Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The pure wishes of a child :)

Today Eden and I talked a lot about Israel. Thomas will be flying there next Thursday and I wanted her to understand a bit about where he was going. We got out a world map and looked at where we live, where Texas is, and then where Israel is. We discussed that this is where Jesus was born. Next she wanted to look up a picture of Jesus. After discussing that we have no real pictures, Thomas found an image that would probably be fairly accurate to appease her curiosity.
Several hours later at the dinner table Eden started pretending that she was an airplane. She explained it held lots of people and could fly her to Texas and fly Daddy to where Jesus was born.
Then she looked up at me and exclaimed "Mommy! I want to see Jesus!"
I'm so happy you do baby girl, and I often pray hard that you have that passion for a very long time.

Oh and here's a cute picture, because, why not?

Fathers Day 2011

Happy Fathers Day to a WONDERFUL guy :). Thomas works so hard and still always has tons of time for me and Eden. I can't even comprehend the responsibility he has right now: deciding his Fall schedule (which sets the course for his future PhD and career because he has to choose which ancient language to specialize), finding and applying to PhD programs, learning French, not un-learning Hebrew, researching everything there is to know about the site he leaves for in Israel in a week, creating Sunday school curriculum. These decisions will affect the future of our family in a big way, where we'll live in 1 year and also in 5 years, what kind of career he might have, etc, but they are decisions he ultimately has to make on his own. WOW. I just have to decide what's for dinner and I struggle :). He does it all with strength and still supports the community around him whenever there's a need. He even cooked dinner twice last week. Oh, and let's not forget he's quite handsome :). That doesn't really effect his fathering, but it's still true. Eden is blessed to have a father with family as such a high priority, who is patient with her, and makes her butterfly wings when she asks.

Happy Fathers Day!

Fathers Day

Fathers Day

Friday, June 17, 2011

Cupcake Tasting Part II

As mentioned in the last post, I threw a Chicago Cupcake Tasting for my 29th birthday. After collecting cupcakes from 8 Chicago bakeries I invited a group of gals (I think about a dozen came) to sample them and vote for their favorite bakery.

Here's the spread:

Sprinkles: Strawberry, Cinnamon Sugar, Chocolate Marshmallow (hiding in the background), Vanilla, Dark Chocolate with Sprinkles
Crumbs: Grasshopper

Crumbs: Cosmo, Baba Booey, Green Tea, Chocolate Covered Strawberry, Raspberry Swirl, Cappucino

More Cupcakes: Margarita, Vanilla Raspberry, Amaretto Coconut, Chocolate Champagne, White Russian

Cupcakes: Breakfast Cupcake, Salted Caramel, Death by Chocolate, S'mores

Molly's Cupcakes: Lemon Meringue, The Ron Bennington, Cookie Monster, Blueberry Cheesecake

Phoebe's Cupcakes: Sangria, Peanut Butter Fudge

Bleeding Heart Bakery: Veruca Salt, Lemon Lavendaer, Oaxacan Hot Chocolate, Blueberry Basil, Strawberry Shortcake

Swirlz: Mango Passionfruit, Vanilla, Twixie, Red Velvet

Sugar Bliss: Chocolate Peppermint, Strawberry Dream, Chocolate Caramel

We cut each cupcake in fourths. Everyone was given a note card and asked to jot down their favorite three bakeries.

It was the first opportunity I'd had to have my two worlds collide- Trinity and Life (School) on The Vine (Church), at least in my home. It was nice that some already knew each other :). Lots of fun was had.

In the end, we decorated a shiny plaque for the winner: Phoebe's Cupcakes!

It was fun, and I think I might do it next year when I turn 29 again.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Chicago Cucpake Tasting Part 1

It seemed ludicrous that I had lived in Chicago for almost 1.5 years without visiting ANY cupcake shops. That was all remedied for my birthday this year. Thomas gave me the day off so I could snag a friend and head into the city to collect cupcakes from EIGHT cupcake bakeries. This of course ended in the planning of a party to eat the cupcakes. Seriously, who wants to hate cupcakes by eating so many in one day? This task required friends. For now we'll just focus on the hunt. I will list more about the flavors when I talk about the cupcake tasting party in a later post.

Bakery #1: Bleeding Heart Bakery
We started at the most northern stop, in Rosco Village. This is a local, sustainable, punk rock bakery, which happily had punk rock customers. Tattoed up, listening to blaring punk music, eating cupcakes, at 10am. There was awesome people watching to be had.

They sold a lot more than cupcakes, but it wasn't hard to stick to our mission because their cupcakes looked fantastic.

There's my friend Eileen who I took on the crazy adventure- so glad to have her along :).

We ordered humongous scones for breakfast. I had a ginger scone (it had the largest chunks of candied ginger I've ever eaten whole and was not for the faint of heart. I couldn't pass up the chocolate covered bacon. YES. It was delicious.

Bakery #2:  Phoebe's Cupcakes
A very different aesthetic from Bleeding Heart, Phoebe's was sort of cottage chic in the Lakeview neighborhood. Their art was very intriguing to me, it seemed a bit more edgy than the rest of their shop.

We, of course, told everyone what we were doing (it helped me feel better about snapping a million photos). This guy was totally into it and gave us 2 free cupcakes.

One had bacon :). It might me an odd trend, but I'm loving it.

 Bakery #3:  Molly's Cupcakes
Next we headed slightly south into Lincoln Park. This one made me want to do my homework before our trip (oooohhh the bad puns!). There was obviously some solid reasoning behind the name and decor of Molly's Cupcakes and I thought it was the cutest on our tour.

The place was decked out with vintage school house ephemera and memorabilia that highlighted the cool things Mrs. Molly did with her students. Some of the cupcakes were named after her friends and favorite things.

There was also a sprinkle station :).


Bakery #4: Swirlz Cupcakes
Swirlz was also in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. Their buttercream cupcakes were really cute and their staff was super sweet.

The Twixie cupcakes looked familiar, but way more decadent.

Bakery #5:  Sprinkles
After a quick lunch at Kim and Scott's Pretzel Cafe we headed into the heart of the city to checkout the most popular bakery, Sprinkles. 

Wow, did people ever love their Sprinkles. If you saw a group of 5+ teenie boppers carrying designer bags headed down the sidewalk you knew exactly where you were going. It was a bit crazy in there.

I sort of felt like they were going to start screaming and throwing themselves on the cupcakes like they were the Jonas Brothers (or whatever bad is popular now, I know I'm 5 years too late for that comment).

Bakery #6:  More Cupcakes
This was a very nice contrast to Sprinkles, and it was just across the street (they were both on Millineum Mile). It was TINY. And crowded. But it was also relatively quiet.

And REALLY luxurious.

Bakery #7:  Sugar Bliss Cake Boutique
We hopped on the L and headed about 1 mile south for our last two visits. Oh Sugar Bliss, you had many hard acts to follow and it might be for that reason that you were so unimpressive in the sea of bakeries, but nonetheless there are no memories or observations to share. This was honestly a very vanilla little shop. I'm sure if I lived in the neighborhood I'd be happy they were there.

Bakery #8:  Crumbs
Crumbs was not a necessary stop because I was spoiled and received a dozen assorted crumbs cupcake the day before our tour via mail from the awesome Anna and Ryan. But I have ordered their cupcakes as presents in the past (they have great variety and do mail order),wanted to visit them in person, and we were a mere few blocks away.

 These guys were really excited about the cupcake tasting as well, though they didn't offer us free cupcakes :).

Check back for the party post!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Sleepy Eden

Here's the latest installment of sleeping Eden pictures. The first three rows are the same pictures I posted last time, but the rest have never before been posted. I think I've only missed a few nights. Enjoy!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Portland Extravaganza

Thomas has encouraged me for YEARS to take a vacation without him. He goes on a camping trip every year with some guys and thought I should plan something similar, except without all of camping, or the guys, or the spray batter in a can. This year an advertisement to a craft fair in Portland caught my eye. Visiting Portland has been a little dream of mine for a few years. The craft fair just happened to be the weekend Thomas finished school, and Mother's day, and a friend was miraculously interested and able to join me. I threw all caution and good sense to the wind and planned a 5 day vacation May 5-May 10 that was all about slow food and handmade shopping.

I can honestly say this was one of the best decisions I've made and mere memories of the trip might be enough to refresh me for years to come (which will be helpful because it's a once in 5 years experience).

Here's a rundown of the vacation: (oh, and be warned, I'm about to talk about food, A LOT)

There are unfortunately no photos of the first Portland encounter. After leaving the airport around 11pm Thursday night, we headed to Voodoo Doughnut to grab a late night snack, a punk rock 24 hr doughnut shop. I'm still craving another Grape Ape- one of the best yeast doughnuts I've had with vanilla frosting and a mixture of purple topping that I can only guess was grape koolaid, pixie sticks, pretzels, and dippin' stix mix.
We then checked in to our "La Quinta" (aka scary motel) and proceeded 1 hour later (around 2am) to call the front desk and cancel the rest of our nights.

Friday morning we started with breakfast at Tasty N Sons on N Williams. My breakfast (2) was a Spring Muffin with pickled beets, butter lettuce, red onion, beechers cheddar & a fried egg.

After breakfast we headed to Mississippi Ave nearby for some more browsing. We hit up Mr Green Beans, a DIY coffee roasting shop that also sold equipment for making your own cheese. We also visited The Meadow (1) a flower / bitter and wine (2) / salt (3) / chocolate (4) shop. Oh, and they also had tiny watercolor portraits that made you feel like you lived in France. This salted chocolate was recommended to me and I brought some home to Thomas. We just finished the last square yesterday and it's my favorite of all time.

Pistills Nursery is also on Mississippi, and though I obviously needed nothing from there that I could bring  home, their chicken coop (1) and baby chicks (2)(3) were really cute.

After browsing a few indie clothing stores we had lunch at Mississippi Ave's food cart court (1). I got the Chickpea Sandwich from Garden State (Crisp fried garbanzo cake, lettuces, lemon aioli, roasted butternut squash on a ciabatta roll) YUMM and some carrot and pear juice.

Next we headed downtown, which was just across the river from our shopping adventure and met up with our guide for a Portland Walking Chocolate Decadence Tour. We started out at the Heathman Hotel where we received a brief history of chocolate (1- cacao nibs) and visited  Cacao (2) on their first floor, a chocolate boutique specializing in drinking chocolate (3). I had this treat for the first time on our honeymoon in Italy and am thrilled that it's picking back up in the US. Our next stop was Benessere Oil and Vinegars (4) where we sampled dark chocolate balsamic vinegar with walnut oil. Drinking it straight seemed odd, but it turned out delicious and I'm pretty sure would be spectacular on a brownie. Teuscher: Chocolates of Switzerland (5) was next. Their Champagne Truffles are flown in from Switzerland and you can still fill the bubbles pop on your tongue. I got Eden a little crowned frog box (6) with a piece of hazelnut chocolate. She had asked  me to bring her a frog back from Portland ;).

Moonstruck Chocolate Cafe (1) was next. Apparently it's highly endorsed by Oprah and a bit fancy. I brought back a bar of their Fortunato No 4 and it's been highly enjoyable. Then onto Leonidas (2), a Belgium chocolate boutique, where we had the only white chocolate I've ever enjoyed. After that was some random nice hotel lobby for a chocolate martini (3). Are you getting tired of chocolate by now? I think I was too :). Next to last on our hotel was Mio Gelato (4) for some tasty, very standard gelato. And last, we visited Cacao's larger cafe and had a tasting of 6 single origin chocolates with a bit more information about the process of cacao harvesting. After that we headed to our new hotel, got checked in, freshened up and headed to dinner.

We had dinner reservations at Simpatica Dining Hall, a slow food restaurant open Friday, Saturday & Sunday with a fixed menu. This is exactly what I expected out of Portland. The chef came out and talked to us before dinner about where our food came from- basically everything but the fishes' names. Dinner was simple, elegant and delicious and it was really fun watching the food being prepared (we had the closest seats to the kitchen). It was my first experience with Strawberry Rhubarb Pie, and it's now my favorite.

Saturday morning we got up and walked to the farmer's market. The weather was not participating so it would have been better without the once a 10 minute downpour of cold rain, but what a fun market! I can see why Portland can do sustainable so well. It's seems as though they can grow everything (1). I had cute pastries for breakfast (2), ate local honey with fresh biscuits from Pine State Biscuits (best biscuits I've ever had), bought local hazelnuts, perused cute pies peddled by a burly teddy bear of a man, and drank a honey cardamom latte.

After wandering around downtown a bit we headed to Crafty Wonderland. I have no pictures, mostly because vendors at crafts fairs don't really want you taking pictures for copyright reasons. But it was super fun and here are some my favorite vendors you should check out if you like that sort of thing:
Moss Handmade: Jewelry
LaLa Laurie: handcrafted fancies, delightful paper flower boutonnieres
Vintage Child Modern: vintage inspired clothing for the modern child
Polly Danger: Sweet Accessories
Rachel Austin: Paintings
Chet and Dot: Sweet Accessories (plants and animals) (robot candy)
Burdy Fly Away: Modern Appliqued Clothing
Mary Kate McDevitt: Illustration
Take Fibers: Crewel Embroidery Kits
Allisa Jacobs: Handmade bags
Jigsaw Graphics: A letterpress studio
Willow Baus: Handmade toys
Man's Face Stuff: Mustache wax, etc

Upon a recommendation we checked out The Original Dinerant for dinner. It was a very hip diner with modernized dishes that was surprisingly some of the most delicious food on the trip. I had roasted asparagus and radicchio smoked ricotta gnudi, crème fraîche remoulade, almonds (1), pork ‘n’ beans braised pork shank, corona beans, pickled peppers, preserved lemon and parsley salad (2), strawberry icebox pie with graham cracker crust (3), and ginger mint soda. The restaurant was wonderfully located near Powell's Books (4)(5)  so we spent the remainder of our evening there. It's the largest bookstore in the world- taking up an entire city block. It has its own iPhone GPS apps, sells new and used books, and is decked out with personal reviews written by customers on postcards taped to shelves.

Sunday morning, Mother's Day, we had brunch at another slow food, sustainable restaurant called Beast. It's owned by twins and has a fun French vibe (1). The chef was rocking out to Michael Jackson as she prepared our meal in front of us (2). I was nerdily impressed by receiving french pressed coffee (I got my own tiny press because I drink decaf). We ate poached plum clafoutis: with soft whipped cream and maple-glazed bacon (4), Beast Hash: cornish game hen confit with market potatoes, morel mushrooms, spring onions, rapini, green garlic, poached duck egg, and hollandaise (5), a selection of cheese from Cheese Bar, gathering together spring greens, and aged red wine vinaigrette (6), and Chocolate Truffle Cake with black pepper shortbread and vanilla whipped cream. A snapped a picture of their favorite local restaurants written on their wall in case I'm ever lucky enough to return (8).

We walked off brunch with more shopping of course. We hit up a few shops on N Williams we saw at breakfast on Friday that were not open at the time, including Head to Tow (1) a double decker bus full of vintage dresses, and Ink and Peat (2) a home and floral store with amazing books (3). Then we headed to Noun: A Person's Place for Things on Belmont which happily shared a storefront with Saint Cupcake, cute display and delicious treats. After that it was time to take Michelle to the airport.

I planned to have my meal alone be a cooking class at  Hip Cooks. We learned to make (1) seared squid bruschetta, two types of paella, red wine soaked oranges (4) and natillas (5). YUM. Our teacher was a lot of fun (2) and the setup was pretty neat. She had actually done some culinary training in Spain and spoke with authority and lots of cheesy accents. I made my favorite of the two paellas, chicken & chorizo (3), for our housegroup and they deemed my trip a success.

Monday was my day all to myself. I planned on spending ridiculous amounts of time in fabric and art stores. It Was Awesome. I had breakfast at Helser's on Alberta (1), pear and Havarti pie with crème fraiche, fresh fruit, a toasted crumpet and carrot juice (2). I regretted my full stomach when I got a latte from Random Order Coffeehouse and saw their stunning pies. My first shopping stop was Grasshopper, a children's boutique, where I got the phone call that the triplets were on their way :). This cute little bookstore (4) was not open, but looked like it had a great selection. I also stopped by Collage and got sharpies in really fun colors, shrinky dink materials, and necklace making supplies. It was a tiny shop, but I think had more worthwhile supplies than all of hobby lobby. It really had a great selection of catch all art materials. I left Alberta and headed toward Hawthorne, but stopped two places on the way. One was SewPo- which again was tiny but had a spectacular selection of fabrics. They carried several cotton voiles and knits that I can't find in Chicago and I got some dress materials for Eden. They had sewing machines and a punch card hour system. If I had one more day I would have loved to start and finish a project while people watching the customers. The other stop was Scrap (5), a non profit that collects, cleans, and reuses/resells materials. I was so excited when I got the call the triplets had made it safe and sound I forgot to check out their sculpture gallery.

When I made it to Hawthorne, I first spent 1.5 hours in Cool Cottons hands down the best quilt fabric store I've ever been to. Their selection was amazing- tons of Japanese imports and designer fabrics and cute local patterns. The owner was super nice and very helpful. Lunch was crab bruschetta at Bread and Ink. Then I just meandered until dinnertime, looked at quirky houses (3), and  found another Powell's Books, this one dedicated to arts and food (4).

For dinner I snagged pizza from Dove Vivi (1) with cornbread crust, my favorite was the balsamic red onion and sweet corn (2), and mini cupcakes from Saint Cupcakes (4) larger store (3). I ate in my hotel, while watching a chick flick, it was pretty awesome :).

Thomas says I like to vacation places I can envision myself living, and I suppose that's true (although I can probably see myself living in Italy, Scotland, etc.). Portland was so lush (1), relaxing, friendly. It had the amenities of a big city, but driving in it (especially all the awesome free parking) made it feel more like a large college town. There was a trail that ran along the river (2-as seen from our downtown hotel window) and people were constantly outside.

This was more a memory book for me than all the detail I felt you needed to know, thanks for sifting through that extremely long post!