Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween Festivities

After we took the cousins, Queen Bee & Curious Georgia, out for a little trick-or-treating, we headed home for a delicious Halloween dinner.

Click on any item for the recipe.




I love my little pumpkins for centerpieces. They are even cuter in person and have a little sparkle not captured in the photo. (Purchased at Mr. J Culinary Essentials)

No, those are not Leontine Linens. My talented mother-in-law made them for me a few years ago. They are almost too pretty to use but I finally caved. What better occasion than a holiday dinner. I also bust out the china any chance I get. Why have it if you don't use it?! So even though it was a casual dinner, and maybe not "china worthy", I didn't care. Live dangerously. (wink)

We love our Meissen china and plan on adding to it over the years with the Rich Court Dragon & Ming Dragon pieces. They are all hand painted and just spectacular.


Check out this amazing photo of tulip fields that I came across over at Swiss Miss. How cool is that?!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Happy Halloween Over Cocktails Fans!

I can't remember where I learned it but I know I'll never forget it. I sing it all day on Halloween each year, as my old roommates can attest. (This one's for you Clare!)

H - A - double L - O
W - double E - N
Spells Halloween!

Halloween means ghosts and goblins
Scaring the people who open the doors
Trick or treat gets you candy and apples
Then go to the next house to get-some-more

H - A - double L - O
W - double E - N
Spells Halloween!

Halloween means ghosts and goblins
Devils and witches with big black hats
Spooky masks, and jack-o-lanterns
Skeletons, monsters & howling cats

Chopsticks 101

My sister-in-law always asks for a wish list on my birthday. I've definitely been needing/wanting some chopsticks, which seems easy enough but I always forget to buy them. Plus, I'm hoping to have a big Chinese New Year celebration this year so chopsticks will be a necessity. To my delight, one of my gifts was a set of Beautiful Lacquered Hardwood Chopsticks. There are 10 pairs of black chopsticks with a unique Asian motif decoration. They're perfect. I might even order another set in red or maroon (listed as blue because of the case). Love.

"...lacquered hardwood with Shou symbol decorations, for good fortune & longevity, unique gift for housewarming, anniversary, or any new beginning."

In the spirit of chopsticks I thought I would share some other info (courtesy of geocities).
How to Use Chopsticks
(for anyone who doesn't know how... does that person exist???)
1. Hold your first chopstick between your thumb and first finger.
2. Hold the second chopstick like you would a pen or pencil.
3. Use your thumb and first finger to move the top chopstick to pick up items. Your bottom chopstick should remain stationary.
4. Have fun!

Chopstick Etiquette
1. Don't use your chopsticks to point at somebody or to enhance communication.
2. Don't use your chopsticks to fish around in the soup bowl for food.
3. Don't use use your chopsticks to move bowls or plates closer.
4. Don't stick your chopsticks and leave them standing straight up in the rice bowl.
5. Don't lick your chopsticks.
6. Don't stab food to eat 'shish-kabob' style.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

"Wich of the Week"

I just might have to take a quick trip down to San Fran to get my hands on one of these famous Ike's Place sandwiches. My friend Jen said this is one of her favorite places to eat and you can see why. I was salivating while reading the YumSugar posting about the selection of sandwiches. And the bread, oh the baked to order bread. Are you kidding me? I think Ike needs to open a sister restaurant in Seattle, or I might have to move to San Fran for a short stint. I am a sandwich die-hard and can't stand the thought of not getting my mitts on one of these.

No? Can't move? Can't fly down for a quick jaunt? Well then, maybe we'll all just have to settle for this recipe from YumSugar inspired by a sandwhich special at Ike's.

Salami and Bacon on Dutch Crunch
Inspired by Ike's Place

1 Dutch crunch or French roll

2 tablespoons of garlic aioli
2-3 slices of cheddar cheese
Thinly sliced red onion, to taste
1/4 cup iceberg lettuce, shredded
1/2 avocado, sliced
3 slices of tomato, thinly sliced
8 slices of high-quality salami
6 strips of bacon, cooked

Preheat oven to 350°F. Slice Dutch crunch or French roll in half horizontally, and coat the inside of the roll on both sides with garlic aioli. Lay sliced cheddar on bottom half, and toast in the oven for 5 minutes or until cheese is melted. Remove from oven. On top of the cheese, arrange onions, lettuce, avocado, tomato, salami, and bacon. Place the top half of the roll onto the stack of ingredients, cut in half, and serve immediately. Makes one sandwich.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Art Lovers & Pet Lovers - Read Here!

My friend Tara's dog, Percy, and Percy's favorite toy

My friend and old work-mate Jenni is an A-MA-ZING artist. I absolutely love her style of painting. Two of my co-workers from Anthousa commissioned Jenni to paint their dogs and the paintings are fabulous. She also does portraits and most recently did the labels for two different award winning wines.
What a perfect gift to commission her to do a painting of your dog or loved one. I would like to have her paint my daughter for a Christmas gift for my husband and want her to do my nephew Farley (the Beagle).
Her rate is $150-200 for pet portraits and more for portraits of people. Her pieces are acrylic on stretched canvas. Check out more of her work on her Etsy site or email her directly for more information. I'm sure she gets busy near the holidays so don't wait another minute if you want to commission her to do a painting for yourself or as a gift.

A wedding commission. I love!

Labels for Harbinger wines.

I can't wait to buy these to see her artwork (and drink the wine!).

Another great dog portrait.

Oatmeal Week at My House

What's better than oatmeal for breakfast? Fried oatmeal for breakfast!

My friend Tara told me about a trick of hers, something she got from a blog. She whips up a big batch of steel cut oats on Sunday night, then loads it into a loaf pan. Every morning she cuts a few slices and fries them up in a pan with a little butter. Top with a little more butter and a touch of syrup and voila, you have yourself a delicious breakfast in a few minutes. I made this every morning for breakfast last week and my daughter and I were always fighting over the last few bites. It is so good and allows you to eat oatmeal every day without the painful 45 minutes of mouth-watering starvation as you wait for your steel cut oats to cook.

You could also serve it with bananas and raisins or throw it in a bowl with a little warmed milk. So many possibilities! I will be doing this trick more often.

The Greatest Gift for a New Mom

Over a year ago I went to my friend Amanda's baby shower. Along with my gift, I gave her a self-addressed stamped envelope with a pre-written thank you card. All she had to do was pop it in the mail and mark me off her list. I think the card got more oohs and aahs than any of the teeny tiny baby clothes.

All the better to give to a new mom who has already had the baby. The last thing a new mom wants to do once the baby has arrived is write a bazillion thank you cards. Not that you aren't so grateful for all the generous and thoughtful gifts from friends and family, it just becomes overwhelming as the gifts keep coming in at the same rate you're adrenaline is slowing down and exhaustion is settling in.

With that said, I won't allow a new mom to write me a thank you card and the only way around it is to write your own. My friend Clare just had a baby and lives in NYC. I sent her a package with some of my favorite things for baby and threw in a thank you to myself. She can just throw it in the mail and I know the gift arrived safely. Genius.
So next time you're friend has a baby, send one of these little bits of heaven along with your gift! And if she lives in your city, bring her dinner too because that is the other thing new moms don't want to think about. They will be forever grateful.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Charley Harper 123s

I love the Charley Harper ABCs book I bought for my daughter, and now he is coming out with a counting book, Charley Harper 123s. You can pre-order on Amazon (released November 1st).

Sunday, October 26, 2008

This Little Piggy Went to Nate's House

I am obsessed with this leather pig footstool featured in Nate Berkus's apartment. His apartment was just featured in Elle Decor and I saw the pictures and the pig on Oh Happy Day. I never thought I could love a pig so much. He's quite the pricey little piggy though. Yikes. Available from Jonathan Adler for a small fortune. It would be ADORABLE in a little boy's room though. Thank God I don't have a little boy so I don't have to daydream about this for another second.

Babe City

My friend Jen sent me this fun blog called Babe City. It's so funny. Check it out when you have a few minutes for some mindless entertainment.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Perfect Weekend Breakfast

I'm on a bit of a pancake craze so I'm trying all sorts of recipes... buckwheat banana pancakes, banana sour cream pancakes, orange ricotta pancakes. This morning I made the orange ricotta pancakes from Everybody Likes Sandwiches and they were deeeeeeeelicious. I loved the sour cream jam with them too. Great flavor. They were a little taste of heaven and oh so easy! Perfect weekend breakfast for the family.

Orange Ricotta Pancakes
Everybody Likes Sandwiches

1 ¾ c ricotta cheese
2 eggs
1/4 c sugar
zest of 1 large orange
1 t vanilla
2/3 c flour

In a medium-sized bowl, combine the ricotta, eggs, sugar, zest and vanilla. Gently fold in the flour.
Melt butter over medium-high heat in a cast iron frying pan or griddle. Add a large tablespoon of batter for each pancake, slightly smoothing over the tops. Cook for 4 minutes per side. Serve with fruit preserves (I love sour cherry jam).

Friday, October 24, 2008

Boyfriend Jeans Are Growing On Me!

I'm really digging these Current Elliott Boyfriend Jean in Hickory Stripe as seen on Sarah Jessica Parker. When I first saw the boyfriend jeans on Katie Holmes, I was not a fan. They are ever so slowly growing on me though and I have to say I think they are actually really cute on SJP in this photo. Leave it to her to tip the scale.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Brunch Ideas

My friend Joyce asked for some ideas for a brunch she is hosting. I suggested one of two recipes I made for our Christmas brunch last year. Both turned out great. I wanted something with eggs and something sweet so I opted for the Spinach & Cheese Strata from Epicurious and a baked French toast recipe that my friend Nicole gave me. I made both recipes in the afternoon on Christmas Eve so all I had to do on Christmas morning was pop them in the oven. I also served fresh berries, croissants with butter and jam, and some famous homemade New York style Italian sausages from Sonnenberg's Market & Deli in Spokane, Washington. I highly recommend the sausage. They are nationally recognized and were featured in a food magazine awhile back (Saveur I think). My mother-in-law stocks up for us every time she goes back to Spokane and we eat it for breakfast with eggs or as an appetizer with different mustards for dipping. Give these recipes a whirl when you're hosting a brunch and order up some of that delicious sausage.

Baked French Toast
Nicole Kelly

4 eggs beaten
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup heavy cream
3 cup milk
1/4 lb butter
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 t pure vanilla
1 T ground cinnamon
12 slices day old French Bread (ea. 1" thick)

In a large mixing bowl combine the eggs, sugar, heavy cream, milk, melted butter, walnuts, vanilla & cinnamon. Pour the egg mixture into a greased 15X10X2 inch glass baking dish. Place the sliced bread in the dish (do not overlap). Turn once to coat other side. Cover w/ aluminum foil & refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 350. Remove the aluminum foil & place the dish in the center of the preheated oven. Bake 45 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with warmed syrups (Maple and Boysenberry).

Serves 8

Snuggle Time

I'm not much of a pajama person when it comes to sleeping but I do love a cozy pair of jammies for putzing around the house on cold lazy days or snuggling up on the couch with my husband for a good movie. My favorite pairs are BedHead pajamas. I have received a few pairs as gifts and love both the cotton and flannel versions. These are a great item for your Christmas lists, to give or receive.

Eggs Baby!

Toward the end of the week when I look in the fridge, there's not a lot of exciting options for lunch. One thing that I can generally throw together with stuff I have on hand is a great egg salad sandwich. I enjoy this recipe from 101 Cookbooks. It is quite good.
Egg Salad Sandwich
101 Cookbooks

I've realized that 90% of the challenge here is properly boiling the egg. You need to boil it so the center sets yet stays moist. You also need to avoid the green/grey ring thing that surrounds the yolk in many hard boiled eggs. I use the same technique here that I learned camping with a hardcore egg enthusiast. It has worked for me flawlessly ever since. The key is to avoid over cooking, and to dunk the eggs in a bowl of icy water to stop the cooking after you remove them from the hot water. I always use good quality eggs - but something to keep in mind, the fresher they are, the harder they are to peel after boiling.
6 large eggs
1-2 tablespoons mayonnaise
Salt and pepper
A tiny squeeze of lemon juice
2 stalks celery, washed and chopped
1/2 bunch chives, chopped
2 small handfuls of lettuce
8 slices of whole grain bread, toasted

Place the eggs in a pot and cover with cold water by a 1/2-inch or so. Bring to a gentle boil. Now turn off the heat, cover, and let sit for exactly seven minutes. Have a big bowl of ice water ready and when the eggs are done cooking place them in the ice bath for three minutes or so - long enough to stop the cooking. Crack and peel each egg, place in a medium mixing bowl. Add the mayonnaise, a couple generous pinches of salt and pepper, now mash with a fork. Don't overdo it, you want the egg mixture to have some texture. If you need to add a bit more mayo to moisten up the mixture a bit, go for it a bit at a time.

Stir in the celery and chives. Taste, and adjust the seasoning - adding more salt and pepper if needed.

To assemble each egg salad sandwich: place a bit of lettuce on a piece of toast, top with the egg salad mixture, and finish by creating a sandwich with a second piece of toast.

Make 4 sandwiches.

And speaking of eggs, if you've ever looked in the fridge to find a carton of eggs marked with an expired date there is a quick way to tell if they're still okay to eat.

Put your eggs in a bowl and cover with tap water. If the eggs sink and rest horizontally, they are very fresh. If the larger end of the eggs start to rise, your eggs are about one to two weeks old. If your eggs float, they've gone bad.

And one last thought on eggs. If you're ever in the strange mood to make deviled eggs, you should try my mother-in-law's recipe. They are the best I've ever tasted.

Curried Deviled Eggs
My mother-in-law's recipe

8 hard boiled eggs
3 T miracle whip
3-4 T Heinz sweet relish
1 T curry powder (or to taste)
¼ chopped sweet white onion
Salt and pepper

Wednesday, October 22, 2008



Popcorn & a Movie

One thing I do love about the rainy Seattle weather (although it's sunny and beautiful today so this doesn't really apply) is that you can hunker down and watch movies on gloomy weekends and not feel like a lazy bum. Who wants to venture out when it's pouring outside and there's popcorn and a cozy couch waiting for you? My husband makes the most delicious popcorn on earth. I eat it because I turn away when he adds the butter. If I saw with my very own eyes that he puts a cube of butter on a single batch of corn (not to mention all the vegetable oil that he starts with) I might not be able to eat it with such enjoyment. I pretend I don't know since I didn't actually witness it. He also seasons it up real nice with salt and fajita salt. Sometimes I skip the fajita salt and use pepper and parmesan cheese. That is quite delicious as well and a quick fix if you're using microwave popcorn and want to jazz it up.

Some of my favorite movies for rainy days:
- Kramer vs Kramer
- A Room with a View
- The Royal Tenenbaums
- True Romance
- Best in Show
- Fargo
- Old School
- The Graduate
- Elizabeth
- Everyone Says I Love You
- Wall Street

Documentaries worth seeing:
- Born Into Brothels
- Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room
- Deliver Us from Evil
- The Fog of War
- Shut Up & Sing
- Supersize Me
- Riding Giants
- Spellbound
- Capturing the Friedmans
- Children Underground
- Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple
- The Kid Stays in the Picture
- King Corn (haven't seen yet but dying to see it soon)

Another thing I like to do is work my way through the movies that won or were nominated for Best Picture. The Academy Awards website has a complete list of all the movies nominated for Best Picture by year, with the winner denoted.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Chicken Dijon: A New Favorite

My sister-in-law, Allison, made this chicken dish for us the other night and I loved it. Not only was it so good, she said it was the easiest thing on the planet. So tonight, I made up a batch of my own and it really was the easiest thing! I served it with my Butter Lettuce Salad with Hazelnuts & Orange Dijon Vinaigrette, zucchini pancakes and spaghetti with browned butter, mizithra, parmesan and pecorino romano cheese (equal parts of each cheese). Great dinner!

Roasted Chicken Dijon
Clinkerdagger Restaurant (Spokane, WA)

4 chicken breasts, scallopini style - cut in flat halves and pounded thin (or in thirds if you don't want to pound them)

5 T Dijon
1 stick butter
1 large garlic clove, minced

Panko Mix:
1.5 cups panko
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan (or more)
2-3 T parsley

Preheat oven to 350.

Heat sauce ingredients in pot, stirring. Let cool and then whisk until completely mixed. Do not let cool for too long.

Sprinkle chicken breasts with salt and pepper, then toss into mustard sauce and coat completely. Dredge through panko mix and place on a large cookie sheet.

Bake chicken for 10 minutes, flip over and bake for 10 more minutes, until golden brown and cooked through. If the outer crust is not crispy then raise oven rack and increase temp to broil. Cook chicken for a minute or two on each side until golden brown.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Style Icon: Kate Moss

I am such a fan of Kate Moss's style. It is definitely a look and not for everyone but I pretty much love everything she puts together. I would love to emulate her style but it doesn't come naturally to me, nor do I have a wardrobe full of rocker chic clothes. Therefore I generally leave the house in my same old boring uniform (jeans, t-shirt, cardigan, flats or boots).

The necklace, pictured above, is so super cute and would actually go well with my uniform, spice it up really. It is a Ben Amun Gold Plated Brass Coin Necklace available from Singer 22. I want it bad. Too bad the birthday has come and gone and I am trying to put myself on a spending freeze. Well... maybe... just... one... last... purchase???? Maybe the freeze, like diets, should start on a Monday?

I also really like some of the new Kate Moss Topshop collection. I really like this Feather Frill Dress and might have to order it. If the freeze starts Monday...!

Autumn Soup

There are so many great recipes for butternut squash soup. Any soup lover probably has a version they adore so I won't bore you with another basic recipe. If you're looking for something a little different though, try the Barefoot Contessa's Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Curry Condiments featured in House Beautiful (not the current issue). The condiments really mix it up and offer a unique twist to a traditional soup. Toppings include raisins, banana, cashews, coconut, and scallions. What a delicious combination with the curry spiced soup. I loved it. Serve with a great green salad and you've got yourself a perfect autumn dinner.

It's been a long time since I made this recipe but I do remember adding more chicken stock. It was quite thick with only 2-3 cups so have a few extra just in case you run into that problem too. Bon appetite!

Mini Ballet Flats

How stinkin' cute are these children's Elastic-Back Ballet Flats by Little Raggio. They are available from Neige, although they only have sizes 12 and 13 available. I could cry my eyes out that they don't have smaller sizes in stock.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Not So Flat Flats

I am a huge fan of these navy Jil Sander Platform Ballet Shoes. They give you the look of a ballet flat but you also get a little lift, and who doesn't love that?! I wonder why more designers don't offer a similar ballet flat. Maaaaaaybe this new style will take off and we will see more versions of it in the future. My short little self would sure like that. And I might add, these are cuter on than in the picture. They look cute with jeans, trousers, skirts and dresses, with tights or barefoot. I'm loving the look.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Little Chairs for Little Ones

There is something kind of adorable about these little Lela Kids Chairs. I think one would be so cute in a child's bedroom, although I think the cushion needs to be covered with a really great fabric. That would be easy enough to do and would make all the difference in my opinion.

P.S. The red and yellow ones are on sale!

Friday, October 17, 2008

I Want! I Want!

Adidas by Stella McCartney. Sooooooooooooo super cute. Wish I would have come upon this stuff a week ago when I needed some birthday gift ideas. I'm loving all of it.

Lucky Me for Finding Lucky Wang

I came across this little snugly outfit at Fireworks and loved it. They didn't have the size I needed for a gift so I jotted down the brand and thought I'd look online.

Well lucky me to find this fantastic brand that I've never heard of before called Lucky Wang. They have the cutest pieces in a plethora of great Asian-inspired fabrics. I can't stand how cute this little dress is. I must have it for my daughter for this year's Chinese New Year (we want to throw a big party!).

If we have a girl for child #2 I will have to order some of these little kimono onesies. They would also make such cute baby gifts.

They have cute sale stuff too like this little green dress. A-dorable!

Oh! So Good

I am a total chocolate fiend and my most favorite chocolates are from Oh! Chocolate in Seattle. They blow Frans & See's Candies away. There is no contest in my opinion. I received a box of 24 for my birthday yesterday morning and it is almost gone. Save me from myself!
They can mail boxes out for you which is a great way to send a special Christmas or birthday gift to a loved one. We always buy about 10 boxes during the holidays for gifts. My "grandma-in-law" says they are the best chocolate she's ever tasted. I concur!
My favorites are the milk chocolate caramel, cranberry caramel, milk chocolate with almonds, the Northwest truffle (blackberry), and the Nutty Irishman. They are "Oh!" so good!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Happy Birthday to Me!

Yesterday was my birthday and rather than go out to celebrate, I chose to stay in and cook dinner myself. I have been wanting to cook Ina's beef bourguignon ever since the day I first made it eight months ago. It's a bit labor intensive so not a recipe I would make an your average night plus I didn't crave it during the summer so this was the perfect excuse to make it.

= heaven on earth!

I also made a little salad creation of my own, an adaptation from the "salad verte" at Le Pichet, one of my favorite French bistros in town. It turned out to be a delicious dinner and the best part is all the leftovers we get to enjoy today!

Butter Lettuce Salad with Hazelnuts & Orange Dijon Vinaigrette

1 head butter lettuce
1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts, toasted and skins taken off

1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
2 t honey
1 T Dijon mustard
1 T red wine vinegar
2 T good olive oil
1/2 clove garlic, minced and mashed into a paste with a sprinkle of salt
freshly ground black pepper

To toast and skin hazelnuts:
Preheat oven to 300. Place hazelnuts on a baking sheet and bake for about 15-20 minutes, until the skins crack. Let cool on a kitchen towel, then roll the hazelnuts in the towel until skins flakes off.

I love to call hazelnuts "filberts" so I figured I should know why they go by both names. Here's the answer from the Global Gourmet:

The most commonly accepted explanation is because hazelnuts mature on or around St. Philibert's Day, August 20. Other historians believe the term filbert derives from the German vollbart meaning full beard, a reference to the appearance of the husked shell. Although the current definition of filbert tends to refer to commercial cultivated crops of hazelnuts, the terms hazelnut and filbert are generally used interchangeably. Hazelnuts are also known as cobnuts in some areas. Other experts claim these are all different varieties of the nut, but once shelled, they are quite difficult to tell apart.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

L is for "LUCKY" Little Guy

Luke? Leo? Liam? Whoever he is, he's one lucky little guy to have such a cute sweater. These little Manly Man Baby Sweaters are the cutest. I want! I want!

They just sold out but I'm going to follow this Etsy site because this would make such a great gift for a new babe. I'll keep you posted if more become available.