Sunday, July 22, 2012

{ my favorite maple }

Our backyard tree, throughout the year.

I think I love it so much because each time I look out the kitchen window, it's where I see the kids playing, the leaves changing, or the snow falling.

It's the perfect tree.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

{ biscuits for olly }

My trainer, Oliver (he's from England, hence the biscuits in the title), recently got engaged.

I know it sounds sort of nervy to make cookies for one's  personal trainer, but it's the best way I know how to give a gift from the heart. And besides, how fun would a vegetable basket be? ;)

So, congratulations, Oliver and Eilleen. May you spend many years together living in health and happiness ... and building muscles. :)

Monday, July 16, 2012

( saturday in bean town )

Ty had to run into work this weekend, so we decided to make it a family event and spend the day in Boston.

We visited his office (the Coast Guard station), wandered around the North End, had lunch at a pretty decent Tex-Mex restaurant (complete with Lone Star Beer and queso!), and battled Paige (who either wanted in her stroller, or out of it, depending on which way the wind was blowing).

All in all, a fun summer day in the city.

Friday, July 13, 2012

{ mussels in garlic-butter white wine sauce }

So many restaurants up here in New England serve delicious appetizers of mussels and crusty French bread. I'm never able to resist ordering them, along with a glass of white wine.

So on a warm summer afternoon when Ty decided to grill steaks (of course), I thought I'd add some of my own surf to his turf. Mussels were on my mind, so mussels were what I made.

So easy. So simple. So delicious -- a perfect dinner for two!

Next time I'll add more garlic to the sauce, as well as some fresh green herbs -- I'm thinking Italian parsley. Other than that, it was pretty close to perfect.

Mussels in Garlic-Butter White Wine Sauce
(adapted from

2 pounds fresh mussels
1 cup dry white wine
1 sweet yellow onion, finely chopped
6 large garlic cloves, minced
4 tablespoons butter (I used salted)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
salt and pepper, to taste
1 loaf crusty French bread

Thoroughly rinse mussels under cold water in a colander; give a sharp yank and pull toward the hinge end of the shell any exposed mussel beards.

Melt butter and olive oil over medium-low heat.

Add onion and garlic; cook for 3 minutes or until translucent. Add white wine, thyme and mussels. Gently stir.

Cover mussels for about 8 minutes. Discard any unopened mussels. Season with salt and pepper.

While mussels cook, place the bread on an oven rack for 8 minutes. Slice.

Dump mussels and broth into a bowl. Place bread around the outside edge. Serve and dip bread into the broth.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

{ special strawberry cake }

Summertime and strawberries go together like baseball and hotdogs (and cold beer).

We enjoyed a low-key 4th of July yesterday, as Ty has been busy on duty in Boston Harbor during most of the holiday festivities. His time at home has been limited, but this same time last year, we had just received the news that he would be leaving within the week for an extended deployment out of the country ... so this year, we very much appreciate any time we have just being together.

Back to strawberries ... Ty's favorite. And now it seems Paige's as well (Aidan likes strawberry 'gogurt' squeezers, if that counts for anything). Strawberry layer cake was the plan, and it was an easy one to put together. Make one for the strawberry lover in your life, and appreciate our freedoms, as well as those who have sacrificed to bring them to us.

God bless America, home of baseball, hot dogs, strawberries, and gogurt squeezers.

Strawberry Layer Cake with Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting
(adapted from

1 cup vegetable oil
4 large eggs
1 box white cake mix
1 - 3oz. box of strawberry Jell-o
 24oz. frozen, sliced strawberries (thawed)

3 sticks of butter at room temperature
8 oz. block of cream cheese at room temperature
6 cups of powdered sugar
about 6 tablespoons of juice and pulp from strawberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare three eight-inch round cake pans by lining bottom of pans with wax paper sprayed with non-stick baking spray and lightly floured.

Using a potato masher or a fork, mash strawberries into small pieces. Measure one cup for the cake and set aside. Separately reserve about 6 tablespoons for use in the frosting.

Combine cake mix, oil, eggs and dry strawberry Jell-o in a mixing bowl and beat until blended. Stir in cup of mashed strawberries until blended.

Pour mixture evenly into the prepared cake pans. Bake 30 minutes at 350. Cake is done when toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool cakes in the pans for 10 minutes, then gently turn cakes out onto plates to cool completely.

To make icing, mix softened butter and cream cheese in mixer bowl until smooth. Slowly add powdered sugar and mix well. Add reserved strawberry juice with pulp by tablespoon to give the butter cream icing color and a touch of strawberry pieces. Do not add too much juice or your icing will be too thin.

Chill frosting for about 10 minutes before use. Assemble cakes, frosting between layers, and generously covering the top and sides.

Store the finished cake in the refrigerator until ready to serve -- the cream cheese frosting softens quickly, especially in the summer. Garnish with fresh strawberries just before serving.