Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Classic Candlelight

There has been a huge gap in time between my last post to this simple little blog.  However, I don't feel as if I owe communication to anyone through this blog.  It's first and foremost intended for me.  So that I can constantly remind myself to look out for and recognize the things in my life and around me that make me happy or put a smile on my face.  I had a lovely evening with my daughter in November walking the busy streets of a little town that was laced with pretty white Christmas lights and shops bustling with pre-holiday shoppers.  We sampled food, shopped for a few gifts and just took in the glow of the lights around us. The decoration that I appreciated the most was this candle display made from a simple Ball Mason jar.  They were so elementary and yet so beautiful and lined the posts and sidewalk of a local restaurant. 

Friday, September 17, 2010

Farm Stands

I think it's so fun to be driving along and come accross a farm stand in the middle of nowhere filled with all kinds of wonderful things.  Some of my favorite ones are the Amish families that have them in the rural areas.  This time of year it's so nice too with all the autumn vegetables and bushel baskets brimming with apples, pears and potatoes. It's nice to support local farmers and eat foods that are more fresh since they are grown locally.  Plus, I was able to get several little pumpkins, a bag of pears and a buttercup squash for just over four dollars.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A Nice Cup of Tea and a Sit Down

I've received a fair amount of bad news lately and it was a rainy cloudy and fairly gloomy day today.  So, I took a break from work for a nice cup of tea and a sit down.  That is a title of a book I have actually and there are occasions that call for just that - a comforting cup of creamy sweet tea and a few moments to reflect.  So, I did that.  I sat down, sipped at my tea, had a few biscuits and took some time to think.  I paid homage to my Nan with that cup of tea.  With the packet of Sweet and Low I put in it and with every warm nourishing sip I drank, I said "here's to you, Nana."

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Lunch Outside

I wanted to get some fresh air and have lunch outside today and it was a perfect day for it.  It's a chilly fall day with a breeze, but the sun is out to keep you a little warm (along with my long sleeve shirt and sweater).  It was a relaxing break from phone calls and checking e-mail to enjoy my lunch outside, listen to the leaves rustling, the birds chirping and read a few pages of my book.  For my lunch, I used this perfectly ripe heirloom tomato from the farmers market with some fresh mozzerella a drizzle of olive oil, white wine vinegar and some fresh ground salt and pepper. 

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Food Presentation

I went to Chicago with a friend today (my foodie friend) and we enjoyed a tasty lunch at Bittersweet Pastry Shop in Lakeview.  It's by far one of my favorite bakeries. Their pastries are gorgeous, their cafe is simple, classic and cozy, they have a great retail shop and the presentation of our lunch was lovely.  Oh, and it tasted really good too.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Fresh Air

The school buses are out, the sweaters are out and fall is setting in. I went for a walk with my dog today and enjoyed the fresh cool air.  I'm looking forward to all the fun fall activities, vegetables and smells.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

My Baking Blog

I've moved my baking blog!  Its new name is "Kneading My Dream" and its new home is  It will have a fun new design soon and hopefully lots more baking projects as I find more time to bake! Please check it out and follow me if you find it interesting.

I'm so excited to have my marzipan clementines featured in the Bake It Pretty "Sweet Bites" newsletter (top left image).  To see how I made them and what I used them for, read this post.


I don't mind sandwiches, but I much prefer warm sandwiches.  I wasn't sure if I'd use my panini press very much, but I definitely have over the last few years.  It's fun to get all kinds of fillings out when people visit to create their own, or just make the perfect grilled cheese sandwich for me and my daughter.  Today, I made a salami, proscuitto and brie panini for my lunch and it was the perfect blend of salt and tangy creaminess.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

A Pretty Place to Sit

I love these bushes (the bright green boxwoods and the frosty sage green tall one), the fully blooming roses and the bench all surrounded by pretty old brick buildings.  This was outside a pastry shop in Germantown, Columbus, Ohio.  I didn't actually have the time to sit down here, but it sure looked like a pretty place to sit, sip a latte, read a few pages of a book or just observe the world around you. 

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Ice Cream with Cherries

During our trip to Columbus, OH with family, we made Jeni's Ice Cream a destination of ours.  We all love ice cream and we knew the kids wouldn't complain about going to get ice cream either!  A friend of mine had recommended checking them out and I had seen them on the Food Network as well, so I knew it had to be good. However, it wasn't just good, it was amazing!  I had this fresh waffle cone with honey pistachio (on the bottom) and my favorite was the goat cheese with roasted red cherries.  I love goat cheese and was skeptical about it being in ice cream, but it had the perfect tangy sweet flavor with juicy fresh roasted cherries. The flavors were fresh and amazing.  Some of us got blackcurrant, plum, lavender wildberry and the more traditional flavors.  I'm so excited to have discovered that a gourmet grocery store where I live carries this ice cream and has my favorite flavor in stock right now.  I must go buy a pint to sit and eat from while I watch a girlie movie this weekend.

Friday, September 3, 2010

A Bouquet of Garden Roses

Some family came to visit yesterday and brought me two bouquets of fresh flowers from the garden.  One was a colorful bouquet of zinnias (one of my favorites) and this pretty bouquet of garden roses.  They're such a beautiful white with accents of pale pink and yellow.  I just loved how gorgeous they looked this morning on the breakfast table when the sun was rising and shining in directly on them like a spotlight.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Best Muffin Ever

One great thing that happened this day was that I was welcomed back to the workforce.  It's a bit different than my original plan, but I'm so very excited about it.  I was so excited that I needed to celebrate with the best muffin that I have ever discovered.  I was happy that even after a hiatus of over a year from working here the cafe downstairs still has these muffins and had only one left on this fine day with my name written all over it.  It's a chocolate cappuccino muffin.  The chocolate is gooey and the muffin is crunchy on the outside and soft on the's perfect. I enjoyed it with a yummy vanilla latte and had a great first official day back to work.

Monday, August 30, 2010


My daughter and I had a long afternoon of playing and for some reason she wasn't able to take a nap (one of the first times in her almost two years of existence). We had our evening routine of playing around the house, having snack, taking a bath (and enjoying bath teatime), dancing while she dried off and settling down with a few books. After her books, she knows it's time to cuddle and turns her body around to hug me and I wrap her blankey around her. She was especially tired today and she just melted into my body like when she was a baby. She didn't want to budge and held onto me so tight.  Unlike when she was an infant, she shows emotions and would pause here and there while we cuddled to turn her head and kiss my neck or cheek so sweetly. 

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Yoga and Yogurt

After a long hiatus from a structured yoga studio class, I returned to the same studio where I took my pre-natal yoga class.  It was a very tough yet completely fulfilling class.  The teacher kept telling us to take deep breaths (and I definitely needed the reminders).  She also said to let go of whatever was burdening us and I kept wondering if the class was long enough for me.  My friend was in the class as well and we went back to her place after the class along with another friend for coffee, homemade mini blueberry muffins and yogurt parfaits with her homemade granola. We sat outside in the morning sun and enjoyed our breakfast and conversation.  It was such a fulfilling, relaxing and nourishing morning for both my mind and body.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Watching a Movie

After some ups and downs of the day, I settled down to watch a movie and cuddled with my dog.  This was the only part of my day spent in solitude and it was quiet and uncomplicated.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Foodie Friday

My daughter and I often go to the farmer's market on Fridays, which is much less busy than Saturday and a bit easier to navigate with a stroller.  She loves seeing all the fruits and veg and of course she loves the samples!   The displays these farmers have are just amazing and all the colors of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and fruits are so wonderful.  We got these unique purple peppers, lots of heirloom tomatoes and beautiful Heavenly Bliss white sweet corn.  I can't wait to cook with all these things this weekend. 

Our trip to the market was followed by a visit to my friend's place for coffee and cookies. We sat on her deck and watched my daughter play with her dog, sipped our coffee and talked about many things, including food. She's definitely my foodie friend and we had a great foodie Friday.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Meijer Gardens

I feel very fortunate to live so close to Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids.  We have a membership and have definitely used it each year and often visit at least once a week.  In fact, I've enjoyed the gardens three times this week.  On Tuesday, Audrey and I went to play in the Children's garden and listen to the free concert, last night I went to a Brandi Carlisle concert with the girls and today we went with family to walk the gardens and let my daughter play. I absolutely love the Chihuly glass exhibit that is spread throughout the entire gardens and look at the glass sculptures in awe each time we go. I actually grabbed my camera this time to get a few shots of my favorites.  Today was the absolute perfect summer day to be there as well.  It was around 70 degrees and sunny with a breeze. We took in the gorgeous weather, the beautiful sculptures, all the nature surrounding us and had a very fun summer morning that ended with a yummy lunch.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

My Reiss Milkpot

I love the shape, the color, the spout, the everything about this little pot.  It has a little sister too...she's green and just as cute.  I found these enamel milkpots in England several years ago and for some reason I chose not to buy them.  I was completely unsuccessful in finding them online so I actually waited to go back to England this past year and get them from my favorite cookshop in Alfriston, England.  I wasn't sure if I would use them very much, but I really do.  I've warmed milk in them for hot chocolate (lots this past winter), made warm sauces and made dreamy chocolate ganache in them.  I've used them for basically anything that is liquid and would need to be poured out as they are so handy with their little spouts.  In fact, I just used it to make tea infused milk for these cupcakes I made today.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Yoga on the Patio

Since I had my baby girl, I haven't taken the time to go to the yoga studio where I enjoyed a pre-natal yoga class that allowed me to stretch my growing body and breath deep focused breaths into my body and my baby's.  Instead, I've done yoga at home with a yoga app on my iPhone. In the winter, I would take some time in the morning to do the routine by the fire while it snowed outside. Now, I've been doing it outside, at least on the nice days.  We've had some great refreshing cool mornings lately and it's nice to step outside (still within reach of the monitor frequency) and breath in some deep breaths of fresh air. It wakes me up more than my coffee or tea and I feel like I'm doing something for me. I'm taking just a few minutes to help center myself so I can take care of everything and everyone else all day. Today I did my yoga on the patio downstairs...a place I feel as if I haven't ever spent enough time the past three years I've lived here.  Several deep breaths, nice long stretches, trying to clear my mind and dive into another day.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Peach Slices

I often make Audrey a mixture of plain yogurt with fresh fruit. Today, she had diced fresh peach in her yogurt. The peaches that my Aunt gave me are perfectly ripe and quite big so instead of saving it and seeing this beautiful peach get brown, I sliced up the rest to enjoy myself.  I put it in this old, chipped yet beautiful green tinted glass dish that was my grandmothers.  And, while Audrey enjoyed her yogurt with peaches, I enjoyed juicy sweet slices of fresh peach for breakfast.

New Focus

I have reason to want to focus on the things I truly savour about my daily life. As simple and routine as our daily lives can be, we need to reflect on the little things that make it wonderful. It may be something I eat, a beautiful sight, a moment I treasure. But, whatever it is, I want to capture it now so I can reflect on them during those times that may not seem so wonderful. I’ve decided to move my baking blog, now named “Kneading My Dream” to to demonstrate my detailed baking trials. Here I want to share my daily treasures with anyone who is interested and primarily show myself what I have to be thankful for, which is a lot.

I remember receiving the book “1,000 Things to be Happy About” as a gift and loved reviewing through the pages and pages of lovely things. I actually saved aside a document filled with the things from that book that truly made me happy. That’s what I see this blog turning into – a place that I journal the things that make me happy. However, it won’t be something someone else wrote, it will be things I experience, see love and savour every day.

While all my baking posts are moved over to “Kneading My Dream,” I have retained a few of my favorites here. They aren’t necessarily the ones I took the best photos of, the most difficult or the fanciest, but the ones that I enjoyed and that a few people commented on.

I do plan to post something every day. I’ll see how good I can keep up with it, but here it goes…

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Jaffa Cupcakes

Aren't these the cutest little clementine oranges you've ever seen? They're not the real thing though. The real oranges are in the bowl in the background. These little cuties are made from marzipan! They were pretty easy and very fun to make. I decided to make these to top some cupcakes I was creating for my little brother's birthday.

He LOVES the English Jaffa Cakes which are these chocolatey-orangey (McVitie's terms) biscuits. We can find them in the U.S. now and I'm always buying him a box for his birthday or Christmas. We visited a cupcake shop together recently and he commented that nobody makes a chocolate-orange combination. So, I vowed to him that I would...and here it is! I made chocolate cupcakes with a homemade orange buttercream and topped them with my homemade marzipan crafted into tiny little clementine oranges.

Overall, they turned out quite good, but I did have a few hiccups (I mean learning experiences) along the way.
First of all, I think I filled my cupcake papers just a little too much. So, while they rose nicely and baked perfectly, they were a little too full and some of them stuck to the cupcake tin a little. They don't even look that full, but it's best to keep them only 1/2-2/3 full.

I also tried using these new cupcake papers called "If You Care." They are unbleached, which I thought was good and while I was trying to be a good environmentally conscious baker, they didn't work out so well. While they boast "better non-stick performance" that apparently not only meant they wouldn't stick to the pan, but also that the cake wouldn't stick to the paper. The cupcakes that I baked in these papers, were coming away from the paper and looked awful. I was lucky that I baked half of them in just plain white (yes, probably bleached) cupcake papers, but they turned out better (the one on the right).

Ok, so that's my venting about the cupcakes out of the way. Now onto the fun part - the little marzipan clementines.
I started with my smallest packet of frozen marzipan that I made from scratch earlier in the year. I thawed it in the refrigerator overnight and then let it come to room temperature the next day. As I did previously when I made the marzipan tulips, I reconstituted the marzipan using a little light corn syrup and it came together and was ready to mold in no time.
The first step was to make it orange, so I used an actual clementine orange as my subject and used AmeriColor Electric Orange (163) that was cut into the marzipan before I kneaded it. After having green and pink hands for a few days after coloring fondant for my birthday cake, I decided to wear some gloves to knead the orange color into the marzipan.

I was pretty happy with this nice bright orange color and molded it into a log first.

I cut the log into eight somewhat equal pieces.

Then, I cut each of the eight pieces in two and this was the size I used for rolling them into 16 little oranges.

One tip that I almost forgot about (and had to re-roll a few) was to place them on plastic wrap after molding them as it's pretty sticky.

I love this idea that I read about. To give the oranges their stem, I used whole cloves with the bloom from the middle removed.

Then they were rolled over my ceramic spice grater for the "dimpled" effect. However, I find that marzipan (especially homemade) has a little texture to it anyway from the ground almonds.

Here they are, my heaping bowl full of marzipan oranges. Now onto decorating the cupcakes...

I ended up making my own recipe for the orange buttercream. It ended up having a nice light orange flavor, but not too overpowering (see recipe below).
I piped on the frosting as I thought it would look nicer with the orange zest in it. While I definitely need to work on my piping skills (and am trying desperately to get into that course in culinary school), this was a little more difficult to pipe because it had a looser consistency with the orange juice I added in. Perhaps, I should have added a bit more powdered sugar to hold it together more, but it worked out just fine. I chilled the cupcakes overnight and it held together nicely. I just let them come to room temperature before I placed the marzipan oranges on top and served them.

While I learned a few things along the way, I was quite happy with my Jaffa cupcakes. My brother was too, but admitted that he felt I had gone through way too much trouble for him to just inhale it in less than a minute.
Recipe for Orange Buttercream:
2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
4 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1-2 teaspoons fresh grated orange peel
4-6 tablespoons fresh squeezed orange juice
Beat the butter until light and fluffy. Add in the powdered sugar a little at a time and beat on low (so it doesn't fly everywhere). Beat in the vanilla and orange peel. Add the orange juice a few tablespoons at a time for taste and consistency. Note: I used a little over 6 tablespoons and it had a nice flavor, but the consistency was a little loose.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Strawberry Ice Cream

This is most likely my last strawberry creation (at least this week). Strawberry season will last a little longer and I may be further inspired to try something else....a tart perhaps. After three batches of strawberry freezer jam, cookies and several fresh eaten strawberries, I decided to preserve the final few quarts of strawberries with cream, milk, sugar and pure vanilla in the form of some homemade strawberry ice cream.

I soaked the strawberries in sugar and fresh lemon juice all morning and mashed the strawberries to get some good juice to color the ice cream. I mixed the cream, milk, sugar and vanilla with the fresh strawberry juice and crushed strawberries and put it in my Cuisinart ice cream maker.

When it first comes out of the ice cream machine after about 25 minutes, it has a nice soft gelato like texture.

We sampled some and it was AMAZING and the rest went in a freezer safe container to freeze more to enjoy later.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Oatmeal Cookies

I meant to make this cookie in May and time got the best of me with the other projects I decided to take on. I love this oatmeal cookie recipe and got hungry for them after I lit an oatmeal cookie candle I have. I lit it when I had company coming over as it makes the house smell like you've been baking. I felt like I was cheating with the candle, so I wanted to make a batch of these cookies and recreate the real smell! It's simple in that it is purely just oatmeal, but sometimes simple is just better. I grew up with oatmeal cookies loaded with coconut, chocolate chips, raisins and sometimes nuts and while I love those, this is definitely my go-to oatmeal cookie recipe now. They are perfectly crispy on the edges with a soft center. And, since they are dredged in powdered sugar before baking, they come out of the oven with a warm sugary coating and they just melt in your mouth.

The batter is very easy to make and I always use my mini cookie scoop to keep the size of the cookies consistent.

I rolled each cookie scoop into a ball and gave them a nice thick coating of powdered sugar.

They went on Silpat lined baking sheets and I flattened each of them slightly with the back of a spoon.

Here they are fresh out of the oven. Beautiful cracks in the powdered sugar coating as they spread out when they baked and a slightly gooey warm sugar coating.
I made a lot of them so I had plenty to send some home with family that visited and a nice big container for my husband to take to the office.
I think these cookies would be great with maybe a homemade caramel or cinnamon homemade ice cream sandwiched between them. I have some other ideas for fun ice cream sandwiches and plan to make some in the warm summer months to enjoy with the kids.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

A Trip to Yesteryear

Near where I grew up is the little town of Blanchard, Michigan. You'd never imagine such a quaint place to be in the middle of nowhere, but Loafer's Glory is a little gem that I love to visit when I visit my mum. They are closed through the winter months, so we recently went for our first visit of the year. It has a nice country charm to it and while I don't care as much now for country style decorating, it is still fun to look around. They have several shops with anything from candles, to table linens and books. I love going there around Christmastime and in November they always have a live Nativity scene that really sets the mood for the season.
They have a collection of different shops and the Wildflower Tea Room is in the middle. It has more of a luncheon menu without the traditional tea room items, but we always love to eat there. I'll always remember our visits to have lunch there when my Nan was visiting from England and the broccoli cheese soup was always her favorite. In fact, we sat at the table that we last recall sitting with Nan. Audrey and I had a nice lunch with mum and she even shared her hot fudge sundae with Audrey. I had my favorite dessert, their buttermilk pie.
They have fantastic homemade bread that is made in the Sun Flour Bakery and mum and I both ordered a loaf to go.

The Ole's ice cream shop is so charming and I love the old fashioned stools.

A trip to visit my mum always seems like a trip to "yesteryear." Old memories, looking through the room I grew up in, a trip to the Amish farms for eggs or vegetables and a visit for lunch at Loafer's Glory, the "village of yesteryear." I'm already looking forward to my next visit. I think we'll sit on the stools in Ole's and order a big sundae.