Thursday, July 31, 2014

Sopapilla Cheesecake Bars

Everyone needs a pick-me-up to get through the week. There's no better thing sometimes for a difficult week (in my opinion), than to just spend an evening baking. Last night I enjoyed a low-key night with my amazing husband who needed it because he had a written certification exam coming up today for his job. (GOOD LUCK, BABE!). I was hoping to have a delicious dessert made for last night to enjoy before he went to bed, but I failed. We instead rode bikes for an hour or so, made dinner (I'll share that recipe later because it turned out delicious), and spent a couple hours just hanging out on the couch with him and our pup watching our Netflix show of choice right now (Prison Break), which we are loving. We try to watch a series a couple times a week together until we're done and then start a new one (Burn Notice and How I Met Your Mother are our favorites we've completed so far!). We're not very good at staying up with on-going shows, though. We always seem to watch them after they have gone completely off air, ha ha. Oh well. It's fun for us. :) Any suggestions for other series to start after this one? Anyway, I ended up starting baking after he had already gone to bed because I got caught up in the show. I have a friend that is leaving the lab today, so I decided that I would make a couple different desserts and then have half for us and half for my co-workers. It was incredibly fun and relaxing, and baking/cooking probably always will be for me. :) It's one of my favorite things to do. I love to sit down and plan out meals for a couple weeks (rotating through our favorite recipes and adding in new ones I find on the internet (blogs/pinterest) or from our cookbooks and add it to our rotation). I do a lot of crock pot recipes, as well, which I will share with you one of these days! :) For now, on to one of my favorite desserts that my husband actually started making. He made it for a party with our friends for Cinco De Mayo a year ago (isn't he awesome--a husband that bakes and cooks as much as I do sometimes!), and it has been a staple in our house for when we're craving something delicious.

For today, I am linking up with Katherine's Corner, Over Fifty Feeling 40, and Vintage Mama for Thursday's Favorite Things! You can find a ton more amazing things that other blogs have linked up here! My "Thursday's Favorite Things" are these Sopapilla Cheesecake Bars that I made last night, along with Turtle Chocolate Chip Cookies (recipe for that later, as well!).

Sopapilla Cheesecake Bars - these are amazing, divine, cheesecake filled dessert bars. If you like cheesecake, you will love these! The best part is most of the ingredients are usually staples around the kitchen if you like to bake!

Ingredients you will need:

3 (8 oz) packages of cream cheese (I actually only used 2 to cut down a little bit, and they still turned out great!)
2 cups white sugar total (1 1/2 for first part of recipe; last 1/2 cup for the top!)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
2 (8 oz) pkgs of crescent rolls (I used Kroger brand, which worked just as well as Pillsbury brand has in the past!)
1/2 cup melted butter
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1/4 cup sliced almonds (optional--I didn't use these for mine last night and preferred them without, so it is entirely up to your tastes!)


1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Celsius.
2. Beat the cream cheese with 1 1/2 cups of sugar and the vanilla extract in a bowl until completely smooth (whipped consistency).
3. Unroll the cans of crescent roll dough. Lay and press the dough on the bottom of a 9x13 inch baking dish (glass is preferred). Pinch the individual triangles together and spread the dough into the the seams of the dish. Note: You will want the dough to be as consistent and without breaks as possible.
4. Evenly spread the mixture of cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla over the baking dish.
5. Cover with the remaining pieces of crescent dough, and again, make sure to seal all the breaks in the individual pieces together creating one flat sheet of dough on the top.
6. Drizzle the melted butter evenly over the top of the cheesecake.
7. Mix the last 1/2 cup of sugar with the cinnamon in a small bowl and then sprinkle over the butter mixture. At this point, you can add the sliced almonds on top if you would like.
8. Bake in the preheated over until the dough has turned golden brown for about 25-30 minutes.
9. Cool completely in the pan (about 20 minutes).
10. It is easiest to cut after being refrigerated (preferably overnight).
11. Enjoy!

Adapted from here!

Hope everyone is having a good day! The week is almost over, which is the reason I'm getting through each day. It's been a rough week, but these made it better, and if you have time to try to make them, I think you'll feel the same way! Happy Thursday everyone!


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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Gorgeous Uinta Mountains

This upcoming weekend, my husband and I are hoping to go camping up at Bear Lake, which is just a couple of hours away from us. We absolutely love to camp, and Honey has so much fun, too. It gives us an opportunity to just get away from the routine life schedule and not spend too much money on a get-away, while still enjoying the beautiful outdoors and going hiking, fishing, etc. :) There's an event called "Raspberry Days" at Bear Lake that we're hoping to enjoy, as well, that celebrates the harvest of Bear Lake's famous raspberries. :) This area has a ton of festivals in the summer/fall, and we have loved watching the communities come together to enjoy them! They're a lot of fun. Hopefully we will be able to make it. It's one of the last weekends that we do not have something planned that will prevent us from being able to spend a couple days camping, but it has been raining here for the last three days, and it doesn't sound like it will be ending soon. Our tent is not exactly rain-friendly... Hopefully, we'll still be able to go, and I can share some pictures, soon. The other weekend, though, we were able to camp in the Uinta Mountains. Utah has quite a few major mountain ranges. We enjoy hiking the Wasatch whenever we have time, and now we have had the chance to go hiking in the Uinta mountains, which are absolutely gorgeous. We had a great time!

Sorry for the overload of pictures, but it was just so beautiful there!

My favorites :)
There are so many gorgeous lakes that we had fun exploring. I think my favorite, though, was Mirror Lake. Can you guess why it's called that? ;)

My husband takes the best photos! Almost all of these were taken by him, with just a few by me and some other bystanders that were nice enough to snap a shot of us! :)
Sorry if you were not able to access my blog for a couple of days. I was trying to make a few changes to make it as secure and private as possible, while still being able to have friends and family (and other followers) read it. :) I've been a little homesick now and then for people back home, and I'm hoping this lets me feel even closer to them and gives everyone there a taste of our life out here. Let me know if have any problems reading it, and I truly appreciate you reading!

Love always,

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Mill Creek Canyon: Dog Lake

I don’t even know if I can call this weekend a weekend. I worked a lot of it. For my job, we had a possible corresponding author (if this thing ever gets published—fingers crossed eventually) in town, so we collected results for our study over a four-day span. Unfortunately, two of those days, since this person has a real job, too, were over the weekends. So, as soon as I got home on Friday night, my wonderful husband had dinner waiting for me, and then we decided to go on a hike. We’re crazy, I know. But, it was great. We love this particular canyon because on odd-numbered days, you can have your dog off leash, which Honey absolutely loves. She runs into other dogs and ends up trying to run off with other people that have dogs (don’t worry—we don’t let her run far, but she does enjoy running with other dogs) and has the happiest “smile” on her face, wagging all the time. :) It was a six-mile total, out and back, hike, and the first three miles are ALL uphill. It almost killed me because I am still not very good with just uphill, but I have to say, I am getting much better, and my legs are starting to look toned. So I don’t mind them as much anymore. I didn’t get home until around 5:30, and then we ate and got ready to go. It’s about a thirty minute drive to Mill Creek Canyon, so we knew we were going to be coming back down from Dog Lake at night, and we definitely needed flashlights. Eventually we should get headlamps since this is the second hike we’ve done lately that’s required us to have flashlights to see. Anyway, once we reached Dog Lake (just as the name sounds—a lake for dogs to play :)), Honey was in heaven. There were a few other dogs her size, and they all went crazy running and jumping into the lake. She and another dog even fetched a stick and brought it back together, sharing it by each biting on to a side. It was hilarious.  She is a water LOVER. She didn’t used to be according to my husband, but now, once you give her the opportunity to be in water, she doesn’t want to get out for anything.

It was a beautiful, evening hike. You could barely see it as you climbed the mountain, but the sun setting had just a perfect glow over the canyon. A nice group of people asked us to take their photo, so we asked them to do the same after. :)

Dog Lake!

Even the climb back down wasn’t bad in the dark. It was actually a lot of fun. :)

Since I had to go back to work around 10 the next morning, we decided to get up and go biking because we had just bought a brand, new bike on sale this past week for me, so I could ride with the husband finally. :) I LOVE it. I’m a big fan of running but not a big fan of running in this heat. My dog doesn’t exactly appreciate me dragging her along while running when it’s this hot either. Unfortunately, though, the biking situation means leaving her at home until we figure out a better way for her to run alongside, but we are loving biking together just the two of us for now. We rode both Saturday and Sunday morning. It’s been so nice to be so active together since moving here. People are much more active here than they are back where I’m from, so there are always people out and about, walking, running, biking, hiking. We’re all for that. :)

Well, it’s back to the work grind. Obviously, I have it rough. ;) just kidding. Hope you are having a fantastic week!

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Friday, July 25, 2014

Flashback Friday: Alaska, July ‘13

I’m wishing I was there today… not that there is anything wrong with where I actually am. I’m just daydreaming of all the wonderful adventures we had last July (one year ago almost exactly!) when I first visited Alaska with my husband, his best friend, and his parents. It was truly a trip of a lifetime. I promise I will update this blog with current happenings as they happen, but I thought it might be also nice to look back on some of our favorite travels together. This one was definitely my favorite so far!

Our trip to Alaska was my husband's (my boyfriend at that time) and my first airplane trip together. That was exciting in itself to me. :) He’s a funny person to ride in an airplane with because he just knows so much about them. If we are stalled for a few minutes, he knows why. If we have any turbulence, he predicts it before it happens. So, it was a fun trip. Veryyy long one, though. It took almost an entire day to travel from to Anchorage, AK, where we spent a full day exploring. Anchorage is where I had my first encounter with a bear and a moose (ok, by encounter I mean I was a safe distance away and in a moving vehicle, and they were just in sight)! But, it was still the coolest thing ever. A moose literally walked out right in front of our vehicle, and we saw a grizzly bear on the side of the road guarding a cooler of some sort. He didn’t seem to mind any cars that were passing by. Encounters like that, where you can take photos and not be in any sort of actual danger, are the kinds I like. :)

After spending a little time in Anchorage, we headed to where the cabin is located: in Homer, AK, which probably ranks as my favorite place in the U.S. now. My husband's parents have a beautiful cabin located right alongside of a bay. They take a boat to get from the main part of Homer (called “The Spit”) to their cabin, and that was fun! We had some boat issues that his dad had to work on quite a bit of the trip, but we were still able to use it some and have a lot of fun. Since the boat wasn’t working all that well, we ended up going on a charter boat to go halibut fishing. If you are ever in AK, you have to fish for and eat halibut. It is the most delicious fish in the world, and many that aren’t even a big fan of fish like it. :) It’s delicious. Mmmm… Anyway, we were allowed a limit of two halibut with our fishing license, and there were deck hands that helped us with the fishing experience and had everything very organized so that everyone was able to fish in the best part of the ocean. They took us to the part of the water that they knew was the most populated, and they were right. I even caught two decent-sized ones! They weren’t big by any means, and no one really caught a huge halibut. They have competitions there, though, where they tag some of the biggest halibut fish, and you can buy a lottery ticket so that if you end up catching one of those fish, you could earn quite a bit of money! It was such an experience to be around all these people that were so serious and talented fishermen. I didn’t even realize I liked fishing that much until that trip, but Randy has definitely hooked me in. :) It’s a blast. Our captain took a turn at fishing with us, and he caught an octopus! It was such a site to see. The deck hands showed everyone how the tentacles still had suction after the octopus had died, and then they cut it up for bait (according to them, the best bait ever). No big deal…. lol. Definitely one of the highlights of that trip, but then again, there were so many.

Crazy, large octopus!!

We did actually do some fishing that wasn’t as exciting as that. More of the type of fishing that you would think of. Just the two of us (me and the boy) took the small boat that they have out in the bay and tried to fish for salmon. We didn’t have any luck because apparently they aren’t as populated that late in the summer, but it was so nice and peaceful. Just him and me. Having him teach me how to fish was fun, too. I’m exciting to try some fishing around here soon. :) During that trip, we saw a bear (maybe a baby bear—couldn’t tell how big but it looked small… and cute :)) on the other side of the bay. We tried to get some pictures, but they didn’t turn out too well. My second, but not last, “encounter” with a bear of the trip.

One night at the cabin, I had to go to the bathroom around 2 am when it had just gotten dark (during the summers, there is daylight almost round the clock—if we had been there earlier in the summer, it would have still been light out!). So, I walked out to the outhouse. Almost as soon as I returned, my husband got up to go to the outhouse, but before he walked out the door, he heard huffing, angry noises coming from outside the cabin. We are almost positive by the sounds we were hearing that a bear was right outside our cabin. That was also the night before we had to get up at 4:30 to leave for the charter fishing expedition. I know I was a little scared to leave that day (when he had just been huffing an hour or so before!), but thankfully, there was no sight nor sound of the bear when we left. It was definitely a little excitement for that day. :)

We explored all different parts of the area during that week and a half. Near Anchorage, we hiked to the top (well, the boys did—my mother-in-law and I hiked to close to the top since I wasn’t as up for it after the long trip) of Alyeska Ski Resort. It was gorgeous! We explored the adorable Halibut Cove, with some incredible shops and views. We saw Alaska’s Arch (prettier than the STL one, in my opinion). So many places and so many things to do. One of the best parts about hanging out at the cabin was that we had the opportunity to go kayaking in the bay there. We kayaked all around, and there was an adorable sea otter that was so friendly and pretty comfortable around people that we were able to kayak very close to him. It was such a neat thing to be that close to an animal that usually swims away and dives under the water as soon as people get near. But this one would let you get pretty close before he dove under. If I lived there, kayaking would be my choice of exercise. So peaceful; a great workout; and so many incredible plants and animals in the sea (incredible starfish, too). His mom said that usually there are porpoises that swim in the bay there, too, which would have been awesome to see. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any there, but we saw a ton on our cruise.
Exit Glacier

Our favorite sea otter!!
The final leg of our trip was to explore one of the many National Parks in the area. When my husband and I first started dating, we began exploring National Historic Sites together, and we made a goal to see every site in the United States (and associated territories) together at some point in our lives. We have achieved around 24 of them so far. For more NHS posts, check back here. I’ll update that page with links to them as I write more. :) For this trip, we explored Kenai Fjords National Park. It was incredible. His parents generously arranged for us to take a tour of it since the park encompasses the sea that surrounds the Kenai Peninsula. The cruise was absolutely amazing. The captain was so great about stopping when she saw any signs of wildlife. We had porpoises swimming right along the boat; we saw humpback whales (and their bubble feeding—a group of whales blow bubbles to capture prey from underneath and then feed off the prey as a group—one was bubble feeding by itself which is just unheard of!); jellyfish; sea and river otters (sea otters swim on their backs while river otters swim on their front sides); bald eagles; sea lions; and we saw incredible glaciers that are continually diminishing in size. While we were viewing and taking pictures of the glaciers, there were huge chunks of ice falling continuously. It’s crazy to think about how much of the glaciers might be gone even by the time we hopefully have the chance to visit again next summer, not to speak of how much they will have melted by the time the next generation is old enough to appreciate them. It was the best cruise we could have ever asked to go on, and the food was even great! If you are ever in Alaska in the Kenai Peninsula area, you should definitely go on a cruise of the Kenai Fjords!

We got some awesome photos of the humpbacks!
Love the sea lions!
Love that man. He makes me so happy. :)
I could obviously write about this trip forever, but since I’m sure I lost readers as I kept writing, I will end it there. It was the best trip, and not only did we eat on halibut and salmon for months afterward (had the ones we caught frozen and shipped!), we still talk about how much fun we had and how we are hoping to go back next year! Maybe more family will be able to join. :)

On another note, Happy Friday! Have a wonderful weekend!


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Thursday, July 24, 2014

A Day Off Work! Supposedly....

Two strange things are happening around Utah. Well, at least strange to us since this is our first summer here. First of all, the entire state (at least it feels like it) has the day off work today. Since it's not a national holiday, my husband doesn't get it off, and there are some select people who still have to go to work. I'm not even supposed to have to be at work right now. It's because today is Utah's Pioneer Day! I'll explain more about what that is in a second. The other strange thing that is happening around here is that there are Fireworks Stands still up for Pioneer Day... everywhere! It's crazy to see them, and it still makes me feel like the 4th of July is coming up. If I was going to school this fall or just absolutely loved this hot weather, I'd be overjoyed. But, I'm a fall-loving girl, and since I'm not dreading the start of school anymore (or at least for right now), I'm anxious for September. Pumpkin pies, apple cider (not that I don't drink that all year long--it's my favorite), and warm, delicious, fall drinks at Starbucks. I can taste it now. :) Anyway...

Pioneer Day is a Utah holiday (and some surrounding state regions, I've heard) celebrated on July 24 to commemorate the arrival of Brigham Young and the Church of Latter Day Saint (Mormon) pioneers in the state of Utah from eastern US and Illinois, where they were forced out. It's a very big holiday around here, similar to July 4th. I had a very rough time getting to work this morning because the building where I work (on campus) is close to downtown, and almost all of the major streets were blocked off! It took me over an hour and a half to travel what normally takes 20 minutes. There are so many celebrations happening around the area, hence the blocked-off streets. There's a parade that goes around downtown; a 5K and Half-Marathon (maybe next year I'll participate!); food carts; reenactments; and so many other things! In the smaller suburb where we live, they have what they call "Handcart Days," which is a celebration of Pioneer Day the 23rd and 24th. They had their own parade last night and had a fireworks display at night! We could hear the fireworks but were ready for bed by the time the show was going on since the husband works so early every morning! We also had the pleasure of seeing tons of the floats that were in the parade on our walk last night. Everyone is so excited for the celebration, and it's really neat to see the community all geared up for another big event!

Unfortunately, the reason I wasn't able to be off today (even though the rest of the university is closed) is because this weekend is the start of a research study that we've been prepping for the last month! We have a corresponding author that is coming to town tomorrow, and we're hoping to get most of the data collected by late Monday. So, I came to work today and will come for a little bit this weekend. But, I truly love this job, and I can't complain when I wake up every morning actually wanting to go to work. Not that I don't love coming home every night more, though... :) That being said, it's time that I get some other things done because I've been neglecting the house this week, and it's driving me crazy to see everything out of place. Until next time! :)


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Much Love!

Much Love!