An experiment and a picnic

I mentioned I’ve started baking my own bread again, but did I also mention we don’t have central air in our apartment? That means it’s not always the best idea to have the oven going (even though I did make a mighty tasty coffee cake the other day in 90 degree heat!). Still wanting to make my own bread as much as possible, I decided to experiment with a recipe from The New Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day that can be made in the oven OR in the crock pot. That’s right: bread in a crock pot. And here’s the resulting bread, one from the oven, and one from the crock pot. Can you guess which is which? If you guessed that the darker loaf was from the oven, and the lighter one was from the crock pot, you guessed right. I actually put the crock pot one in the oven to get more of a golden crust when it was done baking (the book suggests using the broiler to do so, but I already had the oven on for the other loaf), but it still didn’t get a golden crust as nice as the oven loaf.The bread was made from the same batch of dough, so the taste was the same. As for the texture on the inside, the two loaves seemed quite similar. I cut the loaves differently (the oven-baked loaf was for my go-to breakfast and the crock pot loaf was for a picnic sandwich), but you can still see the similarity in crumb.  For the picnic sandwich, I looked at this recipe for guidance but used whatever I already had in the fridge. Here’s how I assembled mine:

1. I Cut off the top of my loaf, pulled out the inside of the bread (I’ll tell you what I used that part of the bread for later!), and brushed olive oil along the inside.
2. Then I placed multiple layers of raw red bell pepper, spinach, mozzarella, basil, salami, ham, and cream cheese inside.
3. Lastly, I put the top of the bread loaf back on, wrapped the whole thing tightly in plastic wrap, and let it sit in the fridge weighed down with a full yogurt container for a few hours.

I sliced the sandwich before we left for our picnic and grabbed some watermelon and pretzels, and then we were off to enjoy our tasty picnic.We had a really relaxing time with a great view. Lillian enjoyed looking at the water and playing with daddy in the shade of a nice big tree, and I tried my best not to eat the entire picnic loaf!

What are your favorite picnic foods? Have you tried any kitchen experiments lately?

xx Caitlyn

P.S. Remember these gorgeous picnics?

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Mornings

Wouldn’t you love this morning view?

Until I had my daughter, I was never a morning person. Absolutely could not get out of bed, and didn’t know how to communicate in a way that didn’t come off as grumpy (whether I was actually in a bad mood or not) for 30 minutes to an hour after I woke up. But just as “me time” has changed, so have my mornings. 

I wake up to a smiling baby every morning, waiting to be changed before I feed her in the quiet of the new day. Then we snuggle with dad in bed for a little while before he starts coffee. Chad and I enjoy our first cup while chatting or while I read to Lillian, and often eat peanut butter toast with honey. If it’s not raining we enjoy our second cup of coffee while going for a walk (Lily tends to fall asleep in the stroller). Sometimes we walk along the river, and sometimes we go to Frederik Meijer Gardens

I absolutely love mornings now–something I never thought I’d say! In a couple weeks I’m going to start working again, and although it’s going to be super part time, I’m sad to be giving up our wonderful morning routine three to four days a week. 

What are your mornings like? Do you have a favorite breakfast, or even eat breakfast at all? How about a favorite coffee or tea, or a favorite mug?

xx Caitlyn

Summer Bucket List 2016

Lately I’ve seen a few blogs with lists of things to try to squeeze in before summer is over. I just keep thinking–but friends, we’re only about a month in! And while I am a bit late in posting this year’s Summer Bucket List, I have a great excuse: I moved countries AND I have a baby. Forgive me?:-)Summer Bucket List 2016I like making seasonal bucket lists because they help me remember the fun things I do over the seasons. They remind me to do more and to try new things, too. This is my 4th Summer Bucket List on the blog, and each time I’ve made one I’ve tried to add some things I know I’ll do with a reminder (though it doesn’t seem like eating s’mores should need a reminder!), as well as some things I hope to try/do. This year’s list has some tried and true things to check off, like making the watermelon rind pickles enjoyed at the Pretentious Tea Party again or going to the beach and grilling. It also has new things, like lots of fun stuff with our Lily (we’ve already finished the summer reading program at our local library!) and attempting to replicate amazing choux cream pastries I had at my favorite bakery in Japan

Despite posting my list after summer already started, I have started checking things off. I’m looking forward to sharing my summer adventures with you, but in the meantime, what are some fun things you’ve got planned?

xx Caitlyn

Home in Michigan

We’ve been back in Michigan a little over two months now and we’re getting settled more and more. Some things are easy to get used to (doctors speaking fluent English! more affordable food!), and other things a little harder (no trains! where are the vending machines and convenient stores? where is the RAMEN!?).

It’s been super fun introducing Lillian to family and friends, and in between time spent taking care of her I’ve been able to start making my own bread again (this book is great if you want to start making your own, too!), prepare freezer meals for those really busy days (the BBQ Beef & Carrots and the Honey Dijon Chicken & Potatoes from this set of meals were fabulous so far!), and work on some crafty projects here and there–like this hedgehog cross stitch I started when I was pregnant last fall!
I never thought I had the patience for cross stitch, but I decided to give it a try again after making these little matryoshka. I usually worked on the hedgehog and mushroom project while listening to a podcast when Lillian was napping (my current favorites are Invisibilia and Gastropod, you?), or while rocking her to sleep. If I was rocking her I often just had classical nap time music playing, and found I’d get lost in The Flow of sewing–very meditative! I guess I found a patience I didn’t know I had!

This cross stitch was a kit I purchased from sewingseed, and I was really happy with it. All of the thread was pre-cut and organized, and there were clear instructions for a beginner. Sometimes I got sick of having to re-thread my needle so frequently, but at least I didn’t end up waving anyone up for dinner**. Fortunately, I remembered my mom always used magnets and a magnetic board to help keep her place when doing cross stitch and was able to purchase a cheap set. I think I would have experienced a lot more frustration trying to keep my place with the pattern had I not gotten place-keepers! I definitely appreciate all of the lovely cross stitching my mother has done even more after making one myself.

I’ve got one more cross stitch project to go, and after that I’m not sure if I’ll continue with cross stitching or not. Somehow it feels like I should be making my own design rather than doing someone else’s, sort of like when doing adult coloring. I enjoy both, but I feel like I want to take things a step farther and create more from my own imagination! What do you think?

xx Caitlyn

**Once in a crafting meetup in Tokyo our lovely Russian teacher told us a short sewing-related folktale: In old times, people felt they should give soldiers passing by a meal. One day a woman was sewing with such long thread that she was waving her arm in and out of the window and a soldier–thinking it was an invitation for a meal–came up to ask what was for dinner! You can read another little tale she told us here.

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Excuse the mess!

The final countdown is on: less than two weeks until we pack up our (many) bags and haul ourselves to another country! We’ve made the move back and forth from Michigan and Japan several times, but this will be the first time making the journey with a sweet baby in tow (who also happens to get pretty fussy whenever she’s away from home!). I’m a little nervous about a lot of different things, but I just keep telling myself we can make it through anything if we’re all together! Let the packing begin! Messy, messy…!

In the meantime, we’ve been trying our best to get ready for the move in between making sure our little sweet pea’s needs are met. This may be the last time living in Japan for us (at least for a while), so we’re been doing our best to get a fill of some of the things we’ll miss the most! My top three? Friends, food and pastries! (Specifically yakiniku, ramen & rice balls for food, and amazing cakes & cream puffs from our favorite bakery for pastries!).

Wait, can I add a couple more? I’ll also really miss cute Japanese gardens and cherry blossom season! And barley tea! And…well, I guess I’ll miss a lot…!

What would you miss the most about where you’re living if you had to pick up and move? Wish us luck–things are getting a little messy around here!!😉

xx Caitlyn

57 things series: Butter Chicken Curry

The first weekend I was home from the hospital after having Lillian, Chad brought home Indian take-out from a great restaurant nearby our apartment. I am not exaggerating when I say that it. was. AMAZING. Everything from the mildly spicy tandoori chicken to the carrot dressing on the salad. But most of all, the butter chicken curry! To say the least, a lunch set from that restaurant will definitely be something to pine for upon our return to Michigan.  On the bright side, the unavailability of the meal in the near future inspired me to take a shot at number 5 on the 57 things list: Order take-out when necessary—then try to make your order from scratch, at home, the next week.  I actually tried a couple recipes for butter chicken, but couldn’t quite get the full body the take-out curry had. After pulling from a few different recipes and adding some of my own ideas, however, I came up with a pretty darned good butter chicken that will do the trick. I think next time I might try adding sautéed shredded carrots to bring a little more thickness to the curry–what do you think?
img_5480 Crockpot Butter Chicken Curry
Serves 4-6

Marinade
1/2 c. coconut milk (or 1/2 of a standard-sized can)
1 Tbs lemon juice
1 can tomato sauce
1 1/2 Tbs tomato paste
1 1/2 tsp garam marsala
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp cumin
1 Tbs fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 tsp salt

Curry
1 lb boneless chicken thighs
1 Tbs honey
3 Tbs butter
1 red or yellow onion
1/2 tsp garam marsala
1/2 c. coconut milk (or remaining 1/2 of standard-sized can)

Directions
Add all marinade ingredients to a blender and purée until desired smoothness. Pour over chicken in a separate bowl and let sit for at least 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, sauté your onion in 1 Tbs of butter until transparent. Add the chicken and the marinade and cook until the chicken no longer looks pink on the edges. Add the remaining ingredients and pour into a crockpot to cook on high for 1 1/2 hours, or on low for 3 hours. Serve with rice and/or nan.

This post is part of the 57 Things Series. You can read the original post here.

Enjoy!

xx Caitlyn

Around Town: Fukuro no Ouchi (Owl House)

As you may have seen on Instagram over the weekend, I had the pleasure of going with a friend for coffee and cake at an owl cafe! I first came across Fukuro no Ouchi (pronounced oh-oo–chi, not ouchy!) when Chad and I were bumbling around Sugamo waiting for our time slot at Tsuta Ramen, and I had been wanting to go ever since!
                           There is a little bell outside you can ring before going in. When you are seated in the cafe, a waitress comes up to explain how the cafe works. The cafe charges 1500 yen for one hour, and that includes time with the owls and a drink. You are given a number, and when your number is called you can go in the owl room to touch and hold the owls for about ten minutes. While you wait, you can enjoy a beverage and (for an extra 500 yen) a cute cake. You are also encouraged to peruse the gift shop.
Our call number and some of the cakes available. Also some really informative English😉

The owl room!

This was my favorite owl. Her name is Milky, and she shares my birthday month of November!


Aren’t they marvelous? I love the one in the top middle–it reminds me of a teddy bear!

The owl in the middle right pictured above was smaller than my hand!



                       It felt so amazing to hold such beautiful creatures!

Fukuro no Ouchi is about a ten minute walk from Sugamo station, and is open from 1-8 on weekdays (closed Wednesdays) and 12-8 on weekends. For more information, you can visit the Fukuro no Ouchi website (Japanese only). I really enjoyed the cafe, and definitely recommend a visit if you’re in Tokyo!

xx Caitlyn