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Monday, June 20, 2011

Basil infused watermelon cocktails


Remember that basil infused vodka I made? I turned it into a refreshing, lightly sweet summer cocktail with a bit of fresh watermelon, basil leaves, lemon juice, triple sec and ice.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

And Then There Was One

I love his sweet little baby-bird face. I think all robins, sort of like all human babies, look a bit like Winston Churchill.


The other baby birds in the robin's nest I have been observing for the last few weeks have left the nest.
They are probably out learning how to fly, find food, and survive all the dangers of being a wild bird in a big city. This little guy hatched later than the rest, and stayed smaller, never quite catching up. His mom still comes to check on him and bring him food though, but it seems pretty lonely to still be in the nest once your brothers and sisters have left, doesn't it?

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The living room...Some more.

In my last post I mentioned that I got this new chair for in my bedroom:

Well, buying that inspired me to see if my old reading chair which had been in that spot  (a white slipcovered ikea tullsta that I had used to sit and read on exactly once in two years) might work out in that one problem area in the living room that I keep talking about. So I brought it over.

Desk re-do

Last month I started the project of refinishing a desk for my bedroom. I was lucky enough to grab this off the curb last fall on my street, and was excited to discover that while the finish was worn, the piece itself was high quality and sturdy. A stamp inside let me know that this desk is made by Vermont Tubbs, and a quick google search leads me to believe that what I got was their Woodstock line computer table, which retails for about $1500 with its matching desk chair.

The chair of course was not on the curb with the table, so either the previous owners bought this and kept the chair, or it was not sold as a set at the time.  There was minimal damage on the table, some cup rings and wear in the top of the table, and in the poly had yellowed quite a bit, so I was just not crazy about the finish.


This desk comes in handy for me both as a spot to put on my make-up in the morning (hence the mirrors) and a crafting/reading/studying area. But there were a few issues I wanted to address. 

1. Refinishing the desk to be more my taste
2. finding a better permanent (hidden!) home for my sewing machine
3. eliminating those storage boxes piled below the desk.



Thursday, June 16, 2011

Nesting

Earlier this month a Robin decided that the the window ledge outside our kitchen pantry was the perfect place to make her nest. I have to say I agree, the vines that cover our building protect her family there from harsh weather and make them nearly invisible to predators. It has been really fun and fascinating to watch the baby birds hatch and grow, though I don't think Mama Robin is so happy about us always peeking at her and her babies through the window.

Look at how much these birds have grown and changed in about 10 days:

photo taken by my roommate Brianna 

They don't all fit in the nest anymore! 
Edit  6/18
and one more two days later, they are changing so quickly! my first thought when I saw them this time was "wow, they're real birds now!"



And one last update about this robin family can be seen here.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

broken laptop blues

image from here






 =     :-(







Guys, I miss blogging. I have so much I want to share with you- from Salted-Caramel Kahlua Brownies to Watermelon Basil cocktails, to the desk I just refinished, to the chair slip cover I am finally getting a start on.

But... a few weeks ago my laptop stopped working. First a pop up notified me that the battery had "reached the end of its life" and yes, in the same message it notified me that replacing the battery was not covered by my warranty. So, I went online in hopes of finding a cheap alternative to replace the battery.

I was in luck and found one on amazon, which came quickly and saved the day. Sort of. Then I had trouble getting the laptop to recognize that it was plugged in and should charge. Madness ensued as I tried wiggling the cord to get it just right to charge, which actually worked for a while (and left me doing weird things like leaving my laptop propped up on pillows to keep just the right angle that allowed it to charge) and then eventually it wouldn't recognize the charger at all. I noticed that the cord where it goes into the laptop base had started the fray, with silver wire-y bits showing. So I decided to buy a new charger (cheap off of ebay) to see if that was the problem. But it's been about a week and the new charger has not yet arrived. So I have been computer-less.

I managed to post about the portobello burgers from my office, but believe me it's not ideal. And that combined with the school work I have to do make not having a computer at home a royal pain!

Of course any time something like this happens, it makes me evaluate how dependent I am on computers. I feel like I have lost a limb. People send me emails, and while I used to respond nearly instantly, I now may not be reachable for a few days at a time. I have trouble falling asleep at night because my old routine was so closely tied in to my ability to check all my emails, read a few blogs or news articles, or even watch a show on hulu until I was sleepy enough to go to bed.

There are friends I can only contact via the computer, for example one of my friends who lives in Australia. I could email her, or instant message, or even talk via skype, but I can't afford what my phone bill would look like from just calling her.

My calendar is online, and without it I forget my commitments- what day do I have to go to the optometrist to get my eyes dilated?

Well I suppose the only feeling that is worse is if my phone is missing or broken- how will I wake up without my trusty alarm, how will I be reached when I am home and don't have a land line?

The anxiety of not being constantly connected is so huge. I have always said that I have no need for a smart phone, I sit at a computer often enough to check my emails, and other wise people can call or text me to reach me, but not having a computer at home the last few days has me second guessing. If I had a smart phone I could check my email, update my blog, and check the weather even when my laptop is down, right?

I have been caught in the rain twice now unprepared, all because I couldn't check the weather report online before leaving the house!

What about you guys- do you feel like you're missing a limb or part of your brain if your computer or phone aren't working? I wish I was less reliant, but the truth is my life revolves around this technology- without it I feel adrift and confused!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Portobello & Red Pepper Burgers


This recipe is one of my favorite things to make come summer time. Marinating the portobellos even briefly in a balsamic vinaigrette leaves them with so much flavor, and a rich tender texture. Red peppers, grilled until soft, with a skin nearly blackened have such a sweet unmistakable flavor. Further toppings of a some caramelized onions, fresh basil and barbeque sauce, all on crusty grilled ciabatta rolls made this a home run of sweet and savory flavors. I melted a bit of sharp cheddar on my own, which was a great addition, but even without the flavors were complex and satisfying.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Banana Rum Caramel Bread Pudding



Holy goodness, guys. I really can't think of anything else to say. Somehow "holy goodness" is an exclamation that comes out of my mouth sometimes. Is goodness holy? I don't even know. Whatever. But seriously. Hot, gooey bananas, custardy challah bread, and a drizzle of rum-y caramel? Yes, please. Mother, may I? Holy goodness. Jabberwocky. I can't even make sense right now.

For the record, these are far superior served warm, so the caramel is melty and gooey and so are the bites of chopped up banana. I was a bit impatient reheating one, and learned the hard way. It was still pretty yummy, though.

I used Challah bread I had in my freezer from the last time I made french toast. If you don't live in an area where this is available (ie, not in an area with a large Jewish population) other types of egg bread or brioche would both be good. I love how Challah is lightly sweet and fairly dense and chewy, so it works perfectly to soak up eggy custard in bread pudding or french toast.

I loved every step of this recipe, and it was a recipe with many steps. I suggest only making this when you have the proper attention to pay it, as getting distracted while making caramel sauce never ends well (have you ever tried to get burnt caramel off of your favorite pan?).

I have mentioned before that I love the feeling of becoming totally involved in the steps of a recipe, the complete zen mindfulness this process creates for me. This was just that kind of recipe, though actually each step was easy and pretty quick. Basically I made the rum caramel sauce first, set it aside. Then sliced the challah bread into 1 inch cubes, lay them out on a baking sheet, and cooked them until lightly browned, and dry. Then made the custard. Then sliced the bananas, and cooked them breifly in a pan with a glaze made of  butter, brown sugar, rum and lemon juice. In the end I assembled them in ramekins for cute individual servings, layering in the bread, bananas and custard. After some time in the oven, I let them cool and then drizzled them with my caramel sauce, which I had poured into a plastic bottle once it cooled down to lukewarm. So, so perfect.

You can see the full recipe here from Bon Appetit. I halved the recipe and made 4 individual servings in 1-cup ramekins.

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