Your offering pleases me.

There are squirrels who like to visit my garage. In the mornings, I have to give my garage door a little yank so I don’t end up with an armful of squirrely biting when I open it up. I often hear them scampering off before I open the door.

This morning, I opened the door and waiting for me right by the hole where they come in, was a sprig of fake flowers!

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(Apologies for the blurry picture – it was early and I don’t think Richard was quite awake yet.)

Very thoughtful of them. It was gone when I got home from work, so some squirrel has a very well decorated nest!

ETA: They brought them back! The next morning, the flowers were waiting for me in almost the same, exact place!

 

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TA DA!

Done!

Kind of. I thought the books with brightly colored spines would take up the whole shelf space in my living room. Alas, there are more black, white, off-white, and multi-colored spines than I thought and I’m left with nearly two empty shelves still! I’m thinking I’ll finish them off with black books to make the colorful books pop more, but I haven’t decided what to do with the rest of my books that go on the shelves in my bedroom. If I’m not careful it’ll look really bland and dark in there!

And if you want to see me put these all together, here’s a video! I was thwarted by my technology (I couldn’t get far enough away with my iPhone to video the whole width of the shelves and it cut out while I was doing the blue books and I didn’t realize it until I was done with them. Boo, Richard III!), but it took me long enough to do it that I’m going to make you watch!

Or at least give you the option of watching. Hope you like it!

If you see any out of place books, feel free to give a shout – I mostly just wanted to get them on the shelves and up off the floor, so I did it pretty quickly. I expect I’ll spend the next month or so staring at it while I watch TV and leaping up to adjust a book here and there…

ETA: Is it me or does the back of my pink shirt look like an angry face?!

It’s going to get worse before it gets better…

It’s like doing one of those little shifty tile puzzles in here. I’ve just gotta keep my head down, my game face on, and power through these bastards!

Keep your fingers crossed that I have a finished project to show you tomorrow, otherwise it may mean the books have become sentient and taken over my apartment during the night.

Happy birthday, Mom!

Except her birthday was actually on the 10th. I told her happy birthday then, don’t worry, but we didn’t celebrate with cupcakes until yesterday and I didn’t want to give away the surprise by posting about them until now. I made Grapefruit Cupcakes with Honeyed Italian Meringue Buttercream. It wasn’t until I was halfway through that I realized I was actually making Ina’s Lemon Yoghurt Cake that I made two weeks ago just with the lemon zest and juice replaced with grapefruit zest and juice! Because I’d made that cake, I didn’t have the yoghurt to make this cake. So I used buttermilk instead and it seems to have worked all right.

I can’t taste much grapefruit flavor, though, which is a little disapointing given how lemony the lemon version of this cake is, but it’s still a perfectly acceptable cupcake. The recipe calls for Italian meringue buttercream which I’ve attempted in the past, usually to mixed results. I seem to have overcome my troubles with it this time, though, and got it right off the bat! I even, as you can see, made an attempt at frosting a pretty flower (it’s the technique of the Wilton rose, but I don’t think it looks much like a rose the way I’ve mangled it) – somehow the first one I tried looked the best.

Not as bad as I feared they might be, but I still need practice. When are we going to take that cake decorating course, Mom!

Tagliatelle, penne…same difference!

Next on my recent tour of pastas was Tagliatelle with New Potatoes, Green Beans, and Pesto. I couldn’t find tagliatelle at the market and couldn’t remember what it was like – from the picture where I found the recipe, it looks like I should have chosen fettuccine? But I don’t have a good track record with fettuccine, so I went with penne instead. Pasta is pasta – I’m not a connoisseur yet.

I ended up making my own pesto – I was planning on making the spinach one that goes with this recipe, but I didn’t have spinach, so I ended up throwing in what I did have which was probably two bunches of flat leaf parsley and one bunch of cilantro with garlic and parmesan. It was okay – I think it was a bit bland because I didn’t have as much stuff as I should have to balance out the olive oil. It needs the bulk of the spinach.

Thank you, Google Translate!

Because without you, I wouldn’t have discovered this delicious cake because I, alas, don’t speak Russian. It’s a cake with vermouth and grapes, of all things. I was intrigued, to say the least, and since I had grapes left over from my pizza earlier, this seemed like a good way to use them up.

It was very yummy – the vermouth really brings out the sweetness of the grapes! Just one tip – don’t try to be extra clever like I did. The poster of the recipe said that instead of tossing the grapes with the tablespoon of flour, she just poked them into the batter after it had been poured into the cake pan. ‘Silly poster,’ I thought, ‘they’ll all just sink straight to the bottom of the cake if you don’t toss them in the flour.’ And on I went on my merry way.

Except that since you just set them into the batter which will become the bottom of the cake once it’s turned out of the pan, you actually do want them to sink to the bottom (which will become the top) of the cake! So either toss them in flour and then fold them in prior to pouring the batter into the pan or leave both those steps out and then just sort of poke them into the batter once it’s in the pan. It was still good, but it resulted in the bottom of the cake being extra soggy since it just sits in the juice from the grapes.

Learn from my mistakes!

Looks fancy, doesn’t it?

I tend to stick with my trusty farfalle, but this past week I’ve gone a bit off the rails in pasta experimentations!First up was (Artichoke) Heart-Stuffed Shells in a Ricotta Sauce:

I usually love Smitten Kitchen’s recipes, though it now occurs to me to wonder whether or not I’ve ever made any of her savory dishes because this…didn’t really impress me as much as her recipes for baked goods usually do. It was an awful lot of work for not a lot of flavor. I salted everything as I went and it was still very bland. I felt like it needed crushed red pepper flakes somewhere along the way or at least some lemon zest to brighten things up. I would add both the next time I make this – except that I also wasn’t crazy about the texture of the filling.

Jillian, you’ve made stuffed shells, right? Do you have a go-to recipe? Does Giada have one you’d recommend?