Thursday, July 20, 2017

Lake Life

Fifteen years ago I didn't know I was looking for a future husband with access to a lake cottage.  (Weird how that never made my list of ideal qualities.)  But a future husband with a family lake cottage is what I got. 

I remember the first time Matt took me up for the day.  We had been dating about two weeks.  His brother and family were supposed to be coming too but something happened and they couldn't make it.  We went swimming, made mac n cheese without milk (pretty sure we took no food besides maybe some Snapple), and watched a bad 80s movie.  (Somehow Matt got me to watch a lot of bad 80s movies when we were dating.  I've since learned to, generally, say no.)

We made many lake trips over the years but I feel like it really became a thing for us when we bought our first set of jet skis, nine years ago.  All of a sudden we had a way to get on the water (besides wading or canoeing, something that still doesn't interest me much, although kayaking does) and we spent a lot of time out there (bad time to buy a jet ski: when gas is $4/gallon.  Really bad time to buy TWO jet skis: when gas is $4/gallon).

That began our evolution into being lake people.

Now, this was Matt's family's cottage.  Matt's Dad had helped his Dad (Matt's Grandpa) and brothers (Matt's uncles) build it in the 50s.  Matt grew up going there.  He's been making memories there his whole life.  If he were to write this post (hahahahahahahaha) it would be a whole lot different.

But for me, our lake life began with jet skis

Our current "beast of a jet ski".  Legally seats 4.  Longer than our car.
Then we got a little boy who was quickly obsessed (" jet ski" it was one of his first 10 words).  Now we are making memories up there as our little family and it's become such a part of what we do in the summer. 

I was talking to a friend about how we don't "do" anything in the summer.  Luke did three mornings of Vacation Bible School but that's been our only planned activity.  He doesn't play baseball.  He doesn't play soccer.  I avoid most recurring calendar commitments like the plague.  But then she pointed out we go to the lake.  That's what we do in the summer.  It's not an organized activity and it doesn't require my rushing him out of the house before 9am.  So it's perfect for us.

And even though I said our being lake people began with the jet skis, the lake isn't about the water just like Friday Night Lights isn't about football.   I mean it is, but it isn't.

It's where we have lazy Saturdays (we've often said we go to the lake just to avoid working on things at home).

It's where we make special breakfast.
homemade donuts

It's where we do sparklers.

It's where we keep Luke up late to catch lightening bugs.

It's where we have more patience.

It's where we buy the snacks we don't buy at home.

It's where we slept past 9 (even the 4 year old most days).

It's where I can finish 4 books in 3 days (true fact, happened this summer).  (Three of these 4 reading pictures are the same book, read 3 different summers.)

It's where Matt and Luke take time to fish (basically the equivalent of doing nothing).

It's where we get by with one real change of clothes for the weekend.

It's where we spend the weekend in swimsuits.

It's where we put on swimsuits just so we have the option to pee in the lake on a long boat ride, should the need arise.

It's where we get ice cream cones after Mass, if Luke is good.

It's where we go to Mass in a campground pavilion.

It's where we fall into bed at the end of the day, smelling of sunscreen, bug spray, and sweat.

It's where it might be ok to drink before noon.  

It's where I take time to watch the sunset, almost every night.

I mean, seriously gorgeous.

It's way more laid back than home.  We have a lot of family time.  A lot of extended family time.  It's where we've had so much bonding time with his side of the family.  So many laughs and late nights.

Somehow going to the lake became not just something we did but who we are.  As cheesy as that sounds. 

surfing behind the jet ski on a spray painted surfboard
We don't go nearly every weekend but we go often.  We go enough that packing becomes second nature by the end of June. Swimsuit (& coverup), pjs, church clothes, sweatshirt (if needed), and pretty much one outfit (t-shirt or tank top and shorts).  I quickly learned to wear the same clothes all weekend (I do change undergarments, in case you find this gross) because you're already sweaty and dirty, why get more clothes dirty?? 

We just recently got a real(ish) shower, we just recently got hooked up to the sewer (it just became an option).  I could count on one hand the number of sorta showers I've taken up there over all our trips.

And this is a real cottage we're talking about.  We don't have one of those lake mansions with 5 bathrooms and shag carpet.  It's a cottage.  Exactly what you should be thinking when you hear "lake cottage".  We've shared the attic with bunches of other sleeping people.  We've had 40ish people sharing 800 sq feet and one bathroom for a weekend.  You become real close real fast in conditions like that.   One of my drink pictures this summer was taken with a 5 gallon bucket of lake water at my feet.  Filled because the water pump was having issues and we needed to flush the toilet.  This is not glamorous.

But it's awesome all the same.

It's a lake cottage.  I'm pretty glad I "accidentally" married into one.

Lake life isn't about the water, as much as that plays a part into it.  It's about the people.  Making time for the ones most important to me (my husband and my son).  Time with whoever else happens to be up there in a given weekend.  It's created some bonds we probably wouldn't have otherwise.  It's greatly changed our family dynamic.  It makes us slow down and appreciate the best things about life (good people, good food, relaxing, sleep). 

Now I can't imagine not being lake people. 


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

ICOTW: No-Churn Brownie Caramel Ice Cream

 As much as I love my ice cream machine I know not everyone has one.  If we hadn't gotten one as a surprise wedding present I'm not sure we would have one either.  Growing up my parents had an old fashioned kind - where you need to deal with ice and rock salt and it make a whole lot of noise (not that mine doesn't) and I liked it but not enough to register or buy our own.  When we opened ours it was like "Ok, that's cool." and then we used it a few times over the years but not a ton (my favorite: instant pudding, milk, and sweetened condensed was really rich).

Then I started this project 3 summers ago and now I make homemade ice cream on the reg, at least in the summer.  Turns out wanting to clean off my Pinterest board and blog about got me in the habit of making ice cream.  I can temper eggs and spent time over the stove stirring hot cream and then end up with something delicious.  We hardly buy ice cream anymore, I make enough that we usually have a few varieties in the freezer at any given time (right now: two ice creams and two kinds of popsicles).

BUT...I understand not wanting to make the investment to an ice cream machine if you don't know how much you'd use it, or how to use it.  So, a no-churn recipe today.  This one still has a few steps (making brownies, making caramel sauce) but it's pretty straight forward.  I think I prefer the consistency of churned ice cream better but this is a good substitute and way to dip your toe in the "homemade ice cream" pool.

This is also VERY scoopable right out of the freezer, which most of my churned versions aren't.  So if you are in a hurry for ice cream, this will work well.  It's also the biggest batch of ice cream I've made so it's a lot of bang for your buck.  (I think it would have been too big to even fit in my machine.)

(This is also excellent for making ahead - I made the brownies and caramel sauce one day and then mixed the ice cream the next.)

There's a lot going for it - ease, simplicity, chocolate, caramel, delicious.  Certainly fulfills my craving for ice cream with chocolate in it and some days that's all I need.  If you've never tried to make ice cream, give this a shot.  You might impress yourself.

No-Churn Brownie Caramel Ice Cream
yield: a very generous quart
-¼ cup butter, melted
-1/3 cup sugar
-½ tsp vanilla
-1 egg
-1TB brewed coffee, room temp
-1/3 cup cocoa powder
-1/3 cup flour
-¼ tsp baking powder
-¼ tsp salt
-¼ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Caramel Sauce
-1 cup sugar
-6TB butter
-½ cup heavy cream

Ice Cream
-1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
-2 tsp vanilla
-2 cups cold heavy cream

1) Preheat oven to 375°.  Line or spray 5-6 standard sized muffin cups with oil.  Set aside.
2) In a medium bowl, mix together the butter, sugar, vanilla, egg, and coffee.  In a separate smaller bowl stir together the cocoa powder, flour, baking powder, and salt.  Combine the wet and dry ingredients, mixing just until combined.  Gently stir in the chocolate chips.
3) Fill the prepared muffin cups about half full and fill the empty cups with water.  Bake for about 20 minutes, until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Let cool and then break/chop into bite sized pieces.

Caramel Sauce
1) Melt the sugar in a medium sized sauce-pan over medium-high heat, stirring constantly.  Once it has come to a boil and is completely melted, stop stirring.  When the sugar has turned an amber color add the butter, stirring constantly until it is melted.  Remove from heat.
2) Slowly, and whisking constantly, stir in the heavy cream.  Slow and constant stirring is key!  Keep whisking until the sauce is smooth.  Let cool for a few minutes and then transfer to a glass container (refrigerate if not using right away).

Ice Cream
1) In a large bowl stir together the sweetened condensed milk and vanilla.  Set aside.
2) In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cream on high (start on low or you'll have a mess, then gradually bump up as the consistency allows) for about 3 minutes.  STOP before you get to butter but you do want it to be light and fluffy.
3) Gently combine the whipped cream with the sweetened condensed milk and vanilla.  Fold in the brownie pieces.  In a freezer tight container, alternate the ice cream/brownies with the (cooled) caramel sauce, swirling as you go.  ONLY use about half the caramel sauce unless you want an overwhelming caramel flavor.
4) Cover tightly and freeze at least 6 hours or overnight.

Source: slightly modified from Girl Gone Gourmet

In the summer I aim to make a different homemade ice cream (or other frozen treat) each week and report back here, good or bad!  I call it "Ice Cream of the Week".  You can follow the "ICOTW" tag to see them all chronologically or go to my "Recipes" page and scroll down to the "Ice Cream/Frozen Things" section for my favorites!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Book Love: At Home in the World

I've been listening to Tsh's podcast, The Simple Show, for over a year now and knew travel was a pretty big deal for her and her family.  She often mentioned the year (actually 9ish months?) they spent traveling the glove and "world schooling" their three kids but I didn't realize all that entailed until I read her book.  And WOW.

Tsh and her husband are both Americans who met in Kosovo about 20 years ago, fell in love, got married, and spent a good many years living in Turkey (two of their kids were born there? Or lived there as young kids) before relocating to the US to have their third.  Travel has been a big deal for them and after some dreaming and planning, they spend a year circling the globe with their three kids in tow - two are school age and the youngest is 4 when they leave (Luke's age!).

They had been living in Oregon but that wasn't feeling right and they leave the US with the home sold, possessions in storage, and no idea where they will live when the trip is up.  They pack their bags and head to China, followed by more of Asia, Australia, India, Africa, Eastern Europe, Western Europe, ending in London before settling in Texas as home.

Just writing all that overwhelms me a little.

It is a fascinating story of making home wherever you are, with whatever you have.  Tsh says she's a homebody but also loves travel, the two don't seem to go together well but somehow, they do.  (I can relate, I never love my home more than when we are gone or just come back.)  Hence, finding their place "At Home in the World".

She is very honest about various struggles, cultural differences, bad weather, losing precious items of the kids', and missing people from home.  Tsh and her husband both have internet based jobs which means they can work from (almost) anywhere and they are schooling their kids as they go.  There are some struggles with trying to fit that all in among sight seeing and living in all of these places.

It made me (kinda) want to do the same.  Even though Matt's job is definitely not the kind he could do remotely which makes it pretty darn impossible unless he wanted to give up his job. (Which he doesn't.  And, you know, having a steady income and health insurance is pretty important, essential for being prospective adoptive parents...)

I loved their sense of adventure and the logistics of how to make a trip like that work.  How cheap it can be to be in some countries, how expensive others are.  I especially loved reading about places I really want to visit (Australia, New Zealand, Italy) and places we've been (Paris, London).  It made me want to book a trip and figure out how to make it all work later (then I remember how stressed I got planning our two week Europe trip, and how expensive it was, and I quickly come to my senses).

If I can't travel the world right now than I certainly enjoyed reading about somehow who had, being an armchair traveler, and maybe making some dreams for...someday.   If you get a travel itch, want to see the world, or prefer to do it from the comfort of your couch, read this.  If you get overwhelmed taking the kids for a weekend, read this, you'll feel slightly more sane.  I loved it.

Goodreads | Amazon

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Monday, July 17, 2017

Mixed Drink Monday: Mimosa Sangria

Two of the easiest drinks to make are mimosas and sangria.  Both pretty much involve throwing a bunch of things together, no blender to clean, maybe a little bit of fruit to chop.  So why not combine them?  I haven't had the best luck with sangrias in the past (this one was SO STRONG) but I've determined that might just be the cheap wine I normally buy?  Maybe I need to step it up a few bucks to get something that won't give me an instant headache and put me to sleep (although, I may have still fallen asleep during a movie after drinking this...some things just can't be was also 11pm.)

The beauty of this drink is that you can throw it all in a pitcher and let it sit until you are ready to serve and enjoy.  It takes just a few minutes and then you have a whole bunch of drinks ready for you!  I love the ease of this kind of drink.  Plus, it just looks so summery with all the fruit and pretty color, tastes summery and pretty light (thanks, champagne, for the bubbles).  I enjoyed this pitcher throughout a day at the lake, with a book in the afternoon, while watching a movie with Matt at night.

I admittedly made a half batch of this to try to get a few more kinds of drinks out of my bottle of champagne (what can I say, I'm frugal) but that still lasted me for most of a day which was plenty.  I really didn't need to drink a whole bottle of champagne over the course of a weekend (I went with a partial bottle, Matt shared some, and we came home with a little bit, so even my multiple drinks didn't use it all).

This would be perfect for a spring or summer brunch, bridal shower, or just yourself (raises hand).  It's light, summery, easy to drink, and delicious.  What more could you want?

Note: I said I only made a half batch but below are instructions for a full.  Obviously cut in half if you want less.

Mimosa Sangria
yield: 8-10 servings
-3 cups OJ
-½ cup Triple Sec
-2 cups fresh or frozen strawberries (frozen doubles as ice!)
-1 cup diced fresh or frozen pineapple (see above!)
-1 750ml bottle of champagne, chilled
-optional pineapple wedge or strawberries for garnish
-optional ice if using fresh fruit

Combine OJ, Triple Sec, and fruits together in a large pitcher.   Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.  Just before serving, stir in the bottle of champagne (and ice if needed).  Cheers!

Source: modified from Gimme Some Oven

In the summer I aim to make a new drink every week and share them all here, good or bad!  See them all in chronological order by following the "Mixed Drink Monday" tag here or check out my favorites by scrolling down to "Mixed Drink Monday" on my recipes page!