Thursday, February 28, 2013

Tea Time!

I've been telling my friend for about a year that I'd like to take her to a tea house.  Her birthday was the perfect excuse to finally go!   I hadn't been to a high Victorian tea in many years, and it was just as lovely as I remembered.  With all the tea houses I've watched come and go, I'm happy to still be able to recommend this one for the perfect girls' outing.   The gal I chatted with sounded enthusiastic about their future, so I think it should be around for awhile yet!

My Cup at Brambleberry Cottage and Tea Shoppe

Blonde Escapades

Karla does so many posts about coffee outings, I thought it was high time I did one.  ;-)

So I don't like regular coffee, but not for lack of trying.  I will occasionally taste some and be amazed at how disgusting it is.  When I discovered white coffee, I was quite excited!  It's not that I'm a big coffee drinker, I just enjoy having something fun to sip once in awhile.  Then I discovered that Starbucks doesn't carry white coffee.  Smaller places are fine, but a lot of them aren't open as late.  We regularly purchase drinks in the evenings while running errands.  Recently, I began seeing Starbucks ads about a "blonde roast" for people who like lighter roasts.  I wondered if maybe, just maybe, it was similar to white coffee?  There happens to be a Starbucks in our grocery store.  I asked the lady to tell me about Blonde and whether it's similar to white coffee.  She explained that they are not the same and that white coffee has a higher concentration of caffeine.  That made no sense, because white coffee doesn't taste as strong as the usual stuff, which is exactly why I'm able to drink it.  I went over to Greg and told him she had no idea what she was talking about.  (Actually, she did.)  I decided it couldn't hurt to try it.  We hit the drive through at another location, and they said they only make it until noon.  After that, they do pour-overs.  What's that?  We couldn't get a clear answer, but not to worry!  We were going to co-op the next morning, which is about the only day of the week I'm out and about before noon.  Greg usually drops us off, goes to get the drink(s), and brings it back before heading to work.  If I'm not around, he has a certain place he leaves it.  When I came back, I found a chai tea latte and the following note attached to the bag with painter's tape:

He's so sweet.  But can you believe it??  After all that!  Hey, if I can't have it as a latte, it's not happening.  Ah well.  Twas not meant to be, I suppose.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Heart Day 2013

For some time now, Kylen has been showing signs of outgrowing some of our treasured holiday traditions.  This will be a transitional year when we'll be learning how to make changes while still keeping the holidays special.  In one way, it's nice because it means less work, but in another it's sad.  I guess all moms have to go through this, although I'm thinking those with more children don't face it as soon!

Valentine's Day was our first big holiday.  Instead of the annual treasure hunt, we decided to eat at a fancy brunch buffet we'd been wanting to try.  We still exchanged cards, Greg gave me his usual gifts (a tradition I refuse to give up!), and we made a special dessert that was more trouble than it was worth.  (I had no idea how hard it would be to find strawberries!  The stores were wiped out!)  We felt the buffet was a wonderful substitution and plan to visit again in 12 months.  :-)

My favorite items were the Brie with fruit and turkey with stuffing.

Desserts galore!

The dessert we made was very easy.  It involved cutting hearts out of pound cake using a cookie cutter, layers with whipped cream, topped with a sliced strawberry for garnish.  The cake isn't supposed to have splits, but the slices weren't big enough.  Oh well!  They still turned out kinda pretty.
We usually celebrate Valentine's Day on the weekend, and ended up taking my grandma out for dinner on the actual day.  I didn't plan it that way, but I'm so glad God worked it out like that!  It was more special having her with us.  Wish I'd taken the camera though!


I was the first one to spot an 8-letter word in our new Boggle game!  Can you find it?  The rules are that each successive letter must be touching the previous one, you can move in any direction, and you can't use the same physical die twice.  For example, there is a 7-letter word here: noodles.  I'll have the answer in the comments.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Kylen's a Teenager!

We have a teenager in the house!  Yippee!!!!  :-)  For Kylen's 13th birthday, he decided on a video game theme.  We kept things simple this time, with no traditional games or activities, although some of the kids took advantage of the air hockey and foosball tables!  There were four systems which could accommodate 16 total.   Only two guests were unable to make it, so we had almost a full house!  One minor detail we didn't anticipate was the noise level, but the parents were able to take refuge on the top floor.  :-)

I made three easy cakes: a question mark box from a square pan, Yoshi egg (looked for an egg pan but couldn't find one) from a rectangular pan, and a star from a star pan.  All the decorating was done with M&M's.  The coconut ones had exactly the colors we needed: white, green, and black.  We put down three plastic tablecloths to protect the carpet while the kids loaded up on sugar.  Drinks were kept in plastic cups with lids and straws.

Most of the time everyone played on whatever system they wanted, but we did have a Super Smash Bros. competition!  We were surprised Kylen didn't make it past the first round and found out later that a mistake had been made.  Other than that, it was an easy party that went off without a hitch!

Below, you can catch a glimpse of the custom cabinets behind Kylen. Our friend did a wonderful job, and we are very happy with the finished result. The poor guy worked hard that week to get everything ready in time - right up until 5 pm the night before! I wish I had thought to take a picture before we filled the shelves.  In my scramble to clean up and do a little decorating, I forgot!

Someone came up with the idea of putting balloons on the air hockey table while playing!

Kylen couldn't think of anything he wanted, so we suggested money or gift cards.  A few brave souls still picked something out, and I'm glad they did, because he got some cool stuff!  Isn't this shirt neat?  He received a Boggle game we've enjoyed,  and one family gave him paracord and videos on how to make things out of it.  I'd never heard of such a thing!  Seems like the perfect crafting material for a boy.

It's hard to believe our son is 13 already.  Soon he'll be heading off to college!  It's been the best part of my life, watching him grow up.  He's a terrific kid, and I look forward to seeing where God leads him over the next 6 years.  I want to savor every minute!

Why We Picked Blue:

We have lots more decals to put up.  This is a start!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

TV and Arcade Half Cabinet

This is Greg and Kylen trying out the new tv and the arcade cabinet Greg made.  As you can see, there was still a lot of cabinet construction going on!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Digital Scrapbooking

I've been bitten by the digital scrapbooking bug!  That's where most of my computer time has gone the last few weeks, which partially explains the gap in blogging.  2007 was my last year to fill up an album.  How did I get so far behind?  Life, I guess!  But after making a couple of  calendars, small books, our Christmas card, and talking to a friend who does their albums that way, I finally decided to give it a try.  Plus, the idea of making progress, ANY progress towards catching up is appealing.  It's been more time-consuming than I expected, but I know that's partly due to my own pickiness.  Then there's the learning curve and the fact that I take a LOT of pictures.  I'm also doing quite a bit of editing, since pictures from our older camera are not at the level of quality I'm used to.  I've been aiming for 2-4 pages/day - a snail's pace - but I'm more than half through!  After that, I'll do 2012 while the memories are recent, back to 2009, forward to 2013, alternating between distant and recent past.  At least that's the plan.  But there will likely be long breaks between.

I was first introduced to digital photo books by my aunt, ironically enough, the same year I stopped doing albums.  It was one of the neatest things I'd ever seen, but I couldn't get past the loss of quality and rich textures that "real" scrapbooking provides.  Then I discovered print quality could be pretty decent, and well . . . I got over my snobbish attitude out of desperation!  I've done enough real scrapbooking to know that the digital version is WAY faster for me.  On top of all that, Mixbook has a good selection of backgrounds, stickers, and what-nots to feed my need for variety in a creative project.  I can't wait to see how it turns out!

A screen shot of a two page spread about painting Kylen's room:

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Dessert Fondue

Between finishing our basement and running around like chickens, we are dismally behind on entertaining.  (Not to fear, we are determined to remedy that over the next several months!)  So it was a real treat when friends joined us recently for dessert.  I dusted off our fondue pot and tried a new sauce: Maple and Cinnamon.  White Chocolate and Toffee Swirl is still our favorite, but this one was delicious.  Ideal for winter - the combination reminded me of apple pie.  I thought the most complimentary dipper was apple slices, which is funny, because that wasn't even listed as a suggestion.  Thank you, Hubby!  (His idea.)  :)  These recipes are from The Fondue Cookbook by Gina Steer.  It's a beautiful little book, although many of the recipes include alcohol as an ingredient (which we don't drink).  Broth could probably be substituted in most cases.  There's a nice selection of main dishes and appetizers, but we've only tried desserts.

Fondue is a lot of fun with company!  Many people haven't experienced it, making for a memorable experience and conversation starter.  We're limited to three or fewer guests, since our supplies only accommodate six.  Maybe someday we'll purchase another set, but right now six feels about right for the prep work involved.

White Chocolate and Toffee Swirl ~ Serves 6 to 8
8 oz white chocolate, broken into small pieces
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp corn syrup
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp light cream

Suggested Dippers:
Pear and pineapple wedges, strawberries, hazelnut sponge and Italian biscotti cookies

Place chocolate and heavy cream in fondue pot.  Place over moderate heat, stirring frequently until chocolate has melted.  Transfer to the lit burner.

Place sugar, corn syrup, and butter in a small pan and heat gently until blended.  Remove from heat and stir in light cream.  Pour the toffee sauce on top of the white chocolate fondue in a swirl.  Serve with fruit and cookies for dipping.

Maple and Cinnamon ~ Serves 4
1/2 stick butter
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 cups light cream
2 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp cornstarch

Suggested Dippers:
Strawberries, melon balls, pineapple and mango wedges, ladyfingers, and graham crackers.  We served: apples, strawberries, and two kinds of cookies: Madeleines (resemble shells with ridges), and Biscoff (taste similar to graham crackers)

Place butter with sugar and a tsp of the ground cinnamon in a saucepan.  Heat gently until sugar has dissolved.  Stir well.  Bring to a boil and cook for 1 minute.

Stir in cream and syrup.  Blend cornstarch with 1 tbsp water and stir into the pan.  Cook, stirring until mixture thickens.

Pour into fondue pot and place over lit burner.  If fondue starts to burn, remove from heat for a short time.  Sprinkle with remaining cinnamon.


I didn't plan this to be super fancy, but the spread actually turned out quite pretty and Valentiney.  I was originally planning to serve tea, hence the tea cups, but changed my mind at the last minute and opted for a pitcher of milk.  I'm glad I did!  The milk was needed!

Monday, February 4, 2013


Our basement resembles a furniture factory!