Thursday, August 12, 2010


This duvet set from Dwell Studio has just the right mix of modern and classic - I'm completely sold.  Often, there are times where I have to take a deep breath and contemplate the purchase, to avoid reckless impulse buys.  This might not be one of those times.....


Eating off the floor

So, with the whole "nesting" thing going on we've been crazy busy.  We rearranged our living room at least 5 times (poor husband), got new bedroom furniture and a new sideboard, cleaned out our closets and donated a ton of stuff to Goodwill, painted the hardware in the kitchen, diy'd a couple of giant mirrors, finished the baby's nursery, and decided to start dining more ethnically.  That last one is a little strange, I know, but on a whim we put some smaller legs on our dining table, so now we are essentially eating off the floor.  I guess if I wanted to sound a bit more hip, I could claim that we are having a Bohemian Chic moment.  Not really, but kind of....  We bought a few floor stools from Ikea and it has been so much fun changing things up a bit.  I'm still surprised my husband agreed to this hormonal urge!   

Low table

Our new midcentury sideboard is in the back and in the photo below - we love it!  It's the perfect stand for our giant espresso maker, and a great organizer for office & craft supplies, kitchen overflow, and all of those other odds & ends you can never find an actual place for.  Think of it as a giant junk drawer, but much more organized!

Here are the banana leaf Ikea Alseda Stools (only $29.99 each!) we bought that bring you up to the perfect dining height - they were stacked up on the other side of the room from when I was cleaning, but they look perfect around the table.  Trust me, really!

What is your take on this?  Good idea or hormonal craziness??  Don't worry - we kept the regular legs and can always go back to our high top table when elderly relatives come to visit or when we feel the need to teach the baby some serious table manners.  For now, we're diggin' it!     

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The "cheese" cake

I saw this on A Cup of Jo yesterday - a modern and savory cheese cake!  Maybe it's because right now I am not allowed to indulge in certain cheeses like Brie, Camembert, and Gorgonzola, but I haven't been able to stop thinking about these ever since.  Makes me want to throw a wine tasting & cheese party just so I can make one! 
This "Gold Hill" version features has a hefty price tag of 205 British Pounds (about $320), but feeds 110-120 people.  I think it could be replicated at home for much cheaper. 

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


So, I guess I needed a blog break - a long blog break.  I've been busy, though, "nesting" for the arrival that we are getting in 9 weeks.  This past weekend, we were able to getaway to the coast for our last trip before the little guy arrives.  Rockaway Beach on the Oregon Coast was just what we needed - quiet, relaxing and overflowing with fresh seafood, delicious artisan cheeses and creamy Tillamook ice cream - black walnut, please!!  The cottage we rented was what one might call shabby, not chic, but had the most amazing view of twin rocks and the ocean and a lovely patio perfect for reading all of those baby books in preparation for the big day.  Here are a couple of photos...

Dungeness Crab cioppino

  Fresh Oregon marionberry milkshake!

Rainy day walk on the beach

View from the patio

31 weeks...

and I'm pretty sure that we officially have a name!!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Clean & Green

I was cleaning the bathtub the other day with some sort of industrial strength muck and found myself in a chemical haze.  Headache. Scratchy throat.  Nasty taste in my mouth.  It all led me to jump online and do a little research.  I found the following appalling factoid:

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the air inside the typical home is on average 2-5 times more polluted than the air just outside—and in extreme cases 100 times more contaminated—largely because of household cleaners and pesticides.

What??  Think about this - the cleaners that you use to de-germ your house are likely more harmful than the germs themselves.  They include strong, artificial ingredients and harsh chemicals like bleach, ammonia, and alcohol.  We are hurting ourselves, our children, our pets, the environment, etc. etc. etc.  I find this incredibly disqusting, not to mention a cause of some serious anxiety.  I went under my kitchen sink, threw out every single toxic cleaner I owned (which luckily wasn't many!), and made a pledge to buy & make safe, non-toxic, environmentally friendly cleaners.  I found a couple recipes to get me started and it seems pretty easy.  

Basic ingredients: 
Vegetable oil based soap (like Dr. Bronners), water, baking soda, vinegar, lemon juice, borax, essential oils, tea tree oil. 

This is fun - it's like cooking, but you can't eat it!  Insead, the reward is knowing you will have a clean house without giving yourself cancer.  Sounds harsh, but this is serious business!    

All purpose cleaners - for countertops, floors, walls, carpet & upholstery.  Combine in a spray bottle:
  1. Dissolve 4 tablespoons baking soda in 1 quart warm water.
  2. Add 1/2 cup vinegar to between 1 cup and 1 quart of warm water.
  3. Combine 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil based liquid soap and 3/4 cup warm water.  Shake to blend. 
Abrasive cleaner: Use baking soda or non-chlorinated scouring powder (like Bon Ami).

Grease cleaner - use a mix of vinegar and salt. 

Disinfectant - for kitchen cutting boards and the bathroom: use a spray of distilled white vinegar followed by a 3 % peroxide spray.  Wipe clean. 

Glass cleaner - mix 1 quart warm water with 1/4 cup white vinegar.  Add 2 tablespoons lemon juice for a citrus scented version or add a couple drops of your favorite essential oil. 

Furniture polish - 1/2 teaspoon oil (like olive or jojoba), 1/4 cup vinegar or lemon juice (fresh works best of course!).  Mix in a glass jar and use a soft rag to dab and wipe onto wood. 

Two of my personal favorite safe & environmentally friendly brands to buy are Seventh Generation (expensive, but you can find coupons here) and Trader Joes Cleanliness is Next to Godliness (for the more frugal cleaner)!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Feeling nostalgic

I think I must be in need of a vacation, because I can't stop thinking about traveling.  Enough with this two weeks off a year business - it's completely for the birds!  My husband is from England and as you most probably know, like most civilized countries they get a minimum of like 30 days off a year.  I need to live in a country that values quality of life over corporate greed - this is just plain annoying!  :) 

While I was dreaming up a scheme for life abroad (still in progress), I was looking at pictures of my last trip to Spain.  We always go back to the same village in the southern part because my husband's family has a place there - so lovely! I need to go back. Soon.  

Such a simple and enjoyable way of life! 

P.S. If anyone has some good ideas about living/working abroad I would love to hear them!! 

Much needed inspiration

"I'd rather regret the things I have done
than the things that I haven't ."
Lucille Ball

Sometimes when I feel frustrated with the monotony of life (& the daily grind), I remind myself of quotes like this one.  They inspire me to try new things and live a life filled with adventure and happiness. 

Happy Tuesday.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Wishing the weekend wouldn't end

The weekends always fly by too fast, don't they?  This one was particularly busy, but so much fun!  I didn't want it to end! 

Friday Night.
Had a lovely dinner out with a new friend! 
If you are in the Portland area - 3 Doors Down cafe was delish!  On the menu: Duck confit, Garganelli Egg Pasta With Classic Pork & Beef Cavatelli Bolognese Sauce, & an americano & the bocca negra chocolate torte for dessert (see below)!


Saturday morning. 
Made a tea cozy (below) without a pattern - it's a little large, but totally does the trick.  On Sunday it kept our tea warm for 3 hours!! 

Saturday day.
Snowshoeing on Mount Hood with my girlfriends Courtney & Jessie.  Possible pics to follow once Jessie downloads them, but here is the view we had from the trail on Mirror Lake!  It was my first time out and was so much fun!  Great workout, too! 

Saturday night. 
Marmalade making.  This was my first go at Marmalade - I used the Barefoot Contessa's recipe - it's delicious, but not as jelly-ish in texture as I am used to. 

Sunday morning. 
I made Kate's amazing little Baked Apple Donuts.  They were delicious - probably because you dip them in butter and them roll them in cinnamon & sugar - that always helps!  I made them to bring over to my friend Darshana's house.  I got to visit with her and her adorable little girl Mira, and drink Darsh's tasty Cha tea.  I am not sure if it is different than Chai (I'll have to check on that), but it is completely soul warming - lots of spices, fresh ginger, milk and a little bit of sugar!  Thanks Darsh! 

Sunday Day.
Headed out with the husband and grabbed a beer over at Prost!  Again, for those in the Portland area this was such a fun place - obviously German.  They have a great beer selection - and the waitstaff was seriously the most friendly and fun that I have met in a long, long time!  The three people next to us were drinking the "boot" - 2 liters of any tasty malty beverage they have on draft.  I guess there is some rule that once the bartender pours it, the boot can't touch the bartop until it is completely empty.  They offered to share with us, but it was a little early for me to start downing liter after liter!  It was somewhere around 1:30 and they had already been "tasting" tequila!  

Sunday evening. 
Home to make some pickled eggs.  I have only had pickled eggs once and wasn't the biggest fan in the world - they are super rubbery.  But my husband loves them (he's English - that's his excuse!), so we decided to try to make a spicy version at home.  They'll be ready in 4 weeks.  Sounds gross, but I'm an adventurous eater so I'll let you know how they taste! 

Monday morning.
Back to work.  Hope you guys had a great weekend!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Friday Flavor: Dulce de Leche

I love ice cream and when I say love, I mean LOVE!  I could eat it all day, and for every meal.  Seriously.  Now you see why I need my big workout regimen, right!  Kate's new Friday Flavor, Dulce de Leche, is the perfect accoutrement for my homemade vanilla bean gelato (recipe found here)!!  It would also be the perfect homemade treat for your favorite Valentine's! 


So, from the mouth and mind of
one of my very best friends ever......

I am slightly obsessed with homemade gifts.  This year, I have made pickles, BBQ sauce, infused bourbon... I've done it all.  Around Christmas, the theme for my family's annual Yankee swap was the letter "A" (don't ask- every family has weird traditions, right?) So, in a major stretch, I decided to give gifts from Argentina- one of which is my attempt at homemade Dulce de Leche. After a lot of recipe and blog reading, I felt like this was something I could take on... It's pretty simple ingredients-wise and seemed like something I could do in a night. So, I got to work and had so much fun in the kitchen doing it and ended up with a really tasty sauce that that made the most awesome gift! I hope you give this one a try!

Here's what you need:

a big pot. Bigger than you think you'll need. I will explain why later.
4 c whole milk
2 c sugar
1 vanilla bean (you sub 1 teaspoon of extract, but I really like the look of the flecks of seeds you get with the actual bean)
1 teaspoon baking soda

Split the vanilla bean down the middle. Heat milk, sugar and vanilla bean over medium heat and whisk until the sugar is completely dissolved (about 20 minutes). Lower the heat and add the baking soda. Here is where the big pot comes into play. You need a lot of space in the pot because this shit is going to GROW. I mean bubble and foam like your 8th grade volcano science project. I kind of wish I didn't tell you this part and let you have the experience that I had in my kitchen. I just stood there in a daze staring at this ever-expanding mass of foam overflow onto my stove top. I ended up with a pretty big mess on my hands, but the final result was well worth it!

At this point, it's pretty simple. The foam will go down eventually. Don't try to whisk it back into the liquid, just let it do its thing and give it an occasional gentle stir, about every 5 minutes. It will bubble away for about 2 hours, slowly getting darker and thicker. Once you get to the consistency you like (remember it will thicken as it cools), kill the heat. I put mine through a strainer just to get out any clumps- not necessary, I was just going for a super pro look since it was going to be a gift. Pour into jars. Let cool a bit before putting on the lid to avoid condensation. Will last in the fridge for a few months. If you have a pressure canning system, you can preserve it, but don't use a hot water bath. The temp doesn't get high enough to kill everything, so you are better off keeping it in the fridge.

**Please note, the pictures here reflect a DOUBLED recipe.**
 I hope you try it out! It is really fun to do and the sauce is AMAZING on ice cream, drizzled over chocolate cake, nestled between two shortbread cookies...YUM!

I can't wait to make this!  Just slap a red bow on and you are set for the 14th! 

One other thing - have you guys checked ou the "Can Jam" hosted by Tigress in a Jam?  I originally read about it on Design Sponge and thought it was such a great idea to can a different seasong veg/fruit each month.  Such a fun challenge! 

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Reusable shopping bag

How's this for going green?  The Cartier Marcello de Cartier Shopping Bag!  I am usually not a handbag kind of girl - I pretty much just carry a wallet around - but, I LOVE this bag.  So classic!   It's listed on the Cartier site at $2,200, but I found it at Sacs en Ligne on clearance for $500!!  Tempting, isn't it!