Thursday, May 28, 2015

Lilacs & Countryside

A couple of weekends ago, my family  and I visited my parents.  It was a beautiful weekend to be staying with them, as the weather was warm and the lilacs were in full bloom.  One morning, I grabbed my camera and went around trying to capture the beautiful views.  I wanted to capture the moment of the quite morning. the sun shining and the impending heat of the day.  I really enjoy the moments in the early morning when everything is still quite and barely awake.  Looking back at these photos (even though they are a couple weeks old) brings me a sense of peace.  I can still smell the fragrant lilacs.

This beautiful tree was a Mother's Day gift to my mom, a million years ago.  I remember when we had chickens, the chickens loved to sit under this tree and sunbath and also dig up the dirt right at the base of the tree.  

This lilac bush is a light purple, almost a tinted white.  

Beautiful lilacs.   I wish they could last all summer.

This weathered building is the wood shed that holds all of the split and stacked wood for winter.  I love the rustic and weathered look of this building.  I love the contrast of the bright green leaves and grass against the weathered brown.  Right on the far corner of the building, where the wall meest the tin roof, sits a Yellow Bellied Sap Sucker woodpecker.  This gorgeous, yet very loud bird is the reason for this photo.  Every morning during our stay, this little guy (or girl) would tap on the tin of the roof.  I did not even need an alarm clock!  I tried to get a better photo, but sneaking up on this bird proved to be more difficult than I thought.  He would always fly away.  

I guess you could considered my parents agriculturalists, as they own a Christmas tree farm.  I remember planting the original saplings, 20 plus years ago.  I love looking out at the acres of trees.  It makes me happy to think of all the joy each tree will bring to the different families during the Christmas holiday.  Each spring, my parents plant new saplings to replace the trees that have been cut or did not make it, for whatever reason.  It takes about 8-10 years for a tree to mature and be the right size for a Christmas tree.  Throughout the summer my dad will mow the grass between the tree rows.  In August he will trim each tree by hand so they have that traditional "Christmas tree" shape.

I usually try to scope out our Christmas tree during the summer.

A few shots of my own lilacs and one of my blue hydrangeas.  So beautiful and colorful.  

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Treat for Me | Vera and Jacks

I feel like for the past month I have been running around like a mad woman.  I feel like most of my time has been spent cleaning the house, laundry, taking the kids to baseball, soccer, music lessons and the list goes on.  No different then any other parent who is juggling a million balls all at once.

When my life gets a little crazy (like it has been), I really enjoy treating myself to something special.  I think it helps me push through the craziness and gives me something to look forward to, that is all mine.

A few weeks ago, I did just that-I ordered a new pair of pajamas and new sandals!  It must sound silly, but I have really wanted a nice pair of cotton pjs that I could wear on the back deck while sipping coffee in the early morning hours.  I wanted a nice pair of pjs that I could wear in the summer, even when the weather is warm, but I would still stay cool.

Well, let me tell you, these pajamas are exactly what I was looking for!  I ordered them from Vera Bradley in this exact pattern, African Violet.  I adore these pajamas, I never want to take them off!  Or course, we all know that can never happen when you are a busy mom…

I love these pajamas so much, I am planning on ordering a second pair in a different pattern.

My other little indulgence, was a new pair of sandals.  Back in college I had a pair of these sandals and wore them into the ground.  I practically wore them all summer long and with almost every outfit.  Eventually they had to be retired (thrown out) and I never got around to ordering a new pair, until now.

This is the Jack Rogers Hamptons Navajo sandal.  Iconic and classic.  Originally made famous by one of my favorite historical figures and style icons, Jackie Kennedy Onassis.  I ordered my in platinum from  As of right now, I have been wearing my new pair with capris and polished toenails.  I can't wait to wear them with my summer skirts and dresses!  They will be great to wear to the pool when I take the kids for swim lessons or to slip on when running to the grocery store.  The versatility is endless with this sandal.  They can be casual or fancy, which is the perfect summer shoe for me!

Here is a photo of Jackie sporting her "Jacks."  Such grace and elegance, even stepping off of a boat.

I have enjoyed my little indulgences and look forward to the next crazy and hectic month, whenever it may be.  What should I treat myself too, next?
Vera Bradley

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Memorial Day Cocktail | Citrus Shandy

When the weather starts getting warm, there is nothing more refreshing than a nice summer drink.  My go to is usually a nice, light wheat beer like Blue Moon.  I love how the traditional Blue Moon is served with a slice of orange.  I love the citrus flavor and tang that is added to the beer.

I got a little creative with my most recent Blue Moon.  I decided to make my own summer shandy using orange juice and clementines. 
If I am feeling a little adventurous, I have been known to mix my beer with lemonade.  This yields a deliciously tart beverage.

citrus summer shandy
1/4 cup of orange juice
1/4 cup of cold water 
1/4 cup of vodka
1 wheat beer
1 clementine, peeled and divided

Mix together the orange juice, water. sugar and vodka.  Put into serving glasses, about half way.
  Top glass off with beer and garnish with clementines.  

You can even squeeze a clementine for added flavor.  This made two cocktail sized beverages.

A delicious and light summer cocktail that is refreshing on the those hot summer days.  
Easy to take with you to the beach, pool or serve at a summer bbq.  

Friday, May 22, 2015

Memorial Day | Hydrangea Cupcakes

It is the start of Memorial Day weekend!  I am so happy for this weekend and holiday.  In my mind, despite what the calendar says, it marks the beginning of summer...bbqs, warm weather, eating outside, evening walks, enjoying summer drinks on the deck and patriotic colors.

To get into the spirit of the weekend, I have a quick and easy dessert that will be sure to impress your guests.  This dessert was inspired by my own beautiful hydrangeas that are growing right now and producing gorgeous blue hued blooms.

These cupcakes are not only perfect for a Memorial Day picnic, but also for 4th of July party, a summer bbq, bridal or baby shower.  They are easy to make because they require little ingredients and time, yet by the looks of this delicate cupcake, people will think you spent hours!

hydrangea cupcakes
1 box mix (follow directions on box)
homemade butter cream frosting
blue & red food coloring gel (I used Wilton)
cupcake liners

I first made the cupcakes by following the directions on the box.  To be festive, I used a patriotic mix.  While the cupcakes baked and cooled, I assembled the butter cream frosting in my KitchenAid mixer. 

To make the frosting, I made blue first by adding blue gel food coloring a little at a time.  Remember, add a little at a time because it is easier to add then take away!  Once I had the desired blue, I put half of it in a bowl and used the other half to make light purple.  I added tiny drops of red gel to get my desired color.  

Cake mix and white cupcake liners, festive!

Classic homemade butter cream frosting (recipe coming soon) and before the gel food coloring.

The frosting all ready to go.  I gently folded the blue frosting with the purple to give me the streaked look in the piping bag.  

Disposable piping bag with the giant star tip.  I used the largest stat tip I had in my baking supplies.

Beginning the frosting process.  When frosting, you want the cupcake top to by full of "flowers."  Make sure to pipe the frosting and fill in all spots.  The more full, the better looking the cupcake.

Happy Memorial Day weekend and happy baking!