Chicago visit #1

Because, yes, there was a visit #2 in the same week.

This one was a day trip with friends. Two of my crazy friends from work. (They look crazy, don’t they?)

We’ll call them Easy and Peasy.

They were awesome travel companions, I must say. They talked the entire drive there (and back…and while we were traipsing all over the city) so the normal three-hour trip didn’t seem nearly that long. They were also open to anything I wanted to do – and they were excited about pretty much everything we did do.

Tourists always look up. That’s where the best architecture is!
I’d been to the Cultural Center before, but never looked at it in detail the way I did this time around.
Selfie with unaware friends!
Perusing the exhibit.
A big red statue? Irresistible!
More gorgeous Cultural Center architecture.
I’m not sure they saw the appeal of the mirrored reflection.
Millennium Park never seems to get old to me. It’s awesome being right there in the city, but enjoying a nice stretch of greenery.
That, my friends, is Leonard Slatkin. Someone I know was VERY excited about that.
They never noticed when I did things like this.
Cooperative, aren’t they?
I’ve never walked through the Lurie Gardens before. So nice!

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Visiting our Chicago “office.”
Group photo before we trekked back to the parking garage.


The coffee ice cream that took a week to make

Yes, the headline is true. One week.

But that’s only if you’re me and you’ve only made ice cream once before, years ago. And you make a mistake that seems entirely silly later on.

Let’s start with why I decided to make this particular ice cream. It goes back to my favorite store-bought ice cream. Which sadly no longer exists. I was very sad for a very long time. And then I had to get over it.

(Why, you ask, didn’t I just switch to another Starbucks ice cream flavor? This one was low-fat, people! And it tasted so creamy and delicious. How could it be low in fat? How? The others were full-fat blowhards. I just couldn’t do it.)

Back to this ice cream. The one I was so excited to make.

It started out nicely. Egg yolks. Aren’t they kind of cool looking all together like that in the bowl?

And then there’s this. (Obviously, this particular coffee ice cream isn’t low in fat. Ahem.)

I scalded it as the recipe said.

I mixed it in with the yolks and sugar and it got all frothy.

Then I got interrupted by the cat. That wasn’t the problem, though.

I returned the whole thing to the stove, as instructed, and stirred for 12-15 minutes. (Well, a little bit longer.)

Then I added the coffee, cooled it down and put it in the ice cream maker. That’s when things went downhill. It churned and churned and churned and churned and…

You get the picture. It was still liquid. No creamy anything. *le sigh*

To make myself feel better, I enjoyed a glass of wine with my friend Fiona.

And then I had a cup of coffee. The Escapist. Yum. From The Sparrows.

And then I watched Devin and Scott play carpetball.

These things took my mind off of my coffee-ice-cream sorrows.

My sadness was truly lifted when my co-workers heard my tale and began to query me about what I’d done. The ice cream maker was spinning, right? You added salt, right? You used cream, right?

Yes, yes, yes.

And then I innocently said, “I used skim milk. Do you think that was a problem?”

Um, yeah. It was indeed.

Oh, July…where have you gone!

Someone said just yesterday that it seems like it takes forever for July 4th to arrive, and once it does summer just speeds right by.

That may be true. It seems like we just celebrated Independence Day. Which happens to be my son’s favorite holiday. Even better than Christmas, he claims. And I did indeed take photos over that weekend. And afterward. I actually had a hot streak going with my camera for a bit there.

So with a bit of a delay, here are some photos of our July so far.

Starting with the Fourth, of course! I took lots and lots of photos, but most had my neighbors in them. I didn’t feel like getting all of those photo releases signed. Ha! So you get to see my son’s fireworks wagon – filled to the brim. He was giddy, even if it’s not apparent in these photos.

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The next day we went to Meijer Gardens (free passes from my company – woot!). It was bittersweet for me. The kiddo was hardly interested in the boats this year. The entire children’s garden elicited very little enthusiasm. I remember sitting several times for what seemed like hours as he pushed his little plastic boat around the “great lakes.” Sigh.

But he enjoyed our walk out to the farm garden and the trails.

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Then I made blueberry scones. Which I’m posting here specifically because my mom complained that I post sooo many food photos to my blog. The fact is, I don’t cook or bake enough so when I do…I have to take photos!

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And this was the prep for the faux cherry garcia frozen yogurt that I found and just HAD to make. Can you believe how adorable that cherry pitter is? And way less messy than the other one I had. I wasn’t thrilled with the yogurt, but I think I’ll try it again with a couple of change-ups. It was very close. We’ve also been using our ice cream maker for slushies. They’re Dev’s new obsession.

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Four Mondays in a row!

For some reason, I’m in a bit of a pattern here. Snap photos over the weekend. Post them on Monday.

I’ve actually become quite offline-focused over my weekends. So much so that people are a bit amazed that I didn’t see a Facebook post or respond to their email. I’m in front of a computer all through the week. I guess I see weekends as times to step away. I’m not against picking up my iPad and playing a game of Dots (so flipping addictive) or snapping photos for Instagram or even watching a Netflix movie on the computer. I just don’t feel the desire to engage the way I seem to during the week.

So not unplugged. Un-surfed? Eh. Something like that.

This weekend I caught up on some gardening tasks. It’s amazing how many weeds will grow if you’re not diligent for a few days. (Although try to grow something I *want* to be there and it takes forever!)


And I finally tried a recipe I’d been dying to make for a few weeks now. Yes, it’s cornbread. And, yes, if you know me well enough, it’s gluten free. I’ve made a few versions. I’ve liked most of them. But this one has rocketed to the #1 spot on my list. I still haven’t mixed up Shauna’s all-purpose flour, which I’ve been meaning to since she made it seem so easy, but the King Arthur version worked just fine here. This is another one of those recipes where you really can’t tell that it’s gluten free. It’s just a really great cornbread recipe. You should try it!


The first official weekend of summer

Summer is officially here. We’re doing our best to get outside, but also to get things done. Sometimes it’s hard to do both. But I managed it this weekend when I finally painted our coffee tables. I set them up in the garage and did cleaning between coats of paint. I felt very productive, I must say!

And then my husband had the brilliant idea for a family walk to dinner. We hadn’t been to Bombay Cuisine in a long time. So we got in tasty Indian food and four miles of walking. Now that’s some good family time!

And now for some random weekend photos…

This? Is a dog eating a pizza. A tiny pizza. I can’t resist giving our “old lady” treats.DSC_6572

I love my gnome.

And then there’s my adorable kid. I’m not sure how long I’ll be able to get away with calling him adorable. But he doesn’t read my blog so I’m safe for a bit.


Spontaneity. It’s not my strong suit.

It’s not like I plan and organize my days to the minute. Or even the hour. But I like to have an idea about what’s going to happen next. And make sure it’s feasible.

The plan for Friday was to take the train into Chicago to visit some old friends. We’d spend a few hours hanging out with them, and then head home.

The first part of that plan worked out well. The train from Michigan City dropped us off at Millennium Station at 10:28. We grabbed some raspberry sorbetto from Eataly. (Again…my kid is hooked!) Then, after insisting he was still VERY hungry, we had lunch at Dao, a restaurant Scott and I used to frequent when we worked around the corner. So. Good.

Our friends were staying in a comfy Embassy Suites where we parked ourselves to do some catching up. It was so good to chat. It’s been probably ten years since we’d since each other so we had plenty to talk about.

But when it was time to head out for the planned excursion to the zoo, the kids put up major resistance. What? I love the zoo! Apparently they preferred to sit in a hotel room and watch The Lego Movie. Rather than spend a beautiful afternoon strolling among the lions and tigers and bears. I jokingly said, “Well, if that’s the case, then we’ll go grab a drink somewhere while you watch the movie.”

And you know what? We did! First spontaneous thing.  (The kids were supervised by the 15-year-old so it’s not like we were irresponsible or anything!)

Cathy, Derek and I hit the hotel restaurant/bar and had a lovely afternoon of wine, food and conversation. It wasn’t the zoo, no. It was probably better since we were able to just relax and talk.

Afterward, a slightly spontaneous trip to Navy Pier was proposed. Although Dev and I were getting close to our time of departure at this point. We had to catch the 6:00 train if we wanted to get home before midnight. And that’s when Cathy suggested that we spend the night.

What? Really? How can we? (These are the panicked thoughts that went through my non-spontaneous mind.)

Pull-out bed in the “living room,” Walgreen’s around the corner for a toothbrush and contact lens cleaner, check the schedule for the train in the AM. We would be late for our volunteer gig at Crash’s, but it was doable.

So we stayed!

And we all enjoyed a nice evening at Navy Pier, complete with a ride on the Ferris wheel that made my kiddo pretty darn happy. So spontaneity isn’t all bad. Just don’t count on me to take that stance on a regular basis.

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Mmmm…caramel macchiato

I have Festival photos to post, but I wanted to get these up first. Because my new favorite thing, I’ve decided just now, is making angel food cake. I’m guessing that’s because it tastes so darn good when it’s done. But I’m a bit enamored of the egg-white-whipping process as well. Geeky.


This one I’d found on Pinterest a few weeks ago and it immediately called my name, “Lori? Lori! You need to make this recipe. You won’t regret it!”

Today turned out to be one where I actually had the time. After three straight days in downtown Grand Rapids, I had one free day to myself. (Well, I was supposed to be on a field trip with my son, but I had an asthma attack last week. Ah, that’s another story.) And today just happens to be my 13-year wedding anniversary – and the day after Scott’s birthday, which he spent crewing stages at the before-mentioned Festival. So I went all cake-baked-bean-lemon-chicken happy and made dinner.

Starting with dessert, of course.

What’s that interesting looking concoction above? Well, this angel food cake is titled Caramel Macchiato Angel Food Cake, so that would be the macchiato ingredient, I believe. It called for espresso power, which I’m clueless about, but Starbucks Via Italian Roast worked great in its place. Just in case you were wondering.


One dozen eggs. I had to crack 14, though. A couple outwitted me.


The first time I tried this, I was soooo nervous about whether it would turn out. Soft peaks. Stiff peaks. How was one to tell the difference? But you know what? It’s easy. The egg-crackin’ part is the most challenging part.

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For some reason I really like folding in the flour and such afterward. First, I folded in the espresso-y stuff, which was kind of a new element. Although I felt I had sufficiently folded it, later I found that there were still smatterings at the bottom of the bowl. They ended up kind of “ribboning” through the batter and it made a cool effect. So all was well.


And ta-dah! Well, it’s not my most smashing photo of an angel food cake. Rushing does that. But you get the idea of the scrumptiousness.


Especially after Dev blobs on some whipped cream and raspberries. The original recipe calls for caramel sauce, but we didn’t have any and this combo seemed to work out just as nicely.


Words by me, photos by my sidekick

It’s the time of year when I begin assaulting my viewers with photos of my garden. It’s all the pent-up eagerness that I can’t contain after months without blooms in my yard.


But…I don’t have everything planted yet so I’ve been restricted to the tulips and emerging perennial leaves. So where did all of this glorious color come from?

My kid.

The other day I asked him to join me in a quick jaunt to the garden center. He’s always been my partner in crime during these excursions. I remember when he was about two and I stuck him in a cart as I strolled through the annuals at Romence Gardens. I assumed he’d be happy enough just looking around at everything. Little did I know he’d want to plan the garden for me.

Much to my mom’s horror, I actually let him. He was very insistent about several of the plants. Varieties I may never have chosen if solo. But I thought, why not? And his choices turned out to be great additions to my flower beds and containers. So it’s become a bit of a ritual for us.


This time around the first plant that caught his eye was the stevia. So I added that to our mint, basil, lemon balm and rosemary. Then we started randomly adding things to the cart. At one point he asked if he could get in my bag and use my camera to take some photos. Of course, I said, and the two of us walked along, me examining tags and roots, him stooping and stretching to find just the right angle for the shot.


When I downloaded them, I have to say I was impressed. I use aperture-priority as my main setting most of the time rather than manual, which does slightly “automate” the photo-taking process as far as the shutter speed. But even if you have your camera on the auto setting, you will only take good photos if you have a good eye. I’ve known people who’ve spent hundreds on fancy cameras and their photos are just not good.


So I was certainly pleased to see how deliberate and careful he was with his shots. So here I regale you with some lovely selections from our garden-shopping adventure. The one below reminds me of this photo I took a few years back.

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Just call him “Speedy”

I started running about seven years ago. Mostly on the track at my gym and, even then, not for miles and miles. When I started at my current company, I discovered they had a runners’ club and I took the plunge and joined up. The allure was the opportunity to run four local 5K races at a steep discount. I’d never considered running a 5K until that point.

Now I’m a big fan. I still don’t run miles and miles, but I will run 3.2 in a row. With thousands of other people. It gives me energy and keeps me focused. And it’s just plain fun.

My son has been asking me for several years if he can run a 5K with me. My answer has always been, only if you commit to training with me. That would quickly turn him off to the idea. Dev likes to do something very well without having to prep. But he ran track last spring, had a blast in cross country this past fall, and has been running a mile straight in gym class over the course of several months. So he and I both considered that training. And I signed us up for the Fifth Third Riverbank Run.

Before selfie

We had a blast. He’s faster than me. (Not a surprise!) And he was able to maintain his pace for the entire three+ miles, which he’s never done before. He would speed up ahead of me, look back and see I was lagging, and then wait for me. It was sweet. Yet I could tell that his competitive nature was being reined in. We crossed the finish line at 28:03 and 28:04, respectively, but I know he could have gotten a better time if he hadn’t been so nice as to wait for me. This was my second-best finish and I really do have him to thank for it. I know I ran harder trying to keep up with his fleet feet!

Maybe next race we can figure out a plan for him running his little heart out and me being able to find him at the finish line later.

After selfie (he was geeked about all the snacks at the finish line)

Local goodness

The kiddo had this Friday off from school, so I took a day off from work as well. I love when we have opportunity to just hang out together. The thought was that we’d go to a movie and just enjoy the day. Which we did. But it ended up being jam-packed with more stuff (good stuff!) than either of us had imagined. Spontaneity!

Since we rarely get a chance to go out for breakfast, we made a plan to start things off with an outing. That meal can be the worst for me with my gluten-free issues. Pancakes, french toast and waffles are my traditional breakfast faves. And there aren’t a whole lot of places that serve up GF versions of those just yet.

We usually go to Marie Catrib’s where I nosh on their awesome sweet potato pancakes. But in my past searches, a highly recommended, but not really close by, restaurant kept popping up. Anna’s House offers quite a few GF menu items. It’s way up north, though, so we hadn’t gotten around to it yet. Yesterday was the day. I’m glad we did. I really liked the red velvet pancakes. Better yet, they’re soon to open a second location just five minutes away. Booyah!

After breakfast we shopped a bit (at Meijer…locally founded national grocery store chain!) and then headed over to the 11 a.m. showing of Spider-Man 2 (at Celebration Cinema…local theater chain!)

Then we went downtown to collect our race packets for the Riverbank Run (which, by the way, Dev and I ran this morning – more on that later). By then it was 2:30 and the popcorn high had worn off. So we decided to scope out a downtown eatery for a late lunch. He loves the mac ‘n cheese at Rockwell-Republic, so we grabbed a seat by the window and relaxed for a bit.

We then visited a local pharmacy (excitement!) to get a new prescription for our adorable diabetic-arthritic cat, Finn. And on our way home, we enjoyed one of the ultimate local GR experiences: the Downtown Market. We left with our usual Dorothy & Tony’s cheese popcorn (Dev is smitten), but also had the chance – finally! – to try Love’s Ice Cream. I like most ice cream, to be honest. But this really was an awesome dish of creamy goodness. Flavored with Madcap coffee. Oh, my, my!

My son has far more restraint than me. He always goes for the healthier gelatos and sorbetos when possible. In this case the triple berry sorberto. (He went with lemon gelato when we visited Eataly in Chicago last month.)


What was going to be a simple movie-then-hang-out-at-home day turned into a bit of an adventure. A delicious one!

A study in tulips

My backyard is just bursting with blooms right now. The ones I planted out front, however, were ravaged by the squirrels. Or at least I’m going to blame them, even without proof. I have no idea why they’re too lazy to scale the fence and gnaw on the ones in back. But I’m very glad they didn’t.
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