June 25, 2013 § 2 Comments
My baby turned nine yesterday – I cannot believe it – and we celebrated in style with a lovely art party. My girls have been invited to a few art parties in recent years at different painting stores in the area. Sophie loves art, so we decided to do our own at-home version complete with real canvases for the girls to paint. For the art project each guest painted her own initial surrounded by different designs. It was a little rainy (typical June Seattle) so we had to set-up the painting in the garage instead of the grass like I’d imagined, but the guests didn’t seem to care. We served our favorite macaroni and cheese and sandwiches and had paint-your-own frosted cupcakes for dessert.
I love the colors we chose – orange and aqua – and had so much fun picking up cool treat bags, candies, straws, flowers and decor to match. I bought the smocks at the craft store but sewed orange chevron pockets to the front and tied on some coordinating ribbon – an easy way to make a store-bought apron look homemade. All and all, a simple and adorable birthday party that made my Sophie a very happy girl. And a happy girl makes a happy mommy!!
February 11, 2013 § 1 Comment
I get my inspiration from lots of different sources: friends, magazines, craft stores, Pinterest and, yes definitely, my children. Last year, we had a blast making our awesome owl valentines to exchange with friends and at school, but this year I was looking for a new project. I asked Sophie and – out of the blue – she said, “I want to make game spinners.” Where did that come from?
It was the spark I needed to get my creative juices flowing. I picked up a pack of 6×6 chipboard squares and some valentine scrapbook papers. We cut the arrows out of chipboard, covered them with Washi tape, and used a felt sticker heart for the tips. My girlie had fun assembling them and especially stamping on the cute messages. We taped a pixie stick to the back along with our to/from because according to Soph: “the kids really care most about the candy.” That may be true, but I like to think that the smiles on their faces might be just a little bit bigger when they see these super cool valentines. That makes me happy!
February 9, 2013 § Leave a comment
Sophie and I have had fun today assembling these sweet little Valentine’s Day treat bags for her friends. Inspired by a gift from my friend Stephanie and several Pinterest pics, I’ve been incorporating wax paper treat bags into my recent craft projects. There are so many of these bags on the market right now. I got mine at my local Paper Source store, and you can find a ton of really pretty ones on The Sugar Diva’s website. For Bella’s birthday craft party and for this project, I sewed the bags shut as an added touch. Some may think I’m crazy, but I think going the extra mile makes all the difference. Love is in the details!
February 4, 2013 § 3 Comments
Today I’m feeling tired but refreshed, having just come back from a fun girls weekend with two of my besties from college. I flew from Seattle and Jean from D.C. to help our friend Jen celebrate her birthday in Chicago. This is the year that we – girlfriends since 18 – each turn 40, and it seemed the perfect reason to spend some time together catching up. In our 20s, we made more of a habit of these little getaways, staying connected by flying to each other’s cities for weekend trips. But life gets in the way, and it had been more than 7 years since all three of us were together. The day-to-day grind of family and work and responsibilities can make it hard to take time for ourselves. For me, just the prep that goes into making arrangements to leave my world for a bit can leave me frazzled before I even go. It wasn’t easy, but I’m thrilled we finally made it happen again.
It was a perfect weekend! We shopped, saw a movie, ate yummy food, toasted with some fun drinks, went ice skating downtown, and partied with Jen’s local friends. We discussed our careers, our families, our love lives. We spent a slightly embarrassing amount of time chatting about the minutiae that is Facebook and Instagram and Pinterest and my new obsession: Picfx (thanks girls). We took lots of pictures (including a few of Jean’s favorite feet pix) and had fun editing and sharing them. We giggled our way through the weekend.
The thing is, life-long friends are few and far between – making the time to stay connected to these women, who I love so much and who have known me so long is important. These friends love me for me and, no matter where I am, their friendship is a given. When life gets crazy, friends keep you sane. I’m a lucky girl to have these friends in my corner rooting for me, and I’m so grateful to have had this time away with them to remember it.
January 23, 2013 § Leave a comment
As soon as the Valentine’s Day crafting supplies make their appearance in the stores, I can feel my excitement level rise. I love Valentine’s Day, probably not shocking considering this is a holiday where crafting takes center stage. This week I was so anxious to break into my valentine supplies that I didn’t even wait to clean up the craft room from Bella’s birthday party – I just set up camp on the floor and started in.
I have a big box of shipping tags that I got at an office supply store (I like incorporating industrial elements into my projects) and decided to use them to make pretty Valentine tags using some of my stash of supplies: a mat stack of papers from Crate Paper, felt hearts, some awesome washi tape, cupcake liners, ribbons and a repurposed used book. I’m not even sure who I’m making these tags for, but I smile thinking of how lovely they’ll look tied to a gift for someone special in my world. Cheers to the beginning of the Valentine’s Day crafting season!
January 19, 2013 § 8 Comments
After a week’s delay for my Bella to get over being sick, she was finally able to have her super-fun crafting sleepover party with a few friends. Bella loves to craft almost as much as I do (and that’s saying something), and so planning this party together was a lot of fun. She chose the cool color combo – aqua and lime green – something I wouldn’t have thought of, and I loved it! We worked together on the decorations; Bella was so proud of her washi tape flags for the cupcakes. I love the sleeping masks I made for the girls to decorate by sewing on buttons and felt embellishments. And my hubby got a laugh watching me sew (yes, sew) the wax paper favor bags closed!
We made button necklaces from an idea I found on Pinterest, and Bella came up with her own game: a duct tape version of charades. During the night, I printed out some cute pictures of the girls that I took on Instagram, and they were able to add them to their SMASH Books (a cool new scrapbooking line). But the best part was how proud and excited Bella was to share these fun ideas and projects with her friends. Here are some scenes from our craft night – with Valentine’s Day just around the corner, it’s time to get your crafting skills ready.
January 15, 2013 § 1 Comment
A friend of mine is thinking about making chicken chili for a party she’s throwing, and I told her that I had the perfect one. It’s important to have a few well-worn, loved and trusted recipes in your kitchen. For me, the more used the cookbook or the more destroyed the printed recipe, the better! One of my best – and definitely most worn – recipes is the Soup Nazi’s Chicken Chili from the Top Secret Recipes online site. (You know the Soup Nazi, made famous in one of the best Seinfeld episodes where George doesn’t follow the strict ordering procedure and gets a sharp “No soup for you!” from the crabby but genius soup stand chef.) This recipe came to me from my friend Stacy’s mom, and they’d both already made a few modifications before it sending it my way. I’ve tweaked it a bit more, and the result is the most delicious chicken chili I’ve ever eaten. This is a crowd pleaser – give it a try!
The Soup Nazi’s Mexican Chicken Chili
2 pounds of chicken breasts
1 tablespoon olive oil
10 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup tomato sauce
2 potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 small onion
2 cups frozen corn
2 carrots, sliced
3-4 celery stalks, diced
3 cans diced tomatoes
2 cans red kidney beans, no liquid
1 jalapeno, diced
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
1 clove garlic, minced
2 – 2 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
dash of cayenne pepper
dash of basil
dash of oregano
salt to taste
Saute the chicken breasts in the olive oil in a large pot over medium/high heat. Cook the chicken on both sides until done – about 7-10 minutes per side. Cool the chicken until it can be handled. Do not rinse the pot. Shred the chicken by hand into bite-sized pieces and place the pieces back into the pot. Add the remaining ingredients to the pot and turn heat to high. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 4-5 hours. Stir mixture often so that many of the chicken pieces shred into much smaller bits. Chili should reduce substantially to thicken and darken (less orange, more brown) when done. Combine some chopped Italian parsley with sour cream and serve it on the side for topping the chili, if desired.
January 3, 2013 § 3 Comments
It’s funny how things work out sometimes – so different from how you planned, yet sometimes so much better. The annual Christmas card is always such a big deal to me. Sending them out and receiving them from family and friends is one of my highlights of the season. I love to really think about our card. I’m a planner, and I look through old photos or set-up little photo shoots to get the perfect image for the card each year. This time around, I found a really cool card on Tiny Prints with a Beatles quote (one of my faves) and knew I wanted to use it. We needed to get one great shot of the girls set to the side so that the wording would show. So we headed down to Volunteer Park in Seattle where there’s an awesome brick wall, the perfect place for my perfect Christmas card photo. But life – and our little sister – had something different planned.
The posed shots from that day were just OK, not many real smiles and a little stiff, but when Sophie decided to bust out her rock star moves (so Sophie), it cracked us up and ended up being more than perfect – it’s one of my favorite pictures ever of my girls! And all the other candid photos from that day were wonderful, too. Sometimes it’s those unplanned moments – the pictures between the pictures – that really captures life. Sometimes just letting it happen lets the real us shine through.
December 31, 2012 § 2 Comments
It’s a quiet New Year’s Eve for us this year, and I’m chilling at home making a favorite. This is one of my most cherished recipes – tried and true, a crumpled and well-worn page torn from a Cooking Light magazine. This recipe for Bolognese sauce is the best I’ve found. Unlike a lot of the tomato-heavy spaghetti sauces we’re used to seeing in America, this sauce is a beautiful orange color filled with carrots, celery and onion, and flavored with nutmeg and bay leaf, chicken broth and milk. Eating it reminds me of the first bowl of spaghetti I ate in Venice on my honeymoon. Ooh, I though, this is what all the fuss is about. I couldn’t get that sauce out of my mind and spent a number of years trying to replicate it. This wonderful recipe comes pretty close. I always make at least a double batch and love it over egg fettuccine with lots of Parmesan; and I’ve also recently started using it as the sauce for my lasagna – delizioso! Happy New Year!
Ragu Alla Bolognese
From Cooking Light magazine – This recipe is adapted from the classic ragus of Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup finely chopped celery
1/2 cup finely chopped carrot
5 ounces ground veal (I usually sub turkey)
5 ounces ground pork
5 ounces ground round
1 cup dry white wine
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 bay leaf
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can chicken broth
1 (10 3/4-ounce) can tomato puree
1 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion, celery and carrot; cover and cook 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove onion mixture from pan. Add meat to pan; cook over medium heat until browned, stirring to crumble. Add wine, salt, pepper, nutmeg and bay leaf; bring to a boil. Cook 5 minutes. Add the onion mixture, broth and tomato puree; bring to a simmer. Cook 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Stir in milk and minced parsley; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 40 minutes. Discard bay leaf. Yield: 8 (1 1/2 cup) servings.
Lasagna with Bolognese
1 batch Bolognese sauce
lasagna noodles, cooked
24 ounces ricotta cheese
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
16 ounces sliced mozzarella cheese
Combine eggs, ricotta, pepper and Parmesan, stirring well. Spread about 1 cup Bolognese sauce in bottom of 13×9 baking dish. Layer half each of noodles, ricotta cheese mixture, mozzarella cheese and Bolognese sauce. Repeat layers. Top with additional grated Parmesan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes; let stand 10 minutes before serving.
December 24, 2012 § 1 Comment
I came across the idea of homemade flavored sugars in the May issue of Country Living and saved it for the holidays. These recipes are so simple to make and taste great in tea or coffee. Start with 2 cups granulated sugar. For vanilla sugar, split 1 vanilla bean in half and scrape the seeds from the bean into the sugar; then bury the bean in the sugar. For cinnamon sugar, add 1½ tablespoons ground cinnamon and 2 cinnamon sticks. I am loving the little chalkboard spice jars at Anthropologie, and this delicious vanilla sugar was the perfect thing to put inside as a holiday gift. Merry Christmas!