Friday, May 23, 2008

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Herb garden

Ours grows in pretty rock planters and beds made from an old locus tree.

Rock beds are filled with sweet potatoes, lettuces, carrots, tomatoes, peppers and herbs

The start of some lettuces and herbs

For those of you wondering what Keith has been up to lately, here's your answer : He has spent many hours in the yard preparing our summer gardens. He recently finished using up the last of our rock (17 tons) that we had delivered over a year ago. He built three very beautiful and useful rock planters that are already filled with sprouting produce and herbs. A true labor of love. Keith built this planter around the locus tree stump that was cut down.
Hops that Keith grows for his special home brew Newly planted blueberry bushes

A few weeks ago we had four mature trees cut down and although its sad to see them go, it certainly has brightened up our yard and made it more conducive for growing a garden. One of the trees had to be cut down by a tree climber because of it's location - it was in between the utility wires and very close to the house. It was fascinating to watch this very experienced climber do his job. We're hoping to replace some of the trees with fruit trees.

Expert tree climber at work

The kids also found a use for some of the cut wood. They built a fort around their favorite climbing tree, and named it the Hobbit Hut. Hmm....see if you can figure out what types of books Mac has read this past year. The Hobbit Hut

Our flowers have also just started to bloom. I took pictures of a few of my favorites; however, it had rained just before I took these and the poppies and the peonies weren't all the way open, but they still look beautiful none the less.



Peony (My favorite!)

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Girly Cakes

I LOVE making cakes for little girls. Whenever I get an order to make a cake for a little girl, I get really excited over the creative possibilities. Maybe it's because I live with three boys (four if you count the dog) and I'm constantly surrounded by all things boy, that I crave the frilly, flowery, and pinkness that comes with little girls. Whatever the reason, I had a blast making these cakes for two very charming little girls.

The order for the first cake was for an almost eight-year old who wanted chocolate cake, chocolate filling, and chocolate icing, and flowers. My original idea was to wrap the cake in chocolate fondant. However, you cannot buy ready made chocolate fondant here, and I tried my very best to make it myself. Both recipes that I tried didn't turn out at all. I found the first recipe on line, and the second was from the book, The Cake Bible.

The first recipe was awful. It was extremely dry and hard to use, and didn't even taste that great. The second recipe, from The Cake Bible came out a little better but it was still very crumbly and dry, making it too hard to roll out, even after adding more water like the recipe suggested. It did however taste good, kind of like a tootsie roll. (The boys kept coming in the kitchen to steal some of the dough) Unfortunately, good taste alone wasn't cutting it and that recipe got trashed as quickly as the first.

After several ingredients and hours later, I gave up on the chocolate fondant idea and decided to use chocolate butter cream instead. I think the end result turned out pretty, and it tasted good too.

I made the second cake for a three-year old who wanted pink inside and out. The cake itself was chocolate and the filling strawberry butter cream - hence the pink on the inside. Her birthday invitation was pink and green, and I wanted to tie some green into the decorations so I added a green vine with pink flowers. Also requested were the polka dots on the outside of the cake.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Visit to Stinesville

Last weekend Keith and our friend Geoff took the kids on a hike through Stinesville, Indiana. Stinesville is a very small town in the north western part of Monroe County, about 25 miles from Bloomington's downtown. It was founded in 1855 by Eusebius Stine, who owned a sawmill and gristmill there. The population fell dramatically in 1916 when the Hoadley Mill burned down and wasn't rebuilt. The current population is about 200.

These pretty yellow flowers were picked for Mom

I wanted to share some lovely pictures that Keith took while they were there. It was a cold and rainy day (Mother's Day) and the kids were soaking wet when they returned home, but everyone had a good time, including the Moms who were at home enjoying a peaceful afternoon.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Wedding Cupcakes

I made these cupcakes for a wedding that was this past weekend. The wedding colors were pink, red and black. There are two flavors, red velvet with cream cheese icing and chocolate cupcakes filled with chocolate raspberry ganache. I also made (10) two-tiered cupcake stands, one for each table.

The cake is chocolate with a cocoa butter cream, and raspberry filling.

Sunday, May 4, 2008


Barack Obama visited Bloomginton for the second time, last week. He spoke Wednesday night to a packed Assembly Hall. An estimated 13,000 people were in attendance which is pretty impressive for our small town of 65,000.

The crowd was energized the entire evening as he spoke about his ideas on providing education tuition credits for those who do community service, ending the war in Iraq, and researching alternative energy resources. We were also pleased to hear him identify Clinton and McCain's "gas tax holiday" as a gimmick. Keith was chosen to be a correspondent for our local newspaper; he answered questions before and after the rally, and wrote a 500 word synopsis for the paper.

We brought the whole family and had excellent seats in the second row, next to the stage. We shared in the excitement as two of our friends were selected to sit on stage directly behind him.

He will be making several appearances in our state between now and Tuesday's primary and we have HOPE that Indiana will do us proud and elect him as the democratic nominee.
The kids had their faces painted while we waited in line for the doors to Assembly Hall to open.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

6th Annual Tea Party

Last weekend I hosted my 6th annual tea party. Each year I invite several of my friends (19 were in attendance this year) to an afternoon of tea, good food, and most importantly, laughter and friendship. It is an event that I start planning months in advance. Everything is thoughtfully planned, down to the smallest detail. I spend almost as much time narrowing my guest list as I do planning my menu. And even though I spend many, many hours in my kitchen and on my feet, it is something that I thoroughly enjoy. It is one small way for me to show appreciation to my friends and the many blessings that they bring into my life. And of course I couldn't have pulled it off without my fellow tea-mate, Steph. She spent several hours on the day of my tea helping prepare the savories, and even found time in her busy schedule to help with party favor preparations in the weeks before. It was wonderful having a partner in the kitchen not only to share in the work but also to have as company.
For the second year in a row I hosted a "Royal" tea. The addition of champagne is what makes an afternoon tea, "Royal." Also this year, my menu featured herbs that were mostly evident in my savories and lavender scones. Tub tea party favors also helped to tie in the herbal theme.

I asked each guest to bring their own "favorite" teacup, and they shared charming stories of their teacups and china. Some teacups were family heirlooms, some were from overseas, and even some were disguised as coffee mugs.

All in all I think it was a lovely afternoon. My only wish was that Steph and I would have had more time to mingle with guests and less time in the kitchen.

Champagne glasses and lilacs

Finger sandwiches

Lavender Scones

2 1/2 cup flour

1 stick butter

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

2 tsp of edible lavender

1 egg

1/3 cup of honey

1/3 cup sour cream

Tiered tray of sweets

Mini chocolate cakes

Fresh fruit tartlets

Cream puffs and chocolate eclairs

Tub Teas





Lemon balm