July in Photos

July in Photos

This summer is just zooming by like nobody’s business.  Frankly, July was a rough month.  Started out fine but then it took a nosedive.  My crazy work schedule took over again and a lot of late nights left me feeling overwhelmed and stressed.  Near the end of the month I made some adjustments in my attitude and did my best to start looking at things from a place of gratitude and abundance.  Amazing what a difference that makes.  Two things that have really helped me are the IG posts from @tarotandtea, particularly her daily tarot advice, and Katie O’Keefe’s blog and IG.  I’m loving watching her moving through #intentionalaugust and #mth (making things happen).  Both are two roads to the same destination, a destination of re-engaging with myself and what means most to me.  All a work in progress, but I’m feeling a lot better equipped to deal with the “stuff” that’s going on in my life right now.

So, what adventures did I get up to in July?  It was so nice to have a long weekend for 4th of July, and you can see I celebrated with a fun mani.  I spent a day with some girlfriends over that weekend too – I even baked cookies!  Eric and I opted to not go out to see fireworks, but instead we enjoyed the evening at home and watched some of the specials on tv.

We had lots of rain in July and it actually made for a much cooler summer than we’re used to in Texas.  I love it when it rains, so it’s always a little bonus.

As part of my attitude adjustment, I spent some extra time on myself – nails (of course), some new makeup (eyeliner and powder), dug out my favorite summertime heels (don’t those cherries kill you?), and some summery statement necklaces like my starfish that jingle!  I even went through all the lipstick I have hoarded in my purse.  Amazing what you find in there.

I had a little bit of relaxation time that I spent working on a gift for my Goddaughter (a summery yellow quilt) and catching up on my DVR’d shows, namely the red carpet from the Oscars.  Yes, it was in February.

Eric and I also did something for ourselves, we finally ordered our frame for the photo we printed from our honeymoon so we could hang it over our bed.  The frame is perfect and goes beautifully with the warm tones of the sunset from the top of the Spanish Steps in Rome.  Apologies for the reflection/glare in the photo…but trust me it looks wonderful.  And it allowed us to mark our bedroom as complete on our home improvement list.

So that was July, and we’re already halfway through August so I’d better start thinking about my August in Photos post!

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Memorial Day

Last year for Memorial Day, we went out to the cemetery and saw my dad’s headstone for the first time since it was placed.  I was amazed at the amount of people there for the ceremony.  I’m glad to have experienced it, but this year we decided that a quiet remembrance of the day was more in line with how I’m feeling these days.  But, I thought it would be nice to share some of the photos I took last year.

I love that they place a flag at each of the graves.  And the ceremony was very nice and so moving.

You can sort of get a feel from the photos how many people were actually there.  We had to park offsite and take a bus into the cemetery.

Such a site to see.

I brought some red and white carnations to put on my dad’s grave.  Nothing to compare to the wreath below, but I’m glad I brought them.

The weather was hot hot hot last year, and boy did I get sunburned after standing outside for hours.  But it was worth it.

I think this year, instead of going at Memorial Day, I’ll go for his birthday, which is coming up in June.  It will be a small and quiet memorial for just us.  But, it will be just as important.

Thank you to all the men and women who have served our country.  And thanks as well to those who remember and honor them.

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March in Photos

March in Photos

Something crazy has been going on with my blog and/or WordPress over the past week.  I keep trying to come in and do a new blog post and haven’t been able to!  So, finally here is March in photos.

March was kind of a month of indulgences.  Between the Mozartkugeln from Germany, the yummy homemade pizza, a good book and some nail polish, I was kind of on a roll!  Really, I think a good part of it was a bit of escapism from some stuff that hasn’t been so fun to deal with this month.

One of the best things this month was going to the Dallas Quilt Show with a friend.  I haven’t been to the quilt show in years, and it was such a fabulous day full of inspiration and even a little shopping.  And the inspiration hasn’t left yet.  I’ve been itching to sew!!  Once I finished my Kate Spain quilt in February, I was dying to get back to my Kiss Kiss quilt.  In March, I managed to get all of the cutting finished and also got all of my pieced blocks sewn together.  Next up is starting to assemble the rows.  I can’t wait to see this beauty come together!  And I finished up a hexy pincushion for a friend’s birthday and sent it on its way.  And a beautiful little thank you card came in the mail for the birthday gift I’d sent to another friend last month.  Isn’t that little bird with the blue and white bowls adorable?

Some days it really started to feel like Spring, and the trees were blooming with glorious color.  But we keep getting days of temps dipping back into the 30s and 40s, so I indulged in a little Mexican hot chocolate in the evening.

In family life, my boys are getting so big!  They are a year old and we are feeling so fortunate to have them in our lives.  Their daily shenanigans really keep us on our toes!!  In June it will mark one year that we’ve had them, which I find hard to believe!!

As always, I appreciate you stopping by!  I’m really enjoying sharing some of what’s going on in my world here.

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Honoring Her

Easter never used to be more than a holiday for me.  As I mentioned in my last post, over the past few years it has been made more special by spending our honeymoon in Rome for Easter.  Eric’s love of family and traditions has also changed my perception of it, and we celebrate with a special meal and his special cake.  But, this year things seemed to all fall into place to change me at some deep level, to focus on the true meaning of the days leading up to Easter.

On Good Friday, Eric’s grandmother passed away.  And suddenly, we were faced with mourning this amazing woman who had helped to shape Eric into the man he is today.  The past few years have been so full of loss, but somehow this was different.  In the midst of our sadness and grief, we were presented with the message of Easter and for me at least, it brought some comfort.

While I had intended to make Eric’s special cassata cake for him, because of the tradition his Grandmother started, once we got the news on Friday I knew that making Easter special this year was something we both needed.  When I did my last post and posted the photo of my dining room table decorated for the holiday, it reminded me that other than Christmas, I have done zero holiday decorating in several years.  So, I decided that I wanted to make this Easter as special as possible for both of us.  So, on Saturday, while Eric was gone I dug through my holiday decorations and did a little decorating around the house.  Just a few touches, since I knew it wouldn’t be up for very long.  I was so happy to see our dining room all dressed up for Spring.

I especially love my little glass bunnies.  I think I got them from Williams Sonoma years and years ago.  But, aren’t they cute?

And I’m glad I managed to get a photo of how pretty everything looked before the hoodlums got up on the table and ran off with an egg ornament in their mouths and proceeded to bat them around the house.

After I got the decorating finished, I got started on making the cassata cake.  My recipe reminded me that it’s good to make the pound cake a day ahead so that it is completely cooled before I try to put the filling between the layers and frosting it.

On Sunday morning, I got started on finishing the cake.  I made the filling and popped it in the fridge to chill so that it was easier to spread.  Then I got started on making the whipped cream frosting.  Homemade whipped cream is just the best, isn’t it?  Reminded me of my chocolate bread pudding – I need to make that sometime soon.

Once I had my filling and frosting made, I cut my poundcake into layers and then brushed them with rum.  I have actually forgotten this step before, so this time I made sure that I noted it on my recipe ingredients.

Once I had the cake assembled, into the fridge it went so that the ricotta filling and the whipped cream frosting could set up.  Then it was time to make dinner.  Eric made the fabulous Moroccan lamb burgers we’d agreed on for Easter dinner, from a recipe courtesy of our friends in Rhode Island.  We opened a bottle of Barefoot Moscato for dinner and it was a delicious counterpoint to the spices in the burgers.  Everything was so good!

And after dinner we dove into dessert.  I sprinkled the top of the cake with some semi-sweet chocolate shavings.  I loved the finishing touch it added.

Here’s a little view of the cake once we’d sliced into it.  So so good!  And don’t you love the little bees on the table runner?

It was a beautiful Easter Sunday, made all the more special because I felt like we were honoring Grandma’s life by celebrating with a wonderful meal, a beautiful table, and time with each other.  She will be truly missed.

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Preparing for Easter

Egg Tree
This time of year is always special for Eric and I.  Our wedding anniversary is at the beginning of April and we spent our honeymoon in Rome over that Easter weekend.  It was the first Easter Mass for Pope Benedict XVI.  With this Easter being the first for the newly elected Pope, it brings back some memories for us.  Eric and I have also been watching The Bible on The History Channel, and it’s been an excellent conversation topic for us in these weeks leading up to Passover and Easter.

I haven’t been very inspired to do any holiday decorating around the house since Christmas, and the two boys with their kitten antics make me think twice about what I put out.  But, after looking through some old photos, I found the one above of our Easter table and decided I would really like to have a special table setting for our Easter dinner.

And one of the traditions that we have is  preparing a special Italian cake for Easter.  Eric’s grandmother used to bring a cassata cake from the Italian bakery for Easter every year when he was growing up.  When Eric and I got married, I decided that I wanted to recreate this cake from Eric’s past for him.  Not as easy as it sounds.  Cassata cake, I’ve found, can be interpreted in several different ways.  So, over a series of Easters and birthdays, I tried out a number of recipes.

One of the first I tried was for a Sicilian cake that seemed to be similar to a cassata cake.

It was a two layer sponge cake with ladyfingers around the edges, and topped with walnuts, chocolate chips and candied cherries.  Pretty good, but not anywhere close to Eric’s memories.  Plus, with the ladyfingers and the topping, it was a rather labor intensive cake to make.

So, we refined our definition of what he remembered and I ended up cobbling several recipes together to try for my next attempt.  Eric had told me that the cake of his dreams was a loaf cake, like a pound cake.  So, I took a Martha Stewart pound cake recipe and started with that.

Notice the yummy vanilla that Eric’s mom brought us from Mexico?  Love that stuff!  Anyway, the Martha recipe was a total bust.  There was so much butter in this batter that when it was cooking, you could see the cake swimming in a sea of butter.  I’m all for butter, but this was ridiculous.  And the cake itself was not soft and moist, but surprisingly crunchy.

Eric also remembered that the filling between the layers was a lot like cannoli filling.  So, I borrowed a recipe for cannoli filling (ricotta, chocolate chips, etc.).  That, at least, was pretty straightforward.  I used the mini chocolate chips and mixed them in with the ricotta filling.

And then we got to the frosting for the cake.  Eric said it was pretty close to the frosting his mom uses on his usual birthday cake, which is a whipped cream frosting (icing?).  I hit her up again for her recipe and this also was pretty straightforward.  I think it’s just heavy cream, sugar, cream of tartar.  And it makes a ton!

And the final product Eric deemed pretty darn close to his memory.  So, I made several notes, including a note to self to try a different pound cake recipe because the Martha recipe was a big yuck.

And when I made that very first Sicilian cake, it called for brushing the layers of spongecake with rum.  So I added that in this attempt as well.  It adds a little extra depth of flavor in the cake.

I’ve made the cake a couple more times since this initial try and refined it over the last few years.  I’ve changed to a pound cake recipe from Cook’s Illustrated, which is very good.  And I’ve started making the cake itself the day before, and it makes it a little easier to assemble the next day.  I’ve also cut the filling and frosting recipes in half, because I seriously ended up with enough for a second cake.  I’ll be making cassata cake for Easter Sunday this weekend, and I’m looking forward to it since I haven’t made it in a while.  I’ll be sure to share how it turns out!

We’re also planning on having our Moroccan Lamb Burgers on Easter as well, because Eric knows that’s about the only way I will eat lamb.  So, I’m looking forward to those – something else we haven’t had in awhile.  Sounds like I’ll have a busy next few days getting everything ready for Easter, but I’m looking forward to it.  And as always, it’s such a special time for us as a precursor to our anniversary, so it deserves to be done right!

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January in Pictures

January 2013

For 2013 I thought it would be fun to start a new tradition at the end of each month and share some photos from the previous month – just as a little look back into my days.

January was definitely a month for refocusing and it seemed to spark my creativity too, since I spent a lot of time working on some crafty projects.  I took a day off work at the beginning of the month to spend with Eric and my niece and go see the Trains at Northpark.  We, of course, had to stop for gelato.  Work has been extra difficult this month, so there were several nights I came home in need of comfort food – like the grilled cheese sandwich Eric made for me.  I did try to take time for myself though, by leaving early one Friday afternoon and going to the quilt shop to pick up my Hex on the Beach kit and a few fabrics I fell in love with.  And we even had snow!  Last Saturday morning I had a couple of hours to kill between my hair appointment and my eyebrow appointment, and I spent that time curled up in a comfy chair, sipping Starbucks and reading.  Decadent!

My last mani of the month was the perfect transition into February – Essie All Tied Up with an accent nail of OPI Berry Berry Broadway.

Looking forward to seeing what February brings!

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Things I Love Thursday: Holiday Memories

I’m really loving my TILT posts.  They are a fun way to focus on what I’m currently loving (to borrow the name of one of my Pinterest boards) and feeling grateful for.  So, today, since it’s the day after Independence Day I thought I’d focus on the holiday and some of what it brought up for me.

Eric and I did go to see the fireworks on Tuesday night, which was fun.  My photo above is actually from last year’s fireworks.  I decided not to bring my camera this year.  We actually just sat and enjoyed the show and enjoyed each others’ company, which was fun.  The weather was really nice, not too hot, with a breeze and we just enjoyed ourselves.  Going to see the fireworks is important to Eric and I’ve appreciated his desire to incorporate this tradition into our lives together. And this year’s outing is definitely one I’ll remember for awhile.

Yesterday, we had the day off work and it was a great break in the middle of the week.  I was glad to have a day to ourselves to rest and relax as well as have some typical summer fair (corn on the cob and hot dogs on the grill!).  Last night we stayed in, but we watched the Macy’s fireworks on tv as well as the Boston Pops fireworks show.  That was fun, but there’s nothing like seeing them in person.

And it’s always surprising to me the things that make me think of my dad…and how much I miss him.  Listening to The Stars and Stripes Forever, and all I can hear in my head is him singing “Be kind to your web-footed friends, for a duck may be somebody’s mother…”  I’m glad though, that I have that memory and that it was brought back to the surface yesterday.

Anyway, it was a great holiday and it got me to thinking about another thing that I’m loving with regard to memories – my One Line A Day book!

I started mine on my birthday last August, so I’ve almost gone through an entire year.  It will be fun once I loop back around and can then see what I wrote each day previously.  The way it works is that you have one page per day, with a space for five entries, so at the end of your five years you’ll have each of the five entries filled up for each date.  So mine will take me from my 40th birthday, right up to the day before my 45th.  But I just love putting my memories in here, and I’m sure looking back will be full of interesting remembrances.

And of course, I couldn’t miss out on photographing my One Line A Day book with my latest manicure, since they match!  This is Diamond Cosmetics Oh, Tiff! (which is a dupe for Chane’s Nouvelle Vague, which I sadly never got my hands on) and I layered China Glaze Luxe and Lush (from the Hunger Games collection) over it.  Love that flaky sparkle!  It’s been holding up well and I’m so glad I tried something totally different.  This is the second time I’ve worn the Oh, Tiff! but the first time to wear it on my fingernails.  And I’ve gotten lots of compliments on this look.

So, a few things I’m grateful for this week:

  • A friend’s successful surgery
  • Finishing a book
  • Starting and finishing another book (book reviews coming soon!)
  • Cleaning and organizing the bathroom cabinets
  • We’ve had Thutmose and Ramses a whole month – they bring such joy and they’re getting big!
  • Loving my new purse and the key fob Eric made for me
  • Talking with Eric and him sharing with me
  • Corn on the cob
  • A day off in the middle of the week
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Father’s Day

So, I mentioned a few posts ago that my dad died at the end of February and I haven’t been really sure how to blog about it.  But I do feel like I need to.  I feel like in some little way, I need to share who he was with the Universe.  And, after three months, it just seemed like I need to just say what I want to say and get on with it.

On the 29th of April my mom, sister, niece and I went to a butterfly release that hospice was holding in memory of the people they’d cared for.  The photo above is actually from a trip Eric and I took to Philadelphia a few years ago, but I thought it was appropriate.  The ceremony was very nice and I think it was a nice way for families to say goodbye.

It seems like though, the past few months have been a series of goodbyes.  On Memorial Day, we went to the National Cemetery to visit my Dad’s grave and see his headstone for the first time.  I can’t even begin to put into words how hard it was.  Seeing his name and dates on that stone made it so real, so permanent.  But, the ceremony for Memorial Day was really moving and it was so nice to see so many people out there celebrating their loved ones and honoring those that have served their country.  It was refreshing to spend Memorial Day in the spirit of the day.

Last week was my Dad’s birthday.  He would have been 68.  I spent the day in Wichita in meetings for work, but he was never far from my mind.  Eric took my mom out to lunch and brought her some flowers, because he knew it would be a hard day for her.

And today, is Father’s Day.  And I am missing him something fierce.   I went to a funeral yesterday for the husband of a friend who died suddenly.  And it truly made such an impression on me.  My parents spent the last 47 years at each others’ sides.  And I know that the loss that I am feeling probably doesn’t even touch the loss that my mom is feeling.  My dad was truly an amazing man, and I hope that one day I can live up to the legacy he’s left me.  I hope too that one day I can look back and say that I spent my life with my best friend by my side.

I found these photos recently, photos I’d never seen before, of the two of them on one of their adventures.  They loved to visit the National Parks and explore and take photos.  I get my love of photography from my Dad.  They set up the camera on a tripod and snapped these photos, and I think they speak for themselves about how they spent their lives together.

I imagine that one day, they’ll be off on yet another adventure together.  But, for now, we’re just missing him.

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Girls’ Day Out

A little while ago one of my closest friends was visiting from Germany.  We got together with two more girlfriends and had a lovely day out.  I took a few photos to record the day, and just wanted to share them.  First we went over to the mall and spent some time at the MAC counter.  I also wandered around at Chanel trying to find my elusive No. 19.

Then we headed over to a little antiques mall where we had a delicious lunch in their tea room.  I spied some sweet little vintage looking Valentine’s ornaments while we were there.

And after lunch and a bit of wandering around the antique mall, we headed over to a new to me quilt shop.  I was in heaven when I was greeted at the door by some Tula Pink Parisville fabric (the pretty fans).  Some Parisville had to come home with me!

It was such a decadently fun day and I loved my photos with all their pops of color, so I just had to share.  I’m so glad we all got to spend the day together doing very girly, very relaxing things.  I so needed that.

And since this post seems to be turning into an homage to Instagram, I thought I’d also share a photo from my guild night and the lovely Valentine’s Day cookies that were provided.

It hardly seems like it’s March already!  Where did the time go?

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Christmas Deliciousness

Usually at this time of year, we have our annual Eggnog & Dessert Party, where I bake some things and we invite our families over to indulge.  This year, with my dad being sick we weren’t able to do that.  And usually, for Christmas Eve we have Eric’s family over for a big dinner.  But, again, with things being what they were this year, we had to celebrate a bit differently.  So, for Christmas Eve we went and visited my parents for a little bit, and then came home and Eric made us a spectacular meal – just the two of us.

First course was Butternut Squash Ravioli with a Brown Butter Sage Sauce.  This was absolutely delicious.  I could have eaten nothing but this and been happy.

Second course was Crab Cakes.  Full disclosure – I don’t eat them, so this was Eric’s.  But, you can’t have Christmas Eve dinner without some seafood.

The main course was Baked Chicken with Garlic, Olive Oil and Italian Bread Crumbs along with Fried Zucchini.

And our accompaniment for the meal was Messina Hof’s Muscat Canelli 2005, which was really good.

We completed the meal with Eric’s dessert request.  He wanted more of those Chocolate Salted Cake Balls I made last year.  With eggnog, of course.

It was all so delicious.  And it was actually kind of nice to just have a quiet Christmas Eve to ourselves.  And I didn’t spend two hours in the kitchen afterwards washing dishes.  Plus, the added bonus is that I actually have photos to share of our dinner!  I always forget when we have company, so at best I usually share only the dessert photos because I make that ahead of time!  So – bonus!

And for Christmas Day, Eric made another scrumptious meal.  For starters, we had Tomato Basil Bisque.

Then we had a gorgeous steak and fresh asparagus, which is one of my favorite meals.  Eric’s actually the one who introduced me to asparagus, and now I can’t seem to get enough of it!

And then for dessert, Eric’s second request – Chocolate Espresso Angel Food Cake.  I’d made this once for him year’s ago, and he wanted it for Christmas this year.  It’s really a delicious cake.  And I sprinkle powdered sugar over it when serving.

We had a quiet Christmas, but it was very nice.  We watched a ton of movies, like Polar Express, Jingle All the Way and It’s a Wonderful Life (which I’d never seen before!).  Focusing on each other instead of the hustle and bustle of the season, was a nice change.

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