Friday, December 31, 2010

happy holidays bloggy friends

Wow, it’s been awhile. Thanks for stopping by! I’m still trying to figure out why Christmas was even busier than usual this year. Could it be my obsession to make everything as close to perfect as possible? I decided to make a lot of gifts this year instead of shopping. I probably spent as much time shopping for supplies, but I didn’t have to pull my hair out coming up with individual ideas for each member of our two large families. Here are a few of the homemade gifts...




After a bit of trial and error, I think these turned out pretty well. There’s a wonderful soap supply company in town that helped make this project much easier by supplying me with melt-and-pour blocks and awesome molds. I wish I could add a scratch and sniff here so you could smell their wonderfulness. The bee soaps are scented with an almond/honey oil that makes them smell yummy enough to eat.




My daughter did all the decorating of the cut-outs this year. Nice job Isabel!

Cinnamon rolls...


This little kitchen gadget made all the baking a bit easier. Merry Christmas to me!

KitchenAid mixer

My Mom stopped by so Isabel could teach her how to decorate cookies. Baking cookies together is one of our many holiday traditions.


I hope you had a wonderful holiday too! Thank you for being my bloggy friend in 2010!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010



Our hens have a unique way of carving pumpkins. They aren’t very creative, but it’s the only way they get carved around here. Long after Halloween is over.


Friday, December 3, 2010

a dog’s life...


From Bailey’s perspective, this was a really good day! She had a long run at the park this morning. Took a walk through the busy village nearby where she was able to greet lots of people. Visited her favorite pet store where she received treats, sniffed some dog butts, and peed on a display of her favorite dog food.

Best of all, the sun is out... there’s no rain in sight.

I hope you all have a great weekend!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

happy holidaze

Early November is the start of the holiday season for us. M’s birthday is first on the list.


Thanksgiving at the beach with M’s family comes next.

My sister-in-law created a dish involving prosciutto and brussels sprouts. It’s the first time I enjoyed eating these little green balls.



A few people cooked tons of food.

Others lounged inside around the warm fire while it poured down rain outside.



I made pies.

Pumpkin pie

The last holiday celebration of November involved me cooking, cleaning, and cooking some more, and more cleaning. We had my family over on Thanksgiving day. I made turkey, stuffing, creamed onions, green beans, gravy, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, cranberry sauce, and these satsuma vodka-tinis.



Guests brought sweet potatoes, apple pie, rolls, and fruit salad.

Here’s the recipe for the cocktail. It may help get you through the holidays with your sanity intact.

Satsuma Vodka-Tini
(from Cooking Light magazine)

1 cup fresh cranberries
1 cup vodka
1/2 cup sugar
4 whole satsumas, peeled
3/4 cup Grand Marnier
1/4 cup fresh lime juice

Combine the first four ingredients in a food processor and process until pureed. Refrigerate 8 hours or overnight. Strain mixture through a cheesecloth-lined sieve over a bowl or wide mouth pitcher, pressing to extract juice. Discard solids. Stir in 3/4 cup Grand Marnier and 1/4 cup fresh lime juice. Place 1 cup satsuma mixture in a martini shaker with 1/2 cup crushed ice. Shake. Strain mixture into 2 chilled martini glasses. Repeat procedure to make 10 cocktails. Enjoy in moderation if you have to drive this holiday season.

Monday, November 22, 2010

it’s not too late to sleep like a baby

I was dreading the task of mattress shopping for my daughter’s room. It seemed as daunting as buying a new car. I googled mattresses and came across Sleep Country (Sleep Country USA... why buy a mattress anywhere else) and Mattress World (it’s not too late to sleep like a baby). Were you singing their jingles as you read these? Then you have these stores where you live. If you don’t have these stores where you are, and you haven’t heard their obnoxious jingles, consider yourself lucky. They’re right up there with Up, Up, and Away. Or It’s a Small World. You’re welcome.

Then I happened upon something that looked a bit different. Mattress Lot. When I read their story to my husband, he was onboard to go shopping. You can read their story here.

Mattress Lot is family owned and sells only locally made mattresses. All their mattresses are made in Oregon and Washington. They only work with manufacturers who are committed to earth-friendly production techniques, so all their mattresses are made of recycled metals and fabrics, and soy based foams.

The story of this family is unique... After losing his job as a television advertising executive, Michael Hanna (you may remember seeing him reporting news on a local station too) took a risk. He took out a home-equity loan, purchased a truckload of mattresses, and started a business. Six months later, they were turning a profit.

Walking in the doors at Mattress Lot was a pleasant surprise. We were greeted by the store’s owner, Michael, and a very friendly Portuguese water dog. A knowledgeable young girl, not much older than Iz showed us around, and pointed out some features I never would have considered. “Do you spend any time sitting on the edge of your bed? Then this one provides better support.”

My daughter quickly found a soft pillowtop to her liking, but that didn’t keep us from lounging on lots of other mattresses throughout the store.





When Mattress Lot has a delivery near their northeast Portland store, they do so on a special trailer attached to the back of a tandem bicycle. How cool is that?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

squish squash... it’s fall

Fall has not officially arrived until I’ve made at least one pumpkin pie and a pot of squash soup. In years past, both of these items are made for our annual Halloween party. But, since we spent Halloween evening at some friends’ house this year, neither of these things have graced our table.

Today, because it’s a warm and sunny fall day, and the leaves are a million shades of beautiful golden colors, and fall is halfway over, I’m making squash soup.







2-3 pounds of Delicata squash (or your favorite squash) I like the sweet flavor Delicata brings to the mix
2 medium sized sweet onions
2 large carrots
1 celery
2 apples, peeled and cored
Olive oil
2-3 cups chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon good curry powder
1/2 - 1 cup half and half (or cream if you want it a bit richer)


Peel, gut and dice the squash into 1-inch pieces. Peel the onions and cut into 1-inch chunks. Peel two carrots and cut them into small pieces. Do the same with the apples, and cut the celery into small pieces too.

Throw all the fruits and vegetables into a baking dish, drizzle with some good olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast these in a 425 degree oven for about 45 minutes or until roasted, browned and quite soft.

While the veggies are roasting safely in your oven, heat up your homemade chicken stock (in my case, turkey stock) that’s tucked way in the back of your freezer. If you didn’t tuck any homemade stock in your freezer, no worry, you can use the canned stuff. Heat it up in a pot on the stove.

Once the veggies are done, combine them together with the chicken stock in small batches, in a food processor or blender until thoroughly pureed. Repeat this process until all fruits and veggies have been pureed.

Pour the pureed soup back into the pot on the stove and add the two remaining ingredients, curry powder and half and half. Heat on medium heat until heated through, stirring occasionally.

You can serve with a few condiments on the side such as nuts, coconut, cilantro, banana, a simple dollop of sour cream, or bare naked. Not you, the soup!

Serve with a green salad and a loaf of warm, crusty bread. And since my hubby just came back from the store – where I sent him for the fresh crusty bread – with a bit of salami and cheese, we’ll be having that as well.

I love fall!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

the scariest costume of the night

Do you know which actress she’s supposed to be?



I do love costumes that can be put together mostly with things we already have. I’ve collected a few retro pieces (and saved some too) over the years, in hopes that one day my daughter would enjoy dressing up in them.


Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

a young girl’s journey from Milan to Minsk

Time for a room makeover.

Iz does not consider herself a girlie girl, but one might assume from her style choices that she has less of a tomboy personality than she lets on. Her tastes are very specific, but not at all predictable. That is to say I cannot just go out and pick something up without her approval. But that doesn't keep me from trying.

This transition from childhood to teen room started several weeks ago when Iz was digging around in the dark depths of the basement and ran across my old iron bed. “Would that fit in my room?” I got out the measuring tape and discovered that YES, it would fit. Tight. But yes.

What better time for a makeover than the transition from girl to teen?

This is what her room looked like before we took out the twin sized bed and moved everything else to her playroom, or into the hallway where we could stumble over them in the dark of night.


We began by putting a white primer on the walls to help our final color cover up that bright yellow.


We tried out several shades of pink...


Yes. Pink. For my non-girlie girl daughter.

More to come...

Thursday, October 21, 2010

collections | Italian pottery

Many years ago I received a stoneware pottery casserole dish as a high school graduation gift. That dish is still used regularly in our kitchen. Through the years I've sought out pottery at local pottery shows, flea markets, antique stores, garage sales, Goodwill, and ebay for all sorts of handmade pottery. Raku, Native American, Mexican, McCoy, Shawnee, and Italian pottery have all been collected at different times. For several years I even traveled all the way to Florida to rummage through weekend garage sales for kitschy things.

These days are more about simplifying and less about acquiring. Oh don’t get me wrong, I still LOVE rooting around a good sale.

Have you ever been to a designer Goodwill store? We happen to have one here in downtown Portland. This is the premium Goodwill store that receives slightly used designer discards. It’s here that you’ll find racks of designer jeans, dresses, jackets, jewelry, handbags, shoes, and a few home decorating pieces too. I stopped in a while back and picked up a cute pair of Michael Kors jeans and a tweed Anne Klein jacket.

If you’re lucky enough to be in the store when boxes full of goodies come through the door, you might find something you must have even before it’s unpacked.

Trinkets like this...


Or this...


This urn was on display in the front window.

Imagine my surprise.

I have the perfect corner for it!

Monday, October 18, 2010

a trip to the pumpkin patch...

... means hot, crispy, sugary, delicious apple cider doughnuts. Yum.

Do you spell it doughnut or donut?

At Fir Point Farms in Aurora, Oregon, doughnuts/donuts are made to order during the month of October. They make pumpkin ones too, but I’m too in love with the apple cider version to allow my taste buds to stray.


Hot, fresh out-of-the-fryer, just like my Grandmother used to make, doughnuts... Oh my!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

meet Moltin’ Nelly...

buff sebright banty hen molting

buff sebright banty hen molting

buff sebright banty hen molting

No worries, her feathers came back in beautifully.

buff sebright banty hen

buff sebright banty hen

Friday, October 1, 2010

Lucy and Ethel

I love these girls... they’re everything I wanted in chickens and more. They’re mischievous, friendly, easy going, and great egg layers too.

As soon as we returned from the Galapagos, Lucy and Ethel started acting very strangely. I received a call from my neighbor on Sunday morning. “I have a chicken in my backyard, and I don’t remember having any of those.” I threw on some clothes, went out the front door, only to find Lucy wandering around the front walkway squawking her head off.

My husband spotted both Lucy and Ethel two houses down terrorizing the neighbors cat who was crouched under a bush shaking in his boots. It took both of us to herd them safely back home.

The next morning I found this in the nest box...


Isn’t it a beauty?

I found Ethel sitting under a tomato plant in one of our raised beds a few mornings later. She was possessively sitting on half a dozen eggs. I explained to her how those were actually our eggs. We rightfully bought them. She reluctantly allowed me to take them.

I left one in the nest box, hoping she’d get the subtle hint, and low and behold the next day she actually laid an egg in that same box.

One of these eggs is not like the others.


Ouch, that must have hurt.

barred rock eggs

A very tasty double yolker...




Happy hens lay the best eggs!

Friday, September 24, 2010

is this a good thing?


The start of the school year is always a bit frantic... purchase $100+ of supplies, organize notebooks, binders, sharpen pencils, get up early, back into a routine. Those are good things. The first week is always exciting... Which electives did you get? Which teachers did you get? Which friends are in your classes? Where's your locker?

Then the second week arrives, and along with it, homework! This year there is plenty of it. The reality of it all doesn’t really come until parents attend Back-to-School night. This is the night when parents rush around the school going to all your child's classes following the order that your child has written out for you, in an hour and a half. Parents are in each class for exactly ten minutes, with three minutes in between to run to the next class on the schedule. Note to self: next year do NOT wear heels. Running shoes only!

In those ten minutes parents are informed of what each class will cover for the year, how much work is expected to take place at home (aka homework), and told how we can help our child(ren) accomplish all this. There are several projects that parents need to be involved with this year such as community service projects and a family history term paper. Oh, and then we're asked to volunteer either on a regular basis in the classrooms, on special projects, or by driving for field trips.

Tonight after my daughter's weekly two hour dance class (Portland Public Schools cut back the P.E. program this year, so this is a must), she typed a paper, created a diagramed poster on the destruction of the ozone layer explaining the process, read a chapter for social studies and did an assignment based on that reading, worked on a few math problems, read for half an hour and fell asleep. This is all after being in school for nearly seven hours.

Just for fun I decided to add up the number of hours that go into school and homework per week. Here’s what I came up with:

30 hours in school per week (5 days)
4 hours Math homework (1 hour, M-Th)
4 hours Language Arts homework (1 hour, M-Th)
4 hours Social Studies homework (1 hour, M-Th)
4.5 hours Science homework (1-1 1/2 hours, S, T, Th)

That's a total of 46.5 hours a week!

When there are large projects going on, the number of homework hours will, of course, increase.

Her teachers claim they’re preparing them for high school. But that's next year. This is 8th grade!

I would love to hear from other parents. How does your child’s workload compare?

I gotta go sharpen some more pencils now...

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Galapagos Expedition | Day 10

The Daphne

Cloudy skies and our last day arrived at the same time. This morning, the consensus of moods on the Daphne was gloomy. Thoughts of spending the day stuffed into airplanes, dealing with airlines, and crowded airports, was less than appealing.

We boarded the panga, and waved farewell to the Daphne crew.


I really wanted to bring this guy home with us! We could continue to receive delicious treats each time we came home, clean sheets and towels folded into animal shapes each night. He was also just a lot of fun to be around.

Luis grabbed a lifejacket and hopped aboard the panga for our return. And he carried our bags for us. What a guy!

Adiós Luis! Adiós Charlie! We’ll miss you.

Our first delay came at the Baltra airport. We were bumped onto the next flight.

We arrived back in Quito at around 6pm, just as the sun was setting.

Several people in our group were feeling a bit under the weather. A bowl of warm quinoa soup in the hotel restaurant and an early night to bed helped immensely.

Another early morning wake up. 3am, cram into a taxi with all our luggage. And you’ve already heard the rest of the story here.

The only things that made the day tolerable were thoughts of a soft, large bed and this sweet little face waiting at home...


Thank you so much for coming along on our journey through the Galapagos.

I’m glad you’re here!


Monday, September 20, 2010

Galapagos Expedition | Day 9

Isabela Island: Sierra Negra and Puerto Villamil

Today we go eight miles on horseback to the edge of the crater of the volcano Sierra Negra on Isabela Island. This is the second-largest volcano on earth.

Sierra Negra (Spanish for Black Mountain) is a large shield volcano at the South eastern end of Isabela Island that rises to an altitude of 1124m (3688 feet). It is one of the most active of the Galapagos volcanoes with the most recent historic eruption in October 2005.

Okay, so I'm a pretty experienced rider. I’ve ridden horses since around the age of ten. I’ve been thrown off horses while riding bareback, even had a few lessons through the years. But these horses were a challenge! They had obviously been trained by Spanish speaking riders and taught not to listen to anyone but those Spanish speaking cowboys who traveled behind us. The trails were narrow and we were often teetering on the edge of volcanic cliffs. The horses all had their own ideas about where in the line they needed to be and would charge at each other whenever the Spanish speaking cowboys did a kissy sound, which they of course did frequently.

The weather was cool and foggy with a light mist falling as we headed up the trail.

horseback riding

This was Iz’s first experience riding without someone leading her. She looks like a pro.

horseback riding

horseback riding

My husband on a horse? Now that’s a rare sight!

horseback riding on Isabela

horseback ride

Once we reached the other side, the weather cleared. It was downright hot for our two mile hike on foot up to the summit of Sierra Negra.

Sierra Negra, Galapagos

Iz still looks fresh as a daisy after a long ride up...

Isabel on Isabela Island

The weather had again returned to misty on the return trip.

For some reason my horse insisted on being behind all the other horses all the way back. I was in a cloud of dust.

Mist + dust = ...

horseback ride

Notice the dead pig draped over the horse in the background. That’s not my horse. Some cowboys had just shot a wild pig nearby and I just happen to be passing by it on my way to the restroom when Michael took this picture.

The restroom didn’t have any paper towels, so I did the best I could with cold water splashed on my face.

Looking a bit like I just finished working in the coal mines, we headed to town for cervezas.

Puerto Villamil

Puerto Villamil is a small port village located on the southeastern edge of Isabela. Of the 2,200 people who live on Isabela, the majority live in Puerto Villamil. Residents of Puerto Villamil have earned a living either through agriculture or fishing, but over the years the government has made moves to move the population away from fishing and into tourist-based activities.

This place was closed, but what an awesome spot to spend an afternoon...

Bar Iguana

They even have a sand floor...

Bar Iguana