Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Out with the old...



Today is the last day of 2008. Time to reflect on the bad, the good and the beautiful (notice that little "half full" twist on words there).
The bad:

The worst thing that happened in 2008 is that my father in law passed away in August from aggresive small cell lung cancer. It knocked him down so rapidly that we barely had time to process what was happening and, honestly, it is still hard to believe he is no longer with us. Robert was diagnosed in late June and battled for 6 weeks. He was 65 years old and was hardly sick a day in his life. He is greatly missed. For Christmas, we made his famous sherry trifle -It was good to remember him, but I am afraid that we will never be able to duplicate his fabulous recipe.
The Good:
I started my MBA at Uof W in January of this year (6 months to go!). Fulfilling two dreams in one- to go to grad school and to attend Uof W. So far so good.
Jake just got accepted into Western Washington University for Fall 2009. I am extremely proud of him- he totally took the initiative on applying and researching this school. He plans to study math and communication.
I turned 40 on November 29. Won't call it "bad" and can't call it "beautiful" yet...so I guess it is just "good"

The Beautiful:

We paid off our last debt and are now debt free except for our mortgages (home and rental property). Next step: Build 3-6 months emergency fund.
Dinner at the Herb Farm to celebrate my big 4-0. Wow! Wonderful! I have nothing but good things to say about this experience. Probably the best dining experience I have ever had- flavors, music, ambiance...gorgeous and generous husband to share it with.

Happy New Year everyone!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Finally! A White Christmas!


I have been dreaming of having a White Christmas for a long time. Since moving to the western half of the state, holiday snow has been holiday rain, and our pilgrimage across the pond has only provided us with a light dusting on Christmas day- for which I have been grateful- but no remarkable stickage.


A year ago this week we were vacationing in Tenerife, Canary Islands...again-no snow there- just white beach. (Which one could become very used to). Put plainly- it has just been too long since we have had snow worth frolicking in!


This morning - Christmas morning- we woke up to flakes so big that, I swear, you could make out the distinct, unique pattern on each one! Another few inches added to our record breaking 10 days worth of accumulation and we have ourselves the whitest Christmas I have been able to enjoy since my childhood....God bless us everyone!


I spent a little time out of doors this morning...made my first snow angel in about 20 years....I dedicated this one to my mother in law who really hates the snow. She would not make one herself, no matter how much I persuaded.
I hope your holiday is just as blissful as mine has been!



Monday, December 22, 2008

A Flurry of a Billion Miracles

Thought I would share these real photos of snowflakes by Wilson "Snowflake" Bentley. If the onslaught of snow has got you down, then perhaps taking in this new perspective on the white stuff will cheer you. No two are alike, and we have billions of them!

For more on Mr Bentley, visit: http://snowflakebentley.com/


























Sunday, December 21, 2008

In "Elf" Mode.


Well, there it is...another weekend done. Two days of work and the holiday begins.

It was a very productive two days. I shifted into "elf" mode on Friday night and managed to accomplish a lot of important pre-holiday tasks. Seems I just need the snowy weather, a little Christmas music and a Hot Buttered Rum and suddenly I am all about Christmas. Jolly as can be!

I made a menu for Christmas Eve dinner and from that I created the mother of all shopping lists. We made our way to Mill Creek to shop at Central Market (the best place to grocery shop for the holidays in my opinion!)

It snowed all weekend, much to my delight. Simon and his mum are tired of it, but I think it is perfect. A multitude of birds have been dropping by for suet and seed. Fat robins, a white headed woodpecker and a whole flock of little birds that we have not yet identified. Most exciting was a trio of doves- I was unaware that doves existed in the pacific northwest- so I need to confirm this. We hung the best feeder just outside the big kitchen picture window- this has provided some perfect bird viewing.

Today I finished making gifts that need to be sent out tomorrow. One big package for my brother and his family in Denver, and one little card for my neice in Wenatchee. I also finished one gift for my stepfather.
The snow has fallen all day - despite the forecast that it would taper off in the afternoon. Everytime Simon and his mum groan about it, I agree with them enthusiastically "Yes, it is just terrible....yea-can you believe it is STILL falling...unbelieveable". Of course they know that I am loving it. What could be better than snow lightly falling as you go to bed at night...and a few little flurries as you listen to Elvis singing Blue Christmas....I, for one, am in the holiday MOOD!

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Calm before the Storm




It is a quiet night tonight. All noise seems to be buffered by the blanket of snow and the icy air. We have had two major storms this week, resulting in a lot of wonderful snow and beautiful scenary. I really love winter, and I really miss having the snow that I grew up with.






Tomorrow another major storm is forecasted. This time hurricane force winds, icy temperatures and more snow. Not sure I like the idea of strong winds, but it will certainly make things interesting. On the flip side I think I could never have enough snow (but ask me again in February when I am waiting for signs of spring!)


Today we headed out to the Seattle Outlets to shop for presents. Our timing was excellent as the place was quite bare- certainly this won't be the case tomorrow.
We went into the casino for lunch. I gave Simon and his mum a $5 bill to play the slots and they turned it into $100. So lunch was on the Tulalip Tribe and the extra cash will cover a nice portion of our Christmas dinner.


We are headed to Central Market early in the morning tomorrow- we want to be there and home before the storm hits. I am making up my Christmas menu tonight and a shopping list. I plan to spend the entire day tomorrow being crafty....I have Christmas presents to finish and decorating to do!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Martha doesn't live here, but she is welcome anytime!

“The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.” - Anna Quindlen




I have been thinking a lot about perfection lately....

One undeniable truth is that Perfection is subjective. I am a perfectionist- but what I believe to be "perfect" and what, say, my mother in law feels to be "perfect" can be two very different things.

Perfection is subjective because it relies heavily on how one views their priorities. My husband who is a perfectionist when it comes to school (he has a 4.0 in grad school) is clearly not a perfectionist when it comes to hanging Christmas lights out doors. (he thought the mix of lights was perfect....I found them a bit awkward).

I know that,very often, my expectations are not realistic. But when things are "just so"- well, I get a lot of satisfaction out of that. And conversely, when things aren't "just so", my tendancy is to feel discomfort until I can fix it (or get Simon to fix it!)

It makes me come across as very controlling and very self righteous and I do not like being perceived that way, but I have done some experimentation recently with not speaking my mind or stating my preferences..(with telling myself that something is little and it doesn't matter, when it realy does)...and, well,....this doesn't seem to work for me. The stress that I think I am saving is not going anywhere...it is just building and building.

Any ideas for combating perfectionism? Is it really such a bad thing?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

My Big Green Thumb

Just wanted to share a few interesting plants that I discovered today.

Take for instance this one: This is called a Snake plant. It is also called a mother in law plant. It obviously looks like a Snake skin...but where, oh where, could the mother in law label come from? IDK. (I actually have one of these thriving in a dark corner of our living room).
Here is one that is a little more transparent....this is called a golden ball cactus...but, ironically, it is also called a "mother in law" seat. Interesting. I do not have one of these, but I am a few chairs short for Christmas Eve dinner.


I also learned today that Hyssop is used to ward off evil spirits. Think I will grab a pot of that one too!










Sunday, December 14, 2008

First Snow!







Got our first snow yesterday, and forecast calls for more today and a very chilly week.
I anticipate that it will get more cheery as the week goes on though. I finished my 2nd final last night 15 minutes before the midnight deadline. Performed a little happy dance and went to bed.

This morning was delightful. The sun is shining, the snow is sparkling, the coffee is warm. I put on a pair of fuzzy socks and just basked in the beauty of it all.

Today I am going to attempt to complete my final final exam for Winter Quarter and then I will be school free until Jan 7 (well, I have a few paperbacks to get through in preparation for next quarter, but the heavy math stuff will be finished!). Lots of Christmassy stuff to do and it sounds like I may be able to get a snow day or two from work if this "frightful" weather keeps up!



Friday, December 12, 2008

Jumping through Hoops


Finished my negotiations paper last night. I am not 100% pleased with it, but I made the deadline and I think it was adequate. Two final exams to go and I am done with the quarter.
Looking at a Level 5 Project management position today. The requisition arrived in my inbox this morning-virtual work available- and I know one of the contact people quite well. Level 5 is the highest PM level at my company. Would be a great opportunity and change of pace for me. I am a bit tired of my current role in engineering. I don't feel like I am being allowed to be as effective as I am capable of being here.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Brownie Points





Today my husband told me- for reasons I will not divulge- that he knows that in the very near future that he is "really going to owe me -big time".

Of course, given the messy circumstances under which his realization has come to light, I wholeheartedly agree with his assessment. The "filthy" truth is he does owe me....and substantially.

I have been thinking about this a bit today-this winfall soon to be deposited in my account at the Bank of the Very Understanding and Patient Spouse- and I am faced with an important dilemmna....

Whatever will I spend these brownie points on?

Do I save these for a rainy day? Do they accrue interest? Do they expire? What can you buy with them? Do I diversify? Immediately liquidate?
Here are a few ideas:
  • Another trip to the Herb Farm would be cool- for Valentine's Day.

  • A "Have your Cake and Eat it too" spa treatment at the Bee Hive Day Spa

  • A Shopping Spree at Nordstroms

  • A weekend at the Whidbey cottage

Earning brownie points sucks, but spending them might be fun!









Every End is a New Beginning

So I am anxiously awaiting the end of this school quarter....well, not really awaiting, because in addition to my busy schedule and holiday company arriving, I am trying to complete my paper and two finals- the end is rapidly approaching and I am not ready for it! (Even though I am soooo ready for it to be over!)

But taking things day by day... I have school tonight. My last class for the quarter. Tomorrow I anticipate having some paper writing time which is good since my paper is due tomorrow. I have one final due on Saturday and one due next Wednesday. Then (finally) I am done with the quarter.

Well, no rest for the wicked. Just got our materials for next quarter. While the topics are much more interesting to me than this quarter (marketing, entreprenuership and global business) the reading appears to be substantial and needs to be accomplished before the start of the new quarter on January 7. I have 6 paperback books to read. (and would you believe that they didn't even gift wrap 'em????)

I am so ready to be done with school. 2 more quarters, I keep telling myself....just 2!

Monday, December 8, 2008

I would rather be bloggin'

Can't seem to get focused on finishing up school this week. I have a paper due on tomorrow night that I have not started yet. If I don't get to it soon I will be in a world of hurt. 2 finals after that, both mathematical (have I mentioned how much I really do not enjoy math?)


See...here I am typing away on my blog...I should be writing my paper!


Mum in law will be here tomorrow night. We got the guest room ready and most of the house is sparklin'. Just our bedroom and the office are left to do- and both look like war zones. Perhaps over the break we will tackle those! Neither is going to be cleaned until after finals are over though, and I am making no apologies! I am a busy girl.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Lenticular Clouds at Mt Rainier


Mt Rainier put on quite a display yesterday..
These are called "lenticular" clouds and they are created when air gets pushed upward where it cools and condenses into clouds. Pretty amazing! Add this to one more thing I love about Washington State- amazing!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The best thing to do when you have had a bad day....

Lots of things went wrong today and I thought maybe I would just quit everything and join the circus. The car had to be towed to the mechanic and our refrigerator went warm. Spent all day in school only to come home to crabby husband and spoiled food.

I have learned that the best thing to do when you have a bad day, is to just find something to convince you that it could have been a worse one....

Pretty sure that I won't be running off to join the circus anytime soon.

Friday, December 5, 2008

A Stellar Presentation


Attended an "all-team" meeting today and had a wonderful surprise guest speaker! Dr Bonnie Dunbar - the astronaut- spoke to us for an hour about her experiences flying into space on the space shuttle, visiting the International Space Station and being weightless.

Four things I have in common with Bonnie Dunbar:

  • We are both from the Yakima Valley

  • We are both U of W Huskies

  • We have both worked for Boeing, in a field where we are outnumbered by guys.

And.....

  • We both had someone tell us we should just get married and have children instead of pursuing a career (is something in the water over there?)

Dr Dunbar's presentation was fabulous. She even showed us home video from her two trips into outerspace. She talked about weightlessness and the affects of zero gravity on the human body and she spoke of her passion for turning kids on to science and math. Dr Dunbar is now the director of the Museum of Flight. She is just a very cool and inspiring pioneer.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Home Sweet Home



Decided to share some pictures of our home. These were taken in June 2008. The first is the view out of our back window. The Sky' River flows amongst those trees in the distance. We spent as many hours as we could sitting on our back deck, drinking wine and enjoying the chiminea

The second is a picture of the entrance to our home. It was very beautiful with all the rhodies and azaleas in bloom!



Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Paperwhites amongst the Chaos


I am a little concerned about the speed at which Christmas is approaching this year. Today is Dec. 3...just 22 days before Christmas. I have done very little to prepare.

What scares me is that I do not anticipate being able to throughly emerse myself in the joyous season until somewhere around Dec 15, when finals are complete and I close the chapter on another quarter of school.

Is 10 days adequate time to get my Christmas ducks in a row?

I am hosting Christmas Eve this year. It looks like I need 4 more chairs, 2 more plates and an entire set of glassware. I need a tablecloth as well.

Mum in law will arrive next week so I must get the guest room sorted (I have Sunday to prepare for her arrival- as Saturday I have school and my workload has suddenly increased again)

I need to shop for Simon and Jake, the mum in law and my step dad. I need to finish making gifts for my brother's family and for my mom. I need to decorate and bake and get the Christmas cards signed and in the mail.

On a bright note, my paperwhites have taken off. They required very little prodding. I simply pulled last years potted pot from the garage and watered it. Wouldn't it be wonderful if all holiday preparations were so effortless? Amongst all the chaos, my paperwhites are a bright spot. A reminder that I need to just keep it simple.

I have decided to employ three rules to keep simplicity in mind...(after finals, of course)
1) If it isn't fun, don't do it
2) Make no excuses for not doing something that isn't fun.
3) when stressed, buy more flowers....hmm, an amaryllis would be nice!


Paperwhite photo is courtesy of http://www.susanabbott.com/dreamtables.html





Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Christmas Questionaire

Received this questionaire today...

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? No preference
2. Real tree or Artificial? I prefer real, but have resigned myself to artificial
3. When do you put up the tree? Mid December
4. When do you take the tree down? New Years Day
5. Do you like eggnog? S’alright - Hot Buttered Rum is my preference.
6. Favorite gift received as a child? A dollhouse that my dad built for Barbie dolls. An easy bake oven (not sure if that was Christmas)
7. Hardest person to buy for? Stepdad, Brian
8. Easiest person to buy for? Mom
9. Do you have a nativity scene? no - I have a Christmas village - does that count?
10. Mail or email Christmas cards? Mail
11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? Ugly sweater, but a nice thought
12. Favorite Christmas Movie? A Christmas Story – we also watch Love Actually every Xmas- not sure if that is a Christmas movie but it is set over a Christmas holiday!
13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? Extremely early - I try to be done before Thanksgiving- especially if we are going to be travelling
14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? No, only the gift wrap or bag
15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Mince Pies with Brandy butter, fudge, sherry trifle, Hot Almond Butter Rum – I’ve a bit of a sweet tooth
16. Lights on the tree? Of Course
17. Favorite Christmas song? Let it Snow
18. Travel at Christmas or stay home? This year- home. But usually we go to England. Last year we went to England and the Canary Islands. I think a mixture of both is good
19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer? If I sing the intro to Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, I can
20. Angel on the tree top or a star? Star, but used to have an angel
21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? Both.
22. Most annoying thing about this time of the year? Commercialism, people thinking they have to spend money they don't have, and the Seattle weather – only rain, no snow!
23. Favorite ornament theme or color? I like silver and glass, but also like to mix it up each year. When Jake was little I would do themes…usually with cookie cut outs…dinosaurs one year, planes, trains, boats and cars another. Now we just do lots of picture ornaments of Jake…it seemed like a good idea when I started it)
24. Favorite for Christmas dinner? Prime Rib – this year we are going out though
25. What do you want for Christmas this year? A Nintendo WII Fit...and maybe an amaryllis
26. Who is most likely to add a similar questionnaire to their blog? Mom
27. Who is least likely to? Charlie Vander Houwen
28. Favorite thing about Christmas? Baking, seeing Family and friends, giving (especially shopping for the foster kids), “fairy lights”, music, and snow, if we get some.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Getting rid of stuff


Started many things today, finished just one.

I finished cleaning and organizing the utility room today. I actually started this room two weeks ago, doing just a little bit each day.

Now the only problem is that the mess that once was the utility room is now the bigger mess in the garage. Clearly we have too much stuff. A yard sale would be great, but the time of year is all wrong, and frankly, I have no time to organize one. Also, Simon is against it. He did not enjoy our previous yard sales at all! He swore "Never Again!" and I think he really meant it. Simon wants me to just donate it all and write it off on our taxes.

I do not know why it bothers me to just give this stuff away like that, but it does. Donating is easy and I know that I will feel really "free"when the stuff I don't need is gone. So why do I have an issue with this??? Well, maybe it is because donating stuff feels a bit like just throwing perfectly good stuff out. It feels wasteful, even though it is less so than having lots of junk around that you never use. It might also be that cash is tangible....I can sell my stuff and then turn around and buy more stuff (like furniture and new windows)....a tax deduction is a little less apparent than cold hard cash- same wealth building potential- just not so visible.

Well, let me see if I can overcome this. Nortwest Center is going to have a truck in my area on Thursday. Perhaps I will throw some of my more valuable junk their way and see if I don't regret it.












Sunday, November 30, 2008

40 years, 1 day


Not such a bad day... traversed the state of Oregon, from Klamath Falls to Portland then climbed most of Washington on our way back home to Monroe, Wa. For almost eleven hours we ate too much fast food, listened to too much Sublime. This was a very long road trip!


Got an MP3 from my husband to listen to on the treadmill and the Herbfarm Cookbook from my mom and Clay so I can cook some healthy meals. Good health is just around the corner!




Friday, November 28, 2008

Happy Day After Thanksgiving!

Okay, so I was 12 minutes late with the blog....

We had a busy day, cooking and conversing and, of course, eating.

Simon and I checked into the Shiloh Inn. Very nice staff, older rooms. I was a little surprised to get an actual key for our room (they haven't upgraded to key cards yet) The room lay out is a little odd, but it is roomy and clean. It will do. Just need a bed to sleep in, and a little bit of quiet.

Looking forward to another nice day with the family tomorrow.

Cheers!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Nancy is OUT OF OFFICE!


Tonight I came home after work instead of going to school as I had intended.

I had major difficulty leaving work this evening. Spent the entire day trying to get an Excel tool formatted for a report tomorrow. I am not going to be there (vacation, baby!), so I had to finish it before leaving - handed it off at 6pm with my cell number and decided that school would be half over by the time I got there, so drove home.

When I entered the house I was met with an aroma so wonderful I thought for a moment that I was back at the Herb Farm. Simon had made me a fabulous Pastrami Rueben sandwich and fries that were coated in rosemary and thyme....Delicious!

I kissed my husband and then sent off a school assignment. Now I am officially on vacation until Monday. I am so pleased I don't know what to do with myself.

OH...guess I should pack. Headed to Mom's house for T-Day. We are getting up tomorrow, early, with a plan of being on the road by 4am. It is an 8.5 hour drive to Klamath Falls. I am psyched.
Simon's Pastrami Rueben Sandwich

2 slices good bread (we used a 7-grain deli loaf). Butter one side and place in frying pan over medium heat.
Layer a slice of swiss cheese, then a pile of pastrami, a clump of sauerkraut and another slice of swiss cheese. Top with the other piece of bread and butter the top. By the time you do this, it will be time to flip the sandwich over and grill the other side. Grill until the cheese is melted and the sandwich is toasty brown.
Serve with thousand island dressing and don't forget to Kiss the Cook ( I did!)








Monday, November 24, 2008

Well, this is my last week of being 30-something...


We started off my last week as a 30-something with a bang yesterday. Simon took me to the Herb Farm in Woodinville for the most amazing dining experience I have ever experienced. I am serious when I say that I cried tears of joy at least 8 times before dessert!

The Herb Farm uses only seasonal PNW ingredients in their menu- they churn their own butter and make their own cheese. Their wine cellar has over 25,000 bottles, which represent 4,252 different wines. With a glass paired to each course, I have to say that I was quite intoxicated by the evening's end. We threw in a flight of Ports from Portugal- so for my 40th birthday I got to taste savor a wonderful 40 year old port...it was very decadent.

My favorite courses were the fish course which was a tuna tartare with a sprinkling of fennel and a tuna presse which was thin sliced tuna pressed with black truffles. The Cheese & Coutcherie course with a fromage blanc in crout with chorizo and warm borscht. A fabulous dish of Oregon Bleu Cheese ice cream with curried apple and spiced nuts and of course, the dessert courses which were heavenly! Milk jam (like a custard), Chocolate mousse, Pumpkin Fritelle with chestnut honey, Warm nutmeg chocolate pudding and cinnamon truffles.

I am never going to forget last night! It was just spectacularl. www.herbfarm.com

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Forecast is RAIN.



For those of you who have not been saving for a Rainy Day- you should start.

My intent is not to panic you-the news media does quite enough of that. I do not advise panic at all, actually, but I do promote preparation-that is always a good idea- calculated consistent and calm preparation.



I attended an interesting lecture today at school. My economics teacher from Spring Quarter held a special session to talk to us about the current economy and what might be coming. The professor, Karma Hadjimichalikis (sounds just like it is spelled *lol) has been working and teaching in the field of economics since the early 70's. She co-authored our economic text book with her husband.



Last Spring we learned that there are 3 types of economic downturn:


  • A "V", where the economy takes a dive and then immediately recovers
  • A "U" where the economy dives and then stays down for a while before it recovers
  • An "L" where the economy dives and stays down for long, long time.

The goal of the Fed is to prevent an economic deflation. There are reliable methods that can be employed by the Fed to deal with recessions and inflation, but not deflation. She said that the current economic situation is unprecedented. Changes are taking place so rapidly that she is having trouble keeping her lectures up to date! Exciting times if you an Econ teacher.

That being said....our prof believes that the "U" scenario is most likely. We are down now and unofficially we are in a recession- (we have two consecutive quarters of downturn before it is officially declared a recession). This should not be a surprise to anyone! She does not believe that we have hit the bottom of the U yet though.

It is expected that we will be down for a while. We will not recover until we see the housing market reach its bottom. (Karma suggests that her sources expect 2 years of downturn!) Before we recover it is expected that unemployment will drop from 6% to 8%. It is expected that as money gets tighter people will continue to restrict spending, and some will find that they cannot cover monthly expenses. Many of these people will resort to credit cards and unfortunately this will be the next shock that our economy takes. If you can avoid this trap- I highly recommend that you do!

In April, Simon and I discovered Dave Ramsey- he is very down to earth, financial planner- he has a radio show and he is a strong advocate of living a debt free lifestyle. He has a lot of practical advise for managing personal finances that just makes sense to us. I especially admire his people skills. His ideas are not at all mainstream, and he has had a huge impact on our marriage and our money- we are on the same page with our goals and our spending. Last week we paid off our final bill, and we are now debt free except for our mortgages. Our next goal is to save up an emergency fund to cover 3-6 months of bills. We are also saving to pay cash for new windows.

Our debt free state is great timing because we are hearing rumors of layoffs at Boeing. I feel better about that prospect given our current debt free state. Ultimately debt = risk. We are determined to pay cash or do without in the future.

I plan to add an occaisional post on money saving tips and other financial wisdom that I come across. And I will also increase my posts of comfort foods!

If you are interested in learning more about Dave: http://www.daveramsey.com/.











Friday, November 21, 2008

Fiesta Friday Fundraiser




Hosted a fiesta at work today to support our holiday adopt a child fundraiser. It looks to me like we have enough cash to supply Christmas presents for all 6 of our adopted children. We may be able to adopt a few more. I will be shopping for gifts on Sunday. Simon and I also adopted a little girl and boy. I want to get this activity complete before Thanksgiving.



The guys really stepped up to the plate for this one- several volunteered to bring food and we earned another $180.00 for a total of $620.00

I brought the taco beef and a bowl of guacamole to the fundraiser. I have found that adding a small jar of salsa and seasonings to the ground beef (cumin, chili powder, cayenne, garlic salt and pepper) works well. I don't buy the packets of taco seasoning because of the preservatives.
The guacamole is smashed avocados with sour cream, lemon juice, and some salsa for a little kick.

Friday, November 14, 2008

I think I will eat some...


Hi Mom!
Thank you for checking my blog today.

According to my follower list, you are my only follower. No one else is tuning in...I have just been writing every post since the beginning of October just for you.
I love you, Mom. Thank you for thinking of me.

Today I found this website. I think the recipes will come in handy (of course my favorite is the spaghetti one)
http://www.yesnet.yk.ca/schools/jackhulland/classes/colberg/worms/recipes/index.html

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Engineers and Free Food


Woke up early this morning and made a pan of "Almost Candy Bars". (Yes- I just had so much time on my hands with mid-terms, work deadlines, chairing a holiday fundraiser, and a river flooding in my back yard!)

Every year our work group adopts foster children for the holidays. We have 6 kids this year and I have found that the best way to drum up donations is to supply free food.

As I stated previously, I work mostly with men. These are engineers -highly specialized and extremely well paid scientists. Their response to free food is something of a conundrum to me. Free food attracts engineers like flies to fly paper. These guys are very generous too when it comes to fundraisers- we had 30 employees last year donate $800.

So in the spirit of soliciting the same response this year, I made these Almost Candy Bars. They are so quick and easy to do, that even waterlogged, stressed out and overcommitted project managers in grad school can do it! Enjoy!!!

Almost Candy Bars

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Take a box of Pillsbury Super Moist Devils Food Cake mix. Cut in 1/2 cup of butter until crumbly. Press this mixture lightly into the bottom of a 15 x 9 inch baking dish.

Sprinkle 1 cup of each of these on top of the cake mix crust:
  • semi sweet chocolate chips
  • butterscotch chips
  • chopped walnuts
  • sweetened coconut
Pour one 14 oz can of Sweetened Condensed Milk evenly over the top. Bake in oven for 20-30 minutes or until light brown on top.


Flood update: Water is receding...didn't get as high as they predicted, only 19 feet. Baseball field was heavily flooded last night when the river crested- looked like a lake, but when I woke this morning it was greatly reduced- just a few huge puddles. Sunny days are planned through Monday!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Eyes on the "Sky"




The "Sky" is the Skykomish river that runs behind our home. It is expected to flood today and tomorrow. Flood stage is 15 feet...they are predicting 22 feet.

This happened in 2006 just after we added new retaining walls and the water came right up to the bottom stairs. That was almost 24 feet.

We are not expecting to be washed out of our home- our waterfront property will just be a little closer to the water- but leaving and returning to home might be a bit difficult with the road closures.

The pictures above are of the flooding from 2006. The one on the left looks like the river did this morning. I anticipate that we will see pictures similar to the one on the right by tomorrow.
When the weather is blustery and rainy like this I just like to be home with fuzzy socks on my feet, a cup of hot cocoa and a Martha Stewart magazine. (Unfortunately, I am at work...and I have to go to school tonight!)

Thank God I have this blog so I can at least dream out loud about what I would do if I was home!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Nancy Cooks Bleu Cheese Pancetta Burgers


Tonight for dinner I made Bleu Cheese Pancetta Burgers. I am slowly working toward perfecting these.

Here is what I have discovered:

A recent Cook's Illustrated magazine article showed that adding a splash of milk and some bread crumbs to the hamburger makes the burgers juicier. I used a splash of milk and about a 1/4 cup of crumbs.

Crumble bleu cheese and chopped pancetta into the mix...a dash of pepper, salt and onion powder....combine well.

Shaping the burgers is a critical step. The Cook's Illustrated article suggested making the hamburger patty into the shape of a mushroom top, so the underside is slightly indented. (I can't remember why- but the burgers just cook better this way)

Fry these on the grill (or in a pan on the stove). I cook these slow and low.

When the burgers are close to being done, I add a slice of pancetta to the pan - one for each burger. I am not sure if this is standard or not, but the pancetta that I buy is in rounds- perfect for topping a burger!

A slice of homegrown tomato and a few rings of red onion plus mayonaisse and these are heavenly.

For slight variation, I have mixed bleu cheese and mayonaise into a burger sauce, I have used stilton cheese instead of bleu cheese and I found this summer that a few leaves of basil add a great touch to these. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Sunday at the Cook House


I have decided that weekends are just too darn short! Especially since I am giving up one every other week for school. I can't seem to get everything done that I want to.

Today I slept in until 8:30. I did not intend to do this because I have so much to do today, but here I am 9am and nothing is done. I must have needed more sleep though.

Simon is making coffee. I picked up a new coffee press at Value Villiage for 9.99. We found the exact press at Starbucks for 40.00. (that deal makes the coffee taste even better!). Our favorite coffee is seasonal. It is called Ipanema Bourbon and it is made by Starbucks. I usually find it in February, although this year I picked up some in June- I was hoping this meant it would be more regularly available, but I have not seen it since. Our other coffee preference is Pete's coffee- Major Dickinson's blend. We usually only make coffee on weekends.

On Sundays I also try to make breakfast for my man and then a nice dinner. This morning we are having Smoked Salmon Scramble. This is basically Scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and cream cheese cut in. I add salt, pepper and fresh chives to this - it is very simple and heavenly. We will have pugliese toast with this. I picked up some wonderful orange and fig jam to top it off. (Discovered last night that this is great on gouda cheese, too!).

After breakfast I am going to call my mother in law, since I did not speak to her yesterday, then I am also going to get on the treadmill for 30 minutes.

Simon did a lot of the housework yesterday, but I will try and get into the bathrooms and give a quick clean (we need to get our housecleaner back!)

For the rest of the day I need to work on homework. I want to try and complete half of my cost accounting mid term (due next Saturday- prof says it is a 7 hour exam...so for me, that means 10!). I have an operations management case study to complete for Wednesday (2 hours), and I have a negotiations assignment that requires on-going negotiations until Nov 24. I am the Project Manager for our team this quarter and the chairperson for these negotiations as well, so school is my priority today.

At some point today I will be making treats for work tomorrow to drum up donations for the holiday "adopt a child" campaign. My work group adopted 6 kids and I am heading up the fund raising.

Got the suet, but the mincemeat will need to wait until next weekend.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Autumn Baking and Mincemeat


I really love fall. The changing leaves, pulling out my sweaters, burning candles, making dinner in the crock pot, Halloween, Thanksgiving....Autumn time is synonomous with home to me.


Every year about this time I start to think about baking...and I have a few standards. One is Mincemeat. I really never liked Mincemeat until I made it with my mom several years ago and actually saw what went into it. It is a fabulous concoction of apples, brown sugar, spices, walnuts , and raisins soaked in brandy. Served warm in a good pastry with a dollop of brandy butter and what is not to like about that?


During the past decade we have spent many Christmas holidays in England and small mincemeat pies are a staple there. I really cannot think of Christmas in England without thinking about these little pies, and vice versa.


To make mincemeat the traditional way, you need suet. This is a fat that is rendered from beef kidneys. It does not sound pleasant, but the benefit of using suet is that it melts slowly and that is key to making good mincemeat. When you ask the butcher at your local grocery store you will usually be sent to the garden department. This is a sign that the butcher is new and inexperienced and most likely not English. A good butcher knows that suet and holiday baking go together like mincepies and English Christmases.

Fred Meyer is the only store in town that carries suet and only during the holidays. I learned through my suet shopping that Safeway carries blocks of pig fat...and they store it out in the open freezer case- not sure if it is a hot seller or not....I have no idea what that would be used for, but it is not suet.
When I asked at Fred Meyer if they had it, the butcher asked me what I was going to use it for...like maybe he wasn't going to give it to me if I came up with the wrong answer. I got the impression that this man doesn't give up suet to just anyone. I told him that I need it for mincemeat and apparently that was what he wanted to hear because he asked me how much I would need and told me he would have some in next week. So tomorrow I pick up my suet...shredded and ready for baking.


Here is a link to my favorite mincemeat recipe. Delia Smith is the Martha Stewart of England (although her expertise is limited to just good cooking)




You will need the mincemeat recipe to make this recipe for traditional mince pies:




And to top it all off... a link to a recipe for brandy butter.




Cheers!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Surrounded by Men

One thing that I have not mentioned previously is that I am surrounded by men.


  • At home, I have Simon and Jake.
  • In my group at work, the men outnumber the women by about 5 to 1.
  • At school, there are 8 women in our program of 100 students. We are further divided at school into two classes and into work teams- my class of 50 people has 3 women. My team has 5 guys and me.

What is different about being surrounded by men, rather than being surrounded by women? Well, I suppose there is a lot less drama. Generally, men - at least in a group setting- tend to not get so wrapped up in the frivolous details of a situation. Conversations tend to be very concrete, less about feelings. Most conversations with men (when not directly related to the technical issues at work- or the latest project or assignment at school) are fairly light and external. (as opposed to very heavy and internally driven)

I am not making any judgments here. The point of bringing this up is not to weigh the merits of male company versus female, but rather to explore the current environment to determine what , if anything that I may be personally deficient in as a female in the male domain.

Right now there is a lively conversation taking place about a sports team. Earlier they discussed Global Warming and the merits of using MSN Live Maps versus Google. In conversation- at least at work- Men talk to show what they know. There is a lot of information laid out. A lot of opinion, stated as fact.

Functioning in this "other" world is interesting. At home, I have it down. Simon is very supportive of sharing the roles- he is actually a "dream husband"- he cooks, cleans and does laundry. Honestly, sometimes I would prefer if he handled some of the more traditional guy things and left the more traditional women things to me (like washing delicates!), but you can't have it both ways...we have to work as a team.

At work, things are a bit more competitive than I would perfer. There is a lot of posturing and problem solving. There is no room for female venting. If I vent, I get solutions. When as a female, what I want is understanding- not answers.

At school- I struggle with math, and in the grad school business program there is a lot of math. The guys on my team love math. I was actually really excited when we began working on our first Marketing project. Marketing is very qualitative, right? No math! I was going to be a the star of the team- working this marketing stuff! Well, we got started with our sections and, wouldn't you know it? The guys on my team turned this into a math assignment. We had a complete market cost analysis in our report.

I have very little girlfriend time right now. Prior to starting school I got together with 12 girlfriends to play Bunco each month- but this group seems to have disbanded. I speak to my sister and my mom almost daily, my mother in law once a week. There are a few old school friends that I have become reacquainted with lately, but they live a long ways away- so our relationships are primarily virtual. I have a great hair stylist! I do grab girlfriends for coffee break at work during the week as well-anything to get in some female conversation time. Once school gets out I will definately have to work on this more.


Thursday, October 30, 2008

Half American...Half English


On Tuesday, Simon was sworn in as an American citizen. He is now both a citizen of England and a citizen of the U.S. The road to this milestone began almost 10 years ago when we met, fell in love and decided to spend the rest of our lives together.

In the last 10 years, Simon has undoubtably made many more sacrifices than I have for the sake of our relationship. To pack up and leave one's homeland and to start a new life in a foreign country would be a daunting undertaking for many of us.

If you were to ask Simon what he misses most, I am sure he would tell you his parents first, followed by a list of his favorite foods. I think I would make the same list- family and friends and various American foods.

When we visit England, it is usually Christmas time. Now, I know that most people believe that English food is hardly worth raving about-but I believe that there are some noteworthy items. For instance, we always have to have fish and chips at least once during our stay. English fish and chips are far superior to ours. You actually get a substantial fillet and it is served wrapped in paper with malt vinegar and/or mayonaisse for the chips. Sausage rolls, scones, mince pies with brandy butter, bangers and mash, steak and guiness pie, shepards pie, trifle, cheese and pickle sandwiches...these are all quite good. And in the words W. Somerset Maugham "If you want to eat well in England, eat three breakfasts". English bacon and sausages are marvelous and the cooked English Breakfast is wonderful.

In honor of Simon's naturalization, here is a recipe for Shepherd's Pie. This is one of his favorite comfort foods. Shepherd's pie traditionally contains lamb instead of ground beef. The version of Shepherd's Pie that most American's are familiar with is called "Cottage pie" across the pond.

Shepherd's Pie

1 1/2 lbs ground lamb
1 onion chopped
1-2 cups vegetables - chopped carrots, corn, peas
1 1/2 - 2 lbs potatoes (3 big ones)
8 tablespoons butter (1 stick)
1/2 cup beef broth
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Salt, pepper, other seasonings of choice

1 Peel and quarter potatoes, boil in salted water until tender (about 20 minutes).
2 While the potatoes are cooking, melt 4 Tablespoons butter (1/2 a stick) in large frying pan.
3 Sauté onions in butter until tender over medium heat (10 mins). If you are adding vegetables, add them according to cooking time. Put any carrots in with the onions. Add corn or peas either at the end of the cooking of the onions, or after the meat has initially cooked.
4 Add ground beef and sauté until no longer pink. Add salt and pepper. Add worcesterchire sauce. Add half a cup of beef broth and cook, uncovered, over low heat for 10 minutes, adding more beef broth as necessary to keep moist.
5 Mash potatoes in bowl with remainder of butter, season to taste.
6 Place beef and onions in baking dish. Distribute mashed potatoes on top. Rough up with a fork so that there are peaks that will brown nicely. You can use the fork to make some designs in the potatoes as well.
7 Cook in 400 degree oven until bubbling and brown (about 30 minutes). Broil for last few minutes if necessary to brown.






Sunday, October 26, 2008

Won't be getting through my "to do" list today...


It's 5:30pm, and I think it is fair to say that I will not be getting through my "to do" list today. Time to start eliminating those things that can be done later.
  • I was going to make a nice roast pork, but we are having pizza instead. I will put the roast in a crock pot tomorrow morning.

  • The apple crisp for work will wait until Thursday night (we are having a Halloween party on Friday- so this is acceptable.)

  • I was going to get on the treadmill (I know- exercise should be a priority)

That leaves:

  • Post to my blog (check!)
  • Grocery shopping
  • Cleaning off my desk in the office
  • Cleaning clothes off of couch
  • 1 of 2 work assignments - will make tomorrow go much more smoothly if I can do this tonight! Won't get through both of them- but should I really be working on a Sunday???

Weekends never seem to be long enough. Or perhaps, my "to do" lists are never short enough...I always make a list and rarely find that I have time to accomplish everything on it. I need to scale down, and I need to exercise- these should be my priorities.

My "done" list for today is somewhat impressive- considering I slept in (must take care of myself first!).

  • I planted my daffodil bulbs
  • Paid bills
  • Filled in my mail in election ballot
  • Made a grocery list and completed part of my shopping
  • Made a list of chores for Jake (he needs money)
  • Composed email invite for my co-workers for Halloween party
  • Brought in and sorted through my Halloween decor
  • oH! and I completed my blog entry. (The End)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Mel turns 40!!!!

This has been a particularly busy week...with a brand new birthday (Charlie), a more experienced birthday(mom) and now, a birthday that lands somewhere in between both (however leaning toward the more experienced type- heh,heh) My best girlfriend Melvin turns 40 today!



This is Melinda K. and you are absolutely right- she doesn't look 40 at all.


Melinda and I met our junior year of highschool. We were both teacher's aids for our creative writing/English teacher, Mrs Perry. This means that we have been best friends for over 20 years!

Melinda has been there for me through morning sickness, break ups, and wedding vows and a lot of drama and good times in between.



When I think of Melinda and food, I think of her Lasagna. She makes very good lasagna! I will share her recipe as soon as I can get it from her.

Melinda's comfort food is Ben and Jerry's Banana Split, but I have great memories of racing to McDonald's on our lunch break when we were in highschool and a very interesting discussion about chocolate milkshakes.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Charlie Arrives!


Welcome Charlie!

As scheduled, Charles Nash VanderHouwen arrived midday yesterday. He is my 4th nephew and at a whopping 9lbs 15 oz, he may actually weigh in as the biggest baby ever born into our family.

I am told that both baby and mom, Michelle, are doing great, and my brother, Dennis, is just overjoyed.

In the spirit of my home cook-n blog, I decided to pull up a recipe in Charlie’s honor…a kid that big will no doubt have a voracious appetite.

While it may be a while before Charlie gains an appreciation for these wonderful no-bake cookies, I am certain that in a few years, both dinosaurs and cookies will be a common feature in the VanderHouwen household.


DINOSAUR FOOD (cookies)


1/8 c. dirt (cocoa)

1 c. crushed bones (sugar)

1 c. grass (uncooked oatmeal)

1/4 c. swamp water (milk)

1/4 c. fat (butter)

1/4 c. squashed bugs (peanut butter)

Mix dirt and swamp water in a large saucepan. Add crushed bones and fat. Heat and bring to a boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in grass and bugs. Drop on wax paper and cool until firm.


These go great with a tall glass of swamp water…and they taste best if children help make them!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

My Mom's 61st Birthday Post

This is my mom, and today is her 61st birthday!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM!!!!!


Last year, the girls (mom, me, sis and sis in law) celebrated Mom's big 6-0 with a Wild WomanWeekend in San Francisco. The picture is Mom in her sparkly 60 tiara drinking one of many Bloody Marys consumed that weekend, and eating oysters on the pier. Indeed, a great time was had by all.



This year for her birthday Mom is in Denver with my brother and his wife awaiting the arrival of grandchild #7. If all goes according to plan, Little Charlie should enter the world today...right smack dab on Grandma's birthday. (They really did not need to go to all this trouble...my mom is not difficult to buy for at all.. and she would have been happy enough with a card...and maybe a vanilla candle...) A grandbaby will be a nice present though, I have to admit.




As mentioned in my first blog, my mother is quite domesticated. Mom sews and cooks and she has a knack for decorating. She made our home a very warm and cozy place when we were growing up and I love her very much.


In honor of mom's 61 birthday, I am including one of the most memorable desserts she ever made- the infamous 16-layer chocolate cake recipe. (You can make 61 layers in honor of Mom, if you want, but after you get to layer 10, you will probably agree that 16 is more than enough!) I entered this cake (slightly modified with a Grand Marnier emphasis) in the Evergreen state fair two years ago and won 2nd place. When you cut into this cake, people will comment- it is impressive to see the thin chocolate and white layers. The cake is dense and the flavor is wonderful.


16-Layer Chocolate Cream Cake
(by Rose Naftalin)


CAKE

1lb sweet butter
2T orange liqueur
2c sugar
8T cocoa
12 eggs, seperated
6T heavy cream, or sour cream
4c Cake flour
1/2t salt
Grated orange rind
Powdered Sugar

Prehead oven to 350. Grease four 9" cake pans. In a lg bowl cream the butter while gradually adding one cup of the sugar. Add egg yolks one by one, beating after each addition. Sift flour with salt and add to the butter mixture. Add orange rind and Grand Marnier. Set aside.

Beat egg whites until quite stiff. Add the rest of the sugar, a tablespoon at a time, beating after each addition and continuing to beat until the whites form a stiff meringue. Fold the beaten whites very carefully into the flour mixture. Divide the batter in half and put it into two bowls. To one bowl, add the cocoa and cream.
Put 3 tablespoons of white batter in each of the four pans and with a spatula smooth the batter into as thin a layer as possible. Bake thees four white layers for 15 minutes and turn out of the pans onto a cloth sprinkled with powdered sugar. Cover them with another cloth so they won't dry out. Make four more layers of the white cake (no need to regrease the pans for the 2nd baking). Turn them out and cover as before.

After finishing the white layers, wash and grese the pans. Bake eight thin layers of chocolate batter in two batches as above. While these are cooling, make the custard filling which will hold the layers together.
CUSTARD FILLING
1 pint cream
1/2c flour
6 egg yolks
1/2 lb sweet butter
1/2c sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt

Put all ingredients except butter and vanilla in the top of a double boiler and cook until thick. Pour the mixture into a bowl and gradually beat in the butter. Keep beating unitl creamy and cool. Add vanilla.
Stack the layers of cake, alternating white and chocolate, with a coating of custard between them. Leave the top layer dry.
ICING
1c sweet butter
2tsp vanilla
2c powdered sugar
dash of salt
3/4c cocoa
2Tbsp hot black coffee
4 eggs
Toasted almonds (optional)

Cream the butter and gradually beat in the sugar, cocoa, eggs, vanilla, and salt. Beat until creamy and add coffee. Frost the sides and top of the cake. Decorate the top with toasted almonds.

My Little Cookbook Addiction

I have a little cookbook problem. An addiction really. I have a library of culinary guides the size of a small bookstore. Hundreds of 'em. And It has gotten a little out of control.

Some of the highlights of my collection:

  • My oldest cookbook is from the late 1800's. It is called "Ice Cream and Cakes" and I picked it up at a yard sale for 50 cents. It is worth about $500 dollars (and I did not know this when I bought it!)
  • The Cookbook I use most: The Joy of Cooking - this is a great reference book for everything from how to cut a pineapple, to a how to make Hollandaise sauce.
  • Most Sentimental: My Grandma VanderHouwen's old Betty Crocker Cookbook. This contains her recipes for Divinity and for Cream Puffs. My sister surprised me with this a few years ago. One of the best gifts I have ever received.
  • My first: The Rodale Cookbook: Very healthy, lots of grains. A graduation present from my mom's sister, Aunt Karen- who makes the best pie crust ever!
  • My latest cookbook: The Plank Grilling Cookbook- picked from the prize room at work. Something new to try.
  • An extension of this collection is my love of old recipe boxes with handwritten recipes. I have about 6 of these that I have picked up on Ebay, in antique stores and at estate sales. There is just something so personal to me about these treasure boxes. I like to believe that these collections were the cherished works of women who loved culinary arts as much as me. My favorite collection comes from the south, with cards dated from the 1930's. There are some really unique cake recipes in that one.
  • And finally, my Martha Stewart Living collection. I am only missing about a dozen of these issues since they debuted. I have a big collection of her books and her FOOD magazines...I like her.

    I am hoping to get the Herb Farm Cookbook next. There are actually two books from the Herb Farm that I would like to add to my collection. (maybe for my birthday, or Christmas..hint, hint.) I will tell you more about the Herb Farm later
    because Simon is taking me there for my birthday next month.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Three wishes...



(The picture "Three Wishes" was created by www.kimberlywheaton.com)

1) I WISH that it was Friday night (because that would make tomorrow Saturday)

2) I WISH that Simon hadn't drank all the beer. It seems that ever since he learned that he is about to become half American...well, let's just say that Frogboy has started to adopt some really unsavory, redneck-like behaviors. This is just so uncharacteristic....Drinking a whole case of New Belgian assortment in less than two weeks and leaving NONE for the woman who brought him to this great country. I am just really disappointed... and a little thirsty.

3) I WISH that someone honest and respectable would run for president. I know it is the nature of politics, and perhaps I am a bit naive, but is having someone on the ballot who possesses exceptional character and integrity really too much to ask for? This is very possibly THE most important job in the world. Just once I would like have the option to cast a vote for a candidate who doesn't stoop to mudslinging, pandering, blatant lies and misrepresentation.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Another very important man in my life...



This is Jake. And this is Jake's pizza recipe:

Jacobini Boucherini Sausage Pizzarelli
One Boboli Pizza Crust w/sauce
One tube of ground sausage
Shredded Mozzarella
Grated Parmasean Cheese
An assortment of spices (he would not tell me what these were, specifically, but I think I saw him with a jar of cajun seasoning)

1) Make it into a pizza. = )

(We are definately going to miss this kid when he leaves for college!)

Jake just turned 18 and he is an incredible person. I know this because I have known him for his entire life. In fact...I am actually the reason he has a life.
Sure...go ahead and say it.."No way, how can someone as young as you have a son who is 18????" I know, it seems impossible, but indeed he is mine. I just had him when I was very young.

Jake will be graduating from school in June 2009. The same month that Simon and I will be getting our degrees. Only Jake is getting two accolades in June- both his high school diploma and his Associate degree. (Impressive, eh?)

I am hesitant to tell you what his plans are, because like most 18 year olds, nothing is for certain and it is all just a bit too overwhelming- there are just too many great opportunities to choose from. But it looks now like Jake will be headed to Boise State University to complete his Bachelors degree next fall. His dad and I are just very proud of him. Jake first applied to attend Boise state when he was in the eighth grade. The admissions department called me to get his registration fee and I had to let them know that Jake had jumped the gun a little- that he wouldn't be attending for another 5 years. So unless something has changed between then and now, I feel confident that he will have no trouble getting accepted at BSU...heck, they might even be expecting him!!

Jake is one of those fortunate people who has never really had to work very hard to be successful. School (especially math) comes easy to him, and he is quite talented at playing the bass. Sausage Pizza? He makes it look like child's play. Jake has also had the opportunity to travel a bit. He has been to Mexico, England and France and I have been completely amazed at his comfort level when he has been emersed in these cultures. He picks up languages quickly and he does great impersonations. (Particularly, William Shatner and, now, Obama)

Growing up, Jake's favorite food was grilled cheese sandwiches. He liked to dip them in ketchup. Now I am not completely certain what his favorite food is, although I often find bottles of allsport and sobe in his room, along with candy and cookie wrappers- I think it is safe to say that he likes junkfood.

When asked where Jake would like to go for his birthday he invariably chooses Palisades - which is a very expensive fine dining establishment in Seattle. He has good taste, that kid. He also is quite smitten lately with the $1.25 tacos that are served up on a local taco truck in town.

Jake is another important man in my life...so you will also be hearing a lot about him here.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Quickest Way to a Man's Heart...




For Simon, it was Salmon poached in a mustard cream sauce.


http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/POACHED-SALMON-WITH-MUSTARD-SAUCE-77

This is Simon (aka: frogboy). The man of my dreams. Simon and I met at work one fateful day and fell in love. Marrying him was the best decision I ever made. He is very possibly the best husband ever- a very patient, generous, supportive and kind person. He has beautiful blue eyes and a very sexy English accent.

Because Simon is my best friend, you will probably be hearing a lot about him here.

The recipe above is very close to the one that I prepared the first night I asked Simon to dinner. the Bon Appetite recipe that I used called for sherry, instead of white wine, and shallots instead of onions. This goes very well with red potatoes and asparagas. We have also substituted chicken.


A few things about Simon that you many not know:
  • Simon is a Starbuck's trained Barista. He may have been raised on tea and crumpets, but the man makes a beautiful cup of coffee.
  • In June Simon will complete his Master's Degree in Manufacturing Engineering
  • On October 28, Simon will throw away his green card and be sworn in as a bonafide American citizen! (He will still be half-English)
  • Simon loves camping gear, personal finance, travel, wine and microbrews. He is a meat and potatoes kind of guy, but he is as adventurous as I am when it comes to trying new foods and new places.
  • Simon loves strawberries and English fish and chips. He believes strongly in having a cooked breakfast on the weekend. When he came to the United States he discovered Clam Chowder and Tacos, but I like to think that he sticks around because of my culinary abilities.

Stay tuned for updates on Simon...you can also view our shared blogspot at http://www.meandfrogboy.blogspot.com

Monday, October 13, 2008

How did I ever get so gosh darn domesticated??


A very good question...if I do ask so, myself.

I guess I would attribute the bulk of my domestic knowledge to the fact that I have had some wonderfully domesticated women in my life.

My mother (as you can see here: http://www.k-fallsfarmgirl.blogspot.com/) is a fine example of a fabulous homemaker. I washed many dirty dishes when I was younger that were a direct biproduct of her culinary skill and almost everything I know about making a welcome and comfortable home can be attributed to her.

My mother's mother, Grandma Elaine, is my only surviving grandmother. She makes the best sugar cookies in the world and I think she may very well hold the record for the cleanest home in the universe.

My father's mother was a beautiful, family loving, Italian woman. Grandma Muriel is the reason why spaghetti and meatballs are my comfort food. She made cream puffs and apple pie and pie crust cinnamon rolls. I have so many fond memories of holidays and Sunday dinners at my grandparent's home- with our cousins and good food and card games.

I grew up on a farm where we had an abundance of fresh food. A freezer stocked with homegrown beef, pork, chicken, and fish. Canned goods in the celler, fresh milk and cream from the neighbor's dairy, eggs from the nest and fruit and vegetables straight from the plant. We even had fresh honey from my dad's bee hives. A very, very charmed life I had indeed!

My younger sister and I used to host cooking shows in the kitchen using fresh ingredients from our garden (for some reason, I recall that we used a lot of potatoes and eggs in these shows), we made a lot of chocolate chip cookies too!

It is my plan to highlight these very influential people and others in upcoming blogs. I will share recipes, helpful hints for balancing life and work, beautiful places I travel to, and other wonderful things I discover along the way. Stay tuned!