Watermelon basil pops

I made two popsicle recipes for a story recently, and I thought I’d share this one with you because it’s so easy. And they’re really good!

The hardest part was tracking down a popsicle mold. Even though it’s still hot, everyone is moving to their fall inventories.

The one I ended up with is a little dorky, but I did learn that you can make adult-looking popsicles in shot glasses.

The original recipe called for cilantro, but since I had a basil tree growing in my side garden, I decided to switch out the herbs.

Watermelon-Basil Pops
adapted from Self Magazine

3 cups seedless watermelon, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 tablespoon honey
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
4 basil leaves

1. Dump all the ingredients into a blender and pulse to combine. You might need to stir the mixture a little at first.
2. Pour the watermelon puree into popsicle molds and freeze for at least 3 hours. If you have trouble releasing the pops, dip the mold in warm water first.

Unfortunately, the pulp kind of sank to the bottom, giving these a kind of Bomb pop appearance, but they still tasted really good.

World’s longest receipt

This is the receipt I got yesterday at Michael’s. I knew when I got the 25% off your entire order coupon via e-mail that I was going to use that opportunity to purchase as much as I possibly could for the wedding. So I loaded up a monster of a cart, and then watched as the computer took $60 off my total. Oh yeah.

I like to see this kind of thing.

I still need to buy a few more things, but I crossed a LOT off my list.

I also noticed (after my spree) that they had a bunch of Martha Stewart photo books on clearance. I think they had the big ones down to $11.99. So I might go back and get one for the wedding and/or honeymoon. I used one for my Mediterranean photos, and it worked really well.

Ratatouille revisited

I decided yesterday that with our garden veggie haul it was time to make ratatouille. It’s not the most beautiful of dishes, but it’s one of the best ways to enjoy your produce. And it’s sort of like a relish. You can put it on anything!

The recipe I use is an adaptation from Julia Child, so I think it’s legit.

But this time it was different. I got to use my brand new mandoline slicer!

Friends, you have got to get one of these. I feel like I just went up a level as a cook or something.

I used it to make 1/8-inch zucchini slices. I zipped through a whole zucchini in a matter of seconds.

Unfortunately my eggplant was too soft to use in the mandoline. But I look forward to making many slices and strips in the future. I’m thinking it would make a cold noodle salad a lot better.

So for ratatouille, you roast the zucchini and eggplant slices in the oven while you saute onions, peppers and garlic. Meanwhile you peel and slice your tomatoes, and separate the juice. Then you add the tomato slices to the peppers and onions, cook a few minutes, then add the juice and turn up the heat until most of the juice evaporates.

Then you layer it up in a casserole dish like a lasagna and bake for about half an hour. The recipe calls for turning up the heat partway through baking, but I didn’t think it was necessary.

In fact, I don’t think you really even need to separate the tomato juice and pour it on later. I think you could probably throw everything into the pan and cook it at once and it would still come out good. Just try to remove all the tomato seeds.

If I had to do it over I think I’d double the recipe, too. It’s a lot of work for one tiny pan of veggies. Even if it is a relish, Mike and I still eat it like it’s at least a side dish.

Bridal shower – success!

Yesterday I had my bridal shower in Lawrence. We asked my Aunt Lark to take charge of the food preparation, as she is a phenomenal cook and hostess. She agreed to make Italian food (inspired by “Eat, Pray, Love”, which is about to come out in movie form).

On the menu:

•Antipasto tray
•Caprese salad, with my heirloom tomatoes

•Pasta primavera with roasted veggies and pesto
•Greens salad with walnuts and shaved parmesan cheese, fig vinaigrette

•And everyone’s favorite part, rustic nectarine galettes


My sister was the master pastry roller.

My mom did a fabulous job with decorations.

She found several vintage items, including the wedding bells,

and a headpiece for the ceramic dog.

Poor Charlotte, we made her wear a garter the whole time.

The only fail was the paper flowers.

Though they are adorable, they were waaay overly complicated to put together. And when I finally got four of them together, they kept coming apart because the double sided tape didn’t stick.

Next time, tissue paper poufs.

I realized that I didn’t take any photos of people! I must have been too busy eating and socializing.

We played one game (How well do you know Cara?), which my best friend Erin won.

Then I asked for marriage advice. I’m soaking it up lately.

Some pearls:

• The times when you least want to talk are the times you most need to.
• Don’t be obsessed with winning the argument. Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?
• You have to be responsible for your own happiness. Of course you want to make each other happy, but you can’t depend on someone else for your happiness.
• Make your family a priority

I hear over and over that laughter is so important, as is the friendship at the center of your relationship.

And very appropriately, a friend sent me this quote from Liz Gilbert (author of “Eat, Pray, Love”) from her latest book:

“Marriage survives, in other words, precisely because it evolves.”

Well said.

The sweetest card

Last night I received the most creative wedding card — it is made with part of our invitation!

How clever and eco-friendly.

DIY microwave popcorn

This was like a revelation for me. And it’s so simple it’s ridiculous.

I have been addicted to these little packs of lime and salt popcorn for snacks.

But then I read something (maybe in Readymade?) about how you can make your own microwave popcorn in a paper sack.

So I tried it, and it worked. And then I felt dumb for not thinking of it myself.

Here’s what I did:

I got a bag of regular paper lunch sacks and some popcorn kernels (these were tiny, so you might have to adjust the time for bigger kernels).

I put 1/4 a cup of kernels in a sack and drizzled on about a tablespoon of vegetable oil.

Don’t worry if your bag gets oily. It’s supposed to.

Then I microwaved it for two minutes, stopping it when I heard the kernals slowing down (it was about a minute and a half).

The popcorn came out just fine. I got a lot of old maids the first time, but haven’t since. I tried popping it for a minute and 45 seconds once, but then I got a bunch of burned kernels.

After it comes out, salt it generously. You could also use it to make a snack mix or caramel corn or popcorn balls or whatever your heart desires!

Wedding memories from grandma

This is the cake topper from my grandparents’ wedding in August of 1949.

I was admiring it a couple of times at my grandma’s house, so she gave it to me. To borrow, of course.

We’re not using it on the cake, as it’s pretty delicate and I don’t want anything to happen to it. But we will display it at the wedding, for sure.

Last week I got a handwritten letter from my grandma and she included some memories from her wedding day. I had to share some of it with you:

Horace and I scheduled Aug. 14 for the day. One problem — the minister would be on vacation! So we had to scout that area of Tulsa for Methodist minister. (Horace always contended that Rev. looked more like jail escapee than ordained minister!)

All in all the wedding came off without disaster — and my parents avoided bankruptcy by having the rehearsal dinner at our home and reception at church.

About the honeymoon:

Wasn’t much of a cabin, but it was cool, and had a “kitchenette” of sorts. We were grateful for quiet, peaceful place to begin life together — a long one!

I have to tell you as the wedding gets closer I get teary reading this sort of thing. I’m hoping to hear more stories at my shower this weekend…

Jennie and Patrick’s wedding

I’m calling this the summer of love because it seems like every week I attend some wedding-related event for myself or a close friend. I’ve seen some of my most independent female friends tie the knot, and I feel incredibly good about their relationships and over the moon for the couples. Now we’re on deck, and I just hope our wedding is anywhere near as wonderful as theirs have been.

So, without further babbling, here’s how Jennie’s gorgeous, laid-back, Colorado microbrewery wedding went:

First we boarded the bus to head from Boulder to Lyons. Our chariot.

Our driver, also the mechanic.

The Oskar Blues bus is a little rough around the edges. It made some strange sounds, and the driver did have to leave the door open the entire time for ventilation, but we wouldn’t have gone any other way.

Some of the notes written on the ceiling were a little perplexing. We added some of our own, too.

Once we arrived at the park for the ceremony, we gathered around a little pathway lined with pinwheels. The ceremony took place next to the water, where tubers were going down the whole time.

The bride wore flip flops. And a huge smile.

It was beautiful. And despite rain the day before, not a drop fell.

Mike took these photos of the ceremony.

It was simple and sweet, and conducted by a friend of ours. We especially liked the part in their vows where they said something to the effect of, “I will be true to you, to myself and to us.” Well said.

After the ceremony we caught up with some friends. I can’t remember what this sign said, but it was clearly important.

The men of dirt, Brian, Pete, and Dave. We’re still trying to figure out where Pete got that jacket.

This is Kim and Brian, of Tee and Cakes.

I had one of their amazing Oreo cupcakes for dessert at the wedding. Then we talked a lot about how hard it is to run a business and how you just have to kind of jump in before you can talk yourself out of it. So true.

Anyway, the reception was held in a barn, decorated with lights and a hanging kayak.

They had a live band, the Whiskey Bottles, play. So much fun.

The best part, though, had to have been the pinball arcade that was right around the corner. We snuck in, got some quarters, and tried out a few different machines, including this dueling pinball machine. The bride won, of course.

No, actually, I think the best part was when someone delivered pipe cleaners to our table so that we could get creative for the photo booth. Who knew adults could have so much fun with a packet of pipe cleaners?

At the end of the night, everyone took home a souvenir beer glass.

Congrats to Jennie and Patrick. They are off to their honeymoon in Scotland!

My happy place

Pretty much immediately after we recovered from Ragbrai, we got in the car and headed to Colorado for another wedding. Our friends Jennie and Patrick, home brewers extraordinaire, got married in Lyons, Colorado and had their reception at Oskar Blues Brewery. It was awesome, and I’ll post about that soon. But before the wedding we got to hang out in Boulder and catch up with my former coworkers and some friends we hadn’t seen in a while.

I call Boulder my happy place because I can’t be anything but happy when I’m there. It’s some combination of the mountains, the weather and the hippies that makes me feel at home, I guess. And this was the perfect recharge for me, especially given how much is going on the next couple of months.

We started out with breakfast at Dot’s Diner.

Their tagline is appropriate. It was just like old times — giant biscuits and breakfast burritos with peppery potatoes. Boulder has the best breakfasts, I think because they assume you’re going to be hanging off a mountain the rest of the afternoon and you need the fuel. I’m not gonna lie, I bought a roll of Tums after this meal, but it’s all good.

Friends from college: Mary, Pete, and me at Dot’s.

Then we headed downtown for a little window shopping. The ped mall on Pearl Street is sort of the heart of Boulder. The didgeridoo people were there, of course, along with the street performers, and kids playing in the pop jet fountain.

By the way, some of these photos were taken by friends (thanks, friends!), and some by my smudged camera. Sorry about that.

I had good luck and bad luck with shopping. We wandered into the Prana store to look at mats because I’ve been feeling like as a teacher I ought to have a nicer one. I looked at a few before I noticed the sign that said “yoga mats 40% off.” Sweet! So I got my mat at a crazy good price, and Mike hauled it around for me.

Then I found these incredibly cute sunglasses at a vintage store, bought them, and within an hour had broken them. Sad face.

But, my spirits were lifted when we headed down to the farmers market (where literally everything is certified organic).

We bought ourselves a picnic lunch of bread, dilly goat cheese, fig spread, peaches, and my favorite part – a tiny pie!

After getting fried in the sun all morning, we decided we needed shade, so we headed down to the creek path (what my friend Pete calls the dog and baby show), and found a spot on the grass.

I knew we were in the right place when I saw this girl reading. It looked like exactly what I wanted to be doing.

Tubers were making their way down Boulder Creek as we sat there. That is one thing I never did when I lived there because the water was dangerously high that year.

(Side note: It’s not unusual to see cars driving down the street with tubes hanging out the side.)

(Other side note: Look what’s made it all the way to Boulder – Kum and Go!)

Anyway, a few minutes after we sat down, a couple of guitarists sat down and played some lovely music while we ate. I think maybe they were a band practicing, so we got a free concert.

At some point Pete became lodged in a tree and we had to extract him. Not really, but it was fun to pretend.

I also forgot to mention one of our other morning stops. We visited Tee and Cakes, a cupcake shop that also sells cute screen printed T-shirts, designed by my friend Brian, who used to work at dirt with me.

Brian’s girlfriend Kim bakes the tastiest cupcakes. Apparently they hatched this idea and decided to do it after only knowing each other for a few months, and now they are crazy busy and popular.

Here is a spread of their baby cakes.

I tried the red velvet (amazing), but they are most well known for their bacon cupcakes. I guess people love that salty-sweet combo. Or maybe people just love anything with bacon.

Outside the shop there was the most adorable dog tied up.

We also noticed at another place there was a sign saying not to leave your dog unattended. I guess they just have different problems in Boulder.

This is the building where I used to work.

Sorry, Register, I think the Daily Camera has you beat as far as views are concerned.

So that was our day. We packed in all of my favorite stuff, except for a hike, but it was way too hot to enjoy something like that.

I must admit it was also really nice to go to numerous restaurants that were vegetarian and vegan friendly. I felt like a normal person for a change.

The drive back was pretty painful (so, so many hours of Nebraska), but we did see this group of Hell’s Angels riding together. They were from all over the country, according to their jackets.


Ragbrai – we made it!

OK, so we only did one day. But considering how insane things have been lately, I consider it a huge accomplishment. We rode about 55 miles, from Clear Lake to Charles City. I had never actually been to the lake part of Clear Lake, so it was nice to sit by the water. We also had amazing accomodations in a local’s lake house.

The day before had been brutally hot and humid, but we got lucky that overnight rain cooled things off, and it stayed overcast most of the morning. I will say, though, that even when it’s in the low 80s it feels pretty toasty when you’re out in the sun for several hours. And I have the dorky tan lines to prove it.

Dad with rhubarb pie.

We skipped Chris Cakes pancakes for breakfast and opted for Farm Boys burritos instead. Check out the line!

During the ride we had burritos, fruit smoothies, corn on the cob, pie, and Pastafari pasta. That doesn’t include breakfast or dinner, or the Clif bar that I dropped on the ground and ate anyway.

The best part of the day was definitely when we stopped for corn on the cob.

Someone had rigged a giant swing over their pond, so people were paying $5 each to swing into the water.

Erin’s fiance, Jason, took a turn. He executed a perfect back flip and the crowd cheered.

Apparently later in the day they had to close it down because too many people decided to go topless.

My stepmom got a nice shot of a windfarm on the side of the road.

The scenery was just what you would expect from rural Iowa. I could have done without some of the smells, though!

Afterward we were pretty wiped out. Can’t remember the last time I’ve slept so hard.

Congrats to Erin and Jason for completing the whole ride. You’re amazing!