Friday, November 21, 2014

How to Make a Pumpkin Latte

(A recipe for lazy people.)

Have you noticed every blog has posted a Starbuck's Pumpkin Spice Latte copycat recipe lately? This one is different. I promise! It's so good that I've been making a regular one with my breakfast each day and another decaf pumpkin latte every evening. At work, I shared the recipe with two patients last week!

When those pumpkin latte recipes started popping up, I couldn't wait to try them. They all had the same problem though - too much time and effort. Ummm, I want a pumpkin spice latte recipe that I can actually pull off before work in the morning, when my brain is still mostly asleep. Have you seen what some of these other recipe creators expect you to do? Boil down 3 cups of sugar until you have a simple (yeah right) syrup, shave fresh cinnamon from the stick you got from the farmer's market this morning, and have a unicorn spit into the mixture.

Who has time for all that?



Easy Pumpkin Spice Latte Recipe (for LAZY people!)
   Serves 2

Ingredients
  • 1/4 cup milk (I use 2%)
  • 3 tablespoons canned pumpkin
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla (I use homemade vanilla, which I highly recommend for all your vanilla needs. It's so good! It's also about 99% vodka.)
  • 1 tablespoon caramel syrup (I use Torani. If you don't have this, white and/or brown sugar works too.) 
  • 3 cups strong coffee
  • pumpkin pie spice
Directions

Blend everything except the coffee and pumpkin pie spice in the blender. If you have a Vitamix, Blendtec, or other high power blender, you can just let the mixture whirl away until it heats itself (about 2 minutes in my Vitamix). If not, you can pop it into the microwave briefly, or just leave it as is. You don't add very much milk, so it won't cool your piping hot coffee more than a couple of degrees. Divide the pumpkin mixture between 2 large mugs (4 if you're using little cute ones like these.) Sprinkle with pumpkin pie spice. Add coffee to each mug.

Yum!

If you're feeling especially fancy, you can top this with whipped cream or sweetened, frothed milk. Ooh, and chocolate shavings! No unicorn spit though.

And don't make the same mistake I did. For my first batch, I thought I'd skimp on the sugar/caramel syrup to save calories. Pumpkin Spice Lattes need to be sweet! It's like the difference between making a scrumptious pumpkin pie and a big ol' healthy pile of steamed pumpkin.

This has been a NaNoWriMo repost...I really should be working on my novel instead of writing this.
Yes, it's the same novel from before. Why-ever do you ask?

Monday, November 17, 2014

Mightier Than Indiana Jones

While on our roadtrip of national parks, we learned firsthand how the force of erosion carved our landscape, from the Grand Canyon to the hoodoos in Utah. But we never dreamed erosion could lead to our demise until, suddenly, a boulder dislodged itself and came slamming down the hillside toward us. We faced certain doom.

Luckily, Sexy Nerd sprang into action! The massive rock was no match for his muscles of steel. Don't be fooled by his quiet demeanor, affinity for cactus, and funny-looking footwear. When danger strikes, the man you want in your corner is the man with the pocket protector.

 Hooray for Sexy Nerd!

Always the courteous one, Sexy Nerd rolled the stone off the trail, moving it as easily as one might spin a top. We resumed our leisurely hike, glad to leave our near-death experience in the dust.


Disclaimer: This story may have been *slightly* embellished.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Ultimate Holiday Gift Guide

There are plenty of online gift guides for Christmas present ideas. Magazines during this time of year supposedly have a gift idea for everyone on your list, including the crazy ones. Is it just me, or are most of the holiday gifts suggested completely terrible?

A $45 votive candle holder? Oh, thank you so much. I'll put it in the box with the rest of my candle holders. Now, where is it? Ah yes, the back of the closet in the spare bedroom, underneath these boxes. Lemme just blow the dust off it real quick.

And, yes, I did put a lot of thought into the sarcastic votive candle holder example above. To my recollection, no one has gifted one of these to me.

If you did give me a votive candle holder, I'm not talking about that one. I love that votive candle holder.

Anyway, my holiday gift ideas only feature items that I have and enjoy in real life. No sponsors. No kickbacks. Just my own, honest opinions. There's something for every budget. To make it onto my list, they had to pass the "Would I buy this again?" test. Of course, they also have to pass the "Would I want to receive this as a gift?" test. After all, plenty of things get by the first question that would make awful gifts. Like toilet paper.

LambAround's 2014 Holiday Gift Guide
(Click the title for more info/prices, where applicable, and click the photo to share on Pinterest.)


"AAAARGH! Where is my coffee?!"

Score bonus points by including packets of fancy tea or a bag of coffee. When I ordered these, Sexy Nerd told me they were stupid. "We already have too many mugs," he pointed out. Yes, but these are unique! Your hands don't get hot because they're double-walled, they're BPA-free, and most importantly, they're the cutest mugs ever. I love to use the sleepy one before bed, as focusing on its yawning face makes it irresistible for me to yawn. We only have two so far, but I'd like to eventually collect the entire set (hint, hint to anyone reading this for ideas on what to get me for Christmas this year.)

If you place your mug order through this link, you'll get $25 off a $75 purchase.



I ordered this dish from Uncommon Goods after seeing something similar, but more utilitarian/ugly, demonstrated at the NM state fair. It's so pretty, like something you'd find at an art show. You rub your garlic clove (or ginger, lemon, Parmesan, nuts, chocolate, etc.) on the bottom and it zests your ingredients right where they need to go. When not in use, you can just leave it right out on display as a cute piece of handmade pottery.

Mine came with a little card saying it was "hand made with positive energy" by Donna E. Rollins. Thanks, Donna!

Tickets to a Show
Have you ever met someone who saw Wicked but didn't enjoy it? Could such a person possibly exist?

This gift can be extra budget-friendly by buying a ticket package. With my season ticket order for the University of New Mexico theater, rates for many shows dropped down to only $10 per person!

Of course, this idea can also be applied to tickets for sporting events (10 games for you, 5 to give as gifts) but who would choose to watch the 49ers when they could be enjoying an evening with David Sedaris? Not this gal.

Professionally Taken Portrait

I liked this Kim Jew photo when Sexy Nerd and I selected it, but now I hate it. For starters, I'm wearing a dress with fancy ruffles, but you can't see any of the it. Even worse? Don't make the same creepy claw mistake I did!

Want to score some serious points with your mom? Surprise her with a framed photo of you and your siblings. I did exactly this for Christmas a few years ago, taking a nice photo with my arch nemesis brother before he left to live in Australia. It cost a few dollars and about an hour of my time. Just be certain to let the Sears photographer know ahead of time that you're brother and sister, not a couple.

Things got awkward, fast.



I've probably received more compliments on this necklace during the dozen or so times I've worn it than all my other necklaces combined. It's from J. Crew, so your gift will seem expensive, but I actually found it in their clearance section for about $15. Gift giving is all about finding something the recipient will enjoy but wouldn't necessarily treat themselves to.


$12.99 for 3 pounds of chocolate is good, but this was on sale for only $7.99 a box. A good rule of thumb for chocolate-shopping is to always buy more than you think you'll need. We spent almost $50 and it wasn't nearly enough!

Sexy Nerd and I have been together for nearly 11 years and have made zillions of trips up to Colorado to visit his family in Buena Vista. All this time and no one told me they live right by a Russell Stover outlet shop. It's a mere 3 hours away, tops. Think of all the chocolate that could have been! If you have one of these glorious stores within a days drive, consider your holiday shopping done. Picture this: you enter a large building with candy piled floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall, with samples everywhere. Just when you think you can't get any happier, you realize that there's a second, even larger room in the back. The chocolate clearance room!

No outlet store nearby? Candy is still one of my top gift recommendations. Everyone knows I'm a candyholic, yet the gifts I receive rarely include any. Something about not wanting to feed my addiction, be a bad influence, create a monster, yadda yadda yadda. It's a bummer.


Men are so stubborn. Sexy Nerd wouldn't cooperate when I wanted him to model this scarf for me, but when I gave up, he wouldn't let me take it off!

This is another one from Uncommon Goods. I'm a big fan of theirs because most of their items are "green" and made in the USA. There's something so cheap about giving someone a gift with a big MADE IN CHINA marked on it.

You can give a no-strings-attached gift, of course, or you can secretly inspire a little self improvement. After ordering the Wuthering Heights literary scarf, it occurred to me that someone would almost certainly ask me about the book, which I had not read. Who was this Heathcliff referenced all over my hip new scarf? I had to find out!

This scarf could be the beginning of a reading/writing-themed present, accompanied by things like an Audible audio books membership, fancy gel pens, and a gift card for a local bookstore.


These are my go-to places for everything from restaurant deals to cosmetic procedures. You can treat your gift recipient to a spa day, mani/pedi, wine tasting, sightseeing tour, glassblowing class, massage (assuming they're okay with a little awkwardness) or any number of fun other things they might not normally treat themselves to. You can even buy an extra one for yourself and join them.


Who'd have thought my under cabinet lighting was so photo-ruiningly bright?

I'm not one to ever spend money impulsively (never, ever!) but when Sexy Nerd suggested possibly buying this IKEA cutting board, it made too much sense not to. The thing is HUGE! Where else are you going to find an attractive, double-sided cutting board with countertop mount and juice-draining grooves of awesomeness for under $10? Every time I use it, which is just about every day, I think about what a nifty deal it was. We haven't touched any of our other cutting boards since we bought this. I love it, love it, love it!


Imagine receiving this in the mail!

Okay, this one is really more of a gift for yourself. You've earned it! Although, if you bought a fancy new memory foam mattress for the guest bedroom, I guess that would kind of count as a gift for your overnight visitors, in a way. After finding my other Amerisleep blog posts online, the company happily offered to provide special discount codes for LambAround readers. During their Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, Amerisleep is taking an additional $50 off on top of other discounts when the coupon code BLACKSHEEP is provided (LOL! Don't you love when a company has a sense of humor?) If you're wanting a new mattress for yourself, or if your guests are switching to a hotel after one night on the plywood you've wrapped in fabric, this is an excellent deal.

On a funny side note, my coworker asked me the other day about my mattress. She remembered hearing me recommend it when it first arrived and she had a friend who needed a new mattress. "It's not a normal mattress, right?" she asked. "You said it's filled with straw? I'm surprised that's more comfortable than a regular mattress." Not straw! MEMORY FOAM. Silly Marie.

Ooh, visiting the Amerisleep holiday site just now and seeing "Black Friday Sale" in bold, cosmic letters has me excited. I am so ready for Black Friday. I keep a list of things to buy throughout the year and go all out by combining the discounted prices, double (and triple. and quadruple!) cash back promotions on eBates, and the 5% cash back Discover always offers during November and December. It's a perfect storm of thrifty and shopping hysteria. Bring on the deals!

Trader Joe's Gift Card (or basket of assorted, delicious goodies)

Where else are you going to get fig butter for $1.99/jar? Where else are you going to get fig butter, period?

My ever-so-awesome boss at the pediatric dental office recently went on a shopping spree at Trader Joe's, scooping up every pumpkin-related product she could get her hands on. She turned this tasty assortment into surprise gifts for her three children. Pumpkin biscotti. Organic frosted pumpkin toaster pastries. Pumpkin macarons. It all sounded scrumptious. Why couldn't she be my mom, right? (No offense if you're reading this, Mom.) The other day, when my boss told us that everyone had especially enjoyed the pumpkin chai tea, I let it slip that her pumpkin gift basket would pretty much be a dream gift for me. She thinks all year about what to give her employees for Christmas, getting recommendations and often returning the "perfect gifts" when even more perfect gifts come along. Funny enough, the idea that we might enjoy the tasty treats she'd been describing had honestly never crossed her mind. It's one of the many quirks I love about her.

Seriously though. Where are my salted pumpkin caramels?

Happy Hour


Yes, happy hour! What's better than the gift of your company than the gift of your company while buzzed? Order an assortment of appetizers to share and spend the evening joking and catching up with your friends. The Barley Room, one of our favorite restaurants here in Albuquerque, sells plates of homemade Jalapeno Bacon Gouda Tots (!!!) for just $5 during happy hour. They also offer a yummy drink called Cidre, like "seed-ray", which I originally thought Sexy Nerd was just being a smart alec about, intentionally mispronouncing cider.

"How much is that doggy in the window?"

Here's a fun, inexpensive gift for the kids on your list. Or the adults who are young at heart (hey, there are no kids in our house, but I love this.) There are different dogs to choose from and they really do look lifelike when you see them peering at you through a window. I wanted to place mine in the window of the Volt, but Sexy Nerd thought it might damage the tinting. Also, I'd hate for someone to think I'd locked my poor dog in the hot car and call the cops! So, Iris sits in my office window, greeting me whenever I pull into our driveway.

Sexy Nerd thinks it's a bit ridiculous.

If you place your Fab.com order through this link, you'll get $25 off a $75 purchase.


Not a bad list of holiday gift ideas, eh?

Oh cr@p. I just remembered that Sexy Nerd did, in fact, give me a votive candle holder when we were dating. He drove to another state to borrow the tools to hand-make it (and had his hands sliced and diced during the process) and it saved our relationship. Come to think of it, it's actually inside the very closet I used in my snarky example of a terrible gift. I should change that example. Though, I'm practically done writing this blog post and I've referenced the votive candle holder so many times. It would be a real hassle to edit that part now.

Sexy Nerd never reads LambAround anyway.

Happy shopping, bloggy friends!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Bananas Are On My Diet

Sexy Nerd and I have spent the past week and a half driving (and driving. And driving some more!) on a national parks roadtrip. Stops included Mesa Verde, Arches, Canyonlands, Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce Canyon, and Petrified Forest. One of my motivations for taking this trip was that all the hiking would surely help me lose the last few stubborn pounds I gained on our crazy-eating ridiculousness Alaskan cruise last year. Below is a photo from dinner at the Galazy Diner in Flagstaff. How do you think my diet is working out?


 Yes, that is a strip of bacon on top.


In our defense, we'd thought the Elvis Split came with only (only!) 3 scoops of ice cream, not 6.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Breakfast: The Most Embarassing Meal of the Day

Let me start this post by stating, for the record, that I stay at Marriott hotels all the time. I am a waffle-making pro.

Then again, making your own waffle is easy, right?

Behold, the tower of waffle batter goodness. How many gooey gallons does it contain?

I always look forward to creating a decadent hotel waffle. The fateful Monday morning after the Summit County Parade of Homes was no exception, and I was pleased to discover that there was no one using the waffle iron, despite the crowd in the hotel breakfast room. I picked up my little plastic batter cup. I pressed down on the dispenser nozzle, as I've done 100 times. And then...

The #*@% nozzle broke off! The batter exploded from the now-gaping hole in the dispenser, running over the countertop and onto the floor within seconds. And, apparently, there weren't many people in the breakfast room who shared my (former) love of hotel waffles, because that darn batter dispenser seemed to be full to the brim. It wouldn't stop! I tried to block the flow with my hands, but just seemed to make things worse, as I was soon coated in sticky batter. Everyone was looking.

Sexy Nerd was getting himself a bowl of oatmeal at the time. He turned to look at me. My sweet husband. My hero.

He smiled, laughed, and walked away.


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