Monday, April 20, 2015

On the Shores of Lake Erie

Mike and I returned from our anniversary weekend away last night:  A day and night in Erie, PA and a day and night at his parents' home.  Perfect little getaway for us right now.  A month has passed since Mike's dad died, and the sounds of the seagulls and the tides were balms for the soul Friday. 
Ice-cold water--some snow was still mounded under the shade of trees--but restorative for us, nonetheless.
I didn't notice until I uploaded the photo below from my camera that the word "Hope" is clearly written in the sand here. 
Mike said he had noticed at the time that there was something drawn in the sand, but he hadn't paid any real attention to it.  Hope, I tell you!  That's at least as sweet as all my found hearts
The last time I'd visited Lake Erie, I was about thirteen years old.  The beach and woods bordering it are just as I remember. 
This time, though, instead of making the trip with my dad's older sisters, I was with my husband--
--and instead of spending a humid summer day giggling as my aunts teased me about having crushes on lifeguards, I was using my husband as a windbreak as I huddled for warmth against him on a log.  It was really too chilly for bare legs and bare feet, but that's what beaches are for, and the comfort of sand and waves against my skin was worth every second of mind-numbing FREEZING COLD.  :)
Ducks--Mike's favorite--and seagulls paddled before us, and to hear the gulls later outside our hotel room too was just bliss to me.  ♥  Although we were only staying for a night, we allowed ourselves the one-bedroom hotel suite that offered balconies and a rare-to-us bit of luxury.  I figured we deserved to treat ourselves a bit, and so we did.  
Saturday evening, we were greeted at my in-laws' home by their gorgeous-eyed cat--
--and equally striking spring flowers. 
A rock wall is a "must" for my dream home and Mike has known this for ages, but it didn't occur to him for the longest time to mention that oops, oh, that's right, his parents have one out in the corner of their backyard.  Methinks this is the same lack of attention to detail that made him oops, see that someone had written something in the sand in front of us but not care enough to read it.  Gah.  :)  My mother-in-law's flowers looked heavenly in front of the rocks, making it hard to decide if it was the shore or the cat or the wall that counted as Today's Charming Thing. 
The rock wall may have won. 
More beauty on my in-laws' back porch--
--and inside their home, an adorable picture of Mr. Mike from a less recent beach trip.  :)  My all-time favorite photo of him, I think. 
And yes, after Anniversary Cupcake Fail, Mike did, indeed, get his Krispy Kreme doughnuts over the weekend.  The bee-topped one was mine. 
A lovely getaway, and a couple more days off to get caught up here at home.  I'm redoing our bathroom and requesting permission from the landlord to paint our bedroom.  ("Dare to dream.")  And in the next few weeks, we will be visiting both Mike's family and mine, and I will get more interstate driving experience, so as sad as this past month has been, there is more to look forward to on the horizon.  

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Daffodil Cupcakes and Random Acts of Kindness

In the wee hours of the morning, I baked and decorated two fondant Daffodil-topped cupcakes--Daffodils were my bridal bouquet flower--so Mike and I could share from afar a belated anniversary dessert while I'm at work tonight.  Ooh ahh, I was quite pleased with these little cakes, and pride goeth before the fall, for they tipped over and into each other right before I took this picture.  Then after prying them away from each other and fixing the frosting and flowers as best I could--notice the careful placement of our wedding cake topper--I decided to try a bite of mine, since it was already looking the worse for wear, and Disappointment Number Two was that the new-to-me white cake recipe I used for these had produced cupcakes that tasted like Play-Doh--and had the same consistency.  Anniversary dessert FAIL!  We are going out this weekend, though, and there is a Krispy Kreme doughnut shop along the way, so maybe I will treat Mike to bakery-made anniversary doughnuts instead. 
A sweeter-than-smooshed-Play-Doh-cupcakes anniversary surprise came a couple years back while Mike and I were out for breakfast.  As we ate, the woman in another couple in the restaurant called over to us, "Will your meal cost at least [such-and-such amount]?"  I was wondering why someone would ask a stranger such a thing when she continued, "If  it will, we have a half-off coupon you can use."  And she brought it over to our table, and we four talked and laughed for a moment, and that kindness became one of the highlights of our anniversary and remains one of my favorite anniversary memories. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Four Years Ago Today

Four years ago today, Mr. Mike and I got married.  This anniversary reminds me of Laura Ingalls Wilder's The First Four Years, and while we have had our challenges, let us thank God that our own first four have not been quite as difficult as Laura and Almanzo's.  My dear and dearly-missed friend Jane, author of the blog Manorisms, wrote to me in a 2007 email, "[Bob's and my] life together has been a good one, but one of my bits of wedding advice is for a couple always to remember that some years are definitely better than others."  That continues to be one of the wisest and most helpful things I've heard regarding marriage.  It hasn't all been carefree sunny days and sweet strappy shoes and colorful sugar cookies, but the older I get, the more I appreciate all of life's carefree and sweet and colorful, so maybe it more than balances out. 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Monday, April 6, 2015

A Sweet Easter (and Lovely Family and Salad and Bark Candy)

This Easter weekend was sweet, just the bit of fun and family-time we've been needing here. Our  dinner at my in-laws' home was Saturday evening.  I had worked Friday night so was going on no sleep by the time Mike and I arrived at his parents' house Saturday afternoon, but his mom had a bed ready for me--(Is there anything more inviting to a weary traveler than a cozy bed with a soft old comforter prettily folded across the foot of it?!  Saturday afternoon, at least, I thought not.  "Close the window blinds if you want to," my mother-in-law said as I headed upstairs, and ohhh, bliss!  It felt like The Best Nap Ever)--and even those two hours of sleep in it were enough to revive me for the day ahead.  By the time I got up, my brother-in-law and his girlfriend had already arrived, and soon, we were all visiting and cooking. 
I had volunteered to make macaroni and cheese and a couple desserts, Mike arrived with snack mix and pink beet-pickled eggs, my brother-in-law's girlfriend made green bean casserole (love!  ) and brought a giant chocolate fruit/nut egg and graham crackers to go with a dessert dip, and my mother-in-law baked the ham, a beef roast, potatoes and gravy, rolls, and this amazing tossed salad (minus the curry powder that's called for in the recipe).  Oh my goodness, I finished my first serving of salad and refilled my bowl twice more, and I would have happily eaten even more of it.  The recipe sounds so simple, and the dressing sounds like it would be too sweet or just not flavorful enough--just mayonnaise with sugar?!--but all the salad ingredients go so well with that simple dressing, this has become one of my new favorite foods.    I ate another bowl of it for lunch yesterday afternoon after Mike and I helped sort and clean his parents' basement.  Love, love, love. 

Since I'd known I'd be going on almost no sleep Saturday, I just made a couple quick and easy desserts:  Chocolate-covered jumbo bunny-shaped marshmallows topped with mini chocolate chips, Easter sugar pearls, and chopped nuts, and Easter bark-type candies/layered bars.  The jumbo bunny marshmallow had no discernible shape by the time the melted chocolate and toppings covered them, so I'll probably just neatly pipe chocolate onto them next time, then add the toppings, but everyone seemed to love the Easter bark, and for something that only took about five minutes to make, that was especially sweet.  There are countless photos of Easter bark online, and they're all gorgeous.  The layers of pastels and the textures of all the different ingredients people use:  Just gorgeous.  For these, I mixed a bag's worth of melted white chocolate chips with about three cups of mini Easter bunny marshmallows, some broken-up pretzel sticks, more of the Easter pearl candies, some chopped-up pastel chocolate-covered egg candies, a splash of vanilla, and a sprinkle of salt, spooned it all into a 13" x 9" pan, added a bunch of mini marshmallow bunnies to the top, chilled it in the freezer for about twenty minutes, then cut/broke it into pieces right before we got on the road Saturday morning.  The pretzels and salt cut the sweetness just enough, the milk chocolate candy eggs cut some of the strength of the white chocolate chips, and it was just textured enough to be interesting and was certainly pretty enough to satisfy me.  It would likely look neater spooned into pretty cupcake papers, and I have seen photos of the bark cut out with cookie cutters, as well, but the rougher cuts suited me, and doing it this way was so fast and easy Saturday morning.  Mike's mom made Rice Krispie treats with Easter egg and grass sprinkles on top too, so there was no shortage of charming desserts. And charming desserts always tickle me, so seeing everyone make up little paper plates of pastel bars and candies and marshmallows and crackers and dip made me happy.  
Sometimes a holiday is just what you need, with all its inherent family silliness and childlike fun, and indeed, this weekend with all its pastel prettiness did our hearts good.  There was a shared crying jag over my father-in-law's absence at the table while we said grace Saturday, but as I pointed out, he would have loved it that we had all gotten together instead of skipping or ignoring the holiday this year.  Life goes on, and we will continue to show up for it, indulging in naps and tears when needed and sharing Rice Krispie treats and chocolate-covered eggs along the way, as well.