These days you can almost feel the anticipation for Spring (and Summer) in the air.  Everyone is so done with the cold and snow, including this lady.  We're on the precipice of Spring, taunting us, but then Winter comes back with its icy bite.  But while Winter continues to chill our bones I am hopeful and ever looking at the forecast towards warmer days in the future.  So, in a hope to stay hopeful and will Spring and Summer to get here soon here's a list of the top 5 things I am most looking forward to in the coming months.

1.)  Our trip to Olympic National Park and Seattle at the end of May.  I love traveling and I've loved everywhere we've gone, but I've been looking forward to this trip more than any other.  I can't wait!

2.) Flowers.  It's no secret that I love taking pictures of pretty flowers.  I can't wait for the magnolias and cherry blossoms to start blooming in Spring Grove.  And the tulips and daffodils that are scattered around the city.  And, hopefully, the peonies I planted last year in my garden!
[my photo, from Woodland Mound]
[the tulips in our flower-box and the peonies I planted last year]

 3.)  Weekend trips to Findlay Market to get produce, brats for grilling and tasty gelato.

[my photos]

4.) Midpoint Music Festival.  I went for the first time last year and had such a wonderful time.  This year Antoine is going with me and my best friend and her boyfriend are coming down from Cleveland to join in on the fun...for the entire weekend!  It's going to be a blast!

 [my photos from Instagram]

5.) Being outside!  Going for walks, riding our bikes, grilling out, camping, going to a Red's game or two...all those fun things that come with Spring/Summer that just relax you and make you feel happy inside.
[my photos from Instagram]

Have you been dreaming of Spring and Summer too?  What things are you looking forward to the most?


Weekend in Instagram

This weekend we had a long list of plans, but as it sometimes happens, most of it just didn't pan out.  On Saturday morning we had tentative plans to go get breakfast and then go to Spring Grove to walk around and take pictures.  Well, by the time we got out of bed and ready, the place we had intended to have breakfast was getting ready to switch over to lunch.  So, instead we opted for brunch at one of our favorite brunch spots, Mayberry.  We just love that place and our brunch on Saturday was an absolutely wonderful, feast of deliciousness.

First off, Mayberry's coffee is amazing. It's strong! Like the kind of strong that smacks you in the face.  But not bitter. It's so good, hence why I had three cups and almost went for a fourth, but was too full.

I usually go for the french toast at Mayberry, but I was craving something a bit savory.  So, Antoine and I decided to say "screw it" our diets and go all out.  We shared an order of rosemary biscuits and gravy, an order of their tasty tater tot casserole (because really, at this point, we can't go there and not get's that good), and a Monte Cristo.
 Now, I had never in my life had a Monte Cristo before, but after reading the description for Mayberry's Monte Cristo I had to get it: fresh pineapple, ham, bacon, and brie with fruit compote. It wasn't in the description but there was definitely fresh sliced turkey as well.  Wow, just wow!  After having this Monte Cristo I can't imagine having anyone else's version of the sandwich.  It was so delicious, and the fresh pineapple really cut the richness of the brie, ham and bacon.  And the fruit compote, which I think might have been peach, was AMAZING!!  And the dressing on the side salad that accompanied the Monte Cristo was very good, though I'm not sure what it was exactly.

After brunch, which we couldn't even finish, we were so full, but had decided ahead of time to swing past Spring Grove Cemetery to see if any of their flowers or trees were blooming.  Unfortunately, while the day was gorgeous, absolutely nothing was blooming yet.  I was kind of bummed, because I was in the mood to take pictures, but I decided to hold out until things start popping up.  It's been several years since I've been to Spring Grove when the magnolias were in bloom, this year I'm not going to miss it!

After a quick drive through Spring Grove we decided to head over to Krohn Conservatory, because they were having their annual orchid show this weekend (which I have, surprisingly, never been to).  Unfortunately by the time we got their it was almost mid-afternoon and the place was so packed that after circling around several times we couldn't even find parking.  So, we scrapped the Krohn idea and decided to proceed to the next thing on our list, Jungle Jim's.

 This was one of the few times we've been to Jungle Jim's and not bought a bunch of needless stuff.  We had a regular grocery list, plus a couple of extra specialty items (including boba or tapioca peals for bubble tea), and we pretty much stuck to it! 

Sunday we had intentions to head back to Krohn and try again, but both of us woke up with headaches and really we just wanted to stay home.  So, we spent the day vegging out.  We made breakfast and I forced Antoine to watch one of the worst movies ever, The Island of Dr. Moreau.  Then I prepped stuff for my first attempt at bubble tea.  This involved making a simple syrup, brewing and chilling some oolong tea and boiling some boba, or tapioca pearls.

I made two different kinds, a strawberry smoothie (pictured above) for Antoine and a milk tea (chilled tea, milk, ice and simple syrup, not pictured) for myself.  Antoine's was definitely the tastiest, but mine was good too.  If you've never had or heard of bubble tea, it's a Taiwanese drink with tapioca pearls, also called boba, at the bottom (that's the black stuff at the bottom of the glass).  The tapioca is boiled and soaked in simple syrup.  They're kind of soft and chewy.  Normally you'd use a wide straw to drink up the tea or smoothie and suck up the tapioca, but I couldn't find jumbo straws anywhere so ended up having to order some online, and I'm waiting on them to arrive.

After bubble tea we watched Life of Pi, which was gorgeous.  A couple people had told me they thought the film was beautiful but boring.  I don't agree.  Yes, I thought the graphics were exquisite, but I also really enjoyed the story.  And the lead, Suraj Sharma, was excellent.  I'd definitely recommend it.

So, that was my weekend.  Things didn't work out as planned, but in the end it was a pretty good weekend!  How was your weekend?  Did you do anything fun?  Or did you have fun doing nothing?


Buffalo Turkey Burgers

Coming off the winter season carb-binge, Antoine and I are trying to make an effort to watch what we eat and make more of our meals at home.  Eating out and getting things to go is just so easy, but now that we get to spend our evenings together (because he's not consulting), we need to get back into the swing of things.  I enjoy cooking (though I enjoy baking more) and lucky for me Pinterest makes finding and organizing recipes so easy.  So, when I stumbled upon Can You Stay For Dinner? via Pinterest I was immediately intrigued by Andie's story and interested in trying out her recipes.  I've been craving a burger lately so I ultimately opted to try out her recipe for Buffalo Turkey burgers first.

In general, I am not a fan of spicy foods!  In fact, I'm an utter wimp when it comes to spicy things.  But, strangely enough, over the last year or so I've developed a deep infatuation for "Buffalo" items...namely, Dewey's Ryan Inferno pizza.  It, my friends, is pure heaven in a pizza box!  Seriously, my mouth immediately starts watering the second I think about it!! Mmmm.  Anyway, back to buffalo turkey burgers.  I altered Andie's recipe just a tad and I was pretty pleased with the results.

The only thing I had resembling poultry seasoning was herb chicken seasoning, so I used about 1/2 tsp of that and 1/2 tsp of Spike.  Instead of Frank's original red hot sauce, I picked up some of Frank's Buffalo sauce.  And, being the wimp I am, I used about 1/8 cup of sauce instead of 1/4 cup, as the recipe called for.  Though, I probably could have handled 1/4 cup, and those of you who like hot sauce should probably add more.

Instead of making a bleu cheese spread as the recipe suggested, I opted to add gorgonzola directly to the turkey mix.  I personally like the way bleu cheese/gorgonzola caramelized and burns up a little when it hits the frying pan.

Once the gorgonzola was mixed in, I formed the turkey mixture into four relatively even sized patties.  This was kind of a messy job since the mixture was very moist and sticky.  I ended up placing the patties on a baking sheet lined with a silicone mat and stuck them in the freezer until Antoine got home from work.  This really helped firm them up and made pan-grilling them so much easier.  I think this step would be essential if you were thinking about grilling them, otherwise I think they'd just fall apart on you before they had time to cook up.

The finished product, complete with low-cal slim bun and some spinach.  Oh, and yummy roasted garlic red potatoes on the side!  I know they aren't technically "healthy", but I had the calories for them that day so I went for it!  Plus, I've been craving roasted potatoes like nobody's business.

For roasting, I like to cover my potatoes in a little olive oil, salt, pepper and a couple cloves of garlic.  Then I toss in some springs of rosemary (which I remove later), if I have it on hand, because the aroma is fantastic.  I bake them at 450 degrees for about 35 to 45 minutes, giving them a stir at the half way point.  In the last 5 or 10 minutes I like to drizzle a little balsamic on them, it helps caramelize them a bit and, really, you can't go wrong with balsamic!

I left the cooking of the turkey burgers up to Antoine, because he's the expert when it comes to cooking meats properly!  The finished result was pretty flippin' tasty.  The burger had great flavor, with little pockets of gorgonzola, and was really moist. Lucky for us, we've got the other two burgers hanging out in the freezer for another dinner, later in the week.

Buffalo Turkey Burgers (adapted from Can You Stay For Dinner?'s recipe)
recipe makes 4 decent-sized burgers

1 tsp olive oil
1lb ground turkey (93% lean, white meat)
1/8 to 1/4 cup Frank's red hot wings buffalo sauce (or more if you like things spicy)
1/4 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
1/4 cup sweet onion
1/2 tsp Spike seasoning
1/2 tsp poultry seasoning of your choosing
1/4 cup Gorgonzola or bleu cheese 
salt & pepper to taste

In a small saucepan over medium heat, add olive oil.  Then add diced peppers and onions and saute for about 2 minutes until the onions become translucent and the red pepper lose some of their bright red color.  Transfer onions and peppers to a small bowl and set aside.  

In  medium mixing bowl, add turkey, hot sauce, cooled onions and peppers, seasonings and salt & pepper to taste.  Mix with your hands (or a spoon, if you're a sissy!) until everything is well incorporated.  Then add cheese and gently incorporate it into the the turkey mixture.

Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper.  Form turkey mixture into 4 even patties, placing them on the lined baking sheet. (I like to make my burgers and turkey burgers slightly concave, so that when they cook they don't turn into a burger ball!)  Place the baking sheet in the freezer for at least 30 minutes, this will firm up the turkey for easier cooking.

Grill or pan fry (over medium high heat) the turkey burgers until center starts to firm up or the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F.  

*All photos taken with my iPhone 4
**This recipe was not sponsored Pinterest, I'm just a Pinterest fiend.  


Ring of Fire

I wish all weekends could include a campfire, because I don't know if there's anything better?  Oh yeah, there is...a campfire with s'mores!  Mmm, s'mores.  Add in some quality time with good friends and you've got one hell of a weekend!

Our campire from girl's weekend, just behind our cabin.

I hope you all had a great weekend!? Sadly, it's Monday. *whomp whomp*  But it's okay, because all you have to do to make Monday bearable is think of three simple things: campfires, good times with friends and marshmallows.  Then just let your mind drift off into pure happiness.

*FYI, I took a million pictures our fire...this is me holding back!  You're welcome.


Sweatshirt Fever

Of all the bandwagons to jump on, the latest sweatshirt craze is definitely right up my alley.  I'm normally a t-shirt/hoddie and jeans kind of person anyway, and lucky for me my job is super casual, so throw a soft, fuzzy sweatshirt into the mix and I'm a happy lady.  Currently the only cozy sweatshirt I have is this kitty one, which I wear as often as possible because it's ridiculously comfortable and so soft on the inside.  I love it! 

Here's a couple sweatshirts that I'm drooling over right now...

[via: Modcloth]

 [via: Hello Merch]

 [via: Out of Print.]

 [via: Modcloth or Out of Print.]

[via: Hello Merch]


Hiking in Hocking Hills

I was shocked when a co-worker told me recently that they've never been to Hocking Hills!  It's just two and a half hours from Cincinnati and has some really beautiful hiking spots.  So, hiking was a given for our girl's weekend, but since I was a bit handicapped with my air cast on, our "hiking" options were limited.  Lucky for us Hocking Hills State Park has two spots that are actually handicap accessible: Ash Cave and Conkles Hollow.  And I was really excited because although I've been to Ash Cave (and love it), I had never been to Conkles Hollow (and it's one of my HLP's favorite spots).  I definitely fell in love with Conkles Hollow!  The entire path through Conkles Hollow is surrounded by moss and ferns.  And the light just spills into the hollow, giving it the most magical atmosphere.

I'm such a sucker for mossy trees.

Oh and since southern Ohio had snow and ice earlier in the week, there were icicles hanging everywhere.

This could be our album cover.  We would just need to photoshop my sis in and we're set! 

Waterfall and ladybug: Ash Cave, Moss and Helene & Michelle: Conkles Hollow

Ash Cave

Another benefit of melting snow and ice...pretty waterfalls!

We thoroughly enjoyed our little walk through the woods.  And the handicap path was easy enough on my ankle that I wasn't too sore afterwards.  

Have you ever been to Hocking Hills?  What's your favorite spot or trail?


Piece of Cake!

What's a girl's weekend without a little dessert?  Answer: crappy.  Well, lucky for us we happened to be celebrating my friend's recent birthday, which means one thing...birthday cake!  Just a day before we headed to Hocking Hills my darling HLP turned 29!  So we naturally celebrated with a gifts, balloons and a big cake.  When Amanda and I were roommates in college, I would usually pick up a box of yellow cake and a tub of chocolate frosting from the store and assemble it into an oh-so-classy sheet cake for her.  We were lazy college students, what do you expect?  I don't even think we did candles or anything to decorate it...I just "made" the cake and then we ate it!  And it usually didn't last long. 

This year I wanted to do something a bit more special, so I decided I was going to make a cake from scratch! As much as I like to bake I've never actually made a cake or frosting from scratch, so I was really looking forward to it.  I did some research and found a cake recipe and a chocolate frosting recipe (one my sister, who is allergic to cocoa butter, could have) with pretty good reviews and then I just jumped right in...

It's not the prettiest cake in the world, but I think it's not half bad for my first real cake.  I think it tasted pretty good too!  I was worried that the cake would be dry, but it wasn't.  (FYI, I took a suggestion from one reviewer and immediately put the cakes in the freezer from the oven to halt the cooking process.)  It ended up having a great rich, buttery flavor to it, probably from all the egg yolks.  And the frosting was also pretty rich and chocolatey, though in hindsight, I wish I would have thinned it out a bit more since it didn't spread on very well.  As for the lettering: I, unfortunately, couldn't find my piping bag for the life of me so I had to do the lettering with a ziploc bag.  Oh well, it'll do. 

Now I can't wait for the next birthday to come up so I can find another cake to make from scratch.  I've already pinned a couple sound delicious...

[sources (left to right): strawberry dream cake, lemon blueberry cake, strawberry + chocolate cake, & Billie's Italian cream cake (not the prettiest, but it sounds amazing)]

Stay tuned tomorrow for some highlights of hiking/walking in Hocking Hills.


(girls)Weekend in Instagram

What a fantastic weekend! On Friday, Michelle (my sister), Helene (her best friend) and I made our way to Hocking Hills.  There we met up with Amanda (my best friend), who lives in Cleveland.  And with that, girl's weekend began.  We had been planning this weekend for forever and we were all beyond excited for a little relaxing time together.  We rented this awesome cabin, which had more than enough room for all of us.  And, fyi, it is owned by the sweetest people ever!  Bud even drove past, saw us trying to collect wood for a fire and within 5 minutes was at our cabin with kindling, newspaper and a lighter...and then he built our fire for us!  So sweet!

It was a pretty relaxed weekend.  Since I'm still recovering from a fractured ankle we only did a very modest amount of easy "hiking" (aka walking).  We mainly played wii dance and cards against humanity (All our first time playing! It was an offensively good-time!), drank wine, ate tasty food and talked.  Here's some highlights via Instagram:

1.) Creepy-ass bear lamps that were in each of our rooms (except Amanda's).  I was lucky enough to have two in my room, one on either side of the bed!  Going to bed the first night was a little terrifying, but then I got used to them.
2.)  Breakfast consisted of fruit salad and sticky buns, both made by moi! (Side note: I love Bake with Anna Olson!  I first saw it when we were in Vancouver, and I really wish we had it here.  Hell, I just wish I had the Food Network sometimes!)
3.) For our post-hike lunch on Saturday I, with the help of my sous-chef Amanda, whipped up a red pepper, broccoli and goat cheese quiche.  (Sorry, no recipe...I just winged it.)
4.)  After Bud was nice enough to start a fire for us, we roasted marshmallows, made s'mores and cracked open a couple bottles of wine, relaxing by the fire.
5.)  Then things got out of control or rather, I got out of control.  I apparently was so excited to be out of the house with the ladies that I decided to drink FAR TOO MUCH wine!  It was much more wine than one person should ever drink, the next day was proof of that...worst hangover of my life!  Though, I did still manage to kick some ass at wii dance!  And none of my competitors were nearly as intoxicated me.
6.) Guillermo was permanently glued to my lap once I got home Sunday afternoon.

Waking up Sunday morning sucked!  Not only because my brain felt as if it had shriveled up like a raisin, but also because it was time to pack up and head home.  After sleeping in the car the entire two and a half hour drive (because, did I mention, I was so stupid the night before apparently thinking I was 21 again!?), I got home and Antoine made me a late lunch while I vegged on the couch and attempted to recover from my hangover.

Still, what a great weekend!  Let's just pretend the part where I turned into a wine-guzzling idiot didn't happen, okay?!  I can't wait for the next girl's weekend!  Stay tuned for some more weekend related goodness, once I finally get around to editing my photos.



I was lucky enough to spend this past weekend in Hocking Hills with three of the best ladies on the planet, my best friend (Amanda), my sis (Michelle) and my sister's best friend (Helene).  We rented a cabin, cooked some tasty food, drank wine, played games and, best of all, celebrated Amanda's birthday, which was this past Thursday.  More on our fun trip to Hocking Hills later, for right now I want to talk about Amanda's birthday gift.

As usual, I had no idea what to get for my HLP's birthday.  I tried to sweet talk her into creating an Amazon wishlist, but of course she didn't listen to me.  Something about how I have a $2K camera on my wishlist, which was wildly impractical because no one would ever get that for me (including myself), so there.  That pretty much summed up her argument.  So, without a wishlist to go off of Antoine and I decided to hit up the antique malls in order to find something fun and interesting for my one-of-a-kind best friend.  While hobbling around Ohio Valley Antique Mall (the best in the Cincinnati area, in my opinion) I spotted a booth selling terrariums.  They were cute and something I thought Amanda would like, though they were either a bit too small or too big and awkward.  But Antoine immeditately said, "hey, we can make her one of those ourselves!" (as he does with most things).  And yeah, he had a point...this time.  After a quick google search on our phones we discovered that it was definitely do-able and even had a list of what supplies we'd need. (Try these three sites for instructions, however, please note that if you are using succulents, like we did, you can not do a closed terrarium.)  

So we switched gears and started looking for glass containers for said terrariums...because, I mean, we might as well make one or two for ourselves while we're making Amanda's, right?!  We found a collection of vintage class jars that were pretty reasonable (though it was kind of eye-opening to see the broad range in pricing throughout the antique mall), as well as a couple miniature animals for the terrariums. Then we went to Petsmart for carbonized charcoal and moss and Lowe's for rocks and plants.  We already had potting soil at home.  Since the jars didn't have large openings at the top we used a small spoon and chopsticks to maneuver the plants and things around, which worked pretty well once you got the hang of it.  Here's the finished product, Amanda's birthday terrarium...

We used the biggest jar for hers, which allowed us to fit in three succulents, a couple rocks and a tiny snail figurine.

Aerial/interior view of Amanda's terrarium.
I love the little glass snail we found for her terrarium.  We originally wanted a little dinosaur, but couldn't find any small enough so we settled for this guy.  He's pretty cute; I'm happy we found him!

Three of the four terrariums we made.  We made the big one for Amanda, one for our house (not pictured), one for a certain someone as a thank you gift, and then one for Antoine to put on his desk at work.

The terrarium we made for our house.  You can't really tell in this photo, but this jar is actually blue glass.  Note the adorable tiny frog figurine.

He's so cute!

I'm pretty pleased with how they turned out!  Stay tuned this week for some cabin/girls weekend/Hocking Hills related goodness!


A Step Back in Time

A colleague recently shared this post and these photos of PLCH's old Main Library with our department.  I was so in awe when I saw the photos.  I had heard people reference how beautiful the original Public Library was, but I had no idea just how breathtaking it was when it was still standing.  Here's a few of my personal favorites...

 Old Main Library from the 1950s [source]

 The Vestibule, which led into the Main Hall [source]

 The gorgeous Main Hall, note the pillars, spiral staircases, and stained glass [source]

 The stacks in the Main Hall, look at that light beaming in [source]

 View of the Main Hall reading area from above [source]

Entrance to the Main Library, with branch pages on the steps reading [source]

Main Library Art Room, on the third floor [source]

When I first saw these photos (and the rest from PLCH's "'Old'" Main Library" set) I think my jaw dropped and I might have drooled a little.  I mean, come on, how gorgeous was the old Main Library!?  The details.  The light cascading through the windows.  The stained glass.  But soon after I was hit with a pang of sadness.  I was sad that this treasure was gone, that I never got to see it.  It made me wish that more libraries had done what the Indianapolis Public Library did; keep and even restore your small beautiful treasure of a library and add onto it rather than tearing it down to make way for something larger and more modern.  Still, I am glad that the Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County is making such an effort to document their past, as well as Cincinnati's past.  These photos are truly a step back in time and I encourage you to take a minute or two and look through the photos of the old Main Library on their flickr page.  Wouldn't you have loved to sit in that Main Hall and thumb through pages of some novel?

*In case you don't know what the modern Main Library looks like, here's a photo circa 1997.