Lizzard Loves Blue Sky Snow Covered Vail

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Belle Plaine Bread - Bread Pudding Muffins Recipe

I love bread pudding muffins.
Lizzard Loves Fresh Cranberry Walnut Apple Bread Pudding Muffins

I love bread pudding that starts with leftover bread that was once delicious, but is now a crusty, rock hard mass that can't be resurrected to its original greatness. Or can it? What if you soak it in liquid and then bake it with a ton of other delightful ingredients? I promise you will never be sad, or feel guilty, about your stale, forgotten bread again.

Since this recipe calls for a good bit of stale bread; do what I do......freeze your mistakes for use later! Saw your stale bread into bite size (or slightly larger) chunks. Beware - crust will fly. You may want to wear safety goggles. Or at least sunglasses. Crusty bread bits in your eye = no fun. Put your stale bread chunks into a zip top freezer bag, ideally with a label on the outside so you don't forget what is inside, and then into the freezer.

Continue adding the bits as you have them - until you've got a full gallon size bag. That will be (roughly) the amount needed for this recipe. 

Cranberry Apple Bread Pudding Muffins
7 c. stale Belle Plaine Bread cubes, cut into bite-sized pieces (Plaine Old White, Half & Half, Seeded, Multigrain, or Cinnamon Raisin Walnut make the most sense to my taste buds).
1 c. half & half or non-dairy alternative (recipe below) If you use the non dairy version, reduce the next ingredient (milk) to 2/3 cup
1 cup milk (dairy, almond, soy, whatever your pleasure)
4 eggs, lightly beaten
2/3 cup sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 tbsp. butter, melted and cooled slightly
3 tbsp. coconut oil, melted and cooled slightly (feel free to use all butter if you don't have coconut oil. It won't effect the outcome other than there won't be a hint of coconut!)
1/3 cup whole wheat OR all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tbsp. grated lemon zest (optional)
1/2 cup dried or fresh cranberries (the muffins will be more tart if you use fresh. Most dried varieties are sweetened to make them more palatable as an "out of the bag" snack).
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
1 small apple, cored and diced 
Raw sugar for sprinkling

1. Heat oven to 350°F. Place rack in middle of oven. Butter or spray with nonstick vegetable spray a 12 cup muffin tin or line with 12 muffin cups. 
2. Place bread cubes in large bowl and add half & half and milk. Let stand 5 minutes. Stir in beaten eggs, sugar, vanilla extract, melted coconut oil and butter.
3. In separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, ground cinnamon, and lemon zest. Stir dried ingredients into bread mixture and then fold in cranberries, walnuts and apple chunks.
4. Evenly divide mixture among muffins cups. Sprinkle with the raw (turbinado) sugar.
5. Bake 30-35 minutes or until golden brown and toothpick comes out clean. Bake 5-10 minutes longer if you like your bread pudding on the drier side. Should you like your bread pudding muffins moist - take them out after 30-35 minutes!
6. Allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove them and place on wire rack to cool completely (or dive in & start enjoying them - who are we kidding here??). 
Lizzard Loves Dried Cranberry Walnut Apple Bread Pudding Muffins

Non-dairy Half & Half
1/2 cup silken tofu
1/2 cup soy milk
Combine in a Vitamix or blender until totally smooth and homogeneous.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Belle Plaine Bread - Care Instructions

I love knowing how to keep things delicious.
Lizzard Loves warm Belle Plaine Bread ready to be delivered

Which is why I want to share how to treat the bread I bake.

Here are the Care Instructions for all varieties of Belle Plaine Bread:

When you get your bread home: Dive right in, if you're hungry! If you can, I recommend toasting your bread ever so slightly. Slice it, toast it in your toaster/toaster oven for a minute or so. If you want to eat/serve the whole loaf: preheat your oven to 300 and warm your bread for 10-20 minutes. Why? Because I stand against room temperature carbs. I think almost any baked good type carb is better warmed up, even slightly. I like the crust to be crispy/crusty (its right there in the name, it should be crusty!). I like my butter/peanut butter/jam/almond butter to get ooey gooey. Its just more delicious. Did I mention cheese? Melty* cheese is better, in almost ever case. Warm bread = melty cheese. I respect if you want to tear into your bread immediately. I'm not judging; I do think that you'll like the bread even more if you eat it warmed up.

Short term storage: Keep your bread out on your counter (cut side down) for 3-5 days as you slice and enjoy it. You can also keep it in the paper bag it came in. Do not store your bread in plastic, it traps moisture, which is the enemy of crispy crust! Your bread will likely become soggy & is much more susceptible to mold (yuck). What, you ask, should I do if my bread feels too hard to eat? Warm it in the oven (at 300 degrees for 15-30 minutes depending on the size of the piece of bread) then slice & enjoy! Toasting the bread will have the same effect - it softens the bread & brings it back to life when you fear you’ve left it out too long.
The paper bag the bread comes in is perfect for short term storage

Long term storage: You can freeze your bread if you are not planning on eating it right away. Leave the bread in the paper bag it came in, then double bag it in plastic zip top bags; to ensure the bread doesn’t taste like your freezer when you are ready to eat it (yuck). When it comes time to eat your bread: remove it from all the packaging and let it defrost overnight on your counter top. Alternatively, preheat your oven to 325 and warm the frozen loaf for 30-45 minutes (depending on your oven). If you have a partial loaf, it will thaw/warm more quickly; 15-20 minutes.

I hope you enjoy your bread. I promise I enjoyed baking it for you! Please do feel free to share your experiences with your bread in the comments. It is great to hear how others eat their bread. Also - feel free to refute my advice above. Any feedback is good feedback!
Lizzard Loves multiple loaves of BPB's Multigrain bread

*People who would like to split hairs will point out that "melty" is not a word. I get it. I don't care. It should be.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Belle Plaine Bread

I love baking bread.
Lizzard Loves BPB's Cheese & Pepper bread
It is with a happy heart I announce the opening of Belle Plaine Bread! I am offering my bread for sale for the first time and have had a positive response so far.
Lizzard Loves Belle Plaine Bread's packaging

First off, thank you so much to those of you who have ordered, it means so much to me that you are patronizing my small business.

Lizzard Loves BPB's Rye bread

Secondly, if you are interested in learning more; please get in touch! Email me at BellePlaineBread (@) with questions. Or, just click here to place an order! You can also visit the Belle Plaine Bread Facebook page.  Finally, you can find Belle Plaine Bread on Pinterest!
Lizzard Loves her husband, who gave her this apron!

I look forward to baking for you. It is something that has always made me happy, starting this tiny little business is a way to spread the happy farther and wider.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Free Seedlings

I love free things.
Lizzard Loves 3 happy chard plants
I do try to keep in mind the phrase "just because its free, doesn't mean its good" but that does not apply in this case.

Chris & I joined a CSA this summer. As much as I've wanted to participate in a CSA, I never have. As with many fun, new things I convinced myself it wouldn't work. We like to travel quite a bit in the summer, so I needed midweek pick up; it seemed like each CSA I saw had weekend pick ups. (We can pick up our box from 6am-9pm on Wednesdays) I worried it would be too expensive. (It costs $36 per week for the box of lovely organic veggies, herbs & fruit. It is 3/4 of a bushel........which meant nothing to me until I saw the size, and felt the heft, of our first week's box. Please let it be stated that the link above doesn't answer the question super clearly - I wanted to give some sense of the size of the box. For example; 3/4 of a bushel of apples is 42-48 pounds! Though I do supplement my CSA box contents with farmers market & grocery store veggies, fruit & herbs - I buy WAY less now. So the cost seems absolutely within the realm of normal. All of this being said; I am so glad I finally took the CSA plunge.

But wait you say. Your post is about "free things" where is the free??

Well, we got an email before our first box of veggies had arrived letting us know we could come to the farm & choose seedlings to take home & plant. The list of available plants looked wonderful to us: sweet corn, tomatoes, kale, fennel, leeks, cucumbers, chard, melons, zucchini, winter squash! Yum, yum, yum. The truly crazy part? They asked you to limit yourself to 150 seedlings. One hundred and fifty! Can you imagine having a garden large enough to put 150 plants in the ground?? I can't, but it is really fun to try. The sky seemed to be the limit for my first ever vegetable garden; but alas & alack, reality set in. We could only plant our little seedlings in pots; not the ground. Not only do we share our backyard with our 5 neighboring units; but last year our building fought (what felt like) an epic battle against rats. This involved baiting/trapping/poisoning. Ew. It made Chris & I distrust the quality of soil in our little urban backyard, so we were limited to putting our plants into 3 pots.

We left with 2 varieties of tomato (zephyr & new girl), 3 chard plants, and 2 cucumber plants. We also took several plants to give to my parents & my brother's family - because they have nice soil not affected by any rodent battles!

Bottom line, I have no idea how the plants will do in pots; but its not the biggest deal if the exercise is a huge fail! I had such a great time visiting our farm, selecting our seedlings, & playing in the dirt; it will be OK if I don't eat any homegrown veggies this summer/fall. Fingers crossed that some of it works though - it would be really fun!
Lizzard Loves tomatoes (L) and 2 little cucumbers (R)
Do you garden? Do you have any thoughts to share? Do you grow from seeds or seedlings? 
Any tips for a first timer? Do you purchase anything to help you along? 
I, as a reforming brown thumb, would love any input you have!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Herb Garden

I love my little backyard herb garden.

Lizzard Loves this backyard herb garden
I am trying (somewhat desperately) to banish my brown thumb for good. I use the anthem "Brown thumb; be gone!" as I scramble to keep my plants alive. This is the first year I've tried to grow more than one thing....last year I had 1 pot of basil; things have progressed from there.

Lizzard Loves this dill flower
This year I have tried basil, cilantro, dill, lavender, parsley,  and chives in hanging pots in the backyard. No, I did not start them from much as I'd love to do that- I don't have the confidence yet. So far, I have killed the dill (except 1 wonderful little plant that I have let flower. I didn't have the heart to harvest any of it- it was a survivor! The rest of the plant died off when the spring in Chicago called to mind our winter of the Polar Vortex).

Lizzard Loves the first lavender harvest

Lizzard Loves chopped cilantro and happy basil

Lizzard Loves crazy chives and lavender

I neglected the cilantro to the point that it went to flower & I chopped it all off. Unlike the dill who shares pot space with parsley (which is thriving), the cilantro shares with basil. I was willing to cut down the cilantro in favor of some delicious bruschetta and pesto in my future!! Chives & lavender cohabitate quite nicely, they are both getting along quite well.

I would LOVE any gardening tips or tricks you might be able to share in the comments! What do you grow? What works? A great friend told me to bring my herbs inside when the weather dipped below 55 degrees (this seems to have helped- except that poor dill!). I know I need to pick off the buds/flowers if I want the herbs to continue to produce deliciously. What else do you swear by for your herb garden? Thanks in advance for your thoughts!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Walnut, Date & Chocolate Scones

I love scones.
Lizzard Loves chocolate, dates & walnuts
If you've been reading my blog for awhile, you already knew this about me. Scones are a perfect pastry that can be made 1,000 different ways. Sweet? Savory? Crunchy? Soft? Indulgent? Quasi healthy? A scone can wear all those hats. Who doesn't love something so versatile? Did I mention it is a pastry? I am a sucker for a delicious pastry. 

Since I am thoroughly obsessed with scones, it would make sense that I am constantly on the lookout for new scone recipes. A couple of weeks ago I tried the new bacon date scone at Blue Sky Bakery. Not shockingly, it was delectable. The mix of sweet and salty will get me every single time. Side note- Blue Sky Bakery is one of those places that deserves to be visited by every northsider. It has awesome food, offers catering, has a cute cafe for enjoying their baked goodness or for private events and has a larger mission to offer job training to homeless teens in Chicago. Honestly - what could be better than a delicious bakery? A delicious bakery that is doing its thing to support teens who truly need it. Check it out, you will not be sorry!

There I go again, getting sidetracked. Blue Sky Bakery's bacon & date scone was still on my mind last week, so I wanted to take a stab at it. I didn't have bacon though.........and I didn't have buttermilk, which I need for my "go to" scone recipe. The world wide webs to the rescue again.

I adapted the recipe I found at Vegan Baking Mama's blog to my tastes and to what I had in my kitchen. Check out her original recipe & other delicious offerings at her blog. These are far sweeter than most scones I make, including the ones linked above. The combination of  dates and milk chocolate make for a great combination, but it is also very sweet! If you would like to try these but don't love sweet pastries, swap in dark chocolate, reduce the dates to 1/3 cup and increase the walnuts to 1 cup. I am so happy with the crisp edges and chunky texture these scones have. They have an awesome chew to them as well. Sigh. I do really love scones.

Walnut Date & Chocolate Scones
Makes about a dozen scones

2 cups whole wheat flour
3/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup ground flax seeds
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold butter
3/4 cup pitted dates, roughly chopped
3/4 cup toasted walnuts, roughly chopped
7oz milk chocolate, roughly chopped
3/4 cup soy milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. Line 2 baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mats.
2. In a large bowl, mix the flour, oats, sugar, flax, salt & baking powder.
3. Cut in the butter using a knife in each hand, a pastry cutter, or your fingers. If you use your fingers- work fast do you don't melt the butter! You should have a crumbly mixture with small pieces of butter remaining.
4. Mix in the dates, walnuts and chocolate.
5. Add the soy milk and vanilla and gently mix until incorporated.
6. Using a 1/3 cup measuring cup, scoop out the dough and place it on the prepared baking sheets.
7. Put the baking sheets into the refrigerator to chill for 30 minutes.
8. While the dough is chilling, preheat your oven to 350 degrees and wash some dishes if you're feeling particularly motivated! 
9. Bake the scones for 20-22 minutes, rotating the baking sheets halfway through cooking time. The scones will brown at the edges and on top when they're done!
10. Slide the scones onto a wire rack to cool, then enjoy.  
Lizzard Loves Walnut Date & Chocolate Scones

I love "springing forward" and spring food

I love the first signs of spring. 

Lizzard Loves signs of spring
Daylight Savings Time is one of those signs; the light in the evening has been such a mood booster for the past week. Our 50+ degree days with sunshine haven't hurt either. Admittedly these days have been interrupted with snow and overnight lows in the teens, but I am not letting that get me down!

It makes me laugh every time I see Chicagoans wearing shorts when the mercury rises above 50 degrees for the first time each spring. I tell myself "only in Chicago" but I wonder - do other Midwestern cities react with similarly misplaced joy?? Please note, I am as thrilled as the next person to have the sun shine on my bare face - but 52 degrees does not shorts weather make :)

Lizzard Loves signs of spring
Another sure sign of Spring? My favorite little monkeys busting out their bikes (while one was wearing snow pants- but that is not getting him down- so why would I worry about it?)

The running around the city without coats on is another surefire way of knowing warmer weather has arrived (see top of the post for that photo :). I love spending time outside with my nephews; but the polar vortexes made it pretty difficult to enjoy the outdoors in January & February. Thank goodness March has brought weather warm enough to play outside!
Lizzard Loves signs of spring

Perhaps the best indicator of impending springtime is seen in my kitchen. I am quick to look for recipes that are brightly colored and chock full of fresh veggies like peas and asparagus. Admittedly, my desire to celebrate the first signs of elusive springtime weather in Chicago precedes the availability of local asparagus and other delicious spring veggies at the farmers market. Sometimes I need to buy produce from California. There, I admitted it.

Last week's effort at a new recipe was a success. I adapted the recipe below from Veggie Num Num (find their delicious recipe here). Neither Chris nor I are vegetarian or vegan , so it wasn't important to me to follow the recipe exactly as it was written. The adjustments I made were both for flavor & our current eating habits. Feel free to omit the chicken for a vegan recipe! I know we will eat this dish in a meatless version at some point; whether for a Meatless Monday or a Friday during Lent, or just because we often make an effort to eat less meat.

Pasta with Spinach, Avocado & Pea Pesto
Makes 5-6 servings
1/2 cup toasted walnuts, roughly chopped
2 cup English peas (I used the ones in Trader Joe's refrigerated case)
1.5 avocados 
3 cup baby spinach
4 cloves garlic, peeled
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt & black pepper, to taste

10 oz package penne, rotini, or pasta of your choice. I used buckwheat spaghetti because its what I had in the pantry.

12 oz fresh haricot verts (French green beans). I bought them at Trader Joe's, Costco also sells them. Feel free to substitute (or just add) peas, asparagus, or other veggies you like. Regular green beans would be just fine here- I like how thin the haricot verts are.

2 cups reserved cooking liquid from the pasta (just in case)

1/8 - 1/4 cup toasted walnuts, roughly chopped  (for garnish)

1/2 cup baby spinach leaves (for garnish)

8-10 oz cooked chicken breast (I didn't have time to prep the chicken the night I made this- so I bought the precooked chicken breast at Trader Joe's. I don't like it nearly as much as chicken cooked at home, but I was in a bind & used what was available. This recipe would be a great way to repurpose leftover chicken from another meal!)

1. Set a large pasta pot with at least 6 quarts of water on the stove to boil.

2. While you wait for the pasta water to boil; bring 3 cups of water to boil in a small pot. Add the peas, cook for 1-2 minutes. Drain & set aside to cool.

3. Cook the pasta according to the package instructions. Scoop out your 2 cups of cooking water before you drain the pasta. Dump the pasta back into the cooking pot to keep it warm. Or use this kind of pot (I have it & love it).

4. Cut the haricot verts in half or thirds, depending on your preference. Place the beans in a steamer basket. Cover the bottom of a pan with an inch or 2 of water. Add the steamer basket to the pan, cover & turn the heat to medium high. Steam the beans for approximately 8 minutes, turn off the heat and leave the pan covered to allow the beans to finish cooking.

5. While the beans are cooking, you have time to make your sauce. (I used my VitaMix to make the sauce, but a regular blender should be able to do the trick too!) Toss the spinach, roughly chopped walnuts, peeled garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, avocados, and a generous pinch of kosher salt into the pitcher of your blender. Pulse until the mixture turns to liquid and then puree until it is smooth. If you are struggling to get it to blend, add more lemon juice & olive oil in small increments until it is loose enough to puree. Should you have a VitaMix, feel free to toss a 1/4 of a lemon in instead of just the juice. I removed the outer peel because I didn't feel like scrubbing it. I picked out the seeds I could see before adding it.

6. Add the beans, cooked chicken, and sauce to the pasta pot (where your cooked pasta should be patiently waiting). Turn the heat to low and toss the ingredients to combine them. If the sauce is too thick to coat the pasta well, add the reserved liquid 1/4 cup at a time until you reach your desired consistency.

7. If you are feeling fancy, pour the pasta into a serving dish & garnish with the walnuts & spinach leaves. If it is a regular weeknight; portion the pasta into bowls & garnish it there :) The walnuts do add a nice crunch - so don't skip this step!

8. Once you've enjoyed the fruits of your cooking labors & are cleaning up the kitchen - cover & refrigerate any leftover cooking liquid from the pasta. If you plan to eat this dish warm again; add a couple of tablespoons of the liquid before you warm it up to ensure it doesn't dry out! I assume this would be a delicious cold dish, but given the snowstorm that visited Chicago the day after I made this dish; I ate the leftovers warm.
Lizzard Loves the color, texture and taste of this pasta.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Running Into Frozen Lake Michigan

I love submerging myself into frigid water whilst dressed as a banana.
Lizzard Loves running into Lake Michigan in March!
OK, that is a lie. 

The actual act of dunking myself in the sandy, 32 degree water of Lake Michigan was relatively awful. 

Lizzard Loves being out of that frigid puddle of water

I do love the craziness of it. 

Lizzard Loves friends old & new dressed as bananas
I love the fundraising for Special Olympics Chicago. It is such a great cause. I love that 20 of our friends & family members helped us raise more than $900 for Special Olympians in our area.

I love dressing up like a banana with my husband, best friend & a bunch of new friends. 

Lizzard Loves friends old & new dressed as bananas
I love that my husband & I borrowed 2 yellow turtlenecks & old school ties from my Dad to do this Polar Plunge.
Lizzard Loves borrowed clothes
 I love that #SwimmyFallon was goaded into participating in this year's Polar Plunge by our mayor. I particularly love the expression on his face as he exited the water.

Lizzard Loves Jimmy Fallon

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Long lunch on a rainy day

I love long lunches.

Lizzard Loves Homegrown Cafe
It is wonderful to luxuriate in a delicious midday meal with a great friend while the weather outside is positively frightful. I went to Homegrown Cafe * today and was sucked into their cozy atmosphere, great coffee and comfort food. My friend and I dined & chatted for over 2 hours. We shared the breakfast burrito & the short rib sandwich which were both prepared beautifully (and there was not a fried egg in sight, much to my delight!). The meal was the perfect way to warm up after a rainy walk over! It made me quite happy that the chef/owner of Homegrown waited on us and allowed us to overstay our "meal time" while continuing to provide excellent service. 
Did I mention the sugar cubes? They don't do sugar shakers or sugar packets. Brown and white sugar cubes. It's the little things, right? I don't usually put sugar in my coffee; but when offered sugar cubes- I gladly make an exception! I've said it before, but I'll say it again - make a point to visit this restaurant. You will be so happy you did.
*Note about this link; the owners of this wonderful place closed their previous venture, Chalkboard Restaurant, & opened Homegrown Cafe in the same physical space- so don't get thrown by the link's title :) You are heading to the right website!

When this is the weather situation, it is easy to want to stay inside!

Lizzard Loves Chicago. Even with this weather.
You know what I also love? My rain boots. They allowed me to walk about a mile to lunch & arrive with dry feet even though it was pouring rain. They allowed me to walk off my vague feelings of guilt after throwing back not 1, but 2 slices of King Cake 1 hour before I had lunch plans. I love that my friend sent us another King Cake this year; here is the post about it from last year.

Lizzard Loves these rain boots.
The weather today is quite insane, even though my boots are knee high, I waded through a puddle that almost flooded them. Yikes. Though it may also be insane, somehow I still love this city. I love that when I was walking up Lincoln Ave on the way to lunch - it was bustling. In a foggy, flooded, rainstorm kind of day; people were out & about, just doing their thing. Only 1 person I passed was scowling & that may have had
more to do with the shouting match she was having on her cell phone than with the weather. It makes me so pleased to live in a place where people are so grateful for a 50 degree day in the midst of multiple polar vortexes that they are walking around outside despite of the torrential downpour of rain which accompanied the "heat wave".

Monday, February 17, 2014

Valentine's Day

I love Valentine's Day.
Lizzard Loves Valentine's Day cards

I love the excuse to make & write cards to people I love. Although, who am I kidding, I really don't need an excuse for that!

I love the reminder to tell Chris I love him all day long.

Lizzard Loves Vday dinner at home
I love that our main tradition for this day is to order Thai takeout from our favorite Thai place and eat at home. I love that Chris & I agree heartily on avoiding the crowds on this holiday. I appreciate that we were both too burnt out on Thai food to want anymore this week; so I cooked for us instead. I love mixing up our fancy china & crystal with our funky new placemats from Thailand and our everyday silverware. I love that the flower on the table was a gift from my sister in law (I'm sure it was from my brother too :)

I love receiving Valentines (I usually get them from Chris, my little monkey nephews, my sister & my parents which is just great. This year was a total bonus because we got one from our niece too! That one featured dinosaurs, which was a double bonus). I encourage you to send Valentine's Day cards. I get it, we are days past actual Valentine's Day. But, it doesn't matter! Write a belated card. The cards are probably all on sale now anyway (bonus!). Can you think of a friend or family member or loved one who could use a pick me up? I am guessing you can............and I would guess they would love to receive a Valentine from you. Its just a thought, but it is the little things, right??

Lizzard Loves heart decorated bread

I love heart shaped things, because making things into heart shapes makes them more fun. I wish I could say I baked the bread with the heart shape, but alas & alack - it is from the delicious Simple Bakery. Check it out; I promise you won't be disappointed (although don't get confused- they changed their name from Sweet House of Madness to Simple Bakery - I don't want anyone to think it is a misdirected link). 

Lizzard Loves heart shaped pancakes

The pancakes turned out really well, I got the idea from this video, compliments of Food & Wine (which is a magazine I absolutely love!) Chris liked the pancakes, as did my nephews. I really liked them, but how can you not like something with cake in the name that is served as breakfast?? Riddle me that.

I hope you & yours had a good Valentine's Day. I hope you take me up on my belated Valentine's Day card challange. Let me know in the comments if you send (or receive!) any cards! Remember what Ghandi said: "You must be the change you wish to see in the world"

Sunday, February 16, 2014


I love elephants.
Lizzard Loves feeding "my" elephant a basket of bananas
After a recent visit to Thailand, this love was reignited at Patara Elephant Farm located just outside the city of Chiang Mai.
Chris getting to know "his" elephant
A few fun facts we learned while at the farm:
-Elephants only sweat in one place. Can you guess where? Their cuticles!
Lizzard Loves elephant feet and facts
-If an elephant is healthy, it will sleep laying down on one side for about 35 minutes, stand up for about 10 minutes, then shift and sleep laying down on the other side for about 35 minutes. It doesn't sound particularly restful to me...but it seems to work for them.
Lizzard Loves elephant wet nurses
-Elephant babies (calves) will nurse from their own mother, but also other mothers in their herd. Other mothers will function like wet nurses if a calf's mother is not immediately available. Talk about teamwork.

Lizzard Loves Chris riding "his" elephant!
Chris & I thought this farm was incredibly well run, it was working on conservation/increasing the elephant population, education and FUN. Well, maybe fun isn't in their mission statement- but spending an afternoon at the farm was easily one of the highlights of our trip! How could feeding, washing, and riding on elephants be considered anything short of awesome?
Lizzard Loves getting a shower from elephants
Oh, and a shower. I forgot to mention that the elephants got a chance for payback! We had spent sometime scrubbing & rinsing them off in the river, then the staff told us to line up for family photos. Which was their excuse to have the elephants spray water all over us. I couldn't stop laughing, it was such a silly thing really. To have a river water shower from the trunks of elephants?? Likely a once in a lifetime thing for me :)

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Unique friends

I love the postcard I got in the mail this week.
Lizzard Loves this postcard.

It made me so glad for a myriad of reasons, not the least of which is I like the couple announcing their wedding VERY much! Chris & I went a far more traditional route in our engagement/wedding announcements and I was (& am) quite happy with how we did things. When I found this postcard in my mailbox though, I was reminded yet again of how many unique ways there are to do EVERYTHING!! I love that my friends did their wedding their own way, I love their cheeky postcard, I love them together as a couple. 

In a world where so many of us spend so much time fretting about what everybody else is doing, my friends postcard was a lovely breath of fresh (frigid) January air. As much as I can, I am striving in 2014 to be me, without the fretting, comparing, and worrying that I am sometimes susceptible to. I wonder if others have similar "resolutions" in 2014? Share in the comments if the mood strikes!

Cheers to my newlywed friends; to many many years of wedded happiness.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Quiet snowy mornings

I love Chicago in the winter.

Lizzard Loves Snowy Chicago Days and Nights
I love the snow! I don't mind the cold, because I love bundling up in my warm clothes. I love the way a cold, snowy, gray day can inspire us to hunker down in our cozy apartment. But I also love going out to explore the quiet beauty Chicago has to offer while getting walloped by snow.

We had a great mix of the two during the snow storm precursor to the polar vortex's arrival which quickly turned our city into Chiberia.

We went to Gene's Sausage Shop to shop for stocking stuffers (we were somewhat belated in our Christmas celebration....) and I was struck again by how much I enjoy that store. If you haven't visited- please take the time to do so. It is a Lincoln Square institution, offers a crazy amount of delicious beer in the 2nd floor, makes & sells delicious soft pretzels, stocks a get selection of our favorite gummy candy brand Haribo, has a chocolate bar section that is literally amazing, to say nothing of the actual deli counter. The deli counter is chock full of encased meats, (it is a sausage shop after all :) plus a solid assortment of normal meat/cheese. Alas, fresh encased meat does not a stocking stuffer make, so we didn't venture there on our recent visit. Winter or not, quiet snowy morning or hot summer day; Gene's is worth a stop.

Lizzard Loves her husband,books & coffee
Next up, The Book Cellar, a local book shop. Shocking I know- but yes indeed- you can still buy honest to goodness books in real stores! I am embarrassed to admit after living approximately a mile and a half from this place (for over 5 years!) I didn't venture in until this past weekend. Major neighborhood fail on my part. I suppose better late than never applies in this case. Cozy chairs in the front window afforded us access to beautiful books and magazines along with the view of the snow swirling around outside their front windows. Hot coffee and friendly folks behind the counter rounded out a perfect neighborhood stop.

Finally home to celebrate Christmas with more coffee, a good breakfast, and an immense amount of snow.
Lizzard Loves "Christmas" breakfast at home

On a related note, has anyone else noticed (and/or appreciated) how much the snow brings out the city's friendliest side? I find that I chat much more to the waitress, bartender, & shop clerk than I do on a regular day. Many of you know that I am, by nature, quite chatty- so this is saying something! I notice it in other people too. Just walking around our neighborhood I am offered many more hellos during a snowstorm than I am on an average weather day. Maybe because the sidewalks shrink to a 12 inch wide passable stretch, or maybe we all join in the feeling of "we're all in this together", or maybe its something else entirely. Bottom line; I like being "in this together" with you Chicago. I am happy & proud to live here, even in the cold & snow, scratch that, especially in the cold & snow.