Summer Bucket List

Summer Bucket List

I know we’re already a couple of weeks into summer, but I’m finally getting around to sharing this summer’s bucket list with you. I noticed there are surprisingly fewer items to be checked off this year than in years past, but I think part of that is because I won’t be getting to make jams or pickles and that sort of thing while here in Japan (I just don’t want to invest in all of the necessary supplies when I’m not sure when we’re moving back and I’ve already got all the supplies all in Michigan). Nevertheless, I think I’ve still got some fun things/goals to check off my newest list.

Summer Bucket ListI’ve already finished my first book of the three I’m aiming to read: The Miniaturist. The book was given 4 out of 5 stars, took place in Amsterdam, and seemed really intriguing, so I decided to read it. During the first half of the book, I couldn’t put it down. All I wanted to do was read more and more. However, the second half of the book just led to one depressing turn after another, ending in nothing but unresolved mysteries. I felt almost cheated by the lack of any resolution! Perhaps my next book will give me more satisfaction–I’m just beginning to dig into Keys to Good Cooking (I know! An entirely different genre entirely. I like to change things up from book to book).

Anyway, that’s my list for this summer. Have you got anything fun or new you’ll be doing this summer? I’d love to hear about it!

xx Caitlyn

Summer Bucket List

Writing Practice

This morning as a needed distraction, I finally got around to working on one of the writing prompts from 642 Things to Write About. On my summer bucket list, I had hoped to try out at least one writing prompt a week, and today’s attempt was a good reminder that I need to stay in practice! (Perhaps I should add that goal to my Autumn Bucket list this year!) It has been quite a while since I’ve done any creative writing, and I definitely need some brushing up. However, without further adieu, I’ve decided to share what I came up with today here with you.

The Prompt: A woman thinks she might be living next door to her grandson

Beautiful autumn window
source

My Attempt:

    There were six squares in each window pane, and each one could form the perfect picture frame for a scene outside. Eleanor thought about this, sipping her morning coffee and adjusting her viewpoint for each square as though she were looking through the lens of a camera. That little blue house across the road looks just right at this angle, she thought. The simple, cottage-style house fills the right two-thirds of the frame, and leaves the left third of the frame open for the green bushes on the bottom and the arching, yellowing leaves peaking in at the top. Yes, Eleanor nodded to herself, composing a picture in thirds often makes it more interesting.
     Eleanor slurped her coffee and considered the flavor filling her palate. This morning’s coffee was an autumn blend, matching the fall shadows blanketing the trees outside, the brisk air, and the calm feeling that came over Eleanor every year after summer had passed. With the autumn coffee lingering on her tongue, Eleanor took a bite of a homemade coffee cake scone, closing her eyes and trying to recognize individual flavors: cinnamon, nutmeg, all spice.
     She had so much time to bake these days. It was something she always loved. She sometimes donated her baked goods to church-related organizations, brushing people off when they tried to approach her and ask her about her delicious recipes. Her nose would crinkle up and she’d hobble away, waving her hands as though she were shooing a fly. It had always been difficult for her to accept compliments, though she secretly loved the attention she got for the things she made. She remembered her grandchildren going wild over her jam tarts when they were little. Each tart would be shaped differently, and Eleanor used several jams as fillings. Apricot, raspberry, blueberry, kiwi…the tarts filled the table like a rainbow.
     Eleanor smiled as she remembered their tiny little fingers reaching for one tart after another. She lightly touched the smooth surface of the same table the tarts had been spread across years ago, tracing the knots of the wood in several places before reaching for her coffee cup and gazing back outside.
     Those are new neighbors, Eleanor observed, looking out a different window pane. A young man and woman carried cardboard boxes from a blue station wagon into the quaint red brick house. The woman wore a simple white cotton tee-shirt dress with navy blue leggings and flats, her long strawberry blond hair pulled into a loose pony tail. The man wore jeans, loafers and a three-quarter sleeve plaid button-up shirt. His dark brown hair was a little long and messy, his smile wide and happy.
     Eleanor shifted her focus to the boxes. The last time she moved must have been thirty years ago or more. What had she brought with her, from place to place? Books, bowls, blankets. Cats, cups, and candles. Usual things, she supposed. Eleanor wondered what would fill the red brick house across the street–what would be neatly unpacked from all of the boxes as the couple made their house a home. She stood from her chair and held onto the wall for support as she made her way closer to the window that framed the young couple moving in.
     Pushing a stray strand of silver hair from her face, Eleanor squinted outside, trying to make out the faces of the couple. She started, suddenly, eyebrows raised with a look of disbelief. Could that be… No, no. Eleanor had thought she’d seen her grandchildren all over town for years, realizing she was always wrong, always creating an embarrassing scene. It had been so long since she had seen any of them. That’s how life worked, she supposed: over time, people spread out all over the globe and got caught up in life, forgetting about grandmothers. There just isn’t always time for grandmothers.
     This man across the street looked so much like Noah, her very first grandchild. As she watched him, Eleanor felt a sense hope and comfort in his smile, something familiar in his expression and in his eyes. How would Noah have ended up here, in a house directly adjacent to his old, lonely grandmother? And furthermore, why wouldn’t he have told her, or come to visit? Surely if Noah were to be that close in proximity to his grandmother, it couldn’t inconvenience him much to stop by for coffee. She played the scene out in her mind, imagining Noah giving her a great big hug, saying it’s been so long and does she ever make those tarts anymore?
     Eleanor shook her head and pulled herself along the table back to her coffee. She slid her cup and her plate over to the opposite side, sitting down in front of it with a new view out the windows. It couldn’t be Noah. Eleanor turned her attention to her scone, pushing crumbs onto her fingertips and bringing them to her lips. She squinted up at the blue, cloudless sky out the window. Six new squares to contemplate now, Eleanor thought, and she took another sip of coffee and tried to push Noah from her mind.

Projects · Summer Bucket List

Summer Bucket List: Make a Fire Pit

We finally got around to making a fire pit in our back yard, and I’m super proud to say that it cost us exactly $0. That’s right, we didn’t have to pay a cent to make it!IMG_20140816_145626_806Some of you who know me have probably heard me talk about the work we’ve been doing on the front of our house, specifically describing the hours I spent pulling rocks out of the side garden. While it was a huge time investment to gather so many rocks, we were able to put them to use when we made our fire pit. We were able to use some stone borders from the front garden as well. IMG_20140816_151515_972

Chad dug the pit, and we worked together to cut out roots and arrange the stone border.

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Once that was done, we added some dirt back into the pit around the sides of the border for support, and then sprayed everything down with water to help sink the border down and stabilize it.  IMG_20140816_152922_529

For the last step, we took some of the rocks I had pulled from the front garden (yes, even after this project we still have leftover rocks!) and arranged them around the fire pit as a border.

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We tried a little fire right after that, but then I had to go to work. Unfortunately we’ve had a lot of rain since then, but we’re really looking forward to having a bonfire and whipping up some delicious s’mores soon!IMG_20140816_154953_269

Have you ever been able to up-cycle something for a project in your yard?

Summer Bucket List

Summer Bucket List: A “Pretentious” Tea Party

Earlier this week, some lovely ladies got together at my house for a “pretentious” tea party. I am so excited to share pretty pictures from the event with you!

img_2789img_2790First off, allow me to introduce the guests! Left to right above: Me, Amanda, Caitlin and Tia.

img_2791Also present (and behind the camera of many of the photos): Ariel!

img_2787Next up, take a look at our pretty spread! Amanda brought most of the fine dishes and decor for the party, Caitlin brought the elegant flowers, and everyone contributed to the delicious food and tea.img_2783img_2782 (2)10489725_10202675903719276_4100630429800771750_nThe food: Lemon bars, tea brined chicken, cranberry feta salad, pickle wraps, fruit salad, tartlets, coconut macarons, watermelon pickles, and vanilla orange biscotti. The tea: Blueberry Green, Amazon Lemon (green Yerbe matte), French Breakfast, and Moroccan Mint.

10583936_10202675907799378_5557907018885636322_nIMG_20140723_174610_833Are you drooling over how delicious this looks? I know, I was too. Please just pat your lips delicately with a napkin so we can keep up the pretense, okay? IMG_20140723_174637_213Hello, dessert. (You may remember Dame Eyola’s Lemon Tart? That recipe is nearly identical to the lemon bars I made. Oh, and remember when Ariel made similar coconut macarons before?) I was pretty happy with my tartlets as that was the first time I made pie crust from scratch. It was surprisingly easy! Caitlin was responsible for the delicious biscotti, which paired wonderfully with the French Breakfast tea. IMG_20140723_174445_557 IMG_20140723_173937_262img_2786img_2785Tartlets and watermelon pickles

img_2792After lots of talking, laughing, and eating, we all teamed up for clean-up time. We were able to get everything put away in no time (though that could have to do with the fact that we gave up on manners after about five minutes and started indulging in food like no one was watching, hence leaving little food to put away!).IMG_0900For a perfect end to the evening, we headed to Odd Side Ales for a beer. How we had room in our tummies after that delectable meal is something of a mystery, but you know how I love a good beer. What a successful evening!

Have you ever attended a tea party? What is your favorite dish for tea party events? (Check out my pinterest board for other tea party ideas in the future!)

Take care darlings!

xx Caitlyn

Around Town · Food & Cooking · Seen/Heard/Tried · Summer Bucket List

Our Anniversary Weekend <3

Yesterday night marked the end of a relaxing, love-filled three and a half-day weekend spent celebrating our sixth anniversary. We had so much fun lounging, going for a 4-mile run to Grand Haven’s beautiful beach, enjoying our niece Lydia’s fifth birthday party, and even crossing some things off my summer bucket list!

On Friday, we started the weekend by driving to Battle Creek and going to Binder Park Zoo. It was a nice, sunny day, so the ride was really enjoyable.IMG_0781 IMG_0782I really appreciated how much space the animals had at Binder Park. For the most part, none of the exhibits really surprised me (perhaps because we saw a lot of the animals abroad, sometimes even in the wild), but I was still really impressed with the giraffes. I got to touch one for the first time, and it just blew my mind how big it was. I also really liked all of the peacocks roaming around (though I failed to get a pretty picture!).

IMG_0785This llama was actually kind of terrifying. You can’t see it in this picture, but it had really huge bottom teeth and could swing its head around at an alarming speed. I suppose I do that sometimes at the prospect of chocolate or good beer, but that’s beside the point.

IMG_0801Mugs at Dark Horse Brewing Company hanging from the ceiling

Speaking of good beer, the next place we headed was Dark Horse Brewing Company. We enjoyed a beer in the beer garden.

IMG_0802This table looked nice from a distance, but it was really awkward to sit in because the top came up above our chests. We felt like little kids trying to reach above for our beverage, and so we moved to another spot.

IMG_0804 IMG_0805 The next place we were headed was Arcadia Ales, but we ran into Sweetwater’s Donuts on the way and (obviously) had to stop.

IMG_0806So many choices! IMG_0807They have a coffee club with mugs!

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Chad helped me eat a New York cheese cake donut that tasted exactly how it looks: like SUGAR. (I’m not complaining…)

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Nom, nom, nom

Finally, we made it to Arcadia Ales, where Chad tried a reuben:

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I tried the Garden and Goat Quesadilla, which was fabulous. Pesto, tomato, red onion, spinach, mushroom, and goat cheese in a flour tortilla with a jalapeno salsa and sour cream on the side. *drools*

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The next morning, we went to Starbucks and finished off a Turtle donut (above) from Sweetwaters that was delightful. We read and talked in the sunshine before heading around town to do some shopping.

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Next up was lunch at a restaurant called Taste of India. We were a little worried at first because the diner was completely empty, but it was nearly 2:00 in the afternoon. We tried the buffet, and enjoyed the curry and other options. I had a yummy mango lassi, and particularly enjoyed the rice pudding offered.

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After lunch, we headed out to see Godzilla at a Cheap Flix theater. I was glad the film only cost $3 to see as I wasn’t too impressed, but I was still filled with a longing for Japan (minus the crazy creatures, obviously).

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Next up, we drove home, and biked around town (Chad ran) before getting some groceries for a picnic dinner.

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We chose proscuitto, fresh mozarella, tomatoes, a warm baguette and fabulous Santiago Olive Oil.

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We also prepared sliced pear, apple and plum.

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It started thunder storming outside, so we decided to have our picnic inside on our living room floor. I reminded me of when we first bought our house and sat on the floor in the dining room with champagne.

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Cheers! Happy Anniversary ❤

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The next morning we lounged around the house, enjoying coffee and nutella croissants (which you know I love!)

These are just a few of the fun things we did over the weekend. I was so happy to have days devoted exclusively to hanging out with my sweetheart, who I am grateful for every day. Looking forward to so many more years with him ahead.

xx

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Good news! My long-time friend and sister-in-law Ariel will be joining me on Little Snail with occasional blog posts! She’s always up to creative and clever things, so I can’t wait to see what she has in store for us 🙂

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Food & Cooking · Summer Bucket List

Bucket List: Watermelon Pickles

So when I put “Make pickles” on my bucket list, I sort of meant traditional dill pickles. While I am hoping to make some of those, too, I was super intrigued by a recipe I came across in a Better Homes & Gardens canning magazine I picked up last summer for Watermelon Pickles. Earlier this week, I finally got around to making them, and I can’t wait to try them!

To be honest, making watermelon pickles is kind of a time investment (but what kind of canning or jamming doesn’t take a bit of time?). The recipe suggests that it takes about an hour of prep time, plus standing overnight, plus 45 minutes of cooking, plus 10 minutes of processing time. I figure that hour of prep time and the 45 minutes of cooking time can be combined with listening to your favorite podcast or music (I chose Dinner Party Download and Radio Lab 🙂 ), and the overnight part can just be spent sleeping!

IMG_20140707_123816_286To start, you’ll need a watermelon that weighs approximately 10 pounds. I cut it into slices, and then cut out chunks of the watermelon and put the chunks in a big bowl. I probably ate about half of the watermelon in between cutting it up and getting the rind ready, and I admit this openly.

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Next comes the tricky part of removing the pink flesh and the green outer portions of the rind. I found that placing the rind as flat as I could on the cutting board and sort of pulling the knife toward my hand was the easiest, but you’ll obviously want to be super careful and find what works the best and in the safest way for you.

IMG_20140707_132332_666From this point, things get quite a bit easier. You chop the rind into squares or other 1-inch shapes, put them into a large nonmetal bowl, and add water and pickling salt.

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IMG_20140707_133714_412Then it’s time to let the rind soak overnight…

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The next day, you’ll rinse and drain the rind, transfer it to a pot filled with enough water to cover the rind, bring it to boiling, and then let it simmer for about 20 minutes.

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Meanwhile, you can prepare your syrup. I used cloves and cinnamon sticks from a local spice shop in Grand Haven. It was so much cheaper than going to the grocery store, and I could choose exactly the amounts I wanted.

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Combine sugar, white vinegar, water, cinnamon and cloves, bring to boiling to dissolve the sugar, and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes.

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Then strain the mixture through a sleeve, reserving the liquid and discarding the solids. Add the tender, drained rind to the syrup, and bring to a boil before simmering, covered, until rind is translucent. Above, you can see the stage my rind had reached before I canned it.

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Lastly, you pack the hot rind and syrup into hot, sterilized canning jars, leaving headspace, and processing for 10 minutes. I got three pint jars out of my rind with some leftover syrup, though the recipe suggests using 6 half-pint jars.

My favorite suggestions I’ve seen online for eating watermelon pickles are trying them in a salad with goat cheese and walnuts, making hors d’oeuvres by wrapping a half a slice of bacon around them and baking them in the oven until the bacon is crisp, using them as a little decorations on sugar cookies or cupcakes, topping ice cream or yogurt with them, using them as a condiment, or just eating them straight out of the jar! I also found a recipe for Sparkling Pear Floats that I am going to try with some of my leftover syrup. I’ll keep you posted on how I consume my delightful watermelon pickles, and in the meantime, leave you with the recipe!

Watermelon Pickles

(from Better Homes & Gardens 2013 Canning Magazine)

1 10-pound watermelon

6 cups water

1/3 cup pickling salt

3 1/2 cups sugar

1 1/2 cups white vinegar

1 1/2 cups water

15 inches stick cinnamon, broken

2 tsp whole cloves

1. Cut rind from watermelon (you should have about 4 1/2 lbs rind). Trim off pink flesh and the green outer portions of the watermelon rind. Cut rind into 1-inch squares or other 1-inch shapes. Measure 9 cups rind.

2. Place the 9 cups rind in a large nonmetal bowl. In another large bowl combine the 6 cups water and the pickling salt; pour over rind (add more water if necessary to cover your rind). Cover bowl and let stand at room temperature overnight.

3. Rinse and drain rind mixture. Transfer to a 4-quart pot. Add enough water to cover. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 20 minutes or until tender; drain.

4. Meanwhile, for syrup, in a 6 to 8-quart stainless-steel, enamel, or nonstick heavy pot combine sugar, vinegar, the 1 1/2 cups water, the cinnamon, and the cloves. Bring to boiling, stirring to dissolve sugar; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Strain mixture through a sieve, reserving liquid. Discard solids; return liquid to pot.

5. Add rind to syrup in pot. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 25 minutes or until rind is translucent. Pack hot rind and syrup into hot sterilized half-pint canning jars, leaving a 1/2-inch headspace. Wipe jar rims: adjust lids and screw bands.

6. Process filled jars in a boiled water canner for 10 minutes (start timing when water returns to boiling). Remove jars from canner; cool on wire racks. Makes 6 half-pints.

Enjoy!
xx

Summer Bucket List

Summer 2014 Bucket List

Michigan is a little behind on the whole “summer” thing, but I’m hoping the weather catches up to the season soon! In anticipation of warmer, sunnier days ahead, I’ve started working on my new bucket list for this year. Some of the to-do’s are the same as ones I chose last year, but what summer is complete without some variation of s’mores or jam-making? Sometimes I had trouble remembering to check off things throughout the summer last year, so this year I printed out this cute “How To Summer” printable and organized my list on it before hanging it up on the wall in my craft room. I’m hoping this helps me stay focused on my summer fun!

IMG_19801Image and download available on youaremyfave.com

Below is my list so far. What have you got planned for summer?

Summer Bucket List 2014

1. Drive-In Movie
2. Binder Park Zoo
4. Go to a Star Party
5. Have a BBQ
6. Go on a picnic
7. Make homemade ice cream
8. Blow bubbles
9. Tie-Dye Shirts
10. Make Bloody Mary’s
12. Make milk carton boats
13. Make pickles
14. Run at least one 5K race
15. Look at bugs/plants/nature under a magnifying glass
16. Go to a museum
17. Have a fancy night dressed up around town
18. Attend a “pretentious” tea party
19. Have a wine and cheese night
20. Have a chocolate tasting party
21. Dandelion Blowing
22. Make/Decorate pottery
23. Traverse City Trip
24. Make macarons
25. Make bread in flower pots
26. Work on our first garden
28. Do a 30-day drawing challenge
29. Do at least one writing prompt a week from 642 Things to Write About
30. Go fishing and/or eat fresh-caught and battered fish
31. Make a fire pit and have a bonfire
32. Build something with wood, a hammer and nails
34. Do another wine and canvas
35. Try Madcap Coffee Company in Grand Rapids
36. Try Drip, Drop, Drink in Muskegon
37. Try Unruly Brewing in Muskegon
38. Try Lemonjellos in Holland
39. Make a fairy garden
40. Buy a cute summer dress