The best wedding present ever?

At our wedding back in 2009, our friends Dave and Ann Mary toasted us with a surprise “wedding memory box” – a pretty decorated document box with a slit cut in the top where guests could slip notes, poems, quotes, drawing, jokes, or anything else they wanted to share with us, for us to open on our first anniversary. It was beautiful to look at so we kept it in our living room, and looked forward to opening it and discovering what our family and friends had written to us on our wedding night.

For our anniversary weekend, we carefully packed the wedding memory box, the wedding album I made using My Publisher, an expensive bottle of champagne that had been given to us as a wedding gift, and the two champagne flutes Brian bought for the ten-course meal he made me the night he proposed. We drove up to Vermont for the weekend and spent our anniversary night at a quiet bed & breakfast with candles in the fireplace.

We took a long walk down memory lane that night, enjoying that delicious champagne the whole way. First we paged through our photo album (our gorgeous wedding photos were taken by our talented friend and neighbor Matthew Sussman). Then we untied the ribbon, opened the memory box, and took turns selecting one note at a time and read them to each other. Some made us laugh, some made us cry, and a few weren’t entirely coherent…perhaps our guests had enjoyed a few glasses of champagne themselves by the time they wrote these notes?!

Reading the notes brought us right back to that amazing feeling of love, warmth, connection, and support we felt on our wedding night, and we decided we would re-open the box every year on our anniversary to always keep those feelings alive. Thanks to Dave and Ann Mary for the wonderful gift of capturing the feeling of our wedding night in a box that we can re-visit forever.

I recently helped out Dave and Ann Mary by creating a wedding memory box for their friends! I bought some craft materials at WalMart – a white document storage box, some stick-on turquoise “gems,” glittery sticker decals, and ribbon. I also used some colorful permanent markers I already had. Here’s a picture of the box at the beginning:

And here it is after a 30 minutes of fun arts & crafts! It’s hard to tell from these photos, but all four sides of the box lid are “bejeweled” with the turquoise gems. The bride & groom’s names are written on the label and the top of the box says “open 8.22.2012” which will be their first anniversary.

Altogether, this project cost about $10 and took 30 minutes to assemble. $10 and 30 minutes which will result in immeasurable joy, love, emotion, and memories for the special couple on their first anniversary. The best wedding present ever! Congratulations and best wishes to the happy couple.

Pizza Friday

You may have already read about our bread baking adventures: classic white bread, challah, and olive & thyme. We baked bread last Friday too…bread disguised as pizza! We can buy delicious pizza dough around here at the good pizzerias, and even at the grocery store, but we can also make our own from yeast, flour, water and a little salt.

Here’s my husband rolling out the dough, shaping it to fit on our pizza peel.

Once it’s about the right shape, it’s tricky business to transfer it from the counter onto the floured and corn-meal dusted wooden pizza peel. Then we get to add toppings – this time it was tomato sauce, olives, yellow tomato slices, sausage, and thin slices of mozzarella cheese.

Once all the toppings are on, we have to jiggle the pizza a little to make sure it doesn’t stick to the pizza peel. Once we’re sure it’s unstuck, into the oven and straight onto the baking stone it goes.

We got the idea for Pizza Fridays nights from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, a wonderful book by Barbara Kingsolver that’s about her family’s quest to eat entirely locally for one year – they only ate food that they raised or grew themselves, or that was raised or grown locally in their region. They made pizzas with whatever seasonal produce was on hand every Friday, and we loved the idea of having a similar tradition. We’re not making pizza every Friday, but when we don’t have other plans, it’s our go-to.

This was a delicious Pizza Friday, no doubt about it!  My favorite part is the crisp, chewy crust 🙂 Leave me a comment with your favorite pizza topping and we’ll try it out next Friday!

Olive and thyme

Our third bread was an olive & thyme loaf. I didn’t get any pictures of the final product, but I did snap a shot right before pitting the olives! 

We made two round loaves and gave half a loaf to our neighbor as a gift. We used the rest of it to make turkey sandwiches, to eat with hummus, and for cheese fondue. How would you eat olive & thyme bread if we gave you a loaf?

Challah french toast

Just like I said last time, we’re baking bread once a week. This week we baked a challah using Brian’s Grandmother Dubke’s recipe. Her recipe uses the word “glass” for cup, as in “1/4 glass sugar.”

Here it is coming out of the oven yesterday afternoon – it smelled divine!

It sat on the cooling rack for a while, making the house smell amazing all night. As you can see, it’s a little crooked – so adorable, right? Don’t you just want to eat it up?

Every once in a while we host Shabbat dinners and our friends bring delicious (store-bought) challah. We always look forward to eating the leftover challah as french toast on either Saturday or Sunday morning. So now that we had a loaf of home-made challah, we were REALLY excited about enjoying french toast! Look what I had for breakfast this morning:

Grandmother Dubke’s home-made challah french toast sprinkled with powdered sugar, accompanied by raspberries and strawberries, french vanilla yogurt, french press coffee and 1/2 & 1/2, served on my Grandma Pauline’s Danish stoneware = breakfast heaven!

Bread baking interlude

A brief departure from design into the kitchen…my husband and I have decided that we will finally do something that we’ve always wanted to do: bake bread every week! He even created a spreadsheet that we printed out and posted in on the wall to track which kind of loaves we’ve baked.

We started this week with a very basic white bread. We’re fortunate to have some good baking supplies, many of which were wedding gifts, including a beautiful and superbly informative baking book from Sur La Table, a KitchenAid stand mixer, a counter-top kitchen scale, a silicone loaf pan, an instant-read thermometer, a pizza stone and a pizza peel. I remember baking a few loaves back in middle school after learning how in 8th grade home-ec class and how time-consuming the process could be; using the stand mixer for this purpose makes the whole process so easy! And the warm, humid weather is perfect for rising dough 🙂

The whole process, from waking up the yeast to pulling the bread out of the oven, took a few hours, but required very little actual worktime. Most of that time the yeast was working its magic on its own, eating the sugars, creating bubbles, expanding the volume of the dough. Of course it smelled delicious as it was baking and it came out perfectly golden brown after 35 minutes at 400 degrees. I took these photos just a couple minutes after it came out of the oven – can you see the steam?

 

We’ve been enjoying the bread toasted with butter & honey (just like at Great Harvest Bakery where I used to work in Rockridge) and also for PBJ and turkey sandwiches. We’re excited for our next loaf! Any suggestions?