Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Recipes | Breakfast Baking with Summer Berries

Summer is still in full swing in our household.  We've officially crossed into the Too-Much- Togetherness phase of summer vacation. And while I think we are all ready for a little separation and more routine, I will freely admit that I'm not ready to give up our summer mornings.  To me, they are the best part of summer vacation.  Especially once swim season is over, because we stay in our PJs till 11:00 {or later} and breakfast is an unhurried affair usually commencing around 10:00.  In the summer, I happily indulge most breakfast requests, especially those that involve summer berries.   I can't tell you how many times we've quickly ducked into the grocery store in our PJs just to pick up the off ingredient or two I didn't have on hand to make our new, on a whim, recipe. A couple weeks ago it was for blueberry muffins.  I typed a request into Food Gawker {awesome site if you haven't discovered it} and came across THE BEST blueberry muffins I've ever tried. It helps that the blue berries are darn near perfect right now, toss in lemon zest {always a favorite ingredient of mine} and top it off with a doughnut glaze.  Oh yeah. They are THAT good.  Recipe form My Baking Addiction


zest of 2 lemons
1/2 cup granulated sugar 1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened 1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda 3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk 1 1/3 cup fresh blueberries

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted 1 cup confectioners’ sugar; sifted 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice 1 tablespoon warm water

1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Lightly grease a standard muffin tin, or line with 12 paper muffin cups.
2. In a medium bowl, combine the lemon zest and sugars. Use your fingertips to incorporate the zest into the sugars until it is moist and fragrant.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer, cream together the butter, vegetable oil, and sugars until smooth. Add the eggs and vanilla, beating to combine.
4. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir the flour mixture into the butter mixture alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour and making sure everything is thoroughly combined. Fold in the blueberries.
5. Spoon the batter evenly into the prepared pan, filling the cups nearly full.
6. Bake the muffins for 15 to 17 minutes, or until they’re a pale golden brown and a cake tester inserted into the middle of one of the center muffins comes out clean.
7. In a medium bowl, prepare the glaze by mixing together the melted butter, confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, lemon juice and water. Whisk until smooth.
8. When muffins have cooled slightly, dip the muffin crown into the glaze and allow the glaze to harden. At this point, you can leave them as is or go for the double dip. I glazed my muffins twice.
9. Serve warm, or cool on a rack and wrap airtight. Muffins will keep at room temperature for about a day. 
This morning I was at it again.  Baking up some warm berry goodness, but this time it was of a slightly healthier {meh, maple syrup and butter are good for you, right?!} variety, in the form of baked berry oatmeal with walnuts and bananas. Recipe found on Rustic Rooster.  I couldn't be happier about this discovery.  I've always wanted to like oatmeal but couldn't get over it's consistency, unless it was in the form of a cookie or crumb topping on a fruit crisp or a muffin, just not alone.  However, baked was a whole different story.  Now I like oatmeal. I'm an oatmeal eater. What are you having for breakfast, just a little oatmeal and a cup of tea, you?   Oh, the possibilities for fall!!  Find the recipe here...

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Kitchen Notes | My Selections

I recently made the final selections for our mini kitchen makeover {ie. NOT renovation} so it seems like a good time to bring you all up to speed.  I've learned a lot in the process, not the least of which is budgets will break, no matter how small scale your project.  Unless you are incredibly handy and can do much of the work yourself, be prepared for sticker shock. There is a lot of compromise that goes on and for me the biggest came in the form of the stove.  I could go on and on about the topic of stoves but in the end I needed to let go of some pretentiousness on my part.  Ugly, but true.  I'm a serious cook, it's probably my biggest hobby, and I felt I "deserved" a pro range {Viking or Wolf or something of that caliber}.  My Mum is the best cook I know and she's never had a fancy pro range, but somewhere along the way {was it blogs? pinterest? design mags?} I convinced myself that a cook's kitchen wasn't a cook's kitchen without one.  I could have made it work with my budget, IF I got a different sink, IF I went with cheaper counter tops, IF I choose different lights and a lower end faucet, basically, if I changed everything else I wanted, I could have the stove of my dreams.  Was it worth it?  I decided no, not now. Would it make me a better cook? No. Would my food taste better? No. Would it make me more like Ina Garten? Well, yes, that one maybe so, you know Ina loves her some Viking.

So...I researched stoves for HOURS and HOURS until I felt armed with non biased product reviews on duel fuel stoves in the $2500-3000 price range.  The GE Cafe has a lot of bells and whistles that I could care less about, but the reviews are strong.  There biggest complaint is the noisy fan in the oven but in terms of performance it sounded pretty top notch.  I could do without the digital control panel, but otherwise I'm ok with the aesthetics.  I don't necessarily love the look of any stove to begin with, unless you are talking an Aga and then I start to have heart palpitations.  :)

The other area I spent a great deal of time researching was counter top selection. I choose soapstone. See bottom right picture above.  A very unpopular decision in this part of the country.  Every supplier tried to talk me out of it.  There is a lot of misinformation on the material and if I had the energy I'd write a whole blog post on it. Heck, if I had the energy, I'd start a class and go educate the local distributors and fabricators.  It's really a beautiful material, impossible to stain, and virtually maintenance free, but it will scratch and ding {part of the charm for me, but not for everyone!}

I'm absolutely crazy about the farmhouse sink {Shaw} and polished nickle bridge faucet {Rohl}.  The light fixtures {Circa} are gorgeous too and I can't wait to get them up.  Yes, I went with a different option from the one all of you recommended.  Don't be mad! :)  It came down to dimensions and what fixtures would make a statement without overpowering the kitchen.  I'm still tweaking the cabinet and wall colors but I'm very close, it will be some combination of what is pictured above.  And that just about brings you up to speed, which is good because it's bedtime for me and I've lost steam!  Back soon with some delicious recipes for you to try, no matter what type of stove you use to prepare them!!  haha!!  xo      

Sunday, August 12, 2012


{august 9th, 2002}

I still can't quite believe it.  Andrew turned 10 {double digits!!} last Thursday.  How is it possible I have a child that old? How have I been a mother for 10 years?  I would think after 10 years, I'd have this mothering gig licked. Things like effective discipline and teaching responsibility and manners should be old hat.  The truth is that many days I go to bed and think of all the ways I can be a better mother.  I awake with added resolve that I will not raise my voice when they are misbehaving, that I will provide more activities so there is less TV, that I will be more consistent with consequences and praise.  I can acknowledge that I'll never get it perfect, but there is always room to grow and evolve as a parent.

    {august 2012}

Looking at the picture of me holding Andrew moments after he was born I try to remember what was going through that young girl's head.  It was definitely love at first sight, I'm talking all consuming, intense, fiercely protecting, love at first sight.  I think I naively believed that if you just love your babies as much as you can possibly love them, the rest just naturally falls into place.  I had no idea how parenting would be simultaneously so amazing and difficult at the same time.  Sometimes I wish I could go back to a time when nursing my child cured all woes.  It really was so simple.  I feel like there is not enough time for me with Andrew, which is why this birthday has been a bit hard on me.  It's that dreadful realization that we've passed the midway mark, the years still left at home are less than those behind us.  Well, that's not fair, not while I'm busy still perfecting my craft.  I want to make sure I squeeze it all in, all the mothering, life lessons, the best example, compassion, guidance and good memories... A few tears were shed this year in the quiet hours when I wrote Andrew his annual birthday letter.  Often I tell him that what I pray for him in life is simple: to feel good about who he is, to treat others kindly, and to always give his best effort.  Simple but not.  How do you feel good about yourself when you feel like someone has made fun of you or when you struggle at something that comes easy to all your friends, how can you be kind and unselfish as a child when you encounter many examples of others that aren't, how do you do your best at things you aren't passionate about, things that seem boring and unnecessary.  The world is rarely black and white.  And so it is with parenting too.  I want so much to arm him emotionally for the years ahead, to build him up now so that when the teen years kick in it is smooth sailing. I want this secure and happy child to be protected from the harder lessons in life.  Maybe there is still a bit of that naivety at work, that if I love him enough, it makes the rest of life easy.  I know it doesn't work that way and for now I should just celebrate that boy he is, the creative, bright, curious, talkative, honest, sensitive soul that is Andrew at age 10. 

Here are a few pictures of our celebration this year...

We had my parents over for a birthday dinner and colossal cake on Thursday evening...

{I nearly lit my face on fire with those sparkler numbers! 
The cake was NOT the Leaning Tower of Pisa}

Saturday night, Andrew's two best friends, Jackson and Payton, came over for a small celebration, dinner at PF Changs and a movie {Diary of  Wimpy Kid Dog Days} downtown. 

It was a gorgeous evening and the kids had a lot of fun together.  They both spent the night too. We have a zip line trip planned for this week to conclude the birthday fun.  I had enjoyed eavesdropping on the kids this morning. One minute they were acting out some superhero scene with Lego, complete with voices and sound effects and the next they were all hanging out in the family room listening to Maroon 5 on Andrew's new ipad and singing all the lyrics.  Little kids one minute, young preteens the next.  I think there will be a lot a that this year.  As they slowly {please let it be slowly!!} transition into the tween years.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Family Road Trip | Chicago

Last weekend we headed out on another summer road trip.   This time to visit my brother and his family in Wilmette, Illinois, a cute town, filled with old houses, brick streets, and pretty lake Michigan beaches.  They moved to Wilmette a year ago and this was the first chance we had to visit them in their new home.  I will start by saying that my photography was a bit off. I usually like to capture some shots of the town and the homes but my attention was pretty laser focused on our four boys.

The weather was perfect {except for a strange and sudden late afternoon shower on Saturday} so we spent most of our visit outside, on the beach and at the pool.

We hadn't planned to let the kids get in the lake on the first night, but after 6 hours in the car, 
it felt good to let loose! :)

We managed a dinner out, all 8 of us, in the tiniest restaurant, and I can happily report that, despite the slightly sleep deprived states, all of the children were extremely well behaved and the food was very good {Gilson's if you happen to find yourself in the area. Get the Macadamian crusted sea bass with the white wine sauce and steal a few herbed fries with truffle oil from a small, unsuspecting, nearby dining companion}.

 I had hoped for a chance to shop and decorate with my SIL, Toni, but there wasn't time. It was such a pleasure to watch our boys enjoying their time together so much.  They played from the second they got up until the lights went out at night.

I'm so proud and happy for my brother and the life he is creating in his charming home and family oriented town.  We look forward to making more memories there in what will likely become an annual summer trip! Thanks, Kev + Toni, for opening your home to us and being such welcoming hosts!!