letter

Here is where I confess an unpopular opinion: I don’t really love summer, at least not the way all other people I know seem to. Food-wise it’s the best — fresh fruit, ripe tomatoes, barbecuing, cold Hefeweizens — but here’s the thing: I HATE BEING HOT. It makes me terribly grouchy. This summer we’ve already had an especially hot and sticky stretch (okay, we live in western Canada, so I know it’s not that bad but the HUMIDITY, BLERGH).

I’m much more into fall, mostly because I love wearing sweaters and drinking dark beer. That being said, we have been eating some delicious things this summer and I wanted to share a few of them with you.

My friends Liz and Claudia came over for a weekend, and we planned their entire visit around Saturday night dinner. After much email discussion, we settled on the most amazing burgers of all time, which are extremely labour-intensive, but completely worth it. Once a year or so, at least. We made the romesco sauce and the aioli from scratch as well, and sought out the softest, sweetest brioche buns. I may have peaked in terms of meals for 2014. We paired it with a very simple tomato and burrata salad and had some delicious raspberry custard cups for dessert, though we subbed in tiny, juicy strawberries. All in all, an A+, 10/10, totally unforgettable meal.

burrata

custard

Other things:

– Since March 7, when Sona was born, I have had one of these granola bars every single day. Actually, technically, I eat them in the middle of the night when I’m ravenous and nursing the baby. It gets me out of bed. That, and Sona’s unignorable crying. I’ve settled on a combination of pecans, almonds, wheat germ, coconut flakes, dried cranberries and chocolate chips. I don’t use the corn syrup and sub in maple syrup or honey instead, and I leave out the sugar entirely. I don’t forsee ever quitting baking these.

Iced coffee is a must these days. I keep a big Mason jar of the concentrate in the fridge and mix it with milk and simple syrup as needed. If you’re feeling especially decadent, sub in some sweetened condensed milk for a faux-Vietnamese-iced-coffee-type drink.

icedcoffee

– I’ve had hardly any time to read since March, and when I do read it’s usually frantic research about baby sleep habits, but I purchased Waiting for Birdy for my Kindle the week after Sona was born, and by the time she was two months old, I had read it three times. I am officially in love with Catherine Newman and her lovely family. That book struck such a chord for me in those first, hazy weeks, when it seemed like all I did was nurse and eat. I love the book so much that I ended up ordering a paperback copy of it so I had one to lend to friends. I could not recommend this book any more highly and feel envious for anyone who gets to read it for the first time.

– We’re listening to a lot of kids’ music these days, mainly They Might Be Giants, and the amazing Laura Veirs album Tumblebee. I especially love this song, which is about (spoiler alert!) a fox raiding a farmers’ pen, stealing a goose and a duck, and bringing them home for his cubs to nosh on. I especially love the way she cheerfully sings, “and the little ones chewed on the bones-o”. Stellar.

Some snapshots from life these days:

sona1

spices

Elyse came to visit again! And her parents, but let’s get real, she was the real attraction. She and Sona together make my heart go pitter-patter. Sweet sweet girls.

sonaelyse

julieelyse

bestfriends

sonaelyse2

radkasona

Heidi and Alex adopted the cutest puppy in the world and named him Renly for a very gay Baratheon. He loves Sona, and he looooooves Luka, but unfortunately neither of them reciprocate much affection for him. But that’s okay, because I follow him around trying to squeeze him all the time. LOOK at this FACE!

renlypup

We took some family photos outside. Most of them were a bit chaotic, but I look at them and all I see is luck, luck, luck.

piasona

sona2

family

family2

marksona

No, really. Look at my people.

marksona2

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star

I had meant to update during Christmas, show off pictures of our (very miniscule amounts of) decorations, our little tree, etc., but December got away from me in a rather lovely way. This year, for the first time in ages (maybe ever?) I truly felt relaxed, not stressed about gifts, not overwhelmed by malls and awful music, and crazy consumerism. Mostly that’s because we ordered a lot of gifts online, drew names within Mark’s extended family, and just chilled the eff out. The baby was a good distraction because I didn’t have the energy to do a lot of shopping, and anyway, we’re both trying very hard to slow down and be in the moment. I feel like my new year really began at that mindfulness class we took in November.

The first weekend of December, I whisked Mark away to nearby Salt Spring Island, one of our favourite places and a short 35-minute ferry ride from home. I had been wanting to do something nice for him for many reasons, but mostly because he has been a rockstar these past few months. There have been many times when I’ve felt him holding me together, and though that sounds gross and co-dependent, all I mean is that he has been a true partner in every sense of the word. I am so happy to be married to him, and I see how hard he tries all the time, and how he sneaks into the baby’s room to sit in the glider, how he talks to her every day and suggested we learn “Two of Us” on the mandoline and guitar so she could hear it in utero and then maybe recognize it out here in the real world, how he is always the first one at a dinner party washing dishes, and how all children flock to him because they can sense his genuine radness. I love him, yes, but I just also like him so much. I wanted to say thank you in some small miniscule way, so I booked a room at a beautiful, tucked-away bed and breakfast. We had such a relaxing time, and just wandered around the town, went to a Christmas craft fair, contemplated attending the chili cookoff and Raffi concert (!!!) but decided against it, enjoyed the soaker tub in our room and ate schnitzel. Weird and wonderful. We also visited the ridiculously amazing headquarters of the Salt Spring Island Cheese Company, where we met a little friend and bought a few snacks.

ssidog

ssicheese

Also in December:

Luka slept. A lot.

sleepyluka

sleepyluka2

sleepyluka1

My grandmother called from India with a list of girls names for us (I can’t read my writing on a lot of these):

names

I bought more fabric and started making baby things like a crazy person. More on that in an upcoming post, but I made several of these super adorable and very easy owls. These things came together incredibly fast and were very satisfying to make.

stuffedowls

fabric

I made and drank a lot of hot chocolate. I use this recipe but usually add some cinnamon, cayenne pepper and nutmeg. Don’t skip the immersion blender step — it seems fussy but transforms the texture of the milk into pure velvety goodness.

hotchocolate

We rang in the new year with two of our best friends, a dog that had made his way up to bed several hours earlier, and four and a half pounds of Pok Pok chicken wings. I stayed up until almost two, which is almost unheard of for me even when not pregnant. I woke up the next morning to the smells of the best breakfast ever, and in fact I may already have peaked in terms of breakfasts for 2014. Thank you H & A.

pokpokwings

nydaybreakfast

2013 was a very good year in many respects, especially from June on, but I have a sneaking suspicion that 2014 will be even better.

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oatmeal

Tomorrow I’ll be 29 weeks pregnant, and I have to say that it’s been mostly a pleasant experience. I did have a few weeks of absolutely dreadful morning sickness, but some Diclectin and a healthy dose of milking the situation for sympathy helped. I haven’t had any super strong cravings, so despite the fact that I had always sort of fantasized about sending Mark out for french fries in the middle of the night, I haven’t needed to do it yet. (YET.) I have, however, had some pretty strong aversions to certain types of food, and this has been a bit challenging. We’re not big meat-eaters in general, but our meat consumption has dwindled considerably since June. Just the smell of most types of meat cooking has been enough to turn my stomach. Chicken in particular, which is like the least offensive, blandest animal protein I can think of, has been a huge trigger for me. This has made meal planning a bit tricky at times, but luckily I have a black binder full of tried-and-true recipes that we’ve been relying on pretty heavily these last few months. These are sourced from many random places, but all of them have saved my ass in the last six months.

I am a bit of an oatmeal whore, and constantly on the lookout for new recipes and topping ideas. This recipe for April Bloomfield’s porridge incorporates both steel-cut and regular oats and I think it might be my new standard against which all other oatmeals must measure up. One thing: do not, and I repeat, DO NOT, use the same amount of salt listed here. I can’t quite figure out how that measurement could possibly be correct, and I looooooove salt. I used Maldon and decreased it to a 1/2 teaspoon, one-third (!) of the original suggestion. I followed the recipe exactly the first time and it was so overly salty I couldn’t finish it, and Mark wouldn’t even touch it. I like it with a number of different toppings, but the other morning I had it with milk, maple syrup, and toasted pecans (pictured above) and it put me in a good mood for the rest of the day.

This butternut squash and chickpea salad makes for one of my favourite winter lunches. Since there is little I detest more than trying to peel a raw butternut squash, I always just poke a few holes in it and roast it at 425 F for 45 minutes or so, and then it’s much more accommodating. Also, I have tried many, many brands of tahini over the years, and now swear by this brand, based on a hot tip from the owner of the Middle Eastern grocery store I frequent. It somehow manages to stay soft and creamy, and doesn’t have the bitter aftertaste that  a lot of commercial brands of tahini have.

Another recipe I picked up from Orangette is this devastatingly delicious pan of brownies. Julia Child’s brownies; need I say more? The list of ingredients is a little shocking to behold, so I make them maybe twice a year, and only when I can give them away real fast, but if you want to make someone fall in love with you and/or stop crying, this should do the trick, especially if you slightly underbake them and also use Maldon sea salt in the place of regular salt.

I’ve been yearning for a lot of vegetarian Indian food lately, but haven’t had a lot of energy to make anything too fussy. This aloo gobi and this dahl have hit the spot with minimal effort. I find the key with Indian cooking (actually, many types of cooking) is to take spice measurements lightly, and in fact, I often double the amounts of spices listed. Obviously don’t do this with, like, dried red chilies or something, but in general, I err on the side of whatever the opposite of caution is. Carelessness?

Shredded carrot salad with harissa and feta, from the archives of my all-time favourite food blog, Smitten Kitchen. This is another lunchtime standard for me, and is so incredibly fresh and zippy and tasty. I don’t always have mint around, so I often leave that out. I use super creamy Macedonian feta which is weirdly the only kind of feta I’m really into. This, plus pita and hummus, or some dolmades, or a hard-boiled egg, is the perfect lunch.

I have many, many more recipes I could share with you, and I will another day. Please cross your fingers that this baby is not a picky eater, though I know that resistance is futile.

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teaembroidery

Quiet November days, and I’m so glad life has slowed down a little bit. We had an impressive number of visitors this fall, and all of them were so easy to entertain; the kind of friends to whom you can abruptly announce that you’re taking a nap and then pass out for three hours in the middle of the afternoon, knowing that they’ll be just fine.

Our friends Megan and Kristopher came out for a few days, and seeing them was great and all, but they brought their golden retriever Molly (named after a fellow redhead) and I basically exploded. Witness this ridiculous kitchen floor cuddle puddle:

cuddlepuddle

Luka and Molly got along just fine, but neither of them showed too much interest in the other. I think Luka’s more of a guy-dog dog. And a guy dog. Sorry, did I say “guy”? I meant to type “gay”. Luka is clearly a gay dog.

lukamolly

Here is what happens when you slather two dogs’ noses in peanut butter and then take out your camera:

lmpeanutbutter

lmpeanutbutter2

lmpeanutbutter3

In the evenings we would all pile onto the couch for cocktails (everyone else), mocktails (me, ugh), and dog love. Look at these handsome gentlemen and their furry companions! By the way, I fully realize I have now become the biggest, stupidest idiot posting pictures of my dog every time I blog, but wouldn’t you rather see that than pictures of my meals? No? Okay then.

menanddogs

Speaking of meals, we made a dutch baby for breakfast the other morning, which, aside from being a really unsettling name for a dish, is basically just a glorified excuse to eat Yorkshire pudding for breakfast. Which I am obviously totally fine with.

dutchbaby

I bought a new chair for my studio and I’ve been spending long hours in there getting a bunch of new things ready for my shop. I have so much intimidation and lack of confidence and fear surrounding it. Does anyone else wonder if they’re constantly doing things the “correct” way? I sometimes feel like Mark is my sounding board for everything, and though that can be helpful at times, I know it’s not always super healthy. I probably need to be okay with making more mistakes, but I feel somewhat paralyzed at the thought of that. I guess I’d better figure this out in the next three months before I have to teach someone else how to be confident.

plaidchair

riverluka

thankyouseal

Mark and I took a day-long class on everyday mindfulness last weekend. We signed up at the last minute, and to be honest, I didn’t really want to wake up and go to the class when the time came. It ended up being such a wise decision, though. Despite a few hippy-dippy-ish moments (like another student who “namaste”-d us all at the end, UGH), it really reset something inside me. I hadn’t realized how competitive and irritable I’ve been feeling lately, and how overwhelmed I’ve been by the need for constant stimulation. I know this is a byproduct of our society, and that in some ways I’m better than other people, but still I’ve been backsliding into the the distraction abyss . Mark and I have been talking a lot lately about how we want to be present for our kid. I would prefer if she didn’t know the words “Instagram” or “Twitter” for at least a few years, and though I know she’ll be exposed to it everywhere we go in the world, I also want her to feel like she’s more important than our phones or iPads or Kindles or whatever. We both came home and quit Instagram, and then I went to dinner with girlfriends, and then we went to a birthday party for our friend Alex, and our daughter kicked me in the junk the whole time, and that was better than any number of “likes” on some shittily-filtered photo.

shadowlight

(Back soon with store updates and a list of delicious recipes).

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We’ve had two solid months of travelling to see friends, and other friends in town to visit. It’s been one of the best falls I can remember, and every day as I’m walking around I remember the little buddy I’m carrying with me all the time and I feel so, so happy.

Incidentally, that little buddy is a lady (buddette?)! No one was more surprised by this news than I was, having for years pictured myself surrounded by dudes. Girls kind of scare me, but also I have tons of beautiful handmade clothes from my grandmother, but then there’s the teenage years, but I had a rough time as an adolescent so I know I’ll be able to relate, and also…okay, I’m just gonna stop here. This could go on for a while.

Our friends Radka and Allan came to visit for a whole week, though with a brief getaway to Quadra Island. They have the cutest Wheaton Terrier named Boston (Allan’s a hardcore runner) and we got to dogsit while they were gone. It took all of my basic human decency not to steal him for myself. Luka was in heaven.

lukaboston

Canadian Thanksgiving happened while they were here, and we decided to host this year. Probably because of that, our oven chose to break four days before we had to cook a 17-pound turkey, but thankfully between my research skillz and Mark’s amazing handiness, we bought a replacement part and fixed the problem. We had so much help — my mother-in-law brought about four dishes — and we used this foolproof turkey recipe. There’s a reason why it has so many 5-star reviews. I finished this Purl Bee quilted table runner right before Thanksgiving, and Mark had made a beautiful new top for our dining room table, so we had lots to show off.

marktable

quiltedtablerunner

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thanksgivingtable

thanksgivingtable3

After our friends left, we took a quick trip down the Oregon Coast. We both wanted to have one last pre-baby vacation, and had at first considered using our Air Miles and flying to San Francisco or New York and just eating delicious foods, but decided instead to do something a little more spontaneous and easier to cancel in case of an emergency. We hopped in our sexy red minivan, and hit the road. First we made a pit stop at Trader Joe’s, the holy grail of grocery stores (at least to me). We had to pick up road snacks, you know.

chocolatechips

The coast was beautiful, but to be honest, not dissimilar to our own gorgeous coastline. We meandered for a few days, but after several small towns, realized we both wanted the same thing: to make our way home. Not gonna lie, missing Luka was a huge part of this.

oregoncoast2

markpiababy

oregoncoast

 We ended up in Portland for a day and half, and stayed in Nob Hill, right around the corner from my new favourite bakery, St. Honore. THAT PLACE WAS BONKERS. I have half a mind to drive back and/or move there for the kouign-amann alone. We ended up booting it home from Portland on Halloween day, and as we pulled into our driveway with our stinky, exhausted dog in the back of the van, I realized again how much I love where I live. Two years ago we were on the road trip, eating in crappy restaurants or cobbling together meals from the grocery store every night, sleeping in a van. I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything, but I’m also so grateful for where we are now.

markluka

This blog has been light on crafts lately, mostly because I’ve been very very awful about adding things to my store. I am making things, just not really documenting them. I have several new products for the store next week, and of course I’m making special items for futurebaby. Here’s a sneak peek at something Mark and I have been dreaming about and working on for her room. Only 113 days to go, but right now that seems like forever.

babytree

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Mark is out for the night, at a bachelor party for one of his good friends that involved golfing and something called a “pickle” pub crawl. I’m in bed at the late hour of 9:34 after consuming more Nutella than I care to describe. Wild and crazy times at our house, as usual.

I’m just about to settle in with the People magazine about the new royal baby, something I’ve been looking forward to all day, but suddenly remembered a recipe I’d been wanting to share for a while. Let me start at the beginning. See this lovely, slightly skeptical-looking lady below? That’s my grandma, who I call Mama (pronounced “Mumma”, not sure why it’s spelled the other way, but that’s how it’s been for 29 years so stop asking questions, non-existent reader).

mama

I could write ten blog posts about her and how inspiring (and often maddening) she is, but I’ll save those words for later. Let’s just say that she’s pretty badass and probably the person who I am most alike in this world. We have a lot of similar quirks, like absolutely loving eating something spicy and drinking a hot cup of milky tea at the same time, a constant desire for hot water bottles, and the ability to fall asleep almost anywhere (her: standing upright, in the middle of a conversation; me: on the back of a motorcycle trip through Vietnam). We also differ in a lot of ways — she’s 88 and very stuck in her ways. There are things about her that drive me crazy (and vice versa), and oftentimes I think I speak way too fast for her to understand me so she just smiles and nods.

All that aside, she is, hands down, the best cook ever. I’ve been watching a lot of Masterchef recently, and besides thinking that Joe Bastianich is a total goober, I keep picturing Mama storming onto the set and blowing everyone else out of the effing water. Then I imagine the judges saying mean things and I get all indignant and mentally act out rants against them. Does anyone else do this? Sometimes when I’m showering, I also imagine being interviewed by Rolling Stone magazine, and I will, like, mouth responses to them. I think I may have said too much. (I also used to apply Bonne Bell chapstick and kiss a Taylor Hanson poster before bed).

ANYWAY. When I was little, we used to visit India roughly every other summer, and the foods I ate at her table are still my favourite things in the world. I could list these meals for hours, but the thing is, it could never mean the same thing to you as it does to me. How can I explain exactly why I love plain parathas and salted yogurt so much? It’s so boring and bland, yet I would pick it as my final meal. It just tastes like comfort to me. Mama also makes the most delicious Keralan-style fish curry, using a clay pot that’s held the same dish hundreds, if not thousands, of times. It is the only food that makes me immediately start salivating when I get a whiff of it, and the great tragedy is that I can no longer eat it, due to a fin fish allergy I developed as an adult. I can’t even eat the gravy. Thinking about it makes me want to cry a little.

But here is something I can eat: the South Indian breakfast dish known as uppuma (sometimes spelled upma). Bear with me when I describe this, because it sounds totally wacko, but believe me when I say that it is more than the sum of its parts. It basically consists of dry roasted semolina (I use Cream of Wheat from a box), fried together with mustard seeds, onions, green chillies, ginger, and black gram seeds (also known as urad dal; I have often made it without these), and curry leaves (again, I usually leave these out). After roasting everything until it’s nice and brown, you add some water and let it all cook together until it’s soft. At this point, you can eat it plain as a savoury dish, but I like to have it the same way I ate it as a child, and sprinkle it with a teensy bit of sugar, and then eat it with a banana. Yes, I realize this likely does not sound appetizing at all. Perhaps it won’t be to you. But I have this recipe, written in my grandmother’s words, and I’m feeling generous.

Ammini’s Uppuma (cut and pasted from an email; see notes above regarding omissions)

My Dearest Grand child Pia,
I am extremely sorry for not giving you the Uppuma recepe that you had asked for.  in my last letter, I am really very sorry about that, so I shall give it now.
Uppuma—    1/2 cup  semolina—-roasted  dry[  -no oil  ]   till not discoloured, set aside.
1 large onion -chopped fairly fine.
1/2inch piece ginger, 2 or3 green chillies-[according to potency and taste] chopped fine
curry leaves- few
mustard seeds – 1/4 tsp    black gram  seeds- 1/2  tsp
Oil-1tablspn or more- as you like it—— little ghee or butter may be added for extra taste!
Method-
Heatoil in fry pan or wok , pop mustardseeds, addblack grams    andfry till light brown, add the chopped onion, curry leaves, ginger, green chillies ,add enough salt and fry well on slow fire  till soft  and light brown add the  roastedsemolina fry together for alittle while more  then add1cup hot water, let it boil stir   and keep covered for about five minutes . Check  on waterandsalt , add more if necessary. Uppuma should be soft and moistwhen done.  You will know from the taste and appearence.  Little butteror ghee may be added to enhance the taste as per your wish . Finally garnish with a little chopped coriander leaves
You should try and let me know of the result.

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The weather has been glorious here. People in Victoria love to talk about the weather more than almost anything else (except also the Queen and traffic and changes to bridges and ferry prices), but coming from Calgary, where the snow has literally come down in June, I’ve never felt much inclined to join in the rain-bashing. This year, though, the winter really hit me and I realized it has to do with the utter dearth of sunlight. In Alberta, sure, it snows all the time and the temperature goes down to -40 with a windchill, but we have chinooks, and you see the sun every day. But spring is around the corner and we’re planning our vegetable garden (the only kind of gardening I care about) and there are weddings and trips to look forward to.

This past weekend two of my best friends came out for a lady weekend here with Heidi and I. We all met our first days in residence – we were all on the same floor, even – and I don’t know, magic happens when we’re together. For example, here is a picture of Michelle and I when we were 21, and therefore at the very pinnacle of our hotness:

yikes

Usually this magic is aided by delicious food and drinks. We went to a fantastic wine-tasting event, ’cause we’re classy like that. It ended rather…messily, but not before we had some amazing Vancouver Island wines and also a lot of burgers.

We also had this unfortunate collection of drinks, which was just as cough-syrupy as it looks but we drank it, damnit. Yes we did.

awfuldrinks

Aside from that, we mostly just talked — about horrible, hilarious memories, about all kinds of relationships, about our health, about everything. It’s what we do. We made a fancy dinner on Saturday (mushroom and pancetta risotto, total adult comfort food) and Heidi teased me about my bossiness in the kitchen.

I have many strengths — I can say the alphabet backwards (and I will tell you that a lot when I’m tipsy), I am super cheerful in the morning (Mark gives me a wide berth because I always want to talk about all the hours that passed while we were sleeping), I can almost always tell you the correct time, give or take a few minutes, without looking at a watch — but passivity around cooking is not one of them. I admit it, I love to order people around in the kitchen, kind of like Anthony Bourdain, but with more hair and slightly less cursing.

To wit, here are a bunch of food-related items I want to tell you about and really, you should just listen to me and make/eat them.

I know I talk about Smitten Kitchen all the time and so does everyone else, blah blah blah. But there is a reason why Deb has made such a name for herself, and the reason is that she is almost fanatical about choosing recipes and streamlining them. I have not made a single thing from her website that has let me down. This raspberry buttermilk cake is such a good example of the kinds of things she posts — simple but delicious, and the kind of thing that really tricks people into thinking you’re just an awesome effortless cook who wears adorable aprons and can whip stuff like this up with her eyes closed. I love you, Deb.

raspberrybuttermlkcake

Something we make all the time is this (admittedly hilariously-named) glory bowl. It’s from one of the Whitewater Cooks recipe books, which I don’t yet own, but if a certain nameless ginger man was reading this, he might consider surprising me with it some time. The best thing about this recipe is that I hardly ever follow it. I use the basic components — rice, greens, shredded vegetables, delicious sauce — and just add whatever I have around. Sometimes we grill up some tofu for added protein, but you could add leftover chicken or any kind of meat, really. I love avocado, so that usually goes in. I don’t really like beets, so I substitute cucumber instead, and usually peanuts for the almonds. I pretty much put every single Chinese condiment I have into the sauce, and though it never tastes the same twice, I like it that way. We also keep all the elements separate in the fridge, and then amalgamate them just before serving. Guys, just make this.

glorybowl

A few other recipes I adore:

Ginger Fried Rice, from Smitten Kitchen. This is one of those meals I love to eat when Mark is out, for some reason, even though he also really likes it. Sometimes I add sweet Chinese sausage, if I have some around.

We made these crispy potatoes the other morning for brunch, when all the girls were over. Delicious and oddly impressive.

Ina Garten is a gem and a national treasure. This turkey lasagna is off the hook, and really easy to make, since you don’t have to boil the noodles, just soak them in really hot water (something I will always do in the future. Why does boiling lasagna noodles seem like such a big deal?). Watch the salt on this one — I tend to want more salt in almost everything, but this was a little too much for me.

This article on making perfect boiled eggs of varying consistencies is so over-the-top in terms of research that it makes me laugh and also warms my heart. I’m not as fanatical as this, but for a perfect medium-boiled egg, I fill a small saucepan up with cold tap water, put the egg in, place it on the stove uncovered, bring it just to a boil, then turn it off, cover it with the lid, and let it sit for exactly four and a half minutes. It works for me. I also salt and pepper every single bite of my egg because I have no children yet and currently have time for ridiculous stuff like that.

toasteggs

Speaking of eggs (both mine and chickens, waka-waka!) I bought some duck eggs from a woman in my choir who runs a farm up island. I had never tried them before and didn’t know what to expect, but they were absolutely glorious. Such a rich, delicious yolk.

duckeggs

One last order recommendation: I bought this cookbook on a whim a few weeks ago, and truly believe it might be the best purchase ever. So far we’ve made about three or four of the recipes, but I already think it might be a no-hitter. Except that it’s full of hits. Wait, I don’t understand baseball metaphors. We eat a lot of oatmeal here, and there are two whole pages of oatmeal topping suggestions, both savory (fried egg, tamari, scallions, and fried garlic) and sweet (dried cherries, toasted hazelnuts, and shaved dark chocolate). The other day for lunch, I made a spinach and quinoa salad with pear, hazelnuts, and a lemon-tahini dressing (I added Macedonian feta, since it’s the best), and it was so spring-y and just…clean-tasting. I know that that’s an annoying description, but it honestly just made me feel good. I don’t know the author, but this book is already one of my favourites.

quinoasalad

This ended up to be much more verbose than I meant, which is a first for me. I will tell you more recipes soon! We’re off to Portland now, to eat our way through the city like Pac-Man and Ms.Pac-Man (wow, I realize now how super-sexist that is). Back soon with descriptive tales of what we ate and drank, and likely terribly pretentious Instagram pictures.

(Bonus picture of Mark and Luka wrapped in a tender embrace)

markluka

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Guys, I’m pretty sure I have consumption. I know that’s super old-timey, but I’ve looked up a lot of the symptoms and I’m like 99% sure I have it. Been feeling sick for the last few weeks, and it sort of waxes and wanes, but Monday night I went to bed with a killer sore throat and since then, I’ve just been a disgusting mess. I went to the doctor yesterday and he was all, “No, no, it’s just a viral infection” but I think he was witholding the truth from me. I’ll try to be brave and saintly like Beth in Little Women, but given my admitted history of sick behaviour, I’ll probably act more like this.

I feel so much guilt about being sick, probably because I was once sent to school with pneumonia (sorry, mom, you know it’s true), and also because I hate missing out on things. I’ve missed two weeks of choir in a row and feel super stressed about that. We’re supposed to go to Vancouver tomorrow to see my boyfriend play, but I don’t know. I kind of just want to sleep for a week and see if that fixes stuff.

Given my terrible vintage disease, not much has happened in the past week, but I did put socks on Luka.

lukasocks1

lukasocks2

And I also baked a bourbon chocolate pecan pie for Mark’s cousin Lisa. She loooooves this pie so much that it makes me laugh. I use this recipe, add a couple squares of semi-sweet chocolate and also a healthy splash of spiced rum or bourbon, because why wouldn’t you? I also usually use a cheater crust since it’s all about the filling with this one.

pie

If I don’t succumb to my terrible disease, I’ll be back soon with more recipe stuff (including an amazing French lentil salad recipe from Mark) and new embroidery. If I DO succumb, please make sure James Brown is played at my funeral. I am not even a tiny bit kidding.

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seattleaquarium

Four years ago today, Mark proposed to me in this exact spot outside the Seattle Aquarium. It was a bit random, which I liked very much. It was Friday the 13th. I had lost a crown while biting into a piece of salmon that morning at Pike Place Market, so I was rather distracted. Also, I hadn’t wanted to leave the hotel room in the first place — I was busy soaking up an old episode of Full House (we didn’t have a TV then and I was always transfixed by them when we stayed at hotels). We had dinner reservations, but the restaurant was just down the street, so there was really no hurry. Mark kept trying to get me to turn the TV off so we could go for a walk before dinner; he was oddly insistent on it, which is super out-of-character for him, so really I should have known something was up, but I didn’t. We went for our walk, down by the pier, and I know now that he was trying to find a place that didn’t have people around, but this was fairly hard in downtown Seattle on a Friday night. Eventually we wandered over to the aquarium. I was leaning on a railing, gazing out at the water, absentmindedly probing at the newly-gaping hole in my mouth (thankfully it was a molar so you couldn’t really notice), thinking about seals. I turned around and there he was on one knee, proffering this beautiful ring that he designed himself. I was in such shock, all I could do was curse. Clouds of expletives flew out of my mouth and I just stared at him, repeating filthy words over and over again. He eventually asked me to throw a “yes” in there, and I did. We made it to Le Pichet, a restaurant I’d been longing to go to mainly to order their famous roast chicken, which takes an hour to make and serves two people. I’d been dreaming of this chicken — this was before I could handily roast one myself (humblebrag) and I’d read extensively about how good this particular piece of poultry was. We ordered it, as well as some champagne. I then proceeded to alternately cry and laugh throughout the entire meal. I ate about two bites of that chicken, and we couldn’t take it back to the hotel because we didn’t have a fridge in our room. We stopped at a corner store on the way back to pick up a calling card so we could phone our moms, as well as some wine. I fell off the curb and hurt my ankle. I woke up the next morning at 6 am and took a weepy shower, still trying to fully comprehend the whole thing. I was almost scared by how happy I was.

I know how nauseating all of that probably seems. Sometimes I’m even a little embarrassed at how much I love being married. I didn’t have the best examples of happy marriages, though Mark did, and I never in a million years thought it would happen for me, let alone at a relatively young age. Though I know it’s not effortless — we both work really hard at our marriage — it is easy for me in a way that no other relationships in my life have ever been. I could write a million more posts about him, and I probably will, but here’s one last thing: If we end up having a kid that’s even half as decent and kind (and unendingly patient) as he is, I’ll be overjoyed.

markpia

Spring is coming, and we have more light in the evening, and I cannot stress how much this has affected my mood. It’s amazing! I wish I could be taking advantage of this gorgeous weather by walking Luka, but he cut his paw pretty badly a couple of weeks ago and is currently waiting for five stitches to heal. He has a little doggie cast and we put a sock on him when he goes outside, and he has to wear the cone of shame when we leave him at home alone. Poor guy. On a related note, I signed up for pet insurance today, something I originally thought was a huge scam, but given the thousands we’ve spent at the vet since we adopted him five months ago, it seems like a no-brainer.

Been in the kitchen a lot lately, inspired by all the cookbooks I own and the hundreds of internet recipes I have bookmarked. I’ve been making this for lunch quite a a bit, though I usually top it with a fried or poached egg for some added protein. And also because I devoutly subscribe to the theory that a fried egg makes pretty much everything taste better (like leftover toasted, buttered cornbread OH MAN I WANT SOME CORNBREAD).

cauliflower

chocolate cake

oj

I also finally finished a quilt I’ve been working on for a while — I’m calling it my Februweary lap quilt, because I did most of the piecing during some especially soul-suckingly grey February days. I really like this one, and contemplated making it a full-size quilt, but ended up being too lazy and wanting it done quickly…even though it still took me about six weeks from start to finish. I used this quilt block and it came together pretty quickly.

quilting

quiltfront

quiltback

quiltcloseup

quiltbinding

signedquilt

Sneak peek of new embroidery pattern (inspired by Mr. Tom Haverford) and some vintage embroidery patterns my mother-in-law passed on to me. Some of them are from the early ’40s! I’m probably gonna embroider everything in our house. Luka had better watch out.

vintagetransfers

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…of things that, without fail, make me cry.

  1. The last three minutes of the Freaks and Geeks finale — that entire Grateful Dead song, Lindsay telling her mom, “I love you” at the bus depot, and then everything that follows (I won’t spoil it, because if you haven’t seen it you should drop everything and watch the entire series RIGHT NOW). Perfection.
  2. The last paragraph of this chapter of one of my favourite books, The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri. More poignant if you’ve read the book and know the context of the relationship, but still such beautiful writing on its own.
  3. The dedication from the seventh and final Harry Potter novel. I don’t know what it is about this, but I completely lose my shit every single time I read it. One time Heidi and I were sitting in a restaurant talking about it and we both started weeping. Coming-of-age stories always slay me; the series finale of The Wonder Years evokes the exact same hysterics.

…of recipes I could make and eat daily:

  1. This coconut lentil soup. We always, and I mean ALWAYS, have some in the freezer. We’re making it tonight! It is a culinary miracle. Although raisins are obviously the devil’s turds tears so we leave those out.
  2. Mushroom bourgignon from Smitten Kitchen. Deb (I like to imagine we’re on a first name basis) is my cooking guru and I have never once been led astray by her. She also has the cutest baby I’ve ever seen.
  3. Last but not least, this ridiculously dense, rich chocolate cake, something I love so much that I made 10 of them and served them at our wedding (totally copying Molly). We received so many compliments on it and I make one every year on our anniversary.

…of things that make me laugh like an idiot:

  1. Bizkit the Sleepwalking Dog. I just…I can’t even. It’s the best thing I’ve ever seen.
  2. Our friends Eve and Justin have a five-year-old son named Oliver who is basically the coolest, funniest kid ever. A couple of years ago, I was over at their house for a visit, and Oliver looked up from playing and asked me, “Umm…do you have legs?” I answered in the affirmative, and then he said, “Yeah, my grandma and grandpa have legs too. Legs are AWESOME.” I would like to give birth to a child exactly like this.
  3. This whole piece on the perils of drinking. Vintage Steve Carell and Stephen Colbert. Yum.

…of my top three favourite pictures of Luka with stuff on his head:

1.

lukajustinbieber

2.

lukawoodenspoon

3.

lukawoods

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