Projects

A Nice Distraction

20140227-141234.jpg

Click the picture for a larger image

Spent a lot of time doing some art journaling today. Kind of in a bummer of a mood, but drawing, painting, gluing, coloring… all of those things served as a nice distraction.

20140227-141248.jpg

The words in  the background are lyrics I pulled from a pretty song I heard the other day called “Broken” by Lauren Hoffman.

In kind of a funk today, but I know everything will be alright. See you here tomorrow.

Food & Cooking

Banana Nut Muffins

Last Saturday was National Banana Bread day, so I decided to whip up some banana bread–muffin style! I brought most of the Banana Nut muffins to work, but I saved a couple to eat up at home, too.

20140226-130420.jpgThe recipe is pretty simple, and only takes about a half an hour. What I especially like is that there are so many options for add-ins. You could choose several different kinds of nuts, or even put in chocolate chips!

20140226-130430.jpg

My favorite way to eat banana bread is when it’s been warmed with butter. Mmmmm 🙂

20140226-130437.jpg

Find the recipe below (adapted slightly from my mom’s recipe), and enjoy!

20140226-130407.jpg

Banana Nut Muffins

Ingredients

1 1/4 c. flour

2/3 c. sugar

2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

1-1 1/2 c. mashed banana (depending on your taste!)

1/3 c. butter

2 Tbs. milk

2 eggs

Optional: 1 tsp. vanilla

1/4 chopped walnuts (or hazelnuts, chocolate chips, etc.)

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Mix all dry ingredients together in a medium mixing bowl (leave out the nuts for now!).

3. In a separate bowl, mix together the wet ingredients before slowly adding them to the dry ingredients. Fold in your choice of nuts.

4. Fill a muffin pan with cupcake liners and spray them with cooking spray before adding a good amount of batter to each one. Or, if you’d prefer to make a loaf of bread, grease a loaf pan and add the batter to that instead.

5. Cook muffins for about 20-25 minutes, or a loaf for 35-45 minutes. Use a toothpick to make sure the batter is cooked all the way through. *Tip: if the muffins or your loaf of bread looks like it’s getting too dark, but the inside hasn’t finished cooking, cover with aluminum foil for the remaining cooking time. Keep checking about every five minutes.

6. Let cool, and serve (or, eat one after a couple minutes with butter, because who can really resist warm muffins out of the oven?).

 

Food & Cooking

Nutella + Croissants = Love

Breakfast in ParisBreakfast on our first morning in Paris, March 2012. Croissant, baguette, and hot cocoa.

When we took our 18-day FISH trip a couple years ago (France, Italy, Spain and Holland), we enjoyed some awesome food. I especially indulged in eating croissants in France–sometimes just buttery and flaky ones, other times buttery and flaky ones with chocolate inside. Since going to France, I have yet to enjoy croissants that are as delicious as the ones we ate in Paris. (I mentioned before that Starbucks’ new La Boulange line has some croissants, but they can’t compare.) Elizabeth Bard describes croissants perfectly in her book Lunch in Paris, which my sister-in-law and I made recipes from for our book club months ago.

I like flake, a croissant with an outer layer so fine and brittle that you get crumbs all over yourself from the first bite. When you pull it apart there should be some empty space, pockets of air between the buttery layers of dough. When you finally do rip off a hunk to dip in your coffee, it stretches a little before it breaks. More crumbs, but utterly worth the mess.

Ahhhhhhh *drools*….oh yeah…where was I? Oh yes, I was reaching a point about all this croissant-love. After leaving Paris, we headed to Rome, and part of the breakfast served at our hotel was croissants and Nutella. This was my first experience eating Nutella. (I had always mistakenly thought Nutella originated in France–when in actuality it’s from Italy–because when I studied abroad one of my French dorm-mates was constantly eating the stuff. That was the first time I had ever seen or heard of Nutella, so I wrongly assumed Nutella was French. My error was corrected by one of my lovely French friends a couple weeks after we got back from Europe, but when we were in Rome I was like, “Wow, Italians love Nutella, too!”)

Apparently, everyone loves Nutella (and why wouldn’t they!?), because the Nutella-croissant combo was also offered to us at our B&B in Barcelona. I quickly realized that I was developing an unhealthy addiction to the new-to-me breakfast treat, so it was good to return to Japan where Nutella was too pricey to buy regularly.

IMG_9895[1]

Believe it or not, I actually never did purchase Nutella–not until I needed some for our bake-off last weekend. In honor of those glorious days in Europe, I decided to whip up some Pillsbury croissants this morning to have with some of the leftover Nutella. Of course the little meal wasn’t the same as what we had on our trip, but it definitely was good enough for a stand-in on a blustery winter morning. I’ll never tell how much I ate.

Do you have any foods that just aren’t the same as ones you had while traveling? What are some breakfasts you enjoyed while on a trip?

Projects

Easy Vintage Bookmark DIY

Lately I’ve been reading several books at once: a book for fun, a book or two for things I’m learning about, and a cookbook or two. This has left me wanting for bookmarks–pretty bookmarks to be more exact! I decided to whip up some easy vintage-themed ones to solve my problem.

IMG_9885

First I gathered materials: Mod Podge, Extreme Elmer’s Glue, heavy card stock, a bookmark template I found online, a pencil, scissors, a brush for the Mod Podge, newspaper to protect my table, and some lovely vintage prints (I found my free vintage printables here and here!).IMG_9886

Then I got to work. After cutting out my template, I traced it several times onto my card stock and cut out the bookmark bases. For one of my bookmarks, I collaged several bee-related images together, and for the others I just tried to trace the template over an interesting area of the print. IMG_9887

After gluing the images to the card stock bases, I used Mod Podge to seal everything together. Once the bookmarks were dry, I used a mini hole punch to make holes for yarn. (You can see the blue hole punch is on the one bookmark that I tried to collage 🙂 )

IMG_9888

Last but not least, I threaded some yarn through the holes I made. At first, the bookmarks had curled slightly after drying, but they flattened easily just by bending them gently in the opposite direction.

IMG_9889Voilà! Four easy, pretty little bookmarks for my reading leisure.

Have you ever made your own bookmarks? If so, what was your approach? And in what books did you tuck them?

P.S. When I was making these, this song came on Pandora. Isn’t it nice?

Food & Cooking · Monday Matters

Annual Bake-Off

This past Saturday we hosted this year’s annual Bake-Off, using the occasion to have a housewarming party as well. Before the party started, we prepared some fruit, cheese, sausage, crackers and nuts on the table, along with utensils, plates, and napkins, etc.

20140217-194737.jpg

20140217-194838.jpg

We also set up an area with coffee, hot water and tea, wine, soda, and punch. The temperature outside was just perfect for leaving the beer to stay cold on our back porch 🙂

20140217-194847.jpg

I adapted an easy Dreamsicle Punch recipe I saw to make a pink version more fitting for the Valentine’s weekend. Just combine a quart of Raspberry sherbet, a quart of vanilla ice cream, a liter of sprite or 7-up, and a can of cream soda to recreate this simple punch yourself. We added some sliced strawberries for extra decoration.

20140217-194910.jpgAs guests started arriving, our table started filling up with more and more delicious baked treats. Chocolate seemed to be in everyone’s dish this year, and everything was so decadent!

20140217-194751.jpg

20140217-194803.jpg

I made a Nutella Strawberry Tart, but I was worried there wouldn’t be enough for everyone, so I made extra filling and made mini versions in phyllo dough as well.

20140217-194826.jpg

20140217-194856.jpg

My friend Kara made some dense pumpkin muffins with whipped cream topping.

20140217-194928.jpg

A friend of the family made this chocolate cake with almond slivers. So pretty and delicious!

20140217-194938.jpg

My friend Caitlin made this lovely cake with cocoa and coffee flavors. Such nice presentation (and, once again, so yummy!).

20140217-194947.jpg

On this plate you can see a slice of the tart, a slice of the chocolate cake with almond slivers, and a slice of a fantastic Guiness Chocolate cake that I unfortunately didn’t get a full picture of (however, many of us teasingly compared its appearance to that cake in the movie Matilda). I can neither confirm nor deny tasting some of EVERYTHING.

20140217-194957.jpg

My sister-in-law Ariel took this picture showing my mother-in-law’s awesome French Vanilla Cherry Cream Puffs with Chocolate Ganache alongside my tart.

20140217-195004.jpgAbove you can see Ariel’s very popular Samoa Brownies.

20140217-195016.jpgI didn’t manage to take many pictures aside from ones involving all of the pretty treats, but Ariel took this nice one of my friend Tia and I giggling in our sugar comas.

20140217-195030.jpg

She also took this one of my brother-in-law, who was dealing with his sugar coma by passing out on the floor.

There were so many fantastic baked goods this year that voting was as difficult as ever. In the end it came to a very close match between the mini Nutella Strawberry Tarts and the Cream Puffs. We’re still working on some of the leftovers–thank goodness everyone took a little “variety” plate home! I’m already looking forward to next year 🙂

What are some baked treats you’d like to try showing off at a party sometime?

Food & Cooking · Projects

Spreading a little love

I’ve been enjoying doing a few little crafty things here and there: making cute little robot cards using a pattern from the book Craft-a-Day: 365 Simple Handmade Projects, writing Valentines and a few other letters that I’m looking forward to sending, and getting crafty in the kitchen with special Valentine treats as well 🙂

IMG_20140211_170414_959

I just love having sealed envelopes filled with hand-written messages ready to be sent! They’re even better when surrounded by lots of fun craft supplies!

IMG_20140211_171450_263

Here are the two robot cards I made. In Craft-a-Day, the author suggests using paper for the entire craft, but since I didn’t have any grey paper I just used foam. I thought the cards turned out pretty cute–one of robots is saying konnichiwa!, and the other one is saying hello.

20140213-211316.jpg

I also had a lot of fun making heart-shaped rice crispy treats today to bring into work tomorrow. I just made them like usual, spread them in a cookie sheet, let them cool, cut out hearts with a cookie cutter, and then frosted half of each one with a Strawberry Shortcake frosting.

20140213-211324.jpg

So easy and cute!

What I love most about the crafty things I’ve been up to this week is that they are all things I get to give to other people that spread a little love. I really enjoy that sort of thing anyway, but I realized after reading a couple of blogs this week that it just so happens to be “Random Acts of Kindness” week, too. Have you done anything kind for others this week, or received any kind surprises? Have you been up to anything crafty this week?

Food & Cooking · Monday Matters

Happy Lunar New Year

20140210-205311.jpg

I got the idea for this cute little paper cut here.

We’re several days into the start of the Lunar New Year, and this year is the year of the wooden horse. Although in Japan they don’t officially celebrate the Lunar New Year anymore, they do still follow the zodiac, so their New Year cards sent out to arrive on January first are almost always decorated with the yearly animal. Obviously we’re not in Japan anymore (stop reminding us!), but we figured we could still get down on some Japanese-Chinese food in honor of the Lunar New Year.

20140210-205226.jpg

We got an unexpected extra treat on the day we planned our little celebration: my brother and sister-in-law asked us to go to lunch at our favorite Chinese restaurant. We love the Fortune Cookie in Grand Haven, and always indulge in their FABULOUS crab rangoons. Several hours after that awesome meal, it was time to get started making our own.

20140210-205235.jpg

Don’t judge me for getting carried away with my deco.

I decided to make Japanese gyoza, often referred to as pot stickers in English. I was SO glad I purchased a little gyoza mold before leaving Japan–it made the whole process much less labor intensive. (I got the recipe for the filling here.)

20140210-205244.jpg

Yum! They turned out great!

20140210-205256.jpg

Chad decided to make tenshinhan, which is a dish we often ate at our favorite Chinese restaurant in Japan called Osho. This dish involves rice, crab, egg, green onions and all kinds of other deliciousness you can find in the recipe here. We were so pleased to finally find a recipe for this dish as I had been looking everywhere to no avail. I even asked the staff at Fortune Cookie, to which they replied, “Where did you have this dish?” And I said, “Um…a Chinese restaurant.” They asked, “Where?” I replied, “…Japan.” They didn’t seem to like that very much, and just replied by saying, “That’s not Chinese food.” Anyway, the happy ending to the story is we finally got a recipe, though Chad said he’d like to tweak it in the future (less eggs, more sauce, etc.).

20140210-205305.jpg

It was a lot of fun preparing the meal together, and just as much fun digging in. Have you ever tried your hand at making recipes like these?