Monday, October 28, 2013

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

Tinned pumpkin is not popular in the UK. So, as you can imagine, I use the tins I have very intentionally. This year, another postgrad wife purchased a large case from Amazon and sold individual tins to anyone interested. I bought four. On Saturday, I invited a group of friends over for brunch and served these. Needless to say, this recipe was worth every calorie and my precious pumpkin puree!

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls
(Adapted from Jennifer Hill Pallian at
Servings: 18

  • 3/4 cup milk, warmed
  • 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup + 1 tsp granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 6 cups all purpose flour, divided
  • oil, for bowl
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4-6 tbsp whole milk
  1. In a large bowl, combine warm milk and 1 tsp granulated sugar. Sprinkle with yeast and let stand 10 minutes, until frothy.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk melted butter, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, eggs and pumpkin puree.
  3. Stir in two cups flour into the frothy yeast, and then stir in the pumpkin mixture.
  4. Add remaining 4 cups flour one cup at a time until the dough forms a ball. Knead the dough for 5 minutes until smooth and elastic.
  5. Transfer dough to an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.
  6. Turn dough onto a floured surface and roll into a rectangle that is 1/8 inch think, or 26 x 20 inches.
  7. Combine the brown sugar and spices in a small bowl. Set aside. Spread the softened butter over the surface of the dough using your hands. Sprinkle the brown sugar mixture over butter.
  8. Starting at the edge, gently roll the dough to form a log. Cut in half, and then cut each half into 12 pieces.
  9. Arrange in two greased baking dishes, one 9x13 and one 9x9. Cover with a dish towel and let rise in a warm place for 60-90 minutes until doubled volume.
  10. Brush the tops of buns with milk and bake at 350 degrees F (176 degrees C) for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown.
  11. In a medium bowl, combine cream cheese, butter, icing sugar, and vanilla extract. Beat with hand mixer until light and fluffy. Add whole milk a tablespoon at a time until desired consistency is reached.
  12. Frost warm rolls and enjoy!

Sunday, October 20, 2013


It's now October, just a few months past July when we celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary. The day was ordinary and wonderful, spent relaxing and home and enjoying take-away from Dr Noodles in town. Garrick even convinced me to watch the Mariners.

Recently, my mom found a copy of my wedding vows. This prompted Garrick to look for his. We eagerly read through them and laughed at the slightly dramatic and naïve prose. Then memories flooded our minds. The day was gray and the sky threatened rain. We walked down the grass aisle at 6pm at Lord Hill Farms in Snohomish, Washington on 27th July 2008, both twenty years old. I remember little from the day, except feeling overwhelmingly happy. Truly, it is still the best day we've ever had.

Here is what we promised each other a little over five years ago:

For Garrick Allen

I am truly blessed by everything that you are. Not only do you love and cherish me, but you also correct and sharpen me. I am very excited to be standing here with you right now getting married!! I really can’t believe it.

When I met you in the 9th grade, I instantly knew that you were a very special person. I thank God every day that he brought you into my life at such a young age. Today I want to make some promises to you that I want to keep throughout our entire lives together:

I promise to put God first in our marriage.

I promise to love you more every day and to appreciate all of your wonderful qualities.

I promise to take care of you, yes that means cook. J

I promise to make you think and to challenge you to be a better person every day.

I promise to have fun with you and laugh throughout our lives.

I promise to always put you first and to do what is best for both of us.

I promise to support you in whatever dream or desire you have.

I promise to be honest with you and share every part of me with you.

I promise to always recycle.

I promise that no matter where God leads us, I will be obedient and follow his calling on our lives.

I promise to listen to you and understand how you feel.

I promise to encourage and pray with you throughout all of life’s ups and downs. 

I love you and I can’t wait to be MARRIED!!!!

Love, Andrea

For Andrea Stevens

Because of all you have done for me, because you love me, and because you have chosen me to be your husband I vow to love you wholeheartedly until the very second I slip from this life to the next.

I vow to hold your hand and hug you, and kiss you always in affection and comfort, even when you haven’t brushed your teeth yet.

I vow to listen to and be ever thankful for your words of love, encouragement, pride, comfort and even criticism, even when I’m pretty sure that I was right all along.

I vow to honor you the best I can in every way as a person who loves me and as the person whom I love more than any other.

I vow to always remain hopeful in and faithful to you because God is the one who has ultimately brought us together.

I vow to do my best to cherish you every day that I wake up next to you and stare into your beautiful, seemingly unending, mass of freckles.

I vow to give you all of myself in honesty, vulnerability, and trust.

I vow to do my best to keep the Lord Jesus Christ at the head of our relationship and to put you before myself in every way.

To you I vow my unselfish, unrelenting, deep and abiding, heartfelt love forever.  

I love you.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Tentsmuir Forest and SEALS!

We've been thankful to get to know Sheree, a PhD student who has the same advisor as Garrick. She introduced us to her brother Joey, who is also getting a PhD in Aberdeen, and his wife Holly. They drove down from Aberdeen this morning in their green Zest to meet us and Sheree, and we set of to Tentsmuir Forest to explore and find the rumored seals.
Tentsmuir Forest is located just outside of Leuchars and is about 50 square miles. As seen in photos below, there are lots of '"dragons teeth" which served to defend the coast during WWII. It is breathtakingly beautiful, full of wildlife, and a great place to wander. We walked about 2.5 miles down the beach until we finally stumbled upon a group of seals. They lazed along a sand bar and entertained us by getting in and out of the water. Our wet socks were worth every minute! The wind was a bit strong at times, but it was a refreshing day.
After about four hours of exploring, we were excited to find the car park and drove back to St Andrews in search of food. We all cooked together and made burgers, sweet potato fries, and salad. Sheree's husband Ronald was able to join in via Skype from South Africa. Holly sweetly brought a pumpkin pie and it was a delicious American treat. Next time, Aberdeen!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Money Matters

(I stole my title from the lovely Capod Department at the University of St Andrews.) I realise that I've not written about this subject since we've begun the postgrad life, and I thought it may be worth mentioning.


We don't have any.

The end.

Although that could easily be my post, it's a little more complex. Deciding to embark on a PhD is large financial undertaking. It is not something to do on a whim. Once we decided we were all in, the overseas fees for postgrads studying the UK became a reality. Truthfully, we've only gotten poorer as we've aged. But, that's probably true for most adults as they buy homes, cars, etc. However, our investment is an education. And as Garrick likes to say, "They can't repo my brain!"

Our lives are simple, humble, and adventurous. I get excited over a wee house plant from Ikea, or a coffee here and there (okay, let's be honest, most days).  There are times when we literally have £20 left for the month and a week to go, so we have a minor panic attack, then laugh and eat lentils. I told Garrick the other day that getting upset over being poor when you've decided to get a PhD is like jumping in the ocean and being mad that you got wet. It's just reality.

This experience has taught me that I'm rich in other areas, besides money. As cliche as that sounds, I don't think I would be as grateful or aware of the many blessings in my life had we not chosen this path. So with that, I guess the point of this post is that money doesn't really matter. Take a look at the sunrise a few weeks ago. It was free, and probably one of the most beautiful sunrises I've seen.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Good Eats: Edinburgh Edition

During our month in Paris, we met Will and Jackie Kelly. They live in Edinburgh while Will works on his  PhD at New College. Will also received the grant to take the French course and we quickly hit it off. (Click here for Jackie's blog about their expat life.) Since then, we've talked about trips to see each other, and so we set a date and bought train tickets. We invited the Nickels to join us on our day trip to experience Edinburgh with a 'local' (Will is currently in Germany, so Jackie kindly showed us around).

After returning some items to the Gap and Levis and feeling refreshed to be in the big city, we made a quick stop at Anthropologie and then began our day of eating some of Edinburgh's finest fare.

Brew Lab

Coffee was first on the list. Garrick enjoyed a fruity Kenyan coffee brewed in a Chemex machine. I has a square of peanut butter chocolate shortbread, and we sat at the picnic table style seating and began our first of many good conversations over yummy food and drink.
Next, we wanted to try out a local falafel take-away called Che, but forgot that these tend to be closed on Saturdays. So, the Villager was our plan b. Hungry, I forgot to get my camera and photograph the beefy goodness and thin, crispy fries.
To appease to two PhD students in the group, we stopped at a few old bookshops. Garrick, Jesse and Liana all found some gems, and then the girls left early to eat cake.
I love Lovecrumbs. A lot. They've converted a wardrobe into a cake display and menu, display lots of vintage décor, and have a good coffee and tea selection. Pictured below is Liana's peanut butter chocolate tart with a glass of milk, and my apple crumble cake.

We walked off our cakes and headed for Brew Dog, where we sank into a worn leather couch and enjoyed some hoppy beverages. I'm so thankful for good friends to share life with.
And finally, dinner time. We chose a Chipotle-like burrito place, fit even more in our bellies (how is that possible?!), and then headed for the train. We're looking forward to having Jackie come visit in St Andrews and showing her a few of our favourite places. With that, I'll leave you with my attempt at photographing the Edinburgh Castle at night with no flash: