Friday, July 29, 2011

A Happy Birthday Surprise!

Well, after a 4am wake up, 5 hours of travel, and plenty of turbulence, I have arrived... In Florida! With much collaboration and cooperation from her boyfriend Jason, I flew here to surprise my friend KT for her birthday. We successfully kept the secret for nearly 3 months. Jason left their house to "pick up lunch" but rather than returning with pitas from Pita Pit, he picked me up from the airport. I walked into the house and found KT in the office studying diligently for grad school tests. She looked up with a blank face, stunned. The shock was shortly followed by a few high-pitched shrieks, jumps, and hugs.

I'm so happy we were able to keep it a surprise, and I'm so happy to be here with KT. What a great weekend it will be... I'll have a full report when I return home.

Happy Friday, all!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sugar and Spice

I hung out with Kayla and Miss Kasey earlier this week and attempted to snap some precious pictures. Kasey was minimally cooperative, but I can't blame the girl. She gets cranky when she's hungry... I can relate.  But regardless, she is absolutely adorable! Such a precious little one.

Isn't she a doll?

Saturday, July 23, 2011

An Afternoon with Jakob

Little Jakob is now nearly three weeks old. He is growing like a weed, and was much bigger and more awake than Sasha and I had planned, but we had a great time anyway.

Here is some of what we captured. Excuse the amateur-ness of the photos; this is the first time I've done a baby shoot. I don't have a very expensive camera or expensive editing software... yet. So you get what you get.

But I'm sure you will fall in love with him anyway, just as I have done. Enjoy!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Midnight Ride

The Owl Ride:
What: Late-night bicycle ride around Omaha benefiting the Meyer Foundation for Disabilities
Distance: 16 miles

Time: 11pm-2am
Riders: 2,000

At 10:30 we finished loading our bicycles into the car and were on our way downtown. We parked, unloaded, buckled our helmets, and switched on our lights. We lined up with the other 2,000 riders at the starting line -- on the overflowing riverfront. Luckily, the street was open only for bicycles, and was closed to motorized vehicles because of the flood.

We took off from Rick's Boatyard in groups so that the streets wouldn't be too flooded with tangles of wrecking bicycles. We took to the streets of the Old Market, and onto the first "Owl Perch", or rest area, at Midtown Crossing. We passed through this point, as it had only been about 15 minutes of riding. We continued onto Dundee, Aksarben Village, and Field Club where the remaining Owl Perches were located. Each stop had cold water which was necessary, on a 90-degree muggy night. The streets weren't closed to traffic, so we dodged parked and driving vehicles. We stopped at stoplights and cruised through the greens. Volunteers and police officers were at intersections and turns, telling us which way to go.

It was quite a sight seeing so many bicycles decorated with headlights, red flashing tail lights, and neon glow-sticks riding through town. In various neighborhoods, house parties of people came out, beer in hand, to cheer us on. I'm not sure why, but "USA! USA!" was a very common chant from on-lookers.

We finished with a ride through ConAgra Plaza, past the Qwest (ahem, Century Link) Center, and back to the Riverfront. We ate some less-than-delicious breakfast burritos, were interviewed by the news crew, and relaxed on the riverfront landing.

Owl Perch in Aksarben Village

Joe, Emily, and I at two of the stops

Cooling off at the riverfront landing

The riverfront. Left: Rick's Boatyard and pedestrian bridge, and riders after the finish.
Right: The flooded river--you can see how high the water is on the lights and benches.

What a great night of riding with great friends.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Strawberry Lemonade Cupcakes

During this summer of poorly-fitting swimsuits and shorts, I've tried to keep the sweets to a minimum. (Emphasis on the tried.) But I decided that our staff meeting at work needed a little something special, a little morale boost, a little pizzaz. So I dug out a summer recipe I've been wanting to try. Here are my results:

Strawberry Lemonade Cupcakes
*from Annie's Eats*

For the cake: 
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
2 tsp lemon zest
12 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
3/4 cup milk
2 cups fresh strawberries, chopped

For the lemonade syrup: 
1 cup lemonade concentrate, thawed
3/4 cup powdered sugar

For the frosting
1 cup fresh strawberries, roughly chopped
12 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
18 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 2/3 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
3 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract

- To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Line muffin pans with paper liners.  In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt and lemon zest.  Stir together with a fork and set aside.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until it is light and fluffy.  Add the sugar and beat until well combined.  Beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition.  Add half of the flour mixture to the bowl and beat on low speed until just incorporated.  Add in the milk and mix until smooth.  Add in the remaining flour mixture and mix on low speed until just blended.  Fold in the fresh strawberries with a spatula.

- Divide the batter evenly between the cupcake liners, filling them about 3/4 full.  Bake about 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow to cool in the pan 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Once the cupcakes have cooled, whisk together the lemonade concentrate and confectioners’ sugar in a small bowl to make the lemonade syrup.  Poke several holes in the top of each cupcake with a skewer and pour the syrup over the cupcakes, allowing it to soak in.  (Place wax paper underneath your cooling rack so you don’t make a mess!)
- To make the frosting, puree the strawberries in a food processor or blender.  Strain the puree through a mesh sieve to remove the seeds, and set aside.  Beat the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth and very fluffy, about 5 minutes.  Add the powdered sugar and mix until smooth.  Add the lemon juice and vanilla extract and mix until incorporated.  Mix in strawberry puree, a tablespoon at a time, until you achieve your desired texture and flavor of frosting.  Frost cupcakes as desired, and enjoy!

This recipe is definitely a keeper!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Fresh Garden Flowers

As I've mentioned before, the lady who used to own Mike's house had beautiful flowers around the perimeter of her back yard. Many of them haven't survived the years of neglect, but some have survived. Every couple weeks a new group of flowers will bloom, and when I look a few days later they're already gone. The three boys living in the house don't pay much attention to them, so they don't get enjoyed like they should. So I decided I'd enjoy them if no one else was going to.

There were three kinds blooming this morning, so I decided to cut a few stems of each. I placed them in a vase, and now Molly and I are thoroughly enjoying them on our dining room table.

Thanks for the flowers, Mike!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

First Harvest

It's been months in the making, but I finally have a productive garden!  I went to pick weeds today, and what I found (besides thousands of weeds and bugs) were three kinds of veggies that were ready to be picked! Grape tomatoes, snap peas, and green beans. Lots of green beans.

Several other things are growing very well too, and it's only a matter of time until I begin to enjoy them. Happy Summer!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Baby Kasey

After months of waiting and mere minutes of contractions, Kasey Lynn is here! And she's SO precious!

Kasey was born June 6th, weighed 7lbs 4oz and was 20 inches long.

Congratulations to Kayla and Brett on the brand new baby in the brand new house!

(photos copyright of mama kayla)

Molly and I visiting during work.

Looking forward to many walks with Kasey and Kayla!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Baby Jakob

After months of waiting and hours of contractions, Baby Jakob is here! And he's just perfect.

He was born June 23rd, weighed 7lb 6oz and was 19 1/2 inches long.

Congratulations to Sasha and Bryan! What a perfect little family you have!

So excited to be a part of this little guy's life!

Detroit is right HERE

Last weekend was quite an adventure. The first of my summer trips:  Michigan. I'd never been to Michigan before (except a layover at the Detroit airport, which doesn't really count), so what better time than the present? As my grandma used to say, "I'm not getting any younger!"

The real reason for the trip was to attend Mike's cousin's wedding. But there was an other-side-of-the-family birthday party the same weekend. How convenient!

How overwhelming. The whole family. Both sides. Not a single person missing. All in three days.

But I survived. No one chased me away, and everyone was very nice. I had been warned about a select few (who shall remain nameless, as I know you're all reading this), but even they were welcoming. Even Mike's Aunt Sandy. :)

Friday when we arrived to Detroit, Mike's parents met us at the airport. We picked up the car and took a quick tour of the old Polish neighborhood, and of course 8 Mile. Complete with kids playing by the "Crackheads live here" sign in the park. Awesome.  We then made it to Mike's grandparents' house, where everyone was gathered for dinner and birthday celebration #1. We ate lots of food, looked at old pictures, and I soaked it all in--trying to tell one uncle from another, figuring out who belonged to who, and keeping everyone straight. Quite a task, given 25+ new faces in a few short hours. Then it was off to Mike's Uncle Mark's house, where we were staying for the weekend.

Saturday was the wedding day. After watching some lost 80's music videos and a little Wimbledon, it was go time. We made it to the church, and it was time to meet the second half of the crew. There were fewer people to meet on this side of the family, but I had received more warnings about them. To no surprise, they were wonderful as well. The wedding was beautiful, complete with Mike's grandpa giving a joyful "Work it! Gorgeous!" at the start of the ceremony. Then a tour of another part of town, mass #2, and the reception. It was a night filled with food, drinks, and dancing, and I was exhausted by the end of the night.

Sunday was a party for Mike's grandparents--the same side as Friday evening. Together they were turning 170 years old. The celebration included family portraits, food, yard games, a cupcake-family-tree, and yes - a snowball fight. Sunday night we enjoyed a past-his-prime Rick Springfield concert and watched 2,000 people re-live the 80s for two hours. Quite entertaining. Again, exhausted by the end of the night.

Monday was the voyage back home. I survived the weekend, and even passed the who's-who test--in chronological order. It was a wonderful weekend, and so great to meet such wonderful people. Now Mike and his brothers make so much more sense :)

Thanks to the Dapoz and Wierzbicki families who welcomed me into their homes, and housed and fed me all weekend. It was great meeting you all!


Above:  photobooth pictures from the wedding.

Right: pictures from outside the reception, taking a break from sweaty dancing.

I held back on taking many pictures from the weekend.
I didn't want to be too much of a creepster.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Monkey Bread

I realize my "Treats" section is growing faster than any other section, but welcome to my life. No denying it:  I love food.

After more than 30 years of hard work and dedication, one of my coworkers is retiring. Kathy has been one heck of a role model; she has taught me more than I could have imagined, and she has shown all of us "newbies" what it means to be a great nurse. I can only hope I last it as long in this field as she has.

Despite her seniority, Kathy still works the night shift. Usually it's the new graduate nurses who are subjected to working nocturnally, but Kathy is finishing her career on the graveyard shift. Because of this, the Retirement Party we hosted for Kathy was held at the end of her shift: at 7am. Not many workplaces have a 7am party, but we weren't opposed.

So what was I to make for a breakfast potluck? Egg casserole, coffee, juice, and fruit salad had all already been DIBS'ed by others. So why not monkey bread? I hadn't had monkey bread in years. Not since my waistline started caring what I eat for breakfast. But a retirement party? Good excuse to make it!

(However, I made this at 5:30am before going into work, so I was a little lacking on the pictures. Sorry--a very brief peek is all you get.)

Monkey Bread
adapted from The Pioneer Woman's recipe

3 cans buttermilk biscuits
3/4 cup sugar
3 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar

Cut the biscuits into quarters.
Combine the cinnamon and sugar in a large bowl or ziplock bag. Add the biscuits shake to coat all the biscuit chunks with the cinnamon-sugar. Place the biscuits into a pan.
In a sauce pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Stir in the brown sugar, and simmer for a few minutes until the brown sugar dissolves as much as it can. Pour the butter/brown sugar mixture over the biscuit chunks. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes, or until brown on top and no longer dough-y inside. Cool and invert onto a plate.

When I got to work, the monkey bread was still warm. The plate was empty within 5 minutes of the party starting. I think it was a hit.

I guess if you work the same job for 30+ years,
you deserve to indulge.
Happy Retirement, Kathy!