Summer isn't summer without a trip to the fair

Thursday, August 30, 2012

At least for us, it's not. I actually grew up right next to the fair, so I was very aware of when the fair is going on. We would watch the fireworks from our house, and we could hear the noise going on late into the night every evening as the rest of the city calmed down and the carnival only gained momentum. I don't go into that part of town much anymore, so even driving those familiar streets on the way to the fair is so nostalgic for me. Now we make a point to go with our kids every year.

Summer has been so busy for me this year, so I honestly wasn't even looking forward to going that much because I knew it'd be exhausting. was better than anticipated, which is always good. I got a Starbucks in my system in preparation, brought lots of water, and bared the germs all for these kiddos of mine. My sister, her husband, and kids came along too, so our kids even had a buddy to share their bliss with.

Time flew so much faster than I thought it would, but it was a relief when B joined us in the evening and took Ben on the older kid rides. At the end of the night, no one wanted to go home, but B and I finally just declared it was time to go due to the small meltdowns that told us these kids are beyond exhausted.

I ended up taking way too many photos, and I know why. How could you not take photos of all those pretty lights and colors?! All those carnival bulbs just made me happy!

The rides were fun, but the animals are equally important. :) I especially love how the goat is trying to eat Ben's shorts in one photo. It was pretty persistent, too...makes me wonder what that goat could eat if given the chance...


Blueberry and Cream Cheese Muffins, You're Welcome

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

No, I did not make this recipe up, though I wish I had. But making up recipes is not high on my list of priorities in this stage of my life, so I like the tried-and-true ones for now. I discovered this gem in my June 2012 issue of Glamour magazine. And for the record, I stopped loving that magazine a long time ago, but I think I was subscribed for like three more years, so I still get it. It used to be interesting, now it's just offensive and pointlessly risque. But I flip through it anyway, and good thing I did!

I have found that fashion and home magazines usually have really good recipes when they're doing a piece about an up-and-coming blogger, or chef, or cookbook author, because that person is trying to hook you with that one recipe. I always like to try those recipes out, and they're usually winners. People ask me where I find my recipes, and it's kind of crazy how many of them I get from random magazines. This one is from Jane Hornby, a London food writer who's promoting her new book.

Anyhow, these muffins have a really good texture, almost like a scone, which I really, really like. Some muffins just taste like bread in a paper liner. Not these--they are bursting with flavor. They can also be made with other fruits such as peaches or plums or even raspberries, but I haven't gotten that far yet. I've made these a couple times with blueberries, which is delish with the cream cheese in there. I doubled the amount of blueberries, just because, in my opinion, they make the muffin. And they're not very sweet, so if that's what you're going for, add in another half cup of sugar, especially if your blueberries are very tart. Another thing I love? You don't have to drag out the mixer for these! How easy can they get?

Blueberry and Cream Cheese Muffins

7 tbs. unsalted butter
3 tbs. vegetable oil
1 cup plain yogurt
2 tsp. vanilla
3 large eggs
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbs. baking powder
1 cup superfine baking sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
6 oz. blueberries (I used an 11 oz. package)
4 oz. cream cheese

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Line two muffin pans with liners.

Melt butter in a medium pan over low heat. Remove from heat and whisk in oil, yogurt, vanilla and eggs. Combine flour and baking powder in a large bowl, stir in sugar and salt, then make a well in the middle.

Pour warm yogurt mixture into flour well and lightly fold the dry ingredients into the wet using a rubber spatula until the mixture has just come together. Pour in the blueberries and stir until just combined.

Spoon half the batter into the prepared baking cups, then dot about a 1/2 teaspoon cream cheese on top of each muffin cup. Add remaining batter, then add another 1/2 teaspoon cream cheese on top.

Bake muffins for 18-20 minutes, or until golden. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool.

Makes 24 muffins.

*I found the batter too sticky to be able to layer it with the cream cheese twice like the recipe says, so I just added a dollop in between the top and bottom layers of batter. It might even be better this way, because the cream cheese stays moist.


Serena & Lily

No. 1 hanging rattan chair / No. 2 fouta towel / No. 3 cobalt cabana bins / No. 4 Moroccan leather pouf / No. 5 bone inlay frame / No. 6 French ring sheets / No. 7 banda coffee table
There are certain catalogs that I get excited about flipping through each new season because they are just so inspirational. Serena & Lily is definitely one of them. I've been loving their products lately and their styling is equally good. They are not cheap, however, so I can basically only admire. But I love admiring, so it's all good...though if someone wants to buy me my wish list by any chance, here it is! :)


Delicious Zucchini Fritters

I thought I'd share that zucchini fritter recipe I mentioned the other day. It has become my favorite way to eat zucchini these days, and is such a good way to use up all the zucchini in my garden. I've made these four times now, and each time they're gobbled up. Ben doesn't normally like zucchini, but loooves these. They actually taste like they have potato in them...mmmm. I keep forgetting to try adding some garlic to the mix, which I'm sure would make them even better. I have a Salad Shooter that my mom gifted me that does all my grating for me and saves my wrists, which makes this recipe a breeze to prepare. The recipe is from Smitten Kitchen, and I'm reposting it here.

Zucchini Fritters

1 pound (about 2 medium) zucchini
1 tsp. salt, plus extra to taste
2 scallions, split lengthwise and sliced thin
1 large egg, lightly beaten
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
olive oil, for frying

To serve (optional):
1 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
1-2 tbs. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. lemon zest
pinches of salt
1 small minced clove of garlic

Grate zucchini on a box grater, in a food processor with the shredding blade, or with a Salad Shooter. In a large bowl, toss zucchini with 1 teaspoon salt and set aside for 10 minutes. You can use this time to make your sour cream. Wring the extra water out of the zuchinni by squeezing handfuls of it into the sink. Zucchini has a lot of water!

Return deflated zucchini to bowl and add more salt to taste (about 1/4 teaspoon). Add in scallions, egg, and pepper. In a small bowl, stir together flour and baking powder, then add to zucchini mixture.

In a large, heavy skillet (she suggested using cast iron, which I did, and they turned out wonderfully) heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Drop spoonfuls of the zucchini mixture onto the skillet a few at a time, flattening the tops a bit. Don't crowd the skillet, as your fritters won't brown as well. Cook each side until golden brown and eat immediately! She suggested putting them in the oven for 10 minutes at 200 degrees to keep them warm and brown them up more, but I skipped that step, and they were fine.


Dinner Guests

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

We recently had my two sisters and their husbands (and babies) over for dinner when my younger sister came to town. I whipped up a dinner for us all, complete with blueberry cream cheese muffins for dessert. It was very last minute, but that seems to be the way I like it. I swear I am unprepared most of the time for whatever is coming up. I was literally at the gym reading a magazine right before I went grocery shopping for dinner, found the muffins, they looked delish, and I went with that. We also had oven-baked chicken, potatoes with dill, sauteed onions and butter, caprese salad, and zucchini fritters (which went like hotcakes!). My brother-in-law brought over some delicious kvass, and we were good to go. I even got some mint from the garden for our lemonade. Fancy shmancy, I know. :)

It was a good night, starting off with a swim in the pool, and ending at our house for dinner. Mostly it was nice to catch up a bit with everyone. Though my older sister lives only minutes away, we don't see each other as much as I would like. So when we do see each other, we can't stop talking. And my younger sister is always traveling and doing way too many things, so I try not to bug her too much.


Camping Two Weeks Ago

Saturday, August 25, 2012

When I sat down to write this post, I thought we had gone camping a week ago. Then I realized Mila just had a playdate with a friend on Monday, and I KNOW it wasn't the Monday after camping because I was exhausted, therefore....I just realized two weeks have gone by! That gives you a clue of how my days have been flying lately. I'm missing weeks at a time, and couldn't tell you what happened to them.
Looking back at all the camping pictures and all the memories we made as a family, I'm getting kind of sentimental. I'm wishing we had gotten to go camping several times this summer like we had planned, not just once. This particular trip was good in some ways and not so good in others.
Since it was a church trip, we got to chat with people we haven't talked to in a while, Mila and Olivia became better friends with a couple girls that were there, and since both our parents were there (B's and mine) we really didn't have to cook much. But...we didn't cook mostly because our table was overtaken by my mom, who brought her whole kitchen camping and laid it all out on the table. No room for prep, and definitely no room for eating anywhere near the table. So frustrating. I felt like I had nowhere to make myself a cup of Pero, let alone be able to find the cups and spoons in the mess. B's parents did the exact same thing, only even more stuff, on the table next to us. God bless 'em. :)
You know how if you know someone is there to help you with something, you get lazy and expect help and put things off, etc? And when you know it's going to be just you, you just do it? I'm totally like that, and that's what happened food-wise I think. I basically took most of the food I bought back home since we just grabbed whatever someone had cooked. We were in charge of one meal, which was cheeseburgers and broccoli salad that we made for everyone.
We took a route up to Warm Lake that I had actually never driven before because they had closed the highway up to the campground due to a large forest fire. This proved to actually be really cool, though it did add two hours to our trip. We got to see all these towns we have heard about but never seen, and all the antique stores I saw made me want to come back through one day. I actually liked the drive--as long as I get a Starbucks caramel macchiato in my hand, I'm good to go.
We arrived Friday night and set up just before dark, had church and some activities afterwards on Saturday morning, then spent the rest of the day at the lake, swimming and jet-skiing. I had horrible cramps all day Friday and the first half of Saturday, so I was not a happy camper. (Funny, right? Pun intended.) I couldn't believe how bad it was, and with such great timing, too. Ugh. On Sunday we packed up and spent a few hours at the lake again, swimming and barbequeing on the beach. I always love Sunday at church camp--when there's no rush to get back to camp to make dinner or help with games or activities that I had helped plan--and I can just soak it all up and relax.
I roasted s'mores both nights, which was a highlight of the trip for me. It turns out I love s'mores more than my husband and all of my kids. It's true. I made some gooood ones, too--too bad I was too lazy to get my camera out to document them. But really, I love sitting by the fire every night and being mesmerized by the dancing flames. It takes me back to my younger years.
The kids when we drove into McCall. We got out to run around a bit, and found a cool blue ban to pose in front of.
A very aggressive tug-of-war game going on here. Good thing no one got hurt. Notice how the men got the girls' attention--ha ha ha!
 The girls with their buddies.
 Everything tastes so good after a day on the water.
 My two studs just standing around, I guess.
 I had to include all three of these of Olivia cleaning her toes. How can I choose which one to leave out?!
Ben borrowed a net to catch some fish that were swimming all around our feet. No luck, though--those things are fast!
 I felt like a kid again while scaling this rock, which is actually really vertical with no grooves for feet/hands, except that I had to push/pull Olivia up the rock as I climbed. Reality check, right?
Yup, those are puffy Cheetos and hotdogs. The kids found the Cheetos, which were for a game that never got played, and decided to help get them off my hands. No Cheetos will go to waste at this house!