Friday, February 27, 2009

It's like a chain letter - except it's bread...

... because we all know that the Amish frequently use instant vanilla pudding in some of their oldest recipes.

I just received my second batch of starter for Amish Friendship Bread. According the instructions, only the Amish know how to make the starter. Honestly it kind of creeps me out that hundreds of people have added milk, flour, and sugar to this bag and then let it sit out on their counter for a week. But the bread is GOOD. And no one has died from it yet.... that I know of.

Here's the low down: You get this bag of gloppy stuff from your friend. You let it sit, unrefrigerated, for a couple of days. Then you throw some milk, flour, and sugar into the bag and let it sit for several more days.

On the last day you add more of those ingredients, take some out for distribution among friends, and - after adding a slew of things including the pudding - bake the rest! Then you have TWO loaves of this yummy bread to eat and/or take to work. Well, it's more like cake or banana bread, really.

I'm going to be baking my bread on Friday the 6th, so if anyone would like a starter on Saturday the 7th let me know and I can bring it to you.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Chandelier and the Rug

I feel like a real adult now. Steve and I just purchased our first rug together. It all happened so fast and then BAM! a rug was delivered and we were the owners. We first started looking on for styles and patterns that we liked. I was very afraid to commit to anything. I was very comfortable with my beige carpet remnant from college.... hey... i LIKE beige! But we've been gradually trying to distance ourselves from college furnishings, though we do have a lot of hand me down items that i love and I think still work in our home.

A couple of weeks later we were looking around at Crate n Barrel and noticed one of the rugs there was the same as our top picks from Overstock. AND it was double the price at Crate n Barrel. The nice thing is that we were able to see it in person and feel it. So we decided that night to place our Overstock order. It was here within a week.

can you find two cats in this photo?

It is a little bit wild for a beige girl, but I have become used to it. And especially after suffering a seizure after discovering chocolate smeared on one of my couch pillows, I think the bold pattern and brown color palette was a wise choice. (Hopefully there will be children using this rug in a few years!) I also love that it is wool and so soft and luxurious feeling. The cats love it, too. They lay on it all the time. It must feel very warm and cozy to them 'cause i know it feels great on my feet.

The main reason we went to Crate n Barrel was to use this gift card we had received from Steve's work for Christmas 2007. It needed to be used ASAP! It's not good to keep gift cards laying around. As of late, I have acquired a habit of breaking glasses - esp. tumblers. So it seemed a new set of tumblers were in order. We bought these. Also broke a ramekin so I got some fancy new ramekins with a different shape and I really like them. I don't mind have two different kinds of ramekins at the moment, but I imagine after we get the other sets of matching glasses we will get rid of our old Target glasses. I'm hoping we get them (and all the other things I registered for!) as wedding gifts later this year.

And the last, but certainly not the least important home improvement item checked off the list is the dining room chandelier. Here is a photo of it before:

Yes we have lived with this thing for a whole year. I don't mind the brass but combined with the fake oak reminded me of my grandparents trailer in Michigan..... aka not our style. We rent so we could not / didn't want to invest in the installation of a new chandelier. Instead, I managed to take some of the clunky parts off of the existing one, added fluorescent light bulbs (to save energy and so they would not get too hot), and Steve and I somehow squeezed this huge, $7 paper lantern over the entire thing. Now I feel as though we have the moon floating above our dinner conversation every night. How enchanting...

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Paczki Day

Paczki Day has come and gone. I had two! They were so yummy. Thank you to Maura in the office down the hall for bringing them in. Then I decided to do research on the calorie content..... according to this article they contain anywhere from 300 to 450 calories AND 22 to 27 grams of fat. And you would have to jog for a whole hour in order to neutralize that ball of yummy goodness. But they are well worth it, my friend. In my opinion they beat the socks off any old krispy kreme. Not a big fan of krispy kreme. Too sugary or something. I love how paczki's are so fluffy and yeasty..... mmmmm.

I found a recipe and I think I may try to make some next year.

Saturday, February 14, 2009


I woke up this morning in Chicago, to a fresh dusting of snow on the ground. The bitter cold temperatures and the layers of ice we endure in the midwest can drive me nuts, but I'm always in the mood for snow. Afterall, I do consider myself 75% Michigander and 25% Buckeye. I know some parts of Michigan are vacation destinations for Lincoln-Park-ers to go play rustic tourist. I'm not saying I don't like tourists or tourism, it's good for business and jobs! For me it's different - it's HOME. Today I'm leaving on a solo road trip to the home lands.

I am in love with the most recent ad campaign for Pure Michigan ( that I've been hearing on the radio. I guess there are some on tv, but since I don't watch much tv I haven't seen any of those. The music and the man's voice and his words, like poetry, all tug at my heart strings, bringing back memories of my snow covered yard at my Dad's house on Lawrence Rd..... I know that sounds dumb, but that's what the ads are trying to do right?

Here's one called "Snow Days" made for televsion:
Remember Snow Days?
When the schools were closed
and the day was wide open.

The first step into fresh powder
was like stepping into a new world:

the crunch of the snow as it packed under our boots,

the drip of icicles melting in the sun.

So pull the hat down a little lower,
and make sure
there's a cup of hot cocoa waiting.

Because this winter,
every day is Snow Day
in Pure Michigan.

This one makes makes me tear up every time I hear it on the radio:
Snow can keep us in
or snow can call us out.
Snow makes us shovel,
but snow can make us wonder again.
Snow will melt off our boots,
but the snowmen our kids make
will melt our hearts.
Snow makes everything new again,
falling across millions of acres of forests
blanketing more than 3,000 miles
of cross country ski trails
and waiting patiently at more than 40 downhil ski areas and resorts
Sure, snow is cold
but it stirs up amazing memories:
of snowball fights
of sledding with our friends
of waking up to a fresh canvas
and doing it all over again.
Snow can do so many things,
and right now it's rolling out the white carpet.
Come play in the snow
of Pure Michigan.

(I could do without the ski resort part, personally.) If you haven't heard the advertisements yourself, click here and play "Snow Days - TV" and "Snow - Radio". Oh and make sure you have some tissues handy... okay so I'm a sap.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Birthday Report

This weekend we celebrated Steve's birthday!!! We had some buddies over, played video games, and ordered Candlelite pizza... had some beers, broke out the Stevie Nicks vinyl... and I made the chocolate peanut butter cake again. This time the cake was a little bit different. First of all, I made the mistake of buying expensive, organic powdered sugar. The back of the bag says "We add a bit of cornstarch to discourage clumping." And what was the bag full of???? CLUMPS! Rock hard clumps of powdered sugar that did not break up in the mixer. It was okay though. You couldn't tell by looking at the cake. For the top glaze, I used Dark Chocolate Chips. I'm not sure if I didn't heat it enough or if it's because I used Dark instead of Semi-sweet because it was more ganachey than glazey. But it ended up being REALLY GOOD. I think I liked it better than with the semi sweet glaze. I wish I had a photo of the cake... but I don't think anyone took one. It's in our bellies now :)

I gave Steve some movies AND I finished his sweater!! You know the one I started over a year ago??? Well it's DONE and it fits him perfectly and he loves it. I'm so proud. I made him model it a million times on Saturday. There are no photos perfectly showcasing the cardigan but it makes an appearance in some of these. I will post some better ones in a future blog entry, which will be entitled "Knitting Report".

The weather on Saturday was so nice, I bet it was probably the best weather anyone with a February birthday could hope for. It almost got up to 60 F. We've had a warm streak these past few days and I am NOT complaining!!!! I'm trying to convince Steve that we should ride our bikes to work tomorrow...

found a cake photo... "Happy Birthday, Steve!"

Friday, February 6, 2009

Holiday Report

Bless me blog for I have sinned. It has been 37 days since my last posting.....

ok so it's been a while, right? Many of you know that is not like me, so it seems I have a bit of catching up to do.

First on the list is the Holiday Report!

Our holidays were lovely. You saw our very fake tree... well we liked it so much we didn't take it down till... um... this is kind of embarrassing..... Jan 26th! Yes, a whole month after Christmas Day. I wasn't ready to get rid of it right after Christmas or even New Years because we didn't put it up till Dec 12th. Plus, you know, we were busy. Hence the lack of blog posts.

Elvis and Monkey after little kitty fight on Christmas Day... siblings...

Anyway, we both had lots of time off work. We stayed at home by ourselves on the 24th and 25th. Exchanged gifts. Ate LOTS of food. Watched Movies. It was a White Christmas in Chicago. On the 26th we drove to Columbus, OH to have a gathering with the Nyktas's. There was about 2 feet of snow here, but the day we left it began to warm up. All down 65 South there was lots of post-holiday traffic and fog. At some points the visibility was only 1/16th of a mile! The drive took a bit longer than expected, but it was an adventure.

Visiting with Steve's family was great, as usual. The temperature there rose to almost 70 F that day begging us to go outside, follow the kids as they rode their bikes up and down the street, and play some catch and monkey-in-the-middle in the yard. They guys worked on Louis's car and most of the ladies stayed inside with the babies. All of our fun and games came to a grinding halt when it was discovered that Otis, the family black lab, had somehow found and devoured the pumpkin pies that I had brought for dessert.... And you probably already know that my pumpkin pies are not from a can. Some tears were shed and twenty minutes later everything was fine. It really was no one's fault and obviously Otis could not help himself. (I still love him.) We enjoyed some lamb that George cooked on the grill and we had plenty of sweets made by Lynn, so we were not deprived of our holiday sugar.

Isaias, 7 mos

Drew, Lydia, & Eric, 8 mos

Vee with Yiayia Helen

the whole Nyktas clan

warm enough for Carly & Vee to ride bikes


my favorite photo of Miss Carly

The rest of the trip was all fun 'n' games in Cincinnati seeing the rest of Steve's family and our friends Forest, Ann, and their two kids. Usually we do a weekend in MI and a weekend in Cinci, trying to cram everyone into a day or too. This was a much more low key, slower paced, several days with some time to relax in between. In 2009 we will do Thanksgiving with members of the Nyktas family, and Christmas in Michigan.

George is swimming in grandchildren. Here he is with Emma.

self portrait with my sweet fiance

Also worthy of mentioning: Just a week before Christmas my little sister turned 21! I took a snowy train to South Bend to have a lovely dinner with her and my mom at the Studebaker Mansion, now called Tippecanoe Place. The mansion is absolutely GORGEOUS! and so is my sister.

Catherine, my "shyvester"