December 27, 2008

Christmas in Portland

Since Mike and I are fast approaching our trip to Mexico, where we will celebrate my sister's wedding with family and friends, we both had to conserve our vacation time. So rather than drive North to spend Christmas with family, as we've done in the past, we stuck around Portland this year to work, and celebrate on a smaller scale.



Christmas Eve was spent at Yetti's with family and friends. Kito drove up from California and helped Yetta pull together a great dinner. Our contribution was pumpkin pie, gingerlady cookies and a sour cream apple pie. This pie turned out very well, and I'll definitely make it again.

Amish Sour Cream Apple Pie

Filling:
1 cup sour cream
1 egg
3/4 cup white sugar
2 Tbsp. flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
2.5 cups diced apples, peeled
1 unbaked 9-inch pie crust

Crumb Topping:
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup butter
1/3 cup flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
Mix until crumbly

Beat cream and egg together. Add flour, sugar, salt and vanilla. Mix until smooth. Stir in the apples. Pour filling into the pie crust and bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes.
Remove from oven and spread with crumb topping. Bake for 20 more minutes.






Christmas morning I made Dutch Babies for breakfast before opening our presents. This time I managed to remember that the cast iron pan was hot, so made it through the day without a burn.



The rest of the day was spent playing with our new Wii, and Chris joined us in the afternoon to throw a few punches as well.

December 23, 2008

Portland, Oregon!

As I write, a couple is nordic skiing down our street


Our little veggi-mobile in the snow





Backyard

December 22, 2008

Holiday Gifts: project completed


This year I found two great ideas that I thought would work for christmas gifts. The first idea, Mini-Pies, came from browsing on the Not Martha blog, under her "how to make stuff" page. She credits others as well for this idea, so who knows where it originated, but it's a great idea, and since I do love all things miniature, I had to give it a shot.


I went with Blueberry, Cherry, Apple and Pumpkin, and decided to use the 8 oz wide-mouth jars instead of the 4 oz. Since I'm not a pie maker, I thought the larger size would be easier to use. It also allows for a bigger serving, which as an avid dessert-eater, seemed like the right decision. I froze them right after making them, and gifted them frozen with instructions on how to bake.

We taste-tested a few and they worked well for us... hope they also turned out well for our friends who received them!





The second idea came from multiple sources. Since there are many people in my life who enjoy sewing, when I came across these pin cushions at Cut+Paste, I thought they'd make a great gift. However, when my sister Susanna bought me a Sew Simple magazine that she found in the grocery check-out aisle, I figured out how I was going to make them. The reason she bought me the magazine in the first place had nothing to do with the pin cushions, since she had no idea I was headed in that direction, but everything to do with the cover photo of the polymer clay pinheads, made by Pinks & Needles. She knew that I was making mini-food out of clay, so thought this would be a good practical use for them. It was a lot more difficult to get the pieces to work on the end of a pin, but I embraced the challenge and managed to make it work!



December 21, 2008

Cookies for Dinner


Since we were stuck inside all weekend due to weather, and since we couldn't decide what to make for dinner, Mike and I decided to make some more cookies.
Mike's cookie tradition this time of year is to make cornflake-marshmallow holly clusters. These consist of butter, marshmallows, corn flakes, green food coloring and red hots. They are delicious, sticky, sugary and very green.



I also tried out a new recipe for chocolate chip cookies that I found in my "O" magazine. The recipe comes from Carrie Nahabedian, executive chef at Naha in Chicago.


Cream Cheese-Chocolate Chip Cookies

3 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
16 Tbsp. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar

2 large eggs

2 tsp. vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. salt
1 (12 ounce) package of semi-sweet chocolate chips

2 tsp. grated orange zest


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat cream cheese, butter and sugar on high speed until well-blended. Beat in eggs and vanilla until smooth. Reduce speed to low; beat in flour and salt until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips and orange zest.

Drop cookie dough by spoonful onto ungreased cookie sheet (I used the melon baller for this, which works well as the dough is going to be stickier than other cookie dough); space dough about 1" apart. Bake 12 - 13 minutes or until edges are lightly browned (they don't really get brown on top, which makes them appear undercooked - they're not).

With a spatula, transfer to racks and cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to one week.

makes about 40-54 cookies (depends on the size of the dough drop, of course).


They turned out very well, with a slight tangy taste and a noticeable orange flavor. Enjoy!

Projects on Hold: snow day

Watching the snow fall


Looking at the park next door


Backyard


video

Snowboarding in the park

December 20, 2008

forecast data no longer valid


Okay, checking the weather forecast all week has proven to be most unhelpful, as weather.com never seems to get it just right. It says it'll snow in 15 minutes, which passes without a sign of snow, or that we'll get 3" overnight only to wake up to rain. When I went to check yesterday, it appeared that they had finally faced the truth... "forecast data no longer valid"

December 18, 2008

The one on the left still looks a little bit shifty to me...

a bunch of freakin' goobers


With the snow falling, then turning to rain, then back to snow and so on, I've been looking at photos from our August wedding and thinking of sunny days. We're also looking forward to our week in Mexico, coming up in just a mere 15 days!

Tonight a fire is lit in the fireplace, lasagna is in the oven and neighbors are on their way over with at least a six-pack or two of beer... I'm happy.

December 13, 2008

Holidazed

Last night was our office holiday party. Since we're a firm of five, that means we get to be creative with our "party" planning (we're also a design firm, which means we're paid to be creative). This year we had dinner in the lobby of the Hotel Deluxe (formerly the Mallory Hotel); very cozy, great food and wonderful ambience - particularly this time of year when the place is buzzing with party-goers.
We then walked the block to the Artist's Repertory Theatre to see "Holidazed" - a collaboration between writers Marc Acito and C.S. Whitcomb. It was great! It was full of characters, several of which were children, which made me a little nervous because it increases the chances that there will be some bad acting - but all in all it was done very well, and of course, the writing was hilarious. I think it's running through the 28th - highly recommended for a holiday outing.

December 11, 2008

Clay Doughnut, Anyone? Anyone?


In between work, gym, sleep & life, I have been trying to finish making my christmas gifts. I keep changing direction, so the first one I made is going to be different from the last one, but I keep coming up with new ideas that really excite me. I also take breaks to try something new, like the bird ornament from spool sewing that Rebecca recently posted the pattern for.
I've also been working with my polymer clay for some of the gifts, using my "baked goods" from last summer as inspiration.


I've got a whole other project in mind for these little treats, but it'll have to be an after-christmas kinda project.

December 8, 2008

Herb Stock? Soy Sauce Oil?

Last night Mike made a new recipe for dinner, a type of Caribbean chicken stew, and an old favorite, fried plantains. It turned out wonderfully, and we'll be dining on leftovers all week. However, the recipe called for two items that neither of us had ever heard of before: soy sauce oil & herb stock.

Has anybody come across those two items before?

December 6, 2008

Crafts + Wine + Pizza

I just got back from visiting 4 craft shows and a lovely dinner at Tastebud with Rebecca and friends. It's great to see how people put their creativity to work! I came away with a great pair of silver earrings and a felted lamb/baby goat from a Kyrgyzstan artist.
It's inspired me to spend the day tomorrow finishing my christmas gifts... a couple teaser photographs:

December 4, 2008

Gnome Homes

I came across these gnome homes online during my christmas shopping, and was struck first by the great color combination, and second by their sheer adorability. They're made by Willow Tree Toys, a company that specializes in Waldorf, Montessori and wooden toys. I think my soon to be 6-year-old nephew would not be as enchanted by them as I am, so I may end up buying one for myself. I think one would look great hidden between my books on the shelf. Or perhaps I can convince my Pops to make some in his wood shop

December 1, 2008

Love Birds


Nearing completion on the thank-you notes and the photo album, but still much to do. So in order to feel that some projects can be completed, I decided that I needed a project that could be completed in one-day, preferably 30 minutes. I got lucky on my weekend trip to Michael's when I found that their shadow box frames were 40% off. Within 30 minutes of getting home I had found a home for the wedding cake toppers and beautiful flower hair ornament made by Rebecca that I had saved from the wedding.


November 30, 2008

Sweet Potato, Sweet Potato

Just thought I'd share this little tidbit for those of you making leftover turkey soup... add mashed sweet potatoes (not yams) to the broth - it adds wonderful flavor and texture.

November 28, 2008

Over the channel and through the woods...

... to Poppy's house we went.


On Wednesday night Mike and I headed North to Pop and Sharon's new house in the woods of the Kitsap Peninsula to celebrate family and food. We were joined by Susanna, Aidan, Tia, Tio Joe, and Auntie Joan. The new house, while still a work in progress, is a gorgeous cedar and log construction, set amongst 10 acres of woods. They've been hard at work for years on this, but the attention to detail is wonderful. We're looking forward to seeing new elements evolve with each visit, and we're suffering with deep jealousy over their cedar bat-and-board siding.


To burn a few calories pre-dinner, Aidan and Poppy led us on a trek through the woods to the "bear tree" - a beautiful old tree, covered in moss, with lots of nooks perfect for sleeping bears.


Food was celebrated ten-fold: mashed potatoes with winter squash and parsnips, sweet smoked salmon, yam bake with pecans and coconut, fresh Thai crab and clam cakes (caught by Clayton, prepared by Susanna) and apple pie, pumpkin pie and delicious peach cobbler.


In between meals we busied ourselves with lots of small projects. Susanna created a half dozen wooden holders for jewelery pliers, Aidan put his touch on a wooden stool, airplane, rocket and a car. My craftiness was applied to gathering materials for several christmas gifts that I'm hoping to get started on soon (stay tuned as they develop).

November 23, 2008

Mustard-roasted Potatoes


On Friday, Deb at Smitten Kitchen posted a recipe for mustard-roasted potatoes. She suggested that leftovers would be great the following morning served with an egg on top. I thought, "ridiculous, why wait for leftovers", so I just made them for breakfast with an egg on top. Since I was trying a new recipe I thought that I'd also try the new poaching pan that Megan and Trevor gave us. Unfortunately I've never poached an egg before so I was winging it. They were ultimately a bit mangled looking, but tasted marvelous just the same.

November 20, 2008

Soup

I have a high-tolerance for consuming soup, love it, but I'm very picky about the type of soup. I don't go in for brothy soups, or cream-based soups, or any soup that has absolutely no bite-profile (eg. tomato soup) with the exception of split-pea. So when I find a soup recipe that I like, I make it to death (ask Mike how many times he's had the 3-bean soup listed below). Speaking of which, I just made the 3-bean soup listed below.

The beauty of this soup is that you can make it all year round, substituting fresh ingredients for canned, depending on the time of year. There really isn't any "adventure" in this recipe, but it's filling, good and good for you.


Three-Bean Soup

2 cups water (or broth for even more flavoring)
1 can Chick Peas/Garbanzo Beans, rinsed
1 can Kidney Beans, rinsed
1 can Cannelini/White Beans, rinsed
1 can diced or whole tomatoes, or fresh tomatoes if the season is right
1 medium onion
lots of veggies (I use carrots and zucchinni, because our garden runneth over)
Italian seasonings + salt + pepper, to taste (I also sometimes use the canned diced tomatoes that are pre-seasoned).

With a little olive oil in the bottom of the pot, saute the onions and veggies. Add 2 cups water and the tomatoes. Bring to a boil. Add the beans. Heat, and eat.
Since I'm also a big fan of carbs, I pair this with bread or grilled cheese sandwiches.
It's fast, it's easy, it's good. And again, it's fast. And good.


And while we're on the subject of soup, I went to Yetti's last night for a cup of soup (best in town), where I met a friend of hers who makes soup for a place in town (for free, because he just likes making soup), and he encouraged me to try my chicken soup recipe again, but to boil the chicken for 4 hours instead of 1.5, and even roast the chicken beforehand to bring out the sugar in the bones. If I can bring myself to dissect another chicken carcass, I'll give it a shot.

November 18, 2008

Slap some paint on it, and call it done


It was a transforming weekend. We finally reached the point where we decided that nothing more could be done for the South Wall - it was time to paint.


By the end of the weekend, the first coat was on. We opted to paint by hand instead of using the sprayer, as we weren't sure that we could exercise as much control with the sprayer. Perhaps we'll use it for the other sides of the house. Still one more coat and the trim to paint; and we still need to decide on a color for the foundation - stay tuned.

November 14, 2008

Turquoise Eggs, Anyone?

I finished my "egg" necklace earlier this week, after having it sit on the shelf in a half-finished state for over a month. I found the charm awhile back, and I've had the pearls forever, so I finally found the time to put the two together.
The next goal is to replicate a pair of anthropologie earrings and save myself a hundred bucks - stay tuned...

November 12, 2008

Harvest Stuffing Bread

While I rarely post recipes on this blog, I do actually enjoy cooking, and do it fairly often. Since we are officially in the midst of the rainy season, I've been pulling out all the recipes for the food that I like to eat when the weather is shit. This recipe for Harvest Stuffing Bread is a new one, but I thought it turned out fairly well. I made it to accompany homemade chicken noodle soup, which didn't turn out so well.

Harvest Stuffing Bread

Ingredients
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 envelope rapid rise yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon minced onion (I used dry minced onion)
1 tablespoon parsley (also used dried)
1.5 teaspoons poultry seasoning
1 teaspoon salt
1.25 cups water
1 tablespoon butter
1 egg, beaten
1/2 teaspoon celery seed


Combine 1 cup all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, undissolved yeast, sugar, 2 tablespoons onion, parsley, poultry seasoning and salt in a large bowl. Heat water and butter until very warm (120 - 130 degrees). Stir into flour mixture.

Beat 2 minutes at medium speed of electric mixer, scraping bowl occasionally. Stir in remaining all-purpose flour to make stiff batter.

Cover and let rest 10 minutes. Turn batter into greased 1.5 quart bread dish. Smooth top of dough with floured hands. Cover.

Rise in warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about 30 minutes. Brush beaten egg on loaf. Sprinkle with remaining onion and celery seed.

Bake at 375 degrees for 35 minutes for metal pan, 350 degrees if glass dish is used. Remove from the loaf pan and cool on a wire rack.

Slice that puppy open, and enjoy.

November 11, 2008

Honored, just down right honored.



A shout out for sister Sara!
I'm proud to be genetically related to her, and I'll honorably mention her every chance I get.

Check out her recent accomplishments...

November 10, 2008

Football Weekend

Years ago Mike and I started a tradition of taking in a college football game sometime during the Fall, so that we can pretend, just for a moment, that we're back in college. We just took in our fifth game, and coincidentally, celebrated our fifth anniversary together (we celebrated by forgetting about it entirely). For the first time ever, this year's game took place during a torrential downpour. Those who know me, and know my level of sports enthusiasm (low, for those who don't know me) would be surprised to learn that I lasted through nearly the entire game, and didn't once pull out my book or ipod. Have I changed my tolerance for football? Nope, it was just too damn wet out to read.


Despite the rain, we had a great weekend in Eugene. We checked out the Eugene City Brewery (36 beers on tap, people) where we had a very nice waiter, who managed to maintain his smile and good humor, even after a table of three girls skipped out on their check. For those heading to Eugene soon, I'd also recommend the Allann Bros. Beanery for excellent pie, but I'd steer clear of Sam Bond's Garage, who put on an excellent display of poor customer service.

Keith's Comment

Listening to Keith Olberman's Special Comment on Countdown tonight just made me so proud. He so eloquently expressed his feelings on marriage and love, feelings that echo my own, that I just wanted to reach through the screen and give him a hug. If you missed it, check it out here.
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