 two weeks ago with a day of fun and Utah-bucket-list check marks. It was a rainy, dreary day, but we piled in the car and headed to Utah’s most famous doughnut shop: Banbury Cross in SLC. By the time we got there the line was still out the door (in the rain), so we figured that was promising.

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I, of course, chose sprinkle…

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and Joe tried a chocolate cake with icing.

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They were fine–not as good as Daylight or Spudnuts, but that didn’t stop us from digging in! We shopped around some of our favorite places before checking out our main reason for driving 3-hours round trip: Chedda Burger.

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Joe had found the former food truck on Yelp. One look at their “Kill Me Softly” burger and he was sold.

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That would be a beef patty with bleu cheese, bacon, arugula and cranberry sauce on a Krispy Kreme doughnut.

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That’s Joe fainting..or his heart exploding…either one.

The best part was definitely the cheddar tots that Joe had with his burger. I could have eaten them all day, especially their cilantro chipotle dipping sauce.

I went for the “modest” Hipster: veggie patty, brie, roasted mushrooms, tomatoes, arugula and hummus. Wowza.

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Then, to top it off…or make matters worse, we split their Urban Camp Fire milkshake — ice cream, toasted marshmallow, fudge, peanut butter and graham crackers. It was also magical.

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But WAIT! THERE’S MORE! {food}

Sixth anniversaries are marked as either the candy anniversary by traditional standards and the wood anniversary by modern lists. I really wanted to use this to create a fun anniversary dinner at home for Joe. Candy I could do…but wood? I wracked my brain before Joe came up with the perfect solution: Risotto. What do you need to make risotto? A wooden spoon.

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So we stood over the stove to coax out those incredible starches together with that wooden spoon and a bottle of wine. Totally my love language.

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Joe paired his roasted sweet potato risotto with a steak, which was heavily guarded by Bella until it went on the fire.

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But, the dessert! I knew the “candy” theme would win, but I didn’t estimate by this much. I made Baked’s (those Brooklyn boys I love) Easy Candy Bar Tart — a no-bake miracle.

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Especially when paired with our sweet anniversary forks from the Z’s.

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The tart starts with a simple oreo cookie crust, but then you top it with homemade caramel mixed with slightly over-toasted walnuts. Get ’em as smoky as you can without burning them.

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Then topped with chocolate glaze…it truly lived up to their description of it as a “gigantic, chewy candy bar.”

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This would be a perfect don’t-you-dare-turn-the-oven-on summer dessert!

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Easy Candy Bar Tart

Source: Baked Elements

Chocolate Cookie Crust:

30 oreo cookies
1 Tbs. water
3 oz. (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Caramel Walnut Filling:

1 c. sugar
1/3 c. heavy cream
1 1/2 oz. (5 Tbsp) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and softened
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. fleur de sel
2 c. walnuts, toasted at 300-degrees for 12-15 minutes

Chocolate Glaze:

4 oz. good-quality dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 oz. (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and softened
1 tsp. light corn syrup

Toast walnuts and set aside to cool. Lightly coat a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray.

In a food processor, pulse the cookies into a very fine powder. You should have about 1 1/2 cups. Place the crumbs in a medium bowl and stir in sugar. Pour the butter over the crumb mixture and mix until well combined. It should feel wet.

Turn the mixture into the prepared pan and press into the bottom and up the sides using a large measuring cup. Put it in the refrigerator while you make the filling.

****

In a medium saucepan with high sides, combine the sugar and 1/4 c. water. Stir the mixture gently so you don’t splash any on the sides of the pan. Cook over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Increase the heat to high, and, without stirring, allow the mixture to boil. Once it begins to turn a rich amber color, remove it from the heat and slowly stream in cream.

After the mixture stops bubbling, return the pan to very low heat and whisk in the butter. Continue whisking gently until the caramel is uniform and slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Stir in the vanilla and fleur de sel.

Remove pan from heat and stir in walnuts. Pour the filling into the prepared crust and chill for at least an hour.

****

Place chocolate, butter and corn syrup in the bowl of a double boiler over medium heat. Using a rubber spatula, stir the mixture until everything is combined and smooth. Remove the bowl from the water and stir to release excess heat.

Pour the glaze over the tar and use an offset spatula to smooth to edges. Refrigerate for 1 hour to set glaze before slicing and serving. Serve slightly chilled or at room temperature. Store tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. (Or share with friends, like we did, and you’ll have no leftovers. Just really happy friends.)