30 March 2009

So Much to Share

Hello! I got back from the farm yesterday and had such a wonderful time. I have so many things to share with you so I'll start from the start and keep adding throughout the week. I hope you all had a nice weekend.

1. on the ferry friday evening. i had to wait an hour to get on, but there was still light for me to look at the sound out the window.
2. plant starts. i couldn't help taking many pictures of these, maybe the others will pop up later.
3. homemade apple wine.
4. plant cuttings taking root and fresh daffodils.

26 March 2009

have a good weekend..

i will be gone until monday for a mini-vacation to my friend's farm. i hope to have pictures for you when i get back...

have a good weekend!

25 March 2009

Wendesday Recipe Swap

I'm so excited for today because it's the first day of "Wednesday Weekly Recipe Swap," which Tifanie from noddyboom invited people to join in on. I like the idea of having certain days for certain things and I really like the idea of having a specific day to focus on sharing recipes. Thanks Tifanie! As promised last week, I will reveal the mysterious Parmesan-smelling dough! It was Parmesan Thyme Crackers. They were so fragrant while baking and so scrumptious when done. I took them to a going away party at my work and they were eaten instantly. As I noted below, I added extra ground black pepper because I thought the fragrance melded so well. They would be great with white wine or smoked salmon.

Parmesean Thyme Crackers
a la Barefoot Contessa's Back to Basics

1 stick (1/4 lb) unsalted butter, room temperature
4 ounces freshly grated Parmesan cheese (about 1 cup)
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves (leftover from my CSA)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (I used more because it added such a great aroma)
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter for 1 minute. With the mixture of low speed, add the Parmesan, thyme, salt, and pepper and combine. With the mier still on low, add the flour and combine until the mixture is in large crumbles, about 1 minute. If the dough is too dry, add 1 teaspoon water.

Dump the dough onto a floured board, press into a ball, and roll into a 9-inch log. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or for up to 4 days.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut the log into 3/8-inch-thick rounds with a small, sharp knife and place them on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Bake for 22 miutes, until very lightly browned. Rotate the pan once during baking. Cool and serve at room temperature.

Also, while we're on the subject of food, my coworker outdid herself with this:

Cakes made to look like a drum set! The frosted cakes were Kentucky Spice Cake, the cake that is facing out was a Grand-Marnier Pound Cake and I actually don't know what the symbols were. (They were eaten while I was on a break).

Thanks for stopping by and I look forward to next week's recipe swap!
As Tifanie said, 'have a tasty and beautiful day!'

24 March 2009

Nothing too special about today. Got a lot done at work, just finished a nice dinner and cleaned it up, too. Now, I have the rest of the evening to relax.

21 March 2009

Welcome to the First Day of Spring!

Can you believe it? Flower buds and colors all around!
Today I was thinking about when I should plant my vegetable and flower seeds. My tulip bulbs are already in full sprout and some of the iris bulbs I put in in October are poking their heads up. I hope more reveal themselves. I need to prune my rose bush. And learn how to prune it. With the house we are in now, we inherited a nice plot of land. Mainly it is inhabited by a lot of overgrowth, but there are scattered flowers and herbs. I think there are more things there than we know and once the sun comes out, we will have some surprise visitors. That's why I don't know how to prune a rose bush--I never planted one in the first place. We also inherited dahlias and in the late summer last year I learned how to take care of those. But for now I am excited for spring plants! We cleared a big portion of the land for a vegetable garden and yet another area for wild flowers. I can't wait for arugula and onions and sweet peas and basil! Tulips and irises, lilacs, then poppies, peonies...oh! What plants are you excited about?

20 March 2009

Five Senses Friday II

Walking to and from the bus yesterday, I took the time to think about Friday's project. Thanks, again, to Abby for inspiring it.

the sounds of the bus:
other people's conversations, growling up a hill, brakes squeaking, the stop cord dinging, the doors opening and the cars going by outside

the feel of wind on my face, walking sown a steep hill

mmm, the taste of really good coffee

the sight of so many new things growing
the smell of thyme and parmesan in this dough (come back for the recipe next wednesday!)***
it's been so beautiful out around here: the wind, the air, the plants! i hope everyone is enjoying their surroundings, too.

18 March 2009

My Book Report

I met Isabel Allende yesterday.

Self-exiled from Chile, Isabel Allende came to San Fransisco and began writing. She worked twelve hour days and sat down to write at night, not knowing that what she was writing would turn into the amazingly layered and complex (not to mention well-received and now taught in most American High Schools) novel The House of the Spirits. Over a dozen novels and memoirs would follow for the next 20 years. I was supposed to read The House of the Spirits when I was 14, but even though my friends fell in love with it, I couldn't bring myself to pick up a book for school. That's just how I was. Years later, after finishing an intense program on literary arts, I was looking for something that had all the tools and tricks of a self-reflective piece of writing, but that was really just a great story. A novel with integrity.

I picked up a small mass market of The House of the Spirits and knew instantly that I had found what I needed. Allende is a brilliant writer whose novels span generations, intricately explaining each character while positioning them in a historical and political context. Her writing isn't just about people, they are about society and culture. I can't help but adore that.

Currently, I'm reading Portrait in Sepia, written almost ten years after House of Spirits. I think she is the only person whose books I've been able to read more than one of. Can you believe that? Portrait in Sepia holds to all of the standards that House of Spirits set, yet it tells a completely different story, taking place in both Chile and San Fransisco.

I can't say enough about how much it meant to me to meet this woman I find so amazing. What's best about it all is that on top of her many many published masterpieces, Allende has a foundation named after her late daughter's personal mantra (as she told us in her speech yesterday), We Only Have What We Give. Her foundation aids in the empowerment and protection of women across the globe. Oh, and she's almost as tall as me...which is to say: very short!

Here she is speaking for TED:

Thanks for listening to me. I didn't intend to write an essay on Allende, but I think I needed to. I would like to note that I purposely linked the two books to two different sources. I am hoping to share online ordering options that are both independent and 'people powered' (this means that the money you put into it will go directly back into its workers). Powell's books, in particular, is connected to an actual physical store in Portland, OR. Several stores, in fact. And in each store, people are working hard to be knowledgeable and customer-minded. As independent bookstores go, they have the farthest reaching online presence, attaching their in-store knowledge to the web site while providing availability of so many used and rare books. That's why I used them. Albiris is an amazing source for just about any new, used, out of print and rare book. They have managed to not get bought out by Amazon and they deserve our support for that. Thank you for keeping the art and literary sector alive by supporting independent bookstores and their employees!

15 March 2009

Views From the Window

We took a drive across the bridge yesterday. It was for my first fundraiser banquet (where I wasn't a volunteer, but actually an attendee). Jon's company sponsored a table for a non-profit called Water for People, raising money for safe and sustainable water systems in developing countries. Last night's specific fundraiser was for their project in Malawi.

As you can see, it wasn't very nice out. But the sky was dramatic. I love how in the top and bottom pictures, it looks like I'm in the middle of nowhere. We have such a neat bridge connecting Seattle to Bellevue. It's like one skinny road across a huge lake. I used to be driven across it 3-4 times a week and each time I would be in awe of my surroundings. Cities in the distance, mountains beyond that; islands, land masses, trees, the mood of the sky, and lots and lots of water. For the few minutes it takes to cross that bridge, I always loose myself.

Thanks everyone for visiting on Five Senses Friday! It was fun to meet new people!

13 March 2009

Five Senses Friday

This is fun! Abby, who I mentioned last Friday, has reinstated Five Senses Friday. A day to break down what you are seeing, feeling, tasting, hearing and touching.
Here it goes:

Neko Case's new album, in anticipation for her June show.
she is the centrifuge that throws the spies from the sun

Little birdies chirping when I walk out the door in the morning.

Isabel Allende's voice in my head as I read Portrait in Sepia.

Jam-filled Hamantashen

The new restaurant at Third Place


New plants budding and poking their heads out of the soil

Mountains at a distance from east and west


Crisp air on my face when I walk

Cold toes on the floor in the morning

Air filled with a mix of the many restaurants in the U. District

Home cooked meals

10 March 2009

Every year I make these cookies. Always in March. Always to be shared with friends. When I was little I never liked Hamantashen. They were too dry or had too much cookie, not enough jam. But some years ago, for whatever reason, I started making them. The first year, I wasn't much of a baker and didn't realize my flour was bad until the cookies were all rolled out, shaped, baked and cooled. Yuk! I guess having flour around for so long is a testament to how little I baked.

As the years went by I just kept making them. For whatever reason, I've thought of it as my duty. Another year, I didn't have enough time to let the dough chill in the fridge, so they were too gooey. Then, after that, I let the dough chill for too long (three days!) and I could barely roll them out. Once I started really getting into baking, my Hamantashen started to reap the benefits. Last year my mistake turned into a great improvisation. I didn't have any vanilla, so added honey and cinnamon instead. Because the flavor was so complex and unique last year, I decided to use my alloted amount of vanilla this year, but also keep that honey and cinnamon innovation. These Hamentashen were definitely the best yet. Soft, sublte and complex.

I don't know why I started baking these every year and never stopped, but now it seems like a duty. So much so that I make sure in the summer to set aside a jar of jam for these cookies in March. This year I used two different types of homemade jam- strawberry and raspberry.

from Joan Nathan's Jewish Holiday Kitchen
(a cookbook that's been in my Mom's house for as long as I can remember)

2/3 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vailla
2 1/2-3 cups sifted unbleached all-purpose flour (I used 2 1/2)
1 teaspoon baking powder
dash of salt
squeeze of honey
dash of cinnamon

1. Cream butter with sugar. Add egg and continue creaming until smooth.
2.Add the vanilla. Stir in sifted flour, baking powder, and salt until a ball of dough is formed. (I usd a stand mixer with paddle attachment, but a food processor or some strong arm muscle will work well too)
3. Chill for 2-3 hours or overnight.
4. Preheat oven to 375.
5. Taking 1/4 of the dough, roll out on a lightly floured board to a thicknedd of 1.8 inch. Cut into 2-inch circles. With your finger put water around the rim of the circle. Fill with 1 teaspoon homemade jam and fold into three-cornered cookies. (Press two sides together, and then fold the third side over and press the ends together.)
6. Bake on a well-greased cookie sheet 10-16 minutes, until the tops are golden.

06 March 2009

That Seems Nice

I'm very very tired this Friday, after a long week, and all I wish is that my kitchen sink looked like this.

But, no. That was my sink on a better day. I haven't seen those clean sink days in a while. Maybe this picture will help me remember the light and fresh feeling that comes when the kitchen sink is clean and the counters are cleared. Or maybe I'll just stay here looking at this picture and avoid going into the kitchen. That seems nice.

You know what else is nice?
Abby-whose photographs I admire so much-mentioned me in her latest post. It was because I couldn't keep my mouth closed about the negative effect of not shopping local or independent. It is a good occasion when someone appreciates those comments instead of finding them tiresome. Thanks Abby!

02 March 2009

Bike and Pike

It's finally getting sunny out! The yellow daffodil buds are bursting and all over my yard there are small bright green shoots that have poked there heads up. I can't wait to see what they turn into! I'll have to show you their progress someday soon. For today, I am showing you pictures of a fun event that I went to last weekend. It was called Bike and Pike. Local bike maker paired with local beer maker to show off their cool selves and raise money for Food Lifeline. The best thing? The beer I got was a Double Ale named Tandem. Because "Riding tandem is double the fun..."

01 March 2009

New Additions

Please welcome my two newest plants. The first guy is a little cactus and the second looks like a baby tree. It will, in fact, grow into a larger, tree-like plant. I didn't intend to buy anything that grows large (my house is so small) but maybe it will take a while. Plus, for now it's a cute little tree with beautiful shades of green.

I was very inspired after I got my new plants that I painted! Actually, to be more accurate, I crafted. I made a little card for my dad's birthday with a plant on it. Do you see that little potted plant next to the water colors? That went on a brown square and then onto a larger square card.

Last night I went to a fabulous show. Have you listened to Antony and the Johnsons? Do. Grand piano, bass, cello, sax, clarinet, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, drums, two violins and a deep soaring operatic voice.