Made To Measure


At long last – the pictures of my new hand made wardrobe!  I’m afraid I have been ruined by the experience, though, and won’t be able to go back to clothing off the rack…

The whole Yaly experience was such a luxury.  You are assigned a salesgirl who guides you through the myriad of fittings and helps you decide where to snip, tuck and let out your clothing to get just the right look.  Once tailored to perfection the clothing is carefully packaged up and delivered to your hotel – in our case at 11PM the night before we flew out for Phu Quoc (I was feverishly fretting that it wouldn’t be delivered and we would never see any of it again).  I carried all my new clothing items home carry-on, protecting them like they were my little children.  And here they are, captured by the oh-so talented Meghan (with the help of her attentive assistant, Wynnie).  Enjoy!

This fabric is so fun it was hard to go wrong with it

Jason treated me to a couple of strands of real pearls during our stay on Phu Quoc
There’s nothing quite like a tailored suit!

My only regret is that I didn’t get more pencil skirts like this one

Hoi An


These beautiful boats were docked all up and down the river

The little French colonial town of Hoi An was a welcome sight after the chaos and rain in Saigon.  We explored all the little side streets and markets, depending on our trusty little scooter for all our transportation.  For most tourists the real draw to Hoi An is all the tailors – it seems like there was a tailor shop on just about every street corner all promising you the best, fastest service.  Thankfully Tim and Erin had already recommended Yaly which was definitely not the cheapest but well worth the price – their quality and service was excellent.  I got a whole wardrobe of clothing made and it all turned out beautifully – photo session with Meghan should be appearing soon!

After wearing ourselves out trying on our tailor made clothing we would head for the beach

 

 

 

 

 

There didn’t seem to be any rules when it came to setting up a street food stall – first one to the street corner got to set up shop.  ’Shop’ consisted of a couple big bowls of raw marinated meat, some plastic trays and bowls of sauces, a tiny little grill and kiddy chairs.  She claimed the meat was chicken but it didn’t look like any chicken I have ever seen.

I have no idea what this was, how it was made or how long it sat out before being cooked but it tasted amazing

 

 

 

Modeling one of the dresses I had made in Yaly - more to come soon!

Saigon



The Ben Thanh indoor market

Saigon was a shocking introduction to Vietnam – loud, crowded, colorful and fascinating – and I loved it.  I know the proper name now is Ho Chi Minh city now but I think Saigon sounds much more glamorous.



Tantalizing Textiles


Jas and I are packing our bags for Vietnam and I am looking forward to getting a new wardrobe made while we are there.  Meghan and mom helped me pick out a few beautiful fabrics to bring along – I will make sure to post some pictures of the finished products!

 

 

Beautiful Gifts


I can't imagine how long it would take me to embroider this by hand!

 

Jas is a far better person than me.  As Christmas approaches he is genuinely more excited to give gifts than to receive, something I thought didn’t happen in nature.  I, on the other hand, have learned to eke some joy out of shopping for others but if I’m really being honest I have to admit that I want to do the opening, not watch others.  I got to do my fair share of opening this year and got some great gifts!  My sister-in-law sent me the most amazing embroidered pillow (she did the design and embroidery herself!) and I took these photos with my amazing new camera that Jas got for me (thanks to Meghan for the crash course in photography!)

So how about you, any especially special Christmas gifts this year?  

Granola


 

As promised here is the recipe for the granola for Valiant.  I wish I could take credit for this but I can’t – and I can’t even take credit for discovering it.  My mother-in-law made it for me a while ago and it changed my life forever.  If you, like me, shy away from dates (the fruit, that is – who would avoid the other kind?!) then I implore you to resist ‘forgetting’ to put them in.  They really make it special and it doesn’t end up too sappy sweet at all.

P.S. the apples are completely unrelated – I just liked the punch of color.  Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures of the granola because it is very elusive and disappears too quickly to get a good photo.

 

Granola – adapted from a Bon Appetit recipe

2 cups old fashioned oats

3/4 cup whole almonds, halved

1/2 cup sweetened (I used unsweetened) flaked coconut

1/2 cup raw cashews

1/2 cup pumpkin seeds

1/2 cup sunflower seeds

1/3 cup brown sugar

1 1/2 tsp ground allspice

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 stick salted butter (I use coconut oil and it is very tasty that way)

2 Tbsp honey

1/2 cup pitted, chopped dates (packed and can use up to 1 cup depending on taste)

I throw in an assortment of dried fruit/nuts depending on what I have around the house or what strikes my fance.

 

Heat the oven to 300.

Mix the first 9 ingredients together (feel free to be generous with the spices).   Melt the butter or coconut oil with the honey in a saucepan over low heat (I am the queen of shortcuts and use the microwave instead).  Pour over granola mixture and mix well. Spread mixture on a baking sheet and bake 20 minutes stirring occasionally.  Add dates while it is still warm and mix to separate the clumps.  Continue to bake until golden brown, stirring every 10 to 15 minutes – be careful not to over toast the granola!

Enjoy with yogurt, milk, or by itself while standing in the kitchen in your slippers late at night while your husband is sleeping (my personal favorite).

 

 

 

 

Eight Mile


 

 

 

Jason't hair doesn't really look like this. I swear. I may have been the one to give him the haircut.

I was chomping at the bit this weekend to get out into the mountains since it is getting close to snow season and traversing the trails without snowshoes will soon be impossible.  Sunday was clear and cold and a perfect hiking day.  It turned from fall to winter as we crept up the 3.5 mile trail until we reached the iced-over lake where we spent some time sliding rocks out as far as we could across the ice until we had enough on to break through.  I think we are both teenage boys at heart.

 

Summer Bounty



 

Like with your children you are probably not supposed to have a favorite vegetable in your garden but I do - beets

This spring, with the help of my mother-in-law we planted a garden.  It was in her yard (my ‘yard’ is a hard dirt patch with brown and yellow grass) and we narrowed down my list of about 20 vegetables I wanted down to an attainable eight: tomatoes, beets, carrots, beans, peppers, butternut squash, zucchini and cucumbers.  There was a lot of waiting involved and now the rush has begun – everything ready at once!

A friend has a very prolific apricot tree in his backyard and lets us pick for free!

 

 

 

Granny


This is an ode to my granny, who, despite the sound of her title (which, should be noted, she chose) was a real lover of the finer things of life and passed on some class to her granddaughters.  She taught me a lot about those things, even as her life became increasingly eclectic she still insisted that the fork and knife (silver, of course) be placed just so for dinner and the napkin folded properly.  The glass over the knife, blade facing in.  All this fuss but it was not a big deal that her fat Great Dane sat on the loaf of focaccia bread that was sitting on the side table awaiting dinner.

Her food tastes were exotic too, especially considering being raised through the depression and being a mother and wife in the canned food age of the 60s and 70s.  There was no ‘kids menu’ at granny’s house – if anyone was eating Coquille Saint Jacques, Jerusalem root or a fine steak then everybody was.  This was so good for me, learning to eat and eventually appreciate foods I had never seen before.  One food that has especially remained a treat and love of mine is the humble, awkward-looking artichoke.  Simply steamed and pulled apart at dinner to be dipped in little wells of melted garlic butter, this is one of my comfort foods and one that was always especially dear to her as well.

Let Them Eat Cake


There are some things in life that are scientifically proven to be impossible to resist.  According to a recent study I did the combination of chocolate and peanut butter is one of them, especially in the case of this magnificent cake.  If you have not read or made anything from the Smitten Kitchen blog then you had better hustle over there (but not yet, first finish this) because the pictures alone will have you drooling on your keyboard.

This here is the chocolate peanut butter cake in all its glory.  I really don’t approve of the name because it should be something much more fitting like ‘cake of magnificence’ or ‘cake to end your desire for all other cake’ but I guess that’s just me.  My only modification was making it taller because I love tall things (I almost didn’t date Jas because I thought he was only just my height and I would have to stop wearing my pumps) using three 6-inch square pans.

If you have a birthday, anniversary, bar mitzvah,  house warming, block party, baby shower or really any excuse at all to make this cake you should.  You won’t regret it.

Ok, now you can go check out Smitten Kitchen.

 

 

At LONG Last!


I promised pictures of our renovated (ok, that is kind of an overstatement – really we just repainted and cleaned, but it’s amazing the difference that can make!) apartment.  We had to force ourselves to stop making changes so as to avoid this mistake…

My style right now is sort of forced eclectic – I am living with a mishmash of furniture and decor collected over the last couple years of moving around – but I don’t mind for now because pretty much all my things have some sort of story!  Someday I will grow up, own a real house and have Meghan, Caitlin and Erin decorate it for me.

I like that the kitchen is so close and open to the dining/living room - in our last place you were totally secluded if you were in the kitchen - bad for entertaining!

 

 

I

My kitchen is in a constant state of messy - but the productive kind of messy that I am actually just fine with. Jason claims that the window from the front door to the kitchen is so that the woman never has to leave the kitchen even when guests arrive... he is such a charmer.

 

I love built-in cabinets!

The fireplace is functional - that is a plus except that that means there is a permanent black smut all over the brick. Ah well, once again that is productive messy I guess.

The bathroom is definitely a lot better but does anyone have good tips for removing rust stains? They are definitely not going to leave their home in the sink without a fight.

 

 

 

 

 

How Does Your Garden Grow?


Spring is in the air (here at least, sorry Caitlin…) and I am busily working on plans for a little garden.   The operative word here is little because this is my first experience gardening and, although there is a list about 3 feet long of everything I want to grow I managed to pare it down to just a few essentials:  herbs, peppers and tomatoes.

And kale.

And I will probably pick up a couple more things because I won’t be able to resist.

It’s hard when they put those beautiful, glossy pictures of baskets overflowing with produce on the front of the little seed packages.  It makes you forget that you have to start this thing from seed, pot it, water it, weed, love it (ok maybe not the love part, but I do) before you will actually reap the benefits of this little seed packet.

I bought my seeds from this great little seed and feed store downtown in Wenatchee (for you Wenatchee people it’s the one with the giant horse on the roof).  I will admit that the only reason I chose that particular place was that they advertised baby bunnies, chicks and ducklings for sale (who can resist that?!).  So after gazing at baby animals for a while I turned to my real task and realized that this was an accidentally great choice of place because the owner was a hardcore gardener and a fount of wisdom.

I cut up an old yogurt container lid to make labels

Sweet chocolate peppers, chives, cilantro, basil and Italian parsley - a pretty good start!

 

A covered disposable casserole dish is my makeshift greenhouse

 

You want to continue to plant seeds throughout the spring and summer so that you always have a fresh plant - especially with the herbs - because they will go to seed and just get old and tough eventually

New Apartment!


In an effort to slim down our flabby budget Jason and I recently moved to a cheaper apartment.  It’s an old triplex complete with hardwood floors, a fireplace and tall ceilings but it was in desperate need of some TLC.  When our wonderful landlord offered to pay us for our labor as well as the supplies we signed the lease as fast as we could, bought a large box of latex gloves and got to work.  Here is just a sampling of the before pictures, more soon as we transform our new little home!

 

Old bathrooms are always scary and this one definitely needed scrubbing, patching up and a lot of paint - as well as a new TP holder, if you'll notice it is hovering a mere couple inches off the ground...

From what I could tell the last few tenants deep fried EVERYTHING because there was about 1/2" of grease on all kitchen surfaces. Do notice the cute retro wallpaper on the one wall - we kept that!

 

We have cowboys roaming the perimeter of our living room - definitely going!

 

Makeup Remake


Jas and I recently took a trip over to Seattle for a special dinner at McCormick and Schmicks with some old co-workers of mine.  I was enjoying the fact that we had outsmarted the others because we had parked in the free parking instead of paying for the parking closer to the restaurant.  Paying for parking is just for people who are followers instead of inventive thinkers.  Needless to say I was pretty humbled when we came out to find our passenger side window smashed and the ipod missing, along with my… makeup bag.  Yes, the thieves had left the new kindle (cleverly disguised in an 80s kid’s Bible cover) and taken all my makeup, maybe just as recompense for them going to the effort of breaking the window to find nothing more than a measly ipod.  If that was their intent then they were brilliant because I stood there blubbering like a baby over the loss of my makeup collection, something I had accrued over a long time and recently perfected when I got all the makeup for my wedding.  So Nigel our Subaru and I suffered the same difficulties in the looks department for a while, he with a network of plastic trash bag and duct tape covering his window and me gallivanting around all-natural, makeup-free…

The upside was that I got to start over fresh with my makeup collection, thanks to a generous gift card from my mother-in-law and aunt to my favorite of all time makeup stores, Sephora.  It really is the perfect blend of quality products and reasonable prices.  The basics that I think every woman should have in her makeup bag are: a good foundation (even if you don’t use it every day there are definitely those days when ya just need it!); a matte, oil-blasting powder; eye primer (really, it’s an essential, I promise) and of course a good eye palette.  Throw in a good lip stain and you’ll be ready for anything!  I confess I always just go to Wal-mart for Maybelline mascara, I have tried a lot of them in my day and nothing can beat it!

So I started hunting and comparing price, quality and reviews and here’s what I came up with:

I am having amazing results using the Sephora brand moisturizing foundation (at an unbeatable price!) , especially used with a nice base of Make Up For Ever’s microperfecting primer in – don’t freak out – GREEN.  It does wonders because the green color totally neutralizes any red in your complexion, which is a life saver for rosy faced girls like me!

PowderSetHD Microperfecting Primer

My old standby Lorac illuminating powder always provided the perfect glow without looking shiny, but I have been wanting to try a more matte finish powder so I purchased this one, which provides the perfect natural un-shiny look (bonus: no searching for the right color because it’s colorless!).

Eyeshadow Primer PotionFloral Funk Eyeshadow Palette - Warm ($60 Value)

This eye palette provides you with all the right shades for a daytime or evening smoky eye look, all in one pretty little package,  and, paired with this eye primer by Urban Decay, it will last all day and look just as good as it did in the morning (serious, not a single crease)!

Birds of a Feather


I have recently been in love with all things aviary, and have found a couple pieces of jewelry that I wear constantly and wanted to share with you.  Although mine were found at out-of-the-way antique shops there are plenty of other places you can pick them up for yourself if you keep your eye out.  I asked the other pink peppers to post some of their favorite bird-inspired items and got a nice little selection for you to enjoy!  (Do you have a favorite accessory or house item?  Send us a picture and we’ll share it with everyone!)

These earings make a nice bold statement but, surprisingly, are very wearable

I love the delicate pink color of this piece and the birds are actually made out of shell

From Terri’s collection of jewelry:

these sweet parrots came to me from the Florida Keys. they look a little grumpy. Maybe they preferred the tropical weather to the cold blast of Washington's winter!

They sort of don't seem appropriate for an old woman so I don't wear them, but I can't bear to part with them either (Photos by Taite)

Ahem. . . new author– this is Caitlin. When I saw Aileen’s darling bird jewelry I wanted to take pictures of my favorite birds that live in my house. So here are a few more wing-ed little wonders I love:

Every time I clean sweep my living room and move all the decore around, this little blue bird stays put. Only, he has an egg, so it is either a girl bird or a highly involved father bird.

I don't embroider. I just buy antique pieces and enjoy someone else's labors. This one matches my bedding perfectly.

Meghan bought this for me when she was helping me decorate my new house. It had two essentials: birds and pink

These two mirrors became an iseperable pair back in my first apartment and are now living happily in the kitchen on the wall that is warmed by the woodstove chimney.

Freyja said this bird is named "yuhmomo". And she wishes she could hold it.

French Connection


With my new job as a barista at a local coffee shop I have to keep my hair up and out of my way whenever I’m working.  After a couple of weeks of wearing a ponytail (boooooring!) I decided I had to come up with some new fun ideas for keeping my hair out of my way.  A great new thing I tried was a French braid along the front – it’s quick and simple, it frames your face nicely and is great for girls with longer bangs that usually fall into your eyes!

Start with a strand of hair about here and divide it into three strands

French braid the strand along the edge of your hairline by adding hair to strands on both sides as you go along

You can end the braid right above your ear (add a pretty barrette to cover up the elastic) or finish the braid and weave it into a glamorous up-do.

Apple Butter Day


Nothing says fall quite like the smells of cooked apples, cinnamon, ginger and fresh-ground nutmeg wafting through the house as you patiently cook down apple butter.  It is so satisfying to see the pretty glass jars, still hot, lined up on the table and the pop of the seal immortalizing your hard work.  It lets you know that long after all the apples of 2010 have disappeared you will still be able to enjoy them.

Patience is a virtue, and you need lots of it in order to properly and sufficiently cook down your apple butter.  Wait until it gets thick and golden brown, bubbling all around the edges, before you even think about pulling it out of the oven.

Oh The Places We’ll Go!


Enjoying the good weather and great food!

The perfect beach day, sunny, 90 degrees and a light breeze...

My dear friend made the long trek from California to visit me this last week (actually she came to visit all her Seattle friends but I like to think she just came out to see me).  It felt like old times going on Seattle adventures and hitting up the best happy hours and I took a Thursday and Friday off just to fit everything in.  This visit to West Seattle and Alki beach was very memorable since I had never been to this amazing little corner of the city.  It had a very California feel (or at least I think it did since I’ve never been to California; it’s the way I’d imagine California to be) and had a boardwalk lined with great open air shops and eaterys.  A visit to Husky Deli provided some of the best homemade ice cream I’ve ever had, all nestled inside a fresh homemade waffle cone.  The coconut, complete with real chunks of coconut, and the rum truffle ice creams make an especially delish combo.  A BLT sandwich complemented the meal quite nicely.  After sitting in the sun for hours and doing a little longboarding we faced the sad fact that we were sunburnt and dehydrated and had better head back home before we turned into human raisins.

Bacon lettuce and tomato awesomeness!

Bacon lettuce and tomato awesomeness!

Can I help you with that?


How many times have I heard that in my lifetime?  I can’t even count them.  Most recently was the other night as I was struggling to carry a rolled up full-size oriental rug down the street to my apartment.  In the rain.  By myself.  The question came from a guy across the street who looked like he was on his way home from work.  My automatic reaction, as I almost always do:  a smile and a chipper “No thanks!  I think I’ve got it!”  From the way I felt (and must have looked) lugging the dead weight of the area rug I was not ok and definitely could have used the help.  I realized this about two steps later when it was too late.  I eventually did get the rug all the way up to my upstairs apartment, panting and weak (my upper-body strength is limited to about 2.5 push-ups after a bowl full of wheaties).  And I did it all by myself.  But what I missed out on was the chance to meet someone new and the opportunity to say and really really mean something that I say far too infrequently to God and to all the people in my life.

Thank you.

So next time I’m in that sort of situation I am going to try to remember to pause, realize that yes, I could use some help and that I don’t have to do it all myself.  And it might just present an opportunity for real thankfulness on my part and a chance for someone else to be truly generous.

Fresh Summer Feasting


This delicious recipe comes from Cooking Light and I tried it the other night with great success!  I could not find any fish except tilapia, and it worked just fine.  Add some coronas and lime and voila!  A perfect summer feast.

Fish Tacos with Lime-Cilantro Crema

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 2 tacos)

Ingredients

  • CREMA:
  • 1/4  cup  thinly sliced green onions
  • 1/4  cup  chopped fresh cilantro
  • 3  tablespoons  fat-free mayonnaise
  • 3  tablespoons  reduced-fat sour cream
  • 1  teaspoon  grated lime rind
  • 1 1/2  teaspoons  fresh lime juice
  • 1/4  teaspoon  salt
  • 1  garlic clove, minced
  • TACOS:
  • 1  teaspoon  ground cumin
  • 1  teaspoon  ground coriander
  • 1/2  teaspoon  smoked paprika
  • 1/4  teaspoon  ground red pepper
  • 1/8  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/8  teaspoon  garlic powder
  • 1 1/2  pounds  red snapper fillets
  • Cooking spray
  • 8  (6-inch) corn tortillas
  • 2  cups  shredded cabbage

Preparation

Preheat oven to 425°.

To prepare crema, combine the first 8 ingredients in a small bowl; set aside.

To prepare tacos, combine cumin and next 5 ingredients (through garlic powder) in a small bowl; sprinkle spice mixture evenly over both sides of fish. Place fish on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake at 425° for 9 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork or until desired degree of doneness. Place fish in a bowl; break into pieces with a fork. Heat tortillas according to package directions. Divide fish evenly among tortillas; top each with 1/4 cup cabbage and 1 tablespoon crema.

I highly recommend serving with this salsa-guacamole hybrid that I was inspired to make after tasting one that Meghan made for Memorial day:

5-6 tomatoes cut into small pieces

3 avocados cut into small pieces

1 purple onion, diced

1 bunch cilantro, chopped

1/2 cup green onion, chopped

juice of 1/2 a lime

salt and pepper to taste

Mix it all together and enjoy!  I almost think it tastes better if you let it sit in the fridge for a while.