East Coast Cocktails

East Coast Cocktails Living Lark
Photo Credit- Bridging Her Story

I am so excited about this collaboration post! I have once again been fortunate enough to team with Kate Bolt from Living Lark – this time to share her latest summer drinks. We both recently took road trips with our families out east, so these East Coast Cocktails seemed like a fitting match. Continue reading East Coast Cocktails

Friday Finds (Take 2)


Our Crazy Buddy

Welcome back to my randomness… with Friday Finds, Take 2….Hope you all had a great week! We made it to almost-Friady. Yay! And I made it through February without a broken bone- double Yay! Our only February hick-up was that our dog ate sand at the beach and had to spend the night at the Emergency Animal Hospital. Fortunately, he is back to his crazy, jumping, kissing 10-year old self. 

Brunch Bowl @ Donkey

Donkey Taqueria- If you are visiting Grand Rapids, Michigan, or live within an hour radius of Grand Rapids, this restaurant is a must. It is my favorite restaurant. So much so that I always have fabulous intentions of trying one of the new eateries that keep popping up around the city but just cannot tear myself away from Donkey. I love being guaranteed great service, a delicious Paloma, and top-notch food. Every. Single. Time. Making it feel even more special is the fact that it forces you to just relax. You cannot call ahead (there isn’t a listed phone number), making you come to terms with the fact that you are just going to have to show up and go with the flow. If the wait is too long, we have always had good luck going across the street to Winchester for a pre-dinner drink. Donkey will just text you when your table is ready.

Lee and Birch– Looking for a different activity while you wait for your table? Just head up the street to Lee and Birch. I went in to just “check it out” and pretty much could have seen myself in all of the clothes in the store. It is small, which feels cozy and not too overwhelming. The sales people are pretty chill, helpful but not at all pushy.

Zing Zangs- This is an oldie but goodie. One of my brothers-in-law is our designated Bloody Mary guy and this is a favorite. Whenever he and my sister-in-law ask what they can bring, I always want them to bring the Bloody Mary’s. He did, however, share his secret, so now we can all make delicious Bloody’s. Zing Zangs has just the right amount of spice and thickness. It’s as much a staple at our family gatherings as ice cream cake, maybe even more so!

Barre 3 via You Tube- With all of this eating and drinking going on, I thought it only “fitting” that I throw in a workout too. I just discovered this tonight, and it is great! It is perfect for when, say, your stairclimber is covered in plastic and every item in your storage room is now in the family hangout room because you had/have a “vision” for your laundry/mudroom (insert teeth-clenched emoji here). Moving on… the You Tube sequence is about 40 minutes long and would actually be perfect for when you are traveling too (there are small weights involved, but, let’s be honest, I’m not using those at home either). I really found the instructors to be encouraging and saying everything I needed to hear throughout the workout. The sequences are really easy to follow, and since repetition is key, it’s fairly easy to stay on track.

Well, there you have it, my barely-travel-related Friday Finds. I’ll be back next week with the Island Interviews Series. You may have also noticed all of the beautiful beaches lately on my Instagram account.. stay tuned, a related post is coming next week too. 

**I have no more fun ways to say this, so just know… this post may contain affiliate links, meaning that, at no cost to you, I may be compensated. Thank you!

24 Hours in West Michigan

Someone recently posed the question… What would you do in your city if it was your last 24 hours there? Good question. First, I would cry… because I really do love where I live. Second, I would be all over West Michigan because it would be too difficult to stay in one city, and, with the ease of travel here, why not? Third, how has this not been a dinner conversation topic before? Move over crazy toddler stories, there’s a new topic in town.

I would begin my day with a nice jog around Reeds Lake in East Grand Rapids. Waking up to perfectly aligned swans and a gorgeous sunrise? Yes please.

Reeds Lake

Fortunately, the purpose of that run would be more for scenery than good health because I would then head straight to D’arts Donuts in Eastown for a beignet and to-go of Madcap coffee.

D’arts Donuts

After a 40 minute drive to Holland, I would head out to the Big Red Lighthouse and pier to watch boats going out for the day.

Big Red

Because it is difficult to leave the lake on a beautiful day,  Saugatuck State Park would be next on the list for a hike through the woods and a beach walk.

Saugatuck State Park

I’d finish with lunch at New Holland Pub on 8th and a stroll through downtown Holland.

New Holland Brewery

Back in Grand Rapids, I would stop by the GRAM (Grand Rapids Art Museum) because it is the one place I keep meaning to get to and haven’t.

GRAM. Photo credit- Griggs and Woodward

Dinner would most definitely be at Donkey Taqueria…

Donkey Taqueria

Followed by an outdoor concert at Fredrick Meijer Gardens.

Fredrick Meijer Gardens

And back to the lakeshore for a sunset.

Lake Michigan Sunset

So, apparently, I would really just want to eat a lot and be by some of the lakes that make Michigan such a great state in my last 24 hours in West Michigan. Oh, and the remainder of the evening and into the night would be spent with family and friends talking, planning, and reflecting on this porch…

Now, I’d love to hear from you… What are your must-sees and must-dos in your home city?

*Please excuse the multitude of seasons in the photographs… but now you have an idea of the ever-changing weather of Michigan!

What to Do in West Michigan 

**This post may contain affiliate links, meaning that, at no cost to you, I may receive some compensation. Thank you!


Holiday Drinks from Around the World


‘Tis the Season for amazing drinks. The cocktail blog Lark has generously agreed to share drink recipes specific to the regions I have visited over the holiday seasons. Keep reading to find out what they are and be sure to save the recipes- they are delicious.  All the drinks @livinglark are made in gallon batches — perfect for holiday crowds!

White Village in Spain

The first place I asked for a recipe from was Spain. Many, many moons ago when my husband and I were about 24 years old and in graduate school, his family asked me to go with them to Spain over the holidays to pick up his middle sister who had been studying there for the semester. I hemmed and hawed and called my parents a million times because, I mean, SPAIN, but also I didn’t want to miss our traditional holidays together either. A few days later my parents called me and told me they and my brother had just purchased tickets to Spain and were coming too!!! As we look back on it, my husband and I are always amazed that our families traveled together halfway across the world before we were married or even engaged, but at the time, it seemed to make perfect sense.

Lark’s Late Red Autumn Sangria              Photo Credit: Lark by Kate Bolt

Check out Lark’s Late Red Autumn Sangria (because what is more SPAIN to us than Sangria?) here 






And then we got married and apparently had no problem spending Christmas in an airport away from both of our families. Just kidding. We, of course, missed them, but with new work schedules, Christmas just seemed allow the extended time to travel. For our honeymoon (so, we really should get a free pass on that one), we traveled to St. Kitts. Later, but still pre-kiddos, we traveled to Aruba.

There are so many great Caribbean drinks to choose from, but Lark chose this one from a holiday she had in Puerto Rico, and it is fabulous!

Lark’s Rum Punch                                        Photo Credit: Lark by Kate Bolt

Rum Punch

Serves 20 (in a 10 oz. rocks glass filled halfway with ice)

This is made with honey and ginger — a true tangent from the original Rum Punches but quite lovely!  This one is reminiscent of our time in Puerto Rico watching major surf (too large for beginners like us!)

4 c water

2 c honey

8 inches fresh ginger (a lot!)

3 c lime juice (I prefer Nellie & Joe’s famous Key West)

2 c orange juice, pulp free

5 c white rum

2 limes, sliced

1 small jar Maraschino cherries, optional

Prep ingredients in a clean gallon jug.

Make a honey simple syrup: Whiz up one cup water, two cups honey, and the chopped ginger in a Vitamix or blender until ginger is minced (don’t put the setting on high because it will overflow).  In a small saucepan, add blender mix to 3 cups water and bring to a boil.  Simmer and stir a bit over low heat for 5 minutes until it just begins to rumble to a good boil.  Strain the syrup with a fine mesh sieve into a bowl, pressing ginger with the back of a spoon to obtain all the flavor possible.  Transfer ginger mix into a gallon jug using a funnel.

Stir in 3 cups lime juice, 2 cups orange juice, & 5 cups rum.  Refrigerate until serving. Toss lime wedges into serving pitcher, fill with the PUNCH and keep ice on the side for guests to add to individual rocks glasses.

Optional: drain cherries and add to pitcher just before serving.  This won’t add much flavor but make the drink just like the tiki bars all over the Caribbean.

And then we had children and apparently had no problem leaving them at Christmastime either. Ha! I had major panic about leaving them. So much so that we booked a later flight so that we could be with them on Christmas Eve and in the morning for stockings. After all the tissue paper was cleaned up, my husband and I headed for India. Now, I feel like we had a pretty good excuse for this trip too since we were going to my youngest sister-in-law’s wedding reception and visiting my husband’s grandmother. One of our favorite times in India was “Chai Time.” Here’s the thing, though, every time you walked

Photo credit- Lark by Kate Bolt, Michelle Tippman

through the door, it was Chai Time. Luckily, the Chai was delicious and so is the recipe (far from what we drank in India but with the same Chai flavors!) of Late Autumn Chai Sangria made with white wine.


To check out more Holiday Drinks like the French 75 en masse (today’s post on Lark) or Holly Brunch Cocktail, head over to Lark and get some ideas for New Year’s Day brunch — and discuss at brunch where you dream to travel next!


*Please note that some links may be affiliate links, meaning that, at no cost to you, I may receive some compensation. Thank you!

An Afternoon in Grand Rapids

Today I was fortunate enough to have a “work afternoon” with Kelly from the Lily Pad Cottage. Have you visited her blog? If not, you should go right now. Not only is her design and taste impeccable, but she is also seriously such a nice person. She is gracious and generous (much like that famous designer on HGTV from Texas) and has been helping me/fielding all of my annoying questions since the idea popped into my head that I wanted start a blog. Oh, and did I mention she is super fun? I had such a great time shopping and eating (and talking) our way around Grand Rapids today.  If you are in town for a few hours or just passing through or looking for a little break from all of the holiday gatherings, here are some stops to put on your list.

We met at Reinspired Treasures in Alger Heights. Again, if you haven’t been, it’s worth checking out. From vintage to new home items to repurposed, well, treasures, they seem to have a little bit of everything. I have to do at least 10 laps before I feel like I have seen everything there is to see. This is the store that feeds my wooden sign addiction.







After shopping for a bit, we headed across the street to The Old Goat. I had been hearing about this restaurant for awhile and was excited to check it out. The food was delicious and was brought out on a cute wooden cutting board. There are soups, sandwiches, salads, and even entrees if you are particularly hungry from your shopping. And I sort of feel like I could have stared at the ceiling for a few more minutes if I hadn’t been too busy chatting.

We then headed to Eastown for a quick coffee and to pick up some donuts for the kids’ after school snacks. We met at That Early Bird, another great setting, very calming colors and not too quiet, not too loud. I love the pretty designs in the coffee, but, believe me, even if this coffee was super ugly, it still is one of the best cups I’ve had.

D’Arts Donut Shop was the last stop of the afternoon to pick up a couple 1/2 dozens to take to our respective homes. Again, the setting is unique and trendy, and the donuts will not disappoint. I went with the Christmas sprinkles, Hot Chocolate with Marshmallows, and Peppermint Mocha. And have no pictures to show for them. Because they went that fast.


Amazing Desserts from Around the World, Part III

And the final amazing dessert before the holidays… Almond Banket. Growing up in a neighborhood referred to (lovingly, I’m sure) as Hollander Heights, I had my fair share of potatoes at my grandmother’s house just two doors down from ours. Butter and salt- what could be better? Let me tell you, very few things. Except for Almond Banket. Every year, at Christmas time, our neighbors from across the street brought over homemade banket. It was delicious. When my husband and I moved into our first home, our neighbor two doors down mentioned her tradition of making almond banket at Christmastime. It’s been on my mind ever since.

My aunt emailed me the following recipe from her Eet Smakelijk cookbook, called “the Official Cookbook of Holland, Michigan,” which she has had since 1964! In case you all have this cookbook lying around, the recipe is officially called Banket Staven (Almond Roll).


1 lb. almond paste
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
4 cups flour
1 pound butter

1 cup water

Let the paste, sugar and eggs stand in a bowl for 30 minutes.  Blend the flour, butter, and water in bowl like a pie crust.  The dough may be refrigerated overnight if desired.  When ready to prepare, divide the dough into 4 equal parts.  Roll the dough on a floured board to size 8×13 inches.  Cut lengthwise into 2 equal strips (8 strips….4×13 in all).  Prepare the filling by mixing the almond paste with the sugar and eggs.  Form the filling into 8 cylinders 12 inches long, the diameter of a dime.  Place filling rolls on the length of the dough.  Fold over the ends, and then the long sides, moistening 1 side to seal, before pressing closed.  Place with the seam down on a cookie sheet.  Brush the top of the rolls with either egg white or milk.  Bake in 425 degree oven for 10 minutes.  Prick holes on top for air and return to oven and bake for an additional 10 minutes at 375 degrees or until very light brown.

I’ll admit, I didn’t really measure any of the strips, etc. and my measuring cup was in the dishwasher, so I just grabbed an 8 oz drinking glass and I didn’t make cylinders (just put the filling directly onto the dough and eyeballed it) and I sprinkled the tops with sugar and I had the 3-year old “helping”… and it still turned out absolutely amazing. Being half Dutch, I know that I am biased, but this is a dessert you will want to try.

Amazing Desserts from Around the World, Part II


Next up, my new friend, Nerin and her amazing Tres Leches cake.

Sunset at the Lake Party

This past summer, we were at a lake party, and Nerin brought two cakes. I, of course, went directly for the chocolate one, but she encouraged me to try the Tres Leches cake as well. Since we were new friends and she had a very convincing Costa Rican accent, I cut a small piece of the Tres Leche cake, too. And then another. And another. And when she offered to pack some up for us to take home, I said “yes please.” And then my kids ate it before we even got in the car. I am so thankful that she is one of those amazing cooks who shares her recipes. Thank you, Nerin!

Nerin’s Tres Leche Cake

Nerin makes this cake with her sister in Costa Rica. I love the idea of baking with family, especially around the holidays. So much so that I keep trying to bake with my kids. I have to say that this cake kept their attention right up to end, which is quite an accomplishment. I think it may have had something to do with the whipped cream and sprinkles.


4 eggs
1 cup of white sugar
1 cup of all purpose white flour
1 tsp of baking powder
2 oz cold water
1 can condensed milk, 14 oz can
1 can evaporated milk, 12 oz can
1 heavy whip cream container, 8 oz
1 large cool whip, 16 oz container

Separate the egg whites from the yolks, set the yolks aside. Sift the flour with the baking powder and set aside.

Mix at high speed the egg whites until stiff. Slowly, add 1 egg yolk at a time alternating with the sugar. Add the sifted flour and at the end, the cold water.

Place the mix in a rectangle 15″ by 10″ pyrex, previously sprayed with nonstick spray. Bake at 350F for approximately 25 minutes until a tooth pick comes out clean. Once ready, pull out of the oven, cool down for 10 minutes and insert a fork on the top of the cake every 2″ apart, in order to allow the liquids to seem into the cake.

Mix the condensed milk, evaporated milk and the heavy whip cream. Pour this mix over cake while it is still warm. Place in the refrigerator until totally cold.

At the end cover with as much cool whip as wanted and decorate with sprinkles.

*The second time I made this cake, I had shopped at a small grocery that did not carry cool whip or evaporated milk. For the cool whip replacement (and the heavy whipped cream), I whipped 32 ounces of heavy whipping cream with 1/3 cup of sugar (because, hey, we all know that there needs to be some left in the bowl for the bakers). For the evaporated milk, I used 3/4 cup milk and 1/4 cup half ‘n half. 

**please note: this post may contain affiliate links meaning that, at no cost to you, I may receive some compensation. Thank you!

6 Kid-Friendly Christmas Activities in Chicago

6 kid-friendly Chicago activities

Every year at Christmastime, we head into Chicago for a weekend on the town. It is something that we all look forward to and is a great way to start the holiday season.

6 kid-friendly Chicago activities

Lincoln Park Zoo Lights- This year, our ETA into the city was around 5pm, so we decided to check out the lights at Lincoln Park Zoo (the sun sets super early in Chicago this time of year, and for once, I appreciated the early sunset). Admission to the zoo is free, but you may want to bring along some money for the hot chocolate stands along the way or the mulled wine you can get to-go from the cafe by the pond.

6 kid-friendly Chicago activities

There is also ice skating for a fee, but it may be worth it as it seems to be much more manageable with children than does skating downtown (read: no lines and a smaller rink). We all really enjoyed wandering around the zoo and taking in all of the different lights. I think our favorite display was the lights blinking along to various holiday songs.

6 kid-friendly Chicago activities

Gemini Bistro- After about an hour, we decided to grab some dinner about 4 blocks up the street at my husband’s favorite pub, only to find it had changed ownership and was not serving food for another 45 minutes. So, we headed across the street to find something new… and LOVED it. The setting feels trendy (think marble-top bar), but there were also several tables with small children so we didn’t feel too out of place. We also found that there was a prix fixe menu (should you choose to go that way) just for people going to see the zoo lights.

6 kid-friendly Chicago activities

It even included cookies and a coffee to go! Such a great idea!!!

6 kid-friendly Chicago activities

Michigan Avenue- We drove up Michigan Avenue on our way to the hotel, and it was looking as magical as ever! The next day, we walked the Magnificent Mile with the children, stopping in several kid-friendly stores and window shopping at the others.

6 kid-friendly Chicago activities

Really, there were so many children on Michigan Avenue that we did not feel in the way shopping there.

Maggie Daley Park We have done this in the past but didn’t make it on this trip. Maggie Daley Park has it all. My kids really enjoyed the Play Garden when we were there, but there is also a Skating Ribbon and Climbing Wall that are on my list of things to check out the next time we are there.

6 kid-friendly Chicago activities

West Egg Cafe- This is our favorite breakfast spot, especially when we are meeting up with friends in the city who also have children. On the past few occasions we have gone, we have received our own small room with a large round table that houses all of us, our coats, and our strollers. There is a door that is opened to the larger room, but it is nice to be somewhat isolated and not have to worry that we are disrupting someone else’s breakfast.

6 kid-friendly Chicago activities

Home Alone House Again, we didn’t squeeze this one in this year, but it is always fun to drive to the North Shore to check out the Home Alone house. If you are a family that perhaps has Home Alone on “in the background” from Thanksgiving to Christmas Day, it is well worth the trip.

There are so many things to do around the holidays in Chicago that I almost feel like we should go back to fit a few more in before it is over! Next on the list are the Christkindlmarket (an open-air market derived from German and European traditions), the holiday windows at Macy’s on State Street, and breakfast at the Walnut Room. 

6 kid-friendly Chicago activities


Amazing Desserts from Around the World


The Best Baklava

The holidays are such a special time. I feel so incredibly fortunate to have my friends and family so close by. So, when I was trying to narrow the list down to just 3 dessert recipes, naturally good friends who also happen to be good cooks with great stories from around the globe seemed like a great fit.

Let’s begin with my friend, Rose. We have been friends for over 6 years and used to work together. She always brought in the best food that either she and her husband made or that she picked up from delicious local bakeries for our meetings. Rose taught a class a few years ago about how to make baklava. I don’t know what my excuse was, but I missed the class. And baklava is one of my absolute favorite desserts! Rose was gracious enough to share her mother’s recipe with me.  Rose’s father immigrated to the United States from Damascus in 1938 and followed through with an arranged marriage to her mother. When Rose was 4 years old, her father passed away, leaving behind her mother and their 7 children. Rose credits her mother’s never-ending love and deep faith in holding their family together. Here is a picture of Rose’s mother with Rose’s children. Can’t you just feel her love of family in this photo? Mackinaw Road- Rose's MomRose shared that making Baklava is more of an experience and tradition for her than just baking a dessert. She and her family have made it for as long as she can remember. Every year, she and her siblings make their own baklava and share it with each other to see whose turned out the best. Rose, I’m available if you all ever need an impartial judge! Keep reading for her recipe below.


Ingredients: 2-3 pounds phyllo dough, 2 pounds unsalted butter (rendered), 3 pounds ground walnuts, 5-6 cups of sugar, 4 cups water, 2 tsp orange flower water or to taste, 1 lemon (juiced)

Mix: walnuts with 1-2 cups of sugar and 3 tablespoons of melted butter. Add 1 tsp of the orange flower water. Set aside.

Layer: Start with 2 tablespoons of melted butter on the bottom of a 9×13 pan. Add 1 sheet of phyllo, paint with a thin layer of butter and then add another sheet of phyllo. Continue with 1-1.5 pounds of phyllo. Add the nut mixture and pat lightly but firmly in the pan. Begin the layering process again with the remaining 1-1.5 pounds of phyllo dough. Pat gently after each layer. DO NOT press hard. With a very sharp knife, cut into diamond shapes. Rows should be about 1 inch apart.

Best Baklava

Bake: @250 degrees for 2-3 hours. Lift corner piece to see if bottom is browning. If golden brown, then it is finished. You may want to turn on the broiler to crisp and lightly brown the top at the end. DO NOT take your eyes off of it. It browns quickly!

Boil: 4 cups of water and 4 cups of sugar. Add the juice of 1 lemon and 1 tsp of orange flower water. This is the syrup.


Next up: Nerin’s Tres Leches Cake

Day-After Recipes


day-after recipesThe Holiday Season is officially upon us. Lots of good food, good times, and good drinks are in our immediate future. I have already bought the ingredients for my Day-After recipes to get myself feeling healthy again. These are my top 3 contenders for the Day After I return from traveling as well. No matter how hard I try, I just almost always need the upgrade to french fries, at least one McDonald’s breakfast in the airport, and dessert, dessert, dessert.

Full disclosure… I don’t always love smoothies. However, I was forced into it after literally falling on my face last winter. That’s right. 6 weeks of soup and smoothies, so I do consider myself somewhat of an expert. And, these are so good that I still make them even though my jaw is back in working order.

Apple Pineapple Smoothie

A friend stopped by the day after my face plant with a big grocery bag from Trader Joe’s with all of the below goodness just ready to be blended.

Ingredients: apple (any sweet pink or red variety will do), 1 cup of frozen pineapple, 1 cup of coconut milk, 1 cup greek/Siggis yogurt, and a handful of kale/spinach. Blend. Enjoy.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Smoothie

Pure Chocolate Peanut Butter goodness~ is there any better combination?

Ingredients: large handful of spinach, 2 TBSP of Peanut Butter, 2 TBSP of honey, 2 TBSP of cocoa, 1 1/2 cup of coconut milk. Blend. Pour over ice (or blend the ice with the other ingredients). Yum.

Robin’s Healthy Lentil Soup

I have to admit that as I read through Shauna Niequist’s Bread and Wine, this was not the first recipe that was on my list to try. However, feeling in need of something healthy one day, I decided to give it a shot. It seemed pretty basic- carrots, celery, lentils, etc., etc. But then you drizzle balsamic vinegar in at the eleventh hour, and it transforms into one of the most delicious soups.  I haven’t ever blended it, as the directions suggest one should, because, well, I’ll admit, I can only handle so much blending in my life. 

Here is the link to Robin’s Healthy Lentil Soup or you can also find it in Shauna’s book Bread and Wine, which I would highly recommend. 

Whether it’s the Day After a holiday party or the Day After your return from a trip (hopefully, not the Day After a broken jaw), I hope you find these recipes useful in your recovery.

** please note that affiliate links are contained in this post, meaning that, at no cost to you, I may receive some compensation.