July 29, 2011

A Half-Year of Music

Caravan Gypsy Swing Ensemble

This year I set a goal that we go to a live music show at least once per month. A little over half-way through the year we are doing well. June was the only month we missed but we doubled-up in July, April, and March. We also had one repeat performance and one show SB did not attend. Overall I give us an average of slightly above one show per month. So far, I think this is one of the best ideas I’ve had in a while. It is hard to complain about live music and getting out of the house and experiencing life and all. Here’s where we’ve been and who we’ve seen thus far:

– July: The Old 97’s at Summer Fest and Caravan Gypsy Swing Ensemble at Sh*tty Barn
– June: None
– May: Romi Mayes at High Noon
– April: The Old 97’s at The Barrymore and Jonathan Coulton with Paul and Storm at Majestic
– March: Momix at Overture and Portland Cello Project at High Noon
– February: Tennis at High Noon
– January: Ben Folds at Overture

July 13, 2011

Quick Swim

Water Dog

Last weekend we snuck in a little visit to the cabin in Cable. This year the water was higher than it has been in years and perfect for swimming. Lola was the first one in the water and I captured this little video of her chasing down the ducks. The end is my favorite part because the water is so clear you can see her little legs paddling.

July 12, 2011

Cake with Strawberries

Birthday Cake

With the final strawberries of the season, I made this chocolate cake from Smitten Kitchen, Double Chocolate Layer Cake. It makes an amazingly tall and impressive looking cake, especially after you slice the two layers in half. I substituted strawberries for raspberries and made a vanilla cream cheese frosting. Inside the cake I placed two layers of strawberry filling and the center layer was frosting.

Overall I was pretty happy with it, though, in our family we have a classic birthday cake, the Black Magic Cake. While both cakes are made with coffee and oil, Smitten Kitchen’s cake came out with a courser grain of cake than the Black Magic. While the cake certainly wasn’t dry it just didn’t have the fine tenderness that my family has come to expect in a cake.

In the future I will go back to the Black Magic but use the fruit filling technique from SK. I decorated this cake with leftover strawberry filling and sliced strawberries. The drive across town and the summer heat did not leave it looking as beautiful as it had begun, but there are worse things than dripping strawberry juice.

July 11, 2011

Tree Hunting

Witch Hazel

Can finding more options actually make deciding easier? At least it is a fun tree hunt! I had the past week off for summer break, so I took a little road trip down to Chicagoland and into the arms of a true garden enthusiast. She whisked me off to the Plant Clinic at the Morton Arboretum and soon I had a whole new list of tree/shrub possibilities, plus an amazing catalog of plants, neatly circled with suggestions. These included:

Tecumseh Compact River Birch: small, short, compact, weeping tree with pendulous branches. While we searched for this tree, we never found one in the wilds of the arb.
Weeping Redbud: An option I was very excited about until I saw it. We both agreed to call it “swamp thing”.
Tina Crab Apple: I’m still not sure about the crabapple.
Dwarf Korean Lilac: These can be grafted to be little trees.
Lancelot Crab Apple ‘lanzam’: This may be the tree that the city planted in our devil strip aka terrace.
Magnolia x Butterflies: I still find it hard to believe that I could have a magnolia in Wisconsin.
Brevipetala Witch Hazel: This was the winning shrub of the day. Interesting, irregular shape, dramatic branches and fun flowers.

After all that, I’m leaning towards the Witch Hazel. There are a few varieties that stay under ten feet and they have a natural, tamed-wildness that I think is pleasing.

July 2, 2011

Old Chair New

Chair Before

Taking inspiration from Rosey Cheeks and her wonderful chair reupholstering projects, when I found this chair at a local mid-mod furniture reseller, I knew it could be beautiful. After looking at its bad, office furniture, fabric for six months, and having a near disaster when the legs fell off around Christmas, this spring I took action.

Working with a local upholstery place, I found some remnant fabric on-line and delivered the chair and fabric to their store. It took a really long time and there were some bumps along the way but the end result is just what I wanted. After buying the chair and paying for the upholstery, this wasn’t the cheapest project. I will be more aware of costs if I buy another fixer-upper chair, but it is fun to know that my chair is one-of-a-kind.

Chair After
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