paris (and a camera phone)

April 20, 2013 § 2 Comments

the seine

It’s been a whirlwind couple of months: buying a new house, selling an old house (in that order) and turning 40! I’ve not had a lot of time to spare, but have been managing to squeeze every bit of fun out of this busy life as possible. We’ve just returned from a lovely Spring Break to Paris, a special trip in honor of the big 4-0. It was Drew’s idea that we celebrate my birthday in my favorite city, and who am I to argue? So even though the timing was a little crazy, we went for it and got lost in the world for a blissful week.

It was the rainiest visit to Paris I’ve ever had, but typical I think for the springtime. We weren’t able to do quite as much strolling and sitting around in parks, but that left more time for eating and drinking, both of which are so good there. We had many fun moments curled up in the booths of cafes and boulangeries and brasseries together.the girls

Since we were only there for a week, I relied on my iPhone for my photos and got to play with a few of the photo apps I’ve been so obsessed with lately. I had discovered Instagram a while back, but ever since my girls’ weekend in Chicago, where my friends Jean and Jen so kindly filled me in on the joy that is Picfx, I’ve been having so much fun playing with pictures and exploring several different and fun photo apps available. My current favorite is Camera+, and its “Fashion” FX effect is so cool.

The only thing better for me than taking and looking at pictures of my precious girls, is taking the pictures and then getting to edit them over and over to my heart’s content – ahhhhh!! This is much to Drew’s dismay as he loves to tease me that there is no reason that a perfectly good picture taken in 2013 should look like it’s been dug out of a cedar chest circa 1973. But I say he’s wrong! There’s something alluring about these edited images, they seem somehow timeless. They’re fun, and they make me happy.

So last week as I found myself in Paris, my favorite city, with my three favorite people in the world and my new favorite photo apps – I felt like such a lucky girl! And even though it was only a week, I have a lifetime of beautiful photos to help remember. Here are some highlights:

 

where the day takes you

February 21, 2013 § 1 Comment

This past Monday was the only day my girls’ mid-winter breaks aligned, so I decided to make the most of it by heading out on a little road trip with my brother. I feel so lucky that he moved out west and now lives only 15 minutes away from us, much to his nieces’ delight. We had no plan for the day but decided on a whim to try to find a fantastic little hole-in-the-wall restaurant we’d been to once before on a road trip when I first moved out here and he’d come to visit. We couldn’t even remember how long ago it was, except that my now eight year old was in a baby car seat.

Jason thought the restaurant had the word “anchor” in the name or there was some sort of nautical theme – that and the fact that we remembered it being in one of the small waterfront towns near a ferry port north of Seattle was pretty much all we had to go on. It was fun taking off for the day and retracing the steps of our past adventures. And as soon as we hit the little town of Anacortes, with its quaint historic downtown, it all came back. We’d obviously been there several times since along with Adrift (the restaurant we’d remembered with the most amazing burgers and shelves filled with old books), we also came across a pizza place and a country-style restaurant that we remembered going to.

After our lunch, we continued road tripping to the amazing – but terrifying – Deception Pass bridge. Heights like that freak me out, especially since having children, and I wouldn’t even let my girls go all the way out to the middle. Yikes!! But we parked and had a cool little hike down to the beach below. The girls had fun being outdoors and hanging with my bro, and I gathered a few more of the beautiful colored rocks that you can only find out here on the beaches of the Pacific Northwest. Not a bad way to spend the day!

girls weekends

February 4, 2013 § 3 Comments

cheers

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.ice skating

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.

skater girls

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.

bolognese

December 31, 2012 § 2 Comments

bolognese

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
2 eggs
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.

chihuly glass

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.

volunteer park

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.

happy feet

August 6, 2012 § 3 Comments

We’ve just returned from a quick getaway with a couple of families to Sunriver, Oregon. It’s a wonderful vacation spot, and I loved seeing my children happy and carefree, having fun with their friends. They’ve spent the past few days swimming, biking and generally just running around together. I kept looking for a break in the action – a good time to tear them away from their play and sit them down together for a group photo. But it can be tricky to get seven crazy children to sit still for a perfect shot. So instead I decided to steal a quick moment, scoot them together on the front porch of the rental house where we’d gathered, point the camera down to their feet and click.

My college friend Jean has been taking these kind of feet pictures ever since I’ve known her. She says it was something she and her friends just started doing in high school, and she never stopped. I’ve been out and about many times with Jean over the years and had fun posing with our group, toes together, for one of her shots. I’d never thought much about it, but now it makes perfect sense to me.

I’m sure that Jean’s collection of feet pictures over the last more than 20 years does the same for her as anyone else’s favorite photos does for them: reminds her of the important moments in her life – events both big and small shared with the people she loves. I realize that it’s not the actual images in the picture that always matters as much as the time taken to get the shot, the brief pause in the action to take note of the occasion; that photo, like a bookmark in your life, captures the moment and helps to preserve it. Having pictures is nice, but the memories are so much more valuable.

From Jean and her fun feet pics, I’m reminded to take notice of all of life’s precious moments (even if I don’t get the perfect shot) and to enjoy and remember life as it comes. I could take a hundred photos of my girls and their friends with their sweet smiling faces – and believe me, I have – but this picture of their happy feet is really all I need to remind me of our summer trip to Sunriver, of these beautiful children and of the memories we’ve made together.

finding the happy

July 19, 2012 § 1 Comment

On vacation, I spent some time with my latest find in the self-help department, The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, reminding me why these types of books are so valuable. I’ve always been the kind of person who can’t turn my brain off (I even cheat at yoga: when you’re supposed to be clearing your mind and renewing your spirit, I’m making mental to-do lists). As a lifelong over-thinker, over-analyzer and worrier it’s important that I work to find my happiness along the way. I first took notice of these happy books and thoughts in my twenties; fresh out of college and overwhelmed by the demands of life, I stumbled upon Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff by Richard Carlson. It literally changed me overnight – things seemed easier when I focused on the important things and counted my blessings. Amazed by the fact that such a small book – that I picked up on a whim – would have such a lasting effect on my outlook, I began to focus on the joys in my life and try to keep the negative to a minimum.

Over the years, I’ve looked to similar books for a fresh perspective and to remind myself of what truly matters. I spent a year with the book Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach, reading the once-a-day essays with great results; I still pull it out from time to time to read the day’s entry and can always find something to apply to my life. Although I’ve honestly only read a couple of pages, just researching, talking with friends about and buying Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret was helpful to me; I think believing that there could be a secret to happiness and fulfillment in life made me feel happier and more fulfilled – strange, huh?

My most recent addition, The Happiness Project, tells the story of one woman’s journey to find the joy in her life and live in a more appreciative way. Her struggle resonated with me, and I realize I’ve been on a similar quest for most of my adult life. It’s the path that has led me to this blog and to taking note of the little things that make my life worthwhile. It’s my love of writing and crafting and decorating and clothes and cooking and parties and family and friends and traveling – it’s all the pieces and parts of my life that I love, that make me happy and that make me: me. Life is a long and winding road, but finding the joy – anyway you can – makes the journey so much sweeter.

bottled memories

July 15, 2012 § Leave a comment

On vacation, we love to pick up souvenirs – nothing fancy, just little trinkets for us and the children in our close-knit friend group. It feels good to bottle some of our fun vacation vibe and share it with those we love. And as for me, my favorite home decor is the bits of nature – shells, driftwood, etc. – I’ve gathered from our adventures. So from this, our first trip to Maui, we found cool shell necklaces for all the kiddos, and I collected sand; displayed in glass spice jars from Cost Plus World Market, these new bottled memories make me happy.

surfer dreams

July 14, 2012 § 5 Comments

For some reason, everything clicked for my youngest when we visited Hawaii for the first time last year. She immediately felt the island spirit; she loved everything: the music, the culture, the beach… And ever since, she has continued to be interested in all things Hawaii. She asked Santa for a ukulele, had a luau-themed birthday party and talks about moving to the islands when she grows up. Surfing has also captured her imagination. She loved the movie “Soul Surfer” about a Hawaiian surfer who survives and then thrives after a brutal shark attack (the scary shark part didn’t even faze my surfer wannabe).

So this time, when we returned to Hawaii, we made sure to sign the girls up for a surf lesson. It turned out to be harder than Sophie thought, and I think she was a little too small – the paddling out over and over on a very long board is not easy for a little body. But Bella got up quite a few times, and both girls enjoyed checking something off the bucket list. And I wonder if Sophie will give it a try again the next time we go – I sure hope so. I tried to capture the moment myself from the shore, but my surfers got too far out. Luckily, the surf school had a photographer in the water to fully document these precious moments.

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