Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Adventures in biking

I'm a summer girl at heart. I love the heat and Nick often finds me lounging on the front porch once the 90s roll into town. With work and life, sometimes I forget to enjoy the 2.5 months of summer in New England. Not so, this year! I've been outside soaking up the sunshine and we've lined up a host of summer travel plans hell bent on getting outdoors.

First up- Shawme Crowell State Forest in Sandwich, MA!

We left around 6:30 on Friday and stopped in Plymouth for fuel- human and car. I saw the Pizza Factory in a strip mall near the gas station.

One small veggie pizza to share- what can I say? I have a thing for veggie pizza. And this was delicious! Seriously yummy. Kudos Pizza Factory!

We got to the campground while it was still light outside- big ups to the 1.5 hour commute down to the cape. Set up was pretty easy- we got stuck in the sandy ground a few times but Nick hauled the T-blaze through it. Bedtime came early- we were pooped from the work week!

The next morning we got an early start and enjoy a quick breakfast. Instant oatmeal + Starbucks vanilla VIA coffee. Srsly. Please note the Ove-Glove/wrench combo. We're pretty savvy campers.

Our plan was to debut the Houndabout to the monster. Gilligan tried it at home and seemed reasonably accepting...sure...uh huh. Everything was FINE at home.

See? He's happy, right? Not so, a mere 9 mile earlier. We decided to try out the Cape Cod Rail Trail which extends from Dennis to Wellfleet- a lovely 22 mile path that's paved a shaded.

What I don't have pictures of is his great escape. Somewhere around mile 1.5 Gilligan totally lost his marbles and jumped Free Willy style out of the top section. Somehow Nick didn't crash and Gill didn't run into traffic. Suffice it to say that we leashed his puppy butt to the trailer after that nonsense. But only after we lured him back into the trailer with bites of PBJ.

P.S. Best PBJ ever. I made peanut butter out of honey roasted peanuts (just threw them in the Cuisnart with a smidge of canola oil), white bread from 7-11, and low sugar organic raspberry jam. YUM.

On the road again, we continued on our merry way. Nick said towing Gilligan and the trailer (a total of 110+ pounds) was fine unless Gilligan was shifting position. He towed that silly dog over 20 miles that day- what a trooper! I was still fresh as a daisy by the end of our adventure...Nick- not so much.

Around mile 9, we finally figured out that Gilligan needed to burn off some energy, so Nick biked while Gilligan ran- that dog is fast! And kind of swerve-y. He chilled out after that.

And so did we! We stumbled upon the Hot Chocolate Sparrow in Orleans completely by accident.

Totally Turtle for Nick and Strawberry Cheesecake for me! Gill even got his own dish of vanilla soft serve. He slurped it up!

Views from the trail.

Bikes. I love them!

Found Gilligan some water to swim in- he's finally showing his lab side. Dude loves to swim.

After our 20 mile bike ride, we took the scenic route back to the campground. On our way, we spotted the infamous ZooQuarium! Weirdest place ever- Nick says there's a sad little seal and a fox in there. No thanks.

We also saw a truly impressive collection of ceramic animals on our drive that weren't at a mini-golf course. Elephants, rhinos, and marmots- oh my!

Dinner was a breakfast scramble of quinoa, eggs, pinto beans and Morningstar sausage. Plus some contraband white wine. Yum!

Dinner was enjoyed by a rip-roaring fire. I *heart* camping.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Pizza happens

I'm usually a very hands-on cook- I make myself a homemade breakfast every morning, pack myself a lunch, and usually prep a pretty involved dinner 5 nights a week. But sometimes you have to cut yourself some slack. Tonight was one of those nights. Work has been wacky lately and I've been leaving work much later than usual. We are running wicked low on groceries and it's hot.

This is all a very long way of telling you that I picked up a pizza on the way home. And it was good.

I first tried Unchained Pizza back in May when my sister was here. It was delicious! One of the only veggie pies I've gotten that wasn't completely soggy.

Non-soggy bottom.

Huge 18" pizza- we each had two slices and have several leftover. Lunch!

Covered in mushrooms, broccoli, olives, tomatoes, onions, and peppers.

Just because we had takeout didn't mean we couldn't enjoy some ambiance. Enter our lovely backyard and a glass of 3 buck Sauvignon Blanc. Hurrah for al fresco dining!

And while we're outside, how 'bout a few backyard pictures??

Check out the garden- growing like weeds! And there are plenty of actual weeds in there- I've been pulling up the naughty ones a few times a week!

Kevin hiding in the kale.

Baby peppers.

Baby cucumber.
Baby 'maters.

Whole lotta mint- we need to have a mojito party, stat!

Gill loves playing in the BBY (big backyard- he can't spell but he knows where the fun happens!).

For dessert, a few freshly picked raspberries. And then birthday cake for my mother in law at their house- happy birthday Lorraine! (And Uncle Dan- his birthday is tomorrow, too!)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Hingham Beer Works

To celebrate my birthday and soak up some sunshine, we wandered down to Hingham Beer Works at the fancy schmancy Hingham Ship Yard. According to Nick, the shipyard used to be quite the pit, but with a little venture capital and a few chain stores, it's a lovely gathering spot now.

It's a microbrew so we started off with some small pours to whet our appetite. 12 oz. pours of World's End IPA for me and Blueberry Ale for Nick. Nick's had real blueberries in it! The IPA was good, too, not too bitter. You can get beer in 12 oz., 16 oz., or 22 oz. pours- I liked this because I have trouble committing to beer, especially new ones.

We had to wait probably 20 minutes for a patio table but it was worth it! Love the outdoor ambiance.

Do I look older? No major wrinkles yet or gray hair. I've already informed Nick that I won't be graying with dignity- bring on the dye!

With dinner, I had a sampler of 4 oz. pours. From left to right: watermelon beer, peach hefeweisen, Back River red, and Buckeye Oatmeal stout. None really rocked my socks and I couldn't even finish the peach one. Microbrews are so hit or miss.

Nick had a white ale- he liked it. I tried a sip- not my bag.

Appetizers included nachos! Yummy and thoroughly coated with the good stuff.

And pretzel bites. These were strangely hard and not really pretzel-y at all. We didn't eat many of them but I brought them home and used them as croutons on my lunch salad. Much better.

Dinner for me was the world's smallest portabella mushroom sandwich. There were two small slices of roasted red pepper, a TON (too much) of herbed goat cheese, and a really sad little mushroom. I was underwhelmed but still cleaned my plate. A girl's gotta eat. I gotta say- being a vegetarian at restaurants is hard sometimes. At home, I can make whatever I want, but at most restaurants I can get a veggie burger or a veggie sandwich. Perhaps I should hit the city for some veg haute cuisine.

Nick had the steak tips. He said they were awesome- I tried a super small bite. Beefy. I did snag several bites of mashed potato- yum!

We skipped dessert- we were stuffed with beer and nachos!

Instead, we took a walk down the shipyard and read all the funny boat names. One was called Payback...interesting...

The sunset was especially gorgeous- I luck out with great weather and a great husband on my birthday!

It is important to that Betty Cupcakes is a serious lightweight and definitely cannot handle 24 oz. of beer. Silliness and a WICKED early bedtime ensued.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A birthday cake

Yellow cake with chocolate frosting. A classic. Kind of like me, but sweeter.

Today is my birthday. Another fun fact about today? It's the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. More time to celebrate my birth, you lucky ducks! Another fun fact? It's also Prince William's birthday. Unfortunately we have not yet been able to exchange presents just yet, but soon. Very soon.

Birthdays are kind of weird. You didn't really do anything to earn and frankly, your parents should be commended for bringing you into the world and letting you stick around. But really, birthdays should be celebrated for one reason and one reason alone.


Now, I'm not one to wait around all year for a delicious slice of sugary goodness. That's a regular occurrence in the Cupcake household. But birthdays deserve something a little extra special, dontcha think?

I got this recipe here, but I'm fairly certain it was stolen from Cook's Illustrated. What up, Chris Kimball? Dude knows his food.

Start by oiling and flouring some 9 inch pans. Really get in there with the oil. One of my cakes may have broken and may have been smushed back together. I can neither confirm nor deny these allegations.

Mix your dry ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk them up. Combine the wet ingredients and whisk them, too.

Then you should whip up some eggwhites. Set them aside.

Dump your flour and leavening into the empty bowl. Don't wash it out first. That's a waste of time.

Slowly mix your wet ingredients into your dry.

Then gently- I said gently!- fold in those egg whites. The whipped eggwhite is a delicate thing and needs some TLC.

Measure out your batter evenly into your prepared pans. Bake until done. Cool beside an open window if you're like me and don't have air conditioning. Or cable. Or 200 amp electrical service. I'm practically Amish!

While your cakes are cooling, you can wash dishes and clean up the flour bomb you made in your kitchen. Then, you ought to get your frosting on.

I'd never chocolate buttercream frosting before today. It was pretty darn simple. Get some cocoa.

Melt some butter.

Put the cocoa in your KitchenAid and aid the melted butter.

Mix it up.

Add approximately one ton of powdered sugar and drip of milk.

And beat the everloving fudge out of it.

Now comes the fun part. Dig out your cake stand. Mine lives in the basement on a shelf underneath the giant fake spider we use on Halloween. What? You don't keep yours next to arachnids?? Weird.

Put one layer of cake, maybe the "broken" one on the cake stand and slather on some frosting. Really give it a good coating.

Add the 2nd layer and admire.

Pour out the rest of the frosting on top. Wonder quietly to yourself if there is such a thing as too much frosting. Quickly dismiss the ridiculous notion and spread all over with an offset spatula.

I decorated mine with some swirlies and gold sprinkles in honor of the Bruins- go, go Black and Gold!

Then you can take your cake on a field trip. Oh the places this cake has been!

The great state of Texas (or just my Texas flag picnic table).

It lounged in the sun on the adirondack chair.

It even visited Kevin the garden gnome. Check out that kale! Kevin's been whispering sweet nothings to my veggies this year and they are growing like gangbusters!

Once the tour de garden is over, take the cake to your inlaws. Carefully balance it on the front seat of your SMART car, hold with one hand, drive with the other, and try to convince your 90 pound labradoodle not to knock it over as he's wedged in the trunk.

Conduct the ritual singing of "Happy Birthday".

Make a wish.

Eat a large slice and share a few others! 27 is going to be a good year.