Thursday, July 16, 2009

Urban Foraging

I live in a city... it's a small city but still it's a city. I'm lucky enough to have both the entertainment, dining and excitement that comes with urban life and to still get pretty country, farms and all nature has to offer only about a 10 minute drive from where I live. I've often felt that it's the best of both worlds. Growing up in suburbia in a house surrounded by woods on all sides I've been very appreciative that good restaurants and shopping are just a walk around the corner instead of a 20 minute drive. I have an office downtown about a 2 minute walk from where I live instead of a 45 min. commute each way (which is what my Mom has).

Here's a typical view of downtown.

And another.

See nice small city.

But if there was one thing I truly missed from my suburban childhood in the woods (ok two things, I desperately want to have a pool again) it's walking to my favorite summer berry picking spot. Every summer we'd spend lazy afternoon after lazy afternoon playing and walking and grazing the bushes. Occasionally we'd be sent out on missions, containers in hand, to bring back berries for the household.

Last year I discovered my first "public" berry bushes in the city- it was late in the season and most were already gone- but you could tell there had been a huge amount of blackberries. All year I've waited for them to come back, I was delighted by the idea of being able to wander out of the house and pick some berries on a whim. I went to check on them a few days ago, but they were still green... but luck would have it that my husband discovered these blackberries bushes which are even closer- about halfway between my office and our house.

So I went picking on my lunch break- and I certainly had enough in just 10 minutes to make a batch of muffins. Judging by the paths in the brush leading into the bushes we're not the only people (or animals) who know about the berries.

I loved getting the fresh berries (on my lunch break no less) but I have to say it was a distinctly different experience being able to hear city traffic noise while picking them! What can I say... urban foraging is new for me, it may take a while to get used to it.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Baby Shower Planning: The Beginning!

As I've mentioned before my sister is pregnant and I'm excited to be an auntie. She's due in early November with a boy. (On a side note our cousin is also due with a boy on Thanksgiving.)

My mom and I started tossing around dates and a few ideas for a shower. I've been to showers where the mother-to-be wasn't actually there because she was otherwise engaged... busy having the baby. And since both my sister and I were born a few weeks early we decided to be safe and make the shower a good month before my sister's due date- we went with October 3rd.

Next were the huge decisions about where to have it and what sort of theme to have. My sister was no help here- she didn't have any sort of "vision" for the event. The only thing she said was that she didn't want it to be a ladies only shower- she wanted kids and guys to be there too. Sort of a family type of event. So I went a little out of the traditional and booked a carousel for the event. It's a really gorgeous historic merry-go-round and I think it will be very unique for a shower.

I'm going to be in charge of invitations, decorations and games. I'm also going to help with the menu. Immediately the location gave me some ideas for all of those things. And like a lighting bolt I had an idea for a cake... I want to make this-

I'm not sure how much you'll be able to see from this sketch but I'm going to make a carousel cake. Now here's the thing... I've never in my life made a cake like this before. The only cake I've ever made is a typical frosted no decoration cake. I showed my husband the sketch and he actually laughed out loud, shook his head and said that I never did anything small. But I don't think it will be that bad (don't quote me on that) since I have a plan to base the entire thing off of a 2 layer round cake which I'm pretty comfortable with. I sense some test cakes in my future (and yours if you're a regular reader).

I just have tentative plans right now but I'm also thinking of having a kids table, where there will be coloring sheets or maybe an easy "make and take" activity to help keep them busy between carousel rides.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Graduation Pop Success!

I made the graduation pops from Bakerella's site on Saturday. We had a family member graduate from college this year and ever since I saw the post about these graduation pops I knew I was going to make them. The party was yesterday, we had a wonderful time (Thanks Patrick and Nicole!) and I had a lot of fun making the chocolates.

I got a bunch of questions about them- how'd you do it, how'd you think of that (all credit to that clever Bakerella!), but mostly people just thought they were fun and liked the crafty touch. The thing that made it all worth it was when the graduate came over (with a pop in hand) to say he was happy I made something crafty for the party. That's what always makes a crafty effort worth while- because ultimately we are all crafty to make something special for someone else.

Onto some logistics, I finally found the candy she used for the tassels! (In a gas station store) And the 30 actual pops (half dark chocolate peanut butter cups and squares, half milk chocolate) were way more challenging than the test pop- which of course went together easy as could be. I had some issues with the chocolate- if they were in the fridge they were sweating and if they were out of the fridge they would start to melt. This was the first time I had ever worked with chocolate, I tempered anything I melted so I don't think that was the issue and I'm not sure if humidity effects chocolate, but the pouring rain was the only difference between the test pop and the actual pops. I also used Ghirardelli squares instead of the Godiva squares Bakerella used- so the size is a little different. And I couldn't get my tassels to bend the corner as neat as hers... but overall I was happy with the results! They were yummy and enjoyed by all.

Many thanks to Bakerella for this wonderful idea!
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