Saturday, January 30, 2010

Critter Crat

It's official.


This spoiled rotten little monster beast who bites and chirps and sits in the middle of everything I work on has turned me into a cat person.

It's awful.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Guide to Drinking Tea

I am a tea drinker.  More than water, more than wine, more than anything else.  It has been implied that I may drink too much tea, although I don't really believe that that is possible.

I'm not talking about being a cute little classy or sophisticated tea drinker, either.  I'm more of a giant cup, multiple tea bags, water stains all over my desk at work kind of tea drinker.  I take this stuff seriously.  My favorite teas (right now) are: Choice Organics Ban-Cha- which is smokey and wonderful, Yogi Green Tea Kombucha- a nice change from bottled kombucha, Traditional Medicinals Organic Chamomile with Lavender- which I love before bed, or my own mix of fresh ginger, lemon, honey, and green tea that I drink obsessively when I'm feeling a bit blah.

Over the weekend I acquired a small and wonderful Le Creuset tea kettle that I am madly in love with, and have since come to the very harsh realization that my at-home tea drinking needs a bit of a makeover.  I owe it to my tea kettle, don't I?

- My current collection of drinkware consists of one proper tea cup- sans saucer, four very cute but very small mismatched mugs from Goodwill, and one ceramic tumbler without a handle.  Tragic!  I have my eye on at least one of these: here, here, here, here, and here.

-  I used to think that tea cozies were ridiculous- until I realized that I am notorious for both burning my hands on hot mugs, as well as sloshing tea all over myself and the floor every time I take more than two steps.  I think it might be time to embrace their practicality (yeah right... really I just think they're cute).  Some of my favorites are: here, here, here, here, and here.

- I have just started to experiment with making my own loose leaf tea blends, and although I have yet to come up with a balance that isn't too bitter, too tart, or too floral- I'm having a lot of fun doing it.  Mountain Rose Herbs is my favorite online source for loose teas, although I'm lucky enough to have several grocery stores within walking/riding distance that carry bulk loose teas, as well as herbs.  Etsy has a huge number of sellers who make their own blends: here, here, here, and here are all good places to start.  Muslin tea bags are my favorite way to brew loose leaf teas.  I also have a travel mug with a built in tea infuser that I love, but it was a gift from my mama and I'm not sure where it came from originally (a Google search for "Travel tea infuser" came up with some good results if it's something you're interested in).

- As far as I'm concerned- honey is the only acceptable sweetener for tea.  I also strongly believe that local honey is the best, as it contains regional pollen that is beneficial for seasonal allergy sufferers (like me! yay!)  I'm a lucky duck, and my neighborhood grocery store has local honey on tap!  My suggestion for purchasing honey is to go through Local Harvest and try to find a farmers market in your area.  Pasteurized grocery store honey is fine as just a sweetener, but lacks many of the benefits that local, raw honey provides.

- Lastly- because I really, really love tea.  And I mean- really.  I think it's crucial for my tea habit to also include tea party rubber stamps, printed linen tea towels, and of course honey lavender tea cookies.  Duh.

What are your tea related essentials? 

Thursday, January 21, 2010


My friend Mike sent me an e-mail last night, with links to a few videos by this sweet little duo from San Francisco.  Pomplamoose, meaning "grapefruit" in French.  They make their music with two simple rules:
  1. What you see is what you hear (no lip-syncing for instruments or voice).
  2. If you hear it, at some point you see it (no hidden sounds).
Hence the reason why they started off only making videos- although they now have two albums available for download on iTunes.  Give them a listen!  Their cover of Single Ladies is the cutest thing in the world.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Espresso and Burnt Sugar Icebox Cake

You have to make this cake.  You just do.  Trust me.

Awful, terrible, no good office lighting!

This was another cake-for-a-co-worker type of adventure.  He asked for a trifle, and I went looking for something that I would be excited about making.  Almost immediately I found this recipe for Espresso and Mascarpone Icebox Cake and knew that it was leading me in the right direction.  It had a few glaring flaws for me, though.  First- store bought cookies.  No, no, and no.  Second- it was lacking a lot of diversity of flavor, which just wasn't going to cut it for me.  Luckily- these things were both easy to remedy.

First, I found this recipe for chocolate wafers via Smitten Kitchen.  She had made them specifically for using in an icebox cake, so I knew they would be perfect.  I made mine with an extra dose of salt, and a teaspoon of instant espresso powder (it enhances the chocolate flavor immensely, plus I love a salty cookie).  It was my first time making slice and bake cookies, and I actually really loved doing it.  They came together easily and beautifully, with enough leftover for us to munch on.  I made these a day in advance.

Second, I knew that I wanted to somehow incorporate caramel.  And no, store bought wouldn't work for this part, either.  I used this recipe for a basic caramel sauce, that I ended up just slightly burning while making... but with a good grind of sea salt and a splash of homemade vanilla extract- I just called it burnt sugar sauce instead.  And it was delicious.  I don't know how to tell you how to properly burn something, aside from letting it cook just a tad bit longer than you think you should.  I had checked mine, and thinking it needed a bit longer than it really did- came back to very clearly overcooked sugar.  Would I do it again, the exact same way?  Yes, and yes.  I love the smokey, almost burnt marshmallow taste of it.  It would be wonderful cooked properly as well.

With those two additions, I knew that I had something worth working with.  So, following the original icebox cake recipe as a guideline, I made it my own.

I used three layers of wafers, rather than the two suggested- starting with a layer of wafers on the bottom (14 wafers per layer).  Instead of just using the plain whipped cream/mascarpone mixture between the main layers- I added a nice drizzle of my burnt sugar sauce as well.  The final/outer layer of espresso flavored cream was also fancied up a bit by adding homemade vanilla extract, and once again a drizzle of burnt sugar.  Make sure not to whip this until right before you'll be covering the cake, as it tends to melt back into liquid over time.  When I decorated the cake- I used toasted hazelnuts around the edge, drizzled my burnt sugar sauce over those, and then finally (which isn't pictured above) sifted unsweetened cocoa powder over the top of the entire thing. 

Completely destroyed!

All I can say is that you would have to be a fool not to make this.  It's 110% worth the extra time and effort to make your own wafers and caramel.  The compliments I got from this were ridiculous and wonderful, and if I were to make it again- I would do everything the exact same way.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Quick Update!

1. Julie/a was the winner of the sweet little owl guy!  I also want to let people know that I'm going to try to do a little giveaway at least once every month or so, and I want to invite you to let me know if there are any artists that you'd love to see featured here.

2. I won "Best Sweet" and "Most Beautiful" at the 1st Annual Peter Frampton Memorial Pie-Off (don't ask) last night!  I made a chocolate tart with candied ginger, and dried cranberries, topped with burnt sugar whipped cream and candied cranberries.  It took me 20 minutes and I was actually kind of embarrassed at how much people loved it.  Ah, modesty.  Alas- I have no pictures.

3. Watch this!  It's cute, and I just got home from buying odds and ends to make massaged kale salad.  Yes, really.  I also bought dried mung beans to attempt sprouting for the first time (aside from cat grass).

Okay, off the couch with me.  Have a lovely Saturday!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

New Goals for a New Year: 2010

The January Bed from my new favorite Flickr artist Jek in the Box

"Capricorn: The Solar Eclipse in your sign on January 15th is major; your real New Year and the best starred time to set some serious goals."

I am not the kind of person who ever really falls into the "New Years Resolution" death trap.  First of all- I have a hard time boxing anything of the sort into such specific terms.  I really don't think that January 1st- in the closing rounds of holiday insanity- is the best time to set out new goals and aspirations for myself.  I think that sounds like an absolute crap-pile of a disaster waiting to happen.  I found it incredibly ironic and a little funny (especially since I'm not much of an astrology person) that my horoscope for the year ahead included that little bit at the beginning of this post- and about three days ago I started feeling like maybe it would be good for me to more or less map out some of my goals for this year.  Just to see what I can accomplish.  On top of that- someone on Formspring asked me about my short and long term ambitions, which first sent me into a short-lived panic, and then settled in a bit more as a perfectly reasonable and answerable question.  (I now have the question "What one thing are you hoping to accomplish in 2010?" glaring at me from my little in-box of evil. Who are these people?)

My friend Becca makes New Years resolutions like it's her part-time job.  She was over on Saturday night and mentioned that she has 15 resolutions this year, which resulted in me making some sort of off-keel shrieking noise and waving my arms around like a giant featherless duck.  She posted them in her blog the other day though, and reading through them made me feel a bit more grounded.  They are things like: "1. go to the rainforest; 6. learn basic construction skillz; and 8. take a real vacation."  There are (obviously) 12 more, but I figure that I should probably refrain from plastering someone else's resolutions all over the internet.

Between Becca's attainable and realistic resolutions, Chow's list of food related resolutions, and the fact that my brain is beginning to feel as though it may implode if I don't hurry up and stuff it full of new things- I feel like 2010 might just be the perfect time to make my own.  Let's do this!

1. Learn how to make cheese.  Above all else.  My mom has made cheese, my friends have made cheese, my mom's cousin's husband and their cat have made cheese. I am long past due.  Lucky for me- The Cellar Homebrew in Greenwood sells kits, and I have easy access to great local milk.

2. Go back to school.  This is a big one- but it's time, and I'm ready.  

3. Get outside.  By outside I mean out of the city- and into the woods and dirt and ocean and mud.  This may actually lead to me buying a car again.  This time more along the lines of my first car, and less along the lines of my last car.

4. Expand my horizons in the kitchen.  There are an infinite number of things that I still have no idea how to prepare.  And plenty of things that I know how to prepare well- but only one way.  My goal right now is to make something new at least once every week.  This week it is an icebox cake, with homemade chocolate wafers (my first slice and bake cookies), caramel sauce, and my first time using marscapone.

5. Grow more food.  Last year was mostly experimental, and the fruits of my labor were minimal.  This year I have a better idea of what we'll actually use, what to look out for, and when to plant.  

6. Get a social life.  Seriously!  Right now I'm a huge homebody and I feel like I forget sometimes that I actually have friends.  I will admit that the winter months make me want to hibernate like nobodies business, but I'm starting to drive myself a little crazy.  Enough!

7. Take a real vacation.  Really.  A real one.  Even if it's just a long weekend.  I'm dying to go somewhere I've never been.


What is your take on making New Years resolutions?  Did you make any this year?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Giveaway! Handmade Owl Pendant Necklace!

Hellooooooo.  So, because I love you, and because I love a good Etsy artist- I've teamed up with the lovely Danielle of Handy Maiden to give away one of her ridiculously cute handmade clay pendant necklaces!


I first found her pieces while randomly poking around on Etsy, and fell in love love love with her floral bib necklace.  When I decided that I wanted to do another giveaway, she was the first artist that I thought to bother.  Lucky for me she's a good sport and doesn't mind my obnoxious emails full of 300 questions!  Each of her pieces are hand sculpted and painted, and then dipped in a clear varnish to make them shiny and sturdy.  Her pieces range from dinosaurs, to whales, flowers, sweet little owls, and even a tiny yak!  (I seriously almost died when I saw the yak. I love him.)

After much deliberation and serious consultation from some of my favorite people, we decided that this little owl guy was just too cute to pass up. 

He's even got a cute little owl butt!

If you're interested in winning yourself or someone else this sweet little guy- all you need to do is comment on this entry- it can be anything at all (keep it classy- even just say hello), and you're automatically entered.  I will randomly pick a winner this coming Friday, January 15th around 5PM Seattle (Pacific Standard) time, and announce it here.  You should be able to comment via your Google account- unregistered users please be sure to include your real name.  Also, please be sure to check out the rest of her shop- and if you decide to purchase something- be sure mention that you heard about her here!

* All photos are courtesy and property of Handy Maiden.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Link Love!

Friday seems like a good lazy day to post some of my favorite internet things.

- I am really excited about this (even though I still need to sign up... oops!), and I think that it's a perfectly genius idea.  The Slow Readers Book Club is not about reading slowly- it's about slowing down and taking time to read and enjoy a book.  Most of the discussion is done through email and then via blog posting.  Seriously- so cool!

- My Love For You Is A Stampede of Horses has a post up featuring the art of Gregory Euclide.  I love it.  I want to touch it.

Yes, grapes!

- Cold Antler Farm is one of my new favorite blogs.  Postcards from a Snow Day and One Hour Better are both wonderful, in very different ways.  Her insight is beautiful:

"For what it's worth, here is some advice from me. Don't attempt to be a drastically better person in the next calendar year. Don't plan on being thirty pounds thinner, or sixty-thousand dollars richer, or the front man of your own band. Instead, how about just trying to be a slightly better person in the next sixty minutes. This may sound like a weak attempt but it's not. Results happen slowly and only when we focus on what we want and who we want to become right now. If you want more money, for the next hour, don't spend any and try and pull a quarter off the floor of your car. If you want to lose weight, try not to eat that candy bar for the next hour, and walk up the stairs instead of taking the elevator. If you want to be kinder, spend the next hour on the phone with old friend and tell her you miss her. If you want to plant a garden, raise chickens, or own a farm—spend the next hour online ordering seed catalogs or going to the library for a book on coop building. Make small changes constantly and just try to meet that next turn of the clock one hour smarter, one hour thinner, one hour kinder, and one hour richer and watch your life change."

- How to Make Some Badass Brownies is exactly that.  And they are.  I made them last weekend and they're seriously so good.  I don't have a stand mixer so I beat mine by hand and I still had a perfect top crust.

- I am beginning to think that lamb might be my new favorite meat (aside from moose!), which is a little funny considering that I'm not much of a meat person (and that I was vegan a year ago!)  Either way- this recipe for lamb stew looks just perfect.

- The Locavore Way is next on my reading list.

- I'm sure most of you Facebook users noticed a crazy spree of women posting their bra color as their status yesterday.  It was somehow supposed to be in "support of breast cancer awareness" which I happen to have a very strong opinion about (bullshit).  I think it's summed up nicely here, here, here, and, most touchingly: here"Time for a little less “awareness” and a whole lot of “action”".

What are your favorites right now?

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Yikes!  I just signed up for Formspring where you can set up an account for people to ask you anything they want (anonymously!)  Go check it out, and ask me all of your burning (and not so burning) questions!

Thought I'd Have Learned by Now

Today was a nice combination of having nothing that needed to be done, and nothing that I really specifically felt like doing.  It took me into early afternoon before I was up and out of the apartment.  Sometimes the city makes me feel exhausted in ways that I never knew were possible.  There has always been something very therapeutic about being able to walk a quarter of a mile, and be somewhere with no other signs of human life.  I think that might be impossible here, especially considering that I don't own a car.  When I first moved to Seattle I was homesick a lot.  I lived in the middle of downtown and would go on a lot of walks along the water.  "Nature" here still feels very manufactured to me, but I am grateful that it at least exists to some extent.  Some days all I really want and need is to sit on something that isn't pavement or plastic, and listen to the sound of absolutely nothing.

I did a quick walk through of the Ballard Farmers Market- but didn't pick anything up, knowing that our CSA box will be here in the morning.  I finally met Christina of Nettletown and I'm always really happy when I come across someone who is doing something so big, yet still so lovely and down to earth.  I kept walking, with the intention of thrift shopping, but my walk there ended up being much more of the focus of my afternoon.  For the most part I enjoy walking everywhere, but I usually take busier and more direct routes, since I'm often walking alone at night.  Today my timing was perfect, so I took side streets and zig-zagged to avoid running into too many people.  It's funny to already live in such a quiet area of the city- but to still notice such a huge difference when you're in a neighborhood that isn't near any major streets.  The lack of constant noise is striking.


Seattle has always sort of fascinated me in the way that nothing is ever really dead here.  Even in the middle of winter- grass is still green, and you'll randomly come across a tree that has decided to go into bloom halfway through January. 



It's always just enough to make me remember what I'm doing here.
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