31 October 2009

Who ya gonna call?

Happy Halloween from all the spooky Churches!

29 October 2009

Jumpin jesus holy cow.

For my hubby.

Happy fourth anniversary! xoxoxoxo

28 October 2009

Rehearsal plus four.

I can't believe that this day four years ago I was just one day away from becoming Mrs. Church. Such an amazing few days... still chokes me up a little. Seriously, when did I become such a sap? Wait... I think -- when I got married. Mr. Church, you are to blame for making me a silly sentimental girl. :)

Getting pampered... and ticketed!

Getting rehearsed. And then hanging with peeps... anticipating the big day!

Our best peeps.

Home and ready for the big day! No boys allowed! (Except Matt, of course.)

27 October 2009

Stay (wasting time).

What do you do when you have 20 or so things to get done? None of them, of course. You blog instead! :)

I am constantly picking up pie pumpkins this time of year, and I've put a few more of them to use this past week. Saturday Brad headed out for a night with the guys, so I decided to throw together some pumpkin butter (thanks for the recipe, Birgit!). This meant another battle with food processing, but I was up for the challenge. Especially since the recipe was so simple.

First, I scooped and peeled the pumpkin, then cut it into 2-inch chunks. I baked the chunks at 350 degrees on a cookie sheet, covered tightly with foil, for 45 minutes. Then it was into the blender -- thought I'd mix it up this time. Our blender is next to useless, but because the pumpkin was so tender, it pureed up ok. Good to know for next time... Just cook the crap out of whatever needs to go in the processor! Into the saucepan to thicken up.

After a half-hour or so, you add brown sugar, nutmeg, and lemon juice, cooking again until the sugar is all dissolved. Who knew pumpkin butter was so easy?

I kept forgetting about it in the fridge, but this morning I finally remembered to try it out (after buying English muffins yesterday specifically for it).

The verdict? Yum! Super easy, and super yummy. You should definitely make some, too!

Yesterday I decided I wanted to make treats again. I couldn't decide between a few recipes, so I let Brad pick. And he picked one that called for canned pumpkin -- he made me cheat! haha! Chocolate chip pumpkin bread. When I went to use the recipe from my binder, I discovered I hadn't saved all the recipe -- just the ingredients list (duh!). So I found this one online and went with it. To lighten it up a little, I used applesauce instead of oil, and then to unlighten it back up, I used the whole bag of chocolate chips ("Stir in as many chocolate chips as you like
." I like them all, thank you very much.) The recipe made two thick loaves. Luckily I was keeping an eye on them because the recipe said to cook for 90 minutes -- mine were done in about 60 or 70 minutes.

Pretty maids, lined up in a row.

I'm pleased to report another success! And it's super gooey soft and yummy -- I credit the applesauce for this.

But, before you can eat dessert, you've gotta eat your dinner, right? I decided to try a recipe I'd clipped who knows when from who knows where -- salmon rolls. Super simple, just a 1 lb fillet of salmon, which I cooked on the stove top in a little evoo. Remove the skin, then chunk it up in a bowl and mix it with 1/4 cup of mayo, 2 stalks of celery chopped, the juice of a lemon, and some pepper (basically like tuna, but salmony-er and fresher). Toasted up some hoagie rolls, added some lettuce for crunch, and spooned the mixture in.

Three in a row! This one is an instant classic. So easy, so tasty -- this one's going in the repertoire for sure. Nothing makes me happier than seeing Brad light up over dinner, and I think it's safe to say there was a little lighting up of the hubby. (AND the leftovers were just as tasty today for lunch.)

And finally, some Halloween fun (courtesy of Ms. Rachel!). Enjoy:

Make Freddy Talk
Make Poltergeist Talk

24 October 2009

Got food got soup got spice.

My taste buds are goofy. As I've gotten older, I've come to like most stuff, but I still have my quirks. One of them is my love/hate relationship with Asian food. I love sushi. I love crab cheese. But I hate soy sauce. And I hate ginger (in savory dishes, at least). I didn't even eat Chinese food until college when Jess introduced me to almond chicken. It's still very very rare for me to crave any sort of Asian dish, but last night, the craving hit, and it hit hard. Brad and I were downtown looking for somewhere to eat (with the other million people down there; stupid football season!), and all our regular spots were crawling with peeps. We walked down to the ATM, which happens to be across from Kai Garden, and I just HAD to have it. (Side note: This whole not eating meat thing certainly makes eating out a little trickier. You can only have so many veggie sandwiches.) Brad wasn't immediately convinced, but once the idea got in his head, it quickly took hold.

I tend to go through phases with Chinese, and when I was in grad school, Brad and I used to go to Kai Garden (on Main, just over Liberty) all the time. Before last night, we hadn't been in years. As soon as we walked in, I knew we'd made the right choice. The dining room was modestly full, and not overrun with yahoos in Michigan sweatshirts. The waitstaff was beyond charming and nice. And they serve beer, so Brad was pleased. Brad was also excited to order an actual egg roll, and we were surprised by how delicious our respective rolls were (spring for me). Brad got the chicken lo-mein and I got the rainbow shrimp. And it totally hit the spot. I don't eat enough Chinese to be any sort of Chinese connoisseur, so it mostly all tastes pretty similar to me--and those were clearly frozen mix veggies with my shrimp--but I really like Kai Garden. I remember now why we used to go there so often. And if I wasn't already sold:

Can't beat that now can I? (AND... our anniversary is one of my lucky numbers. It's like it was meant to be!) To top off our Friday night out, we popped into the Chocolate House, or whatever it's called now (the little shop in between Middle Kingdom and Prickly Pear on Main). For $1.80, Brad got a peanut butter meltaway and I got a milk chocolate swirl covered graham cracker. Num num num.

On a less woohoo note, Fresh Seasons, the little market down the street from me, is closing. I've written about it a few times over the years, and it is definitely a great little shop. Unfortunately, it's always been a pricey little shop and, as it's small, it doesn't have the selection that the bigger specialty shops have (all of which have mostly been dropped out of the budget during no-job-status). Either way, I'm sad to see it go. But I am glad I at least caught wind of it on what I think is its last day open, today -- when everything in the store was 20% off. Score! They still had a decent grocery selection, so I was able to pick up some regular stuff I needed, like carrots and apples and veggie broth, for a discount. I, of course, got some cheese, too (they have quite the cheese selection), and couldn't resist the apple cider, which was actually pretty affordable even pre-sale (and from a local mill). Then, there were the irresistible items I probably wouldn't have died without... :) A bottle of M. Lawrence Fizz (no Sex, boo!), some fancy ice cream, locally made fresh cheese-stuffed mezzaluna pastas, and, you know, I cannot pass up Halloween stuff (hello, gummy fangs!).

So long, Fresh Seasons. I'm sad to see you go. But thanks for the sweet stuff. :)

And just a quick peek into the ready-to-party Church House of Horrors!

One week from today! Yeah for Halloween!

21 October 2009

Donuts. Mmm.

Last weekend after a lovely slumber party with the girls (and Brad), Lindsay and I decided to take advantage of the beautiful fall day and hit up the cider mill. Specifically, the Dexter Cider Mill, which I've been wanting to check out for years (especially after Lisa's glowing review of their cider slushie). I'm pretty sure we were both instantly smitten with the charming little mill. No $15 parking fee, no entrance fee, no 500 people milling about -- just a simple shop, mill, and outdoor seating area along the river. I was disappointed to find the slushie machine empty (gasp!), but otherwise, I'm madly in love with the Dexter Cider Mill -- the smell alone is worth the trip. We each grabbed some cider and cinnamon sugar donuts, Lindsay picked up a bag of Northern Spy apples, and we headed out back to enjoy our loot and the scenery.

Just one donut?

Heck no! A whole bag of donuts!

Everything was perfect. The company, the location, the AMAZING donuts and cider... I definitely hope to make it back out there again this fall. Need more donuts!

Next up, time to get some pumpkins! There's a farm down the street that I pass on the way to the dog park. Its front yard of pumpkins for sale has been taunting me for weeks, and Sunday I finally got Brad to stop and help me pick some out.

While I love a traditional orange pumpkin, I'm a sucker for the crazy ones, too. I figured I can grab a regular pumpkin anywhere, anytime, so I mostly grabbed some of the more interesting varieties. I can't get enough of the light green fairy tale pumpkins -- even better that I found one that looks like a squished witch's face.

The pumpkins made instant friends with new owl lantern.

Keeping with the fall theme, yesterday I decided to whip up some pumpkin soup with one of the pie pumpkins I picked up a few weeks ago. Brad and I fell in love with a pumpkin soup we had in Paris... and [foreshadow!] I should have known that I couldn't possibly re-create it...

I found this recipe and used it as the basis for the soup. It sounded a little bland (and the reviews said so as well), so I added a ton more spices -- more sage, some crushed red pepper, a little cumin, tons of pepper... And veggie broth instead of chicken stock. And this just proves why I SO need a real food processor:


AND a pain in my butt. I hate you, batches!

Because I couldn't puree really with my stupid food processor, the soup's consistency wasn't anywhere near what I'd hoped. And I have to assume some of the flavor was lost in the chunks that didn't get chopped up. But I powered forward, hoping it would surprise me.

Looks tasty, at least. Right?

It was definitely still a little bland, despite my attempts to spice it up. I typically like thick, chunky soups, too, but I was just annoyed with the outcome. Was it edible? Sure. Did it taste like pumpkin? Not really. So it didn't really hit the spot. The upside is that Brad seemed pleased and even asked me to give him the leftovers for lunch. Hmm... I guess I'll just have to try again when I get my new processor. Something to look forward to!

Finally, I'd like to take a moment to thank the fantastic E. sisters for sharing their Aunt Sally with me, and, of course, the fantastic Aunt Sally for a lovely lunch. (You may remember my rave review of Aunt Sally's Alaskan salmon jerky.) And, if she couldn't get any fantasticer, Aunt Sally even knitted a scarf to add to our Christmas hospital donation project!!

And it's not just any scarf. It's knitted from a pattern of the the Seamen's Church Institute, who knit scarves, hats, and socks for sailors. How cool is that? (And fits right in my current knitting theme -- I just finished my second hat from a WWII army pattern.) It also got me thinking -- my dad was in the Navy, so it makes sense that he definitely needs one of these for Xmas. :) Anyway, thanks thanks thanks... And it was so very very nice to meet you finally, Sally!

17 October 2009

Oldies but goodies.

What a weekend... and it's not even over yet! Friday was my friend Tabi's wedding, and several out-of-town friends came in for the event. I love a good wedding, but a wedding with old friends you don't see often is extra special. I've been smiling all day.

Sara flew into town Wednesday, and we got to spend nearly all of Thursday together. There is never enough time when Sara is in town, so to get to spend an entire day together was like Christmas for me (and I already miss her so much I can hardly stand it). We spent most of the day at Panera, then headed over to Knit a Round for a Ravelry members-only event, checking out the sales (20% off everything!) and picking out new yarn. Next up, the Roadhouse for some takeout. Pimento mac and cheese? Yes, please! We discovered pimento cheese together last summer while on our REM World Tour, so it was perfect. And I think I might have found a new Roadhouse favorite. I certainly give the pimento mac my blessing.

Friday brought the arrival of Lindsay, in town from her home in Marquette. Her and Sara met up with Brad and me, and we were off for the big event. The wedding was at Weller's in Saline, and it couldn't have been more beautiful. What started off as a dreary day threatening of rain turned out to be a perfect fall day.

The happy bride and groom.

We've been to a lot of weddings over the years. But it's always extra special to get to see someone you've known most of your life so happy and so in love. Wishing all the best in the world to Mr. and Mrs. Feeney.

The SHS girls.
Me, Tabi, Leslie, Sara, & Lindsay

I make a lot of fun of my hometown. I hated Saline and I hated high school. But I have a lot of great memories of these girls and it makes me so happy to still have them in my life. And I think we all still look pretty good for a bunch of old married ladies. :)

15 October 2009

Cluck cluck oink.

It finally happened! I met my chickie! Everyone.... meet Marti (aka 1 of 2 chickens that looked identical; I'm going with yes, this is her.)

Thank you, Brad and Stephanie, for my lovely feather styling!


Last week, Sarah M. and I headed out to the farm for the last volunteer day of the year. Much to my delight, cleaning the chicken coop was one of the choose-able tasks. Sign me up! (Aside from chickens, yeah!, chicken poop seemed like the least offensive poop available.) We scooped poop, spread some hay, collected eggs, then, I must confess... we hard-boiled the eggs and... fed them back to the chickens. EW! But... They seemed to love it.

Cannibal Chickens in the Avocado Jungle of Death

When we weren't busy with the chickens, we, of course, smooshed as many of the animals as possible. A friendly old man gave us a little tour and even took us right in with the giant pigs.

Tallulah likes belly rubs.

We thought for sure the giant pigs would eat us. But no, they're lovers!

This potbelly is on a diet.

Goats are cute.

09 October 2009

Let the spooky begin.

I couldn't resist and pulled out the Halloween decorations on Monday. My dad thought this was hilarious. "Don't you get sick of looking at that stuff?" Um, clearly he does not know me very well. :) Mostly the same stuff from last year, but it still makes me so happy.

I still love my Medusa best.

We had an amusing casualty after Wednesday's windstorm.

For those not here... It's still mostly been a rainy fall. (It's raining again!) But we've had a few beautiful days here and there. Haven't ventured out anywhere too scenic yet, but I absolutely adore the bright red our tree out front turns.

To get in the fall spirit, I also made up some pumpkin bites yesterday. They're kind of like bread in cookie form.... fluffy, sweet, delicious! And just maybe I used an extra 1/3 cup of chocolate chips. And just maybe I had one for dessert after breakfast this morning.

In unrelated news, I joined Lisa for her first ever trip to the Treasure Mart yesterday. I've just recently re-discovered it myself again after a childhood of torturous visits (seriously? what kid wants to go there? that's just mean!). We giggled over the ridiculous (a green glass fu manchu bedside water carafe), oohed and ahh'd over the old-school kitchen pots, and found some Halloween costume accoutrement. And I picked up a new set for my growing chickie s&p collection!

Cutest ever.