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closing a window, opening a door

Cherry blossomsAlthough travel for business and pleasure will bring us back many times as visitors, AB and I are closing in on only two more nights in D.C. as residents. I’m a jumble of emotions but remain cool, calm, and collected on the outside as I compose this little ode during a break from work in my Georgetown office.

We made the decision to move back to Ohio primarily to be closer to family and friends. We made a fair amount of trips back to Ohio during our year here, but there was never enough time to spend with the people we love. As time went on, we both felt that tugging on our hearts every time we hopped back in the car to return to the city. Never enough time.

We were really fortunate to have so many of our family and friends come visit while we were living here, and as any of them would tell you, my love for this city is obvious and true. When we moved here, I was nervous I wouldn’t like it, but I felt really strongly that it was the right move for AB’s career and a great, courageous step to take as a couple. I was right about everything except for my fear that I wouldn’t like it here. I love D.C. in a let-me-count-the-ways sort of way.

There’s an energy in the air here that is quite unlike anything I’ve experienced, and it’s not just the horrible humidity I’ve come to loathe this past summer. Everything is always fast and spirited. Sure, fast is bad when you want slow, and sometimes spirited means mean-spirited (like the homeless man I’ve argued with on many occasions about the type of breed my dog is or angry commuters packed into stuffy metro cars), but for me, there’s such an allure about life here. There’s always something fabulous to do, and you can either walk there or get there quickly via public transit. The architecture is stunning, and the history is palpable. The food…. well, the 10 pounds I’ve gained this year speak to that *shoves broccoli into mouth and then closes office door to do sit-ups*… I kid, but seriously, the food… Also, cherry blossom season (or cherry blossom 3-4 days as it should be called) is worth all of the hype.

That being said, living in D.C. proper for a year has also made me appreciate all of the things I miss about Ohio that much more. And the list of things I miss about Ohio is probably just as long as, if not longer than, the list of things I’ll miss about D.C. with the trump card addition of living closer to family. It’s been an incredible year full of fun, new experiences, new friends, career leaps, and lots of growth as individuals and as a couple. Zero regrets.

I am so thankful that the stars have aligned, and both of our careers presented open doors and exciting new opportunities that allowed us to make the decision to move back to Ohio without reservations. We are also full of gratitude that we’re able to build a wonderful new home (and that we have amazing people in our lives willing to take us in while construction wraps up so we aren’t stuck in a hotel for five weeks). Anticipation fills my stomach with flutters when I think of getting settled into our new home and being able to entertain our family and friends again. Cooking in a real-person-sized kitchen again is also going to be a thrill. What’s better than a shared meal with your favorite people?

While I can’t wait to get back to the homeland and all of the memories and adventures that await us there behind our next door, I will take the next day or so to properly mourn this beautiful city we’re leaving behind, including our small but charming and memory-filled little apartment on Connecticut Ave. Seeing D.C. fall away in the rear-view mirror will be tough this weekend, but of course, it’s not goodbye. It’s only “see you later.” The door will always be open, but we’re closing the window because it’s time to get back to where our hearts sing the happiest songs.

If you made it to the end, thanks for enduring all of the sap! 😉

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the last of the pumpkins

Everyone. Loves. Fall. I am no exception to the rule, and ever since AB and I moved into our first place together, I’ve fully embraced fall colors and flavors in my home decor and on my dinner table from the beginning of September right up until Thanksgiving (after which Christmas takes over, of course).

mini pumpkinsFall is when I start craving warm things. Warm food, warm colors, warm blankets. Fall is crisp, sunny days. It is sweater weather. Anyone who knows me knows I love a good sweater, even the ones without sleeves. Fall is full of warm hues – reds, oranges, and yellows that make it easier for even me to bid adieu to my favorite color of all, green, until spring. And fall is ALL about pumpkins.

When fall comes around, I go crazy with the pumpkins. Inside, outside, in food.

So, this post will pay homage to the almighty pumpkin and detail my two favorite ways to use ‘kins: in my seasonal and ever-changing decor and in cupcakes. These cupcakes I speak of are not ordinary pumpkin-flavored cupcakes. They are everything that is pumpkin and good in this world. I’ve made them twice already this fall and will be making them again next week for Thanksgiving. People will be thankful. The recipe is below if you’re impatient!

My favorite way to decorate with real pumpkins is to use lots of the mini variety. I like to call them punks. I like to abbreve abbreviate. My mom used to have an extremely fat, white cat named Punkin, so I always think of the name Punkin when I say the word pumpkin. Hence punks. Anyway, I love little pumpkins because no matter how much space you have, you can always find places to fit these charming, little fall relics. Last year, I spent an embarrassing amount of money on pumpkins, big and small, for both our front porch/walkway and the inside of our house. This year, I didn’t have quite as much space to cover with my pumpkin obsession in our cozy DC apartment, but that didn’t stop me from bringing the colors of fall inside for us to enjoy.

Our mantle got the most dramatic pumpkin treatment. I staggered mini pumpkins around a framed fall-themed picture of me and AB and propped them up on gold candlesticks of varying heights. Other punks rest on cake stands and shelves around the apartment. The best thing about mini pumpkins is that they last for months. We’ve had ours up since the beginning of September, and they are still in perfect shape.

Now, about these cupcakes… they are deliciously moist, boast the perfect amount of sweet, and are perfectly-spiced pumpkin cupcakes. I pipe them full of pumpkin pie, and I top them with cream cheese frosting. I recently made them for a small dinner party we hosted for friends here in DC, so since I was preparing multiple dishes at once, I didn’t get pictures of the baking process. So for those of you who like pictures of eggs before they’re cracked, ingredients before they’re married, and kitchen tools working diligently, please accept my sincerest apologies!

Pumpkin Pie-Filled Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes

Ingredients:

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter (softened)
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs (lightly beaten)
  • 2 cups AP flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp coarse Kosher salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice
  • 15 oz. pumpkin puree
  • 1 frozen or fresh pumpkin pie
  • Cream cheese frosting

Recipe:

(Makes roughly 32 cupcakes) Preheat oven to 350.

In a large bowl (use a stand mixer if you have one; if not, a hand mixer works just as well), cream together butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, and eggs.

In a separate bowl, whisk together dry ingredients (AP flour through allspice on the list above).

Add about a third of the dry ingredients to the butter/sugar/egg mixture and mix until smooth. Repeat with the second third. Then, the third.

Add pumpkin puree, and mix until smooth.

Divide heavenly batter evenly among cupcake liners, bake for 20-22 minutes.

pumpkin pie cupcakes

Let cool completely, then with an apple corer, remove a bit of the center of each cupcake.

Pipe pumpkin pie filling into center of cupcakes. For this step, I typically buy a fresh pumpkin pie at the store, or I’ll grab a frozen pumpkin pie in the freezer section. Buying pumpkin pie filling would probably work as well, but I scoop the filling out of the pie crust to pipe it into the cupcakes. The crust is used for other things (usually AB’s snacking enjoyment).

Frost with cream cheese frosting. Homemade is better and simple, but pre-made works in a pinch.

pumpkin cupcakes

Enjoy the last of this year’s pumpkins! And Happy Thanksgiving to all!