Wednesday, August 31, 2011

18. Drink pink squirrels with my sisters

Why pink squirrels?

Because my sister saw them on a drink menu (many years ago) and just couldn't get them out of her head. So, I told her that when she turned 21, I would take her out for a pink squirrel. Well, then I moved to Indiana and later Texas and it has been 3.5 years since she turned 21. But the good new is that my littlest sis turned 21 in June so we could all drink pink squirrels together, finally.

I'm not a big drinker (ok, hardly a drinker at all), so searching the liquor store for ingredients was a bit of a stretch for me, but we got it done.

pink squirrel ingredients

Most pink squirrel recipes call for:
1 part creme de cocoa
1 part creme de noyaux (or creme de almond - see below)
1 part heavy whipping cream

Sounded easy enough, but we quickly learned that creme de noyaux is a difficult thing to find, maybe even impossible. Luckily, I found a blog post about pink squirrels that said while creme de noyaux may have been common in the 1950s when pink squirrels were all the rage, it is now sold as creme de almond. So, basically they are the same thing, with a different name. Good to know. Still hard to find, but possible. And important, because creme de almond is what makes a pink squirrel pink!

So, how did they taste? Well, I have to admit that the recipe was rather strong. As in, the very strong cough syrupy type of stong. I may or may not have spit it out. The creme de almond was overpowering everything else. So I mixed up another with only half as much creme de almond and things were much, much better. Enjoyable even.

I would recommend this recipe if you ever attempt a pink squirrel:
1 part creme de cocoa
1/2 part creme de almond
1 part heavy whipping cream


One more 30 before 30 goal down!

Monday, August 29, 2011

In the garden

I would give almost anything to have a big, beautiful garden.

A strawberry patch.
Fresh green beans.
Pumpkin and squash vines twining together.
Tall sunflowers leaning against the side of the barn.

That is my dream. Someday.

Luckily, my parents already have a big, beautiful garden. The only unfortunate part is that the big, beautiful garden is nearly 1000 miles away. I don't see it very often, so when I'm in Iowa, I make sure to spend some time in it.

vegetable and flower garden

Breathing in the smells...

monarch butterfly on orange cosmos

basking in the warmth...

apple tree

keeping an eye out for little surprises...

yellow squash

and bursts of color...

black-eyed susans

imagining the grape juice that will be made from the hundred-year-old vines...


and taking in beauty at every turn.


Someday, I will have a garden...

orange zinnia

where I can plant unusual flowers (like these Bells of Ireland)...

bells of ireland

and pluck my own beans for supper...

green beans

and watch for butterflies and hummingbirds...

pink zinnias

But for now, I will be content to dream.
(while I tend the sickly little basil sprouts in my kitchen window and try to keep my sun-browned yard alive)

Someday... I will have a lush and lovely garden. Someday.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Showering her with love

As I mentioned before, I just returned from a short trip home to Iowa for my sister Sarah's bridal shower. The shower was held in the community room at my mom's work and hosted by her co-workers. It was small and casual but really nice. You could just feel the love and happiness in the room.

Here's the guest of honor. She was so tired because she works nights... she worked until 3:30 am then drove 3 hours home... and only got about 2 hours of sleep before the morning shower. I'd say she looks pretty good! (I would look a lot worse, I assure you!)

We did a little game to see how much Sarah and her fiance Alex know each other... I helped my mom come up with a bunch of questions and then my mom secretly called the groom-to-be the night before the shower. It was a lot of fun and I was impressed by how much they know about each other! [One of the best questions was thought up by my younger sister... we asked Alex: "Would Sarah rather have a lifetime supply of coffee or a lifetime supply of kittens?" Everyone had a laugh about this one because those are two of her favorite things! But I knew her answer would be kittens and I was right (so was her fiance).]

One of most unusual and thoughtful gifts that she received was an old-fashioned style coffee grinder that my dad built for her. It is beautiful and I wish I had gotten a better photo of it [center photo below].

I gave her a handmade dish mat like the one I gave my other sister for her birthday a couple months ago. Then I made a couple decorated dish towels using camera fabric, since she's a photographer. They were cute I totally forgot to take photos of them. My grandma gave her a beautiful set of days of the week hand-embroidered dish towels. She lives by herself out on a farm in Minnesota and she said it was a good project for the days when she was snowed in this winter! Unfortunately I didn't photograph those either... sorry!

Our friend Ann made beautiful cookies and they were so yummy! She made hearts and some Irish cookies because Sarah and Alex are going to Ireland for their honeymoon (jealous!!). Aren't her cookies wonderful? She makes about a million cookies each year for Christmas, too. Amazing!

My favorite part of the shower was seeing family and friends that I haven't seen in way too long. (I'm embarassed to say how long it's been since I last saw some of my relatives... even my grandma. It really sucks to live so far away from home.) But it was wonderful and everyone was so happy. I even met my cousin's little girl for the first time. She just turned 1 in June and is such a cutie. She sat on my lap a lot and so did her older sister. I guess it helped that I was right next to the gift-opening action, but I'm just going to pretend that they both really liked me. [Can't wait to have my own someday....]

{and I had to stick a picture of Katie in there because I'm pretty sure she reads my blog!}

It was such a nice day. Looking forward to the wedding next month! :)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Is this heaven?

... no, it's Iowa.

rainbow over Iowa cornfields

Just got back from a short (but sweet!) trip to Iowa for my sister's bridal shower. It was wonderful to be home for a few days (and away from the blistering heat!). I'll have lots of pictures and stories to share over the next few days... just as soon as I get all my photos organized!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Souvenir Plate Collection

Now that the kitchen is painted, we've finally gotten a chance to hang some things on our poor, bare walls. I can't believe how homey it makes our house feel to hang some things up. I also can't believe we've tolerated this for over a year. Note: need to start spending a bit more time and thought on decorating!

Even though we're far from finished decorating, I wanted to share one of my favorite things that we have hung in the kitchen so far - our vintage souvenir plate collection!

vintage souvenir plate collection display

What I love about this collection is that each piece was hand selected and each is special to us as a couple. I keep an eye out for these at flea markets and estate sales, but we have one hard and fast rule: We can only purchase a plate that depicts a place where we have visited together. So even if I find a plate that I just love from a place that we have both been to separately, I cannot buy it for our collection. After we have visited as a couple, the place becomes fair game.
vintage souvenir plate collection display

We have plates from Iowa, Minnesota, Texas, Jamestown (VA), Springfield (IL), Glacier National Park, London, Vienna, The Great Smokey Mountains, several from Indiana, and more. I'm currently on the lookout for a nice Colorado plate to remember our recent vacation.

vintage souvenir plate collection display

These plates are often thought of as "kitschy", but I think they are fun in an arrangement. I hope to add more plates (especially the smaller sizes) to fill in the space even more, but I plan to keep the collection within reason - I definitely don't want it taking over the kitchen, or the house!

salzburg vintage souvenir plate

Here's my favorite: A plate from Salzburg, Austria. I would have to say that Salzburg is one of my absolute favorite places in the world... and it's very special to my husband and I. We visited in college as part of our wind ensemble tour (nerdy band kids!) and we fell in love with the city (and each other... sappy, I know). Several years later, we came back to Salzburg for our honeymoon. I would live there if I could.

indianapolis motor speedway vintage souvenir plate

Here's hubby's favorite: A plate from the Indianpolis Motor Speedway, site of the Indy 500. When we lived in Indianapolis, this was my husband's favorite place to be. If he had a free Saturday with nothing going on, he would go out to visit the museum; during the month of the Indy 500 he practically lived out there, watching qualifying and practices, getting autographs from all the drivers. It's safe to say that this is what he misses most about living in Indiana.

prague vintage souvenir ashtray(?)/></a><br />
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Here's our most unusual piece: An ashtray (I believe) from Prague. Typically I would not buy an ashtray, but this was just too cool. I love the shape and the scalloped edge and especially the little ceramic pipe attached to it. This was an etsy find.

vintage souvenir plate collection display

Hope you enjoyed this short tour of our little collection!

On an only slightly unrelated note: Does anyone have any tips for taking photos indoors? I can take beautiful photos outside in natural light, but my house is kind of dark, even during the day, not to mention in the evening when I am actually at home to take pictures. I know flash makes it look yucky, but without flash, I can't seem to get the room bright enough to take a nice, clear, pleasing quality photo. Any tips are welcomed! [p.s. do I just need to get a nicer camera? I'm currently just using a decent quality point-and-shoot.]

Sunday, August 14, 2011

homemade bread

I made homemade bread tonight and it was sooo good. And it is suprisingly easy! I don't know why I've never tried it before. I guess bread always sounded like a complicated thing to make.. I mean, people buy fancy machines just to make bread for them... I figured it must be hard. But it's not! It sliced perfectly and was delicious straight out of the oven... topped with a bit of butter... mmmm!! I know I'm going to be making this more often.

I used this recipe. (I did have to add some extra water because when I mixed all the ingredients the dough was super dry, but it turned out perfect!) You should try it... I promise it'll make your day!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

11. Visit a Volcano

First things first... remember I mentioned the other day that Dallas closing in on a record for the most number of consecutive days over 100 degrees F? No one had any doubt that we would break the record, but today, even though the forecast was for 104 degrees, a storm front came through (no rain, of course) and the temperature only made it up to 98. I realize this is dumb, but I am so upset about it. We had to suffer through 40 days of heat and sweat... it's been over 100 degrees since July 2... and then two days before breaking the record this happens. I am bitter.

Anyway, to get back on track... I have one last vacation-related post, so I hope you'll indulge me.

On our way to Colorado, we passed through an area of New Mexico where there were lots of volcanoes... one was even a National Monument, so I talked my hubby into visiting! Yay!

I've always been interested in volcanoes, ever since 3rd grade when we read about Mt. Vesuvius. I ordered a book from the book order that year about Pompeii and spent hours looking at the pictures and reading about the tragedy there nearly 2000 years ago. I had dreams about volcanoes and after that one of my top irrational fears has been volcanoes (the other is scorpions, though that is no longer irrational because I live in TX now and there are actually scorpions here). Anyway, I decided that for my 30 before 30 list, I really wanted to visit a volcano. Now, the volcanoes we saw in New Mexico are long extinct... and some day I would really love to visit an active or dormant volcano, but I figured that in the next 2.5 years I might not get a chance to see another volcano, period. So we visited Capulin Volcano.

Capulin Volcano National Monument

It was very cool because there is a road that spirals all the way up to the top of the mountain. You can see the road cut into the side of the volcano in the photo below.

Capulin Volcano National Monument

The parking area was just above the crater, here is a photo looking down into the crater.

Capulin Volcano National Monument

There were 2 hiking trails, a shorter one went down into the center of the crater and a little longer one went in a loop around the top of the crater. We walked a bit on that trail, but we were hungry and not used to the increased elevation, so we didn't make it all the way around. The view from the top was quite lovely, though!

Capulin Volcano National Monument

And here's a picture to prove that I visited a volcano!

Capulin Volcano National Monument

Oh, and the road that goes to and from the volcano from the main highway has cow crossing signs... on our way out we discovered that they really meant it!

Capulin Volcano National Monument

This was a fun little side trip and I will always remember my first visit to a volcano!

30 before 30

Monday, August 8, 2011

Bottle cap magnets

Here's a fun little project I found on Pinterest awhile back and finally got around to making... magnets from bottle caps!

bottle cap magnets

I've been saving bottle caps from unusual soda and beer bottles for several years now, knowing that eventually I would think of a use for them. Several times, I almost tossed them, but kept them around... just in case. And I'm so glad I did!

To make this super-easy craft, just glue magnets to the back of colorful bottle caps. I would suggest hot glue, just because you can make it really "fat" (pile it on!). If the glue isn't thick enough, the magnets don't stick out past the edges of your bottle caps and they will fall off your fridge. This is one of those projects that are rather satisfying to make... not only are the cute and useful, but they only take about 5 minutes to put together!

bottle cap magnets

Sunday, August 7, 2011

A word about the heat...

sad, dried up flowers

[yes, those used to be my beautiful potted flowers... fried in the Texas sun]

If you haven't heard, we here in Dallas are in the middle of quite a heat wave (and a major drought as well). In fact, today was the 37th consecutive day in which the temperature was over 100 degrees F. And there's no sign of any relief. The record for the longest stretch of days over 100 degrees was set in 1980 at 42 days. So, we're just about there... on Friday we'll tie the record and then if we make it to Saturday, we'll break it! That shouldn't be too hard, considering this is the forecast we have to look forward to for the next 10 days:

Dallas, TX forecast

I'm kind of excited for the record-breaking bit (sick, I know), but as far as I'm concerned, after Saturday, the weather can shape up and become tolerable... maybe mid 70's? (ha. just for saying that, we'll probably set an 80 day streak of over 100 degrees) What I hate about the heat is we can't do ANYTHING outside... yardwork, biking, walking, ugh. And it is so uninspiring. Makes me act so lazy. Yuck.

Anyway, I have lots of fun things to blog about that I keep putting off (blame it on the heat!). I'm going to make a really big effort to get these things posted this week. Thanks for letting me vent a little! :)

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Pinterest - check it out!

Has anyone been wondering why I haven't updated my Inspiration tab since, oh... about April?

It's because I've found Pinterest! Tumblr was fine for keeping track of project ideas, but Pinterest is even better, because it automatically attaches the original link to the image, so that they never get separated and lost. Plus, you can organize your "pins" on "pinboards." If you haven't checked out Pinterest yet, you definitely should... it's a bit addicting!

You can see my boards here - follow me if you like!

 Pinterest: my pinboards

Pinterest: my pins

Pinterest: my pins