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?