Monday, May 31, 2010

Day 151 - Take the Long Way Home . . .

Today was beautiful. Amazing. Gorgeous. Perfect.

So after another fun afternoon at the lake we headed home. We ended up getting on the road around 3 and since we had the Jeep top down and the sun was shining, we decided to try a new way home. And take the 'back roads' from Nebraska to Kansas and to avoid Interstate 29 completely.

We set off with out much of a plan and used my cell phone map as our guide.

There wasn't a cloud in the sky . . . before we got too far on our way, we stopped off in Nebraska City to fuel up the car, buy a map and then stopped at Runza for a a quick snack to take on the road. We bought an order of mini-corn dogs (can you believe I have never had a corn dog what-so-ever, until this afternoon.) The were pretty darn good. Not the healthiest thing in the world and I don't even want to know what is in them, but I am glad I can cross corn dogs off my list of first.

With our car fueled up and a snack for our bellies we set off on the open road . . .

Of course, it wouldn't be a drive through the country without lots of bugs hitting the wind shield

It was neat to go down a road neither of us had ever taken and to just sit back and enjoy the beautiful country side

Our adventure was off to a great start

And before too long we were crossed the State line into Kansas

Normally, on I-29 we go from Nebraska to Iowa to Missouri to Kansas so it was nice to go straight from Nebraska into Kansas

There were plenty of reminders that we were driving though the heartland

Everything was going well and we made good time to get to our first big turn off towards Hiawatha (love the name)

We crossed a little road-side dinner, called Philly's so I took a picture, for my dad Phil :)

We continued along our way, enjoying all the beautiful country scapes

Every picture we took, was taken while we were in motion so I was pretty impressed with some of neat shots we were able to capture.

As we got to Atchinson, KS we hit our first detour, but just rolled along, following the signs

And kept noticing signs for the Lewis & Clark trail and the Pony express, it's pretty amazing to think of all the people and messages that crossed the same path so many years ago.

The first detour was the longest one either of us had ever taken - it probably added 45 minutes to an hour to our journey, but the sun kept shining and we kept smiling - it was too nice out to worry about time

This in one of the last pictures I snapped before Quinn and I switched places (his allergies were starting to get pretty bad, which is strange considering he NEVER has allergies . . . one of the perks of the great outdoors I suppose)

A haunted house perhaps?

Something about a rickety old barn gets me every time. Quinn and I originally thought about having our wedding reception in one, with pretty lights and a big dance party - although this didn't pan out, don't be surprised if we end up throwing a barn party sometime down the road

We actually hit a second detour, and somehow missed the signs, but after a simple rerouting of our trip we were back on track (for the record, I am the better navigator and Quinn can stick to driving)

Some rolling hills and few hay barrels later . . .

We made it home. Total travel time ~ 5 hours. Regular route 2.5 hours.

We probably won't use our newly discovered way home on a regular basis, but when it's too gorgeous out to not be in the great out doors, and if the jeep top is down we might just have to do this again . . .

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Day 150 - Lemon Bunt Cake

This after noon at the lake we celebrated my brother's 19th birthday (the real deal is June 1 and he is coming to KC for that - whahoo!!) Anyway, per his request I made a lemon cake. Earlier this week I had trouble finding a good recipe for lemon cake, which kind of surprised me. I ended up borrowing a cook book from my neighbor Katie called, Cupcakes from the Cake Doctor by Anne Byrn and used the recipe for Lemon Chiffon Cupcakes (but decided to use my bunt cake pan, because I had never used it before and I thought it would be easier)

5 large egg whites
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 package (18.25 oz.) plain lemon cake mix (I used Duncan Hines)
6 oz. (3/4 cup) lemon yogurt
1/2 cup vegetable oil (I used Canola oil)
3 large egg yolks
(2 large lemons for zest & juice)
2 table spoons pure lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

Preheat the oven to 350F. (Since we were at the cabin and it was a bit crazy in the kitchen I didn't take too many pictures.) Zest the lemons into a small bowl & set aside. Juice the lemons and set aside. Separate egg white & yolks, putting 5 egg whites in one medium sized mixing bowl and 3 yolks in a small bowl.

Set the yolks aside and add the cream of tartar to the egg whites. Beat the egg whites & cream of tartar with an electric mixer on high speed until stiff peaks form. Again, being at the lake had some restrictions, for example we don't have an electric mixer out there. I ended up having to repeat this step a second time to get the egg whites to the right consistency (or close enough).

In a large bowl combine the cake mix, yogurt, oil, egg yolks, lemon juice and lemon zest and using the same beaters (or whisk) from the egg whites mix until just blended, scrap the sides of the bowl and mix on high for 2 minutes more.

Once the batter is smooth and well blended fold in the egg whites, until the mixture is light and well combined.

Pour the mixture into the bunt cake pan (or cupcake liners) and bake for about 25-30 minutes (again, things were crazy so I didn't even set a time, but just checked on the cake every few minutes after the first 20 minutes passed) for cupcakes bake for 20-24 min.

Once I stuck in a butter knife and it came out clean I took the cake out and let it cool a bit.

Then I found a tray to move the cake to. Since this was my first ever attempt at a bunt cake, I figure it turned out OK (definitely not the beautiful cake I had in mind though). Anyone have any tricks for a successful bunt cake pan removal?

Once the cake cooled I drizzled a simple lemon glaze over the top:

3 large lemons, juiced (or enough for 6 tablespoons of juice)
1 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted

Place the lemon juice in a small sauce pan over medium low heat and simmer, uncovered until the juice has reduced by half. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the sugar until smooth. Spoon over cake.

As we were enjoy a pretty nice day at the lake, we lost track of time and my brother ended up having to leave quickly for work, so we rushed to get the candles in the cake and sing happy birthday - so no pictures. Despite the fact that this cake was anything but beautiful it sure did taste yummy! And, that's all my almost 19-year old brother was hoping for, so I call it a success!

And lastly, because these are too adorable not to post, here are a couple pictures of Liam I took as he sat on the counter and watched, my mom & sisters and I work.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Day 149- Drop Top to the Homeland

We woke up this morning and it was a glorious day!! So, rather than piling in the VW for our usual road trip to Nebraska, we opted for the Jeep - with the top down, so we could really enjoy the day!

Quinn raised the back seat and made a cozy little pen for Charlie to ride in and I made a point to pack lightly (which was easy to do since I knew we would be spending a lot of our time at the lake - you don't need much there, which I love)

(I did't think to take a picture until after we were driving, so this is the best I could get - although it's tough to see Charlie, you get a good idea of how he huddled up for the windy ride)

I can't believe we have never done the approximately 3-hour drive like this before . . .

Sure the gas mileage in the jeep isn't the best and talking on your cell phone or trying to read or knit is pretty much out of the question (typical car ride activities for me), but the wind blowing and sun shining was all I needed today!

It was such a fun way to start our trip home for the long weekend!!

Other Firsts: Blueberry Bread, My mom bought this bread to bring out to the lake - it was really yummy! Thanks momma :)

We also stopped over at our good friend's house, Jake & Tina's for a cook out this afternoon - it was the first time we had ever been to their house and it was adorable (no pictures though).

Long day - Goodnight!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Day 148 - Frozen Lemon Treats

Happy Memorial Day weekend! Mine has officially begun and I couldn't be happier! I actually went to lunch with Quinn and took the rest of the day off so I could finish my desserts for a cook out we are heading to later this evening at our good friend's the Arther's house and to get ready to be in Nebraska the rest of the weekend.

My neighbor Katie gave me the recipe for what is called on the sheet, Lemon Snow Balls. I am not sure I agree with the name, but no matter what you call them they are delicious & refreshing!


7 Large Lemons
1 Cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 Table spoons of lemon zest
1 cup milk
1 cup cream
1 cup sugar

(To Do Night Before - I did these first steps last night)
First I zested and juiced 2 lemons (I chose the 2 that were oddly shaped since the remaining lemons were going to be the serving dishes). For the remaining 5 lemons I zested from the bottoms only (and then used a knife to make a level surface for each 'lemon bowl') and sliced them in half length wise. I scooped out the centers (using an ice cream spoon) and collected the juice using a strainer.

Once all the lemons were prepared I tightly wrapped the 'lemon bowls' with plastic wrap and placed them in the freezer to harden over night

Mix lemon juice, milk, cream, sugar & lemon zest well - until all sugar dissolves into mixture. Place into a freezer safe bowl & freeze over night (due to limited freezer space, I used 2 smaller bowls)

(To Do Day of or 8 hours later)
Take frozen 'lemon bowls' and lemon mixture out of the freezer.

Arrange 'lemon bowls' on a serving tray (or a baking dish would work well too)

Scoop lemon mixture into food processor and break up a bit using a fork

Process until smooth, but not runny.

Spoon mixture into lemon bowls (I had enough for probably 4 more lemon bowls, so next time I will prepare a couple more lemons)

I set the filled lemon bowls in the freezer while I prepared some berries to serve with the yummy frozen ice cream/sorbet (not really sure how to classify this other than delicious)

Add berries (the recipe suggested sprigs of mint & raspberries, but since I already had the strawberries & blue berries that is what I used) Once garnished, recover well and freeze for at least 3 hours and up to 3 days. (I ended up using my creme brule dishes for the extra). Also, I froze mine with the berries and the frozen berries are interesting, but you could also add the berries just before serving.

Enjoy!! I am hoping to try this same recipe with other citrus fruits later this summer. It's so refreshing and tasty.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Day 147 - Reviving an Old Light Fixture

We have an old, shabby (and I am guessing original) light fixture in one of our spare bedrooms (aka - my craft room/Quinn's storage space/mail sorting area/guest room . . . it has many functions) that I have been wanting to give a quick face-lift to for a while now. I didn't get a chance to snap a picture of it in the ceiling before Quinn took it down, but here it is, pre-dusted (embarrassing - my house really is pretty clean) in all it's original glory

Can you see the potential? I love the glass shades and the simplicity of it, but the aged, metal-look has to go, so I disassembled the fixture (in under 5 minutes)

Cleaned & dried everything off

Covered the light sockets with tape

Took it out side, set up some news paper and sprayed away - using long strokes and covering each angle well

I am going to let it dry over night and will add a complete picture once it's all reassembled in our ceiling.

This was a very quick project (the hardest part was getting it un-wired and off the ceiling (Thanks Q!). I am so happy with the results . . . now I can't help but wonder what to spray paint next?