weekend getaway

Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park

Although our initial plan to go camping got rained out, we managed to get away and take several days over the weekend to enjoy some of the things that Michigan has to offer which we’d never been to before. Here are just a few to note and I’m hoping we can manage to get away more often and explore new things that aren’t too far from home: Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park – this place was beautiful and if I lived closer to Grand Rapids I could see myself visiting here at least once a week; with the many different gardens and sculptures to view here, you really can make a whole day of it!

Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park

Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park

Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park

And then there was the “beer-cation” portion of our weekend… It’s no secret that Michigan has some pretty amazing craft beers and we spent a little time at some fantastic breweries tasting what they had to offer – I know, it’s a tough job…but somebody’s got to do it! Here are some that we managed to try, in no particular order: Latitude 42 (try the 10 Degrees of Separation), Bell’s (while Two Hearted Ale and Oberon and fairly easy to find and enjoyable, try the Jupiter if you can find it), Gonzo’s BiggDogg (ask about their “black box” offering), Arcadia Ales (try the London Porter and Imperial Stout – fun, laid-back atmosphere and REALLY great food!), Brewery Vivant (try the Rootstock), Founders Brewing Co (try the Devil Dancer), Mitten Brewing Co (try the Dock’s No-No and the Seasonal Fruit Crisp which is basically a dessert pizza). You can view more photos from our weekend getaway here.

Brewery Vivant

The Mitten Brewing Co.

by Valerie | 06.30.15 | For Funsies, Garden | No Comments »

weekend haps

Melody

Guess what we did on Friday afternoon last weekend? A whole lot of nothing, that’s what, and it was wonderful – we just sat out on our patio and enjoyed it; although Melody seemed skeptical about us removing her little patch of grass in this area, I think she’s coming around and warming up to it.

We got plenty of rain on Saturday afternoon and a bit on Sunday as well and in between rain storms we managed to pick up and put out most of our 17 bags of mulch, the rest of which we’ll surely get to this week. I also took the opportunity to cut some of our garden roses and put them in vases around the house; they smell pretty amazing!

Garden roses

Garden roses

And the award for cutest fist bump last week goes to little E – super baby fist bump power!

Little E has fist bump power

by Valerie | 06.01.15 | Around our home, For Funsies, Garden, Princess Puppy Pants | No Comments »

Memorial Day weekend

Memorial Day weekend yard improvement

We had a very busy, very productive Memorial Day weekend full of outdoor cleanup and improvements; we planted all four of our garden boxes (variety of peppers, tomatoes, onions, lettuce, herbs, and some marigolds too), replaced small section of grass in our backyard with concrete pavers and pea gravel, weeded and trimmed bushes, and we cleaned up the bed around our birch tree in the front yard and placed stones underneath the bird feeders as the ivy never grew in there correctly – all of which, I think, made a huge improvement and we will most certainly enjoy throughout the summer.

For comparison, here’s the backyard before (complete with awkward, little patch of grass)…

Before

And after (you may remember when we put in pea gravel and planter boxes a couple years ago in place of the empty garden – I mean weed – bed)…

Memorial Day weekend yard improvement

Memorial Day weekend yard improvement

Memorial Day weekend yard improvement

And the front yard, before…

Before

And after…

After

After a long day of hard work, it can be really relaxing to enjoy a walk in the evening light and watch the last rays of the day’s sun glisten off a field of dandelions – they almost looked like stars shining in the night sky in the light of the setting sun.

Magic hour

Magic hour

by Valerie | 05.25.15 | Around our home, For Funsies, Garden, Holidaze | No Comments »

how does our garden grow?

backyard beauty

We did our first big plant purchase for the season over the weekend and it always make me so happy! We’re starting with lots of flowers in pots and hanging baskets: a rose bush (in honor of my Granddaddy), some really pretty pink dahlias, yellow lantana, a variety of geraniums, coleus, sweet potato vine, and various other trailing greens to fill in and spill down the pots. We also picked up a couple orange mint plants and a spearmint plant for our garden box; we’ll wait until later this month to plant the rest of our herb and vegetable garden. It’s lovely to be able to sit in the backyard and feel as though you’re in your own private oasis; Ann Arbor really is stunning this time of year – the trees are flowering and everything is so beautiful and green…and my lilacs are blooming! Want to see more photos of flowers and plants and/or our garden?

backyard beauty (roses, dahlia, & mosquito plant)

backyard beauty

We also got started on a really cool DIY outdoor coffee table project we’ve been dreaming up and planning for since last fall; I think we my have it all finished and ready to enjoy by this weekend – stay tuned for more on that…

We had the pleasure of chatting with our mothers on Sunday too – hope you gave your Mom some love in honor of Mother’s Day; here’s a fun throwback photo of me and my brother with our Mom (those are some sweet glasses and awesome hot air balloon shirt, Mom)!

Family15

by Valerie | 05.11.15 | Around our home, For Funsies, Garden, Holidaze | No Comments »

adventures in home canning: salsa edition

Adventures in home canning

Just in case you didn’t read the last 3 posts, we have waaaaay too many peppers this year and don’t know what to do with them. From hot sauce to pickled jalapenos now we are giving a go at making a salsa for home canning.

Ingredients:

  • 23-24 roma (paste) tomatoes (roasted on the grill)
  • 1+ tbsp olive oil of your choosing (the + is for coating the tomatoes)
  • 1/2 purple onion, finely diced
  • 8-10 serrano peppers, minced w/seeds in; adjust that for your heat tolerance
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp chipotle powder
  • 1 tbsp ancho chile powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups of cilantro (before chopping)
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar

1. prep the tomatoes

Heat up a grill to medium/medium high heat. Coat the tomatoes in an olive oil of your choosing; I used a chipotle infused olive oil. Place tomatoes on grill then roast them until skins start to blacken in spots and tomatoes become a little bit soft. You don’t want them too soft as they’ll just turn to mush. Set aside to cool. Once cool cut the top of the cores out and place in a blender and puree.

2. make salsa

Heat a large sauce pan to medium heat. Add 1 tbsp of olive oil to the pan and heat it up. Add the garlic, onion, and peppers to the pan. As they start to sweat add the cumin and chile powders, stir so that they are well coated. Add the tomatoes and vinegars and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer for about 20 minutes. Add salt.

3. can that s*!t

Follow directions for your preferred method of canning. We used the water bath canning method, which we tried our best to follow Ball’s recommendations. Sanitize your jars and lids and keep warm while you prepare the food above (we used our dishwasher to sanitize and heat). Prepare a large pot for canning and bring that water to a boil. Once the salsa is ready add it to the jars, put lids on, and put them in water bath. Follow the recommendations of time for the jar size you are using and altitude you are cooking at. Once done, remove and set aside for 12-24 hours. Store in a cool place; we’re talking about temperature here not a fashionable location.

4. Is this a tested canning recipe?

No. It is based on many other tested recipes. From what I can tell is that the key to canning salsa is an addition of about 5% acid (vinegar or lemon juice) and making sure it is brought to a boil. There are lots of recipes published by university agriculture programs out there that break down how to calculate the addition of acid to your salsa. We will update this post months from now after we crack a jar open and consume it. If we don’t get sick, success. If we do get sick, yeah diarrhea!

by Ryan | 09.01.14 | Garden, Recipes | No Comments »

valerie picked a peck of pickled peppers

Pickled jalapeños

Our jalapeno plant has been rocking it this summer (along with our serrano, bell pepper plants, and our habanero) and since I am a fan of a good pickled jalapeno – especially on some homemade nachos, yum! – we decided to make our own jar of them. I don’t know why we’ve never done this before as it was fairly easy. The hard part for me will be waiting long enough to let them properly pickle and pick up all those amazing flavors sitting in the jar before I put them in my belly! Here’s our recipe below…

~2 cups chopped jalapenos (round slices)

seasoning

  • ½ tsp mexican oregano
  • ½ tsp black peppercorns
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ¼ tsp cumin seed
  • ¼ tsp coriander seed

brine

  • equal parts distilled white vinegar & water (about 3/4 cup each)
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • a little salt

Add seasoning into the bottom of a mason jar (preferably one that has been well sanitized). Add the jalapenos on top of the seasoning. Set aside. In a sauce pan add brine ingredients and heat until just before boiling. Pour brine over the top of the jalapenos into the mason jar. Let cool and refrigerate or can them.

Pickled jalapeños

Pickled jalapeños

by Valerie | 08.30.14 | Garden, Recipes | No Comments »

hot sawwwwwwwse

Homemade hot sauce

What do you do when you have A LOT of serrano peppers from your garden? If you’re us, you take your first crack at making homemade hot sauce. And I think it was a smashing success too; peppery, hot, and packed with flavor and we picked the peppers right from our own backyard! Here’s our recipe below…

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 thinly sliced red onion
  • 22 serrano peppers
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 cup water (1/2 for cooking, 1/2 for sauce)
  • 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 1/2+ tsp of molasses
  • salt

Sauté onions, peppers, and garlic, until they start getting soft and slightly caramelized. Add 1/2 cup of water, bring to a boil and simmer until little liquid is in the pan. Add red wine vinegar and molasses, set aside to cool. In food processor add pepper mixture and puree while adding vinegar and water until you get the texture you want. Salt to taste.

Homemade hot sauce

Making homemade hot sauce with garden peppers

by Valerie | 08.30.14 | Garden, Recipes | No Comments »

pick a peck of (not pickled) peppers

Garden peppers

We scaled back what we planted in our garden this year (no lettuce or beans) and tried to make it a bit easier on ourselves by planting more flowers in lieu of veggies. We also dedicated an entire garden box to just peppers (red bell, green bell, and purple bell, jalapeño, serrano, and habanero); our peppers seem to be quite happy as I can’t remember ever getting so many (especially serrano) peppers off of one pepper plant from our garden before! Luckily, Ryan is pretty good at making salsa – so with our plethora of peppers and a bag full of farmer’s market tomatillos, he whipped up some darn good salsa verde the other night. Honestly, I probably could’ve eaten it with a spoon or just drank it from a cup…that’s how much I like it. Which now brings us to the point where we’re going to have to preserve these peppers in some way (Ryan is generally not a fan of pickled things) or take a crack at actually properly canning prepared food like salsa so that we can enjoy it throughout the year. To be continued…

by Valerie | 08.27.14 | Garden | No Comments »

Weekend haps

Mini golf

We’ve had quite the fun-filled weekend! Stumbled upon the car show in downtown Ann Arbor by accident really as we were there for the Open Book launch party at Literati for Ryan & Leslie. Mini golf. Got some new plants and found a use for my grandparents old plant hanger – it’s nice to have something that was theirs in our home. And we found some fun stuff at an estate sale in town on Saturday, including this sweet little Danish demitasse cup and saucer pictured below, vintage Coors porcelain labware, some beautiful wool fabric, and Pflatzgraff TWA bread plates. Now we’re heading to the pub to watch the final World Cup match between Germany and Argentina. Last, but certainly not least, enjoying some sundaes on Sunday.

Demitasse

Grandparents' plant hanger

Sundaes on Sunday

by Valerie | 07.13.14 | Around our home, Around town, For Funsies, Garden, Work | No Comments »

Garden goodies

Garden herbs

We were out of town for about 2 weeks & returned to a very happy herb garden which needed some trimming/taming. One of the first things I did when we got home was cut some fresh dill, basil, mint, oregano, and thyme and put them in vases all over the house – not only do they look pretty, but they smell wonderful too. Happy gardening!

Garden herbs

by Valerie | 07.09.14 | Around our home, Garden | No Comments »

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