letting it happen
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 29, 2012 § 2 Comments
I don’t think blown glass was something I’d given much thought to before we moved to Seattle. But here in the backyard of the famous glass blower Dale Chihuly, you can’t help but take notice. With my mom who’s in town visiting, we went to check out the newest addition to the downtown Seattle scene: Chihuly Garden and Glass – a comprehensive collection of Chihuly’s work displayed through indoor halls, a glasshouse and an outdoor garden. The size and scope of some of the pieces were so impressive that a lot of the conversation by the admirers was about the sheer logistics of making, transporting and installing work of this nature. I think I was most impressed by the colors – every one on the color wheel everywhere you looked. We went in the evening and the lights gave the garden a truly magical quality, but the daylight view is supposed to be equally stunning. Guess I’ll have to make plans for a return visit.
The work of Chihuly is known and admired around the world. Two years ago when we were in Venice, we went on a glass blowing tour on the island of Murano. When the man in the studio heard we were from Seattle, he excitedly told us in broken English that Chihuly has visited them there to work and collaborate on projects. There in gorgeous and impressive Venice, I was proud to be from gorgeous and impressive Seattle. It’s just another little thing that makes this a cool place to live.
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!
a year of flowers
December 20, 2012 § Leave a comment
It’s hard to believe that I’ve been writing this blog long enough to have entries a year in the making. Last January, I gave myself a challenge: to put together one fresh flower arrangement for the house every month. I stipulated that the flowers and greenery in the arrangements must be chosen separately by me (no pre-arranged flowers for this girl), which forced me to take my time, think about colors and textures and types of flowers, and to arrange them in a pretty way. I have always loved flowers and love that Drew gives them to the girls and me to mark important occasions. This has been a fun project and may be something that sticks around for a long time. Because these fresh flowers have definitely added a little more happy to our house, and our darker Seattle days have seemed just a bit brighter. It’s little things like this that make life more beautiful.
December 16, 2012 § Leave a comment
We just went to an awesome baking party yesterday, and I was reminded of Bella’s 6th birthday. This was one of my favorite parties! Fun party planning for me always begins with a great idea for the invitation and the party favors, and for this one the recipe card invites and the homemade aprons were so much fun to make. I loved the retro papers and fabrics I used – I even found a matching dress for my birthday girl to wear. I’m not great with patterns but pretty handy with the sewing machine, and these aprons weren’t too hard to cut and patch together without a pattern. The guests were set up around the kitchen island and spent the evening making their own pizzas and rolling and decorating sugar cookies. Most children love to help in the kitchen and, just like at the party yesterday, the adults were impressed with just how quiet it got as the little one focused in on their grown-up baking. It was an adorable party, and the memories are unforgettable.
December 13, 2012 § 1 Comment
I love that my craft room looks like Santa’s workshop right now with all the fun holiday wrapping supplies I’ve amassed being put to good use. My friend Stacy had a Christmas tag making party last week (something she’s done for the past couple of years), and we discovered that all the cool Washi tape we’d been collecting makes for AWESOME holiday tags. I love homemade tags, and these are so simple and cute. I can’t wait to see how great they look on all my “brown paper packages tied up with string – these are a few of my favorite things.” (Sorry, but I can’t possibly wrap presents or even think about wrapping without singing the Sound of Music.) The holidays just make me happy!
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!