This Saturday morning, I finally visited Paula’s Donuts.

Around here, everyone seems to agree that Paula’s are the best.  However, there are only two locations, both of which are in the Northtowns.  Serious bummer.  (Or necessary obstacle, due to my severe lack of self-control around sweets.)

As chance would have it, I scheduled a dinner date with some of our friends in Kenmore Friday night, and it also just happened that two of the four of us had to also be at the Niagara Falls Reserve Station at 9 a.m. the following morning.  Andrew Bair, a dear friend from ROTC, and I were scheduled to do our semi-annual muster (a.k.a. paperwork), so I arranged to spend the night at their place after we wrapped up our evening.

After both Andrews, Liza and myself enjoyed Greek food, some Elmwood Avenue-walking and Vera Pizzaria cocktails (a blog post itself!), I said goodbye to Andrew and settled in on their air mattress.  (Admittedly strange staying without one’s spouse when you’re just 20 miles away, but it made sense.)

So, the next morning, the least we could do was stop off at Paula’s, which is just down the road from their home.


I don’t know that they’re famous for any particular flavor or type of donut–just that they ARE famous and the line forming as early as 7:30 on a Saturday proves that.


I’ve actually had Paula’s once before when a teacher brought them to school for us, but I’d never been there myself.  I do, however, remember their Red Velvet donuts and knew THAT was the flavor I’d be getting.  Or at least one of the flavors…

20140722-081552-29752647.jpgAnother favorite donut flavor of mine is Sour Cream, so I opted to try one of those, too.  The picture doesn’t lie; these donuts are pretty large and their crumb is just phenomenal.  Let’s just say that their texture and flavor makes eating a Dunkin’ Donut taste like a sponge.  Seriously.  (And I actually LIKE Dunkin’!)

I was good and only ate half of each…and of course bagged up the rest for later.



I just cannot even stress how good these are.  I may or may not be planning a repeat visit sometime in next month ;)

Last week, I brought dinner to a family in our Bible study who just had their first baby, little Parker.  I tell you what–I loved every second I held that little boy in my arm!  What a cutie :)

I wish I could say my ‘meal effort’ was completely sacrificial, but there were elements that were self-serving; namely the dessert and breakfast recipes I included!  I realized bringing this meal would check all three of my ‘boxes:’

1. trying a new recipe

2. giving away most of it so I don’t have to eat it all

3. no pressure on Andrew to eat something he won’t want/doesn’t like

Can I just say I still can’t believe I have to deal with #3, but, such is my lot in life.  I suppose his numerous other (actually important) qualities overcome his pickiness.

Anyway, so I immediately went to my trusty casserole–the only one I make–as their dinner entree.  It’s super easy, super tasty and actually something I felt they might make again.  It’s called ‘Kim’s Casserole,’ after my mom who made it for us once she joined the family.  I think this might have been the only casserole we had growing up, and I’m kind of surprised SHE made it.  I almost wonder if she made it up; I’ve never seen or heard of any other recipe like it.

Kim’s Casserole

1 box Uncle Ben’s Long Grain and Wild Rice (I use the quick-cooking version–why not??)

1 can Cream of Mushroom soup (grab the healthiest one you can find)

8-12 oz. ground sausage (I use Jimmy Dean Reduced Fat 12 oz. package)

1. Prepare rice and brown sausage.

2. Mix cooked rice, ground sausage and soup in a bowl. Transfer to a baking dish–8×8–and cook in a 350 degree oven until edges brown (about 20 minutes).



Please note that casserole MUST BE SERVED WITH CINNAMON APPLES.


They can be canned, frozen, homemade–I don’t care–but you absolutely must serve them with cinnamon apples.  And preferably near/next to/on top of each other.  You’ve just got to try a bite of casserole and a bite of apples together.  Heavenly.

It’s easy enough to cook down some apple slices with a little cinnamon and brown sugar, but the canned variety works well, too:


The dietician in me wants to recommend a green vegetable as a side (I provided our friends with a steam-in-the-bag snap peas) but to be honest with you, I have absolutely no recollection of what other vegetable we had with this meal growing up.  And to be even more honest, I can’t even really pinpoint one I feel ‘goes’ with this dish at all, but please, for the love, have something healthy with this.

And because I couldn’t pass up a chance to make cheesecake, (and I knew cheesecake it also our friends’ favorite dessert) I whipped up these babies to take along with dinner:



They are, hands down, the easiest cheesecakes you may ever make.  (Unless, of course, you’re using a pre-made crust and a box of something…but then you aren’t really making anything, are you?)

I mean, when it’s this easy, why bother with a box?!  Crush some grahams, mix them with a tiny bit of melted butter and bake in muffin tins.  Mix up some reduced-fat cream cheese, greek yogurt, sugar and lemon zest, add in some plain gelatin and presto!  After a few hours setting in the fridge, you have individual cheesecakes that are healthy and truly homemade.

And because I’m SUPER AMBITIOUS (and I read somewhere that bringing a new mom and dad breakfast is always a nice touch–the source of course recommended bagels), I decided to whip up some waffles they could toss in their freezer!  Again, totally self-serving; I’d been wanting to try this Maple Oat Waffle recipe from my Good to the Grain cookbook for awhile now.  AND Andrew made a fuss about not getting Eggo Waffles after seeing them in this couples’ freezer AND he made a fuss about me not making waffles often enough.  (He’s just strangle-worthy sometimes, I tell you!)

So, I’ll just show HIM.

The recipe calls for oat flour and maple syrup and I may have nibbled on some of the edges just enough to verify that they are, indeed, wonderful.

It starts out with separated eggs, and you add the whipped whites to the rest of the mix in two parts:



Now fold them in gently:



Then add the other half of the whites and fold them in gently, too.



Bake in a waffle iron (I used the #2 setting) until the timer goes off and allow each waffle to cool completely on a rack (if not serving immediately).  I went so far as to freeze them on a single layer in the freezer before packaging them up:


Six for them, six for us!

Do yourself a favor and make one of these–any of them–today!


I have a pretty good story about French Onion Soup.  You know the soup I’m talking about–it’s on every menu on the planet and features softened onions, giant croutons and gooey cheese on top.  EVERYONE knows what French Onion Soup is.

Anyway, so Andrew (who greatly dislikes *most* cheese and insists he’s lactose intolerant) ordered himself the ‘onion soup’ while we dined at a little bistro while in FRANCE a couple years back.  It didn’t hit me until the waitress left that the onion soup on the menu was most likely FRENCH ONION SOUP, since we were, you know, IN FRANCE.

Sure enough, Andrew’s soup arrived covered in cheese and swirled throughout the onions.  Apparently in France, it’s just known as ‘onion soup.’  Good grief.

Which brings me to point of this post: I made French Onion Soup last night.  More accurately, I made Ellie Krieger’s Triple Onion Soup, which is found in her book, Comfort Food Fix.



It turned out quite well and, despite Andrew’s severe case of a summer cold he’s fighting off right now, was enjoyed by both of us.  I omitted the bread topping (I didn’t feel like it and Andrew wouldn’t have appreciated homemade croutons in his sickly state) and, of course, only put cheese on my bowl.  I’ve made French Onion Soup before and not been a huge fan, but this particular recipe worked.  Next time you have an abundance of onions (like we did after we both bought bags of them at the grocery store unbeknownst to the other), give it a try!

On Saturday, we met up with one of Andrew’s co-workers and her dog, Deiter, at our local dog park.  Despite the park being within WALKING DISTANCE (not realistically, but it really is pretty close), we’ve only been there a couple time since it opened last year.  World’s worst dog-parents, right here.

Anyway, we always joke about Hadrian being a ‘sidekick’ dog; he’s Robin to everyone else’s Batman.  Seriously, a leader he is NOT.  He’s either hanging by us, off picking daisies somewhere else, and only rarely does he really get into the larger pack.  Clearly, he needs more socialization.  Or, he’s just not that into them.

It is, however, breathtaking to watch him run around in the group, galloping like a horse.  Let’s just say he gets A LOT of attention no matter where we are.  On the one hand, it’s pretty awesome having the coolest dog in the village…but if I hear another ‘saddle’ comment, I might go berserk.  I digress.

Hadrian had a great time, we enjoyed socializing with other dog-owners, and I’m glad I wore sunscreen.  Enjoy!  Hadrian sure did :)






A number of years ago–like four–I pulled one of those ‘Almost Famous’ copycat recipes out of Food Network magazine and have literally been holding on to it for years.  FOR FOUR YEARS. (How, in those four years, I haven’t managed to make it I don’t know, but that’s another blog post in itself.)

They were for Cinnabon’s Cinnamon Rolls.

In an effort to show Andrew my undying devotion and love, I’ve started throwing caution to the wind and NOT making something healthy for breakfast on Saturday mornings…if I make breakfast at all on Saturday mornings. I figured that since I dictate 98% of what we eat around here (most of which are things he may not prefer, like beans or homemade salmon burgers), I could lighten up a bit on weekend breakfasts.  That, and he made it clear he didn’t want ‘experimentation’ recipes on Saturday mornings…


I recently whipped out the very worn magazine page and–despite having to stay up until 1 a.m. that night to prep them–I was able to present Andrew with these around 9 a.m. Saturday morning:


They were, in a word, delicious.

Of course they were.  They were loaded with butter and sugar and eggs.   In order to make them a bit more calorically manageable, I made 12 smaller rolls instead of the 6 large rolls the recipe called for.  I baked 6 that morning and wrapped the other 6 in plastic for another time.  I mean, who is really going to eat just one ooey-gooey cinnamon roll, straight from the oven??  Might as well make them smaller rather than larger, I say.

Overall, I can’t say these were exactly like Cinnabon’s treats, mostly because it’s been so long since I’ve had one I don’t even remember what they taste like!  I seem to recall Cinnabon’s rolls having a cream cheese frosting, while the one in the recipe was a traditional butter/sugar/cream mixture.

Can’t wait to enjoy the second half of the batch sometime soon!


Despite eschewing just about every form of knick-knack, I’ve fallen head-over-heels in love with these ‘Home Grown’ fruit and veggie animals I keep seeing at Vidler’s.  I’ve wanted to buy them for months now, stopping myself only upon remembering that I really DON’T like clutter and other dust-catching objects.  So I sighed and passed them by each time.


I had an epiphany and realized they would be PERFECT for the shelves in the second guest room.  No, MORE than perfect.  I snapped photos of the particular creatures I wanted, planning to try to convince Andrew we absolutely needed them.  At $14.99 each, they’re reasonable…and so stinkin’ cute!

Thankfully, I didn’t have to convince Andrew of anything, since I found them on Amazon and used a gift card I’d gotten from my birthday to purchase three of them.  They arrived a couple days ago and I couldn’t wait to get them on the shelves!


It does, however, appear that I need two more for this shelf, and perhaps another five for the other…

I realize a total of ten sounds excessive, but it’s really not.  And some are even cheaper on Amazon, so it’s not like I’m breaking the bank here, either.  And again, they are TOO PERFECT for the space.

Here are a couple that are still on my wish list ;) :






Once I’m out of the hole from my London trip (let’s just say I need to write a few articles to cover some of my souvenirs), perhaps I’ll pick up a couple more!


I recently performed a quick ‘furniture switcheroo’ and it’s made all the difference!

When we moved into the house two years ago (!!!), we put our red couches in the L-shaped room, because, well, where else were we going to put them??  They’re a pair and they’d always been together.  While the red sofa has been under the window near the fireplace since the beginning, the red loveseat has been all over the place.  Under the second window in the L-shaped room.  On the wall between the porch and the L-shaped room.  On the porch itself.  Back and forth, back and forth.

It did well on the porch…until we inherited were blessed with some of Andrew’s grandmother’s furniture a few months ago: a floral sofa and matching chair.  Clearly, those pieces needed to go on the porch, so in came the red loveseat.  Again, it kept migrating back and forth between the window and the wall, neither of which felt right.  (And can I just say that we don’t ever REALLY sit in any of these spots??  Ridiculousness, I know, but still.  I’m desperate to feel ‘settled’ in our home.)

And–let’s not forget this–all the couches are getting slipcovered in the near future.  The red ones are pretty faded and I can’t stand the fact that Hadrian’s hair practically SCREAMS to me as it sticks in the twill, and the floral ones are, well, floral.  It’s gotta go.

ANYWAY, I finally had a complete epiphany and realized that we needed to flip-flop them entirely!

By putting the red couches on the porch, we created double the seating out there and in the short week or so that they’ve been on the porch, we’ve used both couches multiple times.  Let’s face it: the porch is THE place to be in the summer, and we need more than just one sofa.  In the long term, we plan on moving the front door from the side of the porch to the front, which will allow us to move the loveseat to the side wall (where the door currently is) to create a sectional, or sorts.  It fits–I already measured.  And the red, surprisingly, makes the wall color look less green, instead of more. Thank goodness–I wouldn’t be able to deal with Christmas out there all the time.

I start every morning out there and *can’t wait* until Emily comes to visit in a month and she can sit on the other couch and we can talk!


Putting the floral couch and chair in the ‘formal’ living room also creates more seating, which is something Andrew really wanted.  He was dying to put another chair in the corner near the fire place, but we knew it needed to be small-ish and it’s not like we were really excited to willy-nilly go out and buy a random chair.  Thankfully, this one fit just fine and really completes the space.

I’m hoping this summer to figure out slipcovers for them; they’re essentially brand-new, which makes me wonder if re-upholstering/hiring someone to make something is worth the extra expense.  I’m thinking something in an earthy blue-green color, and perhaps with a texture to help hide animal hair…



Lastly, by removing the problematic red loveseat (in the below photo, it kept moving from one window to the other) I now have another thing I’ve been wanting: a plant window!  Emily gifted me with this tiled table, which is perfect to hold a couple pots.  I’m looking to find a decent-sized houseplant or two and repot them to live there permanently.




And now I’m just another step closer to having this place really feel like home.  My home.


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