Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Red Rover Top

After this weekend, I decided I would vote for any candidate who advocates a new law requiring there to be one long weekend every month! It's amazing what you can do with an extra day on a weekend - gardening, laundry, errands, ironing, bills, going out to a movie (Narnia) and dinner, and then I even had a little time to do something fun and clever.

So I made this little "Red Rover" top. I wanted something kinda cute and funky like they have at Anthropologie, (where I can neither afford nor fit into all their cute little tops). So I bought this little smock knit top at Target to decorate. I used some little scraps of fabric - the one with the teacups is from Darlene Zimmerman's Mama's Feedsacks collection.

I ironed some Wonder Under onto the backside of the fabric, then cut it into rectangle shapes. Next I peeled off the paper backing, and ironed it onto the shirt. I stitched with a loose zigzag stitch around the edges so it wouldn't come apart when washed. Finally I sewed some vintage red rickrack around the edge of the neckline. It was a little hard to get the rickrack evenly sewed onto the edge and it stretched the knit a bit. Next time I'd probably sew it on by hand.

So that's what I was able to do with my extra day on this holiday weekend. Don't you agree that we'd all be happier with a little extra time off to do clever things! Politicians, take note, and you'll have my vote!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Spring Garden - Memorial Day Update

I am weary from 2 days of digging and planting. I am done (for now) with moving perenials, trimming shrubs, and filling pots and hanging containers. I know I will keep moving the pots around for a while until I find the right combination, but at least the hardest of the work is done. It will take a few weeks for all the impatiens to fill in with color. I'll give you more pictures as things fill in over the weeks ahead.

I have a small house, so my garden has become this outside room that I so enjoy! It is a peaceful and pretty place to read or entertain friends. I hope you'll enjoy seeing it throughout the summer.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Almond Toffee Bars

I saw this recipe a few weeks ago on the Alpineberry blog, and I knew it would be one of those great easy recipes to bring to school for a treat. I used crunched up Heath bars, but I think you could add all kinds of fun chocolaty treats and nuts to this recipe. My teacher friends did not hesitate to dig into this pan of bars, and since many of them asked for the recipe, here it is (my version):

Almond Toffee Bars


1 box yellow cake mix
1 stick butter, melted (1/2 cup)
1 egg

Mix crust ingredients together. Press into a 9 x 13 pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 7 minutes. (The crust will be a bit puffy but not done.)


1 14 ounce can of sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
4 Heath candy bars, chopped
1 cup sliced slivered almonds.

While the crust is baking, mix the filling ingredients together. Pour over the warm crust and bake for 25 to 30 minutes. The top should be slightly golden brown. Cool before cutting.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Onion Rye Rolls

A few weeks ago when I made the Salmon Burgers, one of my Twitter friends seemed equally interested in the homemade rolls that were pictured. So I thought I'd share my recipe, which is a composite of a couple recipes from the book that came with my breadmaker. If you don't have a bread maker, you probably could knead this by hand, with dough hooks, or in a food processor. I just find a breadmaker on the dough cycle is very easy and keeps the dough at the perfect temperature to rise.

Onion Rye Rolls

2 cups bread flour
1/2 cup rye flour
1/3 cup finely chopped onions
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons dry milk
2 1/2 tablespoons butter, cut into 1/2 pieces
5/8 cup water
1 1/2 teaspoon yeast

Combine all ingredients in the bread machine bowl and put the yeast in the dispenser. Follow the directions for the dough cycle on your breadmaker.

When the dough has risen, remove from the breadmaker. Punch the dough down, and cut the dough into 6 (for large rolls) or 8 pieces. Roll into round shapes. Brush the dough with an egg beaten with a 1/2 teaspoon of water. (I usually use an egg white with a little bit of yolk for a light golden color.) Sprinkle the rolls with sesame seed. Let the rolls rise for 1 to 2 hours, or until almost doubled. Bake at 375 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until golden.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Kruse and Muer

Does anyone else out there love a restaurant just because they have wonderful bread? Well, I do! And the bread at Kruse and Muer is awesome - it is a long fresh loaf served in a white bag and has a crusty topping with salt and poppy seeds. MMMM, I could make an entire meal out of it.

So I stopped at Kruse and Muer in downtown Rochester as my traditional lunch stop during my annual garden shopping a few days ago. (Forgive the dark pictures - I was seated in the dark back room. Dark, as in you need to get out the reading glasses to read the menu dark. Those of you of a certain age know exactly what I am talking about.)

After indulging in the bread, I had their coleslaw which comes with your entrees. I love their coleslaw because it has a tangy Italian dressing on it - I don't like mayo, so I usually don't like coleslaw. But theirs is great!

I had one of my favorite meals - but the name escapes me at the moment! It had shrimp, scallops, lobster, and tomatoes in a creamy saffron sauce that is served over rice. It is sooooo rich and sooooo good. They also have great pastas and their seafood is wonderful too.

But the main reason I go there is the bread! I think their desserts are good too, but I usually am too full to have any.

In Bloom - May 20, 2008

Snowball Bush - I planted this 2 years ago and these are the first puffy blooms!

Purple Iris

Variagated Solomon's Seal - pretty leaves, with tiny white flowers in the spring

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Another stop on my garden shop tour in the Springtime is Bordines in Rochester Hills. I always buy my geraniums here. They have thick, healthy plants that thrive throughout the summer.

These beautiful, lush blooms only cost 4 dollars each! I use them to fill hanging planters and terra cotta pots which I scatter throughout the garden - more pictures will be coming!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Ray Wiegands

Sorry, I haven't posted for a few days, but I've been journeying around looking for for the loveliest flowers in the land. I have certain places I like to go to that have the best flowers for the best price. A few days ago I headed out to Ray Wiegands for some serious garden shopping. Everything looks so pretty here - they have all kinds of sweet statues mixed in with the flowers.

Pretty hanging baskets everywhere....

I like to shop here because you can mix flats without paying an extra price. I usually like to get different shades of pink impatiens, plus coleus, dusty miller, and begonias. I think it is worth the extra drive to shop here. Here's my cart all loaded up.

They have the most stunning delphiniums! I don't know anyone in Michigan who has any success with growing these, but they sure are tempting! If you live around here and know the secret to getting these to last longer than one year, let me know.

More flower shopping and gardening to come! I've been busy!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Fun with Flower Photography

This is my new favorite picture. I now have it on my computer desktop. (Click on the image - you really have to see it larger to really do it justice.)

It started as this ordinary picture of a begonia that I took last weekend at the farmer's market. I used Picnik (a wonderful, simple, and free online photo editor) to transform it. I cropped and sharpened the image. I gave it more contrast and then used their creative tools where you can select a part of an image to keep colored and focused. I turned the rest black and white and blurred the focus on that part. I know you can do all this stuff using PhotoShop, but I still find most of PhotoShop confusing. This took me 5 - 10 minutes of playing around, and I think the resulting image is pretty cool! I took some more pictures today that will allow me to use the same technique, so there may be a series of pictures coming.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Window Ledge Lilies of the Valley

vintage bottles, purchased recently for a dollar each

a variety of shapes

skinny enough to perch on my kitchen window ledge

perfect size to hold a small bunch of lilies of the valley from my garden

from the outside, looking in

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


This is an unlikely recipe for me - I really don't like vegetables that much unless covered with cheese or mixed with carbs like pasta or rice. And eggplant - that's really pushing the envelope! But last year I bought a small but expensive container of caponata from Papa Joe's gourmet grocery store. I loved it, so I did some searching through recipes, and came up with my own version that seems to match their recipe. Note: the measurements are somewhat approximate (are you shocked?) so adjust according to your preference.

The unique element in this version is the golden raisins. Yes, sounds strange, I know, but that little bite of sweet balances the salty of the olives and the bit of heat from the pepper flakes. (This sounds like I've been listening too much to the judges on Top Chef and Iron Chef - sorry!) Trust me - this tastes great and the eggplant taste and texture disappears in the blend of all the other flavors.


1 eggplant, chopped into 3/4 inch chunks
1 onion, chopped
1 red pepper
olive oil
1 - 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
2 to 3 Tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup chopped Kalamata olives
1/3 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon herbes de Provence
kosher salt
fresh cracked pepper
chopped flat leaf parsley

1. Heat a large frying pan and coat with olive oil. Add the eggplant and season with salt. Brown the eggplant until golden, turning several times. (You will probably have to do two batches). Remove from the pan and set aside.
2. Add another drizzle of olive oil to the pan and add the onion and red peppers. Cook until the onion starts to brown and the pepper is softened. Sprinkle with brown sugar and red pepper flakes and cook for another minute.
3. Put the eggplant back into the pan. Add the balsamic vinegar and season with the herbes de Provence and a bit more salt and pepper. Add the olives, raisins, and pine nuts. Top with the parsley before serving.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Royal Oak Farmer's Market 2

So I promised you more pictures from the Royal Oak Farmer's Market! I wanted to share some shots from one of my favorite booths. All spring and summer they have the most amazing bunches of seasonal flowers for sale. This week it was lilacs in all variations of colors!

They also always have some unique arrangements. This time they had these cool gourds with ivy growing out of them. No, I didn't buy anything here this time - in the spring my budget is reserved for things I can plant in the garden. But it sure was fun to look.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Nutella Ice Cream

So recently I read in Chocolate and Zucchini and The Amateur Gourmet about this easy Nutella ice cream recipe that everyone has been raving about. Sounded like a good excuse to break out the Cuisinart Ice Cream machine for the first homemade ice cream of the season. Here are the simple directions for my version:

Nutella Ice Cream

1 13 ounce jar of Nutella
1 12 ounce can of evaporated milk (I used Carnation)

Blend the Nutella and evaporated milk in a food processor or blender until smooth and combined. Chill. Then put into the the ice cream machine and blend according to directions until frozen, about a half hour. That's it!!!

This batch doesn't quite make a full batch of ice cream - I think you could add a little more milk or cream if you wanted to stretch it farther. It is rich and yummy with a slightly different texture than custard based ice cream, but totally delicious! I'm wondering if this would work with peanut butter - maybe I'll try that next time. Stay tuned!

Royal Oak Farmer's Market

The only thing bad about going to the Royal Oak Farmer's Market is trying to find a parking space. I have done laps around their lot many times hoping to find someone leaving so I could claim their spot. I've learned to avoid this problem by going first thing in the morning - this Saturday morning I arrived shortly after 7 a.m and was able to pull into a space right near the entrance. Even early, the place is busy, but it is nice to do your shopping before the flowers are picked over and the crowds are so thick you can't get through the booths.

I usually focus on buying flowers, but there also are seasonal fruits and vegetables, eggs and baked goods, homemade soap, and antiques. But this time of year the flowers are the main attraction.

I have shopped at the booth above for several years (right near the south door). They have wonderful begonias and geraniums and for 3 dollars each. I also found another booth that had HUGE rosemary plants for $2.50! I only bought a few things - later this week I will do my major flower shopping. Below is today's basketful of flowers and herbs.

Stay tuned - I have more pictures from the market coming. In fact, if you don't like flowers, you might as well stay away from this blog for the next few weeks, because most of Clever Karen's creative energies will be going into the garden.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Salmon Burgers

I've been wanting to try making Salmon Burgers ever since I saw this recipe in the Every Day with Rachael Ray magazine last winter. It looked easy, tasty, and healthy - and yes, it did live up to my expectations! I will make this again! Soon! Here is my variation on the recipe:

Salmon Burgers

1 1/2 lbs. skinless salmon, cut into large pieces
1/4 cup onion, chopped in small pieces
2 Tablespoons capers, chopped
grated peel of one lemon
1/3 cup flat leaved parsley, coarsely chopped
1 Tablespoon seasoned salt (or grill or seafood seasoning)
freshly cracked pepper

1) Put the salmon in a food processor and corsely chop using the pulse mode.
2) In a bowl combine the chopped salmon, onion, capers, lemon peel, parsley, and the salt and pepper. Form into patties.
3) In a non-stick pan, heat enough olive oil to coat the pan. Add the patties and cook for about 4 minutes on each side, or until golden brown.

Serve on a toasted roll (yes, mine were home made, please don't hate me) with lettuce. Squeeze on a little lemon juice to add a bit of extra zing to the burger!


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