Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Swing and a Miss

I love Wyoming- I wouldn't want to live anywhere else in the world. But that doesn't mean that I don't miss some things about Indiana. I miss the restaurants (Cheesecake Factory, Chilis, Steak 'n Shake), I miss the shopping, and now I realize I miss the Indianapolis Zoo. We took Addison to the Billings Zoo on Saturday and it was not exactly what I was expecting. Not wheelchair friendly, very wooded/overgrown, no petting zoo area, no water area for the kids, no aquarium/ocean animals- pretty much as far from the Indy Zoo as possible. It was my fault, really- I set myself up to be disappointed. This was Montana- not exactly known for its zoo...

And did I mention it just happened to be Medieval Times- Highland Games day? Yes that's right, folks. We spent a few sweltering hours searching for hiding animals while we were surrounded by gypsy belly dancers, bar wenches, and men in kilts playing bagpipes. I kid you not. It was an interesting day. Thankfully, Addison just enjoyed the few animals we did get to see. 

He came right up to the glass for Addison. She thought he was cute. I thought he looked hungry.

Red panda sleeping in the shade.

She had a blast, and that's why we went, right?

Grizzly bears

Smartest animals in the park- so jealous of their pool

Did I mention the bagpipers?

Scottish Highland Ponies

This = successful day!

So all in all, we had a great time out as a family, but I don't think we will be making a return visit any time this year, or decade, or ever. Lesson learned...

Russ' belated Father's Day present finally arrived. I don't know about your hubbies, but mine likes to see if he can get all of the groceries bags into the house in ONE trip. Depending on the shopping day, this can sometimes seem like an impossible task... but not anymore! Meet Russ' new favorite gadget:

The One Trip Grip Grocery Bag Holder

One Trip Grip Grocery Bag Holder

I originally saw this on Pinterest, and thought it was GENIUS! So I got him two- one for each hand. He can clip all those bags on these puppies, and the ergonomic handles will make carrying in all of my groceries in one trip a delightful, comfortable experience. Love!

I am having a 31 party Thursday night, and I am excited about my menu. Everything is bite-sized finger foods, so no need for utensils. I'll post pics later in the week. Have a good one!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Father's Day and Coloring

We had a great Father's Day weekend. Hope you all did too! Addison decided to get her Dadda a mouse pad with her picture on it so she could encourage him when he re-starts his classes on Monday! Now when he is working on his computer, he gets to see this cute little face!

One of the gifts I got Russ is being shipped in from Antarctica or something, so once it arrives I will post a picture on here. Kinda' silly, but fun nonetheless. I also made him a special treat. Russ loves chocolate covered cherries. When we were dating, this bit of information got out, so when we got married, Russ received boxes and boxes of his favorite treat. Fortunately for him, I don't like them, so he didn't have to share. Unfortunately for him, he had so many he about made himself sick on them. Since then, he has eaten them sparingly, but a few weeks ago we had an open house at church for some of our high school graduates and one of the Moms made chocolate covered cherries. According to Russ, they were the best he had ever tasted. So being the good wife I am, I tracked down the recipe and was very graciously given exact instructions on how to make these treats. The credit for this recipe goes to Leah Watson; she gives them away at Christmas and they are a huge hit. They take a little time, but if you know someone who likes them, I have been told they are pretty amazing. This was a true labor of love for me, since I was actually taking the time to dip something in chocolate that I wouldn't actually eat...

Here is the recipe:

3 T butter, softened
3 T Karo syrup
1/4 t salt
2 cups powdered sugar
50 Maraschino cherries, with stems (more on amount later)
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 T Crisco

Start by draining your cherries on a few paper towels. Leah gets her cherries at Costco, and she makes them in batches of 50. I got mine at Walmart, and two jars yielded me approximately 50 usable cherries. Some of them were squashed and some were missing stems, so Russ just ate those...

Now you make your white mixture. Combine your butter, syrup, and salt until creamy. Gradually mix in 1 cup of the powdered sugar with a fork. Once the first cup is absorbed, add the second cup of powdered sugar. Turn this mix out onto your counter and get in there with your hands.

Knead the mixture like you would a bread dough. It will eventually absorb all of the powdered sugar until it looks like this...

Now you need to wrap each cherry in about 1 t of the white mixture. I used a measuring spoon since this was my first attempt at making these goodies. The recipe says you should have enough white mixture to wrap 50 cherries. I was only able to wrap 41. So I guess I used a little too much on a few of them.

Wrapping can be a bit messy and at times, frustrating, but be patient. Make sure your cherries are dry enough for the dough to stick, but not drained like a vampire had at them or they won't be juicy at all (nice analogy, right?). I would take my 1 t of the white mixture and flatten it between my palms. Then I would wrap the cherry and roll it a little between my palms until it formed a smooth ball. Just when you think it's going to crumble and fall to pieces, it comes together. Something about the warmth from your hands makes it work- just make sure it is completely sealed before moving on to the next step.

Now you dip them in chocolate. Microwave chocolate chips and Crisco until smooth.

These should be refrigerated overnight to set the chocolate. This is where I made my first mistake. I would recommend putting parchment paper on a cookie sheet and sticking this in the fridge. Then you can easily remove the cherries on to your serving platter the next day. I put them on parchment paper on my counter. Then I transferred them to my platter, and they were still sticky, so this made a mess. An the next day when I sat them out to eat, they were stuck to the platter. Thankfully, they are good enough that people didn't seem to mind that they had to work a little to get one. We had 20+ people on Sunday for Father's Day, and the house handled the crowd and flow of traffic better than I had designed, so that was a relief. We also had Grandma Lundvall's famous homemade ice cream. She made original, and I made a batch of cookies 'n' cream. Although I don't have a picture, here is the recipe:

5 eggs
2 1/1 cups of sugar
2 T vanilla
1/2 t salt
1 quart heavy cream
5 cups milk
1/2 package of Oreo cookies, in pieces (optional)

Beat eggs until thick. Gradually add sugar until dissolved. Add vanilla and salt, and then stir in cream. Pout into ice cream maker and add milk to the fill line. Freeze as directed by your machine. If making cookies 'n' cream version, mix in cookie pieces before serving.

Here is Addison on Father's Day...

Pretty dress from Ms. Olga

She has really started to get into coloring. Not much will hold her attention for more than 15 minutes or so, but bust out a Praise Baby video or her coloring books and she is captivated...

Something was obviously funny...

Coloring a birthday picture for Aunt "Yinsey"

We are headed to the Billings Zoo on Saturday, and Addison has never been, so it will hopefully be a successful trip. More pictures to come!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Kitchen Conquests

I love to bake, and I am always looking for new recipes, especially desserts. For several years now, I have been looking for the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe. I've tried dozens, but have never been satisfied with any of them... until now.

I like a thick, cakey cookie. Moist, chewy, deliciousness- none of that thin, crispy stuff for me. I had found this recipe, which is SOOO easy to make, especially when you're in a hurry. Russ loved it, and the peanut butter is a nice twist, but I was still searching. So this week I came across a Martha Stewart recipe that is officially my new favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe. I made a small batch to see if we would like it, and will def be making a much larger batch tonight.

Getting prepared

Doesn't look super special yet...

Until they come out and you see they have stayed nice and fluffy and amazing!
 So if you like your cookies cakey- this may be the recipe for you. If you like them another way, just ignore this and realize that we probably can't be friends any more...

On to other kitchen adventures. So Russ and I are both competitive, which makes for some fun times and some not so fun times, depending on the outcome of the competition. We usually try to stay on the same team, so that we leave on the same page- both happy we won or both mad at the other team for cheating, which they obviously did, if we lost. But this week we got competitive with each other. I don't even remember how it started, but someone threw down a salsa challenge, and we both rose to the occasion.

I will say that we like different types of salsa. My Granny Bolton made the best of a lot of things, but I really like her salsa. It was not chunky and had a strong tomato flavor with not a lot of heat. I compare it to Chili's salsa, which I adore and miss A LOT! Russ likes chunky salsa, with more garlic and heat, like the fresh salsa from Blair's (for you Wyoming people). We found recipes online...

HIS      MINE   
Let the contest begin.

Russ' battle station. He had to do a lot of chopping by hand.

My station

And I am not allowed around knives for very long, so I got to use my handy dandy food processor.

My finished product

Russ' finished product

The only problem with this competition is that we both think we won. I love my salsa, and he loves his. Guess it depends on what kind of salsa you like, but since this is my blog, I am declaring it a big win for me a draw. We are both happy with what we ended up with, so I guess that's the best outcome, right?

I was able to finish up a few projects. When we built our house, I found some cute turquoise accents at Hobby Lobby that inspired my master bath decor, but I never could find any art I liked to hang on the wall. But I did find some fabric I loved, so I made my own art. I like how it turned out, and it was super easy and inexpensive.

Love my stapler! Canvas and material for my "art piece." Check.

Cute assistant that was blinded by the flash. Check.

Ta-da! I believe I will hang it on the wall above the toilet. Picture to come later.

She got bored as I continued with the next project, so she sat down with a good book.

And checked with me periodically to see how it was coming along...

So my final project of the week was my patriotic bandana tablecloth. Saw the tutorial here, and although I'm not much of a seamstress, I can handle straight lines. Most of the time...

Six bandanas of each color...

Lots of pinning...

Lots of sewing straight lines for each bunch...

It's a little big for my island (3 squares x 6 squares), but will look better on my dining room table or my patio table. Now I will warn you, if you are OCD, (and who isn't at least a little?) this project may drive you nuts. You have to put aside your need for things lining up and perfect corners and edges, because these are inexpensive bandanas and they are not always perfect squares. That's why we use the word RUSTIC. It's a great excuse for a little imperfection in life, which I am learning to embrace. Hence having a toddler. And a husband. And a dog. And other mess-up-your plans and your house but still manage to love every second of it. I digress...

Anyway- that's what has been going on in the Lundvall household this week. I hope everyone has an amazing Father's Day weekend. Until next week!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Projects and Ice Cream

This weekend I completed my first "Pallet Project." I had seen this posted on Pinterest, and thought it was something I could manage. So I gathered my materials and coerced asked Russ to help with the power tool section, as sharp objects and I do not get along. First I stained the pallets.

I started with a brush, but it was taking FOREVER...

Russ saved the day with this edger thingy.

This went MUCH faster!

Attaching the legs.

Securing the legs with L brackets.

Attaching the casters.

Finished product!

TA-DA! Needs a wipe-down and a few touch-ups and it's good to go!

This table will go on our back porch with our other patio furniture. I love how it turned out, and although the staining was a pain in the butt and I received a few splinters, I enjoyed making something useful out of something that would have otherwise been thrown away!

Ms. Addison is having a cute week. Although she is doing this screaming thing when she gets frustrated that isn't so cute. Hoping it's a short-lived phase...

After church on Sunday.


Girl loves her some ice cream!

Russ' cousin introduced us to York dark chocolate and peppermint syrup, and my life will never be the same. Yummo! If I could find a way to work it into dinner, I would. For now, I settle for using it on every form of dessert I can...

Well, next project will be my bandana tablecloth for the 4th. We are having family over for Father's Day and grilling, so we are praying for nice weather. Also, Russ and I were thinking of buying a wheelchair-friendly camper, but when we found out it costs about a bazillion dollars more than we wanted to spend, we decided to finish a few rooms in the basement instead. I am planning on doing a lot of DIY projects with that, so hopefully more fun pictures to follow!

Have a great week!