getting out there

May 29, 2012 § 2 Comments

I’ll admit that I am not much of a camper. Actually I have some great memories of camping as a child with my dad and uncles and, before having kids of my own, I did get out there every so often for a short trip with my hubby and friends. Ever since I had the girls though, I’ve preferred hotel rooms to tents and fireplaces to camp fires. But with my dad’s visit this weekend and my brother now living out here, a camping experience for my girls was in order. My brother is a regular mountain man – he hiked the entire Appalachian Trail straight from Georgia to Maine about six years ago, and now he lives on the Olympic Peninsula. The girls love their “Uncle D” and having him and Gramps to go camping with got them really excited. We ended up at the beautiful Lake Wenatchee State Park, and seeing our outdoor adventure through my daughters’ eyes changed my perspective on roughing it.

The girls loved all the things I remember loving when I was little: setting up the beds in the tent, hiking around and exploring the campground, tending the fire, laying in the hammock and making the food. We roasted hot dogs for dinner and made s’mores for dessert. In typical fashion, Bella got extremely scientific in creating the perfect s’more, expertly toasting the marshmallows and graham crackers and melting the chocolate. The little sister preferred to quickly toast the marshmallows, throw the combo together and then relax in the hammock, enjoying the tasty results. Sitting around the campfire was fun; the girls brought their own instruments (a recorder and a ukulele) and had a little jam session. And at dusk, we walked down to the lake’s gorgeous beach where I was happy to find some rocks and driftwood for my collection. I get it now, camping isn’t about roughing it – it’s about being together and having an adventure and making memories. I guess I can get out there every once in a while for that!

welcoming summer

May 25, 2012 § 2 Comments

With the long weekend, it officially feels like summer around here. Ever since our Halloween banner project, my friend Stacy and I have been in production mode making banners for most of the holidays. And just when I was beginning to get tired of repeating the same design, my favorite craft store Ben Franklin got in fresh supplies. In addition to their other banner-making embellishments, Paper Accents is now selling extra-large chipboard pennants and, as is usually the case at my Ben Franklin, one of the employees had made a sample inspiring me to try my own. I combined some pretty blue and yellow papers and buttons from My Mind’s Eye and made flags to string across the top from my collection of Washi tape. I love the results: a cool new banner for the front door to welcome guests – and summer – to our house.

 

blueberry muffins

May 22, 2012 § 2 Comments

I love to bake, and it’s one of my favorite things to do for my family. I got up a little early this morning, and it was cool and rainy outside – the perfect morning for blueberry muffins. This is a great recipe; I’ve been making it for years. The best part is the sugar sprinkled on top before baking, which creates a crunchy sweet crust that is so yummy! My girls were excited to wake up to this treat. They had a warm muffin for breakfast, and then we wrapped one for each of them – tied up in a cloth napkin Little House on the Prairie style – to take for a school snack. Enjoy these with your family!

Blueberry Muffins

3/4 cup butter softened
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
3 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 and 1/3 cups milk
1 cup blueberries

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a mixer, beat butter and sugar until well blended. Add eggs one at a time, creaming. In another bowl, combine 2 and 2/3 cups of flour and remaining dry ingredients. Mix the dry ingredients into the egg mixture, and then slowly add the milk. Combine until moist – do not over-mix. Place remaining 1/3 cup of flour in a ziplock bag, add the rinsed berries and shake to coat with the flour. Stir the blueberries into batter. Fill muffin tins (either greased or lined with papers) almost full. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 20 – 30 minutes or until lightly browned.

glassybaby

May 19, 2012 § 1 Comment

I love glass – all types: mercury, milk, clear – and have it displayed throughout my home. Now I’ve discovered glassybaby, and their story has inspired me to expand my collection. In 1998, Lee Rhodes was battling cancer when she designed the first glassybaby. Lighting and displaying these colorful, resilient little works of art around her home brought Rhodes strength. Each one is unique and handmade by four glassblowers; the color choices are vast and can be soothing or vibrant. The company’s studio is located in the Seattle neighborhood of Madrona and, besides three Seattle-area locations, there is a store in New York’s West Village. From her difficult battle with cancer, Lee Rhodes found a light to help her through and has shared it with the world. Since 2003, glassybaby has donated more than $900,000 to charities. I love thinking about how something so simple can affect so many. It makes me happy to add a little bit of glassybaby to my world.

succulents

May 15, 2012 § 3 Comments

We are finally enjoying perfectly wonderful spring weather out here in the Pacific Northwest – time to get started with my type of gardening. Unlike several of my friends who have green thumbs, mine, in fact, is kind of brown. I am not great with plants, and my friend Stacy has made it her business to drop by my house from time to time to take care of my outdoor container pots. I think she feels sorry for them, or me, or both. But there is one type of plant that I’ve developed a love affair with: succulents. These tiny guys seem to thrive in my house (the possibility that it is because they are desert plants that can survive with little or no attention has not escaped me).

Last week I stopped by Molbak’s – an amazing gardening store in nearby Woodinville, Washington – to get some new spring succulents. My dad has huge, beautiful jade plants that he has been growing in terracotta on his back porch for years and, when I was in college, he would occasionally clip off some branches for me to bring back to spruce up my apartment. Since then, I’ve always tried to keep at least one jade going strong in my house, along with other favorites like hens and chicks and stonecrop. And it’s fun to put together combos in pretty low bowls and see how long I can keep them alive. Again, the fact that they are drought-resistant relatives of cacti with their own built-in water storage system doesn’t hurt. See, even us brown-thumbed girls can enjoy gardening!

knowing where you come from

May 13, 2012 § 1 Comment

I’ve always loved Mother’s Day. It’s fun to spend time thinking about the special people in our lives and important to make sure they know how much we appreciate them. I am lucky enough to have a wonderful mother and mother-in-law and to be the mother of two lovely daughters. My girls get so excited about the homemade gifts they make for me, and I can vividly remember my own creations for my mom and the happiness I felt making and giving them. And even though they are no longer alive, on Mother’s Day I love to think about my grandmothers and how important they were to me.

I don’t think I realized when I was little how unusual my family was. I just knew that my grandparents were close, but it was many years before I truly understood that the bond had been formed a lifetime before I was born. All four of my grandparents grew up in the same small town of Speedway, Indiana. In fact, my grandmothers Marion and Marcy had been friends since the beginning of grade school. I have seen a picture of my Memo and Grammy side by side at their Kindergarten graduation, and a picture with three of my four grandparents graduating from middle school hangs in my house. I also have a photo of my two grandmothers sitting together, both pregnant at the time with my mom and my dad. I think about how amazing it must have been to have a friend growing up – sharing so many firsts in life together – and then see your children grow up and marry each other. How beautiful would it be to share grandchildren with your best friend? They both loved me, but they loved each other too, which was something intangible I felt from the time I was little.

So happy Mother’s Day! Enjoy the special treatment, pamper those you love and remember the details of your own unique family and how important it is to know where you come from.

chicken enchiladas

May 11, 2012 § 6 Comments

At last weekend’s Cinco de Mayo party, I brought my chicken and cheese enchiladas, always a hit. The recipe comes from one of my favorite cookbooks, True Grits: Tall Tales and Recipes from the New South, published by the Junior League of Atlanta. I loved living and eating out in Atlanta for almost 10 years, and this cookbook includes recipes from many of the city’s best offerings, along with some great stories by southern authors. (I find Junior League cookbooks in general to be fantastic and have ones from Houston and Seattle as well.) These enchiladas are perfect for kids and adults, either plain or spiced up with salsa and fixings. They go fast, so I usually double or triple the recipe – so perfect for a taco night get-together with friends.

Creamy Chicken and Cheese Enchiladas

4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1/2 cup chopped onion
10 flour tortillas
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1/4 cup flour
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup sour cream
1 (4-ounce) can chopped green chiles, drained

Rinse the chicken and pat dry; cut into thin slices. Saute the chicken in the olive oil in a skillet until brown; drain. Combine the chicken, cheese and onion in a bowl; mix well. Spoon the chicken mixture onto the center of each tortilla; roll the tortilla to enclose the filling. Place the enchiladas seam side down in a 9×13-inch baking dish. Heat the butter in a saucepan until melted. Stir in the flour until blended. Add the chicken broth; mix well. Cook until thickened, stirring constantly. Stir in the sour cream and chiles. Spoon the sauce over the enchiladas. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until bubbly.

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