Terror Lake 

You know the dark underbelly of old house ownership? Quirky wiring? Lead paint worries? Quirky…plumbing??

Saturday, The Flyer and I were getting ready for an actual date – dropping Feisty with her grandparents and going to lunch/movie. The Flyer successfully unclogged the bathroom sink, but noticed that the tub wasn’t draining either. With our time crunch, he decided to just shower and we could deal with it when we got home.

Yeah, bad plan. We ended up with a gushing pipe (until I walked in, stoppered the tub and grabbed a bucket for bailing) and a massive lake of potentially subfloor-damaging water EVERYWHERE.

So bad. We mopped up. We almost cancelled our date, but my parents talked us out of that. Sunday morning, my dad came over. He is seriously the freaking house whisperer. My parents have renovated five houses now, and I only recall them hiring a contractor like twice.

So we have a functional tub again. It was minor after all, just a giant clog downstream. Terror Lake is relegated to the hopefully permanent past. And while The Flyer and the father were flushing the gunk out of drain, I made donuts. Never let it be said that I don’t do my part.

I used this recipe, minus the nutmeg, for baked cake donuts. I frosted them with my great great aunt’s recipe for caramel frosting. Normally, this is used to recreate her signature chocolate cake, but thinned down, it was pretty darn delicious as a topping for donuts- caramel iced cake is a favorite donut flavor around here.

Aunt Rene’s Caramel Frosting (donut edition)

Frosts 1 dozen standard size donuts

2 T salted butter

1/2 c brown sugar 

4 T heavy whipping cream 

1/2 t vanilla extract 

1 c confectioners sugar

Melt butter in small saucepan over medium heat, being careful not to brown. Adjust heat to medium low if necessary. Add cream and sugar, stir until dissolved. Bring to a rapid boil and boil for 1 minute.

Remove from heat, beat in 1/2 c of confectioners sugar. Cool slightly, add vanilla and remaining sugar. Frosting will be thick – add additional cream or whole milk to spread easily over donuts.

When doubled and with the cream amount dialed back to 3 T, the recipe frosts a 9 x 13 sheet cake. Go chocolate on this one. Make the Hershey’s classic recipe with dark chocolate and oh man… No regrets. Serve French vanilla ice cream over it for the full Aunt Rene experience. Just use all-purpose flour or the icing will decimate your delicate cake.

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Mission accomplished

Well, I did not mean to be away from this blog for so long! We’ve been working on finishing up the (currently occupied) bedrooms, plus I’ve been going into the office more, which equals less blog time for me. Also, does anyone else follow “The Wonder Weeks” with their baby/toddler? Feisty is on Leap 9 of 10 (almost done with the leaps, thank God, thank GOD) and therefore deigns to sleep alone for like 20 minutes a night.

Speaking of Feisty, her nursery is complete! Here she will stay until she’s old enough to move into the Big Girl Room. The finishing touches included a birch tree mural on one wall, plus a “metal” letter. I do want to re-upholster the ugly wing chair in that room at some point, but I’m still calling it done!

Photographic evidence:


The tree mural wasn’t quite as difficult as I’d thought – once I scrapped the idea in which I actually would draw a decent looking tree. I used this tutorial and stenciled some birds onto the finished trees.

I had planned to buy a metal letter from Anthropologie – they aren’t out of sight expensive – but came across a tutorial to make faux-metal letters on the extreme cheap, so, of course, I did that.

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They turned out pretty well! Trotting horses will never notice. I even made an extra one for over the fireplace, as we’re finally going to start painting the downstairs soon and will be able to then hang up stuff.

In food news, I’ve been hard at work with the usual granola, muffins, random weeknight dinners. Lent is starting tomorrow, so I’m getting ready to simmer a big pot of red lentil (haha LENTil) soup. The meatlessness of Lent is actually a boon to my organization because it forces me to think ahead and have veggie options available.

I also attempted a king cake in the spirit of Mardi Gras! I’d never actually had king cake prior to making it, mostly because the store versions look really cloying and too rich. It was pretty time consuming, plus the dough took foreverrrr to rise in our chilly house, but the results were delicious! I used Sara Bonisteel’s recipe from The New York Times Cooking. Well, a modified version. I replaced the almond extract with lemon, filled it with cream cheese filling and used regular whole milk in place of the sweetened condensed milk in the icing. No offense to John Besh (haha), but mixing sugar with SC milk just sounds like tooth-decaying overkill.

The dusting sugars, though. The green and yellow were beautiful, but I discovered when I attempted to make purple that we are out of blue food coloring. Thus, the jankified purple I mustered up with a bit of green and a lot of red. And I didn’t quite sub the regular milk in a proper ratio, so the icing was super runny. Still tasty, though!

Wacky Cake

When I was a kid, my mom used to make this cake we called “wacky cake.” The wackiness? It doesn’t follow the usual rules of cake making. I’m sure there’s a technical term for this type of cake, but I have no idea what it is (leave me a comment if you do!). Regardless, it’ll always be wacky cake to me.

Yesterday, I wanted cake, but we have barely any butter, one egg, and no milk. (The freezer is barren, too, but that’s neither here nor there. Time to hit the grocery…) So, ingredient-less, I remembered WC and dug out the recipe for it. Its leavening comes from a baking soda-vinegar reaction, and it was at this point I realized I had poured all the white vinegar down the basement floor drain trying to clear it.

We still had balsamic vinegar, though, and a quick Google search confirmed that chocolate/balsamic flavor mashup is actually a thing. Figuring it would be either good or horrible, I threw it in. It was good.

My mom always made the straight-up, as-written WC recipe, but it occurred to me that this would take well to changes: nut oils, coffee instead of water, infused vinegars, different extracts. I may be off on an experimental WC binge this week. Mom always served it dusted with confectioners sugar, but I was craving a little extra chocolatiness and made a quick frosting out of roughly 1/4 c. semisweet chocolate chips and 2 T. of heavy whipping cream, microwaved for a minute and stirred together until well blended. Buttercream, a drizzle of royal icing, or some fresh fruit (or fruit syrup) would all work wonders, too. I feel like we used to have some kind of chocolate/royal icing snack cake as kids and now I’m totally nostalgic for it.

Before I get to the recipe, I will say that this is a tasty bit of nostalgia for a snack/weeknight dessert, but not some earth-shattering cake I’d serve at a dinner party. Also, this cake DOES NOT invert well, so just serve it from the pan.

Wacky Cake

Serves 8-9

1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour

1 c. sugar

3 T. cocoa powder

1 t. baking soda

1/2 t. salt

6 T. neutral oil

1 T. white or apple cider (or balsamic!) vinegar

1/2 t. vanilla extract

1 c. cold water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8×8 square or 8-inch round cake pan. Use a fork to mix dry ingredients right in the pan. Make a large, a medium, and a small well in the center.

Add oil to the largest well, vinegar to the medium well, and vanilla to the small well. Pour cold water over entire thing. Blend thoroughly to combine.

Bake 35 mins or until tester comes out clean. Frost or dust with confectioners sugar as desired. Enjoy the wackiness!

*Sugar amount seemed excessive to me, but I went ahead with it. Results weren’t overly sweet, but I might play with this in WC experiments.

Cinnamon Muffins

How was everyone’s Super Bowl Sunday? Feisty and I went to my aunt, The Singer’s,  for a party, and I ate ALL. THE. JUNK. FOOD. It was glorious in that sick-feeling, but wings-and-pizza-stuffed way. She also sent us home with five heaping plates of goodness. Carrying that home, plus my purse, gifts for Feisty, toys for Feisty and actual Feisty was no joke, but now I am kinda counting down to today’s junk time.

I was going to start eating healthier or something, but with the five plates of tasties in the fridge and my upcoming birthday, that’s a resolution that’s best tabled for now.

Anyway. We’ve got meals pretty well figured out here, honestly, except lunch. We try, but never manage to get it together. Breakfast, though. I skipped it all through high school and undergrad, some of adulthood, but now actually enjoy it with the help of homemade granola on whole milk plain yogurt and making a batch of muffins to freeze in advance. Today, I adapted this recipe, and the results were good. As written, I found it good, but maybe too pared down without a lot of flavor. I also didn’t have time to make streusel topping because work and baby breakfast.

Cinnamon Whole Wheat Muffins

Makes 12 standard-size muffins.

3/4 c. whole wheat flour
1/2. c. all-purpose flour
1 c. old-fashioned oats
1/3 c. brown sugar
1 T. baking powder
1 1/2 t. cinnamon
1 c. milk
1 egg
1/4 c. neutral oil
1 t. vanilla
1/3 c. + 1T cinnamon sugar, reserved

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease 12 standard muffin cups or line with cupcake papers.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together dry ingredients until well blended. Make a well in the center.

In another bowl, beat egg and add milk, oil and vanilla. Stir into well in center of dry ingredients and mix until fully incorporated. Fill greased muffin cups half to 3/4 full with batter. Sprinkle 1/2 T. of reserved cinnamon sugar over each muffin.

Bake for 18-20 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Run a knife around the edge of each muffin, cool for 5 mins, then remove from pan to cooling rack.

When the muffins are fully cooled, I put them on a baking sheet and freeze, then (ideally), when completely frozen, turn then out into a freezer bag. Store in freezer and warm for about 30 seconds in the microwave before serving.

Hibernation 

Normally, I’m all about winter. Fall is my favorite, but I’m down with the -uary months. Hot chocolate, my winter clothes (nicer than my summer ones), soups, stews, gingerbread, toasty batches of granola, snuggling under flannel sheets, snow.


But we’ve barely had any snow this year and have been living in moving chaos and well. Winter is just dragging this year.

For once I’m looking forward to warmer weather, starting my extensive list of plants from seed, getting the yard in order. We try to eat seasonally and are hardcore missing fresh tomatoes right now. Those anemic-looking hydroponic things don’t really cut it.

At least we have citrus season, and I found this recipe for Lemon-Rosemary cookies to try. I wouldn’t have thought of that combo, honestly, but a writer friend made them for dessert after a lunch at her (super awesome Victorian) house a while back, and they were off the charts. 

Now hopefully I can also figure out ways to shake off the winter doldrums that don’t involve eating massive amounts of cookies. The Flyer has started doing those seven-minute interval workouts to cure his, and they look excruciating. Toddler hefting and nursing will probably just remain my cardio.

Feisty’s Big Day

Today, we celebrated the one-year anniversary of Feisty’s baptism. Which I can’t believe was actually a year ago. I didnFullSizeRender.jpg‘t make a cake for her baptism party on account of getting ready for a house full of people and having a six-week-old! So I figured today I might as well try out the King Arthur Flour Recipe of the Year, the Lemon Bliss Cake. (I think I linked to this in the previous post, too. I swear I’m not a flour shill, I just really like their recipes and finally had time to make it today.)

The cake turned out really well, nice and moist, with a perfect crumb. I added lavender flowers to the icing, which was a tasty addition. It’s looking a little dented in the photo, but was otherwise lovely!

We lit Feisty’s baptismal candle at lunch. She crumbled her cake into little bits and ignored it, aside from the pieces she threw onto the hardwood. It was nice for The Flyer and me to reflect, though. Here’s a flashback to a year ago, teeny Feisty “enjoying” her big moment with her godparents:

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We had her baptized in the traditional Roman Rite at our FSSP parish, and it was a beautiful ceremony. It was interesting to share the Traditional Latin Mass with family who had mostly forgotten it and friends who had never experienced it. (Also, not going to lie, I kinda got a kick out of seeing my mother-in-law don a veil.)

I hope Feisty is able to appreciate why we chose that for her and that this day becomes more meaningful to her as she grows up. She’s already doing better than last year – she was okay until the priest sprinkled salt in her mouth, and then she was filled with rage for the remaining portion.

In other news, I singlehandedly unclogged our basement floor drain, and we are finally getting somewhere on winterizing the spa. We also have gotten mostly unpacked, thanks to my aunt, who took Feisty for part of a day last week. Being able to do laundry and move freely from room to room has taken an amazing amount of stress off all of us.

Hi there

I’ve been meaning to start this blog project for over a week, but the still-packed boxes in the living room, my work schedule, and my child have had other plans. For now, I’m ignoring the couple remaining boxes, have hit a slow spot in the work day, and my child is currently being entertained by her “skellies.” Dancing lifesavers, those skellies.

A little less than a month ago, we closed on our first home, which has been surreal and terrifying. As we settle in here, though, the house has taken hold and made me want to do strange things. Garden, for example, although I’ve killed every house plant I’ve ever owned, and my mom literally couldn’t pay me to weed her flowerbeds growing up. Decorate, but I’ve always been into that. Learn about tools. Unclog drains. Winterize the spa. The last two items are on the agenda for today, so this should be interesting.

Life starts to seem tantalizing-the backyard for Feisty, the gas oven and range for me, the endless DIY learning opportunities for The Flyer, who has been watching This Old House since 1989. I picture every detail of every room during the (many hours of) time it takes Feisty to fall asleep, plan out what I will start from seed, what needs fixing, how to do it.

It’s all kinds of exciting, and I hope to keep chronicling it here.