December 9, 2012 § 3 Comments
Our entire week (well actually the last two months) has been consumed by preparations and rehearsals for the Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Nutcracker, which opened this week. For the third year in a row, Bella has been lucky enough to be cast in this gorgeous production – one of the world’s most renowned, with costumes and sets designed by Maurice Sendak. The first year, nervous and new to this world, my Bella shot off the cannon in a little blue Artillery costume. And for the last two years, she’s grown into an Infantry soldier battling the mouse king in a lavish fight scene.
Nutcracker has been a wonderful experience for our whole family – we love hanging out in Seattle’s Queen Anne area while waiting for Bella to rehearse and perform. There are so many cute traditions in this Nutcracker family: like the children’s letters to the professionals, who give them their used pointe shoes in return, and the annual Nutty Nutcracker, a funny variant of the regular show. For me personally, volunteering backstage has been so rewarding. I have applied makeup, helped children get into their costumes and pinned on hats – and I’ve loved every minute.
While I haven’t actually been down to the stage, I can see it in my mind with the details Bella has shared with us. I treasure the mental images of my little girl dressed up with red-circled cheeks and a smart military uniform standing in the wings waiting to go on while beautiful snowflake fairy ballerinas warm up on the bars at the side of the stage. What an amazing experience Bella is getting to be making her debut alongside professionals at the top of their craft, encouraging the littles and making them feel like stars. These are memories we will never, ever forget. For the rest of my life, when I hear Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker I will think of this time in our lives, of this beautiful show and of the pride we feel in getting to be a part of it.
November 20, 2012 § 2 Comments
“Who does not thank for little will not thank for much.” – Estonian Proverb
With my wonderful mother-in-law and both girls in tow, I braved the grocery store this afternoon for “the big shop” – the annual gathering of all my essential items for the perfect Thanksgiving meal. I love this holiday: time spent relaxing with treasured family and friends, the football games, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade and, of course, THE FOOD. I’ve got our family’s perfect southern meal down to a science, with a number of recipes that are must-haves – I’m not even sure my brother would show up without my Grammy’s corn bread stuffing or our dad’s green beans (which, like all his great recipes, includes a can of beer). Even my addition of marbled mashed potatoes in recent years has quickly become a staple. I’m sure most people are like me and have tons of traditional family recipes they can’t live without but, if you find yourself searching for something new, look no further. These favorites of mine cannot be beat and are another little thing in my life that I’m so thankful for!
Sweet Cornbread Stuffing
4 boxes of cornbread mix, prepared and cubed (MUST be Jiffy brand)
3/4 cup butter
2-3 cups chopped celery (including leaves)
1 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
salt and pepper to taste
poultry seasoning to taste
dark meat turkey and broth
Make cornbread ahead of time and cut into cubes. (I make it the night before and let it sit out overnight to dry out.) Heat butter on the stove. Add celery, onion, salt and pepper to taste and cook until softened. Stir in the cubed cornbread and add poultry seasoning and more salt and pepper to taste. In true southern-girl style, I boil up some turkey parts (neck, thighs, etc.) with butter and lots of salt and pepper the night before and add a bit of this along with some of the turkey broth to moisten. I save the rest for the gravy the next day. In our family, we always cook our stuffing in the bird, but this still tastes great baked in the oven on 350 degrees for 30 minutes in a casserole dish.
Dad’s Green Beans
fresh green beans, ends broken off (as many as will fill a large stockpot)
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
pepper to taste
1 medium onion, diced
1 thick slice ham steak cut into pieces
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 can beer (I sometimes use wine)
2 tablespoons butter
Combine all ingredients in pot with a few inches of liquid in the bottom. Cook on low heat covered for at least 4-5 hours. Let it cook down slowly overtime – beans will reduce by at least half. Stir carefully to not break up the beans too much. Lid can be removed toward the end to boil off excess liquid. Additional salt and pepper can be added to taste.
Marbled Potatoes (from “True Grits” by the Junior League of Atlanta)
1 pound red potatoes (I substitute russet potatoes)
1 pound sweet potatoes (I use canned)
2 large scallions, chopped
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup whipping cream, whipped
nutmeg to taste
1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper (may want more)
1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
2 tablespoons melted butter
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
Cook the regular and sweet potatoes separately and mash in separate bowls (no need to cook canned sweet potatoes). Saute the scallions in 1/4 cup butter in a skillet until tender. Stir half the scallions into each bowl of potatoes. Whisk the sour cream with the whipped cream in a bowl. Fold half gently into each bowl of potatoes. Add half the nutmeg, salt and pepper to each bowl. Layer the potatoes 1/2 at a time in a greased 1-quart dish. Swirl with a knife to marbleize. Sprinkle with a mixture of the bread crumbs, melted butter and parsley. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until the topping is golden brown.
chevron bulletin board
November 12, 2012 § 2 Comments
Sophie had the day off today to mark Veteran’s Day. We went to lunch with my friend Stacy and her girls, and then we spent a little time getting lost in Ben Franklin Crafts – fun! I wanted to make it Sophie’s day – our special time together – so this afternoon, we made a new bulletin board from her room with some pretty aqua chevron fabric I picked up. I am in love with chevron stripes and was excited to add some to Soph’s room. It is easy to make a custom bulletin board of any size using fabric, a staple gun and an art canvas. We took a huge canvas we already had, covered it with the fabric, wrapping it tightly as we stapled it along the back side. For this board, I wanted a clean and simple look so I trimmed it out using decorative silver nails along the edges. Sophie is so happy with her new board and is already happily pinning up her treasures.
There are so many easy-to-make and lovely bulletin board ideas online. I’ve added a few to my Pinterest page in case anyone out there needs some inspiration. Craft on!
November 11, 2012 § 3 Comments
One of our favorite places to spend a beautiful summer day is Volunteer Park – a 48-acre retreat at the top of Seattle’s Capital Hill neighborhood – playing softball and relaxing in the big grassy field, climbing to the top of the old water tower with one of the most spectacular views of the city, and wandering through its amazing conservatory. For now, the weather has turned, and it’s too rainy and chilly to hang outdoors. But as we headed over there again today to take pictures at a place I’d scouted out for our Christmas card, I was reminded of how much I love spending time in this beautiful oasis in our city. Even though I’m not much of a green thumb, even I can appreciate fabulous flora when I see it, and there’s a lot of it to be seen in the Volunteer Park Conservatory. It’s just another little place I love.
October 28, 2012 § 5 Comments
I love having good friends in my life who aren’t afraid to give me a little kick every now and then. My friend Stephanie had been telling me about these delicious breakfast muffins she’d found on Pinterest – so easy to make and her family was loving them. I gave her a little yeah yeah and added it to my to-do list of future ideas. Friend that she is – who loves my family and knew that we could not go another day without this tasty breakfast – decided to remind me with an insanely early morning text (hey, who doesn’t love being awakened by the ding ding from their iPhone at 6:47 a.m.!?!). How could I not be compelled to act? My family’s happiness was on the line. So I took the hint, dragged myself out of bed, and made these quick and easy little breakfast muffins. And you know what? She was right of course – she knows us so well. Drew and the girls went crazy over them, and I got to feel like the best mom ever for the rest of the day. Thank you friend for always looking out for me, and here’s the blog post you were expecting:
(originally from Martha Stewart)
In a well-buttered muffin pan, layer white bread (cut into circles or with the crusts cut off), grated cheddar cheese, cooked bacon, and one cracked egg. Salt and pepper to taste and bake at 350 degrees until egg is cooked. Variations can include other breakfast meat, cheeses or a scrambled egg, which my girls prefer. Delish!
October 22, 2012 § Leave a comment
Well Halloween is almost here, and the annual ghosties have appeared on our front porch. I have made these clever squash ghosts with my girls every year since they were little using white paint and Sharpies. We look forward to it and have fun picking the sizes and shapes of our squash (the largest for Mom, middle for Bella, and smallest for Sophie) and deciding on the faces we’ll draw. It’s our favorite Halloween crafting tradition. Boo!
October 16, 2012 § 4 Comments
I am trying out some new Halloween projects this year, and here’s one of them. Such an easy craft, I spray painted a pumpkin with chalkboard paint, embellished with black ribbon and a spooky bird, and wrote my message with a chalkboard pen. This cool countdown-to-Halloween pumpkin is going to look perfect on my front porch!
October 8, 2012 § 2 Comments
I don’t know how it went so fast but another year has flown by, and I’m back around to the start of my absolutely favorite time of year and crafting season. From Halloween to Christmas, I’m full of project ideas and in the perfect mood to curl up in my house cozy and crafting. This time last year my friend Stacy and I began our obsession with making banners, and we started with our awesome Trick or Treat Halloween banner. Stacy even inspired a few more of her friends to join in, and she hosted a craft night for them a couple of weeks ago. We both had fun coaching but, of course, needed our own new project to tackle.
This BOO sign idea was at our Ben Franklin Crafts store. We “Modge Podged” Halloween papers on each of three wooden plaques and stained the rims of the plaques black by sponging on stamping ink. We used more Modge Podge (I love this stuff!) to attach the die cut letters and seal the top, and then we hot-glued on some cool embellishments. Getting the plaques – strung together with ribbon – to hang straight down is a little tricky, but the finished project is the perfect size for a door. The creative wheels are spinning, and I’ve got several more fun Halloween projects in mind (not to mention a Greek Goddess and a Cindy Lou Who costume to work on for my girlies). Now I just need to carve out a bit of time from my busy life to get busy crafting, and I’ll be a happy girl!
the little sister
September 30, 2012 § 3 Comments
Today I was reminded of how wonderful my daughter Sophie is and what a special place she has in our family as the little sister. Soph is sweet, shy, smart and silly; she’s a pistol, a crack-up, a kook, an actress, a troublemaker and a cuddler. She loves music and jokes and books and drawing. She loves her big sister Bella with all her heart, and her role as Bella’s little sister defines them both. We love the movie “White Christmas,” and when Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen start in on, “Sisters, sisters, there were never such devoted sisters” my girls can’t help but sing along.
Sophie has a hard road sometimes, not always able to keep up or do everything as well. She’s had to spend a lot of time watching and waiting while Bella leads the way. But give her time, because I know that one day there are so many things she will be able to do even better. In our family, we read the picture book Big Sister, Little Sister by LeUyen Pham, a little sister herself. Sophie’s favorite part is the end when it says: “My sister is very good at being the Big Sister. But I’ll always be better than her at being a Little Sister.”
Yes it’s a tough job to be the little sister, but Sophie’s a perfect one to do it. And she has a big sister that loves her more than anything; to have someone like that in your corner has to feel comforting and empowering. I just know that spunky, beautiful, amazing little sister Sophie will change the world – and lucky me, I get to watch.
September 19, 2012 § Leave a comment
Last week for our school’s staff appreciation luncheon the theme was salads, and I had the perfect recipe. Anyone who knows me, knows I LOVE salad and that it’s one of my favorite foods. My girls also know it, and in first grade Bella made sure to tell her teacher this on a school report. (Of course, to be fully forthcoming, she also reported that my favorite drink is wine – a proud parenting moment to be sure!) This asian salad recipe came to me from my friend Stacy and is a wonderful combination of sweet and savory; and the crunchy topping – a mix of uncooked ramen noodles, sesame seeds and almonds – gives great texture. It is the perfect addition to any salad-making repertoire, and I love surprising people with its unique and delicious taste.
1 whole shredded green cabbage
chopped spinach (about 6 ounces)
chopped green onion
2 packages oriental flavored ramen noodles (mashed)
1 pack of dry oriental seasoning from ramen noodles
3 tablespoons sesame seeds
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup slivered almonds
3 tablespoons butter (melted)
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
Combine cabbage, spinach and green onions in salad bowl. For topping, mix together 2 packages of uncooked ramen noodles (I break mine up with a wooden spoon before opening package), 1 pack of the dry seasoning mix that comes with the noodles, the sesame seeds, and the sliced and slivered almonds. Melt butter and pour over mixture. Broil in the oven on a cookie sheet until toasted. Add toasted topping to lettuces, coat with dressing and mix well.