Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Our first fest Part 1: The cakes

I love baking, I really really do.  And when we got married back in 2006 I was gifted the full complement of Calphalon bakeware along with a pink Kitchenaid Stand Mixer.  BEST. BAKING TOOL. EVER.  seriously.  How did I ever bake cakes without it, I ask you?

Drake requested either a Red Velvet Cake or "something with peanut butter" so I decided to make both.  For something peanut buttery I turned to Miss Paula Deen, who ought to be consulted for birthdays if not (for the sake of one's general health) regularly.

After considering Peanut Butter Pie AND Peanut Butter Cheesecake I decided on Peanut Butter Cheesecake Minis which I adapted slightly, as follows:

Heat oven to 350
Crust:

Line a muffin pan with 12 liners, then
mix together in small bowl
1 cup Graham Cracker Crumbs
4 TBS sugar
1/4 c melted butter

Press into each liner, then place peanut butter cup in the center of each.

Prepare the filling as follows:
Beat with a hand mixer (yes a hand-mixer, not a stand mixer in this case) 2 (8oz) packages of cream cheese (room temp) until fluffy.  How do you know it's fluffy? well-- it's not lumpy, and it's ever so slightly increased in volume.  Add 1 c. sugar, 1/4 c flour and beat until combined.  Then add 2 eggs-- 1 at a time beating for 30 seconds after each addition.  Add 1 tsp of vanilla extract with the second egg.

Spoon filling into the cupcake liners covering the peanut butter cups, and tap the pan on the counter to be sure that the batter is settled.  Bake for about 20 minutes, or until cheesecake is just set.  (which means that when you shake it, it doesn't jiggle like jello.)

Voila!!

Now for the Red Velvet Cake I used a recipe from the Lee Brothers Southern Cookbook.  I followed it to the letter, so I'll let you go to their website and read it.  It has a full tablespoon of orange zest which was surprising to me-- I've not sample many Red Velvet Cakes, but none of the few I've had were orange-y... however, it was rather delicious!  I may have over-baked a smidge so the cake wasn't as moist as I'd have liked, but the frosting... lordy!  I love cream cheese frosting.  very very delicious.  I had to finally pour dishwashing detergent into my small bowl of extra frosting. (I do this with sweet things that I can't stop eating, so that I have to stop eating them).

I forgot to take any pictures of the cakes!  and I must've been holding the baby when Drake blew out the candles, because I didn't get the camera out in time, and I'm usually all over that.   So here's what the Lee Bros. cake looked like.
Mine looked just like that one.  Yeah.....

Monday, May 24, 2010

Bocce Birthday Boy


Bocce Birthday Boy, originally uploaded by Alta Marie.

More soon, but here's a quick note about Drake's birthday party yesterday.... 2 cakes were made (Red Velvet and peanut butter cup cheesecake) bocce was played, tequilla fizzes were consumed, baby robins were spotted, baby boys were snuggled, friends were enjoyed and Drake was celebrated. Good times. Happy birthday, love!

Friday, May 21, 2010

A garden party

I feel reasonably confident that Drake won't check the blog in the next three days, and so I can expound here about his birthday party this weekend.

Due to circumstances beyond my control, I just sent out invitations this morning (yes it's Friday, and yes the party is on Sunday.  I blame the baby.)  If you're reading this and you're thinking, "I can't believe I'm not invited" you are, come over.  (again, baby's fault.)

So in order to pull this off, I need the following things.
1. a Clown
2. a Bounce House
3. a Pony
4. Cocktails
5. Cheesecake

Fortunately for me, the Lake Orion Flower Festival is this weekend, so that takes care of the first three items.  There are big perks to living downtown, like being able to piggyback off of community events and make people think that you hired a pony for your husband's 30th birthday party.

But seriously, here is my list of things to do in the next two days.

  1. Ascertain that it will not rain.
  2. Purchase paper lanterns to hang around and make things look festive
  3. Make cheesecake (Saturday) *Susan!  If you're reading this, I'd love one of your cheesecake recipes :)  Drake mentioned strawberry in particular :) *
  4. Purchase festive beverages and party cups (not interested in dishes, although did I tell you about the new dishwashing tablets that I LOVE?? the contest for most favored household cleaning agent is a very heated battle between these and the Mr. Clean Magic Erasers.) 
  5. Basic house cleaning, but nothing crazy. If anyone can actually attend this party on such short notice, it will be the first time that many of our friends have seen our house!  I'll try to shine it up a bit :) Have I mentioned that we're on the Lake Orion Historic Homes tour?  Or at least we have been historically.   I think we'll probably wait a year before we participate in the interests of getting a few more projects done, then we can have a big reveal in 2011.  It's at Christmas time too, so I need at least one year to get my holiday decorating scheme in order!


And here is the list of things I'd *like* to do, but since I have adjusted my expectations to what is actually possible to complete on scattered 2-3 hour sleep fragments, I'm totally prepared to let them fall:

  1. Mulch the flowerbeds
  2. Finish painting the porch furniture, and put it on the porch.  
  3. Paint the back porch/awning/fence (this one's **really** never going to happen)
  4. Separate some of the Hostas to replant on either side of the stairs
  5. Spray around the exterior of the house with bug guard, and get some torches for the back porch to keep mosquitos away (cursed beasts!) 
  6. Hang the art that I have scattered around the house 

I shall report back with photos!  Hopefully we can get Drake on the pony... it's not a proper 30th birthday without a pony ride

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Mother's Day and Flora

I had my first Mother's Day and it was lovely!  Drake had been singing a Mozart Requiem in Canton, but woke up early on Sunday to get home before noon.  He surprised me with some really beautiful yellow/orange roses and we went to Home Depot to pick out some hanging baskets for the porch.  

I picked some orange/purple mixed annuals and put them in the baskets that the former owner left us.  They used to hold plastic floral garlands, but fortunately while Drake's mom was visiting she disposed of them.  :)

So now we have these:




And as for the mossy baskets?  I don't know.  What are your thoughts?  For now they were what was available, but in the end, I may prefer something less moss-y and more basket-y.  

As for the rest of the flora around our house, the gardens are a-blooming, and I'm told that our Hostas are exceptional :)  (I'm allowed to be boastful about them, since I had nothing to do with their flourishing...)



We had some lovely visitors who told me that these are pretty easy to separate and replant, so I'm sure that I'll do some of that in a bit-- I'd love to have these on either side of our front stairs, and they appear to be rather easy to maintain since we've done nothing to them, except to clear out the dead remains of last years Hostas.



This is the front of the house.  More Hostas of different varieties.  I'm about to mulch the living daylights out of these flowerbeds....



The little stone garden in our backyard.  More hostas and other flowers of unknown variety-- they're not fully grown yet... maybe daisies?  We'll soon see.  

In the meanwhile, can anyone identify these?  are they Begonias?  (not sure what Begonias look like, but hear that flower name alot.... boy do I have a lot to learn!) They'll soon bloom and we'll have a better chance at googling success...



Garden plans:  mulch.  color. plant ID.

Any Michiganders out there with easy planting tips/ low maintenance flower/shrub suggestions? 

Friday, May 7, 2010

Here's what we've been up to.

Creating dialogues for baby.
Because I can't help myself....

Front Porch Furniture

Mother's Day approaches and I  have asked for porch furniture and hanging flower baskets for the front porch.  There have been far too many beautiful afternoons and evenings that should've been spent out there already.  I refuse to waste another moment!  

Now I know that this photo doesn't exactly inspire thoughts of breezy spring evenings... but I wanted to remind you what our lovely porch looks like.  Contractors have been referring to it as the "turret" which makes me think of castles and laugh :) 

Wait until you see the new pictures of all the flowers and shrubs and such!  Spring is all over the place here.  So here's what I'm thinking about for the furniture.  
Perhaps a little something like.... 


from here

Or perhaps



Of course with different fabric for the cushion..... 

very exciting!  more next week!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

We're still here, and still working


He's a basement warrior, originally uploaded by Alta Marie.

In case you were wondering, home improvement has by no means stopped over here.... Yes we do have a newborn, so by "improvement" we really mean "basic cleaning and organization."

The kitchen has mainly stayed clean, and I think today we'll try to switch out winter clothes for spring and summer. If I ever can wear any of my old clothes again..... :::sigh:::

Drake is in the basement today doing epic battle with the spiders. Do you see his outfit? why yes, yes those are rubber dish gloves duct-taped to his wrists. To quote him directly....
"That is my basement. not theirs"

The war continues to be waged... I can hear the shop vac.