Thursday, May 26, 2011

Oprah..."Until we meet again"

Last night I hosted an Oprah Finale watch party for some of the girls. We served  wine, champagne & some h'ordeuvres including Crostini with Wild Mushrooms & Mozzarella from my Oprah cookbook. I also downloaded some SUPER cute printable decorations from one of my favorite blogs, Design Editor. We played "BingOprah" &...brace yourselves...GREG WON! I gave away my favorite things as prizes, including L'Occitane Hand Cream & Koozies (Greg opted for the Koozie...which of course he already owned anyway). We had lots of fun watching the show & sharing our individual "Oprah stories". I've printed Oprah's love letter to us, her fans, so that I can read it again. I know not everybody was an Oprah fan, but I was, and I'm going to miss her. Thanks to Design Editor for the decorative inspiration & to Oprah for all the laughs & lessons...and for inviting Coop & I to your show last year. It was a dream come true!
Julia & Coop Won Round 2!

Until we meet again,

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Book Worm

Bookmark by Risky Beads
In honor of Oprah, one of my favorite fellow book enthusiasts (& the unfortunate end of her talk show), I'm putting up my Summer reading list! I'm looking forward to some fiction, some drama, some self help, some social justice, some instructional & some comedy. And I'm going to commit to only reading either used books or library books...First, I think there's something magical about library books, second because it's cheaper, and third, because there's already enough "stuff" in circulation, there doesn't need to be any more on my account. **stepping off my soap box**

So here it is...Clearly it's not an exhaustive list, just a few I've been looking forward to taking the time to read...but I'm hoping you'll comment with some must-reads I've over looked (Some CLASSICS perhaps?) Also - I'm on the hunt for a great chick lit book for my mom & I to read together this summer...not too heavy, but not too mushy...suggestions are welcome. Thanks!

Happy Reading,

PS - I love sharing a good book, but I find they rarely make it back to my library. Here's a template for some cutesy little book plates from one of my favorite blogs  to remind fellow book worms where your books belong! Sharing is caring..Download here!
ONE MORE THING - Oprah's Book Club website has a handy bookmark maker application on can't put a personalized Oprah book mark in a nook, or a kindle now CAAAAAAAN YOU? Noooo...

Monday, May 23, 2011

Sprouts & Such

The To Do in Lakeview series continues...with the back yard edition! We FINALLY climbed out of the icy cold grip of a brutal Chicago Winter/Spring & got some sunshine & warm weather this past weekend so Greg & I took FULL advantage. Of course it rained on Saturday until 3 o'clock, but while it was raining, I was able to sew some seeds in my Jiffy greenhouse, including lettuce & sunflowers. The garden expert at Home Depot said that it was "too late" for Lettuce, which I'm confused about because it's been too cold for anything to grow never mind for an entire harvest to have slipped away...but I sewed the seeds anyway (this vegetarian's trying to grow her own lunch). Once the sun broke out & it stopped raining Greg & I started pulling weeds & preparing our little garden for a brand new season. Greg even cut down 2 trees & completely uprooted another. When it was all said & done, we planted some annuals, some perennials, some tomatoes, onions, cucumbers & strawberries. Greg also managed to replace our backyard light with a new mason-jar-esque lantern that we can turn on & off when we want...He's really conquering his fear of electricity (until this morning's circuit breaker adventure...he's taking a break from electrical projects for a little while). We enjoyed the rest of the weekend in the backyard admiring our handy work, drinking coffee, playing with the pups, barbecuing with friends, & feeling very "married"...I even wrote in the gardening journal Coop gave me as a birthday gift (& I JUST LOVE it). All in all it was a super weekend & we're looking forward to watching our very first garden grow, especially those little's hoping I didn't miss the boat on lettuce after all.

Agriculturally yours,
More Photos of Our Lakeview Love Affair

P.S. - If the sprouts take hold & mature, I'll write a "how to"...but the jury's still out as to whether or not I actually know what I'm doing. Stay tuned.

Monday, May 16, 2011

To Do In Lakeview

So our apartment isn't exactly "contemporary" fact, she's a little out dated. But we love 'er, and some of the ways she shows her age are charming. But others are simply inexcusable, so we're planning on upgrading a few things:

  • Replace all of the mini blinds. (Lilah did most of the work on this project. She ripped one set in the living room to shreds one day while I was running errands.)
  • Put up curtains. (Lilah helped to kill 2 birds with 1 stone.)
  • Take down the hanging 70's lamp that's so low a middle schooler would crack his skull while trying to pass under it. (Greg cracked his skull & took it down while subsequently conquering his fear of electrical work. Go babe.)
  • Take down the low hanging bar shelf in the bathroom. (Greg also cracked his head on this & took it down immediately purely for self-preservation.)
  • Replace the "hardware" on the cabinetry in the bathroom. (I've started this project...I accidentally broke the toilet paper roll)
  • Put up a photo collage in the living room.
  • Replace the back yard light. (Completed May 21)
  • Replace the back porch indoor-outdoor floor mats.
  • Find an alternative to paint to bring in some color. 
  • Dress up the front entrance.
  • Clean up the back yard.(Started May 21)
  • Start a compost pile.(Started May 21)
  • Grow some grass. (Still in progress...But it's looking promising as of 6/24!)
  • Burlap helps the green grass grow...
  • Plant a vegetable garden. (Started May 21)

Better Luck Next Time

The next time you go in to Starbucks do yourself a favor and order a Birthday Cake Pop. I have never been a cake fan, not even as a child, but this little Birthday Cake nugget is simply magical. Naturally I was thrilled when one of my friends from school, Julia, brought her version of these cake balls to my birthday party a few weeks ago. Everyone at the party marveled at her creation & they were to die for. Having seen & tasted Julia's semi-pro recreation of Starbucks magical cake, Coop volunteered to make a batch for the 1st birthday party of the little lady she takes care of here in Chicago. Julia shared the recipe she'd used with me...It seemed simple enough...

HERE'S the thing...We might have used a little too much icing (which prevented our cake pops from staying together & made it almost impossible to get the little lolly pop sticks to stay in.) We might ALSO have wanted to leave the cake pops in the freezer for a little longer, despite the fact that we left them in for 3 times longer than the recipe called for (hmmm....) But if you're in the mood to make this tasty treat, here's a few pieces of advice you'll definitely want to remember...
  1. Buy 3 times as much melting chocolate as it calls for (sometimes it just doesn't matter what you do)
  2. Leave the frozen cake balls in the freezer & take them out one at a time to cover them in chocolate.
  3. DO NOT dunk them directly into the melting chocolate (Yes, the instructions said not to do this...oops) Try holding them with a fork directly above the melting chocolate & using a spoon, drizzle the chocolate over the cake balls & then put them on a separate cookie sheet to dry. If you dip them in the dipping chocolate the cake gums up the works...quite literally. 
  4. DO NOT leave the melting chocolate to cool in countless mixing bowls all over your kitchen...the melting chocolate will harden (duh) & be nearly impossible to get out unless you soak it in scalding hot water & then hand wash them. Which is messy. And you'll probably need Draino.
The moral of this story is three fold - first, always be prepared to modify recipes so that your desired outcome is, in fact, what you desired (and not a mess of mushy cake bites littered on a white turkey platter) Second, never take on 100 cake balls or any other tiny treat by yourself (always have a partner in crime). And finally, Meghan Cooper is one of the most thoughtful people I know...only somebody as nice as her would volunteer to take on a project like this, even with my help. You're a nicey Coop. We'll get those Cake Balls next time.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

April Showers Through May Flowers (& More)

Celia Birtwell Gardening Tools
Spring is officially springing all over Chicago and lots has happened this last few weeks. We celebrated my 26th birthday! We went with a big group to a Cubs game (Cubs won!) & the next day hosted Easter/Birthday Brunch & Dinner. I was totally showered with cards, gifts, sweets & attention, which of course amounted to the perfect birthday. Some of my favorite gifts were a gardening journal & some gardening tools from Coop and some pink Tulips from Greg. More on that later (we're starting the garden this weekend!) The Easter Bunny dropped off some baskets for Greg, Coop, Justin, Lilah & Sadie...even though it was my birthday, the Easter Bunny is very diligent about his job. Lilah & Sadie got some Spring-esque home made doggy toys from Etsy. Lilah & Sadie also had some dog friends over for the festivities, including Blake's dog Charlie, Justin's dog Jade & a little puggy lady we babysit sometimes named Misha. Of course the overabundance of Puppy love only made my day that much better. We had lots of great food, dyed Easter eggs, enjoyed the nice(ish) weather & it was just perfect!
Lilah & Sadie's Easter Basket:Wags & Wiggles
 Bentleys Bones

More recently: Coop's Client/Friend here in the city organized a team to run the Y-Me 5K Race for Breast Cancer this past Sunday, Mother's Day. Although we couldn't quite keep pace with the front of the pack, we had a great time & the weather & the scenery were just perfect! The highlight of our morning was a champagne brunch in the park with Meghan's Chicago family, including Greg & Meg's Client/Friend Peter.

Later on we celebrated the end of my FIRST year of Graduate school with Sunday Fun Day with my school friends on one of their roof tops. The view was spectacular & although the weather didn't stay as nice as we'd hoped, we had lots of fun & blew off plenty of steam.
The Sunday Fun Day Gang
This upcoming weekend Greg's Dad, Ray will be here visiting. There's lots of fun to be had from a USF Alumni happy hour on Friday to a trip to South Bend to watch the USF Baseball team take on the Fighting Irish. It'll be warm & stormy here all week but we're still hoping to get some gardening done this Saturday...Emerging Adulthood Phase 1: DIY