Friday Five: Care Packages

You know that I’m a note card writer, and keep a huge stash of notecards handy in case I have the urge to reach out to someone. Well, sometimes a card isn’t enough. Especially lately, I’ve really noticed that many of the people I care about are really far away from me! Some temporarily, for internships, but some people have relocated permanently, and I really miss seeing their bright smiling faces. I’ve been thinking about ways to remind them how important they are to me, and I’ve reach a conclusion- this will be the summer of care packages!

Care Packages

Nothing too crazy, of course- I’m not independently wealthy. I think that there are a few staples that everyone on my list will enjoy, so here are five things that will be part of my base package:

UD Tervis

  1. Logo cup. I love a 24 ounce University of Dayton Tervis cup for keeping hydrated throughout the day, so one of the two larger Tervis’s, with an appropriate logo, with probably be the base of my summer care packages. Bonus for getting them 20% off at Bed, Bath and Beyond!
  2. Gummy snacks. Gummy foods travel well, and I’ve never met a person that didn’t like Sour Patch kids. There’s also Twizzlers, Swedish Fish, and these really amazing gummy butterflies from my local Market District- they’re pretty incredible.
  3. Gift card! Moving can be expensive, and everyone could use some extra dollars. For the people I’m thinking of now, I bet they would love Starbucks or Chipotle giftcards, for a nice little treat. I could also do Target, but that somehow seems more impersonal…as though a giftcard really has levels of personality. iTunes might also be fun, now that I think of it!Vaseline-Lip-Therapy-Rosy-Lips
  4. Lip balm! It’s summer, and everyone could use a nice lipbalm with some SPF. Yes, I know this is really mom-ing, but I can really never get enough tubes of Burts Bees- they’re stashed everywhere! I am also kind of addicted to this mini Vaseline that I’ve started using, though- it’s supremely moisturizing.
  5. Lastly, something personal. Maybe some fun candles for a friend who will have a birthday while they are away this summer, or a framed photo for my sister, or something covered with OSU to make a fellow Buckeye feel at home, or a book for someone who needs something to do, or something baby related for my new niece. Just something to say, ‘Hi, I was really thinking about you!’.

So that’s it- my five items for summer care packages. As I was typing, I started thinking about all of the people who I could send these to—looks like the post office might get a fair amount of business this summer. If you were getting a friendly package, what would you hope to find inside?

Lemon Strawberry Rhubarb Trifle

My name is Erin, and I cannot stop with rhubarb.

Pretty much, I adore rhubarb. It is delicious, and also reminds me of my grandma, so its pretty much a rock star fruit. Over the weekend, I came through on my plans to make rhubarb syrup, and cannot wait to see how that pairs with some gin this summer. After that was done, though, I was left with a lot of stewed rhubarb goodness, and it really seemed like a shame to waste it! I cooked it down a little more and put it through my food mill, and the result was a glorious pink puree, similar in texture to applesauce.

Evan was on duty on Memorial Day, and I was thinking about what to bring the fire station. I settled on strawberry shortcake, and strawberries are amazing with rhubarb, so I was pretty sure that would be a good use of the sauce. I was also strangely obsessing over lemon cake- I have no idea what my issue was. In any case, I was kind of determined that lemon cake, strawberries, whipped cream, and rhubarb sauce would come together in one glorious dessert. No plan, just fearless determination.

Unfortunately, disaster struck when I tried to release my lemon cake from the pan. I greased the pan, and also lined it with paper, but I’m willing to bet that I didn’t let it cool long enough. So…life happened.

My cake fail kind of threw a wrench in my abstract plan for a gorgeously layered cake, but also meant that I no longer had to strategize. I’ve destroyed many a cake in my day, and I always find resulting success in trifles. So- lemon rhubarb trifle. Delish!

IMG_4791

Lemon Cake:

1 ½ cups sugar

2 teaspoons grated lemon zest

2 1/4 cups cake flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

¾ cups milk

½ cup greek yogurt

2 eggs

1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 tsp. vanilla

In a mixing bowl, combine the sugar and lemon zest. Add the butter and beat at medium speed until light and creamy; add the vanilla. Combine the flour, salt and powder in a medium bowl, and the eggs, milk and yogurt in a separate bowl. When the butter and sugar mixture is creamed, add one third of the wet and one third of the dry ingredients; mix until incorporated and repeat twice, until all of the ingredients have been added.

Divide the batter between the two pans and smooth the surface. Bake for 30-35 minutes at 350 degrees or until the cakes are dry and springy to the touch, and a knife in the center comes out clean. Cool on racks for about ten minutes, and invert and cool completely.

 

Rhubarb Sauce

6 stalks rhubarb, diced

One clamshell of strawberries, sliced

1 cup sugar

1 cup water

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for about twenty minutes, or until the fruit is very soft. You can either push through a food mill, which is easy but not really a common piece of equipment, or you can push through a strainer. Then try to restrain yourself so you don’t eat it all by the spoonful

 

Lemon Cream

Juice of one lemon

Juice of one lime

2 Tbsp sugar

Half pint whipping cream

2 tbsp powdered sugar

4 oz cream cheese

Combine the juices and sugar in a saucepan heated to medium, and reduce by half; set aside. In a stand mixer fitted with a whip attachment, whip the cream to stiff peaks; transfer to a separate bowl. In the mixing bowl, whip the cream cheese and the lemon syrup until fluffy. Gently fold in the whipped cream.

 

Trifle assembly:

Cut the completely cooled lemon cake into one-inch cubes. Layer cake chunks, then a cup of diced strawberries, then half of the cream, then half of the sauce. Repeat, and decorate with a fanned out strawberry.

 

 

Friday Five: Summer Bucket List…ish

You know, I love a good to-do list (as my overused Evernote and any.do apps clearly show) but I have not been able to embrace bucket lists. I’m the sort of efficient person that likes to create lists, and then cross everything off so I get a sense of accomplishment, and it feels like bucket lists are for the sort of people that like to dream big and imagine all of the possibilities, and then accomplish those things as the opportunity presents themselves. While I’m usually neither one to let opportunities present themselves, nor one to make lists that feel insurmountable, today is a new day. And I’m making a Summer Bucket List…ish.

I say ‘-ish’ because my bucket list only has five things on it, and those things are completely vague. So, pretty much the opposite of what people usually go for. Either way, though, these are some things that I’m really hoping to accomplish this summer.

Bokeh B list

1. Eat really fresh, seasonal food. This means cooking with ingredients that are in season {rhubarb syrup, ftw}, visiting my area farmers market, and growing my own food! I had tomatoes last year that were successful, so this year I’ve added in some kale, peas and peppers. I also want to try a lettuce pot and maybe a tiered herb pot outside. I’m really hopeful that some of these will be successful, but even if I fall victim to my own brown thumbs, I still want to be able to eat fresh, delicious, just picked food- and that’s where my farmers market comes in.

2. Do something creative, whether that means sewing {I adore this tree quilt, but could also be satisfied sewing some cute burp clothes for my niece}, finally working on that string and nail art I pinned last year {except, I’m now really into the idea of using the string to create negative space}, catching up on watercolors, going through a photography tutorial, or even just going to a few of those wine-and-canvas events with some girlfriends. Anything creative would be warmly welcomed into my life!

3. Keep moving! Evan and I did the Pelotonia charity bike ride a few years ago, and we had a blast. Raising money for cancer research was deeply fulfilling, and getting all of that outdoor exercise on training rides was great- maybe we’ll do that again this summer. On the other hand, I’ve also been trying really hard to reincorporate yoga into my life- I get so many benefits from it, physically, mentally and emotionally. I wasn’t thrilled with a few of the studios options I’ve tried lately, but I recently discovered Yoga With Adriene, and I absolutely adore her! I’ve been doing the videos at home quite a bit this month- maybe I’ll amp this up over the summer? Or maybe I’ll finally start lifting in the little home gym Evan built for us in the basement- who knows? In any case, I’m determined to keep adding more activity to my days.

4. Complete some notable home improvement project. I’ve been dying to address our too-crowded kitchen for two and a half years, and that renovation remains a distant dream. What I could do, though, is finish {start?} our dining room update, or add curtains to the living room, or add either of the gallery walls that I’ve been ruminating on {nice and chic, or ledges, or something more eclectic} , or finally find a place to build in a bookshelf, or paint our master bathroom. Would you believe that we have never showered in our Master Bath? We took down the wallpaper when we moved in, and never sanded the walls or repainted, so we don’t use it for anything other than middle-of-the-night bathroom breaks. How is that even possible? Maybe time to pin some small bathroom inspiration and get on that project, already.

5. Date my sweet husband. Though this is number five on my list, it’s number one in my heart {so. cheesy}. Evan works 24 hours every three days, and I work a 9-5 schedule and take classes part time. We don’t see each other as much as we’d like, and when we are together it can feel like the same old ‘dinner and FNL’ routine all the time. Add in a sister that lives with us, visiting the new baby as much as possible, maintaining a home, travelling to spend time with my family who live an hour and a half away, and it can be so hard to, you know…date. I have a few easy things, though, that should be fun to do this summer {visiting the new Africa exhibit at the zoo, and going to a drive-in movie in the new truck are just two suggestions}. My ideas aren’t too exciting, but I’m looking forward to that little giddy feeling you get when you go on a date with someone you’re pretty into 🙂

So that’s my extremely not specific bucket list- what are you all trying to get into this summer?

 

Babies, and Showers, and Onesies

IMG_3453A few months into my SIL’s pregnancy, I started brainstorming shower gifts. I love, love to give handmade or handcrafted gifts- my focus usually isn’t saving money, because that rarely is the case, but providing something useful and memorable and sentimental. Usually I would do a diaper cake or onesie/bib/sock cupcakes or something fun like that, but Evan and I started a small embroidery business recently, and I thought it might be nice to personalize something for our new niece. After sorting through Pinterest ideas for weeks (seriously, the inspiration overload is sometimes paralyzing) I settled on a set of month-by-month onesies.

IMAG0419Interestingly, though, I’m not the person who does the work- I’m merely an inspiration provider and a book-keeper. So, I had no idea that my gift would actually require a fair amount of time and effort of Evan’s part…oops! After he figured out what I was trying to explain, though, he worked on a few every day for a week and we were pretty pleased with the results.

IMG_3445In addition to some impressive embroidery work, though, Evan can also be credited with the newborn onesie. He reasoned that the name should go on the bum, since newborns stay kind of tucked up for a while. Isn’t that sweet?

IMG_3449We definitely thought they turned out well, but have been a little shocked at the reaction our gift has gotten. My SIL cried when she opened them, and we’ve had people calling and emailing to ask if we’ll make more. We’re thinking about opening a tiny Etsy shop, to see if there’s a market…I wonder if people will be interested?

IMG950183Either way, this is one gift we’re proud of getting and will likely give again in the future. We were thrilled to see baby Thompson’s first photo, and will love to see more of our work on other newborns in the future!

Showering the New Mama

Today, I’m so excited to share the baby shower that we held a few weeks ago for my sister-in-law. Pretty much the moment I found out that I was going to be an Auntie, I started collecting ideas for this shower- I was so excited to welcome a babe into our family! Together with my mother-in-law, I quickly settled on the idea of an in-home shower, to keep in line with a modest budget, and a brunch, because it lends itself nicely to easy menu planning.

bali

IMG_4247

By the time planning started, I knew that we were expecting a niece, but I didn’t want the party to be just pink- I really love a rainbow of pastels. So for decoration, I commissioned my husband’s dad and step-mom to make the adorable centerpieces above, and my sister made this beautiful (if a bit messy, due to the glitter) wreath for the front door.

IMG_4387

And my sister and mom were in charge of this ‘shower’ themed backdrop.

IMG_4385For food, we had a pretty awesome spread of sweet and savory options.

IMG_4243I’m not big on games, so I only planned one- a Price is Right style guessing game, where each guest had to guess the price of a few baby items that we had spread on a coffee table. Whoever guessed correctly got a prize- and the mama to-be got to keep everything. We also had a diaper-message station, for writing sweet things on diapers, and a well-wishing station, where people could write their wishes, blessings and advice for baby and mama. Later, I put those cards in an album with photos from the shower and gave it to my SIL this past weekend- I think she liked it 🙂

IMG_4259We sent people away from the shower with our thanks, and a little ‘punny’ favor.

IMG_4355Generally, I measure successful parties by the amount of food that people are eating, and the difficulty you have getting everyone’s attention, since there’s so much chatter. Judged by those standards, this baby shower was a hit!

 

Great News!

Friends, so many awesome things are happening around here! I’ve been working hard on my application for Grad School (for the past two years I’ve just been taking classes as a non-degree seeking student) and I just learned that week that I’ve been accepted. I could not be more thrilled! The day after that, I learned that I was invited to sit on a very small committee at my very large organization- it’s a good deal of work, in addition to my job, but I’m hoping that the work I put into it will pay off in networking benefits!

AnnabelleAnd finally, in amazing news this week, we welcomed our gorgeous niece into the world. She was born last Tuesday and this weekend Evan and I had to chance to stay with her and Evan’s sister and brother in law for a few days.

IMG_4540She is absolute perfection, and we are utterly smitten.

IMG_4576Over the next few days we’ll talk about the shower that we threw in her honor, and one of the gifts we made for her. Stay tuned!

Belize: Tranquility Time

Beach

I thought today might be a nice day to close out the Belize trilogy and get back to some regularly scheduled business. So, we left off with our visit to Tikal, to check out some amazing Mayan ruins. That was a long day, and I think that everyone was pretty satisfied to leave our jungle adventures and get started with the relaxing beach portion of vacation.

plane

To get there, however, we had to catch a ride on the tiny plane above. I don’t mind flying at all, but Evan can sometimes be a nervous traveler and being in such a small plane was not ideal for him. When the captain got on the intercom (sidebar: intercom was totally not necessary- he could have accomplished the same communication by slightly raising his voice), though, and announced that we needed to make a few stops before we reached out final destination, I didn’t know if Evan was going to have a panic attack or a fit of rage. Luckily, he sorted himself out after a few beach drinks at our resort 🙂 cabanas

cabana row

Our resort was glorious. We chose Tranquility Bay for a few reasons- namely, that they had the closest access to the reef. My vacation priority was adventure, and Evan’s was definitely snorkeling, so I was thrilled that this place was so close to the reef. Also, there were only nine cabanas, so it wasn’t a loud, overrun resort. Finally, they had a restaurant on location, so we didn’t need to look for food.crab

IMG_3959

Overall, we loved our stay. The cabanas were pretty nice sized, and had AC. They included the use of kayaks and the sail boats, which were really fun. The beach was cleaned several times a day, so it was beautiful and easy to access. And, I mean…Belize really is paradise. The water was warm and amazingly clear, and the stars in the night sky were crazy bright.

IMG_4039

We wished, a little bit, that they had more of a variety of food, or that the quality of food was better, and also that there was any way to access groceries and booze, and a better wifi signal. But, of course, we came on vacation to get away, so wifi wasn’t a big deal, and we chose Tranquility for their remoteness, so we weren’t surprised by anything. As I said, a few things that might have been nice…but at the end of the vacation, we were thrilled with our experience, and would definitely do it again!Sunset