Easter/birthday weekend

birthday cake with sprinkles

I enjoyed a really great birthday weekend, full of celebration and fun activities, and thoughtful gifts and wishes from family and friends too – thank you all for making me feel so special! The Birthday Cake at Sava’s is pretty amazing…and it’s on their regular dessert menu so you can enjoy it anytime you visit (this could be good or bad, depending on how strong your willpower is). I don’t think I went a day from Thursday on last week without having some sort of delicious sweet treat – cake, cupcakes, pie, candy, etc. – even the salad I ordered for lunch on Friday had bacon toffee on it (and it was amazing).

We ended our fun weekend with a lovely Easter afternoon brunch (complete with egg dyeing), which Ryan made an excellent vegetarian hash for, followed by a tasty dinner of casarecce pasta with roasted asparagus, grape tomatoes, and fresh basil. And there’s still a pile of Easter chocolates and candy on our kitchen table, a pretty spring-appropriate shade of nail polish, and some beautiful tulips, daffodils, and roses around our house for me to continue to enjoy. We had some rain/thunderstorms last week and I spied pots of pansies for sale around town over the weekend too – more sure signs of spring!

Happy Easter

Easter 2015

by Valerie | 04.06.15 | Around town, For Funsies, Holidaze | No Comments »

looking up

Evening walk

Things are really starting to look up…weather wise, that is, here in A2 and I’m pretty sure I can speak for the general local population when I say that we’re all very excited to see a possible high temperature of 69 today; as long as we’re above freezing this time of year then I’m one happy girl!

Upon close inspection of the hellebore we planted in our side yard last spring/summer, which have only just recently been visible from under all the snow on the ground, I saw that they all have little buds coming up and will be blooming for the spring this year and I’ve been noticing comments from friends in the area that other bulb sightings have begun…this makes me very, very happy and is a sure sign that spring is really on the way and soon I hope! We are enjoying longer hours of daylight, lovely afternoon/evening walks, and seeing hints of green again.

Speaking of green, tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day – may the luck of the Irish be with you. We are planning on a dinner of bangers and mash and will toast the day with some good Irish stout. Turn on some Irish tunes, raise a glass, and “Sláinte”!

Evening walk

Evening walk

by Valerie | 03.16.15 | For Funsies, Holidaze | No Comments »

marvelous movie marathon

Ready for movie marathon Sunday

I enjoyed a marvelous, two-day movie marathon over Valentine’s weekend; I can think of nothing better to do, especially given the frigid temps (what one person described as “weather is expected get really rugged”) we’ve been having – we woke up to -10 (actual temp) with a wind chill of -30 on Sunday morning, and it was -15 (actual temp) here this morning…#winterainteasy. Ryan picked out and lined up the following in our Netflix queue, we piled up blankets and pillows in front of the tv (Melody was in hog heaven!), lit a fire in our fireplace, and watched as many as we could in two days – some we’d seen before and some were new to us and I can’t wait to do it all again:

Sunday movie marathon

Valentine's Day snuggles

And I got this specially designed, screen-printed Valentine along with some beautiful roses!

My valentine from Ryan

VDay blooms

by Valerie | 02.16.15 | Around our home, For Funsies, Holidaze, Princess Puppy Pants | No Comments »

Putting the Val in Valentine’s Day

Valentines 2015

I’m looking forward to spending my Valentine’s Day in with my sweetie tomorrow, ordering pizza, with a nice glass of wine, and enjoying some delightful romcoms together by the fire. Here are some fun ideas, in case you are looking for inspiration:

I used the photo app Over to create these Valentines for Ryan with photos I’ve taken over the last year. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Valentines 2015

Valentines 2015

by Valerie | 02.13.15 | For Funsies, Holidaze | No Comments »

keep moving forward

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

The highlight of my week was definitely shaking the hand of Ndaba Mandela, grandson of Nelson Mandela, yesterday; he gave the keynote address for the Ross School’s McInally lecture honoring Martin Luther King Day. What an honor it was!

by Valerie | 01.20.15 | Holidaze | No Comments »

good luck

Happy New Year's Eve

We enjoyed a lovely New Year’s Eve with friends and followed it with a full day of house cleaning and a delicious dinner of pan-fried yellow lake perch, rosemary cornbread, roasted potatoes, and black-eyed peas (we used this recipe as a guide, but Ryan gave it his own spin). Here’s hoping that the new year brings us all plenty of good luck!

Black-eyed peas

Rosemary cornbread

by Valerie | 01.05.15 | For Funsies, Holidaze, Recipes | No Comments »

We’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet

Happy New Year's Eve

Whether it’s watching the ball drop in Times Square, doing your best Auld Lang Syne rendition, celebrating with family and friends, or whatever your New Year’s Eve plans are on this last day of 2014, we wish you a very happy New Year’s Eve and a wonderful New Year ahead. Hold your loved ones close, whether they be with you…far away…or the memory of loved ones lost, and look forward to the wonderful possibilities that all the new year may bring.

Happy New Year's Eve

by Valerie | 12.31.14 | For Funsies, Holidaze | No Comments »

Merry Christmas!

Christmas

We wish you a very Merry Christmas – full of happiness, love, and enough warm fuzzies to last you a whole year!

Melody

by Valerie | 12.25.14 | Holidaze, Princess Puppy Pants | No Comments »

Panettone French Toast

Panettone4

Several years ago one Christmas my Dad suggested making French toast with panettone, Italian for bread with stuff in it. While we had never thought to try that it made perfect sense. The panettone is light and fluffy like challah and a bit similar to raisin bread with stuff inside making it the perfect combination of the two types of bread I most commonly use to make french toast. Since then each year we make sure to get a loaf of panettone and make French toast. My French toast recipe is probably the combination of several other recipes online but it works pretty well.

  • 1 loaf of panettone
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • butter for cooking (about 1 tsp)
  • powdered sugar for dusting

Slice the panettone in thick slices, about 1/2-inch thick or more. Mix the eggs, milk, cinnamon, and extract together in a wide bowl. Heat up a skillet, pan, or griddle over medium heat. To check the heat toss some water on it, when it dances and sizzles in the pan it is ready. Melt some of the butter in the griddle (I do this each time before I add a new slice of toast). Dip a slice of panettone in the batter make sure to coat both sides. Place on griddle to cook. Cook each side until golden brown. Plate and dust with powdered sugar.

Panettone2

by Ryan | 12.25.14 | Holidaze, Recipes | No Comments »

Christmas eve tamales

Christmas Eve tamales were a success!

Growing up in El Paso I was always able to count on one thing being there to eat, tamales. While my family didn’t make a tradition of making them each year, we always received them as a gift from family and friends. Many of my friends’ families would spend Christmas eve, or the days before, making tamales for post-midnight mass celebrations. Having stayed in Michigan this year Val and I decided to bring a little tradition into our home and make our own tamales.

We’ve made tamales before, and for the most part followed this basic recipe for the masa. The only difference this time around is I used 2 cups of veggie stock, real butter, and I nixed the green chile powder. For the fillings we made three different varieties: chipotle sweet potato; corn, peppers, and cheese; and faux-acoa (vegetarian barbacoa).

Chipotle sweet potato filling

  • 1 tsp (or a little more) chipotle infused olive oil
  • 1 medium to large sweet potato diced (into pieces 1/2-inch or smaller)
  • 1/2 red onion diced
  • 1/2 tsp chipotle powder
  • 1 heaping tsp dried thyme
  • 1 heaping tsp dried mexican oregano
  • 2 tbsp canned chipotles in adobo sauce
  • salt

Par-boil, or quick cook in the microwave, the sweet potato. Heat a skillet to medium heat. Add the olive oil and heat up. Add the red onions and cook until translucent. Add the par-boiled sweet potatoes, chipotle powder, thyme, and oregano. Cook until potatoes begin to brown. Salt to your taste preference. Set aside. Puree the canned chipotles, you can use either a food processor or just chop into a puree. Set that aside as well. When making the tamales place a large spoonful of the sweet potato mixture in the masa then drizzle or spread some of the chipotle puree on top. Wrap the tamale.

Faux-acoa filling

  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 red onion diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic minced
  • 1 package of chorizo seitan (we use Uptons) diced
  • 1 package of Rick Bayless’ Red Chile Barbacoa sauce (or make your own sauce)

I was a bit lazy on this one because the task of making 3 different fillings plus the tamales was a bit daunting. But none the less it worked quite well. Heat up a skillet to medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook until translucent. Add the chorizo seitan and cook for another minute or two, until the seitan heats up. Add about three quarters of a package of the barbacoa sauce and let cook for about 5 to 10 minutes. I didn’t add a full package because I didn’t want the mix to be to wet when putting it into the tamale. Add a large spoonful of the filling on top of the masa and wrap the tamale.

Chiles, cheese, and corn filling

  • 2 poblano chiles
  • 1 can of corn
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp green chile powder
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 cup shredded queso asedero (Queso Chihuahua or Monterey Jack will work too)

Roast the poblano peppers using whatever method you wish. I roasted them in the skillet over medium heat until they browned. Once browned, place into a paper bag for about 30-minutes or longer. Remove from the bag, remove the skins, stem, and deseed them. Dice them and set aside. Drain and rinse the corn. Heat a skillet to medium. Once hot add the butter, corn, and green chile powder. Cook until corn starts to brown. Add the chiles. Set aside. When making the tamales place some cheese and some of the chile and corn mixture into the tamale and wrap it up.

Sauce

  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1/3 red onion diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 5 medium tomatoes on the vine (cored and deseeded, cut into slices)
  • 1 heaping tsp new mexico red chile powder
  • 1 large roasted jalapeño minced
  • 1/2 cup cilantro leaves (rinsed)
  • salt

Pan roast the jalapeño and set aside. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook until the onions sweat. Add the red chile powder and cook for an additional minute or so. Add the slices of tomatoes and cook until they either start to brown or fall apart. Put tomato mixture into a food processor. Blend into a sauce like consistency. Add the minced jalapeño. Chop up the cilantro to a size that you like and add into the mixture. Set aside to serve on top of the tamales.

The tamales

Steam the tamales for an hour. Set aside and let cool for a minute or two. Unwrap and enjoy.

Christmas Eve tamales

by Ryan | 12.25.14 | Holidaze, Recipes | No Comments »

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