Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A deck party

To celebrate the completion of our deck, we invited a few friends over this past weekend. Chris spent much of a very warm day outdoors mowing the lawn and building an 8-foot table out of wood scraps. He finished just in time!

Monday, July 26, 2010


This weekend we...
- played games with my siblings

- Made pizza
- Made lavender lemonade (recipe to follow this week!)
- Built a table in an afternoon

- Threw a dinner party to celebrate the completion of the deck! (more on that event this week)
- Ate lunch with a friend (Kalen) and with a sister (Chris)
- Bought a box full of vintage sewing stuff for $2

- Visited the Botanical Garden

- Reorganized my craft room.

- Had a diet vanilla coke and cherry ice cream float.

Now I'm gearing up for another week of July. As the temperature soars to 98, I'm doing my best to be thankful for the heat, the sticky air,  sweet, juicy tomatos, long days, weekly musicals, fresh fruit, good friends, summer beer, sweat, flowers, sleepy kittens, air conditioning, fresh lemonade, handy husbands, happy dreams, NPR, dry shampoo, pedicures, sandles and owning a dishwasher.

Ahhh summer.

What are you loving right now?

Friday, July 23, 2010

Off to the weekend we go...

I hope your weekend is carefree!

Some things I'm loving...

An Interview with a Creative Few: Chasity Gunn

I know so many creative people and talking with them about their projects often inspires me to try new things. So I've decided to introduce them to you in a format that I like: an interview.

Chasity Gunn was my roommate during a six-week a summer journalism fellowship at the Poynter Institute for recent college graduates. We became friends during the program, bouncing ideas off of one another and talking about everything.

She taught me about  southern cooking, serious goal-setting and having an adventurous spirit. In the years that have followed, we've kept in touch and held each other accountable for doing good journalism.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Tuesday mornings, I go into work late. I have this glorious window of time to do anything I like. It's different than after work time, when I feel compelled to make dinner, clean up dinner, do something with all the projects I have going on, make lists, pay bills, etc, etc.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Corn Chowder

I've been trying to work my way through a couple of great cookbooks that people have given me. I think the best cookbooks are accessible. Instead of pages and pages of recipes stacked atop one another, a good cookbook should have pictures, description, anecdotes. My mom got me the Momentum Cookbook from Weight Watchers one year and it has lots of interesting, healthy options. You might hear the word "chowder" and think: Winter, but this features fresh corn so nicely, it's great for summer.

Corn Chowder
adapted from a recipe in the Weight Watchers Momentum Cookbook.
3/4 pound potatoes

1 fennel bulb, chopped.
1 large shallot or small onion, chopped

1 cup chicken broth

2 tsp olive oil

4-6 pieces corn on the cob, kernals cut off  (you need about 3 cups)

1/2 cup red or green pepper diced.

3  cups skim milk
1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

Saute fennel, onion and pepper for about 5 minutes. Dice potatoes and add them to a pot with corn kernals, green or red pepper, fennel, onion, broth, salt and pepper and ring to boil. Reduce to medium heat and simmer, covered, for 10 mintues.
Combine 1 cup of milk with 1/2 cup vegetables in a blender or food processor. Pour the puree and two cups skim milk into the soup. Cook about 5 minutes longer. Serve with crackers, crumbled bacon or sour cream.

Monday, July 19, 2010


The summer of 2010, I think will be the summer of the deck and of canning fruit in my mind forever. We finished the deck this weekend, 48 days after we started. It looks so lovely. It was nice to have just a few things left to finish up. It felt like we had a bit more time to accomplish things. We crammed in lots of activities, which leaves me on Sunday evening feeling satisfied and tired.

This weekend we:

  • had a lovely meal with Chris's parents, his sister and her husband to celebrate my birthday belatedly. They just returned from a trip to Germany, Bosnia and Croatia and brought back wine, beer steins and beer glasses for us.

  • finished the deck with the help of my dad and brother.

  • started several new projects.

  • joined friends at our neighborhood pub for dinner.

  • laid in bed listening to the rainstorm.

  • built two benches.

  • potted new plants.
'Twas an excellent weekend .

Friday, July 16, 2010

An Interview with a Creative Few: Lannette Guerra

Lannette Guerra is a designer for Exhibit Associates in Kansas City, Mo. She designs exhibits for museums, trade shows, private corporate clients like Hallmark, Garmin and Cerner. For fun, she enjoys taking photographs.

(Vinegar and oil display shelf)
1.What do you create?
First question has already stumped me, what DO I create? Hmmm…. well I create form and space. I house our belongings and make things easier and more organized so we can navigate our life better.

(spice rack made from watch cases and magnets)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

A Bowling Party: the inspiration

My sweet husband will be turning the big 3-0 in a little less than one month's time. Since he is a pretty low-key guy, he has left almost all planning of his big day up to me. 

I love party planning. (Just be glad I didn't have a blog when I was wedding planning! It would have been crazy! If you want to follow someone as she plan her wedding, check out my friend Kara's blog.)

I am fairly certain I started thinking about this party last year when Chris turned 29. We could have had a party at our house, which would have been fine, but I wanted to do something cool and interesting.

The Corner Bar. photo by Ryan Prewitt

In my job as a reporter, I stumbled onto a place in St. Charles, Mo. called The Corner Bar. It's the last place in the US where you can play a form of three-pin bowling called cocked-hat bowling. They've been playing it in the basement of this cool, grungy bar since 1875.

League play is every Monday-Thursday, year-round. But on Friday and Saturday nights, you can rent out the lanes in the basement. I wrote a story about the bar, and the cocked-hat bowling tradition, for my paper last fall.  A little seed of an idea was planted in my brain.

This spring, I rented out the place to celebrate Chris's b'day. With less than a month to go, the party planning has got to get going. So I crafted a little inspiration board:

I still need to pop into the bar again sometime so I can scope out what kind of space I'll have for food, etc. The bonus is, you can bring your own food you just have to buy drinks upstairs at the bar.

I'm thinking bar snacks like cheese sticks, olives, peanuts, pretzels, cake pops decorated to look like bowling balls, some vintage pins, bowling shirts and perhaps some hats? So many options...

Blackberry Breakfast Bars

Let's say you aren't the type to get up early on a Saturday morning and drive an hour to stand in sweltering heat dodging flying beetles as you try to pick gigantic blackberries. You are in luck! At some stores you can find small half-pint containers of blackberries for just a dollar. It's much cheaper to pick them yourself (at $2.50 a pound) but you do have to think about the time and effort that goes into said activity. After our experience last Saturday, I'm going to have to think about it for next year :)

One thing that's weighing in favor of the UPick farm was the size of the berries. As big as my thumb! So big, in fact, that when I made raspberry breakfast bars with blackberries, I had to cut each one in half or thirds so the bars wouldn't be too chunky.

But I digress. The point is, even if you aren't a UPick fruit kind of person, you can make these bars with raspberries OR blackberries. And you should. As soon as possible. Because they are delicious!

Blackberry Crumb Breakfast Bars

Adapted from a recipe posted by Smitten Kitchen blog, which she adapted from 
Baked: New Frontiers in Baking

Note, these bars aren't particularly healthy but they're probably better for you than Pop-Tarts. They are kind of similar, with a crust on the bottom (with oatmeal!) and a crunchy crumbly topping.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 1/4 cup rolled oats
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
The Filling (made with raspberries or blackberries. I wonder how it would taste with peaches? Someone try it and let me know!)
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 pound blackberries (I used about 3 1/2 cups  because I don't own a kitchen scale.)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter melted

Make the crust and crumb
1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 9x13 pan. Deb from Smitten Kitchen suggests using parchment paper to line the pan and buttering that as well. I didn't have parchment paper so I went without. It worked fine.

2. Put flour, sugar, oats, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a food processor and pulse until combined. Add butter and pulse until it's crumbly.

3. Put 1 1/2 cups of the crumbly mixture in a separate bowl (this will be the topping.) Pour the rest in the 9x13 pan and press down. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until golden brown.

4. Mix cinnamon, lemon zest, flour and cinnamon in a separate bowl. Add blackberries, butter and lemon juice. Toss until combined.

5. Pour filling on top of crust, spreading it evenly around.

6. Top with the crumb mixture you set aside earlier. Pop in the oven for 35-45 minutes, rotating every 15 minutes. Let it cool on a wire rack completely before you try to cut it.

Serve with homemade ice cream for dessert!  Or for breakfast. Get in that calcium early!
I packaged half the batch in freezer paper and have been taking them for a mid-afternoon snack. They thaw out by lunchtime.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Flowers for your house

I love flowers! There's nothing like a bouquet to brighten up your table, mantle, or desk. My husband picks out excellent flowers for special occasions.
For our first anniversary, he bought a replica of my bouquet.

For as many times as Chris surprises me with flowers, there are times when you just want something fresh and nice smelling to make your house a happy place.. And you don't always want to spend too much money on a bouquet. Here are a few tips for flower buying and arranging.

Ask florists about weekly specials. At my nearest flower shop, if you arrive after 1 p.m. on Saturdays, loose stems are 1/2 off. I got this bouquet for about $7 last October. It added a nice pop of color to my entry table and the bonus was that I could choose the flowers myself!     

A summer of berries

I'm not sure where the summer of berries came from. I canned a few things last summer: peach jam and apple butter. This year, I knew I wanted to try strawberry jam and after that went well, I went a little crazy...
So far, I've canned :
strawberry jam

raspberry jam

cherry jam

blackberry jam

Monday, July 12, 2010


This weekend we :
  • Made a lemon-zucchini-goat cheese-pizza using this recipe and ate it all up. (I didn't even take a picture!) I think Friday nights should be pizza nights from now on.
  • Saw Toy Story 3 which made me think back to all of my favorite toys from childhood - a stuffed cat I called Mama Cat and her three baby kittens: Lisa, Tommy and Sara; a ballerina doll with long hair made of yarn. I learned to braid by practicing on her; my etch-a-sketch, lite brite, troll dolls and magna doodle.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Warm potato salad and grilled corn on the cob

Today, I bring you two recipes for side dishes at summer barbecues: warm potato salad and grilled corn on the cob. They went over smashingly at my last event. (As you can see from the picture, the potato salad went first).

I have never been a big fan of potato salad. I know, this seems sacriligious from someone who grew up in a town inhabited by plenty of German descendents. I think it's the temperature and the texture I have an issue with. I like my potatoes to be warm and, preferably, covered in butter.

But I realize most people do enjoy potato salad and they like it to be recognizable as potato salad. I dug out a recipe from Paula Deen's "The Lady and Sons Savannah Country Cookbook" for warm potato salad and thought I'd try it out.

Warm Potato Salad
Adapted from "The Lady and Sons Savannah Country Cookbook" by Paula Deen
15-20 small potatoes. I used a mix of new potatos and others
1 cup chopped celery
3 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
1/4 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 tsp lemon-pepper seasoning
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp mustard
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 cup sour cream

Boil potatoes 20 minutes, or until tender. Cool until you can chop it into chunks. Set aside.
Combine remaining ingredients, add potatoes and mix. Serve at room temperature.

Grilled Corn on the Cob
recipe courtesy of Michelle Lamorette
corn on the cob - buy it as fresh as possible
olive oil (1/4 cup or more depending on the amount of corn you plan to make)
sea salt

Shuck the corn husks. If you'd like smaller serving sizes, split each cob in half.

Pour olive oil and salt in a ziplock bag.

Smush oil and salt into corn.

Wrap corn in aluminum foil. Grill for 20-25 minutes over indirect heat.

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