28 May 2012

Nothing but flowers.

Our yard... well, it needs some work. It looks fine, but just fine. We have a small but great yard, and we love spending time in it (we hardly spent any time outdoors at our old house), so we want it to be as peaceful and pretty as possible. There's a lot we've wanted to do, so knowing we had some busy weekends coming up, Brad and I tried to knock out a few projects these past few weeks. The biggest project has been digging out the majority of what was left over from the previous owner's "garden" (re: mostly weeds). Then Brad laid some, well, mesh something or other, and we had a huge pile of chocolate brown (matches our porch!) mulch delivered on Friday.

Heidi says, "Mmm. Snacks."

In between storms and debilitating heat and senior PGA golf attending --

Does this make us yuppies or nerds?

-- we (by we, I mean Brad) placed mulch all over the backyard, the side yard, and some in front. We also (and by we I mean me) got a lot of flowers planted and trimmed all the never-ending seagrass, deadheaded the hydrangeas, and trimmed the rose bushes (ow).

Heidi and George (mostly Heidi) made themselves at home in the new mulch.

This past week, Hillary and I discovered we have a mutual admiration for a neighborhood house's flower boxes - beautiful mismatched colors and shapes and sizes. This is my attempt - although not nearly as wild and crazy as my inspiration, I think they turned out pretty nice. (I realize our flower boxes are crooked and it drives me crazy. When we moved in, there were four. SOMEONE threw the fourth one out when we weren't looking and now we just have three. So Brad pulled out the extra hooks from the house, but that leaves them all looking a little lopsided.)

Now we can even walk down the path from front to back without being tickled by seagrass or bitten by rogue rose branches.

Cleans up pretty nice!

Oh, and Brad built a poop bucket fence, too!

And now for some extra flower shots, just cause I say so.

I love homegrown flower arrangements.

Oh! And I almost forgot the most traumatic moment of the weekend!! A tick! In my head! When I was driving home from Lowe's on Saturday (flower-getting trip), I reached up and scratched my head and felt something and was like, "what the heck is that giant scab from?!" I dug in, gave a good yank, and pulled a TICK from my head!!! I nearly drove off the road. I flung it (not thinking) then saw it again and was like "ahhh!!!" So I pulled off the road and leaped out of my car and found it and flung it, all the while jumping up and down going "ahhh! gross! ew! eeeeeek!" (Anyone looking out their front windows must have thought I was a crazy person!) I came home and immediately protected my head with a hat (and wore one for our return trip to Lowe's today).

This is what I think of you, tick!

ANYWAY... in a few days I'll be enjoying a different kind of sweltering heat. Four days until the Churches return to New Orleans!

24 May 2012

The big splash.

It's been a big week. First, we celebrated our Second Annual Golf Sucks weekend at the beach.

Lisa flies in from NYC (along w/ her hubby who attends said golf event), picks up Kristal along the way, and we eat, drink, and beach our way through our golf widowness.

Lessons learned this weekend include:

  • Friends Don't Let Friends SPF 4

Proof that application occurred. Alas, it did not matter.

  • A bottle of champagne (preferably Sex from L. Mawby) fits snugly in one 32 oz. water bottle.

  • As long as you jump RIGHT in (and get back out quickly), you CAN swim in lake Michigan in May

Before the ladies' killer sunburns kicked into high gear, we enjoyed yummy food such as fried asparagus, toasted coconut ice cream, asparagus and goat cheese quiche, shrimp and crab mac and cheese, hot-from-the-oven pretzel rolls, and some amazing French toast (yes, I'll pat myself on the back here, ha!).

Michigan apple cinnamon bread French toast. Yum.

Oh, and we spotted some pirates, too. Arrrrr!

Sadly, the beautiful weekend came to an end, and it was back to the grind. AND THEN... I got a very exciting phone call.


Which, of course, called for a celebratory dinner.

To sip, a Patio Punch. Peach liquor, soda water, and fresh fruit. To eat, a peppercorn-crusted Ahi tuna and crab salad with wasabi dressing. Obviously, the occasion was special, the view was beautiful, and I was slightly toasty from my cocktail, but this may be one of the best meals I've had at the Bistro yet! (Yes, Sara, I did go back to the Bistro! Luckily the space cadet waitress was no where in sight!)


Yesterday, I quit my stupid-ass mind-numbing want-to-poke-my-eyes-out job!


Today was my first day of my new life (dramatic, much? ha!). I slept in, took the dogs to the park, then took a walk to town with Hillary and her girls, stopping along the way for iced coffees and "ice cream" (a cup of whipped cream w/ sprinkles - perfect!).

What else could this week possibly bring?!

17 May 2012

And then there were four.

Well, technically five...

Last May, Hillary, Ceile, and I took a trip to Sawyer Garden Center, bought oodles of flowers and veggies, then filled up on fish tacos at the Stray Dog in New Buffalo.

This May, Hillary, Ceile, and the newest addition to our hood, Liz, took a trip to Sawyer Garden Center, bought slightly fewer oodles of flowers and veggies, then filled up on fish tacos at the Stray Dog.

And, of course, newborn Daphne was with us, too. Baby's first field trip with the girls!

We got lots of colorful (and delicious smelling) plants. Thank goodness for the Subaru - roomy!

Then I stalkeratzied Daphne on the ride home.

Asleep. Awake!

As is to be expected, we had a great time. These ladies are pretty sweet... and fish tacos are, of course, delicious. We already planned our third-annual trip for next May!

Now... to plant my goodies!

I put a lot of time and effort into my container plants last year... and they yielded like, five tomatoes. This year I decided to just get my summer veggies at the farmer's market and stick with what I'm good at - herbs. I bought two big basil plants and three small mint plants. I can already taste the caprese sandwiches and mint juleps! By the way, the hanging plant is a Wandering Jew, and I am a huge fan. I had one last year and not only is it beautiful, it is nearly unkillable!

Seriously. Is it summer YET!?

PS I totally want one of these chickens (or two of them) for my yard!!!

14 May 2012

Rock with my posse.

A few months ago I pinned this pink champagne cake. Champagne? Pink? What's not to love? I decided it would be the perfect Mother's Day cake and got baking last Friday afternoon.

The recipe called for a box cake (I know, I know... But a) it was in the recipe!, and b) I have had mixed luck with from-scratch cakes). A white box cake, with NO pudding. I've never made a white cake so I have no idea why they all do seem to include pudding, but it was tricky finding one that didn't. The only one was this Duncan Hines mix. As per usual, I swapped out the oil with applesauce, and, per the recipe, I swapped out the water with champagne. For this, I picked up a bottle of the classic Asti Spumante. Then, in with the red food coloring.

The recipe says that you should only need 3 drops of red, so I was hesitant to add to much, but even the 5 or 6 drops didn't do much more than add a pink tint.

Before. After.

The frosting I did make from scratch, happily softening my sticks of butter in the warm sun on my kitchen windowsills. My two whole sticks of butter. More champagne in the mix, and again, definitely could have been more aggressive with the food coloring but I didn't want to end up with blood red frosting. I still can't quite believe how much butter or powdered sugar is in frosting, but it DID make enough frosting for three cakes, so I guess the breakdown isn't too scary (I froze a bunch - per Google, this is ok. We shall see!). When it came time to frost, I am happy to report things went pretty smoothly - I also have had mixed results with frosting cakes and cupcakes. First things first, though - the taste test!

Two tails up!

 Layer one. Layer two.

...of course, happy to highlight my vintage cake carrier, too.

This fridge is ready for a par-tay!

So a night in the fridge to soak up the champagne-y flavors. A bbq of wieners and asparagus. Some homemade macaroni salad. And finally, time for cake.

Now, this was definitely no Hillary coconut cake (seriously, I may forever compare cake to THE coconut cake), but, despite not being super pink, it was really tasty. You don't taste the champagne really, but you definitely taste its effects. The cake was light and fluffy and while texturally it seemed like regular cake, it tasted almost angel cakey. Obviously, more frosting can always be used, but I went a little light because it is super rich. I would definitely make this again. I suggest you do the same.

Cheers, champagne cake! < clink >

13 May 2012

Baby love.

I am pleased to announce that there is a new addition to the State Street Triangle. Welcome to the world, Daphne Jane!

Congrats to mama Hillary and papa Troy and big sis Maren!

And, just in time, I finished a special knitting project last week (yarn porn for you, Rachel!) -

Should anyone be interested, this is the Pine Forest Baby Blanket, knit with two strands of Dreambaby yarn. LOVED knitting this (Rachel was simultaneously knitting this for her future-mama bff!) and loved gifting it to Hillary even more.

Lots of love to ALL my mama friends today - Happy Mother's Day!

11 May 2012

Church B&B.

There's only one thing this can mean.... A certain little six-and-a-half-year-old is on his way!

Just a few more hours and my mom, Larry, and Jordan will be here for a weekend-long Mother's Day celebration. Can't wait! Heidi inspected both the guest rooms to make sure they were ready for visitors...

Summer room looks acceptable!

Winter room, ready for guests!

Since I was last posting last summer, we've done a lot to the winter room. Most notably - no more air mattress! We ordered this bed from a local furniture store that will not be named because they are a-holes, but we love love love it. Some STEAL $8 curtains (for both panels!!!) from Target, new blinds, and, most recently, my most favorite rugs in the whole world! (I also got a matching runner for under the kitchen table.)

Time to get cooking now! Big Mother's Day bbq tomorrow with my family and Brad's parents, too. Happy Mother's Day to all my mama friends! xo

09 May 2012

Family dinner.

This past winter, we instituted Sunday Family Dinners with the Smits family. They are just plain awesome, obviously, but none of us have family in town, so it's been nice to have a family of friends nearby (and by nearby, I mean across the street and down a block!) to have warm, cozy big dinners with on occasion. Our first dinner fell shortly after Brad's birthday, and Hillary was kind enough to tackle Swedish meatballs per his request. The next one was old-school tuna noodle casserole (me), and I made some lemon-thyme biscuits (from scratch!) for dunking. The star of the evening was most definitely Hillary's coconut cake.

Hillary used this recipe, and I know she has a few tips (including a different frosting recipe), so if you want to make this (YOU SHOULD), let me know and I will pass them along. So let me break this down for you - coconut cake, with ooey coconut cream(ish) that soaks down between the layers, and coconut frosting. Now, you may think, "Wow, that sounds like TOO MUCH coconut." To which I will say - Brad said the same thing.... And upon eating it, was won over. I cannot express how delicious this cake was. I would say I think of it weekly. I could eat this cake daily. I'm pretty sure this is the best cake I've ever had. Hillary is a cake goddess.

This past Sunday, we had what is likely our last Family Dinner for at least a little bit, as Hillary is 9 months pregnant. Keep that in mind when I tell you she made pierogies. From scratch. (Note, these are from The Chew. Double triple bonus points for Hillary!) We arrived just as Hillary was finishing up, so I managed to score some pics.

I just have to mention that Hillary's baby bump pushes buttons on the oven while she cooks (and it goes "beep! beep! beep!"), and I just find it so adorable that I had to say so.

Along with a salad and some sauerkraut, we sat down to a picnic feast out back. Maren joined us briefly for some applesauce and cottage cheese.

It is safe to say.... Yum.

I mean, seriously! They look perfect! Doughy on the outside, creamy on the inside. How will we ever be satisfied with Mrs. T.'s again?

I was on dessert duty, so after some deliberation, I settled on Gail Simmons' (from Top Chef) frozen chocolate, peanut butter, and banana bars with coconut (which she made on The Chew).

I know I've said it before, but I love cooking when you can watch the food change. Science, yeah! Melting chocolate, whipping cream... Never ceases to make me giggle or gasp "oooh!"

For as simple as these are, it took a while to make them. And a lot of bowls and spoons! But there were lots of yummy ingredients, including the banana layer, which was banana, vanilla Greek yogurt, coconut milk, and honey. Blend blend blend.

Layer 1, into the freezer. An hour later, out for top layer.

The not-so-pretty finished product, back into the freezer!

Note - I couldn't find any whole milk Greek yogurt except for plain, and I couldn't imagine putting plain in here. So I just used the nonfat vanilla Greek yogurt I had at home. I was also half a banana short. Due to one or both of these things - maybe? - the middle, banana layer didn't freeze very well, so it was kind of a mess when it came time to slice.

Tasty food still tastes tasty even when it looks like a mess, right? These were surprisingly banana-y, despite the banana shortage. The chocolate peanut butter was yummy. Crunchy with the nuts. Overall, I liked these. Everyone seemed to be a fan. That being said, they didn't scream "Wow!" They were just, you know, there. Yummy, but there. For the effort, kind of a bummer. But, fine.

More than fine? Dinner overall. Next time, we'll have a new, sixth dinner guest!