28 December 2010

Pale blue eyes.

Time for a very Churchy bathroom reveal...

We have a blue bathroom! I'm not necessarily anti-blue, but it's never been my thing. Something strange has come over me since moving into my antique beach house and I'm finding I like all new things, like blue. I guess it really just comes down to the feel of the house, and this house feels blue. We also have this amazing original tile, which is shades of blue and gray. So when Brad said "let's go blue," I actually agreed. And guess what? I love it! I have plans to buy vintage beach prints for the wall and have a very special retro towel rack on order, which I'll of course share as soon as it arrives. Alas, our work is never done, and it's time to start on our next project...

What could it be?

In between Christmasing and redecorating, our dear Birgit came for a quick holiday visit. We took a nice winter dune beach walk, then warmed ourselves with delicious martinis (while also stuffing our faces full of food at our one "nice" restaurant [it has fancy fries!]). Visits are never long enough, but I would take even just a minute of Birgy. :D


Stay tuned for more house reveals!

27 December 2010

You'll shoot your eye out.

I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas, celebrated with loved ones... and delicious treats! Things were quiet over here, as it was just us and the pooches -- so we celebrated exactly how we wanted to. Starting with a lunchtime Christmas eve reunion with Rachel and Don at our favorite place, Fitzgerald's (which, of course, Rachel introduced us to).

PS Love the 1960s function on Picnik.

Mulled wine, mashed potatoes, delicious shrimpy croque sandwiches, and two of our favorite people... What could be better?

Next up, a walk on our favorite dog-walking beach, hopefully the start of a new tradition: Christmas eve beach walk. We were both bundled up in our new winter coats, and while overcast, the beach was beautiful, with the water a crazy shade of blue-green and the shoreline covered in frozen waves. Heidi even took a quick dip.

Back home, it was time for Christmas Vacation and A Christmas Story, and snacky dinner. Inspired by the quince "for cheese" jam I picked up in London.

Also included -- a handful of cold cheeses (blue, cheddar, parm, Havarti), half a round of baked brie, chunks of sourdough, buttery crackers, sliced apples, cherry tomatoes, and shrimp and cocktail sauce. Oh yeah, and some bourbon-spiked eggnog.

Sourdough + quince + brie = Xmas YUM.

After some more holiday tv time, we headed to bed, hoping Santa would be good to us in the morning. The benefit of Christmas home, alone, is sleeping in. Our Christmas morning started at 10:30.

Santa didn't pass us by.

Our favorite part of Christmas morning is treating the kiddos. This year, a mini tomato/carrot trail led them to their treat tree, some giant bones, and new squeaky balls.

Santa was good to us, as well, with highlights including yet-to-be-delivered KitchenAid blenders and toasters, polar bear PJ pants, and a fancy remote for easy Netflix via PS3 navigation. Then it was time for a Christmas breakfast, also a luxury of home-alone-holiday-time. Earlier in the week we'd watched Gordon Ramsay make some very fancy, very decadent scrambled eggs, and I was set on making them. And eating them, despite my stomach's issues with scrambled eggs. What makes these eggs so special?


I cracked five eggs in my cool pan, dropped in two tablespoons of butter (Gordon was much more free with the butter), and then placed the pan on a medium flame to melt the butter. I lightly mixed the eggs at this point. Once the butter was melted, I pulled the pan off the heat and added... cream! Probably about a tablespoon (again, Gordon was more generous). Lightly mix, back on the heat. Just a short time on the heat, lightly mixing the eggs as they heated and scrambled. Grate in some extra sharp cheddar. Done.

These eggs were as amazing as I assumed they would be. I guess the key to my stomach handling scrambled eggs is butter, butter, and more butter! Or perhaps it was the coating of...

Three mimosas!

We spent the remainder of the day in our PJs.

Can't forget Christmas dinner, and by 6 or so we were ready for dinner. Pimento mac and cheese, no shortcuts! It's one of our favorites, and always delicious. And we ate almost the entire thing. It's Christmas, right?

While we missed our friends and family, it seemed a fitting celebration for our first big holiday in our new beach house. Cozy and cuddly, and perfectly delicious. Hope yours was a holly jolly one as well!

24 December 2010

Santa baby.

See you after Christmas with tales of Christmas cheer, Christmas treats, and, as always, Christmas pooches!

22 December 2010

Bring me some figgy pudding.

Treat time! What better to make when you have oodles of extra bananas and apples, right? First, you melt butter. Lots of butter.


What's the butter for, you ask? Caramelizing apples!


These combined nicely for two giant loaves of apple banana bread.


The bread wasn't anything too crazy -- banana bread's the easiest thing ever. But it's moist, tasty, not too overly sweet... A great morning snack, and a few slices went nicely in the treat tin I prepared for our awesome neighbors (rumor has it, the bread was a big hit!). Because, of course, I made cookies, too. I really wanted to make these pecan puffs I found, but, if I'm remembering correctly, it called for pulverizing the pecans in the food processor... and I was feeling lazy after working on the bread (ha!). I settled on chocolate chip oat cookies. I got the recipe from a cookie book my mom bought me long before I ever started cooking or baking, and it's served me well over the years. Unfortunately, I don't remember the title... and it's WAY OVER THERE.

Luckily I remembered to mix the dry ingredients in just as I was about to drop the cookies on the baking sheet. Oops! :) Behold... oodles of mini cookies.

I have yet to make a moist cookie. I even undercooked these by a minute and they are still crunchy. I don't mind -- I like crunchy cookies... but I know my technique is seriously flawed. No one complains too much, though, because cookies are still cookies!

Meanwhile, we have many o' house projects looming in our new future, including a spare bathroom redo. Painting ensued today... Stay tuned!

20 December 2010

Smile like you mean it.

My mom's birthday is on Christmas day. Because she's the mom, she's gotten the birthday shaft for most of my life (and probably hers, too). Having to get up early, fuss over kids, make big dinners, have guests over... As an adult, my goal each year is to try to make my mom's birthday a little more special. I can't always take over on Christmas day for her, but I do try to giver her at least a little reprieve and get her to relax and enjoy some holiday and birthday cheer -- especially this year, when she turns the big six oh.

Heidi helped me hang balloons.

It's hard to "host" a party at someone else's house, so luckily I was able to convince my mom (and Larry and Jordan) to come here for (early) Christmas this year. It was also the first time they've all seen the house, so I was extra excited for their visit. They arrived early Saturday afternoon, leaving me all day Friday to prepare. I hit the kitchen with Julia Child.

First up, Julia's reine de saba for my mom's birthday cake.

Sarah E. made this for Frenchie supper club so I knew it would be delicious, but I didn't know if I'd pull it off as well as she did! I decided I better just follow instructions, too, so everything was very butterlicious. I also took the rum option, in both the cake and the frosting. I was super nervous following these instructions, but at least with the cake, everything was pretty straightforward. I love watching the magic happen, so I was excited to watch the egg whites slowly beat into soft peaks. Unfortunately, soft peaks is as far as I could get them, even when I gave in and pulled out the hand mixer (me have little muscles!). I don't know if/how this affected the cake, but I just couldn't get the whites to harden.

Note the adorable cake stand. Thanks, Lisa S.!

Next up was Julia's apple custard tart, with homemade dough. Frustration set in with this recipe, as I could not for the life of me figure out the proportions for the recommended dough (why not just do the math for me, Julia?!). I finally gave up and just made Martha Stewart's dough, discovering for the first time how easy dough is with a food processor. Woo!

Georgie wants to help roll out the dough.

I also just accepted that I don't like how Julia's recipes are laid out. I love to read them... her style is so captivating. But in terms of working through them, they are awfully convoluted, with lots of "turn to page X for instruction," which drove me crazy. That being said, this recipe, other than the dough, whipped up pretty quickly and without any drama.

I had a whole ball of dough left over, so I decided to make some mini men. I sprinkled them with sugar and cinnamon, baked them for 10 or 15 minutes, then sprinkled them with some more cinnamon and lots of powdered sugar.

I also decided to make breakfast muffins (for Sunday morning), as I could not resist the recipe for cranberry eggnog muffins in the new Food Network Magazine. Luckily, I had rum leftover from cake making, as the recipe calls for boozy cranberries. I figured I'd lighten the recipe up a bit, too, since I knew we'd all have a sugar hangover after all the Julia desserts -- I split the butter up, using half butter and half applesauce, and I baked them sans crumble topping (plus, by this point, I was POOPED and couldn't mix up a single other thing). Easy recipe, although I was a little paranoid that I was going to burn the house down cooking booze on the stove top.

These smelled so good while baking... Very holiday-ey! All in all, I think I turned out quite the spread.

Everyone finally arrived on Saturday.

Eagerly awaiting in their holiday best...

After some antiquing (me and mom) and Lowes-ing (the boys), it was time to make dinner. I'd decided on spinach and three cheese cannelloni, baked in a bechamel sauce and topped with a little tomato basil sauce. I found this recipe in the Ann Arbor-based Mainstreet Ventures cookbook Brad got me for my birthday, and I believe this particular recipe is from Palio. Unfortunately, I can't get fresh noodles here (and I don't have a pasta maker), so I had to make do with dried manicotti noodles. I also had jar tomato basil sauce on hand and already open in the fridge, so I didn't make that from scratch. But I followed the stuffing recipe exactly (minus garlic) and the bechamel recipe, which, again, was so exciting -- it took forever (my bad, heat was too low), but watching that sauce thicken gives me the giggles (Brad, too, as he'd helped in the early whisking stages). I put together a nice fresh salad and cooked a loaf of good old Cole brand garlic bread (always a big hit), and it was time to start the birthday/Xmas festivities.

I don't like to toot my own horn (toot toot!), but this was.... amazing. :D It was even a big hit with the "where's the meat?" contingent. I wasn't sure about the sauce... there was no cheese mixed in, just PILES of butter and milk... But it was to die for. And the stuffing was so good and cheesy. It all combined to make one hell of a holiday dinner. I was super bummed we ate it all -- no leftovers! (Birgit will be interested to know it was paired perfectly with a bottle of Round Barn dry red.) I need to make this again asap. And you definitely should, too.

After dinner it was time for presents, before poor Jordan had a little heart attack.

Brad and I got some fuzzy hats!

And then.. finally... DESSERT!

Everything was a big hit, which makes me so darn happy. The cake is so rich and chocolately (in a good way, not a "ugh! This is too rich to eat" way), and you can actually really taste that sneaky rum. I think it was a little overcooked, so it wasn't at all doughy like the recipe describes, but it was absolutely delicious and the perfect birthday cake. The apple tart was super tasty, too, but less impressive (to me at least) as it tasted almost exactly like the apple cheesecake I made for Thanksgiving. My mom did compliment me on my flaky dough, though, so that made me smile. I consider this party an enormous success. Oh, and while the little dough men were long gone by Saturday evening, my mom and Larry liked them a lot, even though I found them way not sugary enough. It was a good use for the leftover dough, but I wouldn't set out to make them again. I'll call this one at 2.5 for 3!

Sunday morning it was time for coffee and muffins, but first, a little balloon animal fun.

Rub rub rub.
Heidi was less amused by her static than we were.

As for those muffins... They tasted as good as they smelled (mom and Larry even had two). Even without the extra sugar crumble topping. I figure the true test is Brad, who doesn't even like eggnog. Guess what? He liked them, too. Sweet, tart, with a hint of holiday. I think I should make these again for actual Christmas morning.

Overall, a grand success, I do believe. I think we celebrated my mom in style, and smiles were definitely aplenty. And, before he got bored of me, Jordan gave me world's best hugs. Definitely a (early) Christmas to remember.

16 December 2010

Do not enter.

We have a few new additions to our kitchen this week. First, the positives. Art! I love our local artist co-op shop, Chartreuse. For the past several weeks, one of the artists has had his stuff on sale, so I decided to pick up this lovely vase for my mom:

Because all his stuff was on sale, I decided to snag one of his vases for myself. And, since I've been fantasizing about it for weeks, I think it's a safe purchase (I tend to have buyer's remorse about non-essential home items) -- besides, at $18, it was a total steal. It reminds me of asparagus stalks, so its home will likely remain the kitchen.

E. girls: you'll remember me being cornered by this artist when we popped in when you were here - ha!

I've been planning on picking up a coffee maker since we moved in, but it just hadn't happened yet. When my coffee-obsessed father discovered I didn't have one, he decided that would make the perfect xmas gift. And it did! Thanks, dad!

We call it... Mister Coffee!

There was an incident a few years ago. Involving coffee OD. It was ugly. That's why I haven't had a coffee pot in the house. Hopefully I can keep things under control this time. I even followed directions...

Time to enjoy my first cup...

Hopefully I don't end up like Cornholio this time!

The outcome? Eh. I controlled the portions and only made around 3 cups, so no coffee shakes yet. But I need to perfect my proportions. And perhaps splurge on some fancy coffee. For now, it will do. Yeah coffee!

And now... Our final addition...

What'd I do?

A door.

For whatever reason (age of the home, previous use as apartments), our house is full of door-ready doorways. Nearly every doorway once held a door, and these doors are all in a pile in the basement. Why do we need an extra door in the kitchen, you ask? Our little maniac Heidi, of course.

For the past several weeks, Heidi has eaten/destroyed/terrorized numerous items in the house when we were out. So this past week or so, we decided to start sequestering the dogs in one of our spare bedrooms when we had to leave. It took a few tries (and a few eaten books) to get the room puppy-proofed, but it seemed to work. Unfortunately, I can't STAND having my super cute winter-themed spare bedroom such a disaster area, so we needed a new solution. * lightbulb * another door! The placement of this door allows the dogs full access to the upstairs den (with the office, master bedroom, and master bath doors SHUT) as well as the ability to run up and down the stairs, leaving them access to the mudroom for water drinking and backyard-window-looking-out. As long as we remember to turn the garbage can backward (extendo arms can get her paws in there), it should be pretty safe. Until they realize the door doesn't latch fully and if they push hard enough it will open....

Of course, the mismatched wood immediately drove Brad crazy, and he's currently painting the backside now while home on his lunch break. 

Seriously, what'd I do?

It also makes me laugh because it has...

I see you.

A peep hole! Ha ha ha! Keep your fingers crossed that this plan is finally the plan to work!

14 December 2010

Friends, family, and ice.

I had a whirlwind weekend, squeezing as much into a two-day trip "home" as I could. Coincidentally, the Zs were in town for the weekend, too, so I got to even see my NYC friend! Thursday I headed into the D to meet with my new boss about my new job (yes, you heard that right!). It's only a 8-month project, but it's part time, from home, and it's for the C D C. AND it's in my field. AND I get to use my fancy MA skills. I feel very brainy for the first time in a long time, project manager and all! Afterward, I headed down to Northville to visit Lisa S. and Digby and see her very beautiful house for the first time since she's moved in. Delicious Deadwood followed, followed by Holiday Inn and some L. Mawby Detroit sparkling wine (my new favorite).

Friday it was up early and down to Ann Arbor to meet my Rachel at Whole Foods for some coffee and catching up. Then it was time for SUSHI, my most favoritest sushi in the world -- Godaiko, of course (although I was annoyed I had forgotten Friday is not a good buy-one-get-one-free day. Oh well!). Sarah, Mike, and Birgit met me for the gorge fest, and I think I was quite impressive in my three-roll push. Then it was downtown for some shopping and Lisa Z.ing! Can't believe it's been four months since we all moved away and four months since we've seen each other... Let's hope we don't have to wait another four months for a visit! Then it was dinner time, and Melissa S. drove down to dine with Birgit and me at Jolly Pumpkin, where we flirted our way into a free dessert. Finally, Saturday morning I met Kristal and LZ for coffee and chit chat. Phew! Then... it was back home... with my dad!

We're staying in St. Joe for Christmas (alone!), so we decided to celebrate early with my dad. He hasn't left Ann Arbor since he moved there, either, so I figured it was a good time for a mini road trip for him. Our actual celebration took place Sunday night, and I whipped up some veggie lasagna for the occasion (after a long discussion with my dad about how chicken, even skinless, is still meat). I even picked up a Christmas tree for the event...

Now the pickle has a more authentic home.
We're still eating the leftovers.

The true star of the weekend, though, was the crazy weather. As I've mentioned (over and over again), it snowed for a week straight here. But the roads to Ann Arbor were fine, and by the time I returned to St. Joe, it was raining (gross) and most of the snow melted (boo). Come Sunday afternoon, the blizzard rolled in.

"Let us in! It's cold out here!"

My dad and I ran some errands Sunday, and Brad's anti-lock breaks were working overtime. The snow was so heavy it was hard to see, and we even saw a full-on spin out... Scary. When there was no sign of the snow letting up, and snow was predicted for, well, pretty much everywhere, I started to panic about driving my dad home (and then me driving back here) the next day. So we decided to throw my dad on the train out of New Buffalo (and Rachel was so kind to pick him up at the train station and cart him home), and I'm so glad we made that decision because the drive to NB was a total white out and terrifying. Of course, the train was late, but eventually my dad was on his way home, I was back home, and I could start enjoying the snow again. And guess what? It's still snowing. As always, the kiddos love to play in it, and I love to scope stuff out...

That's pure ice, from one end to the other (including a very iced-over mini lighthouse).


BTW... I just had to PURCHASE photo storage. Infuriating. But I'm that devoted to making you look at my life... :D
Also btw... The one thing I still can't figure out how to do with the new blogger is to re-center pictures when some weird format gets mysteriously dropped in and shifts them. Double infuriating.