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Saturday, April 30, 2011

High Tea at the Inn at Irwin Gardens

In honor of the Royal Wedding, the Inn @ Irwin Gardens hosted a Royal Tea.
Friends and I were lucky enough to get reservations.

The house and gardens were built by a prominent family in town in 1864. 
It is now a Bed-n-Breakfast, popular for weddings, receptions, and High Teas.

The gardens have been closed for years, and I had never toured the house before, so it was a great opportunity.

The home is filled with beautiful antiques.

The tea was served before a short historical lecture on 3 previous British Royal Weddings.

We were served cucumber sandwiches, mini scones with lemon curd and raspberry preserves, shortbread, mini quiches, and individual strawberry trifles.  I opted for the raspberry tea.

The strawberry trifle was sinful - and something I plan to try to recreate soon.
But, the cucumber sandwiches were my favorite.

After our tea we enjoyed a brief history of some of the more interesting facts about Queen Victoria's wedding to Prince Albert in 1840 (see the movie "The Young Victoria"), the Queen Mum's wedding to George VI (see the movie "The King's Speech"), and Queen Elizabeth's wedding to Prince Phillip.

It was extra special that many of the attendees were friends from the UK who now live in town! 

Then we toured the gardens which are partially finished at this point.

Stacy, me, and Sunny

While we didn't get to attend the actual wedding, it was still fun to celebrate!

Neighborhood Get-Together

One of the families in our neighborhood opened their home for a beautiful spring cook-out last night.  It's been awhile since the neighborhood has gotten together, and we couldn't have asked for better weather!

The entrance to their home.  I love how unique each home in our neighborhood is.

Pond in the front yard

Their Peking Ducks, Ping and Pong.

One of the coolest rooms in the house - The Cave.
Wouldn't it have been fun to grow up here, hanging out with your friends in The Cave?

We grilled and everyone brought food to share.

As always, there was plenty of great food!

She really, really wanted David's dessert. 

The boys loved the tire swing. 

A beautiful spring evening with friends! 

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Easter Party 2011

For the 7th year, we enjoyed Easter Sunday afternoon with our good friends the Towsleys and Borowskis.  This year, Scott and Candy hosted our group out at the lake.

We had a reprieve from the torrential rain we've been having for days and days.
We enjoyed a good dry half-day.  The kids loved it - they played outside for hours!

As is our tradition, we share a yummy lunch and then the dads hide 450+ Easter eggs while we keep the kids inside.
Then the kids hunt for eggs filled with money, candy, and all sorts of surprises.

The dads really commit when hiding these eggs.  See Scott climbing the tree?

Here are our impatient egg hunters waiting for the moms to hurry up and finish the photos so they can take off. 
Josh (8th), Justin (3rd), Chris (6th), Thomas (5th)
Rissa (5th), Sara (6th), Brennan (3rd)

See the eggs in the tree?  No one has noticed them yet.

15 minutes later the dads are telling the kids there are still tons of eggs to be found.

This year Candy surprised the kids with an Easter pinata.   
They loved it!

And I enjoyed a wonderful afternoon with good friends.

Hope you had a wonderful Easter as well!

Baileys White Chocolate Cheesecake

Two weeks ago at Wine Club I tasted the most delicious cheesecake. 
Lora had it decorated so beautifully. 
I asked her for the recipe so I could take it to our Easter get-together. 
She sweetly agreed.
(Lora and Ginger completed the Chicago Marathon in October - photos of Lora here).

Baileys White Chocolate Cheesecake

1/4 c sugar
1 1/2 c graham cracker crumbs
1 1/4 c pecans
 6 Tbsp unsalted better, melted

Finely grind all ingredients. 
Press crumbs into the bottom and 2 inches up the side of a lightly buttered 10" springform pan. 
Refrigerate for 20 minutes.

4 1/2 8oz packages cream cheese, softened
1 1/4 c sugar
4 large eggs
1/2 c Baileys Irish Cream Liqueur
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
5 oz. white chocolate, broken into pieces

Preheat oven to 325. 
Beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. 
Whisk eggs, Baileys, and vanilla together. 
Beat egg mixture into cream cheese mixture. 
Finely chop white chocolate and add to mixture. 
Transfer filling to crust-lined pan and bake until the edges of filling are puffed and dry looking.
About 1 hour and 20 min.
Cool completely

1/2 c sour cream
1/4 c powdered sugar
Garnishes:  pecan halves, grated white chocolate, whipping cream

Mix sour cream and powdered sugar.
Spread topping onto cooled cake.
I garnished with pecans and grated white chocolate, and omitted the whipping cream.
Refrigerate at least 6 hours.


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Seder Meal at First Presbyterian

We were fortunate to be able to attend a Passover Seder Meal last week at our own Presbyterian Church.  We had never been to a Seder Meal so we happily signed up to be a part of this one.

There was a great turnout of families at the church.
The tables were all set up when we arrived.

Our Pastor's son and his wife from New York City, led the Seder.  We all had copies of the Haggadah (the story) to follow along.

After lighting the candles and the first prayers, we had the Kiddush - grape juice in our case. 
Then we began to learn about the foods on the dishes previously set up on our tables.

First was the Karpas (green vegetable) that we dipped in salt water (representing tears).
Then the Aifkomen - matzot.  The middle matzot is broken in half and traditionally hidden for the kids to find later as part of the dessert.
We heard the 4 Questions, the story of the 4 Children, and the Passover Story.
Then we all had a second cup of grape juice, and moved on to the remaining items on the plate on our table.

The Pesach (lamb shankbone) that represent the lambs that the people sacrificed to God the night they left Egypt.

The Matzah reminding us of the dough the people baked the night they left Egypt. The people left in such a hurry that they did not have time to allow the dough to rise.

And the Maror is a bitter root that makes people cry - symbolic to remember the bitterness of slavery.

We then made Matzah and Maror sandwiches.
There was a delicious apple and nut spread that we put on matzah and then added a little horseradish (maror). It was really good.
The kids then went hunting for the Aifkomen - matzah wrapped in tin foil.
Brennan took it up for the group who found it.

After the remaining two cups of wine (juice), drinking from Elijah's cup on the main table, prayers, and songs, we enjoyed a wonderful Kosher meal together.

Several people from the church spent a lot of time on the wonderful meal.  In addition to Matzoh Ball Soup, each family was asked to bring a salad or a dessert made without flour.

The soup was absolutely delicious and we had a beautiful buffet of salads and fruits to enjoy with it.

We learned a lot during the Seder Meal and had a really great evening with our church family!