Saturday, June 30, 2012

Vacation Pair

Mother and Daughter
Topsail Beach, North Carolina 

Friday, June 29, 2012

Beach Wedding Buffet

Cooking in a beach house is a little like getting blood from a stone.  Any vacationing cook is prepared to face a predictable hodgepodge of utensils, limited ingredients, uneven ovens and a wacky assortment of serving vessels on ordinary evenings, but I am not so sure beach house cooking often produces wedding worthy fare.  The Green Dolphin in Topsail Beach, North Carolina, however, churned out a simple, but elegant wedding buffet. 
I planned the menu as best I could before I left and my friend Ang printed it up for me to display on the big day.  I was thrilled I was able to find all of the ingredients to pull off all of the adaptable dishes I had planned.  The beef tenderloin was as perfect as a roast could be and the salmon I picked up dock side was remarkable!

Beach Wedding Worthy Shrimp in Escabeche
(adapted from Gourmet Magazine)

1 small red onion thinly sliced
1/4 C White vinegar
1/2 C Italian parsley, chopped
2/3 C Olive oil
2 Bay leaves
3 Garlic cloves, minced
1/2 t Black pepper
2 Lbs 21-25 count Shrimp, deveined (tails in tact)

Combine onion, vinegar, parsley and 1t salt in a ceramic bowl.  Simmer oil, bay leaves, garlic and pepper in a sauce pan until fragrant.  Remove from heat and set aside.  Add the shrimp to a large pot of boiling salted water.  Immediately remove from heat and allow to sit for 4 minutes until shrimp is cooked through.  Drain and add shrimp to the onion mixture and mix in the oil mixture.  Stir well and refrigerate for at least 12 hours or up to two days.  Serve cold or a room temperature.

The food certainly wasn't the highlight of the day, but it sure set the tone for a special occasion in its own way.

Instructions for lighting a lantern.

A set of 20 Wishing lanterns were one of my little wedding surprises for Annie and her groom.  When four of us headed out to the beach to launch our romantic fire display we were all more than a little confounded by the translated instructions.  In the end we were chasing flaming paper hearts down a windy beach hoping one would take flight.  After burning through two books of matches one lonely and lovely lantern flew nearly a half a mile. 

"Wishing lighter rose slowly the sky, do not forget Wishing oh........"

 I guess a happy couple only needs one glowing lantern to wish on afterall!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Setting the Stage

Topsail Beach, North Carolina proved to be the perfect stage for a memorable set of wedding moments, but not before providing hours of beach time fun for Emma and me!

Friday, June 22, 2012

A Bright Spot

 Tuesday was quite possibly one of the worst days I've had in a long time...nothing and I mean nothing went right.  It was a bazillion degrees and the air conditioner went out in my car.  While driving  to the Illinois State beach in Zion  a bee flew in the car and landed on me.  I had to throw myself out of the car to prevent getting stung and later we accidentally ended up in Wisconsin (don't ask) before racing home with 10 minutes to spare before I had to drive the soccer carpool from Oak Park to Bartlett.  Our usual 30 minute trip took 2 hours and 10 minutes and the boys were an hour late to practice.  Of course I was is bumper to bumper traffic without air conditioning with the sun beating down on me the the entire time.  At a point I thought I was melting.  By the time I got home at 9pm (after having been to Zion, almost Lake Geneva, Oak Park, and Bartlett) I was a crabby windblown lobster and had to straight to bed.  

Now that I have had a chance to recover from the hottest day of my life, I like  focus on the one considerable bright spot in the middle of all that yuck; meeting Ang and the boys at the beach!  I had to convert the photos to black and white though because I get hot when I look at them in color!

Monday, June 18, 2012

An Artist

Absolutely everything about this gallery promo is enchanting to me.  
Watching it left both Emma and Finn speechless.
Even if her talent proves to be fleeting Aelita has already left considerable gifts in the world.

Their Dad.

  Our lives would not-could not-be the same without this man.
You make everyday better than we ever could have imagined.
Happy Father's Day, Leif!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Our Dads.

Leif and I have always appreciated the influence our dads have had on our lives, but we grew to respect them both in a new way during the very first moments they began to share their own brand of fatherly love with our children.  The on-going love and affection of one and the fond and heartfelt memories of the other have forever changed all four of us for the better.
Happy Father's Day.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Small Bites in an Historic Space.

I just love it when several beautiful things come together.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Dabba Day!

 When my masala daddas are running dry nothing makes me happier than heading up to little India to refill them with pungent herbs and spices.  This week-end I did just that and all of those brightly colored cups inspired me to break out The Indian Slow Cooker by Anupy Singla.  This time we tried her super simple recipe for minced lamb with peas and it was utterly divine!  Served over some fluffy basmati rice spiced with fresh cardamom pods, the spicy and well balanced meat mixture was one of the best things I have ever tasted that came out of a crock pot.  Seriously.  Get the book.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Sunday on the Pitch

Finn played his final game as a River Forest Rapid on Sunday.  They won handily and Finn had quite a game; scored a sweet goal and received his very first yellow card.  Next season he'll be suiting up in blue as member of the newly merged Chicago Edge FC.

Recital Backstage

Cheers to Emma's bff Jb Coolcat for capturing these excellent images backstage at the Academy's June recital. I think she has quite an eye!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Older than Snoop.

Leif started out his birthday with a hearty home-cooked breakfast on the red plate and finished out his celebratory day with some fennel and basil gelato with strawberry compote at Autre Monde, but in the middle of the day he received some confusing birthday wishes from Finn.

While encouraging Leif to peruse his fictitious dreams of becoming a rapper Finn exclaimed,
"Don't think you are too old to do it Dad.  Just look at Snoop Dogg; that guy is REALLY old.  I'd bet he's like fifty-six years old!"

Fifty six isn't old, but  it turns out Snoop Dogg is actually only forty; Leif is forty-two.  None of us are quite sure what  Finn's comments say about Leif or aging in general, but maybe the confusion will inspire Leif to spit a few rhymes on the subject of getting older!

Friday, June 8, 2012

City Kid.

Finn made plans to visit Uprise in Wicker Park to pick up a new pair of shoes yesterday and I could not resist snapping this photo of him near the train tracks on our way to the shop.  He is such a city kid at heart.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Checking Out her New Digs...

 The Elsmo Four are happy to report Leif's mom (aka Herbal Nan) is going to be an Oak Park resident in just a few weeks!  While Leif was up in Wisconsin getting her house ready for the big move we were busy checking out her new two room suite at the Oak Park Arms.  Her new home will be getting a fresh coat of paint and loads of personal touches in the coming weeks, but we are already thrilled to death she'll be right around the corner.  I imagine she'll find a million things to keep her busy around town, but I am fairly certain she'll make time for visits from these two as much as possible!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Chris' Pork and Beer Surprise

When Penny asked me to get involved with her plans to pull off a surprise party for her well deserving husband's 40th birthday I simply couldn't resist helping out!  Pen knew she wanted to serve up copious amounts of pork and beer and I love few things more than pig so the rest of the menu planning was a simple as can be!  Brian has the hardest job; keeping Chris busy for half the day, but a bazillion mile bike ride did the trick and then the party was on!

We started the festivities with an assortment of charcuterie and spreads and preserves in jars.  I was particularly pleased with my pork rillettes, apricot mostarda and bacon marmalade! I had never made any of them before and would definately make all three again.  
Bacon Marmalade
(adapted from Tasty Kitchen)
5 thick slices of Neuske's Bacon
5 Lg Onions, halved and sliced thinly
1/2 T Salt
2 C Apple Cider
1/4 C Sherry Vinegar 
1/3 C Light brown sugar
Leaves from 12 thyme Sprigs
1 1/2 t Black Pepper

Heat a large heavy bottomed pot over medium high heat and add the bacon slices.  Cook until bacon fat is rendered and meat is cooked through.  Remove bacon from pot (keep all the drippings) and reserve.  Add the onions and salt to the pot and cook over medium heat for about 20 minutes or until onions soften and begin to turn golden brown.  Finely chop the bacon and return to the pot with the remaining ingredients.  Cook uncovered for nearly one hour until almost all liquid has evaporated.  When nearly dry, reduce heat to medium and cook for an additional 15 minutes until onions are deep golden brown (add a splash of water if mixture becomes too dry).  Cool completely and refrigerate until ready to serve; allow to come to room temperature before spreading on bread or crackers and serving with cheeses.

From there we enjoyed roasted kale chip cones, fried and soaked sprouts, roasted garlic and rosemary potato skewers, and double pork and slaw gwa pao buns!  All of them fit the bill of fare perfectly if I do say so myself! The sprouts have been a longtime favorite of mine, but the buns were out of this world!

Happy birthday Chris!  
I had such a great time planning this special party for you with such fun group of friends.  I hope you enjoyed every  moment of merriment you experienced at your pork and beer surprise!

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