Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Early Morning Loves

I've been thinking a lot about prints. I have a lot of empty walls in my house. My photos I posted yesterday of our weeping cherry tree turned out so well for being taken and edited on my phone. I think they'll fill a few 3"x3" frames I picked up while thrift store shopping. I'm not sure they'd size out any larger than that and still look good anyhow.

But of course, there are many walls in the house to fill and I have had some great luck on Etsy print shopping in the past. Here's what I found this morning that I love.

{image credit ALPhotography}

{image credit ALPhotography}

{image credit irenesuchocki}

{image credit irenesuchocki}

I love beautiful dreamy pictures. I envy those who can capture the true beauty in things seen only by the naked eye and have the ability to translate that in to a photo. But as long as others can continue to develop this talent, my home will always have beautiful photographs.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

In the morning

My favorite time of the day right is in the morning. We live in such a beautiful place. The sunrises are sometimes more magnificent than the sunsets. I love leaving work at first light, coming home through the beautiful evergreens that have been beaten by the ocean wind and standing in my yard under a pink sky. It's magical.

As I drive along and look to the east I'm welcomed by a beautiful pink and orange sky, sun rising. As I look to the west the island is still sleeping, sky deep blue with stars. You can almost see the line down the middle where the colors are colliding.

I felt like the flowers starting blooming so early, then I realized it was almost April. I have a few bulbs that came up earlier than I had thought and our weeping cherry tree is in full bloom.

The weeping cherry is a beautiful canopy of white. Even after taking several large limbs off of the tree last year, it continues to sprawl over both ours and the neighbors yard. It's enormous and absolutely stunning.

I will be so sad when the flowers are gone. But in their place will be a thick layer of green leaves.

I apologize for my seemingly sporadic blogging over the last week or so. I've been tired and didn't have the opportunity last weekend to write up a few posts. Writers block perhaps in combination with wanting to relax every second of my 4 day weekend with my lovely husband. I will make up for lost time soon. 

Friday, March 26, 2010

Simple Spa Bench: Part 1

I was lucky enough over my last weekend to not only have 4 days off, but to have the whole 4 days off with my husband. That doesn't happen unless we've taken vacation. And vacation usually consists of us driving 10 hours to see his family in Oregon, and I don't get to be selfish with my time.

We knew this weekend was coming pretty far in advance and made sure not to make plans with anyone at all. We were just going to spend the entire 4 days two selfish individuals doing anything we wanted. I loved it.

So we came up with something new. Carpentry. That's right, we built something. I can't say this is his first time, he custom built shutters for our house when we painted in October. I found a specific style I loved but refused to pay the special order price. For the cost of two custom order shutters, we were able to buy all the wood for every shutter on the entire house. He mastered them.

I came across Knock Off Wood a month or two ago and fell in love with the furniture plans she had been sharing. I've always been interested in building my own furniture, but let's face it - I'm no math whiz. There was no way I was figuring any of this stuff out. Then along came Ana, bless her heart.

And then came the Simple Spa Bench.

(images from Knock Off Wood)

Now, to put this in a spa-like bathroom would be ideal. Yeah, I don't have one of those. But I really loved the bench. However, I've been trying to find something for our entry that would store shoes and make the space look a little less bare with how it's set up. I thought if stained the right color, this would be great next to the front door and my husband would have somewhere to sit and take his work boots off. Maybe even store them. Thankfully he liked the idea too.

The plans are simple and laid out online step by step. We picked up the necessary wood and finishing products and once home it only took about 45 minutes to get the pieces cut and the bench assembled.

Finishing supplies. We'll have plenty left over for future projects. I was told we're building end tables next weekend.

This is a mitre saw. If you have a table saw, please use it. We don't have one. And though the mitre saw worked, a table saw would have been so much easier.

The pieces were cut to length and we started putting the frame together with wood glue and 2" nails. We own a nail gun which made putting this thing together a breeze. Here's the frame.

Next came the trim pieces. Trim is a little easier if you cut as you go, that way you can ensure a snug fit. If it's not perfectly square (like ours) then trim pieces cut to the exact length specified might not fit like you'll want them to.

Pretty bench assembled (and our blue house, and a random garden hose).

I didn't stain this right away. I allowed the wood glue to set for the 30 minutes the directions stated and filled the nail holes with wood filler. We left it over night before starting on the next steps of sanding and staining.

So far I'm really pleased with it. We love being able to take pride in our work. We're really excited about having a beautiful piece of furniture we've built ourselves. We're not quite finished yet, but close. We'll finish it up this weekend and post pictures of the finished product.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

I think I just died.

I woke this morning early. Before 6:00. Before the sun was up. Well, it could be coming up. I wouldn't know since my room is almost completely blacked out. But that's not the point.

I woke early and grabbed my phone to occupy myself until I felt tired enough to go back to sleep. Husband and puppies are still sleeping and won't wake any time soon. My first stop was Facebook.

And that's when I saw it. New dates announced for the Pioneer Woman's Spring Book Trip. I looked quickly through the list and the last one (which was really the first she posted this morning) was SEATTLE! Oh my heavens. I just died. I literally just died. I am so excited at this very moment I can hardly contain myself.

When she started her book trip at the end of last year, I was so hoping she'd come to Seattle but she never did. The closest she came was California and Colorado. I couldn't very well travel that far, but I so desperately wanted to meet her.

When her cookbook came out last year, I was there. 

I had been waiting anxiously, had the Amazon page saved in my favorites. Had the book pre-ordered, and when the mail came the day that sweet little book was released, it was there in my mail box. I loved it. I read it cover to cover twice in one sitting, savoring the joy that was my very own Pioneer Woman Cookbook.

Her blog changed my life two years ago. I'd never read a blog, and found hers while wedding planning on the Knot. I began reading and became dedicated on a daily basis. My blog life started with cooking blogs. Though I feel I've always been a good cook, it's been a passion of mine, her recipes have really skyrocketed me to the top. They've brought me fame among my friends and family members, and now anything I cook people find simply amazing.

Do you know why I cook? I love to eat. Do you know another reason why I cook? For others. To hear, "Oh, this is so good". Then I feel like I've fulfilled my purpose in life. I've made an amazing meal, I've fed someone and made them very, very happy at that moment.

I am so very excited for her visit to Seattle and you bet your sweet bottom I'll be there. One hitch, it's my mom's birthday. But guess what, she'll just have to come because I can't miss this. You hear that mom? we're going to Seattle!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Renovations: A peek inside what was once chaos

I have my days where I look around the house and I get so overwhelmed with everything there is to be done. I feel like I'm unorganized and my house is in shambles. We started renovating two years ago this May and I just don't know why we can't be finished.

I came across this picture yesterday and was definitely humbled by it. I looked at this, then looked up in to my living room and realized we have so much done around here. Our house is cozy and well maintained. We just may not have a lot of the finish work done yet. It would be wrong of me to not be thankful for everything my husband has helped me bring to light, and all of his hard work.

This picture was taken in September 2007. This was still his house, and the way it looked - blue walls, blue trim, blue couches, brown carpet - this was all here when he bought the house 9 years prior. He had been a bachelor for a long time. And when we saw this picture, I told him I could help him make a difference. And we soon did.

And though there was an in between to this photo and the one before, this is what it looks like today. We live in a cozy, well maintained home that we made together. If I compare the two pictures we replaced the front door, repainted, installed new slate and wood flooring, put up nice linen curtains on the window and replaced our furniture with comfortable leather. Talk about a big difference.

So sometimes when I feel like my house is a mess, or even like life is a mess - I have to take time to think everything over and just be thankful for everything I have. I am so blessed.

Friday, March 19, 2010

11. Lamb Stew & My Momma's a Runner!

Over the weekend I ran for the first time with my mom. Our race is in about 4 or 5 weeks now and she thought running together once or twice a week would be nice. Here's the difference between her and I: She's been running, I haven't. Not much anyway.

We headed out for our first run in less than friendly weather, and guess what happened. I was left in the dust by my mom. I did and didn't expect this very result. I expected her to powerhouse through our run and be successful. I didn't expect that I'd be as unsuccessful as I was. Reality check. Cassie needs to run more and soon. I certainly don't want to be that slow come race day. I know, it's all for a good cause, but I still want to feel like I did well at it. If I had to recap the whole experience, I'm proud of my mom. I promised her she'd find this success and she has.

Now on to the feel good part of the day. Since I was making the hour drive to see her she wanted to make me dinner. She picked up this stew recipe at a cooking class she went to at her local food co-op. I wasn't sure if I liked lamb. I  haven't had it since I was a kid and at that point couldn't tell you what it tasted like. She was positive this recipe was gourmet and that I would absolutely love it. Lamb Stew has a long list of ingredients and I was very surprised at how well the flavors complimented each other. It could be served alone, but we served it over couscous. Rice is an option too.

Let's start with our list of ingredients:

2lbs lamb top sirloin cut in to 1 inch pieces & patted dry. Meat wont brown as well if it isn't dried a bit.

1 large leek, 2 carrots & 1 celery stalk chopped.

3 tbsp prosciutto torn in to small pieces- We found that 3 strips from the packaged was exactly 3 tbsp.

1 tbsp fresh sage, 1 tbsp fresh rosemary, both chopped & 1 tsp red pepper flakes.

2 garlic cloves & 1/2 cup parsley chopped.

Zest & juice of 1 lemon (yes, I know this is a lime. She decided to try this instead that day).

1 - 14oz jar of artichoke hearts drained.

1 cup dry white wine (I don't think this is dry, it's just what was in the cupboard - or apple juice).

4 cups chicken broth (she chose no-chicken broth).

3 tbsp tomato paste.

And lastly, CousCous.
(Not pictured: Canola oil, olive oil, salt & pepper)

Start by heating the canola oil in a heavy soup pot or dutch oven, add the leeks and cook until tender - about 15 minutes.

Add garlic, rosemary, sage, red pepper flakes, carrots, celery & prosciutto - cook for an additional 5 minutes.

Next add your lamb.

And cook stirring occasionally until browned.

Next add 1 cup of dry white wine (or apple juice if you so choose), increase the heat to high and cook for 5 minutes.

Now add 4 cups of chicken broth and 3 tbsp tomato paste & stir well to combine. Cover and continue cooking over medium-low heat to create a steady simmer. Cook for 45 minutes or until lamb is tender.

Meanwhile, if you've chosen to prepare rice, go ahead and start that now. If you've chosen couscous like we did, five minute prior to the soup finishing go ahead and start that. It will rest while we're adding the last of our ingredients to our soup.

Add 1 - 14oz jar of drained artichoke hearts and cook for 5 minutes to warm them through. You can see the couscous finished there in the background.

When your 5 minutes is up, go ahead and add the zest & juice of 1 lemon, a little salt & pepper, 1 tsp of olive oil and 1/2 cup of chopped parsley. Go ahead and give it a good stir to combine and you're ready to serve.

Place a couple spoonfuls of couscous in your bowl and cover with the stew. You're ready to eat!

I was really happy with how this turned out. It had a wonderful combination of flavors. It's gourmet comfort food. The meat and vegetables were tender, it gave a rich taste that included sweet, spicy and tart all together. The artichoke hearts were what I wondered about the most but they really added to the soup. I was so impressed that a stew could come out this thick and hearty with no thickener like flour. It was just plain yummy. This will be a recipe to add to my favorites collection. I encourage you to try this, even if you might be skeptical of lamb. I wasn't sure I'd like the taste, but I really enjoyed it.

You'll find the recipe below copied from the handout she received at her cooking class - I hope you enjoy!

Lamb Stew


2 tbsp canola oil
1 large leek, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
1 tbsp fresh sage, chopped
1 tsp red pepper flakes
2 carrots, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
3 tbsp prosciutto, torn in to small pieces
2 lbs lamb top sirloin stew meat, cut in to 1 inch pieces & patted dry
1 cup dry white wine - or apple juice
4 cups low sodium chicken broth - or veggie broth
3 tbsp tomato paste
1 14oz cans artichoke hearts, drained
1 lemon, zest & juice
1/2 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 tsp olive oil
Salt & Pepper


Heat canola oil in a heavy skillet or dutch oven over medium  heat. Add leaks, cook stirring often until tender - about 15 minutes.

Add garlic, rosemary, sage, red pepper flakes, carrots, celery & prosciutto - cook for an additional 5 minutes.

Add lamb and cook stirring occasionally, until browned. Add wine (or apple juice), increase heat to high & cook for an additional 5 minutes.

Add broth & tomato paste, stir well. Continue cooking at a simmer over medium-low heat until lamb is tender - About 45 minutes.

Add artichoke hearts and cook for an addition 5 minutes. Stir in lemon zest & juice, stir to combine. Add salt & pepper, sprinkle with parsley & olive oil - Stir well, then serve.

Serve over cous cous or rice. May also be served alone.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

10. Creamy Mustard & Onion Soup

This recipe was made a week ago. My camera died in the middle of photographing the cooking process, and I couldn't tell you why I thought I couldn't upload the photos I did have to the computer in spite of the dead battery. Maybe it was because I wasn't a fan of this soup. Oh, I hate to say it!

This recipe is from Kayotic Kitchen. Kay lives in the Netherlands and she posts some darn good and creative foods. I will say this blog is one that I've found hit or miss recipes from. It's not that they aren't good, it's just that her taste doesn't suit my taste. She's very fond of spices like curry, and that just not my thing. The bonus to Kay? She loves onioins and garlic more than I do, so I can always count on a recipe containing those two. Either way, I enjoy her blog.

For this soup you'll need a small list of ingredients. 1 large onion, 2 garlic cloves, 1oz butter, 3 tbsp flour, 3 cups chicken broth, 2 tbsp coarse mustard, 2 tbsp cream, worcestershire sauce, white wine vinegar, salt & pepper.

Garlic. My favorite. Yum!

My onions, I used two since they were a little on the small side. Worcestershire sauce, Lea & Perrins is heaven. Mustard, this is dijon. Perhaps the beginning of my soup demise? Salt & pepper.

Oh, the beautiful onions cooking away. And then my camera died. Lame.

And you might think, why didn't I just charge the battery for a few minutes and continue on? That would be a valid thought, however I didn't think of that. Why? Well, I left my battery charger to my camera in Hawaii over two years ago now. Then when the battery died I never used the camera again (the LCD screen was already broken). Then I got a new camera for Christmas, and hardly ever used it until I started blogging. But I'm still convinced my charger is missing. And it isn't. I've got issues.

But thank you iPhone for taking a picture of the finished product, even though it's less than good. It worked for the purpose intended.

Now that I've finished this tiny post on this soup, I realize that perhaps it was my fault it wasn't that good. First, I didn't add the flour to the onions when I should have to neutralize the rawness. So this might be my first problem. Second, I didn't have course mustard. I threw it out. Why? Because my husband didn't put it back in the fridge, instead the cupboard and I refuse to eat things that might have gone bad. Third, even though she clearly states that white wine vinegar is completely optional, I think it might have added what I needed to this soup. And lastly, I didn't have cream but only milk in my fridge.

Wow! Way to go, Cassie. I think you've botched the entire recipe. Maybe it's better than I thought. I'm feeling motivated to make it again since it's so simple.

So if you like mustard and if you like onions and if you have all of the listed ingredients, this may be a recipe for you. It's simple and so simple it could be an appetizer type soup prior to a meal you may make for company. If they like mustard, and onions of course. But none the less, I have another recipe in the books for the year!


3 small (or 1 big) onion
2 garlic cloves
1 oz butter (25gr)
3 tbsp flour
3 cups water
1 chicken bouillon cube
2 tbsp coarse mustard
2 tbsp cream
worcestershire sauce

Optional: white wine vinegar

Quarter & slice your onion and chop your garlic. Heat the butter in your soup pan then cook the onions until soft - about 5 minutes. Add your chopped garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Add the flour and cook for 2 minutes to neutralize the rawness of the onions.
Add three cups of chicken broth and bring to a boil. Cook 15 to 20 minutes until the onions are nice and soft. Season with salt, pepper and a splash of worcestershire sauce. Optional at this point is 1 tbsp of white wine vinegar for an added kick. Stir in 2 tbsp of coarse mustard & 2 tbsp of cream.
Stir everything together and serve with garlic bread.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

they go together like peanut butter & jelly

St. Patrick's Day & red heads. Wouldn't you agree? I think so at least. Red heads & the Irish. Now that I think of it, my mom is a red head and not Irish. Weird. Does Scottish work? Moving on then.

When I hopped on the interwebs today, my MSN homepage was featuring an article called "The 12 Hottest Red Heads of All Time". I was intrigued. I have a love for red hair, as my mother is one of the most gorgeous red heads you'll ever meet. Maybe I'm biased. I wish that I had been blessed with her beautiful tresses. However, I was not. Back to the list, I can't say I loved the whole thing, but there were a few I found equally stunning.

Here are my fabulous red headed picks for our St. Patrick's Day 2010:

Emma Stone

Isn't she just beautiful? I'm not sure I'd ever seen her before watching Zombieland last weekend. She's not a read head in that film, and heaven forbid they actually died her hair the dark brown it was. How in the world do you come back from that? Regardless, I thought she was beautiful and the movie was hilarious.

Isla Fisher

I've loved her since seeing Wedding Crashers. She's just to die for. She seems down to earth and natural. Never trying to hard, she just is. And she had to have been one of the cutest pregnant girls I'd ever seen.

Rita Hayworth

Around even before movies were in color, Rita was still gorgeous. This photo took my breath away when I came across it in the article. Talk about a classic beauty, and she didn't have to fit the mold of the typical blonde.

Christina Hendricks

She's devilishly good looking, isn't she? I was intrigued to find out she's really a natural blonde, but has been coloring her hair from a young age. Well, good for you Christina, red suits you well. What a beauty.

Ashlee Simpson

Oh Ashlee, how I loved your red hair. I love changing my hair color as much as the next girl, but why? You made such a stunning red head. I felt it really suited you. I've had this hidden love of Ashlee Simpson since that tv show of her's years ago on MTV. You know, the one that was on the same time as Newlyweds? When Nick and Jessica were still together? I sure loved this, and wanted it for myself. But we all have to move on somtime, right? I'd hope at least, for my own sake.

(all celebrity photos featured above are from

And of course, my all time favorite red head:

 My Mom

Red hair, blue eyes and the tiniest thing you'll ever meet (at 4 feet 9 inches tall). She's the true definition of beauty, inside and out. She has the sweetest soul, but has a firey passion for things she believes in. I can't love this woman enough for all the things she's given up for me in her life. Her and I have a very special story and I will love her for it always. And since she also graces the photo, meet my sister! Yes, I have one and that's her. She's quite the cutey too, isn't she?

I hope you all have a wonderful St. Patrick's Day, no matter what you may be doing. If it's nothing, I find that wonderful. If it's something, that's wonderful too. I will not be doing anything, and definitely not partaking in green beer or any sort of celebration for that matter. My schedule doesn't always work out in favor of such holidays. Better luck next year!