Monday, June 23, 2014

Exploring Frederick Meijer Gardens

These are just a few of the photos from my trip to Frederick Meijer Gardens here in Grand Rapids. It's such a beautiful place and I wish I could post all of my photos, but I don't want to do a huge photo dump here on the blog. These were some of my favorite photos, either because I loved the nature, the artwork, or both! We arrived at the gardens about an hour before closing time and now I really regret not getting there earlier. We only got to see about 3/4 of all that was offered and had to practically jog through the parks just to get to see that much. I can't wait to go back with enough time to really experience everything this place has to offer! 

Life Lately (Goats and Shows)

It's been far too long since I've posted! I just finished exam week in one of my summer classes and have been working during most of my free time. Gotta pay that rent! Being a broke college kid is so exhausting- I truly cannot wait for it to be over. Maybe then I'll have enough energy for more creative endeavors! Money might help...either that or nicer weather. I live about 45 minutes from the beach and can't afford to get there very often, so without a Great Lake to jump into, I'm stuck suffering in this West Michigan humidity! What can I say? I'm a Northern Michigan girl at heart. Anyway, my sister came to stay with me last week and ended up hanging out by herself half of the time because I had to work so much. Even though I was gone a lot, we made the most of our time and had a lot of fun before the week was up!

My sister, Jessie, making friends!

My favorite goat, #8, getting all up in my face.

I call this little sweetheart "baby," even though he could just be a tiny goat.
I took my sister to visit my goats! Well, they aren't my goats, technically, but I've been volunteering as a shepherd of sorts with Ottawa County Parks and I'm getting really attached to them. It was partially for a class project, but I'm going to continue doing it even now that the class is over because I've been having such a great time! It's part of a "prescribed browsing" project, which basically means that the goats are kept in a large enclosure on-site to munch on invasive species like poison ivy and the oriental bittersweet vine all day. These kind of invasive species are causing some serious damage to some of my favorite nearby parks, but already the goat project has been very successful! I'm excited to see the results in a few more months!

A blurry photo of Vampire Weekend.

A blurry photo of CAKE.
We got to go to a couple amazing concerts while my sister was here: Vampire Weekend and CAKE. It was definitely a great way for her to start her summer vacation! Vampire Weekend had been planned for a few months and it did not disappoint. They sounded even better live than in the studio, and singing along with Ezra to all of my favorite songs was one of the best feelings in the world! CAKE, on the other hand, was a surprise show. We were at Fredrick Meijer Gardens (I plan on doing a post about that soon) and they just happened to be in the outdoor amphitheater taping a pre-show before their concert later that evening. We slipped through the fence and got our very own private concert! That is, until I took out my phone camera and the security guys realized that we probably shouldn't be there. Still, it was a wonderful experience! Feel free to check out my article in the Awesome Mitten to read more about the Vampire Weekend show.

Oh lovely Lake Michigan.

We made it to the beach twice, but only went swimming the first time around when it was warm enough. The water is still freezing, but it's actually semi-bearable when the air is so sweltering. It was beautiful nevertheless, and I can't wait to go back for more!
Such deer little strawberries!

I love going to garage sales and I love going with people who get as excited as I do about them. Luckily, mysister is one of those people. I found these adorable little glass deer at a farmer's small sale and he ended up giving them to me for free just because he liked how excited I was about them. We bought these freshly picked strawberries from the same farmer and turned it into shortcake later that night. I wish I had a picture of the shortcake, but it was gone before I had a chance to snap one! 

Anyway, that's all for now! I'll get to that Fredrick Meijer Gardens post soon- I have some really great photos of the beautiful flora and sculptures scattered throughout the gardens. Hope you're able to beat the heat and have a wonderful week!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

(Super Simple) Coffee Swirl Chocolate Cake

It's been so long since I've baked anything. I guess I've been pretty busy lately, but really my lack of kitchen time is mostly due to my impatience with my tiny kitchen. If I'm going to make something, I'd rather it be quick and easy. I absolutely cannot wait to move out of this apartment and finally have a kitchen that will inspire me to cook and bake, but for now, I'll just get by with things like this super simple coffee swirl chocolate cake!

I had a box cake mix and some frosting in my cupboard and I was in the mood to get a little more creative with it. I'm so happy with the results! And so was everyone else- it's only been a day and the cake was devoured. If you're looking to whip up something different and delicious, consider this "recipe"!

You will need:

  • box of chocolate cake mix (preferably one that calls for at least a cup of water)
  • ingredients for the cake mix (eggs, vegetable oil)
  • container of white/vanilla frosting
  • freshly brewed coffee
  • instant coffee grounds

  1. Read the ingredients list for your cake mix and replace the water with freshly brewed coffee, then add whatever else it calls for.
  2. Bake the cake!
  3. Add a few drops of warm water to about a teaspoon of instant coffee to dissolve the grounds. Pour into the frosting and mix well. Add more to taste.
  4. Set about a tablespoon of the coffee frosting aside and add more instant coffee to it for an even stronger flavor. 
  5. Frost the cake with the majority of your frosting, then use a butter knife to swirl in the stronger flavored bit and create a marbled design. 
  6. Garnish with loose instant coffee grounds on the top of the cake if you're a coffee lover. (I added extra to my slice!)