I’ve missed you! Sorry that it’s been a few weeks since I’ve written. Things at work got pretty crazy in June, but I was still thinking of all the things I wanted to tell you.
For instance, we got our first taste of a NWA summer. The last two weeks have seen 90° days every day but one. That one I think we hit 100º. Leaving Khaki to spend most afternoons like this. . .
Allow me to translate . . . this pouty look means, “When will you put down that computer and take me for a walk?!?!” As opposed to this look . . .
Which means, “I was almost asleep until you whipped out that camera again!!”
Fortunately, it seems like most days there’s a pretty good breeze, so only a couple of those really felt like they were in the 90º’s . . . in my opinion. The Bald Eagle would disagree. But this weekend the heat is off – at least temporarily – and afternoon/evening walks are back on the agenda for Khaki and I.
This is my newest walking spot. The picture doesn’t really do it justice.
It’s a beautiful. unfinished subdivision about 10 minutes down the road from us. The property is mostly undeveloped because it’s about 25 minutes to the highway, which around here is like commuting from Cincinnati to Chicago. So, it’s quiet with gentle hills and bends to make the 2 mile walk a bit more interesting then some of our other options.
Another great thing about Arkansas is the farmer’s stands. There’s the big farmer’s market on The Square each Saturday morning, but just down the road from my office is an independent farmer’s stand that’s open 6 days a week. Last weekend I scored this bounty. . .
I used the fresh sweet corn to make this awesome corn and wild rice side dish. PW’s Fresh Corn and Wild Rice It was so good, I’m still craving it this weekend and plan on making it again for dinner tonight.
The cherry tomatoes I used to make a yummy pasta salad for our lunches. Pasta Salad The Bald Eagle has a hard time eating when it’s so hot outside (poor baby . . . NOT!), so pasta salads help us get through the hotter summer days. They’re super easy and really take advantage of all the great summer vegetables. I forgot to buy a cucumber, but that would have been so yummy in that pasta salad, too.
The peaches I used to make a peach cobbler from The Pioneer Woman (PW), but to my surprise, it was a bit too tart. I’m sure it was user error, but I actually prefer my simple peach cobbler recipe, which I’ll have to share with you all in the near future.
Speaking of sharing, that strawberry cake I made a couple of weeks ago was so out of this world I’ve made two more since to share with anybody and everybody I’ve come in contact with because I just knew it would change their life. And so, my work here is done. But in case you forgot how unbelievable this cake was . . .
Oh, you should make this for your 4th of July parties and cookouts. I’m telling you, I have several witnesses who will testify under oath that a piece of this cake is life changing!
Well, I guess that’s about all that’s happened here in the last two weeks. . . outside of work. Pretty boring, but I’m going to be on vacation over the next week and a half recovering from all that work. . . and of course baking. So, I’ll be sure to share more often. And I’ll try to make it a bit more exciting.
Have a great day!
Baby Blue Bird (aka Dayna)
First off – Happy Father’s Day everyone! Last night to celebrate I made a Strawberry Cake that was A-MAZE-ING, if I do say so myself. The recipe did all the work, I just got lucky – extra lucky when I bought some of the farmer’s last home grown strawberries from the fruit stand Saturday morning. I wish I could send each and every one of you a slice so you could taste for yourself. Keep on reading, and I’ll at least share some pictures . . . and the recipe.
Secondly, you caught me – I couldn’t decide on one title for this post based on the content, so I used two and disguised the second as a subtitle. Nobody’s perfect!
Have you ever watched these cooking competitions like Food Network Star or this new one called The American Baking Competition? Well, that’s how I came up with the first title “Nobody’s Perfect”. I’ve watched The American Baking Competition, and it can make you feel incredibly incompetent as a baker. For example, there was an episode where they had to make different kinds of cookies. One kind they had to make was macaroons. I’d heard of that cookie, but had no idea what it even looked like let alone how to bake it. Then they made S’mores. I was all excited because I had just made S’mores about a month ago for a cookout, so I was feeling confident again. Except I made my S’mores with boxed graham crackers, jarred marshmallow cream and chocolate almond bark. On the show, they made their own marshmallows and graham crackers . . . FROM SCRATCH. Now I’ll admit, a recipe for homemade marshmallows has been out on my counter for several weeks now because I didn’t even know making your own marshmallows was possible. I thought there was no other way to have a marshmallow than out of a Kraft plastic bag. But making your own graham crackers?? That’s way over my head. (But don’t be shocked if I attempt that in the next year, too I love a baking challenge.)
This week they had to make cakes. The final challenge was a surprise cake, where the judges cut the cake in half after it’s baked and there’s a surprise decoration inside, like hearts or a checkerboard. I don’t know about you, but I just hope every time someone cuts into the center of my cake the knife doesn’t break. (Just kidding, that’s never happened . . . yet.) And they measure out everything so precisely on a scale. No dash of that, or pinch of this. And it seems like they come up with these recipes from the top of their heads. I don’t have more than 2 recipes memorized and that’s because they each only have 3 ingredients and don’t need any measuring. Maybe I should hang up my apron.
Nahhhh! Just don’t expect to see a design that looks like The Last Supper inside my cakes anytime soon.
I guess that’s why I like The Pioneer Woman. Her food is always delicious, but it’s real. She messes things up every once in a while, but it always tastes good. Kind of like my Ugly Cake (yes, this is where the ugly part of the subtitle comes in). Now I have several witnesses that can attest that this cake was perfectly delicious, but unfortunately, it looked like this. . .
There were several things that went wrong with this “experiment” cake. I was trying to “invent” a pistachio frosting. But the consistency was all off for a frosting, the cake was too moist (I know, I didn’t think that was possible either!) and then I made matters even worse. After convincing my visiting friends that the cake really tasted wonderful but they needed to brace themselves for how it looked, I went out to the garage to retrieve it and realized I accidently froze it by placing it in the freezer overnight instead of the refrigerator. What?!?! They’re both stand up, white appliances. Anyone could confuse them! And I still didn’t realize my mistake until I tried to cut into it and realized how hard it was. Well, my friends each had two helpings to prove it really was as delicious as I said it was, but we all agreed it was the ugliest, edible cake we’d ever had.
But this Strawberry Cake helped to redeem myself (this is the good part). . .
The hardest part was cutting the baked cake into two halves. One layer did get a little thin in the middle, but frosting covers most sins in cake baking. And whatever wasn’t covered with frosting was covered with a strategically placed strawberry.
Of course this is a Pioneer Woman recipe – she’s not steered me wrong yet. You can find the link to the recipe here.
And here’s your slice of cake – Enjoy!
Baby Blue Bird
Ten years ago this weekend we brought our precious little Khaki girl home from the farm where she was born. (In case you haven’t been following, Khaki is our Golden Retriever. Yes, we’re one of those families that treat our dog like a child.) It seems like just yesterday when we took this picture. . .
Yes, that is her water bowl that she’s standing him . . . filled with water. Even back then she couldn’t get enough of water and still today swimming is her absolute favorite thing to do.
And today, this is her – Ninja Doggie stealthy stalking a deer in our woods. She thinks you can’t see her. . .
Anyway, today she went to our new vet for her annual check up. She received a clean bill of health, but in our examination room we found this very funny posting I wanted to pass on.
And then to the right was excepts from a cat’s diary . . .
Oh my goodness!! So funny I could pee my pants!
Of course I couldn’t talk about our pets without showing you an Oliver picture. Again, if you’re not keeping up with all the excitement here in Northwest Arkansas, Oliver is our very entertaining neighbor feline. And this is a typical scene when I walk down to our mail box. . .
Yes, Oliver is a “mail” cat. 🙂 Forgive me, that was The Bald Eagle’s joke and I felt it was my duty to share. He usually doesn’t look this scared (Oliver, not The Bald Eagle). He usually looks more like this. . .
. . . just hanging out. Totally chill and totally cool. We love our Oliver!
Well, since we do treat our dog like our child, it’s time that she and I get back to the special Strawberry Cake we’re making to celebrate Father’s Day. Look for the recipe in the near future.
Thanks for reading!
Baby Bluebird (aka Dayna)
I was all excited this morning then I went into the garage and realized our bunny had eaten all the lettuce I left for him last night. Unfortunately, the Bald Eagle text me later in the day to tell me he found the bunny and it had gone “nite nite”. Evidently a bunny is no match for a garage on a 90 degree day. So sad. 😦 I’m just glad I didn’t go ahead and order this bunny blouse I found online today.
Baby Blue Bird
I have a funny feeling that this may only be the first of many times I use that post title. We officially live in a zoo – well, that might be a bit dramatic. We have yet to encounter a zebra or giraffe in our backyard, but I’m not giving up hope.
That’s him on the hunt. And what he excitedly brought to me yesterday as I watered my flowers was a little baby bunny he was carrying by the nape of its neck. Now before you get sick to your stomach (like I almost did) this bunny was very much alive and appeared to just be Little O’s latest play toy. So I sprang into action, sacrificing the skin on my arms as I grabbed Oliver and pulled him away from the bunny. Oliver in turn protested by giving me the first ever meow I’ve heard from him. In the end the bunny lived to hop another day. A happy ending for all except Oliver who seemed to be thoroughly miffed at me. Don’t worry, we made up.
This is Larry, the Bassett Hound and our neighbor. Not his best likeness, but this portrays him rather well. This is him looking in through the sidelight of our front door wanting to know if our Golden Retriever, Khaki, can come out and play. This has become a regular 10pm occurrence. Oliver’s on the welcome mat in the morning, but after dark, Gus and Larry are out on the front porch waiting to play. All the while here’s Khaki . . .
Yes, that is my pillow. She’s catching up on her beauty sleep . . and playing hard to get. Actually, she usually goes out and plays for a little while each night, and after Gus and Larry have had their fill of Khaki (and a few animal crackers), they happily go back to their own driveway.
Unfortunately, you may never see a picture of Gus. Gus is a loveable Yellow Lab, but he’s a shy suitor – usually hiding behind Larry waiting for Khaki to come outside. And he’s also a quick moving, nervous dog. So, he’s hard to catch on film. I think he likes being elusive. . . makes him more mysterious.
And then there was more bunny business. This evening when I came home from work, B.E. (short for Bald Eagle, my hubby. . .but now I’ve actually spelled out Bald Eagle, I guess B.E. wasn’t short for anything now was it.) informed me that a baby bunny was hiding behind our freezer in the garage. I looked back there, and sure enough, there he was. Could this some how be the same bunny I saved from Oliver’s clutches last night? Maybe he’s come back to thank me and give me bunny kisses before he hops off into the woods forever. I immediately have visions of all the cute pictures I’ll take to share with you all before we turn him back out to the wild. B.E. on the other hand is not as excited. I think he spotted the mound of pellets behind the bunny that he had left for us. So, I change my clothes and set out to move the freezer and free my furry friend, but once I move the freezer a couple of inches I look back again and realize, he’s GONE!! Which means he’s on to us and he’s somewhere else in our garage. So the game of hide and seek begins. B.E. and I look everywhere without success. I left out some water and lettuce in the garage – half concerned something else beside the bunny is also out there and will eat it. More to come on this subject. . .
B.E. has been on the hunt for a snake ever since we moved here. We’re both very afraid of snakes. Well, B.E. would just say he doesn’t like snakes, but I’ve seen him do a dance through our side yard when he thought he was about to step on a dead garter snake, so afraid would be the right verb to use for both of us when it comes to snakes. We’ve heard many stories about snakes around here – not just garter snakes, but poisonous ones. So B.E. has become almost obsessed with them he’s so overly alert. I’m praying you don’t see a picture of a snake anytime in the future.
Totally off subject, but I did have a Mexican food craving over the weekend. This is a common craving for me, so I whipped up a couple of The Pioneer Woman’s (PW’s) Mexican recipes. Evidently she has Mexican food cravings, too, because she has several good Mexican recipes on her website. B.E. said the chicken tacos were “restaurant quality”. Wow! You can find them in the recipe section of my blog along with my tips on making them even better. Or you can just click here. . .
Time to catch up on a little beauty sleep myself.
Baby Blue Bird (aka Dayna)
Hello! Anybody Home?? That’s Oliver looking in through the side window of our front door. That look means, “Could you put down the camera and get me a treat, pleeeaaase?”
Firstly, that title is a real tongue twister. Don’t believe me? Try saying it five times fast – weighing out risk, weighing out risk, weighing out risk, weighing out risk, weighing out risk. Not easy, is it?
Secondly, thank you to everyone for your kind words about my blog. I appreciate all of you for reading – it means a lot!
Now on with the post! Some of you know I’m a coach at heart. I’ve been able to do quite a bit a coaching through work and, from time to time, I’ll pepper some coaching wisdom into my blog that I think is worth sharing. I’ll try not to get too preachy though. 🙂
This week I had the pleasure of helping one of my friends at work. She was struggling with building her confidence to have a conversation with her manager that she knew she needed to have. She was concerned that the outcome of the conversation might not be positive. In her mind, it was a bit of a risk to even broach this particular topic. So, we used one of my favorite tools – worst case scenario. Some of you may have heard me speak about this before. I’ve used this tool in my own life when the worst case scenario for the situation was pretty dire, but it still helped me deal positively with what was happening, so I know it works. This time we used the worst case scenario of two different situations to help my friend decide whether she should or shouldn’t have this discussion with her manager.
The truth behind why we sometimes need to use the worst case scenario exercise is that often times we make things much worse in our mind then it really is. We act as if someone is going to die if we can’t make a deadline at work, and unless you’re a doctor or a firefighter, the stakes are rarely that high. So in order to get a grip on reality and calm down, I try to think about what’s truly the worst thing that can happen if . . . if we don’t do something, if we do do something, if he says that, if she does that . . . whatever the “if” is for your situation.
For my friend, she was struggling to find the courage to have a career conversation with her manager. She knew deep down inside what was the right thing to do – she just needed a little extra confidence. Together we thought about what could be the worst thing that would happen if she did have this conversation with her manager. She quickly realized her job wouldn’t be at risk, but her feelings were at risk. If he didn’t react positively to what she wanted to share, it was going to hurt, but at least she’d know where she stood. Then we flipped the situation around and thought about what could happen if she didn’t have this talk with her boss. Soon she realized on her own that the outcome if she didn’t talk with her manager had more negative consequences than if she did speak up and things didn’t go well. When we weighed the risks of both situations, it was easier for her to see that the conversation was inevitable if she wanted to be happy. That doesn’t make the conversation easier, but will boast her confidence in knowing this is the right thing for her to do and therefore, that confidence will come across in her talk with her manager vs. sounding unsure and timid.
Speaking of weight, this same friend, Suzie, also shared with me that she’s lost 80 lbs now in 8 months!! A-MAZE-ING!! What an inspiration!! Unfortunately, I think I found a couple of her pounds on my own tummy, so I was thinking about Suzie the other night when I decided I should get off the couch and take Khaki on a walk, even though I really just wanted to fall asleep at the late hour of 7pm. Khaki had already been asleep more hours of the day than she’d been awake, so she was happy for the walk. (Really . . . Why do dogs need so much sleep?!?!)
So this is Khaki bringing me my socks so I can get my walking shoes on. If you scroll back and forth between the two pictures you can see her tail wagging. Ha-ha!!
Lastly, in honor of my friend Suzie and her outstanding accomplishment of losing weight, I decided to bake a little healthier treat to share that she could enjoy without sabotaging her success. This cupcake recipe is from The Hungry Girl, and if you’re trying to watch your weight without sacrificing some of your favorite foods, I highly recommend her cookbooks or her show on the Cooking Channel. Of course, I couldn’t just let a good thing be. I had to add a little sinfulness to the healthy good cupcake with my absolute favorite fluffy white frosting. The frosting is also the perfect companion with some fresh strawberries.
Until next time –
Ok, I feel my update from my mom and aunt’s visit last weekend is way overdue. Let me start by saying this will be a lengthier post than normal, but today was the perfect day for blogging – I’m home alone, the day started out pretty soggy and I found an all day marathon of The Next Food Network Star. Seems like a fitting series to be watching as I summarize our Memorial Day with guests – food, food and more food!
The Thursday before Memorial Day we rolled out the welcome mat for my mom and Aunt Marcia. Well, some of us rolled out the welcome mat and others of us just took a nap on it.
If you haven’t met him before in this blog, this is our neighbor Oliver. Our house is his home away from home. We love him and he evidently feels the same about us because taking naps on one of our welcome mats has become a common practice for him. But he was front and center throughout our weekend to make sure he received his share of love and attention from our guests.
Since my aunt and Mom are our first guests, that means the rest of you haven’t had a tour of our home yet. Many thanks to our new friend Beverly Odom from Modoa Interiors. I found her on the worldwide web. I’m not really the type of person to have an interior designer, but the layout of our house was very different than any home I’ve lived in before, so I was really struggling with making it feel homey. Beverly was the perfect person to work with. She used all the things we already had, and we love the results. It’s also nice that Beverly has become a good friend, and hopefully she’s benefitting from our meeting as well since I load her up with all my leftover cooking and baking. So now, allow me to show you around a little.
And this is the view of the front door.
And this is our beloved dog, Khaki, wondering why I’m taking pictures of everything. . .
But since we are taking pictures, she wants to make sure she’s in all of them. This is a picture of her two favorite rooms – the kitchen and the dining room. Khaki helps us make sure the floor is always clean when we’re cooking or eating in either of these rooms.
This is our guest bedroom. Beverly really delivered on making this an elegant, warm room for our guests.
And this is our master bedroom. The previous owners left these draperies for us, and Beverly did an excellent job finding linens to pull the room all together. She even made the drapes fuller with her sewing magic. And of course, lying on the bed is one of Khaki’s great luxuries. . .
But all this picture taking is making her and her favorite stuffed “kiki” a little tired.
In addition to touring the house, we toured Northwest Arkansas as well. We visited a working mill, saw Beaver Lake and a beautiful view of Fort Smith Lake (below).
Yes, that is The Bald Eagle’s thumb in the picture. That’s probably the only picture he’ll be in on this blog. Cute, ain’t he?!?!
We also visited a the National Cemeteries in Fort Smith and Fayetteville, which might sound a bit creepy, but given it was Memorial Day and these cemeteries were decked out like Arlington, it was actually incredibly moving. Very patriotic, not creepy.
One of my favorite things we saw was the Norman Rockwell exhibit at Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville. I knew I liked Rockwell, but I absolutely LOVED this exhibit. Unfortunately the exhibit is over now at Crystal Bridges, but if it comes anywhere near where you live, please go see it. Even if you’re not a big art lover, I think you can relate and appreciate his work. We couldn’t take pictures in the exhibit, but Crystal Bridges is a gorgeous museum on it’s own. We took a picture of this cool tree sculpture outside the museum. I can’t wait to go back and walk some of the trails around the museum.
Last but not least, there was food . . .lots of food. I think my mom and aunt’s visit really answered some questions for my husband. He’s always been amazed by how much I think about food. Not necessarily how much I eat, (although that is an issue sometimes), but how much I actually just think about food. We will have just finished a big meal and I’ll already be talking about what and when we’re going to eat next. After spending four days with my mom and aunt, I think he sees where I get it from. Both of them love food, especially baked goods. My aunt, like me, loves looking at food magazines, food pictures on Pinterest and went through my Pioneer Woman cookbooks with as much joy as I do. Some of my favorite memories as a little kid are Christmas baking with Mom, my aunt and my grandma. Mystery solved as to why I love to bake.
The first morning we started out with The Pioneer Woman’s prune cake for breakfast. Little did I know my mom had eaten prune cake about 45 years ago that she still remembers because it was so good. That made me a little nervous because I didn’t know I’d be competing with a 45 year memory, but once again The Pioneer Woman (PW as she calls herself) came through. Now I know most of you have already skipped down to the next paragraph once you read the word prune but believe me, you will not taste the prunes. The prunes make the cake extra moist, but it tastes more like a spice cake than overly “pruney”. Just trust me and try it. https://babybluebirdsbakery.wordpress.com/recipes/pws-prune-cake/
I think one of my aunt’s favorite things we made was PW’s dill bread. For lunch I decided to just make a potato soup from a mix, so I wanted to make a bread that was a little savory. This bread turned out to be a great complement to the soup. If the idea of prunes made your stomach turn, that’s just the beginning of how I feel about cottage cheese, which is the main ingredient in this bread. I HATE cottage cheese. I hate the smell, I hate the texture and I hate to look at it. And although I did see a couple of curds in the finished baked product, I couldn’t taste any of it. https://babybluebirdsbakery.wordpress.com/recipes/pws-dill-bread/
For Sunday morning breakfast I went all out and made PW’s cinnamon rolls. I LOVE cinnamon rolls! I LOVE cinnamon rolls even more than I HATE cottage cheese. And although I usually love a rich cream cheese frosting, I think the maple frosting was even better. Even though cinnamon rolls are my favorite, I hadn’t attempted to ever make them because I was afraid they were super difficult. I will admit it was much more time consuming than a coffee cake, but I think it was worth it. And the best thing is that it made several pans full so I was able to share with our neighbors, friends and co-workers. I will absolutely make these again! https://babybluebirdsbakery.wordpress.com/recipes/pws-amazing-cinnamon-rolls/
We had our wonderful neighbors over for dinner Sunday evening. We’ve always been blessed with terrific neighbors and Oliver’s owners are no exception. Reza, Debbie and their sons are just a delight in so many ways. Debbie brought a flavorful squash dish with just the right amount of spice to make it extra interesting. It was the perfect complement to PW’s tangy tomato brisket. To my knowledge, I’ve not even had brisket before let alone baked it, but I knew my mom preferred beef to chicken or pork, and I’ve had a good track record with PW’s recipes so I went for it. I’m guessing from how much was left that it was a hit. https://babybluebirdsbakery.wordpress.com/recipes/pws-tangy-tomato-brisket/
So, I know at this point my PW groupie-ness is really showing and you probably think I don’t know how to cook anything else, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I just discovered PW when we moved here (thanks to our new friend Jana), but I’ve been holding my own for the last 20+ years without her. (But I still love you PW!) To go with the brisket I made two of my mom’s favorite dishes – cheesy potatoes and my father’s deluxe baked beans. Both of these are dishes you can put together the night before and then bake right before your meal. I love dishes like that. The potatoes are super easy, especially because you start with frozen country style potatoes. I go one step further and also use frozen chopped onions for this dish. You can’t get away with defrosted and drained onions in some dishes, but for this dish it works. The beans are like everyday baked beans on steroids. It’s not one, not two, but three different kinds of beans. And you not only add bacon, but ground beef as well. These are a great side dishes for barbeque as well as an Easter ham. Yummy!
And then the pièce de résistance of every meal in my opinion – the dessert. When The Bald Eagle and I went to the lake for our ten year anniversary, we had this great banana split pie one day at lunch. You should know my husband is not a big sweets eater. We do have dessert from time to time when we’re out for dinner, but he’s usually a take it or leave it type of guy . . . and I think for him the real dessert is his cup of coffee and a slice of pie or cake is just a condiment for the coffee. Well, I don’t drink coffee, or really any caffeine for that matter, so sugar is my drug of choice. In fact, that diner we were in when we had this pie had a sign that really spoke to me. It said “Stressed spelled backwards is Desserts”. I loved that because desserts are how I deal with stress. You can usually tell how stressed I am by pants size. Anyway, when we were eating the pie we were both so impressed that The Bald Eagle said I should try to replicate it and we started writing down each layer of the pie. So I scoured the internet for a recipe that seemed similar, but most banana split pies are ice cream based, and this was a custard based pie. I finally found a recipe that seemed pretty close, but upon closer analysis some of the key ingredients that were mentioned in the instructions were missing from the ingredient list. So, I had to guess at how many eggs and how much vanilla to put in the custard. Another thing the recipe should have mentioned is that I really needed to spray the pie plate with cooking spray before I baked the Oreo crust, so the pie for our dinner didn’t make it to the plate looking too pretty. But at the end of it all, my hubby paid me the biggest compliment by telling me he thought my version tasted even better than what we had at the diner. For someone who’s not a big dessert eater, that was HUGE!
Lastly I made my favorite oatmeal for breakfast. I make this oatmeal almost every single morning. It’s healthy, and the high fiber of the oatmeal really help it stick with you and get you through the morning. For years I relied on instant oatmeal because I thought making my own during the work week would take too long or not be as flavorful. I was so wrong – it’s actually better! And you can use any fruit in the oatmeal – apples, raisins or strawberries.
Whoa! That was a lot of food and a long post. Hope you made it through a little better than Oliver.
I’m not sure what about a scratchy welcome mat resembles a mattress for this cat, but I love capturing his antics on my phone.
All and all we had a great and very filling visit with my mom and aunt. I’m so glad they made the drive. I wish I could say I haven’t eaten since they left, but I haven’t eaten as good since they left. I guess that means it’s time to get to baking again!
Thanks for reading!
Baby Blue Bird (aka Dayna)