Thursday, November 1, 2012


I know, I know, I promised to share our dresser makeover and maybe even a couple pictures of the decorating finally happening in our dining room. But alas, another week goes by and the dresser is still in the garage. It's finished, but we need to move it upstairs and then I can snap a picture to share.

Oh, and the dining room. I'm still working on it. I'm stuck on the most tedious part of the roman shade making process - sewing all the rings. Let's hope I get some much needed motivation this weekend.

Here are a few pictures from Halloween. Emmerson was Kermit the Frog. It might be the last year I can get away with dressing her in something like that. Next year she'll probably want to join all the other princesses, ballerinas and fairies.

I also have to share this great recipe with you. A wonderful side or with sliced grilled chicken, a main dish. This one is definitely a keeper.

Have a wonderful weekend.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The best baked "donuts" you'll ever have

It seems like for every so-so recipe I make (this one was not a hit at our house this weekend), I find a delicious recipe that I wonder what we ever did without.

I'm not into the pumpkin craze, but this recipe has the perfect amount of pumpkin and spice, yet mild enough that you could make it all year round.

This recipe was adapted from Blue Eyed Bakers Pumpkin Spice Donuts.  You need to make this right now - it's that good! This makes a dozen donut holes using a mini-muffin tin.

For the donuts:
1 1/4 + 2 T whole wheat flour
3/4 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
1/2 t cinnamon
1/4 t nutmeg
1/4 t all spice
1/8 t ground ginger (optional)
2 T + 2 t canola oil
1/4 c brown sugar
1 egg white
3/4 t vanilla
1/4 c + 2 T canned pumpkin
1/4 c milk

For cinnamon sugar coating:
2 T butter, melted
3 T sugar
1 t cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 and coat muffin tin with cooking spray.

In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, all spice and ginger.

In a larger bowl, mix oil, brown sugar, egg white, vanilla, canned pumpkin and milk. Slowly add dry ingredients until just combined.

Spoon batter into muffin tin, filling nearly to top. Bake for 10-12 minutes.

While muffins are cooling, melt butter in one bowl and combine cinnamon and sugar in another. While muffins are still warm, dip in butter and then in cinnamon sugar.

If you have leftovers (which is unlikely), you can store in the refrigerator in a sealed container overnight.  Enjoy!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Kitchen tips

I will preface this post by saying I'm not a professionally trained chef, but I have learned my way around the kitchen. Here are a few tips I've picked up along the way that have helped me reduce prep time while also keeping a clean, healthy kitchen.

Grate garlic cloves, don't mince. I use a zester, but a cheese grater works well too. It's quick and the pieces of garlic are consistently sized and cook more evenly.

Use non-stick cookware. You can use less oil or butter in recipes.

Keep flour in the freezer. I didn't used to do this, but you only need one person to tell you about bugs in flour to make you change your ways. Enough said.

Rinse meat and pat dry with paper towels before seasoning. It's also great if you remember to take meat out of the refrigerator 20 minutes before cooking to allow it to come to room temperature. It will cook more consistently.

Use fresh herbs when you can. There are certain herbs and spices that don't taste the same dried or ground. Nutmeg is a great example. I buy nutmeg whole and zest it into recipes. Thyme is an example of an herb that tastes different dried. I try to use fresh when I have it on hand. Substitute one tablespoon fresh herbs for one teaspoon dried.

Don't buy special pans, tools or equipment for one recipe. You will end up with a kitchen full of stuff you never use! This weekend I had a recipe for baked donuts, but didn't have a donut pan, so I made donut holes using a mini-muffin pan. There were just as good!

I'm sure there are so many other great tips out there. What things help you in the kitchen?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Busy, busy

Yes, we're still here. We've been busy with so many projects around the house. I'm finally getting around to painting and decorating this room. I'm not going as bold as I originally planned. I found a beautiful fabric for roman shades and I'm keeping the room neutral. It will be wonderful to have big dinners in there as soon as we're finished. Just one more coat of paint...

I've also been busy taking this little one to and from school and keeping her entertained on her days off. We've had a couple warm days here, so we've been enjoying them outside. It won't be too long before we'll be stuck indoors.

I've also been making a lot of comfort food on cooler days. We love turkey chili and this chicken pot pie I made a couple weeks ago. You can find the recipe here, although I made a few changes (no egg or celery). Am I the only adult who can't stand celery?!

Oh, and remember this project? The dresser is finally finished, although I can't take much credit. Okay, I can't take credit at all. Well, I did find the dresser, so does that count? Originally, I planned to use the existing hardware, but it was in bad shape, so when I removed it, it bent and twisted. I just have to put the new hardware on and move it out of the garage. I can't wait to share pictures with you next week.

We are spending this weekend celebrating Halloween. We still haven't carved our pumpkins, but we went to The Great Pumpkin Display in Whitefish Bay last night and we got a lot of inspiration. It's also trick-or-treat on Sunday, so we're hoping for good weather this year.

I hope you're able to enjoy the Halloween festivities this weekend! Check back next week for pictures of a painted dining room and a completed dresser!

Friday, October 5, 2012

What we've been doing...

I'm sorry about the lack of posting. I have a few things to blog about, but I have been battling a nasty cold that my daughter brought home from school. I am hoping we can all get our immunity up quickly so we aren't dealing with illness all winter!

The sunrise and sunset have been absolutely amazing the last week. I saw my first shooting star (!) and we watched the moon rise over the lake one night.

Emmerson had picture day at school this week. Sadly, these might be the only pictures we'll have of her because she had a meltdown. She didn't want to take a break from playing for a picture. I can't blame her - I'm not one for a posed portrait either.

She was so excited about her skirt and sparkly tights though. I'm happy she's finally excited about clothes (even though she might still be a bit of a tomboy and wants to wear rain boots with most dresses). She's such a cutie!

Have a wonderful weekend!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

An amazing weekend

It isn't too often that everything works out and we have a perfect weekend that replenishes us for the week ahead. It was equal parts relaxation and snuggling up by the fire and getting things accomplished.

Things that made me happy this weekend:

1. A real magazine with ink and pages - not an ipad version. I love getting a magazine knowing I have the entire weekend to devour every page.

2. Appreciating art (and an impromptu children's dance party) with friends.

3. Tea. It warms me up and the smells of cinnamon and cardamom make me think of the holidays.

4. Giving our dog a bath. We have a high maintenance dog who I swear is better behaved when he's freshly groomed. We usually drop him at the groomer for the day, but this weekend he was desperate for a bath so we bathed him ourselves. And it was fun. Really.

5. Beautiful fall mums on my door step.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Grandma Wood's cookies

I have fond memories of cooking with my grandma when I was young. She always baked the best bread, sweet rolls and desserts. She had an amazing peanut butter, oatmeal, chocolate chip cookie recipe and sadly, I don't know the origin, but I've seen similar recipes online. I made these for my wedding five years ago. These cookies have a special place in my heart, and my stomach!

Here is my grandma's version:

Ingredients (approximately 20 cookies)
1 c all-purpose flour
1 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
1/2 c (1 stick) room-temperature butter
1/2 c chunky peanut butter
1/2 c sugar
1/3 c brown sugar
1 t vanilla extract
1 room-temperature egg
1/2 rolled oats
1 c semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350. Mix together flour, baking soda and salt, and set aside.

Mix butter, peanut butter, sugar, brown sugar and vanilla until light and creamy. Add egg and mix. Gradually add flour mixture. Once combined, stir in oats and chocolate chips.

On a parchment lined cookie sheet, scoop dough (approximately 2 T dough for each cookie or smaller  if you prefer). Bake 8-10 minutes until lightly brown.

Tuscan bread salad

We have a deli near our house that we used to frequently weekly and I almost always ordered the same thing: the Tuscan bread salad. It was delicious and I craved it often. And then something horrible happened - I was mid-way through my salad and there was a bug. I will spare you the details (it still makes me sick to think about it and the restaurant's explanation for the problem), but needless to say, we have not been back.

Recently, I started thinking about the salad again. Not that exact salad, of course, but a similar salad. Fresh tomatoes, bread soaked in sweet balsamic dressing, fresh mozzarella and salty cashews. I decided I could replicate this at home.

Dressing Ingredients
2 T honey
1 t dijon mustard
1/2 t salt
1/2 t ground pepper
1/4 c balsamic vinegar
3/4 olive oil
1 crushed garlic clove

I followed the instructions in this recipe using slightly less mustard, so it would be more sweet.

Salad Ingredients (2-3 large servings)
3 c mixed baby greens
1/3 french baguette, cubed
2-3 Roma tomatoes (any tomato will work)
2 t finely chopped basil
1/4 c fresh mozzarella, cubed
2 T cashews, roughly chopped

Make the salad dressing and pour into a glass jar or bottle, leaving approximately 1/4 c in the bowl. Add bread, mozzarella and basil to the bowl and mix. Be sure the mixture is coated well with the dressing. If not, add more salad dressing. Cover and refrigerator bread mixture for at least one hour. Divide greens, tomato and cashews onto two or three plates. Top with bread mixture. Serve with additional salad dressing, salt and pepper.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Emmerson's new room

We transitioned Emmerson into a new room in the last two weeks. Big changes around here, I know! With the exception of the one night I found her taking the outlet covers out (why is it that only children can remove those?!), we haven't had any problems with the transition. She's on the same sleeping schedule and stays in her room until I get her in the morning.

Here are the before and after pictures of her room.

We reused most things from her nursery. In hindsight, I wish I had chosen a color scheme that would work when she's older (she probably won't want pastels when she's a teen), but it works for now. I am still on the hunt for a white iron bed and a mirror for above her dresser.

The best part of her new room is that when I wake her up in the morning or from her nap, I crawl into bed with her and cuddle her for a few minutes before she's up and running. I have to savor those moments.

Have a good weekend!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Mirror makeover

I think the first rule in resale shopping is keep your eyes and mind open. You rarely find exactly what you went to look for, but you might just find something else that's perfect in another room. That's exactly how I stumbled upon this mirror. I was leaving and saw it in the window and knew I had the perfect nook for it in our foyer. And for just $30, it was mine.

I sanded it lightly (only because it was painted with a textured paint) and spray painted it, first with a white primer to make sure none of the gold finish would show through. 

The key to spray painting is to never start or stop on the frame. Shake the can well and start spraying off the mirror frame (on the cardboard), spray continuously and then move the paint back on the cardboard to stop. This will prevent drips from too much paint.

This mirror worked out perfectly.

Monday, September 10, 2012

First day of school

We've been enjoying the last week of summer before this little girl started preschool today. We have been preparing for this day - reading books about what school is like, talking about school, learning her teachers' and friends' names.

She was ready. She went to class without a tear (maybe just a little hesitation).

Everyone who has kids will tell you, it goes by so quickly. And yet, when it's you, you can't help but hope those not-so-fun stages will pass. And then one day you realize you're looking at a child, not the baby you once knew.

I am so proud to be this little girl's mommy.


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Recipe repeat: tomato gratin

I have already shared this recipe with you, but I thought I should share it again. If you have an abundance of tomatoes from your garden (like we do!) than you're probably looking for recipes like this one:

2-3 large tomatoes
2 T fresh chopped basil
1 c bread crumbs
1 grated garlic clove
1/3 c grated parmesan cheese
2 T olive oil

Preheat oven to 450. Slice tomatoes 1/2" thick and arrange in a lightly oiled baking dish (any 8" or 9" dish works). Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Add chopped basil.

If you have bread you are trying to get rid of, you can make bread crumbs, and it's worth the extra effort (I use this bread crumb recipe all the time) but store-bought panko bread crumbs work just fine too.

Pulse bread in food processor. Heat olive oil in pan, add garlic clove, cooking for one minute. Add bread crumbs (fresh or store-bought). Cook for 3-4 minutes (less for store-bought) and remove from heat. Stir in parmesan cheese.

Top tomatoes with the bread crumb mixture. Cover loosely with foil and bake for 25-30 minutes until cooked through. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Also, this recipe works well with zucchini too!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Home buying nightmare

I usually don't use this blog for this purpose, but I feel so strongly about this issue that I have to say something here. I heard about this story months ago and read the article in the newspaper yesterday.

It wasn't the article that bothered me, it was the comments. Many of the comments were negative and directed toward the family that purchased the home. Maybe it's difficult to feel empathy for a successful and well-off family, but I am still shocked at the underlying jealousy in the comments.

I agree that this story is an extreme and we all know that news loves sensationalism. But the readers seem to be so focused on the circumstances of this extreme (the price of the home, the owner's job description, the home inspection) and the lessons are lost on those readers who can't see past their envy.

I learned during the purchase of our latest home, that all realtors (even your own) represent the seller unless you have a signed document stating otherwise. This allows realtors a certain protection. Even though we were aware of this, we were still the victims of some misrepresented information.

Also, those who have purchased a home and had a home inspection know that a home inspection has no guarantees and the inspector can not be held liable. Our first home inspector caught many problems and saved us money, but our second inspector failed to notice the most obvious items.

I am surprised that readers were critical of the family for being too trusting of the sellers. It saddens me to think that we can be criticized for not being a cynic and instead seeing the good in people (and our neighbors).

When I was in high school, I may have been able to relate to the critical comments. There were times I was envious (and sometimes critical) of those who lived more privileged lives. But as an adult and mother, I don't like seeing bad things happen to anyone, no matter their income level.

There is a lesson about home buying in this article for those who wish to see it. But there's also a lesson on compassion and life for those who don't.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Happy Friday

I saw this adorable interview the other day of two daughters explaining themselves after one gave the other a horrible haircut. Did you ever give your sibling a haircut? I have to apologize to my brother because I did (more than once) give him a bad haircut. But okay, don't you think it's harder to cut boys hair than girls?! I don't think I ever cut my sister's hair, but I'm sure I burned her with a curling iron once or twice.

Here's a picture of Emmerson getting her first haircut recently. And of course that little monkey let the hair stylist comb her hair, cut it and put clips in it.
Have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

French toast breakfast for two

This morning we made the most delicious french toast for breakfast. My mom has been buying Emmerson a honey bear at the farmer's market - she loves the bear and we all love the fresh honey. The honey was a great addition to our french toast recipe.

We used one egg, one egg white, a tablespoon of honey, 1/2 cup of vanilla soymilk (you could use any milk and add a teaspoon of vanilla), 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon of cinnamon. Whisk ingredients together and pour into a pie dish. Soak four slices of bread for 10-20 seconds on each side.

In a pan or griddle on medium heat, add a tablespoon of butter. Cook french toast approximately 3-5 minutes per side.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Low-fat snickerdoodles

I hope you had a relaxing weekend!

I had a cookie craving all weekend, but didn't want something full of fat and calories. I found a cookie recipe on Cooking Light, but made a couple substitutes of my own. This cookie is just sweet enough to satisfy a sweet tooth.

1 1/2 c white whole wheat flour (or all-purpose)
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t cream of tartar
1 c sugar
1/4 c room temperature butter
1 T agave nectar
1 t vanilla extract
1 room temperature egg
2 T sugar
2 t cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Just a little trick: spray the corner of the baking sheet with cooking spray before using parchment paper. It will prevent the paper from moving while you're taking the pan in and out of the oven.

Combine flour, baking soda and cream of tartar in a small bowl.

Mix 1 c sugar and 1/4 c butter until blended. Add agave, vanilla and egg. Gradually add the flour mixture until combined. With wet hands, shape dough into one inch balls.

Combine 2 T sugar and 2 t cinnamon in a bowl. Roll each ball in cinnamon sugar mixture.

Bake for 3 minutes and flatten each cookie slightly with a spatula or fork. Bake for an additional 3-5 minutes until lightly browned. Makes approximately 20 cookies. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Three day potty training

I was skeptical of this idea, but I'm happy to report it has worked for us! I remember reading somewhere in college that it takes 14 times to create a habit. I suppose three day potty training is based on a similar theory in that we need to stay home for three days until she goes 10-12(ish) times in a row.

I read about the details online and since I knew we had a couple days at home (my car was being fixed) I thought I'd give it a try. We had tried potty training one time earlier, but I quickly realized that I was the one that needed to be ready (I have to remind her to go, stop what I'm doing and take her to the bathroom every 10-15 minutes).

On day three we went out for a celebratory dinner. The thought of being away from her little potty made me nervous. It was hard for her to use a public bathroom at first and there may be something to say for those who believe you shouldn't use a children's potty and just teach them to go on the regular toilet. But after a couple of outings, she has mastered the public bathroom too.

I'm so proud of this little girl!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Berry crisp with maple-almond topping

I hope you had a good weekend! We painted Emmerson's big girl room (I will share pictures in a couple weeks when we have things cleaned up and set up) and we went to the Arlington Heights horse track with family.

Last week, while Emmerson was potty training and we were looking for things to do in the house, we made this fruit crisp. It was delicious with a scoop of ice cream.

Filling ingredients
6 c berries (I used blackberries, blueberries and a diced pear)
2 T maple syrup
1 t balsamic vinegar
3 T sugar
3 T flour
1/8 t salt
1/8 t cinnamon

Crisp ingredients
1/2 c flour
2/3 c oats
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 c toasted almonds (or other nut)
1/4 t salt
3 T canola oil
3 T maple syrup

Preheat oven to 350. Coat baking dish with cooking spray. Wash berries and put in bowl with sugar, flour, salt and cinnamon. Whisk maple syrup and balsamic vinegar together and add to bowl. Stir until combined. Put filling ingredients into baking dish.

Whisk together canola oil and maple syrup in a small bowl. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, oats, brown sugar, toasted almonds and salt. Drizzle oil and syrup mixture over dry ingredients. Use fingers to combine until small clumps form. Pour crisp mixture over filling.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until top is lightly browned.

And pictures of the big winner and Emmerson at the horse races.

Friday, August 10, 2012

...And an easy chickpea salad

Last weekend we brought a simple lunch with us down to the lake. I made this chickpea salad with veggies we had in our garden and refrigerator. 

1 can chickpeas, rinsed
1/2 english cucumber or 1 regular cucumber (seeds removed), chopped
3 roma tomatoes, chopped
1/3 c olive mixture in oil and seasoning, halved
1/4 c feta cheese crumbled

You can buy the olive mixture at the grocery store in the olive bar or deli. Sometimes the mixture has feta cheese. If so, you can buy that rather than buying the feta separately. Just make sure to buy the olives in oil and seasoning.

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Enjoy!

More pictures...

I meant to post pictures earlier this week, but we were in the middle of a three-day potty training. I am happy to report that Emmerson is potty trained (when we're home, during the day). We've made so much progress.

We've been enjoying the last couple weekends of summer: hiking down the bluff to swim in Lake Michigan, catching a concert, a pancake breakfast and Discovery World. We're looking forward to spending more time with family this weekend and maybe starting another painting project.

Have a wonderful weekend.



Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Weeknight meal: Eggs and kohlrabi hash

1 large kohlrabi
1 T olive oil
1 garlic clove
2 eggs
2 pieces of bread
2 T herb or plain goat cheese
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 425. Peel and chop one large or two-three small kohlrabi bulbs (that is a bulb, right?) and spread on baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 T olive oil and toss to coat. Add a grated/minced garlic clove and generously sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until brown.

As the kohlrabi is roasting, cook the egg. I have to admit that I didn't know how to make a fried egg until last week. The trick is to cook it on low heat (if you have a gas stove, the blue flame should barely be visible) and don't touch it.

Melt 1/2 T butter in the fry pan and crack the eggs into the pan, being careful not to damage the yolk, and cover. Toast bread slices. When bread is toasted and still warm, spread with goat cheese. Divide eggs, loosen from pan with spatula and season with salt and pepper. Place cooked egg on goat cheese toast and serve with roasted kohlrabi.

Cute baby wrap

Any moms-to-be out there? We used the Baby Bjorn for Emmerson, but I sure wish I had known about this adorable baby carrier!

The Wrap by Solly Baby from Memorialist Media on Vimeo.

Friday, August 3, 2012

And we made it.

Whew, it's Friday. It was a busy week both because my husband was swamped with work and because we packed in so many activities. We hosted a play date/lunch, did some shopping and had lunch downtown, went to the zoo, played at the park and went to the pool.

We are looking forward to spending time with friends this weekend. And hopefully sleeping in if Emmerson allows it. Have a good weekend!

I'll leave you with a few pictures from our week.
Testing out a big girl bed. Hmm...she says she won't jump on the bed or get out in the middle of the night.

This naughty baby spent the day in time-out. Seemed excessive to me, but who am I to say.

Just dancing around.

Look, an elephant!

See, ice cream. This is as good as it gets for a "posed" picture these days.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Mudroom makeover

I thought I'd start decorating in the smallest (easiest) and most functioning area of the house - our side/garage entrance and mudroom. I painted a week ago and needed a couple days to touch-up, hang pictures and get it exactly how I wanted it. It has motivated me to keep going with other rooms in the house - the crown molding and woodwork look amazing against the dark walls.



Source List
Paint: Benjamin Moore James River Gray
Hooks: RH vintage hook in satin nickel
Baskets: CB wire baskets
Chalk tags: Save On Crafts
Clock: Save On Crafts
Pictures: Various framed cards

© Lake House Effect. Made with love by The Dutch Lady Designs.