Monday, May 26, 2014

Making a (Back)Splash!

The kitchen is finally almost finished.  It's been a long time coming!  When we moved in, the wall color was a deep watermelon pink color, with a mirrored backsplash. 

I know several people who have this pink color in their house, but it's a little too bright for me.  I wanted something light and cheerful, so we had it repainted a creamy yellow.  I broke out the mirrored backsplash right away, and it sat like this for an entire year:

Finally, we got moving on it.  Todd ground down the remaining glass shards...

...and we were able to find white beadboard for $15 at the local Habitat for Humanity Rehab Store - score!  Todd cut it to size...

...and I painted it a nice cream color.  We still need to find the right trim for the top edge, but that's an easy project.

Hooray for almost finished projects!  Here's another one...the front entryway.  I want to buy a coat rack to put next to the secretary, but otherwise, it's about finished.  Left side and right: 

See the photo in the bottom picture?  Those are my grandparents, right about the time they got married.  The framed stationery above the photo is from the hotel where they honeymooned.  My grandpa scrawled, "Just married!" and the date/time on it. 

That big certificate on the other side is another exciting piece for me.  It's my great grandparents' original wedding scroll from 1914.

I originally was going to have it professionally framed, but the quote I got was over $300.  Instead, I scouted around local thrift stores and found a frame for $12.  I ordered a custom matte online for $15 and put the whole thing together myself.  Quite a savings!  The items next to it?  The Western Union telegram from the Navy asking my great-grandparents if my grandpa was 'of age' to join.  Below, a letter to them from my grandpa, and there's room below for one more item.

So excited to have these things out in the open so I can see them every day!

The yard - another ongoing project.  Recently, I made another outdoor path down to the firepit.  It was absolutely leaf- and vine-covered, like the other one in the front yard:


Brick lined:

This fireplace space is another ongoing project for us.  Todd has been piling up all the fallen branches from the yard there, so it looks like a big messy snarl.  Still, we have big plans.  We actually made our first fire there recently:

It can be a bit hazardous by the water if you are a little apprehensive about snakes, like Todd.  He found this beauty yesterday:

It's a harmless red rat snake, very beneficial to have around. You can tell by looking at the eyes and the head shape if a snake is venomous or not.  Round pupils and roundish head?  Harmless.  Cats eye pupil and snouty nose?  Venomous. 

It feels so good to make headway on these ongoing projects!

I've been wanting a cupcake carrier for a while, but couldn't justify spending $50 for something I wouldn't use very much.  A friend ended up giving me one that she'd never used, and I can now send cupcakes to Todd's work!  I am absolutely thrilled.  

Those cupcakes you see were pretty tasty.  A standard chocolate cupcake dipped in chocolate ganache...

...while a peanut butter fudge-like frosting, similar to the inside of a buckeye, was pressed into a peanut butter cookie shape...

...and placed on top of the cupcakes.  Very soft and rich!

The original recipe is here at Annie's Eats, if you're curious!

Have a great week!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Hold On Magnolia

It's such a beautiful day today that I decided to push my work to the afternoon and take a little walk around the property.  

Everything is so green!

We have several huge magnolia trees, and the young leaves are a very nice vibrant green.

 Our front beds are 'bushing up' nicely.  I love this filled-in look!

I planted several astilbes this fall, and they're starting to spike up.

The Japanese holly ferns are setting up their spores...

...and the clematis, too, is setting up seed for propagation.  I think the clematis seed head is so beautiful!

The cardinals have long left their nest, so I removed it carefully for my collection.

It's quite small and comprised of leaves and twigs.

I heard an Eastern Towhee digging noisily in the leaves nearby.

Mother - or wife - watched anxiously from a low-hanging branch!

Meanwhile, it's the end of the nesting season for the bluebirds, but you can still see the old nesting material sticking out of the birdhouse.

I spotted some spiderwort.

It's a wildflower, but I'm very pleased to have it popping up amid my liriope.

Bosewichte, of course, supervised everything from his perch in the sun room.  Oh dear, we really need to clear off those old spiderwebs!

I've been picking rosemary for cooking...last week I made a rosemary-garlic brine (and later, sauce) for a delicious roasted chicken...

...and today I got to pick a magnolia flower.

They're absolutely huge!  They have an oblong protruding center with funny curled carpels.

Just one is enough for a 'bouquet'!

I played a little Magnolia Electric Co. in honor of my find: Hold On Magnolia

I bought more strawberries this week, and lemons, without any real recipe in mind.  I'm no innovator when it comes to cooking, rarely straying from a recipe, but I couldn't seem to find something that suited my needs.  I only had a few eggs left, too.  In the end, I sliced up the beautiful strawberries...

...and roasted them for 45 minutes at 300 degrees F, tossed with balsamic vinegar and sprinkled with brown sugar.  I used three precious eggs to make lemon curd (recipe here).  But what then?  I didn't have enough eggs (or the desire) to make a heavy pound cake (5 minimum) or an angel food cake (a dozen!).  On a whim, I turned to Rose Levy Beranbaum's The Cake Bible and found her White Velvet Butter Cake.  It used 4 1/2 egg whites, which I had left over from making ice cream last week. 

Her method is a bit antithetical to my normal way of baking.  Traditionally, of course, you cream the butter and sugar and add in your eggs, one at a time, and then the vanilla.  The 'dries' are mixed separately and then mixed into the 'wets', but just barely, because you don't want to toughen your cake by over-mixing!  Rose's way called for aerating your 'dries' and then beating in the butter and milk, mixing for an additional minute and a half.  A minute and a half!  Then you toss in the egg whites and vanilla in 3 batches, beating after each addition.  Surely this cake would be as tough as a brick!  I was already committed, though.  I was cautiously hopefully when I sampled the finished batter - light, frothy, and very tasty.  The cake baked up nicely.  To my delight, the 'crumb' was amazingly tender, and the cake was absolutely delicious.  I sliced it and layered the roasted strawberries and lemon curd.

I had some heavy whipping cream left over from last week's ice cream, and I was pleased to discover that the resulting sweetened whipped cream was enough to fill and 'frost' the entire cake!

It was really, really good.  Very light, and perfect for a warm spring day.  I mean...while it lasted. 

I decided to post this entry a little early because I have such a terrible backlog of photos.  And now...back to work!  Have a good weekend! 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Trip Down Memory (Garden) Path

The last of our flowers (Japanese irises) have just finished blooming, and it's a bittersweet moment.  No more flowers until fall.

I've cleared that sunny spot in front of the irises and planted cosmos, marigolds, cone flowers, and zinnias.  I *love* color in the garden.  That's easy to see, just looking at some photos of my old garden in Indianapolis. 

A garden really is like an old friend, and I enjoy looking at these photos and reminiscing.  My dream is to someday have a small farm in the community where Todd and I eventually settle, and remembering my old gardens will help me to build the final one.  Meanwhile, I'm going to enjoy the flower-less space where we currently are...the wide variety of shady trees full of songbirds, the quiet pond with its lazy turtles and drowsy fish, the darting lizards, and the nice deck and sun room that we have overlooking it all.  Also, I can't forget the fantastic solitude/privacy that we have here (so unlike our noisy neighborhood in Indianapolis).  We have a lot of blessings to count!

Since it's spring, I wanted to take advantage of the nice ripe local strawberries.  I decided to make some ice cream for a treat.  I found a wonderful recipe using real vanilla beans...

...and fresh strawberries roasted with sugar and balsamic vinegar.

It sounds like an absolutely terrible combination, but the vinegar gave it a special something...and even though I don't traditionally enjoy strawberry ice cream, I had several helpings!

The original recipe is here.  Enjoy!