Aug 29, 2014

Things That Made Me Happy: August

In January I embarked on a personal project to take pictures of the little things that make me happy. Before this I forgot to document the little things in our life, the details that are lovely to look back on. So for the year I'm taking pictures of the little things and sharing them here. 

See: January February | March | April | May |  June | July

These are the things that made me happy in August:

Tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes from the garden

Summer light

The beach, the beautiful beach

New York City, Central Park

Picking the garden every night

Summer sunsets

Flowers (as always - so pretty!)

Aug 28, 2014

End of August: Seize the Summer Update

Seizing the Summer 2014

Summer food? Made and enjoyed, including dinner outside. We’ve gone to the pool 17 times (and hopefully a couple more times this weekend if the weather allows!). We made it back down to the beach and had an amazing time.

So what’s left? We still need to get Oliver an ice cream cone and... the non fun stuff. The garage is still in progress. The street construction is happening, but much slower than we expected. I might have to get the bulk of the driveway sealed while it's still warm out and wait to do the end (that they are going to tear up). We'll see how it works out. We'll get it all done. The important thing is that we've really enjoyed the summer!

Aug 27, 2014

Seeding the Garden... with Seeds from the Garden?

In the raised bed garden I waited so long to pull up the lettuce that it bolted and flowered. I knew I needed to pull it up if I was going to put in more seeds for a fall batch of lettuce.  That's when a gardening-enthusiast friend pointed out that if I waited a little bit longer, I could reseed the lettuce with seeds from the existing lettuce. What a novel idea! Hah!

So I waited and then noticed over the weekend that the lettuce flowers had turned to seed. It was time! So I pulled up the very tall lettuce stalks and shook out the loose seeds into the freshly raked soil. I mixed them in... and now I'm waiting. If nothing comes up in a couple weeks I'll put in some real seeds - but it's a fun experiment!

Over by the sweet peas (in the giant bramble of blackberries, raspberries and sweet peas) I noticed there were dozens and dozens of seed pods. I googled how to collect the pods for seeds and I learned that I should collect the brown ones that haven't popped open yet. They need to be dried out and then can be opened and the seeds collected. This area is already so thick with sweet peas I'm sure it will be overly seeded for next spring already, so it's probably a good thing I collect some of the seeds!

So I collected the brown ones, with dozens of green ones to check back on. I think sweet pea vines would be great to try out in the back where they can be wild and beautiful. Along the fence or in the irises/reeds in the back. I have lots of seeds I to collect on!

Aug 26, 2014

World's Best Chocolate Mocha Birthday Cake

I've been on a bit of a cooking kick lately around here lately, so I thought I might as well share the birthday cake I made for my sister's birthday. It's pretty easy to make and it tastes amazing. You'll never be able to go back to boxed chocolate cake mix again (or worse, flat sugary bakery cake). The recipe is actually a modified version of the chocolate cake recipe on the back of the Hershey's cocoa powder box. As the Barefoot Contessa will tell you, coffee actually enhances the taste and flavor of the chocolate - a mocha cake makes the best chocolate cake.

World's Best Chocolate Mocha Birthday Cake

2 cups sugar
1-3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup coffee (cooled to room temperature)
1/2 cup canola or sunflower oil
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease 2 or 3 round cake pans. I like to line the bottom of my cake pans with parchment paper (trace the bottom of the pan over the paper, then cut out the circle) for a perfect, easy removal every time.

While mixing together the ingredients, boil a cup of water in a tea kettle or microwave.

Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl (flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt). Add the eggs, coffee, oil and vanilla extract. Mix with a whisk or an electric mixer for 2 minutes. Add the boiling water to the batter and mix together well. The batter will be really thin.

Pour batter into cake pans and bake 30 minutes for 3 pans or 35 minutes for 2 pans. Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then remove from pans and cool completely on wire racks. Frost with the world's best chocolate mocha frosting.

World's Best Chocolate Mocha Frosting

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine
2/3 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup coffee (cooled to room temperature)

Melt butter and stir in cocoa. Add vanilla extract.  Alternately add powdered sugar and coffee, beating to spreading consistency.

Place the first cake layer on a plate. Frost the top of the layer generously, but not too thick, using a spatula. I've found that if you make the interior frosting layers of the cake too thick, the upper tiers can slide a bit and make the cake lopsided. But if you don't add enough frosting in the middle, the cake to frosting ratio is out of balance and it's too dry. Add the second layer and top that with more frosting. Place the third layer (if it's a 3 layer cake) and frost the top of that, then frost the sides of the cake. Smooth out the top frosting with the leftovers. The recipe makes plenty of frosting for the whole cake.

Decorate as you see fit. I like to top the cake off with super dark chocolate shavings for good measure (I am totally addicted to Green and Black's organic fair trade 85% chocolate bars).

Serve with birthday candles and coffee, wine or tall glasses of milk.

Aug 25, 2014

Birthday Pop Art

My sister's birthday was this month. I wanted to make her something special because she's awesome.  I thought some custom modern artwork with sentimental value would be nice, something that would go with the style she has in her apartment. (I also picked her something nice from Anthropologie to balance it out because you can't go wrong with Anthropologie.)

One of the panels I did was of Cape Cod. Downtown Chatham, the lighthouse, the beach house. It was such a fun trip and I have to admit it looks pretty cool as pop art. I made the artwork with photos and filters in Photoshop.

Aug 22, 2014

Summer Evenings

While I pick the garden in the evening, Georgia lays in the grass and relaxes, soaking up the last of the golden summer light.