Monday, June 25, 2012

on the road

We are on our way to Mackinac! Thanks to mobile wifi and my iPad I can do a little blogging on the road. Although I don't think I'll be writing much during the trip... Too much fun awaits!

We have been doing the typical road trip stuff... eating snacks, listening to music, chatting, and I've been working on my crochet flags.

Good thing I don't get car sick!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

busy days

So a lot is going on in the next week and a half. The day after tomorrow is my cousin's college graduation party and then the Monday after that is my Mackinac Island trip! Also, Nathan's brother and girlfriend will be in town and staying with us for a few nights. They will be getting here the night before I get back from Mackinac so I won't have any time to clean or prepare the apartment. Worst of all, Nathan will be home the whole time I'm away... without the influence of my cleanliness. Marvelous.

So I've got a lot on my plate for the next two days. I need to clean the whole apartment (and cross my fingers that Nathan won't mess it up too bad while I'm gone), bake a dessert to bring to the graduation party (with recipe and photos posted after I get back), pack for my trip (ughhh) and host a get together with two of my best friends tomorrow night.


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

outside my window

So I'm totally obsessed with my view. It's pretty amazing. My boyfriend and I have been living with this view for four years and I still can't get over it. But we're renters who dream of owning a home one day so living here forever isn't an option. So I'll enjoy it while I can. 

Every photo was taken from my window.

I have taken so many photos of my view over the years so to change things up I edited these in photoshop to give the city a miniature look. So cool!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Mackinac Island

summer vacation boat

Last summer I spent a week in a place I have been many times before mostly in photos and shared memories. Mackinac Island, Michigan. It all started when my Great-Grandpa's school - he was principal - took a day trip to the island. He later brought his wife and son (my grandpa) there and ever since the tiny island has been a treasured vacation spot for my family. For that week last summer it was just my mom, my aunt, my cousin and me. A lovely girls trip.

The island is 8 miles in circumference and 3.8 square miles total area. It's also bursting at the seems with history. Which I wont get into... because other people's vacation photos are already boring enough.

Going to Mackinac is like going back in time. Seriously, everyone gets around by horse or bike. No cars allowed! And everyone is absurdly nice. Its a total culture shock for this city dweller.

Mackinac Island horses Main street

 I thought I'd share some photos from my trip last summer. I took hundreds. Here are a few.

Mackinac Island Fort

Mackinac Island Bat
Bats are EVERYWHERE. We woke up one morning to this little guy sleeping on our balcony. During the day you can see them hanging all over the place. At night they fly around and get all up in your business... they are not afraid of people. Marvelous.

Mackinac Island Candy shop main street
Mackinac Island light house dock
Mackinac Island Arch Rock
I'm going back a week from today and I can't wait!!!

Friday, June 15, 2012

donut recipe

homemade donut doughnut recipe

Despite my efforts to eat healthier I still gave in to that voice in my head that suggested I make donuts... I fought the urge for days until I finally gave in. I rummaged through all the different recipes online until I came across this one for old fashioned cake donuts. I halved the recipe to make a tasty dessert/breakfast for Nathan and myself. And yes... some are topped with bacon. (I believe bacon is standard on everything these days, no?)

homemade donut doughnut recipe ingredients

Add butter, egg, milk, baking powder, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon and sugar into your mixing bowl and stir until combined. Then add the flour. Once everything is nicely mixed together cover the dough and place in the fridge for a few hours.

homemade donut doughnut recipe

Once your dough is chilled prep your kitchen for frying. Melt some shortening in a skillet (making sure the oil is about an inch deep) and keep it at medium high heat. Lay out some paper towels or brown paper bags for draining and set up some wire racks for icing. Preparation is key because you have to work quickly when frying.

Make sure the oil is hot enough by dropping in a bit of dough. If it sinks to the bottom the oil is too cold and you'll end up with soggy oily donuts. If it bubbles wildly and turns dark brown very quickly it's too hot. You don't want the oil too hot because the outside of your donut will be burnt to a crisp while the center is uncooked. Yuck. It can be a bit tricky so its better to waste some dough by testing then to end up with a whole bunch of improperly cooked donuts.

homemade donut doughnut recipe

All right, so your oil is ready. Make tablespoon sized lumps of dough then carefully drop them into the hot oil. Don't crowd the pan. If you try to cook too many at once you can lower the temperature of the oil and the donuts will stick to each other. Flip them around often.

When your first batch is done let them cool and then test one. TEST ONE. Seriously. I thought my first batch was perfectly cooked when it was still raw dough in the middle. It takes a bit of trial and error to get the temp/time right. Once you think you've got it down fry the rest of your dough.

homemade donut doughnut recipe

Yay! Icing time! Here is where you can get really creative. I chose a cinnamon sugar coating, a plain glaze, and a maple syrup glaze with bacon bits. Glaze is super easy to make. Just mix some milk (whole milk, skim milk... whatever) with powdered sugar until you get the right consistency and thats it! You can add flavors and colors too. Let the donuts sit until the glaze has set and you're done!

homemade donut doughnut recipe

These will last a few days sealed in an airtight container. Pour yourself a cup of coffee and try not to feel too guilty. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

crocheting the American flag

American Flag crochet Flag day

Last year, on July 3rd, I decided I would crochet a flag to celebrate our nation's independence. I looked through my stash and realized that the red, white and blue yarn I had would be enough for a flag the size of an index card. Because of that - and the fact that I didn't have much time - I wisely decided to not start this new project but to work on one of the zillions of projects that I had abandoned in the middle of production.

This year I did a bit more pre-planning. I got some yarn last weekend and went to work Monday night. My goal was to have one done by Flag Day and two by the 4th of July. Well today is Flag Day and I'm not done so I amended my goal to finish just the crochet parts. Goal completed. Not bad for less than three days of work, but my wrists are mad at me.

Now all I need to do is sew it together between the blue part and the top stripes and sew in the stars. I thought about crocheting each star one by one and then sew them on, but that would have been a lot of work. I want both flags to be finished on both sides... 200 stars... no way.

crochet American Flag

I'm making these flags not only to be festive, but because I like the idea of having them around for awhile. I'd like to put them up every year and then pass them down to the next generation of my family.

crochet American Flag

I'll make updates when this flag is done and then again after they're both finished. I didn't use a pattern so I'll write it out and post it with one of the updates. And in case you were interested, I used a 5.5mm hook and Red Heart Super Saver yarn in soft navy, soft white and burgundy. The whole thing is done in single crochet.

Happy Flag Day!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

old calendar new art

frame old calendar pictures

Way back in the winter of 2009 I fell in love with the art of Paul Kenton in, well... a calendar. I had never even heard of him before I saw the cover with the pretty watercolor city on it. I stuffed all the "maybe" calendars back on the shelf without any hesitation. It was possibly the fasted home decor decision I had ever made.

2009 went by so quickly it wasn't fair. The months past before I could fully appreciate each piece. And then it was over. I searched the calendar racks over and over with no Paul Kenton in sight. Thanks to my inability to throw pretty things out I stashed the outdated calendar away for another time. I saved it for nearly two and a half years before finally deciding what to do with it.

frame old calendar pictures

And now I'm in love with this! I started by selecting my favorite pieces and cutting them out of the calendar. I cut some white sketching paper to size for a matting effect and attached the artwork with a small loop of tape. Once everything was framed I decided on a layout by placing the frames on the floor in the pattern I was after. I secured the frames to the wall with a few pieces of 3M Velcro strips - perfect for renters who can't put to many holes in the wall - and I was done!

I was dying for my own frame collage and now I have one! These frames were hanging in our hallway with some of my photo prints from high school. I decided that it was time for a change and now they are in a new spot with new art and in a new layout.

And now I get to enjoy the colorful artwork of Paul Kenton all year long for as many years as I want. Marvelous! (and cheap too!)

Monday, June 11, 2012

let's go boating

boat lake

I spent the weekend at my parent's house in the suburbs. On Saturday I had a dentist appointment and later that night we had a party for my aunt and uncle's 25th anniversary. I spent a lot of time with two of my cousins - who are really more like siblings/best friends. We were constantly together growing up and anytime we get together is always insanely fun. I had tears in my eyes from laughing so hard on more than one occasion.

On Sunday we all (my parents and myself along with my aunt and uncle and two cousins) went to my parent's boat. My sister and I have spent every summer of our lives taking the hour long drive up to the lake. From infants when we had no choice, to children when we loved swimming in the water, to teens when we would have rather been out with friends. Now in my mid-twenties I'm back to going voluntarily. These days my sister isn't a big fan of the motion-sickness-inducing waves, and sadly opts out of the fun.

Chain o' lakes Antioch

We boat in northern Illinois right near the border of Wisconsin. The Chain O'Lakes. Oh how to describe the chain... There is a touch of this:

Chain o' lakes Antioch houses

and a much larger touch of this:

Chain o' lakes Antioch blarney island

Either way it's the polar opposite of living in downtown Chicago but the change of scenery was nice. BTW I think with a bunch of fixing up that little house could be really cute..!

When I was younger I never cared about this history of the chain... history in any form was a bore. But it's suddenly a lot less boring when you find out that Al Capone had a summer house right on the water.
(Al Capone photo credit here, I took the photo of his house)

Al Capone summer house chain o' lakes

And for some reason we always swim right near his house. When I was in my teens I teased one of my cousins to be careful of all the dead bodies while swimming. She freaked out and asked my mother if there were actually bodies in the water to which she said "oh no"...she paused for dramatic effect..."they're skeletons by now."

Good one mom.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

crab risotto for two

risotto recipe for two

Somehow I got the idea that risotto was so tricky that it could only be made by the most super advanced chefs. Wrong! When I saw Nadia G from Bitchin' Kitchen prepare a mushroom risotto I knew I could do it myself. If you don't know who Nadia G is go read this blog post! Now!

Nadia G Bitch'n Kitchen

When making risotto you must keep these two important rules in mind: 
1 - Use arborio rice. Yes it really does matter! Arborio rice has a high starch content which is absolutely key for the rich and creamy texture of risotto.
2 - Cooking technique. Cooking risotto isn't the same as cooking more common rice dishes. The liquid is added a half a cup at a time until it is completely absorbed by the rice. You also need to stir... a lot. Stirring is important to the finished texture as it helps to release the starch from the rice. Also, with little liquids in the pan the rice is more likely to burn if it stays in the same place for too long. So make sure to keep everything moving for even cooking. It's not true that you must stir the pot constantly but it helps. If you must respond to the occasional text message or pour yourself another glass of wine go right ahead. Just don't ignore the pot for too long.

I didn't want to make a mushroom risotto like Nadia G so I came up with my own recipe. As long as you've got the rice and the stock you can add any flavors that you'd like. When you're cooking remember that you're the one eating this food so change up any ingredients that you don't like or would like more of! Here is the recipe that I came up with.

Crab Risotto (for two)
garlic (about a tablespoon or as much as you'd like)
1 shallot
1 red bell pepper
1 lemon
1 8oz. bottle of clam juice
2 cups stock (I used fish stock)
1/2 cup arborio rice
splash of white wine (about 1/4 cup, serve the rest with dinner)
1/4 cup of heavy cream
8oz imitation crab meat (use the real thing if you can!)
2 slices of cooked bacon (optional) 

1 - Prepare everything for cooking. Mince garlic and shallots, chop red bell pepper, slice up some lemon wedges and set aside. Measure the rice. Pour yourself a glass of wine and keep the bottle out.

crab risotto recipe for two

2 - Bring clam juice and stock to a boil then quickly adjust heat to low. Keep liquids simmering.

crab risotto recipe for two

3 - In a new pan heat a small amount of olive oil over a medium flame. Add garlic, shallots and red bell pepper and cook until the peppers are softened a bit. They will continue to cook and get softer as we go. You don't want the garlic to brown or worse... burn. Yuck.

crab risotto recipe for two

4 - Stir in the rice. Add wine and a squeeze of lemon juice. Turn up the heat just a bit to medium/high and stir until all the liquid is absorbed by the rice.

crab risotto recipe for two

5 - Using a ladle add about half a cup of the clam juice/stock mixture to the rice and stir until all the liquid is absorbed. Repeat until all the liquid is gone, stirring often. If you like a firmer rice you might not need to add all the liquid so test for doneness as you go. This can take awhile so turn up your favorite pandora station and keep your glass of wine close.

crab risotto recipe for two

6 - Once all the liquid is absorbed turn the heat down to low and add crab meat (saving a few pieces for garnish), heavy cream, and another squeeze of lemon. Salt and pepper to taste.

crab risotto recipe for two

Dish it out and remember to make it look pretty. You've just made an impressive dish so take the time to decorate! Plate with some crusty sour dough bread, sprinkle some bacon on top and add a few lemon wedges.

crab risotto recipe for two

This recipe is for two but it can easily be doubled/tripled just remember that more liquids means more time stirring in half cups of stock. 

The first time I made this for my boyfriend his smile went ear to ear with the first bite.

Marvelous beyond belief!