Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving has always been one of my very favorite holidays. What's not to love? You get celebrate all the many things to be thankful for, spend time with loved ones and friends and eat lots of good food.

This year, Sean and I decided to try something new. We started our day with pumpkin waffles drizzled with warm butter and honey and peppered bacon.

Then, we participated in the Seattle Turkey Trot, a 5K fun run/walk benefiting the Ballard Food Bank. We had a lovely time (with the exception of having to climb two extremely steep sets of stairs to get from the parking lot to the registration area. Holy Cow - it was like climbing Everest). We were able to enjoy a leisurely walk through neighborhoods and along the Burke Gilman trail all with a view of Puget Sound blanketed in fog. We were back home by 11 a.m., plenty of time to get Thanksgiving dinner underway.

As we speak, the turkey is roasting and about half a dozen side dishes are poised and ready to go into the oven. How is your holiday going?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Greek-style yogurt

I discovered a new food love at lunch today: Greek-style yogurt. Oh my goodness, this stuff is dreamy. How have I never tried this before? It's very thick compared to traditional yogurt, almost the consistency of a soft cheese or thick sour cream. It was extremely smooth and creamy. The particular variety I tried was flavored with honey, slightly sweet and moderately tangy. I don't think I will ever be able to eat Yoplait again. Sean, be advised.

I must find a recipe for this. Especially considering the Greek-style yogurt is twice as expensive as other kinds. Ugh, that's just like me. At first glance, it seems the only difference is that most of the whey has been drained away. Surely it can't be that hard to make.

Oooh... this would be lovely with fresh fruit. I must remember this when summer produce is available again.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Cool days, warm soup

The weather has been pretty chilly and rainy in Seattle, providing the perfect opportunity for tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. I love this particular recipe for tomato soup because it's creamy and hearty thanks to a little cream cheese. It works equally well with fresh tomatoes or canned tomatoes, making it convenient to make with whatever is on hand.

The recipe calls for fresh basil, which isn't in season right now. I substituted dried basil, but, alas, it's just not the same. The soup is still good (and it will certainly make good leftovers tomorrow), but there's just nothing like the flavor of fresh basil.

The grilled cheese sandwiches are on the whole wheat bread I made on Sunday. The trick with making the perfect grilled cheese sandwich, in my opinion, is to use defrosted bread with plenty of cheddar cheese that is slowly toasted on a skillet over low or medium-low heat.

As Sean pointed out this evening, this method creates three distinct layers on each slice of bread: a toasty golden outer layer, soft inner bread layer and a layer of melty, cheese-absorbed bread. While I am a grilled cheese purist, preferring only cheddar cheese on my sandwich, Sean's grilled cheese sandwich has a few dashes of Tabasco to give it a bit of a kick. Eh, he seems to like it so that's all that matters to me.

What's your cold weather comfort food?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Cranberry sauce

Sean and I are preparing for our trip to see family, and we are so excited. We leave in just a few days! I spent yesterday canning jellied
cranberry sauce for the potluck dinner on Friday.

Thank goodness the cranberries went on sale in time. As you may know, I simply refuse to buy expensive fruit just to can it. I see no need to pay twice what I would for a pre-made version in
the store just for the pleasure of saying I made it at home. No, I would much rather brag about making it home AND saving a bunch of money.

I do love canning, though. The product tastes far superior to anything I can buy in the store, and it is so satisfying to see the jars lined up on my kitchen bar when I am finished. It's even more satisfying to see the pantry well stocked.

I have some leftover cranberries and have been trolling my canning cookbook for a good recipe to use them with. So far, most of the recipes call for dried cranberries, not fresh. That's disappointing. I will either keep looking or break out the food dehydrator when we get back. Does anyone have a canning recipe using fresh cranberries (that isn't cranberry sauce - I am afraid I am sauced out) that they would mind sharing?

Cooking fresh cranberries is so fun. I love hearing them pop and seeing them turn such a brilliant ruby red. Word of warning, though - the popping and the color are a recipe for laundry. I didn't think to change out of my white t-shirt before starting this process. By the end, it looked like I had been to war. Luckily, with a little bleach, my shirt is good as new.

The Washington apples are in season now, too. There is one recipe I especially look forward to trying: a spiced apple jam. Supposedly, it is like having apple pie in a jar. I hope so - that sounds yummy!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Adventures in vegetables

We tried a new veggie this weekend: Romanesco cauliflower (also called Romanesco broccoli). I thought it was very tasty, and I found it very exciting to try a vegetable that was completely new to me. The florets are shaped like fractals and are light green; they taste like a mild broccoli.

It turned out to be a perfect compliment to our leftover pot roast. I sliced the florets like broccoli and steamed them for about three minutes until they were crisp tender. Yummy.

I harvested my carrots this week. My yield was about a dozen small carrots, which amounted to about two pounds. They were grown from seeds in a 16-inch square container. The carrots are so sweet and taste much different than the ones I buy in the store. I am very pleased with the results and will definitely plant carrots in the garden again next year.

I also have had success this year with the herbs: sage, basil, oregano, thyme and rosemary. The cilantro and radishes were unsuccessful. The bell peppers were only moderately successful - I am afraid they just don't get enough heat and sunshine at the right times to make them happy. Maybe I'll have more luck when Sean builds my greenhouse extension off the balcony...

The tomatoes were a bit disappointing, but I think my results had more to do with user error than anything wrong with the tomatoes. I have learned a lot about tomatoes these last two summers. I hope I finally get the hang of it next year.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


Sean and I were married nine years ago today. It is hard for me to believe it - the years have gone by in a blink. I am lucky to have found my perfect partner and one true love so early in life and to have been able to spend so many happy years with him. Thank you, Love, for making our life together such an amazing adventure.

Monday, October 12, 2009

So very many adventures

October is shaping up to be a very busy month. Chili season began officially this past week in the Siem household. It was pretty yummy, if I do say so myself. And I can say it's still pretty yummy after having eaten it almost every day. Last night, I moved a few remaining servings to the freezer for quick go-to meals.

Sean and I saw Richard Dawkins last Thursday when he was at the U promoting his new book, The Greatest Show on Earth. It was so exciting to hear him read passages and answer questions. I had chills! Plus, the turnout was amazing - about 5,000 people. I have heard that this may have been the largest crowd Prof. Dawkins has addressed in North America . Cool - Sean and I were THERE!

Then, on Saturday, an adventure we could have done without: a trip to the Emergency Department after Sean woke up with a swollen, tingly and aching hand. Poor guy. We spent a very long time at the hospital getting him checked out, but it was for the best. The ortho team gave him an immobilization cast that went on in what seemed like a matter of seconds. This team was amazing. As soon as the attending uttered the words "immobilization cast," the residents went into action. The three docs worked like a finely oiled machine. If I had the camera, I would have filmed them in action. Wow.

Today, we are trying to get Sean a follow-up appointment with the hand specialist so I thought I would do a quick blog post while I am waiting for the nurse to call us back. Keep your fingers crossed for a speedy appointment and good news.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Welcome to Fall

Sean and I went to the MOHAI on Saturday for free museum day. I have to say, I was a bit disappointed. The museum had good information about the rich history of Seattle and Puget Sound, but it seemed a bit underfunded. Still, it was a fun outing followed by a late lunch/early dinner.

Fall has definitely arrived in Seattle this week. Since I blogged last, the leaves on the trees have suddenly turned shades of gold and red. The rain has returned and it's definitely Fall rain: colder, steadier with sharper rain drops. It's getting dark early and tonight the sun should be completely in bed by 7 p.m. The air smells wonderful: crisp with pine undertones, rather than the sweetness of summer air.

The turn of the seasons is always an exciting time. I am still hoping to can one more batch of peach butter this weekend and dehydrate some tomatoes. But, I am also planning for recipes with roasted winter squash and other Fall goodies.

Chili season in the Siem family is scheduled to begin this weekend. Sean will be so excited! What are you doing to welcome Fall?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Free museum day

The Smithsonian's annual Free Museum Day is this Saturday! In case you aren't familiar with this amazing annual tradition, each year the Smithsonian partners with museums all across the country to provide free admission. It is a wonderful way to reconnect with museums in your area or even check out museums you haven't visited yet.

Sean and I really look forward to free museum day. It should be declared a national holiday. What can I say, we are museum junkies.

One year, we went to Experience the Music Project and Science Fiction Museum (which is actually one location, despite the misleading name). The admission is usually quite pricey, so it was the perfect opportunity to visit. As it turned out, this was really not one of our favorite museums and was surprisingly touristy. At least we were able to save our museum dollars for other venues.

Another year, we visited the Seattle Art Museum's Asian Art Museum. It has a wonderful collection and is in a great old, art deco building. What a fun day!

This year, I think we are going to visit the Museum of History & Industry. It is a well-respected museum for Seattle and Puget Sound history, and I can't believe we've lived in Seattle for almost three years and have never been.

Sean has been dying to see the Museum of Flight - we might actually have to pay for that museum. Or go on first Thursday evening when the museums are free and open late ... We are so lucky to live in a city that values cultural and educational opportunities and makes them so accessible.

What museum will you visit on free museum day?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Bread and other baked goods

I cannot believe it is Sunday evening already. Where does the weekend go? I didn't make it to the fabric store to see about yarn. No loss, there was no sale and, really, who wants to pay full price for yarn? Not I, even if the fabric store does sell dreamy yarn.

My weekend was still productive, though. I finished the dish cloth and started a second one. They are good, quick projects and perfect for getting back into the groove after several months off. Plus, when I am knitting, I watch TV with a guilt-free conscience. I do LOVE watching movies and good TV shows, but sometimes I do feel like the time would be better spent doing something a bit more productive.

I made bread: two loaves each of pumpernickel, whole wheat and sourdough. There will be lots of yummy sandwiches in our future.

I made a batch of dried chickpeas that were promptly turned into hummus to take for lunches this week. My dried bean-making skills are definitely improving, although I am not quite ready to declare an end to the era of buying canned beans.

I made a batch of oatmeal craisin cookies. What can I say, I am a sucker for Sean's little excited dance whenever he learns there will be cookies.

And we gave the kids a bath - both were smelling far too doggy. Their coats are so soft and even more irresistibly cuddly this evening. Four and a half hours later, Apollo is now on speaking terms with us again.

Well, off to bed now. Hope your weekends were equally as satisfying.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Knitting time

I decided to break out the yarn and dust off the old knitting needles this afternoon. Knitting is definitely a fall and winter hobby for me, and Seattle's somewhat cooler temperatures have given me the motivation I needed to start a new project.

My warm-up project: trusty dish cloths. The ones I made last season are looking a little sad, and it would be nice to have a few more to put into the rotation.

Boy, am I rusty - I frogged (er, ripped out all the stitches) the project three times before I hit my stride. I think I am finally back in the swing of things, though.

I am trying a new kind of yarn for this project: a recycled cotton and acrylic blend. Supposedly it's ecofriendly, but man, it is not very easy to knit with. At the risk of sounding like a complete yarn snob, I have decided that I just do not enjoy working with synthetic yarns - blended or not. Natural fibers are so much more friendly to my fingers.

Maybe this is an excuse to go shopping (as if I needed one!) and spend the last of the gift certificate that Mom and Dad gave me for Christmas. I have been savoring it since December. There is only about a dollar and some change left, but I am determined to spend every last penny.

Hmmm.... I wonder if there is a sale this weekend ...

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Giving blood

I was fortunate that my afternoon meeting ended early today so I decided to celebrate by giving blood at the donation center three blocks over. It was my second donation of the summer and the most delightful and relaxing experience.

I walked into the blood donation center, flashed my donor ID card, answered a bunch of screening questions and was taken to the donation area with absolutely no wait. The phlebotomist took my things and helped me into a large, cushy recliner chair where she hooked me up to the donor bag.

Six minutes later, my little bag was full and I was on my way to the kitchen where the grandmotherly volunteer fed me a cookie, pretzels, two cups of juice and a glass of water before she would allow me to leave. She was cute and gave me a great excuse to gobble yummy treats.

It was definitely a worthwhile afternoon. I highly recommend that you rush right out and donate to your local blood bank. They always need donations, even if you are a lowly A positive blood type like me.

Happy giving!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Why I love the bus

I feel compelled to publicly profess my love for the Seattle area public transportation system. It is absolutely wonderful. I have been a regular bus rider since we moved to Seattle three years ago, thanks to my employer's very generous subsidization package.

I love that, with only a few exceptions, I can get anywhere in the city on the bus whenever I want to get there. I love that riding the bus is cheap - far cheaper for me than buying gas for the car.

I love that I never have to remember where the heck I parked the car when I go shopping. In fact, Christmastime at the mall is almost enjoyable.

I love that I never have to inch along in traffic jams at big events and that I get 20 to 30 minutes of uninterrupted reading time. It's not a perfect transportation system by any means, but it's pretty darn good.

Today, another bus rider reminded me that my fellow commuters are an equally wonderful part of the experience.

I grabbed a sweater on my way out of the door this morning, but it turned out to be a wee bit too warm to wear it. When I took my seat on the bus, I laid my sweater across my lap being careful not to wrinkle it. I spent the rest of ride day dreaming about who knows what and sipping tea from my trusty, well-worn travel mug.

When it came time to get off the bus, I pulled the cord for my stop, gathered my bag and purse and got off the bus, saying thanks to the driver on my way out. I did not remember dropping my sweater. But a gentleman who also happened to be getting off at the same stop saw my sweater fall. He picked it up and ran after me to return it.

I was so thankful - I would have hated to lose that sweater. The gentleman's action was so simple, but so very kind and considerate. It was a wonderful bus experience and a great way to start the day.

Have you experience a random act of kindness recently? If so, please share.

Sunday, September 13, 2009


Sorry for the lack of posts - last week was a very long week, and I came home each day absolutely brain dead. The weekend was fun, although it flew by way too quickly. Sean and I went to see two movies: Extract and District 9. We even had a late lunch/early dinner out. It was a lovely date.

We also purchased airline tickets! It's official, we are traveling home to Dallas/Fort Worth in November to visit family and friends. It's been such a long time, and I am very excited about this trip. I wonder if we can talk everyone into having Thanksgiving early. That would be so much fun!

Now, I must finish getting ready for the work week. I promise to be a better poster this week.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Labor-less day

I am lucky enough to have the Labor Day holiday off and plan to spend today doing as little as possible.

I have some sourdough rising as we speak. I ran out of bread flour and being too lazy to run to the store mid-production, I substituted about half a cup of white whole wheat flour during kneading. I don't think it should alter the taste too much, but we'll see.

Other than finishing the sourdough and watching a movie with Sean this afternoon, I have no plans. What about you? How will you be spending Labor Day?

Yesterday, I combined my efforts to improve my bean-making skills with a much needed chore: cleaning out the freezer. We had accumulated dozens of partial bags of stuff that, by themselves, amounted to nothing. So I decided to throw it all in a casserole dish together and came out with Freezer Round-up Beans.

I made half a pound of chickpeas and mixed in the following freezer remnants: two tablespoons of tomato paste, two chopped chiles in adobo sauce, about 1/4 teaspoon of chopped jalapeno, a hand full of chopped broccoli, two hand fulls of chopped spinach, about a quarter cup of chopped red onion and about a cup of bean cooking liquid. On top, I sprinkled bread crumbs made from three pathetic-looking whole wheat bread heels.

After about an hour in the oven, it came out smelling smokey and spicy. A couple of dashes of Tabasco sauce, and it was actually pretty tasty. A bonus because I had already resolved to take the beans for lunches this week, and it would have been a long week if the experiment had been a flop.

After dinner, Sean and I had a sweet craving and decided to make apple turnovers out of a couple of apples in the fridge that were past their prime.

I am not very good at making pastries and was grateful to have Sean's help. Alas, we won't be expecting a call from any of the major cooking magazines to show off our results anytime soon. Let's just say the turnovers tasted good and were made with love.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Rainy days and good books

Rainy days have returned to Seattle, and I couldn't be more excited. This is our second consecutive day of rain, and it's the best kind of rain: bluish gray rain clouds, steady rain that is cool but not bone-chilling. It makes the air smell amazing - fresh and crisp. And it sounds so relaxing.

It's the perfect day to curl up with a cup of tea and a good book. Good thing, because Daina and I have started our next book: John Adams by David McCullough. I am only about a hundred pages into the book, but have been enjoying it greatly so far.

I am finding that I identify a great deal with John and Abigail (we are all on a first-name basis, already). John talks about how wonderful it is to be participating in the Continental Congress with so many brilliant people, but at the same time, it is so very frustrating because the group spends far longer debating simple matters than necessary.

Adams said, "I believe if it was moved and seconded that we should come to a resolution that three and two make five, we should be entertained with logic and rhetoric, law, history, politics, and mathematics concerning the subject for two whole days, and then we should pass the resolution unanimously in the affirmative."

Ha. I am glad to hear this isn't a new problem when it comes to government, or even corporate, decision making.

And, I do have a little crush on Abigail. She was so smart and so hardworking. Plus, she was a feminist and worked for women's rights long before what we think of as the traditional start to the women's movement. Wow. But so far, some of my favorite things are these lines that McCullough writes about her:

"She did everything that needed doing. All her life she would do her own sewing, baking, feed her own ducks and chickens, churn her own butter (both because that was what was expected, and because she knew her butter to be superior)."

Abigail and I have that in common - I often find myself telling Sean that I would not buy one thing or another because my version of that thing is far superior. Sean, much like John (at least in my imagination), has never bothered to correct me on this point. What can I say, he's a smart man who picks his battles well.

Well, off to walk Dottie so I can settle into a long morning of reading and sipping tea. What are you doing today?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The green softie

This is Dottie's green bone-shaped softie. Daina and Paul gave it to her during their visit, and it was an instant hit. We've already replaced the squeaker and repaired a hole that was hemorrhaging fluff everywhere.

Last night, Sean and I noticed the softie has a new tracheotomy, placed with love by its spotted owner.

The softie no longer squeaks. And I need to repair another couple of holes, including the trach tube, this weekend. But oh, Dottie loves it so.

You can see she let me have the softie just long enough to take one photo. That spotted blur in the background is her swooping in to snatch it back. Right now, she is curled up on the couch asleep with the softie.

The problem is that she goes through softies so quickly. Anyone have a lead on a softie that is a wee bit more durable?

She loves Kong products, especially the squeaker line (we should look into purchasing company stock), but Kong toys lack the same qualities as a good softie. What we need is something make out of a Kevlar fabric with indestructible squeakers. Maybe I should write Kong ...

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Baby carrots!

I was piddling in the garden the other day and discovered baby carrots! So exciting. I think I will let them grow for a few more weeks, but they are coming along nicely. It looks like the oregano has run it's course for the year, but the other herbs are still hanging on. I think we'll even have basil for a couple more weeks.

The weather is already turning fallish. Slightly cooler and a wee bit more rain. I am looking forward to fall weather - I am ready for crisp days and changing leaves.

And, as Daina pointed out a couple of days ago, pumpkins should be right around the corner. In about a month, Sean and I will celebrate our ninth wedding anniversary. So many fun things to look forward to this fall.

What do you look forward to in the fall?

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Bean success

Today, I made a bean dish to take for lunches this week: Tomatoey Boulangerie Beans and Potatoes. Basically, navy beans, potatoes and sun dried tomatoes all baked together in the oven.

I am not sure why it's called "boulangerie," which is a French word for a bakery. The words "cuire" or "faire" are used to describe baking, or at least that's what I remember from my college French classes. That was a long time ago, though. Still, there's no bread in the dish ... but I digress.

I think it was a success - the pictures are at left. The top one is of the dish straight out of the oven; the bottom is after the beans have been divided into travel containers. I ate a couple of bites, and it tasted pretty good.

Plus, the beans weren't mush, which means I am definitely improving. Historically, I have not had much success turning dried beans into anything other than baby food or army mush. But today's attempt looks promising.

I am already looking for another bean dish to try out next weekend to see if I can duplicate my bean success. Wish me luck.

And just so you know, today's baking wasn't all about me. I also made Sean a batch of his favorite jalapeno bagels.

He's so cute and gets so excited about them. It makes me feel good that I can make him happy with something so simple. So maybe today's baking was all about me after all. I am OK with this.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Ho hum

It's been a pretty ho hum kind of day. Nothing remotely exciting has happened. Just the usual Saturday errands, chores and such. I guess you can't have grand adventures every day.

I will, however, take this opportunity to post a photo I took at the Pacific Science Center's Butterfly House when Daina and Paul were here. I can't remember what kind of butterfly this is, but I thought he was pretty.

Now, off to finish my book for our book club's first discussion tomorrow. I will have to talk to Daina about a name. It seems that the book club should be called something. Any suggestions?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Dinner: Halibut with pasta and steamed broccoli

After yesterday's less than spectacular dinner, Sean and I decided to pull out an old favorite that we knew we'd love: halibut over linguine and steamed broccoli. This is a recipe we discovered earlier this summer and have continued to refine until it's our version of perfect. It's healthy, yummy and quick.

Sprinkle the halibut with fresh cracked pepper and a small bit of kosher salt, then pan grill it in a little bit of olive oil for about three minutes on each side. Meanwhile, steam the broccoli and boil fresh linguine (this only takes about five minutes).

Fresh linguine is very important because it takes such a prominent role in the meal. So spring for the good stuff, you'll be glad you did.

Toss the linguine with one tablespoon each of pasta water and olive oil, about a teaspoon of fresh cracked pepper and
about a quarter cup of Parmesan cheese.

And for dessert ... fresh watermelon. Sean is the designated watermelon chooser in our household - he always manages to pick the good ones. Every watermelon he has ever brought home has been sweet and juicy and brilliant red. Seeing him walk through the door with a watermelon in his hands always makes me giddy.

With summer winding down in Seattle, it makes me sad to think that this watermelon could be my last of the season. I guess it gives me something to look forward to for next year.

What is your favorite summer food or treat?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Dinner: Tomato, sausage pasta with lemony green beans

I tried a new recipe from the latest edition of Cooking Light for dinner tonight: Fresh Tomato, Sausage and Percorino Pasta with Lemony Green Beans. I usually love Cooking Light recipes. Normally, they are very flavorful and easily adaptable to our individual tastes. I have to say, I was a little disappointed by this recipe.

The green beans were my favorite part of the meal - steamed and tossed with lemon peel, lemon juice, olive oil, a little kosher salt and pepper. They were crisp and slightly tangy and a wonderful summer side dish. I will definitely be making them again.

The pasta ... well, it was bland and uninteresting. To be fair, I had to leave out the onions because Sean is not a fan (to put it mildly). I didn't replace them with another vegetable, though, and I probably should have. Usually, skipping the onions is no biggie, but not today - the success of this dish hinges on the onions, I guess.

I really liked the big chunks of fresh tomato and, of course, I always enjoy a good sprinkling of fresh basil. But, the pasta ratio was way out of balance: too much pasta and not enough sausage and tomatoes.

I think if I make this dish again, I might decrease the amount of pasta by half and use rotini instead. I might also toss the whole concoction with a light basil pesto. Does sausage go with pesto, though? I can't decide. The dish really screams for a wee bit of sauce to hold everything together so if I don't use pesto, I'll have to think of something else. Any suggestions?

Have you tried any new weeknight dinner recipes lately?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Book clubs

For a long time, I have avoided book clubs like the plague. I love reading, but somehow, the idea of book clubs has always given me flashbacks to my sophomore English class in high school. That particular teacher and her wandering eye have single-handedly killed any joy I could ever have for reading with the purposes of discussing the material with other people.

Book clubs have always seemed like a way to feel good about giving yourself extra homework under the pretenses of social entertainment. Who needs that?

These days, though, I am feeling completely different. Last week, my brilliant sister suggested that we start a book club - just the two of us. The moment she suggested it, I knew it was the most wonderful idea I had ever heard.

I could have just been suffering the intoxicating effects of a good bookstore. As a side note, those mega-corp bookstore chains CANNOT evoke intoxicating feelings. Those feelings are only possible in the bookstores run by people who actually like to read and enjoy getting carried away with stories of dragons or wild adventures or murder mysteries.

Maybe I was just feeling swoony after an evening of tea and desserts and dominoes around a large table whose surface was once a tree trunk.

Time will tell, I guess, if this book club will be a success, but it sure does have potential. We have similar tastes, so it should be easy to find books we both will enjoy. And the discussions, I think, could add a wonderful dimension to our relationship.

Our first book is Julie and Julia, and the reading is already underway. We celebrated our inaugural book by going to see the movie when Daina was here last week. The movies are never as good as the books, so we figured it would be best to see it first. That, and we wanted to see a chick flick together. What can I say, we are masters at justifying a decision.

Any suggestions for good book-club books? I was thinking maybe one off the presidential "must read" list might be fun.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Lazy Sunday

Today was quiet, and it felt unusual compared to the busy days of last week. I made a quick trip to the grocery store, started watching the fifth season of I Love Lucy, read a magazine and made lunches for the work week ahead.

Overall, the day has been a nice transition between vacation and work. And things are slowly getting back to the usual routine, which is comforting in a way.

For dinner, I made salad with shredded grilled salmon that was leftover from earlier in the week. After so many scrumptious, rich meals out and so much good beer, the crisp, simple salad filled with fresh Northwest produce and homemade croutons was just what we needed.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Happy birthday, Daina

And a bonus post to share one of my favorite pictures of my baby sister on her birthday. I took this photo in the butterfly house at the Pacific Science Center.

The fun comes to an end ... for now

Our amazing and fun-filled vacation with Daina and Paul officially came to an end today. This time last week, I was giddy with excitement in anticipation of their visit. Today, I am sad because the week melted away so very quickly.

Sean and I dropped them off at the airport a couple of hours ago, and they are now making their way home. I hope they have a safe and uneventful journey. I already miss them so.

We had such a good time this week - we went to the zoo, aquarium, science center (all thanks to Grandma and Grandpa, who nurture our inner nerdiness with cool memberships - we are so lucky), ate lots of good food, listened to good music, saw movies and played lots of games. It's hard to imagine a more enjoyable week.

It was wonderful meeting and getting to know Paul. He is exactly the man I would have chosen for my sister (if she had needed my help, which she clearly didn't because she did a good job picking him all on her own), and he seems to make her so very happy. He is smart and witty and has an incredible sense of humor. He's a wonderful addition to our family.

Thank you, Daina and Paul, for sharing your graduation trip and for spending your summer vacation with us in Seattle. We love you.

Now, to leave you with one of my favorite pictures of Sean and Paul from the week (aren't they cuties?).

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The fun continues

We got our pedicures on Monday - see our pretty toes...

We went to the zoo yesterday - aren't our new flamingoes lovely? The aquarium was today and have had so much fun. I can't believe Daina and Paul have
been here three full days already. I am sad to think we will be saying goodbye to them in only a few short

I can't think about that now... we are off for some coffee and
dominoes at a local shop. And the last photo is one I took of Daina yesterday. Doesn't she have the best eyelashes

Monday, August 17, 2009

Guess who's here?!?

Daina and Paul! The arrived yesterday, and we are already having a blast.

We went to the laser show last night at the Pacific Science Center and ate LOTS of sushi. More fun is planned today (after Daina and I have pedicures, of course).

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Busy Bees

So sorry for the lack of posts these last few days. Sean and I have been busy getting ready for Daina and Paul's visit. They'll be here in a few short hours!

We've cleaned, we've shopped and we've made white chocolate macadamia nut cookies (I am told they are Paul's favorites - we'll see!). I think we are ready.

I hope I don't have trouble sleeping - I am so darn excited.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A lunchtime escape

My friend, Kate, and I often escape the office during lunch to take a quick 30-minute walk. Inevitably, we choose to head toward Lake Union (mostly without even realizing that's where we are going), and I never get tired of this route.

Today was a particularly pretty day at the lake - I am sure the boaters we saw agree.

Being near the water - so close that I can actually visit at lunchtime - is something I truly love about Seattle and something I was never able to experience in Dallas/Fort Worth (being in the middle of the prairie and all).

What's your favorite way to spend lunch on a weekday?

Monday, August 10, 2009

A little office gambling

I am usually not a betting woman, but could not resist taking my colleague, Stephanie, up on a small wager last week about our boss' reaction to a particular expenditure. Since I never stake money on a bet, no matter how small, we decided that whoever loses our little gamble would bring the winner flowers.

I was excited to see these beauties on my desk this morning. Stephanie is not only gracious and a great colleague, but also has impeccable taste (about everything, especially flowers). I knew I wasn't going to get grocery store, artificially dyed carnations, but... wow... these babies are gorgeous! I will be enjoying them all week long.

Thank you, Stephanie.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Another weekend draws to a close

I made a trip to the farmer's market this morning - see my take in the photo. Fresh okra, heirloom tomatoes, hybrid yellow and white sweet corn, a spicy salad mix, cucumbers and huge cherry tomatoes. Yum.

Sean and I will be digging into some of these treats this evening. I am planning some grilled tuna, a salad out of the heirloom tomato and cucumber with some olive oil and basil and some sourdough and Parmesan mini toasts on the side.

I've also got two loaves of whole wheat bread in the oven - they should make good peanut butter and jelly sandwiches this week with the new blackberry jam. Overall, a very successful and productive weekend.

I am not sure how it's possible, but the weekend has, once again, flown by so quickly. We ran the usual errands and did the usual chores and somehow it's Sunday afternoon. I find myself making plans for the work week ahead... preparing lunches, ironing clothes, thinking about meetings.

Did I mention, Daina and Paul will be here this time next week? Sean and I are so very excited and can't wait to see their smiling faces. I assure you, next Sunday I WILL NOT be thinking about the work week.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Impromptu day off

I was lucky enough to be able to take an impromptu day off from work today. It was wonderful! I slept late, stayed in my jammies until lunchtime, sauntered off to the library and picked more wild blackberries with Sean. The blackberries have already been turned into cobbler and jam with leftovers frozen for future goodies. It has been such a fun day. Tomorrow - it's back to work.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Garden round-up

So good point - how can you give me suggestions for the ginormous blue pot if you don't know what I have in the garden so far. Sorry about overlooking that one wee bit of information. Here is a round-up of what I've got going so far this year:

  • Rosemary (started a small plant last year)
  • Thyme (started a small plant last year)
  • Basil (from seeds planted with the tomatoes)
  • Sage (from seeds)
  • Oregano (it reseeded itself from last year)
  • Lavender (from seeds started last year)
  • Cilantro (this was a failed attempt to start from seeds. next year, I think I am going to try a small plant)

  • Carrots (started from seeds)
  • Tomatoes (started from small plants)
  • Bell pepper (started from seeds)
  • Radishes (although they were earlier in the summer and have run their course by now)
  • Brussels sprouts (although I have yet to actually get real Brussels sprouts from this plant)
  • A Rainier strawberry plant

  • Bamboo (two tall plants, one small bushy plant)
  • Washington wild flowers
  • Marigolds (in with the Brussels sprouts. as a side note, they have done an amazing job at repelling the cabbage worms and wasps this year. I am very impressed.)
  • A sword fern

I am planning some spinach for the fall, but probably won't be able to plant that until labor day (anyone interested in a grow-along?), and I am thinking about putting it in with the strawberry plant.

I am considering planting bulbs in the wild flower pot after they have run their course this fall. I was thinking about layering daffodils (late February bloomers), tulips (late March-early April bloomers) and wild flowers (to bloom in the summer).

I think I have missed the boat for pumpkins - they usually have to be in the ground around July 1st here in order to be ready for Halloween.

We have reliable sunny weather and warm temperatures through September. October turns cooler and more rainy. For most things, our growing season seems to be about May through early November. Most of my herbs, other than the basil, grow year round since our winters are generally pretty mild.

I would love a bay laurel tree, put I have no idea how big they get. Does anyone have any experience with these?

And, Alton, you are just about spot-on on the size, good eye! I would say about 16 inches in diameter by about 18 inches deep, so plenty big for veggies and most things.

Thanks for the suggestions, everyone.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Ginormous pot

See my newest find? The ginormous blue earthenware pot - not the spotted bebbie (she's been part of our family for almost six years!).

Sean and Dottie were walking me home from the bus stop when he noticed this pot sitting by the garbage can in the garage. It's the kind that goes for like 30 bucks in the garden store. I was so excited to find it, especially after a long, crummy day at work.

Judging from the poorly planted cigarette butts that Sean emptied from the pot, we can only guess that the pot's previous owners were disappointed from the poor results of their cigarette-tree experiment. You'll notice Dottie was kind enough to model the proportions.

Any suggestions for what I should plant?

Monday, August 3, 2009


Just when I thought this might be a summer without basil, I discovered this little guy.

I guess the scorching temperatures last week gave it the motivation it needed. I am so glad - summer without basil is like summer without the Fourth of July. Simply unimaginable.

This is my third summer of container gardening, and I continue to learn so much. Here are a few things I've learned so far this year:

  • Herbs, for the most part, are extremely easy to grow and taste amazing. I hope never to pay store prices for shriveled fresh herbs again.
  • Tomatoes must be caged as soon as they are planted. Don't count on caging them later when they get a little bigger. They'll be way too big.
  • Tomatoes need A LOT of water.
  • Don't expect downstairs neighbors who choose leather recliners as patio furniture and car floor mats as door mats to appreciate your container gardening hobby.
  • Marigolds really do keep away cabbage worms - no pesticides needed.
  • Starting a ton of seeds in the dead of winter because you are longing for warm, sunshiny weather is probably not the best use of resources.
  • Buying small plants for $2 at PCC is a good use of resources (at least until Sean figures out a way to build a greenhouse extension off our balcony - my fingers are crossed).

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Bread, cobbler and more

Today was a very productive day. I made two loaves of sourdough bread for sandwiches and a batch of outdoor rolls to eat with grilled sausages for dinner. This year, my New Year's resolution was to make all the bread we consume. I am doing really well so far.

Other than a package of pita bread that went moldy before we had a chance to eat them and a couple of packages of hot dog buns, every loaf of bread we've eaten (outside a restaurant, of course) has been handmade by me. This has been a very satisfying feeling! My resolution has also been a great cost savings, too. I estimate that I save about $3 per loaf compared to what I would have spent on the bread in the store.

Does anyone have a bread recipe that makes good sandwiches or to eat with soup they could share? I need to put a few more recipes in the rotation.

Last night, I made a killer cobbler out of the wild blackberries we picked on Friday. It was especially yummy with a scoop of Honey Bee vanilla ice cream. And not bad on Day 2, either. Mmmmm.....

I labeled all the jars of raspberry jam I made last weekend and packed them into the pantry to enjoy through the year. I can't wait to pop open a jar during the cold, dreary winter months. It will be an instant reminder of our trip to the berry farm and the hot steamy summer day I spent canning 15 pounds of fruit. I can't wait.

I also worked in the garden - tending herbs, tomatoes and my pepper plant, which has one lonely pepper so far. I am keeping my fingers crossed that more will appear soon. I am starting to think about my fall garden. Is anyone else planning their garden? What will you be planting?

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Giving it a whirl

I have decided to take the plunge and give blogging a whirl. Welcome to my inaugural post.

My plans for today include making cobbler for Sean out of the wild blackberries we picked yesterday evening, running a few errands (maybe) and watching the Lake City Pioneer Days parade from our balcony.

How are you spending the day?