Discovering our yard

As we're spending nearly all of our time at home now due to COVID-19, we're taking the time to explore our yard and learn about the plants we now have. It's been a really great yard to have during quarantine with so many birds and plants to keep us - or me at least - entertained. We're treating this year as a maintenance year while we figure it out. As the new neighbor says, if we don't like anything we can always take it out (though, probably next year). Plant giveaways and trades are popular in the neighborhood email listserv, which seems even more active than Nextdoor here. 
That neighbor - and Google Lens - has been super helpful as she helped the previous owner plant much of the garden here (and apparently did the same for other neighbors) so she was able to help us identify a lot of the plants. The previous owner also kindly responded to our email when we were certain one plant was dead and couldn't figure out why Google Lens told me we had a bunch of baby…

Kluski Kraut

This is not a fancy, or colorful, recipe; it seems classically German to me. Well, probably Polish really, with the kluski and kielbasa. I associate this dish with my hometown, though, and my ancestors from there emigrated from Bavaria or "West Prussia." 
Growing up I ate a lot of sauerkraut as my Mom would make kraut with my Grandma using the lettuce from the garden and it was a staple of church dinners. My Mom made a variety of dishes, but I think I remember her kluski kraut well at least partially because the name is so fun to say. A couple years ago I decided to make it from memory after a trip to Kramarczuk's that yielded the 3 main ingredients: kluski noodles, kielbasa and sauerkraut. My recent trip was via curbside pickup, as one does "in these times." 
I recently confirmed my Mom's steps and turns out I wasn't too far off. I made just slight variations and tried to capture measurements, though this is really one of those "to taste" recip…

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

I first made these muffins a little over a year ago as I was getting ready to make the big change from agency life back to corporate. Turns out they are just as good stored in the fridge or freezer and reheated, as I found out when I got slightly concerned about their impact on my upcoming drug test for said move to corporate life and therefore stored most of them away that first time.

These muffins have been on my mind for weeks and I finally got the lemons I needed for them (I thought I had 2 lemons when I first wanted to make them but it was only one...). They are a perfect spring - or really, any time - muffin. Light and fluffy, yet filling. Such a great texture, which I believe comes from the large amount of baking powder, and the citrus is refreshing. I like to make muffins on a weekend and have 1-2 for breakfast all week.

If you make muffins frequently, I highly recommend this silicone muffin pan. I used rigid ones for years and was getting sick of how hard they were to clean. …

A stay at home Easter

Easter is often a bit weird in Minnesota. A year or two ago my Dad was calling it "Christmas Easter" because the farm had just gotten a heavy blanket of snow. This year it snowed as well, because sometimes it snows in April and all that. But, this year there was no seeing that snow at the farm. No going to the farm at all. I'm really going to need to need to get my cow fix when this is all over.

Covid-19 has kept us largely at home for the past month now and Easter was no exception. It was weird not having my aunt's bunny cake, not brainstorming what I wanted to contribute to the family meal, not having any jelly beans or Reese's eggs (my mom always has these so I've never bought them).

I did spend a decent part of the day in the kitchen, though. I made a broccoli ham quiche and Mike, who is not a fan of most things involving baked eggs, said it was his favorite quiche I've made. He still left all the leftovers for me, but that's ok because he made ch…

Our house hunting process

We had always planned on staying in our starter home for just a few years, but once we realized we'd be staying in the Twin Cities area (originally, we thought Mike would go into academia, likely with a move out of state) we figured we'd wait 1-2 years to upgrade our house. The whole process to get into our new house moved both faster than we expected and slower than I'd have liked at times.

Starting the process
From our financial planning, we figured we'd have the down payment for a house at the top of our budget by July/August 2020. I'd been casually browsing Redfin regularly for fun ever since we bought our last house and one day last July a house on Como Lake caught my eye. There was an open house and, as it was just a couple miles away, we checked it out. Turned out it was a flip and definitely not for us, but it led to months of going to open houses nearly every weekend. As many as we could fit in each weekend before Mike got sick of them for a bit (he's d…

Introducing the Victorian House

A few weeks ago (when the world seemed relatively normal still), we moved out of the first home we purchased and into our "upgrade home," an 1889 Victorian.

Boxes are still everywhere; we've made some progress in unpacking, with lots of organizing left to do. Some of that won't fully happen until we do our remodel. While we closed back on NYE, we wanted to refinish the floors before moving in and with a vacation in February, it took a while to get in here. Now that we're working from home for the time being, we're so glad to be doing so in a larger space!

Every contractor or inspector who's seen the house so far has commented on how nice it is for the age. All the major things have been well taken care of - electrical was all replaced, major renovations were done by the previous owner, even the basement feels nice for an unfinished space.

Now for a little tour. The below photos are mostly taken from the listing.

New House Tour
Entryway Absolutely love. Ther…

Chocolate Ganache Tart

This summer when we were hosting friends from out of town I got the idea to make a fruit tart and could. not. let. it. go. In my head it had to be a rectangular tart - something about the presentation of the shape speaks to me. So I scoured the MSP area for a store with one in stock and trekked all the way to Uptown to a fancy kitchen store for one. Turns out round tart pans - and recipes for them - are much more common.

With a new tart pan, tarts became my go-to for the holidays. Thanksgiving featured a couple cranberry tarts that were fantastic and Christmas had this lovely chocolate ganache tart. 
I used this recipe as my base, but found this magic French buttery crust instead of the cookie crust. The crust recipe is my absolute favorite because it really does feel like a trick in how it comes together and yet it's so tasty and easy to work with. Because the recipe is meant for a round tart, there's a bit more chocolate ganache than needed for the tart. The extra goes in th…