Welcome

My name is Lisa and I'm a crafty girl with wanderlust working as an engineer by day. My blog chronicles projects in my home as well as pictures and stories from my travels.

Search

Instagram

Archives


Shop

Blog Index
The journal that this archive was targeting has been deleted. Please update your configuration.
Navigation
Monday
Nov242014

Relaxing at L'Auberge de Sedona

At the beginning of November my sister and I went on a long weekend getaway to Sedona. She is expecting her first little one in a few months so we wanted to have a trip together before her baby arrives. As part of our relaxing we spent a morning at L'Auberge de Sedona, which is a beautiful resort situated on the banks of the Oak Creek. We started off our visit by getting massages at the spa, L’Apothecary, located in a cute rustic building.

After checking in at the front desk we headed to the women's locker room to change into our robes. I snuck a few pictures with my iPhone when no one else was in there.

From there we headed to the sitting area where we sipped on some tea while waiting for our masseuses.

Our massages, maternity for my sister and deep-tissue for me, were fantastic. After we changed back into our street clothes we headed back to the lobby of the spa. Our masseuses left us notes with the products they had used during our massages in case we wanted to purchase them to take home.

Feeling refreshed from our massages we walked over to the L’Auberge Restaurant on Oak Creek for their Sunday champagne brunch. The setting of the restaurant was fantastic with tiered terraces overlooking the creek. My sister and I got a fantastic table right next to the water.

The bruch buffet was wonderful with a variety of delicious foods. I indulged in a mimosa while my sister enjoyed some sparkling water. I particularly loved the desserts, like the key lime cheesecake and the peanut butter mousse in a chocolate bowl.

One of the cool things about being right on the creek was watching the ducks swim by and wander up on the banks. Pictures just don't do justice to the beauty of it all.

We had a fantastic time relaxing at L'Auberge de Sedona and I would definitely recommend it to anyone visiting Sedona who is in the mood for a little pampering.

Monday
Nov172014

Pickled Beets

Growing up I have always loved pickled beets so when I saw a large basket of beets for $3.99 at Block's Farm Stand I decided I need to put some up this year. I have my grandmother's recipe that I grew up with, but to be on the safe side I used the vinegar/water/sugar/salt proportions recommended by the NCHFP but adapted their recipe to taste like my grandma's recipe by omitting the cloves and onions.

My girlfriend, Sylwia, came over and we spent a fun evening pickling the beets. It ended up taking quite a while since the basket ended up making three batches of the recipe, but at the end of the night we had 24 half pints of delicious pickled beets. It's like having a taste of my childhood in a jar.

Ingredients
- 7 pounds beets
- 4 cups vinegar (5 percent)
- 1-1/2 teaspoons pickling salt
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 cups water
- 2 cinnamon sticks

Directions
Scrub beets thoroughly and cook until tender in boiling water (about 25 to 30 minutes).

Drain the beets, discard the liquid and let the beets cool. Slip off the skins or peel them if the skins are being a little stubborn. Slice the beets into 1/4-inch slices. I used an egg slicer which worked really well.

Combine vinegar, salt, sugar, cinnamon and fresh water in a large pot and bring to a boil. Add beets and simmer for five minutes.

If you aren't familiar with canning, I cover the basics in my post about canning applesauce. Remove the cinnamon and fill jars with beets leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Pour hot vinegar solution over the beets leaving 1/2-inch headspace.

If you are at sea level (altitudes less than 1000 feet) then you will need to process pint or quart jars for 30 minutes. If you are at a higher altitude check the NCHFP processing times for pickled beets.

Thursday
Nov132014

Up and Over Mt. Rokko

In September when I was in Japan I spent a relaxing Saturday at Arima Onsen after a long work week. When evening came I needed to head back to Nagoya since I was flying home from Centrair the next day. Arima Onsen lies north of Kobe on the other side of Mt. Rokko giving me two options to get to Kobe where I needed to catch the Shinkansen back to Nagoya. I could go back the way I had come which was by a train line that went west around Mt. Rokko. The second option was to go up and over Mt. Rokko by cablecar which is what is what I decided to do.

I walked up to Arima Onsen Station (有馬温泉駅) and purchased a Rokko - Arima one-way ticket (六甲・有馬片道乗車券). The ticket includes one way on the Rokko Arima Ropeway (六甲有馬ロープウェー), on and off riding the Rokko Mountaintop Bus (六甲山上バス) and one way on the Rokko Cable (六甲ケーブル). The station was pretty desolate and only one other person boarded the aerial tramcar with me. The views as we rose up the mountain were fantastic but due to the speed we were moving the few pictures that I tried to take all turned out super blurry.

We rose from 433m above sea level to 880m, arriving at Rokko Sancho Station (六甲山頂駅) twelve minutes later.

From the station it was a short walk to the Rokko Garden Terrace (六甲ガーデンテラス) with shops and restaurants. I was intrigued by the beautifully illuminated Rokko-Shidare Observatory (自然体感展望台 六甲枝垂れ) and headed toward it.

The structure was designed by architect Hiroshi Sambuichi almost entirely from hinoki wood. In the winter the lattice structure attracts frost and in the summer ice that was collected in the winter cools down a seating area inside. It was quite beautiful to walk around inside and admire the architecture as well as the view.

While I was visiting an art installation called Rokko Meets Art was taking place on the mountain top. At various places different pieces of artwork were on display and you could walk around to see them. My favorite was Cosmic Seed by Kazumasa Taniguchi (谷口 和正) which was located inside the base of the thermal chimney of Rokko-Shidare Observatory. A metal egg shell frame was composed of words and illumated from inside casting out blurred shadows of the words. Upon looking at the sculpture up close I noticed that there were tiny birds nestled among the letters. The whole effect was really beautiful and serene.

Walking back out of the thermal chimney I took in some more of the lovely views over Kobe and Osaka Bay.

It was getting late and so I thought it was time to start heading on. I walked to the bus stop where there was quite a line waiting. When it arrived I managed to squeeze on since I didn't want to wait for the next bus. Luckily the ride only lasted fifteen minutes since I was not terribly comfortable standing up wedged in between the door and a bunch of tightly packed people.

When I got off the bus at Rokko Cable Sanjo Station (六甲ケーブル山上駅) I thought I would stop for a few last glimpses of Kobe from the mountaintop before taking the cable car down. It was a beautiful, clear night and I couldn't have asked for better weather to enjoy the view.

I headed into the station, boarded a cable car and ten minutes later I arrived at the base of the mountain at Rokko Cable Shita Station (六甲ケーブル下駅).

The view from the top of Mt. Rokko is said to be one of the best night views in Japan and I would have to agree that it was gorgeous. Although going over the mountain instead of around it took longer and was more expensive it was definitely worth it.

Monday
Nov102014

Trying Burger King's KURO Pearl in Japan 

I am not one who typically eats at a fast food chain while traveling overseas, however, I recently made an exception while I was in Japan this past September. After I had finished work for the week I had spent my Saturday at Arima Onsen and then took the ropeway over Mt. Rokko for a view of Kobe at night. I was tired and hungry, but needed to get something relatively quick since the last shinkansen train back to Nagoya from Shin-Kobe was in less than an hour. I was walking around the Sannomiya Station looking for a place to grab a quick bowl of ramen or donburi when I saw a Burger King. Normally I wouldn't have considered eating there, but I had heard that they were offering a black burger for a limited two month time and it just seemed too strange not to try.

Two black burgers were available to try, the KURO パール (KURO Pearl) the KURO ダイヤモンド (KURO Diamond). The color black in Japanese is written 黒 and pronounced kuro, so the names mean Black Pearl and Black Diamond.

The KURO Pearl featured a hamburger patty with black pepper and a black Shalyapin sauce made from garlic, soy and squid ink. The bun and cheese were also black with the color derived from charcoal bamboo. The KURO Diamond was the same with tomato, lettuce and onion added.

I decided on being a purist and went for the KURO Pearl to avoid any added color from vegetables to my black burger. The meal with fries and a soda set me back ¥750 (about $6.50 US). I chose to pair my burger with melon soda because I felt neon green soda would go well with a black burger. 

The burger came packaged in a black wrapper and when I opened it up it looked even less appetizing that the promotional photos Burger King had hanging up throughout the restaurant. I've eaten everything from raw horse to beef intestines in Japan so a little strange coloring wasn't about to deter me and I took a bite.

The bamboo charcoal that was used to blacken the bun and cheese didn't seem to me to really affect the taste. The unique flavor was primarily from the sauce (soy, garlic and squid ink) and the black pepper on the burger patty. Overall it wasn't bad, but I wouldn't say it was really great either. It just tasted like a garlicky, peppery fast food burger.

Overall, it was fun to try it but I wouldn't order it again. Although it wasn't the most amazing dinner the burger did serve its purpose of being a quick meal and I was able to get to Shin-Kobe Station with a little time to spare before the last train. 

Wednesday
Nov052014

Caramel Apple Cupcakes

Last week my department at work had its annual chili cook-off competition. I didn't enter a chili but I decided to make some cupcakes to share. Last year I made chocolate chili cupcakes and wanted to make something different this time. Fall is in full swing here so I decided to make caramel apple cupcakes.

To make the apple cupcakes I adapted Paula Deen's apple cake recipe to my preferences, like swapping out walnuts for pecans and increasing the amount of cinnamon. I also exchanged the vegetable oil for some of my homemade applesauce which is healthier and makes the cake really moist.

Cupcake Ingredients
3 cups diced cooking apples
1 cup chopped pecans
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon cinnamon
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
1-1/4 cups applesauce
3 eggs

Cupcake Directions
Preheat the oven to 325 F and prepare muffin pans with cupcake liners. Mix together apples, pecans, vanilla and cinnamon in a bowl.


In a second bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda and salt. With an electric mixer beat together the sugar, applesauce and eggs.


Add the dry ingredients to applesauce mixture and beat until fully combined. Fold the apple mixture into batter with a spatula or spoon.

Fill the cupcake liners 3/4 full and bake until toothpick inserted into the middle of a cupcake comes out clean, about 40 minutes.

To add a caramel component to the cupcakes I made Wilton's caramel buttercream icing and iced the cupcakes with a large star decorating tip.

The cupcakes are a great fall treat and were a big hit with my department. I am definitely planning to add this to my autumn rotation of baking treats.

Monday
Oct272014

Fall Planting

With winter on the horizon I like to have something growing in front to the house for as long as I can so I did a little fall planting a few weeks back.

I picked up a variety of mums, kale, cabbages and pansies and set to work. On my porch steps I put some large purple and burgundy colored mums in a planter and set decorative cabbages in urns in front of them.

In the front bed I planted some beautiful purple celosia in between my boxwood shrubs. I've never tried planting it before in my garden so I'm curious to see how late in the season it will keep blooming. Along the front of the bed I planted some decorative green/white and green/purple cabbages to create a border.

In my hanging baskets I planted burgundy mums and pansies. I like how the different hanging heights of the baskets look together.

In the bed that circles my tree I planted some frilly looking green/purple decorative kale in between my hostas.

I'm happy to have some flowers and greenery in my front yard for as long as I can, especially if we have another really cold winter this year. It makes coming home a bit more cheerful on a bleak day.

Friday
Oct242014

The Fence Saga Part 1: Planning

It's been seven years now since I bought my home and this year was the year to finally tackle the fence. I've hated the chain link fence that surrounded my property ever since I moved in, but when you buy a 130+ year old home with a large raccoon nest in the walls and no electrical outlets upstairs you have to set your priorities accordingly.

Just for fun here is a picture of the backyard when I bought the house and it was overwhelmed with an enormous dying tree.

My first big backyard project was a circular back patio followed by removing the tree. Last year with the new pergola and side patio that I'd been planning for years in place as well as a fresh coat of paint on the house and garage the backyard was starting to look like what I'd envisioned.

All of this work was great but it only made the old fence look even worse. I was ready to finally replace the fence this year so in May I began drawing up plans to submit an application for a building permit along with an application to the historic district. Since I live in a historic district, existing structures are grandfathered in, but if you replace something you must get approval from the historic district.

City Code Chapter 104 defines the regulations for fences in Ann Arbor based on three zones, front open space (the first 25' back from the sidewalk based on my zoning district), middle 25 feet (the 25' behind the front open space) and rear yard (remaining area behind the middle space). Since I live in a historic district I had lower limits on the heights allowed in each zone compared to a house outside of one of the historic districts with a 3' at 50% opaque fence allowed in the front, a 6' at 80% opaque fence allowed in the middle and a 6' at 100% opaque fence allowed in the back. Additionally, I had constraints on the style and materials I could use for the fence based on historic appropriateness for the neighborhood.

Operating under these rules I began planning my fence design. The back of my house fell beyond 50' from the sidewalk (meaning it was in the rear yard area) so I thought that would be a natural point to start a 6' privacy fence.

I wanted additional fencing to extend forward from the privacy fence to the front of the house. This fell in the middle space so I could have had a fence that was 6' tall and 80% opaque, but this felt like a little much for the area so I decided on a spindle fence 4' tall and 50% opaque instead. On the north side of my property I simply wanted the spindle fence to edge the property line but on the south side I wanted it to surround my vegetable/herb garden.

Here is an overhead view (I took the map from the county website) of what I was planning for my fence:

On the north side of my property I planned to rip out the chain link fence and replace it with a spindle fence with a privacy fence for the rear. I also planned to eventually put in a gate across the driveway.

On the south side I planned to have the overgrowth removed and replace the chain link fence with a privacy fence.

To block the view from the street I also planned to put up more privacy fence to connect the fence back to the house with an arbor centered on the garden.

I planned to surround the herb and vegetable garden on the side of my house with a spindle fence with a small gate at the front. Please excuse the crazy overgrown garden. I figured I would wait until the new fence went up before cleaning it up and planting for the year.

With my idea worked out I drew up a plan view of my fence and attached it to my application to the building department and historic district along with some example images of my intended fence. I submitted the application at City Hall at the end of May and it was approved at the beginning of June.

Although putting up the fence was something that Frank and I could have done we decided to hire a contractor to put up the fence and so that I could concentrate on working on our downstairs bathroom renovation. I'll leave the story off here for now but I will say that things did not end up going as planned. Stay tuned for the next installment about working with our contractor.

Thursday
Oct162014

Overloaded

Lately I've been feeling overloaded. Work has been crazy with a lot of long hours (nothing says work life balance like rocking out at work on a Friday night past midnight) and I feel like I've been almost permanently out of town with business trips to Charlotte, Japan and Northern Kentucky and a personal trip to New York squeezed in. Although I've made time for some fun during my free time on my work trips, overall I'm feeling a bit exhausted and depleted and looking forward to being at home for a bit. I have a lot to catch up on...

Thursday
Sep112014

9/11 Memorial  

As the United States remembers the terrible events that happened on this date thirteen years ago, I wanted to honor today by sharing my visit to the National September 11 Memorial.

Frank and I went to the Memorial last year while we were in New York during the "Interim Operating Period" when construction on nearby World Trade Center projects surrounded the Memorial. Because of this we had to have ticket reservations and wait in line to enter, however as of May of this year visitors can freely enter the Memorial Plaza during its open hours from 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.

The main feature of the Memorial is two enormous waterfalls and reflecting pools which stand in the location of the original twin towers' footprints. The design was intended to symbolize the loss and void left by the terrorist attacks with the sound of the rushing water drowning out the city noise to create a reflective atmosphere. 

 

The most haunting aspect of the memorial is the bronze plates that surround the pools inscribed with the names of the victims of the 2001 and 1993 attacks on the World Trade Center. You can't help but feel overwhelmed by the devastation and loss of life as you walk around the pools looking at the names. Seeing the words "and her unborn child" after a woman's name was particularly gut wrenching. Visitors left remembrances for loved ones by placing flowers in their names and the park staff honors the victims by leaving them a white rose on their birthdays.

The Museum was dedicated and opened to the public in May of this year, but was still under construction when Frank and I visited.

Among the grove of over 400 swamp white oaks in the Memorial Plaza stands a special callery pear tree known as the Survivor Tree. It was found severely damaged in the rubble of Ground Zero in October 2001 and after its recovery was planted at the Memorial in 2010 serving as a living symbol of perseverance and rebirth.  

Visiting the Memorial was profoundly sad. I have the deepest gratitude to the people who serve our country and my heart goes out to all those whose lives were shattered on that terrible day.

Monday
Aug252014

S'mores Pudding Dessert Cups

Yesterday my group from work got together to have a barbecue. I signed up for making a dessert, however my oven just broke and we don't have a repair technician coming out for a week so I needed to make something that used just my cooktop. Making a pudding seemed like an obvious choice and I though s'mores would be good for a barbecue. Making s'mores inspired pudding is nothing new, but I decided to make my own version using my favorite graham cracker crust and chocolate pudding recipes. 

Ingredients
- 1-1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
- 1/2 cup butter (1 stick), divided
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 3/4 tsp. cinnamon, divided
- 1/4 cup cocoa
- 2 cups sugar, divided
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 3 Tbsp. cornstarch
- 2-1/4 cups milk
- 3 tsp. vanilla, divided
- 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
- 2 egg whites, room temperature
- 1 Tbsp. light corn syrup
- water 

Graham Cracker Crust
- Use food processor or rolling pin to create fine graham cracker crumbs
- Melt 1/3 cup of butter and pour into bowl with graham cracker crumbs, brown sugar and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- Mix up ingredients with a fork and measure out equally into 24 dishes, about 1 Tablespoon each
- Press crust into the bottom of each dish to form bottom crust and refrigerate 

Chocolate Pudding
- Mix together cocoa, salt, cornstarch with 2/3 cup sugar and 1/2 tsp. cinnamon in a saucepan or small pot
- Gradually whisk in milk
- Over medium heat, continuously whisk mixture until it begins boiling
- After whisking for one minute while boiling, remove from heat and stir in remaining butter (2-2/3 Tbsp) and 2 tsp. vanilla
- Evenly divide pudding among the 24 dishes and return dishes to refrigerator 


Marshmallow Fluff Topping
I included the ingredients for the marshmallow fluff topping in the list above for ease of shopping and gathering ingredients, since I used a marshmallow frosting recipe that I found online, I will let people click over for the directions. It was very delicious, however I found the consistency quite soft, so I am more inclined to classify it as a marshmallow fluff instead of frosting. After letting it cool down a bit I piped the topping over the pudding with a large swirl.

To garnish the dessert cups I used some Hershey's miniatures with pieces of graham crackers. To get clean cuts of graham crackers I have found that using a serrated knife works the best.

I think the s'mores pudding dessert cups turned out well and they were really delicious. Definitely a fun treat for a party!