Vintage Treasures

I have been a very good girl lately.

I haven't purchased any retro housewares or even stopped at thrift stores in the area to scope out what's new on their shelves.

Then again, I haven't had to, because my vintage cravings were satisfied by an influx of pretty Pyrex dishes after our wedding.

And then, when I thought the wedding gifts were long since gone, one of my lovely friends decided we needed a few more treasures.

The box arrived yesterday and I squealed with delight as I pulled out each item.

First came these adorable salt and pepper shakers, along with a butter dish. Can they be any cuter? I think not.

Even Conservative Hubby is excited about them, because now it means I'll actually let him keep salt and pepper on the table all the time.

Next came this adorable yellow dog. Isn't he sweet, with his floppy ears and big eyes?

Reminds me of another yellow fellow I know. If this photo is any indication, they will become lifelong friends. All of Butter's lifelong friends sniff his backside, and so of course he sniffs yellow dog's backside.

Finally, a little fun for the bar. This set of wooden snack bowls will look darn good downstairs. Then again, they'd also look pretty swell upstairs in our kitchen. I will have to contemplate their placement a bit more.

There's one for pretzels.

And one for snacks (I thought pretzels were snacks, but snacks apparently get a category of their own).

One for nuts, which apparently aren't snacks either.

And they all fit in the last one, which is for potato chips.

Now do you see why I squealed with delight?


Meatball Madness

You may have noticed that I haven't been trying much new lately.

Instead, I've been pretty focused on trying other things that aren't so exciting, like making it through the last couple of hectic weeks of my master's coursework. And applying and interviewing for jobs. And other random work. And a brief respite from the madness of school at the wackiness of Drake Relays. And that's about it.

The last time I did try some cooking, however, I was on a meatball kick. We're talking meatballs twice in one week. I can't explain it. Sometimes, when an urge to make meatballs comes over you, you just go with it.

The first recipe, which you saw a quick glimpse of here, is spaghetti and meatballs. But not just any spaghetti and meatballs. We're talking Pioneer Woman spaghetti and meatballs. You know cooking with PW is always a good time.

This particular recipe involves spaghetti, of course. And big meatballs. And a nice chunky homemade red sauce. Very tasty.

The next recipe I made later that same week also involved meatballs, but took a very different (although still pasta-focused) form. It's baked rigatoni with tiny meatballs, courtesy of Smitten Kitchen.

You're a smart reader, so I'm guessing you may have figured this out already, but this one involved tiny meatballs. And rigatoni. And it was baked. And it involved a light, white cream sauce.

See? Different. But still incredibly tasty.

(Although Conservative Boy thought a bit of garlic salt might boost the flavor of the second dish and, as much as I hate to admit it, he was right.)


Holding On To Spring

Why is it that just as the plants get busy, peeking up from the ground and blossoming and spreading their leaves, that I get busier too?

I adore all the seasons and the changes they bring (though perhaps long, icy winters least of all), and spring is certainly at the top of the list.

There's something about those first days when it's finally comfortable to step outside in flip flops and a t-shirt again, when the dreariness of winter gives way to the cheerful hues of new plant life, when the sky somehow seems clearer and bluer than it has in months, that I'm drawn to.

So it devastates me when it's also the season when deadlines come fast and furious, when there's a mad rush to present research and finish papers and a million other things on campus, when new opportunities that are much more time-consuming than I ever imagined get added to my already too-full plate.

And my only moments to enjoy the songs of spring come quickly, furtively, as I walk across campus or pull out of the driveway or stand on the back step for a couple of extra seconds when I let Butter inside.

In these brief moments of respite from the madness, I snatch a glance at the tulips that have bloomed without my permission, at the daffodils that have already long since opened, at the joyful spring attire of the flowering trees that is already giving way to new green leaves.

I file these details away in my memory, hold fast to them as the early spring blooms begin to drop to the ground and the pollen coats my car, trying to live in the moment rather than looking ahead.

And I think, with hope, that perhaps next year things will be slower. Perhaps next year I will be able to stand barefoot among the perennials that have bloomed in the front yard, that daily I may be able to breathe deeply beneath the lilac bushes that I pass, that I will be able to soak up every moment of spring and its glory.


Easter Dinner

Because Conservative Mom and Dad were on their way home from a week down south last Sunday, the Orphaned Conservative Children and their significant others once again made the trip to Q and MB's lovely farmhouse for Easter dinner.

It's a real hardship, I tell you.

But if you saw my posts about Easter Dinner two years ago and last year, you already knew that.

This year, the table was set

and the dishes were served. They included a beautiful ham

which was carved to look like this ...

and was topped with this lovely salsa

plus a plethora of absolutely delicious vegetables, including corn

and peas (with basil—how yummy!)

and lovely carrots

and the most beautiful mashed sweet potatoes

with a pecan topping that was amazinggggg ... (sorry, got wrapped up in imagining those potatoes) ...

plus a cheesy potato dish that did not make the cut because hot melted cheese and my camera do not get along, despite how well hot melted cheese and I get along.

Of course, we also had the dish commonly referred to as Grandma Fran, which is a classic

and another classic dish passed down through Q's family, which looks sort of questionable but actually is pretty good. (Although MB said it's best that we don't know what's included in the recipe.)

We also had this beauty, which I enjoyed immensely but promptly forgot what it was called. This happens when you're in a food-induced haze.

So there you have it. Easter dinner.

Good bye.

Wait? Why? What did I forget?

Oh my. I must still be in that food-induced haze, though it's days later. I almost forgot DESSERT. But, fortunately for all of us present (and unfortunately for our waistlines), MB would never dream of forgetting dessert.

This year we had a lovely, light lemon crepe cake. (And yes, Little Diplomat, I just pronounced crepe properly, just for you.)

And this chocolate creation,

which featured three layers of ridiculously rich chocolate. It was swoon-worthy, to say the least.

And now, for this year's surprise ...

Just kidding. There isn't a surprise this year. Besides, what could top last year, when Kid Sister showed up with one heck of a diamond ring on her finger after T-Bear's stellar Easter egg hunt proposal? It was quite a day.

Speaking of which, the BIG day for those two love birds is just over a month away. Can you believe it?

(Dear Kid Sister: Do not panic. You already knew this. And everything is in great shape so just sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride. Love, Your Sister-in-Law.)

Sorry. I digress. As usual.

Happy belated Easter, from me and this handsome fellow.


Just Some Chocolate Cupcakes

This a tale of the good ...

and the bad and ugly.

It all started last Sunday, when I decided it was time to try Pioneer Woman's Life by Chocolate Cupcakes. I'm not saying I need chocolate to live. But ... well, yes, sometimes I think I do. And chocolate cupcakes topped with ganache with a special surprise inside?

Everybody needs that.

So I set to making these babies. Everything went along swimmingly at first.

I sprayed 18 muffin cups with baking spray and preheated the oven to 350 degrees.

I made the cake batter by combining 2 cups sugar, 2 cups all-purpose flour, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.

I set this aside and then combined 1/2 cup buttermilk, 2 whole eggs, 1 teaspoon baking soda, and 1 teaspoon vanilla.

Next up, in a saucepan, I melted 1 cup butter over medium heat. Then I added 4 heaping tablespoons of cocoa powder and stirred to combine.

To this concoction, I added 1 cup boiling water and allowed it to bubble for a few seconds before turning off the heat.

Then I poured the chocolate mixture over the flour mixture and stirred a few times to cool the chocolate.

Then I poured the buttermilk mixture over the top and stirred to combine again.

Here's the fun part. With the little tin of muffin cups, I placed three canned, pitted cherries in each muffin cup.

Then I poured 1/4 cup cake batter in each muffin cup.

In the big tin of muffin cups, I followed the traditional directions for the recipe and first poured 1/4 cup cake batter in each cup. Then I lightly set a chocolate kiss in the middle of each cupcake and watched as they slowly started to sink.

All these babies went into the oven for 20 minutes. They came out looking like this—ooh la la.

I resisted the urge to try one and instead followed PW's instructions to let them sit for 5 minutes in the pan before moving them to a baking rack to finish cooling.

The cupcakes with the cherries inside released effortlessly from the muffin cups. They were light and lovely.

But boy oh boy Houston did we ever have a problem with the chocolate kiss cupcakes. Apparently these old muffin cups have lost their nonstick powers, and not even the cooking spray helped.

All the little cakes from these cups came out like this.

Leaving the old muffin pan looking like this.

I roared in outrage, thoroughly disappointed to be thwarted this late in the game. Everything was going so well! I was going to pull off this baking endeavor without a hitch. But noooo.

Alas, I couldn't let chocolate cupcakes—deformed as they may be—go to waste. So I left them to cool and continued with the recipe, stewing about their disastrous appearance all the while.

It was time to make the ganache.

This involved heating 1 cup of heavy cream and 6 tablespoons corn syrup in a saucepan over medium heat. Then I chopped 8 ounces of bittersweet chocolate and added it to a bowl. After adding 2 teaspoons vanilla extract to the cream mixture, I poured the mixture over the chocolate.

Finally, I whisked the whole darn thing together until the chocolate melted.

At this point, all that I had left to do was dunk the cupcakes in the ganache. Well, sort of.

I dunked the pretty cherry cupcakes and left them to cool and set.

But dipping the monster cupcakes wasn't going to work. The bottoms promptly crumbled into the ganache.

So I decided these would be upside-down cupcakes. I left them to sit on their pretty umblemished tops and proceeded to liberally dump ganache over their deformed bottoms.

We're not talking just a little bit of ganache either. I went to town, hoping to hide just how ugly these babies are.

It was moderately successful.

Fortunately, they still tasted OK.

Although Conservative Hubby and I both agree the cherry cupcakes were better than the chocolate kiss ones. As much as it pains me to say it, there was just too much chocolate in the kiss versions.

Although that could have been a result of all the ganache I dumped on top of them.