Monthly Archives: October 2011

Apple of My Chai

Looks like we’re supposed to get a cold front in tonight.  Finally, it just might feel like fall for a day or two around here! I’ve been dreaming of a drop in temperatures and I’m ready to greet the 50’s with arms wide open (yeah, kinda like Scott Stapp was ready to greet his new born baby and show him everything), even if it is only for a day.

Fall in these parts of Texas just isn’t the same as it is back home. I miss the changing colors, the crisp air that always seems to smell like burning leaves, the apple orchards, the pumpkin farms… It’s just doesn’t compare and it makes me kinda sad that I miss it. However, all is NOT lost. I’ve got a little somethin’ somethin’ for you. When nature doesn’t bring you autumn in Texas, you’re gonna have to bring it to yourself.

There’s this drink that I’ve kinda got a crush on. It makes me feel like fall is here. It helps me forget for just a minute that I’m not surrounded by changing leaves and makes me contemplate whether I should wear that beanie yet or not. This drink is so simple, yet tastes so autumnly delicious.  I’m even willing to let you in on a coffee bar secret. SSssshhhh…don’t tell everyone. Ok, fine, tell whoever you want, just make this drink. We like to call it the “Apple of My Chai.” I’ve got not one, but two ways for you to make this drink. I had one of these over ice yesterday, because Midlothian doesn’t have a clue that it’s already the end of October and it was 85 degrees outside. So to make this tasty treat cold, what you’re gonna do is first grab a cup. Second, fill this cup a third of the way with chai concentrate. I prefer the Oregon Chai concentrate, but go ahead use whatever kind that tickles your fancy. Yeah, I just said tickles your fancy, I sure did.  Next, add apple cider until the cup is two-thirds full. Add some ice and top it off the rest of the way with club soda. Stick a straw in it and you’ve got yourself a chilled autumn beverage.

For those of you in chilly parts of the country, or here in Texas for the next two days, you might want to try a variation of this drink hot. Measure equal parts of the Chai concentrate and apple cider.  I think you should add about 2 Tbs of caramel sauce to this as well, but that just might be me. Dump the contents into a pan and warm it up on your stove top.  If you’re really impatient, you could always just heat it up in your trusty microwave.  This warm concoction should be enjoyed in a ceramic mug for full effectiveness. Go ahead, try it. See if you can resist the urge to want to jump in a pile of leaves while drinking this.

Chai+

Apple Cider= Delicious

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The Art of Pumpkin Cheesecake and Smoke Detectors

So I would love to write a beautiful post about how to make a lovely pumpkin cheesecake just in time for fall and the holiday seasons.

I wish I could post some gorgeous pictures of a golden brown crust baked to perfection, or a pale orange creamy filling in the bowl of my stand mixer on my clean sparkly counter, maybe pictures of myself in a cute vintage apron with my hair and makeup perfect.

But yeah, let’s be real…that is SO not my life.

This is more like it

Tonight at 11:00pm I decided it would be a good idea to fulfill a promise to a pregnant friend of mine that I would make her some pumpkin cheesecake. I got my ingredients out on the counter and started to make the crust like the recipe calls for.  As I’m putting it together I think to myself, surely this isn’t going to be enough, but I don’t listen and keep on going. I dump the crust into the spring-form pan. Well, well, well, what do you know, not enough crust. Alright, I got this.  I make another batch of crust.

I pour the second bit of crust into the pan. Looks good, stick it in the oven to bake 8 minutes.  Around minute 5, I hear a strange noise so I open the oven door to check it out. On top of the crushed gingersnaps is a pool of spitting butter that would make Paula Deen proud.  Butter is oozing out of all sides of the spring-form pan into the bottom of my oven!  That can’t be right can it? So I pour some of the butter off the top of the crust, find a baking sheet and put it back in the oven. Just as I close the oven door, my smoke detector starts screaming at me! Now you could say that smoke detectors and I have a bit of history together. We used to have a finicky detector in the house I grew up in. At least once a week it was my job to appease that thing. My mom (or dad to be fair) would be cooking dinner and if the smoke detector didn’t like what it smelled, it would go nuts. I had a little routine, first run to open the front door, then all of the windows lining the sun porch connected to the kitchen, then to open the back door, making my last stop the bedroom to grab a pillow and start fanning the detector like my life depended on it until it decided it had had enough. Fast forward to tonight though and what’ s girl to do when the smoke detector is shrieking and there are no windows in your apartment that physically open?? If only you could have seen me frantically waving a couch pillow in my short shorts, crazy hair complete with a winter headband, and mismatched socks you would so be pointing and laughing. Totally a Martha Stewart moment. Wait, I mean totally NOT a Martha Stewart moment.

::There was also that one time on my 18th birthday when the fire trucks showed up to the dorm for my party, and the time my friend and I decided it would be a good idea to test out our new fog machine in the prayer room on our hall.  Maybe if you ask, I’ll tell you those smoke detector stories sometime::

Anyway, the detector settled down and I got on with the baking. Next step, make the filling:

Pour the cheesecake filling into the baked crust, bake for about an hour. I baked mine for about 1.5 hours. I’m just going to admit it, cheesecake is kinda scary. No, it’s not hard to throw the ingredients together, but scary none-the-less.  You never know (at least in my case) how it’s going to end up…over cooked, under cooked, weirdo crust (which sad to say is what this crust turned out to be). If you plan on giving it to some one, or serving it at a party or something, you may never know until you cut into that bad boy. It’s one of those things that you just have to have a feeling about. It’s a fine line, between the center being just jiggly enough that once you refrigerate it over night it stiffens up, and not so jiggly that you end up with runny filling. You gotta go with your gut. I was quite pleased with the way this cheesecake turned out, (minus the crust!) it was pretty darn good.  So don’t be scared, you can do it! Grab yourself a springfrom pan and make me proud.

(probably should have taken a picture before taking a bite)

p.s.- I’m not exactly sure what went wrong with this crust. Seems pretty simple according to the recipe.  Maybe my mistake was in using off brand gingersnaps?

::Adapted from Brown Eyed Baker::

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The Grand (part 2)

You’re not going to want to miss breakfast at the Grand either. It’s your choice of either a 5 course affair, or the largest breakfast buffet I’ve ever seen. We just went with ordering our courses off the menu. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Grand Hotel is really the one who coined the phrase…”breakfast of champions,” because that is exactly how you feel while eating it, like a champion. Thinking about it makes me really hungry for breakfast right now and unfortunately all I have are eggs in my refrigerator. Boo.

After breakfast we headed out to the world’s longest front porch (over two football fields in length) to check out the view.

This is part of the view from the porch

We decided to walk into town to wait for our mom to join us, she was supposedly coming in on the 12:00 ferry. It’s evident where we get the tendency to be running late. She barely made it to lunch with us by 2:00. If you haven’t noticed a pattern, when visitng the Grand Hotel really all you’re going to do is eat! It felt like we had just gorged ourselves at breakfast and poof, time for the Grand Luncheon Buffet. This isn’t your regular every day style lunch. Tickets to this luncheon are $45 a piece! The buffet is huge and filled with all kinds of cheeses, fruits, veggies, hors d’oeuvres, salads, pasta, oysters, shrimp, mussels, chicken, fish, along with a man carving some kind of red meat. It wasn’t till we were about to leave that we discovered the dessert buffet table filled with cheesecakes, chocolate covered strawberries, cookies, cakes, eclairs, etc… Trouble. Big trouble.

We were just about the only ones left in the dining room so we had a friendly chat with our lunch waiter and our dinner waiter from the night before who are both from Jamaica. They told me that with my style I’d be more than welcome in Jamaica. Ha! Then I realized I was wearing a reverse Tye dyed shirt and dreadlocks with a chunky headband. Of course I’d be welcomed in Jamaica:)

After lunch we went and rented some bikes to work off all of that food! We rode the perimeter of the island

We shopped, took a little nap in the park, then headed back to the hotel for a little R&R on the balcony of our room.

My sister made a deal with me, that no matter what we were doing for my birthday, that we would be sure to watch “the sunset on my 20’s.” We caught the sunset both nights, it was spectacular.

Then guess what time it is?! You’re right, time once again for dinner…(look at my mom looking all young and beautiful)

We demolished another Grand Pecan Ball, did some more sight seeing in the hotel and then headed out for a little excursion up the middle of the island to check out the part of the island that typically goes unseen. The homes of the locals.

Here’s a look at the bridge lit up

Main Street without any people on it is a rare sight

The next morning we had another round of breakfast and then hiked up to the West Bluff.

We spent a little more time around the island, grabbed a Mackinaw Island Fudge ice cream cone and jumped back on the Arnold Line to head home. This was one of those once in a lifetime experiences. It was all made possible by my very generous Aunt Jacquie who gave us her hotel vouchers as a gift to celebrate my birthday. I am so thankful for such an amazing family! If you ever get the chance to visit Mackinaw Island whether you stay at the Grand Hotel or not, you definitely should.  It’s a magical place:). Here’s a link if you happened to be interested in some of the random facts about the island, like that they don’t allow any motorized vehicles on the island, or how many gallons of water it takes to fill the swimming pool…

I guess this concludes my birthday week, I suppose turning 30 wasn’t so bad after all.

(This is the Grand Hotel Taxi…very swanky)

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The Grand.

Swanky is not a word commonly used in my vocabulary. I just don’t usually have a reason to pull it off of my vocabulary shelf and throw it into normal life conversation.  Get ready, I’m about to dust that bad boy off and use it in a sentence! Watch this. The Grand Hotel is swanky. Actually Swankified (if you don’t mind me making up my own word), would be how I’d like to describe it.  Ok never mind, I just checked and swankified already exists in the urban dictionary. Dang you urban dictionary, stealing my thunder like that. Anyway for the final installment of my birthday celebration that took place one month ago now, we move on to Mackinac Island. (Just gonna warn you, this post might get a little heavy on the visuals).

Erin and I headed up to the Island on Thursday night. Bags packed, headed north, taking the Arnold Line.

We tend to run late, it’s just what we do.  No one in their right mind staying at the Grand Hotel would even consider missing dinner and we weren’t about to, so as soon as our feet hit the ground we hiked the mile or so up the hill, luggage and all to the hotel. Remember how I said “swanky” is rarely used in my vocabulary? Well, if you know me at all then you know that I tend to dress a bit on the casual side.  This day was no different and for some reason I decided I should look extra homeless for the occasion. Did I mention the Grand Hotel has a dress code to even walk around inside after 6pm? Right, so I’m already feeling a little out of place in my thrifted trucker shirt, hoodie, utility style jacket and crazy hair. My sister has turned into somewhat of an anxious person lately I guess, so as we’re checking in she’s asking every question she’s thought of since she last called the hotel clerk 20 minutes ago and I’m just trying to be invisible (Sorry Erin, love you! Someone’s gotta ask them). We get the key, which is an actual key.  Like on a key chain with a tassel.  Fancy. We head up to our room, open the door and are immediately overtaken by floor to ceiling mint green candy striped walls, bright yellow floral print curtains and emerald green furniture. Now whether the decor in our room is swanky or hideous is totally debatable. Here’s a peek, you be the judge.

However what our room lacked in modern decor, it made up for in the view of the lake and the Mackinaw Bridge from our balcony.

So after getting a little carried away taking pictures of our room and the view, we hurried and quick changed into our dinner attire.  We got our meal tickets and headed to the main dining room. I’ve got two words for you…UNDER DRESSED.  In my little commoner brain, I was thinking lets kill two birds with one stone. Pack a sundress, or something I can wear during the day around the island and be comfortable in and then wallah, head to dinner in my dress code attire. Makes sense right?? I don’t know why on earth I didn’t think that dinner at the Grand Hotel might be a big deal? Like a sit down, 5 course, full on tuxedoed waiters serving menu items that I can’t even pronounce. Yes, UNDER DRESSED. I had on what I like to call my “Little House on the Prairie” dress with brown leather booties. This outfit is anything but swanky. I’m not sure how, but I missed the memo that I should wear my evening gown. You know what you do in an awkward situation like that?? You own it. You walk with a purpose (famous wise words of my mother), with your head held high, like you belong. We didn’t belong, but the wait staff seemed to like us. We even got an extra dessert out of our waiter. My sister and I decided that they were just excited to see normal people among the hundreds of people dripping money.  Who knows, but what I do know is that dessert at the Grand Hotel is something to be serious about. We ordered the Grand Pecan Ball, a carrot cheesecake and then an apple/pear strudel with vanilla ice cream. Hands down no mistaking, my favorite of course was the Grand Pecan Ball. Mackinaw Island is famous for it’s fudge, so it only makes sense that this heavenly ball of vanilla ice cream rolled in pecans, drenched in hot fudge and served on a chilled metal plate would be out of this world delicious. Oh yeah. We also found some interesting facts…the hotel has been serving it’s most popular dessert, The Grand Pecan Ball, since 1947. They serve around 60,000 of them a season and in the 2010 season they used 6,000lbs of pecans!

As if my clothing choices didn’t give it away, the picture taking during dinner definitely did, but how can you resist photographing such beauty on a plate:)? Unfortunately I don’t have a picture of the glorious dessert. Probably because it was gone to quickly.

Here’s a little tour of the place…

Down the hall with my model sister…she got the memo

Into the Parlor where you can be entertained by live piano playing or maybe a little orchestra.

No fancy hotel would be complete without strange canine art would it? There was actually an entire gallery dedicated to dog art. Weird.

Then there’s this one…who doesn’t love dogs playing poker?

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any stranger, it does…cat head on woman body.

And it’s companion picture, dog head on man body. In a suit coat no less.

We found the ballroom where there were only two brave souls on the dance floor

There were even old fashioned telephone booths equipped with real life landlines (yes, this is my $12 Target clearance dress that for some reason I thought would be appropriate for dinner)

We found gaudy furniture

And an art gallery

These are just a few of the many stops in the Grand Hotel, there’s also a movie theater, a bar with a gorgeous view, a convenience store, a tea store, a wine bar, an Aveda salon, a clothing store, an arcade room, and the list goes on. After a little exploring, we decided to head back to our room to put our street clothes on and hit the town to hang out with the locals.

TO BE CONTINUED……

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Beach Glass Expedition

I don’t know how all you bloggers out there do it. I have to hand it to you, take my hat off to you, whatever it is you say.  I cannot keep this thing up to date. It’s because I’m too wordy isn’t it?  I knew it. I was hoping to be able to write about all things my birthday, but life happens too fast. Now it’s kinda weird to be writing about the events of last month seeing that they’ve come and gone already. Please, someone share your secrets?!? For now I’m gonna try to keep it short and sweet and see if I can wrap this up.

While I was checking things off of my birthday list, my mom mentioned something that she had on her list of things to do this summer. She had heard from a coworker that you could find beach glass along the shore near the doctor’s office where she works.  So we decided to seize the moment and go on a little beach glass expedition. It was quite successful! The very first piece my mom picked up was a cobalt blue color. Her coworker informed her that that was a rare find and it must be her lucky day.

We found several other great pieces of the sanded glass in an array of colors.  I brought along my newly traded Nine West purse from a purse exchange we had attended the night before. My mom of course made fun of me, but it definitely came in handy for carrying all of our finds.

We were really lucky in mainly one spot, the coworker’s theory had to do with the placement of the dock and the current of the water…yada yada.  My theory is the bar that happens to be directly behind this little treasure trove of beach glass, coincidence?? Either way, it was a great way to spend an hour or so that afternoon. I asked my mother what else was on her list of things to do this summer, she informed me that was it.  The one and only thing. Well that takes care of that I guess. Easy smeezy.

I filled a vase with my share of the beach glass along with some drift wood, some feathers and pieces of pottery that I’ve collected. It’s nice to have a little reminder of the beach, my home in Michigan and the memories of such a great day.

 

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Crazies

Sometimes people think I’m crazy.  Sometimes I think I’m crazy. Usually it’s true. I’ve got some crazy friends and family too. However, I’ve come to find that the times you’re thinking you must be crazy are usually the times that are the most epic in your life.  Take for example this nice drizzly, chilly day (during the best week ever) that my brother, sister, Chelsey, Daniel and I decided we should go kayaking from Tawas Lake, down the Tawas river, out into the bay and back to the Tawas City beach. I thought we were crazy as we all layered on warm clothes and wool socks.

Still  thinking we’re crazy as I dig out some mittens and my brother puts on his beanie.

Yep, still crazy when we pull up to the loading dock and unload all 5 kayaks onto the landing (one of them is hiding, I swear I can count).

However as soon as we hit the water and start to paddle down the river all thoughts of “You must be crazy!” drift away and are replaced with feelings of awe and a sense of thankfulness.  So thankful to be alive. I love times like these.  Times when my heart literally feels full.  When it seems like everything slows for just a few minutes as I try to take it all in, using all of my senses to capture every bit of that moment onto the memory card in my brain…thanking God for all of his blessings in my life.  Here I go, getting all sappy about a kayaking trip, but I can’t help it, I’m getting old remember?

Don’t get me wrong, the trip wasn’t all serene and peaceful. Everyone had to get stuck on a sandbar a time or two (and by everyone I mostly mean Chelsey), a few of us (or maybe that was just me) got slapped in the face with low hanging branches, we got harassed by a lady and her dog as we passed the trailer park, we failed at our attempt to paddle up dead creek, and somehow Chad’s feet got soaked? But by the time we paddled to the mouth of the river and into Lake Huron, the sun was just about setting and the water was smooth as glass. I think I heard the angel choirs singing the hallelujah chorus:).

You can call me crazy, I just might like that. This little trip seemed like a crazy thing to do, but it was SO worth it.