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Monthly Archives: April 2010

Babies Babies Babies!

Spring is definitely in the air!  In addition to a brand new set of ducklings we spotted last week, new little lives are blessing friends and family around us!

sleeping Jonathan

Our good friends Daryl and Lori just recently adopted their sweet boy, Jonathan, who has grown leaps and bounds in the last 3 months!

And Justin’s cousin and her husband, Abby and Adam, just welcomed their cuter than cute little boy Mason.

In addition, as I type this, I anxiously await news from our friend Jessie and her husband Jared, hoping they will be holding their new little girl today!

tasty little boy onesie cookies!

To celebrate the arrivals of these little ones, I’ve been busy making ridiculously adorable sugar cookies.

i heart onesie cookies.

I spotted this cookie cutter online a couple of weeks ago, and didn’t waste a moment in having it shipped to my doorstep!

Welcome babies!  And happy congratulations to all the parents!

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Posted by on April 30, 2010 in Baking, Family, Friends, Julie

 

Spring Walk Sights

Have we mentioned that we love living downtown before?  Maybe once or twice?  We could not be more pleased with the twists and turns (and major blessings) that have brought us to our current station in life.  In addition to being within 3 blocks of about eight terrific restaurants and walking distance to the library, bank, and post office, we are just a hop, skip, and a jump from the riverfront.  We have been taking daily walks down by the river for over a month now (are we sure this is still Wisconsin?!) and have loved seeing the spring transition.

More green grass and buds, more people out walking and riding bikes, and plenty of ducks to be amused with.  Except that I ALWAYS forget the camera.  Never fails.  Gorgeous sunset over the water?  Nope, no camera.  A gazillion ducks surrounding a kid with a piece of crumbly bread?  Just have to etch it in our memory because the camera was sitting on the table at home.  So yesterday we got lucky.  Not because I remembered the camera for the walk, but because I had it for a completely different reason earlier in the day and it still happened to be in my bag.  But really.  How often do you come across 4 giant people puppets representing Earth, Wind, Fire and Water?!  Seriously?!

Just some happy, though possibly embarrassed, nature-lovers in the park, practicing for a performance later in the week.

Spring in Stevens Point.  Gotta love it!

 
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Posted by on April 22, 2010 in Julie, Random Life

 

Moving right along…

On Thursday afternoon, we walked straight from the title company where we closed on the sale of our house over to the bank to deposit The Check.  And we are in no way waiting to spend The Check!  This morning we had one last dumpster delivered to the building in order to clear out the first floor.

In addition to the debris that has accumulated as we renovated the upstairs, we also took out the old ceiling tiles, the rest of the carpet, and the wall that had been blocking up the window.

And what a difference it has made!  Tons of gorgeous light streamed in and brightened the space immediately.  The cleared out space helped me to refocus on our plans and re-envision the layout.  So excited to move forward with the space!

Next on our agenda is to get the air conditioner installed, order new ceiling tiles, and get the big front window replaced (as well as see what is behind the nasty corrugated aluminum).  Big Thank you to Dad, CJ, and Maria for helping with the work!

We’ll keep the updates coming!

 
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Posted by on April 21, 2010 in Building, Julie

 

You need one of these

I hear horror stories of lost files fairly often, and have had to deal with the tragedy more than once (although never with my own personal files).  Today I received my latest and hopefully last backup device.  If you have important files, like photos, tax documents, or anything else like that, you always should keep at least two copies of the files.  The files must be on two separate physical drives, preferably an external USB drive.  This way if your main drive dies or your external drive dies you have at least one remaining copy of your files.  Apple makes this incredibly easy with Time Machine and it is easily the best casual backup solution I have ever used.  All the Macs that I installed at church have an external drive attached to them for backup, just in case.  For less than $100 it is easily one of the best computer related expenses you could have.  I went one step further and got an external drive that just happens to be fireproof and waterproof.  It can withstand a fire of almost 1600 degrees for about 1/2 hour and can be underwater (fresh or salt) for up to 3 days.  This will protect our important files and photos even if the entire building burns down.  It’s something that I hope doesn’t happen, but gives us a little peace of mind, just in case.  The extra fireproofing and waterproofing isn’t that much more expensive (this drive was around $200) but it adds a significant amount of space and weight to the drive.  Definitely worth it for features I hope I never have to use.

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2010 in Justin, Miscellaneous

 

Soda taste test #2049

Julie was in Milwaukee this last weekend delivering cakes and cake pops for a wedding.  While she was there, she went shopping at a couple of different markets with her aunt Jean and brought me back some specialty sodas to try.  Here they are:

The AJ Stephan’s Root Beer was pretty standard root beer.  I thought it was really similar to our own local brand – Point, but Julie didn’t think it was quite as sweet.  Overall nothing too spectacular but definitely not bad.

Julie tends to say that any strong specialty soda “tastes like Robitussin“, and I knew that this Americana Black Cherry soda was going to get the Robitussin comment, and she didn’t disappoint.  I really liked this one – it had a strong cherry taste and was nice and sweet.  Definitely recommended if you are looking for something to knock you back a bit.

Green River was a strange soda – it’s definitely green and has a distinct taste.  Julie and I decided it was kind of a cross between 7-UP and Mello Yello.  This was nice, sweet and has a generally mild flavor.  I could probably sit down, drink about 8 of these and not really even think about it.

All in all it was a pretty successful soda taste test – nothing bad like Chocolate Soda.  The Chocolate Soda and Brussels Sprouts soda (don’t ask) still haunt my dreams.

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2010 in Justin, Taste Test

 

Black Bean & Butternut Squash Tacos

I came across this recipe a couple of weeks ago, and have to admit I was intrigued.  I immediately saved it and printed it out for my “to make SOON” recipe file.  Almost all the ingredients are things I regularly have on hand, and the last time we drove over to Rudolf we picked up some Asadero cheese, a Mexican, semi-soft melting cheese from the dairy.  We decided to have them for lunch today.  I cut up and roasted the butternut squash, cooked the onions and garlic and spices, mixed in the beans, then folded in the squash.  Shredded the cheese, and then sat down to eat.

Justin fully admits that he didn’t have the highest expectations for this meal.  Black beans and squash are not at the top of his “let’s mix these ingredients” list.  But seriously, one bite, and we were hooked.  These are marvelous!  The cheese was spectacular, and the roasted squash and black beans and spices melded beautifully.  The recipe has now gone from the “to make SOON” file to the “make AGAIN SOON” file!

(other news – We closed on the sale of our house today!  So happy!  Justin is thrilled we didn’t even have to mow the lawn this year!)

Black Bean & Butternut Squash Tacos

1 small butternut squash
Olive Oil
Salt
Pepper
1 Medium Onion, diced
2 cloves of Garlic, minced
1 tsp Cumin
1/2 tsp Coriander
1/2 tsp Chili Powder
1 can Black Beans, rinsed and drained
8 (6-inch) corn tortillas
1 cup Asadero cheese (or other melting cheese, or cheddar cheese)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Peel butternut squash and scoop out seeds.  Chop into 1/2 inch cubes.  Toss squash with a glug or two of olive oil, to coat.  Spread out on a baking sheet, and season generously with salt and pepper.  Roast until the squash is browned on the edges, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Heat 2 tsp olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Add the onions and cook 5-7 minutes, until softened and the edges are browned.  Add the garlic and stir for 30 seconds.  Add the spices and stir for another 30 seconds.  Add the beans and lower the heat to medium-low, stirring to warm the beans through and coat with spices, 2 minutes or so.  Fold in the butternut squash.  Serve immediately with warmed tortillas and shredded cheese

 
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Posted by on April 15, 2010 in Food, Julie

 

On the subject of Pie.

I have to admit, I’ve never really understood pie.  Sure, I would eat the obligatory piece of pumpkin pie (piled high with whipped cream) each Thanksgiving, and it was fine.  But I would rather enjoy that tasty pumpkin filling in bar form, without that crust mucking things up.  I’ve never really been a fan of blueberry or apple or peach pie.  Every once and awhile I would come across a rare piece of pie that was enjoyable, but typically not to the point that I would want more than one piece.  Usually I don’t even give pie a chance, and just go straight for the brownies, cake, cookies, etc.  So pie has always been kind of cast to the back of my baker’s brain, deciding I just wasn’t really a pie person.  The only exception to this rule in my life has been in Lexington, Kentucky, when a friend and I happened across the most fantastically marvelous, most unbelievably delicious peanut butter pie.  We went back the next day and got another piece.  And felt too guilty to go a third time (though we REALLY wanted to).  But can I remember even the name of the place it was at?  To shower said establishment with specific praises?  To make a yearly pilgrimage to return to get more pie?  No.  But what this does show, is that I CAN be a pie person.  It just has to be the right pie.  With the right crust.

With a new recipe book that I received for my birthday, I think I am starting to put the pieces of pie together in my mind.  And really, I fully expected this book to guide me down the enlightened path of pie.  In my mind, however warped, Amish baking is synonymous with simple, good, and delicious.  There are a number of Amish and Mennonite communities scattered around Wisconsin, and it seems each is known for a little bakery in someone’s home that pours out sweets and breads and which people flock to.  So with high hopes, I did some grocery shopping to pick up some, er, essentials.

There is a reason Amish baked goods taste so gosh darn tasty.  And it is something we do not want to acknowledge even exists.  But, oh, does IT exist.  And IT makes ridiculously good pie crusts.  Here, let’s look at the nice jar of flour instead.

My first foray in to the Amish world of baking pies, was this ridiculously simple, yet ridiculously delicious Sugar Cream Pie.  It might not look like much, but it tastes like much!  Sweet, smooth, custard-like filling with a hint of freshly grated nutmeg.  And a lovely, tender, not-too-sweet crust.

Yep.  I am a pie person.

Sugar Cream Pie
adapted from The Amish Cook’s Baking Book

Pie Crust:

1 1/2 cups All-purpose flour
1 Tablespoons Sugar
1/2 tsp Salt
1/4 cup Lard
2 Tablespoons Butter
2 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
3-4 Tablespoons Milk

Combine dry ingredients.  Using your fingers, blend in lard and butter, crumbling with the flour quickly and gently.  Mix together milk and oil.  Add to flour mixture, stirring with a fork, until a crumbly dough forms.  Turn directly into pie plate.  Pat the dough with your fingers, first at the sides of the plate, and then across the bottom.  Flute the edges as desired.

Filling:

3/4 Cup Granulated Sugar
1/2 Cup. Brown Sugar, loosely packed
1/4 Cup + 2 Tablespoons All purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 Cup Boiling water
1/2 Cup Heavy Cream
1/4 Cup Whole milk
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1/2 tsp Nutmeg

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  In a bowl, combine the sugars, flour, and salt until well blended. Slowly add the boiling water and stir until well blended.  Then add the cream, milk, vanilla, and nutmeg and stir until the mixture is completely blended.  Pour the filling into the unbaked pie shell.  Bake for 25 minutes.  Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees, cover the edges of the crust with foil to prevent burning, and bake for 25 minutes more, until done.  The top should be lightly bubbling all over and no longer liquid, but it should still jiggle like gelatin in the center.  Let cool before serving.

 
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Posted by on April 12, 2010 in Baking, Julie