28 February 2010

Moonstruck Eggs

We watched the movie Moonstruck the other night for like the 30th time.  Oddly, I never tire of this movie -- it's so much like a play.  Plus, I kind of like all the corny lines and overacting.

Anyway, I think we decided it was a good choice since we are getting into the mindset of having a multi-generational household.  Hopefully ours won't resemble the Castorinis' in all respects -- although maybe we could get Byron's dad a few dogs . . . . (just kidding).

Well, last night we saw Cosmo's moon.  And so this morning it somehow seemed appropriate to try making Moonstruck eggs -- you know, the fried eggs-in-bread-with-red-peppers thing that Mrs. Castorini makes for breakfast in the movie.  (This is big news because, generally, eggs only get scrambled with goat cheese around here.)

Although the finished product looked a little messy, they were tasty.  I used organic eggs and Byron's homemade bread, which also couldn't have hurt.  The red peppers were from a jar.

This isn't rocket science and the preparation doesn't need any explaining.  Just give it a try sometime when you need a little variety in your breakfast repertoire.  If red peppers aren't your thing, try steamed greens with garlic and pepper flakes instead.

26 February 2010

Urban S'mores

Sometimes a person needs a s'more and there is no campfire around.  One must then be resourceful and make full use of the broiler.

25 February 2010

Can you teach an old cat new tricks?

In my whole life, this is the first time I will have ever moved with a pet to a new house.

I don't think the moving part will be so bad, cat carrier and all.  But I'm a little worried about Oggy running off and getting lost once we get there.  He's an indoor-outdoor fellow.  Anyone I ask about this suggests keeping him indoors for like a month so he knows he lives there before letting him roam outside.

Okay.  Sounds good. 

But how do I teach him what a litter box is?  He's at least 12, and I don't think he's ever used one.  Yesterday, I bought one at Petco.  I thought maybe he would intuitively know what it was and be thrilled to finally have "indoor plumbing," so to speak.  Maybe he would have a flash back from when he was a kitten  -- perhaps he had been taught to use a litter box before being adopted out.

I wasn't so lucky.  Oggy had no interest.  When I put him in it, he freaked out.  Then he spent 20 minutes cleaning corn cellulose (the litter material) out of his paws.   Every time he walks by it, he eyes it cautiously . . . like it's out to get him.

Any advice?

24 February 2010


Let me catch you up on things:  We saw a house.  We liked it a lot.  Byron's dad came to town.  He liked it a lot too.  It was a good price.  We offered.  We got it.  We are in shock.

On top of the whirlwind of getting everything in order to buy a new house, we also need to get our little yellow house ready to sell . . . the list making has begun!

As for the new place, it's a terrific home that will be right for all of us.  The space is much bigger than our current home (but let's be honest, that isn't saying much), and it has the makings for a 1,000-square-foot suite downstairs for Byron's dad.  It was built in 1960 and is a ranch-style house.  It has some cool modern elements to it, but it also needs some love and many updates.  That said, it's totally livable, in a nice Seattle neighborhood (Olympic Manor), and it even has a great view of the Olympics and the Sound.  I think we'll be very happy in it for a long while.

23 February 2010

First Flowers

Well, the plum tree is in full bloom.  Nary a bee around. But hey, fruit is overrated, right?

Spring has arrived so much earlier than usual around the Northwest.  My perennial garden is no exception.  Here's what's happening in my yard today -- a good month ahead of schedule.

The plum -- you can smell it when you walk into the yard.


Grape hyacinths along the path.

Euphorbia and alyssum.
The double-flowering Japanese kerria japonica, almost open.

Forsythia blooming -- and threatening to.

16 February 2010


I may be selling my house and the "established cottage garden" that goes with it, but I won't be leaving all my plants.  As a practical matter, my perennial beds are over planted and desperately in need of editing and plant-division.  As a sentimental matter, I just can't bear to leave behind some of my favorites.

Having procured a large number of empty pots, I've embarked on the task of digging up the ones to take along.  First off, I'm taking many of the plants my dear friend and gardening mentor, Alice, gave to me:
  • heirloom herbaceous peonies
  • blue delphinium
  • a variety of day lilies -- short and tall
  • beige fall mums
  • bearded iris -- yellow and purple
  • 'Jacob Kline' Monarda
  • Doronicum (Leopard's bane)
  • Astrantia (pink masterwort)
  • pink and purple perennial campanulas
 And then there a few others that I've grown too attached to to part with:
  • akebia trifoliata
  • Lenten rose
  • herbaceous peonies 
  • 'Grand Duke' tree peony
  • hostas
  • 'Diablo' nine bark
  • 'President' clematis
  • goldenrod
  • Japanese anemones
  • 'David' tall white phlox
  • drumstick allium
Don't worry though, my flower beds are still filled with anemones, hydrangeas, coreopsis, climbing roses, akebia, hollyhocks, salvias, hebes, iris, campanulas, sedums, asters, and mums, plus a few mints, lavendars, and tons of shasta daisys and lilies of all sorts.  Of course, the lilacs, calycanthus, smoke tree, red twig dogwoods, euphorbia, and ornamental grasses all stay.  And then there's the prolific plum tree, the river birch, the crab apple . . . .

Seriously, what first-time home buyer normally gets a garden like this?

15 February 2010

My Foray into Chicken: Moroccan Style

As a life-long vegetarian, cooking meat is not my specialty.  Only in recent years have I broken from the total-veg diet to include some fish and the occasional piece of skinless, boneless chicken breast.  I've also begun collecting a handful of reliable recipes I can make when I need to offer such a dish to company, most of which seem to involve grilling.

But in February grilling is generally out of the question because of the cold and rain, so I have a harder time coming up with a non-veg preparation.  This weekend, prompted by a friend's birthday party where the potluck theme was meat, I tried a new stove-top recipe -- Moroccan-style chicken -- and it turned out really well.

I had the butcher cut a whole chicken into pieces for me.  Even so, I must admit that taking the skin off the chicken myself was a bit unpleasant, and running into the heart was a nasty surprise.  But grisly preparation aside, I think it's a keeper.

Moroccan Chicken with Lemon and Green Olives
adapted from Bon Appetit

1 Meyer lemon, sliced into eight wedges
1 regular lemon, juiced
1 Tb. olive oil
1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed and roughly chopped
1 Tb. Spanish paprika
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
2 cups broth (use chicken or no-chicken vegetarian broth)
1-4 1/2 lb. chicken, cut into eight pieces (bone in), skin removed
1/2 cup pitted green olives
Salt and pepper

Heat oil in a large skillet or braising pan over medium-high heat.  Add onion, some salt and pepper, and saute until golden brown (about 5-8 minutes).  Stir the next five ingredients (garlic through ginger) into the onions, mixing thoroughly.  Add the broth, deglaze the pan, and bring to a low simmer.  Sprinkle chicken pieces with salt and pepper, then add them to the pan, nestling them into the simmering liquid.  Add the lemon wedges.  Cover and simmer until the chicken is cooked through -- about 25-30 minutes.  Turn the chicken at least once or twice during the simmer.

Remove the chicken to a serving dish (something with low sides to contain the sauce).  Add the lemon juice and olives to the liquid, increase the heat to high, and boil uncovered to thicken -- about 3 minutes.  Adjust salt and pepper.  Pour over the chicken and serve.

Serve with mashed potatoes or couscous on the side.

Magic Cookie Bars

In case you're looking for a new treat to make -- look no further.  These bars are a always a hit around the holidays, but I also think of them as Valentine's treats for some reason.   They also make a great gift for a friend, teacher, or next door neighbor.  

I'm not sure why they are called Magic Cookie Bars -- perhaps it's because they magically disappear!

Magic Cookie Bars
adapted from the label on the Borden can

1 stick unsalted butter
1 1/2 c. graham cracker crumbs
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/4 c. flaked coconut (I like the large unsweetened flakes)
1 c. chopped walnuts

Place butter in a 9x13 glass dish in the oven at 325°(350° if metal).  When butter is melted, carefully remove it from the oven, sprinkle crumbs over the butter, and press the crumb/butter mixture evenly with the back of a spoon to form a uniform thickness covering the bottom of the pan.  Pour sweetened condensed milk evenly over crumbs.  Top with chips, coconut, and nuts.  Press down gently.  Bake 25 - 30 minutes, or until lightly browned on top.  Cool thoroughly and cut into bars.

09 February 2010

Mixed Media Workshop at Assemble

My friend Karen and I tried our hands at being mixed media artists on Sunday.  We took a workshop at a new crafting shop on Phinney Ridge called Assemble

The workshop lasted three hours and taught a small group of us how to paint, cut, glue, and glaze things together -- mostly papers and paint on canvas.  It was quite fun to feel like I was in art class again -- cutting and pasting and creating something.

Here's what I made:

Assemble offers lots of workshops -- from sewing to printmaking.  And the storefront shop/gallery offers cards, books, gifts, art, and handmade curiosities for sale.  It's a nice addition to our neighborhood.

Assemble Gallery & Studio
7406 Greenwood Avenue N.
Seattle, WA  98103

08 February 2010

To Sell or Not to Sell

I've had a significant emotional breakthrough this week.  I've agreed, in principle, to sell our house.

Admittedly, my attachment to this place may be somewhat irrational.  I know it is only a house.  But, I get very sad when I think about moving.

It's been our first home.  We've put a lot of love and work into this little house, renovating nearly every room.  Here, we've had many fun times with family and friends, including our annual doughnut parties.  And, perhaps my most favorite thing about it, I learned to garden here.  With the help of generous friends who shared their plants and advice, I added a garden of perennials and trees that has brought me thousands of hours of enjoyment -- not to mention all the "dirt therapy" that got me through stressful times in law school.

To me, my garden is beautiful in every season.  [And because I never miss an opportunity to post pictures of it, here are a few to prove my point.]

The garden in spring

The garden in summer

In fall

And winter

Garden notwithstanding, at less than 900 square feet, this house is just a bit small for what we now need -- or will need soon.  Byron's father is planning to move to the United States from Canada this summer.  At 86 years old, we think the best scenario is for him to have a suite of his own adjacent to or part of our home.  We've explored additions and expansions to our place, but it seems to make the most sense just to move on to a larger house that fits our needs.

We started looking halfheartedly a few weeks ago, but this week we're looking in earnest.  We are looking for a home that can hold all of us, has enough light and good exposures, in a good and walkable neighborhood, not too many stairs, enough parking, space for a garden of some sort . . . and the list goes on.  I have no confidence we will actually be successful. 

Who knows though.  Maybe we can find just the right place -- a place that we can make feel like home -- and everything will work out.  Most of all, I hope that when the time comes to sell our little house, it ends up with an owner who loves it as much as we have.

03 February 2010

Weekend Coffee: Week 3

We've had a lot of distractions lately that have sidelined our weekend coffee project in recent weeks.  But with the holidays behind us, we're back at it. 

Recently, we checked out Cafe Lulu on Latona Avenue in the Greenlake/Ravenna area.  It's a cute little spot tucked into the row of food establishments near the Latona Pub.  Yelp's large number of positive reviews made us optimistic.  And when we arrived, the place had a friendly vibe, and we observed a good quantity of folks who looked like regulars -- a good sign.

The lattes were lovely (and the cafe serves Cafe Vita coffee, which is great stuff), but their temperature was not quite hot enough for us.  Ask for extra hot.

As for the pastries: My cinnamon twist apparently had been twisted a few too many times.  But Byron's choice, the ham and cheese croissant, was tasty albeit a little shy on the filling.

Trying to be healthy, I also ordered the $2 bowl of oatmeal with raisins that turned out to be instant oatmeal.  I'd make a different choice next time.

Epilogue:  Despite our so-so experience, we'll definitely try Cafe Lulu again.  In part, because of the polite and professional response I received from the owner of the cafe after I posted a review on Yelp. Here's what she said:
Thanks for your feedback Amy.  I asked both girls who work the weekend shifts to keep a close eye on the shots and make sure that all of the drinks are nice and hot. As for the pastries, we're in the middle of switching bakeries, which I hope will be in effect soon, hopefully by this monday.  And the oatmeal...you're right, it is instant which works in a pinch, but I tend to recommend the granola, which comes from Tall Grass Bakery.  It's amazing.  If you manage to come back, I hope you'll notice a difference.

Cafe Lulu
6417 Latona Avenue East

Oh, the possibilities!

I must show you my latest acquisition from Goodwill.  Isn't it great?

It's petite as a dresser goes (only 18 inches deep), has a nice shape, and the drawers are all in working order.  It's not much to look at right now, but I have ideas . . . .  Any thoughts on whether I should keep the blue paint?

Now to figure out what room to put it in . . . and what to put in it . . .

02 February 2010

The Mountain is Out

It's been so dreary of late that I forgot we had a mountain.   And, I forgot how nice it is to have some blue sky on a winter day.  Today dawned clear -- not sure what that means for Seattle's groundhogs (as if we had any).  Maybe they will see their shadows after all.

One could say we have a seasonal view of Mt. Rainier from the front porch.  (And by "one" I mean a creative Realtor trying to make our house sound really fancy.)  If you look really hard, you can see it.  Here are a couple photos I took this morning -- you kind of have to imagine where the mountain is in the second one.

01 February 2010

Flower Show Time

I'm going to the Northwest Flower and Garden Show on Thursday.  It's one of the February garden rituals I most enjoy.  I get to wander the display gardens in awe of the enormous rocks and full-grown trees that sprout from the cement floors of the convention center for these few days.  The best part is soaking up garden design ideas, jotting down plant names, and pretending it's April with the strong smell of hyacinths in the air.

Last year, outdoor structures were the rage -- and here are a few of my iphone photos.

I wonder what new ideas they'll have for us this year.