blueteacup

Hey, remember that time I had a blog and I updated it and stuff? Yeah, that time.

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve written the words “life has been crazy” on my blog, I’d have, like, six dollars. But seriously, I don’t even know what’s happening most of the time. Mostly it’s been choir — last week I sang for 22.5 hours. We had our spring performance last night and although it wasn’t perfect, there was a moment near the end when I relaxed enough to hear what we were making with our voices and a little bolt of electricity shot through me. My hands unfurled and it was magic. We still have a few things coming up but all the super intensive choir stuff is over for the year.

In other news, Luka and I went on a walk. I was wearing stripes, polka dots, AND plaid. Go ahead and inscribe “FASHION MAVERICK” on my grave.

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Lately it feels like my walks with Luka are the only chance I have to be completely free of external distractions. Actually, never mind the external distractions — sometimes it feels like my mind just won’t shut up. I am working on this. I quit Twitter, because I have a slightly obsessive personality and can’t bear to feel like I’ve missed something — it’s either all or nothing for me and it was just too much chatter. Walks with Luka are my new Twitter.

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I keep thinking about where I am this year compared to last year at this time. We were in Berlin, and I was deeply unhappy. All I did was fret about what we were doing, and how I was starting to hate it, and how guilty I felt for that. All I wanted was a home, to sleep in the same bed every night, to go for a walk in the woods I knew. I’m trying to remember that feeling these days, when I get the urge to run away from the responsibilities and irritants of everyday life. This is what I wanted, and I am so grateful for it. I’m trying to be like Luka, who spends his days moving from one patch of sunlit floor to another. He finds the light, no matter where it is. That’s my new philosophy.

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Back soon with a free embroidery pattern that involves glittery gold thread! Oh yes.

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Thinking about Boston and how sometimes there’s really nothing to say. The world can be so terribly unjust, and I know that I’m guilty of trying to block many of the atrocities I’ve witnessed because they make me feel uncomfortable to think about.  I can get indignant about gun control, and bigotry, and violence in pop culture, and I do, frequently. Alternatively, I can choose fear and panic about airplane rides, or tourist attractions. Sometimes I do that, too. I have no solutions. Maybe all I can do is live my life in a way that is meaningful to me, to surround myself with beauty and people I love, and to try to be present and grateful for what I have. To be perfectly honest, I fail at this approximately 95% of the time. But the thing is, I’m starting to suspect that the trying is what matters.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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)

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I LIVED!!!! To celebrate, here is a GIGANTIC picture of me shortly before my rarely-discussed first wedding. It was the ’80s, so I was wearing a lot of eye makeup.

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I have turned the corner on my terrible case of consumption, though not before having a full on breakdown in the car and sobbing to Mark about how, and I quote myself directly here, “I’m just SO NICE!”. He was pretty good about it, but later that evening very gently said, “I really hope you get better soon”, and I know it wasn’t because he was worried about my cough.

Ahem. Anyway, things are looking up! It’s supposed to be 22 degrees here on Easter Sunday, and I am once again reminded of why I moved away from horrible snowy Calgary to this hippie paradise.

We did make it over to Vancouver. We had originally wanted to go to Vij’s (I’ve been wanting to for years because LAMB POPSICLES), but I refused to go when I couldn’t taste properly. Instead we did a lot of beer drinking, mostly at the fantastic Alibi Room, where we went two days in a row for their stellar beer selection and ridiculously good chicken wings. I also had a flight of whiskey at The Irish Heather, because we’re going to Ireland in June and, like any possible future librarian, I take research very seriously.

The highlight of the trip was seeing the amazing Josh Ritter. This is now the fifth time I’ve seen him live, and he just gets better and better. I love this dude so much that it’s slightly obscene. I once wrote him an absolutely wacko letter and sent him a really ugly green scarf, and he was nothing but gracious in return. Also, the second Christmas we were dating, I told Mark that what I really wanted was a pocket-sized Josh Ritter I could carry around in my pocket. I sent him this incredible picture to illustrate what I meant:

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When we exchanged gifts, he gave me a stainless steel flask engraved with the classic phrase, “I’ve made a huge mistake”, and this adorable 5-inch-tall figurine. I pretty much had to marry him after that.

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Anyway, Mr. Ritter was his usual joyful self. If you’ve seen him perform, you’ll know what I mean when I say that his smile could power a train. He is so unabashedly grateful and happy about what he gets to do for a living, and it’s basically the most endearing thing to see. Aside from this, obviously:

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We also made it to Finch’s, the most adorable little coffee shop. Its tweeness can be a bit suffocating at times, and it’s run by a bunch of hipsters, so it’s not the most efficient place (they forgot my second boiled egg not once but twice!), but the masala chai is amazing (and I’ve had my fair share of chai since I receive at least one or two packets of tea as gifts each year for some reason, and also I’ve had it on the roadside in India), and no one can more artfully arrange an avocado. NO ONE, I say.

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After Vancouver, I took a very short road trip to Seattle with my best friend and a car full of bridesmaids, where we hit up bridal stores, ate a lot of serious pie, and I accidentally bought an $8 chocolate bar filled with crumbled potato chips. Totally worth it, obviously.

Back to reality now and that includes a bunch of recipes I want to share, and also a free embroidery pattern coming soon! Here are a couple more pictures of my buddy for you (no judgment on the bra picture, he was feeling self conscious about lack of exercise).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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chocolate cake

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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.

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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.

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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.

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2.

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3.

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This is why I have a self-imposed rule that I don’t buy Nutella — because when I do, I am capable of plowing through a jar of it in less than a week. But I put it on rye bread sometimes, so that’s kind of healthy, maybe?

(Also, I married a saint.)

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kennedylakepano

I’m not alone in thinking this, I know, but February is just endless, isn’t it? There’s this beautiful Dar Williams song that I know is supposed to symbolize the death of a relationship, but when I hear it, all I can emphatically think is, “YES! February is terrible!” I have this idea for a February advent calender containing miniature bottles of booze. Maybe next year. Now that I’ve typed that I’m terrified someone will steal my idea. I have so few good ones, you know. Marrying this guy was one of them.

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We packed up our beloved minivan Django (named for this guy, not Quentin Tarantino) and headed up the island for a couple of days. We stopped for donuts on the way and then again to take in the absolutely stunning Kennedy Lake.

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It was our first time leaving Luka, and our initial plans of dropping him off the kennel fell through due to kennel cough he’d picked up a few days earlier. Our friend Heidi very kindly stepped in, and house/dogsat. We, of course, talked about the dog constantly. I tried not to worry about him, but I couldn’t help it, even though I knew everything was going to be fine (and it was! Heidi even let him sleep in the bed, so he was probably wishing we would stay away forever). If this is even one-tenth of an indication of how much we’ll worry about kids, I don’t exactly know if I feel strong enough for parenthood. I don’t even know if I’m strong enough for the TV show — I bawl helplessly every single week.

Anyway, despite the worrying, we did manage to relax and enjoy Tofino. We stayed at the lovely Long Beach Lodge — some friends of ours got married there, and I can see why. It’s so romantic and cozy.

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We did pretty much nothing besides walk on the beach, drink delicious beer from the Tofino Brewing Company, play crib, and sit by the fire, reading. Those friends who got married in Tofino happened to be up at the same time, so we met them for a drink. Our short vacation was quiet and perfect, and the best thing about it was how happy and ready we were to come home. I’m still not taking that feeling for granted.

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I started sewing about four years ago, when my lovely mother-in-law gifted me with her old Husqvarna. I loved that machine and still do. She gave me a few lessons showing me the basics, eternally patient when I had to ask her to re-show me things over and over again. I am not a quick learner. I get a little panicky sometimes, thinking about taking a class in something I don’t understand, because I need things demonstrated so many times before I begin to take them in.

I sewed on that machine for four years, mostly straight line projects for around the house. I made my first quilt with that Husqvarna (did you know they also make chainsaws? I kind of love that), binding it with the help of this video, which I have probably viewed at least 30 times. I am still an extremely novice quilter. I can do straight lines, but not free-motion quilting yet, though I’m working on it. I like simple patchwork quilts, nothing too fussy and I don’t like applique. I like squares, log cabin blocks, and not much else. Perhaps I am a little picky.

I finally bought my first sewing machine about four months ago. In typical Pia fashion, I did very little research on it and made a pretty quick decision. Luckily, this usually works out well for me. I bought a Janome this time, and it sews like a dream. I love my studio/office so much that sometimes I go in there and just stand around, gazing at my fabric and my cutting table. I sound like a total idiot right now, but man, do I loooooove that room. It’s just for me. It has terrible lighting, but one day I’ll try to take better pictures of it.

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This is a baby quilt for a dear friend’s little boy. I made it with almost all fabrics I picked up in Japan last year — cute mushrooms and flowers and polka dots. I have a lot of very “girly” fabric, so I was a little flummoxed as to how to put together something less feminine, but I think it worked. Of course gender is a social construct, etc. (hey, I remember something from my anthropology degree!) and I totally don’t think girls have to have pink and boys blue, but I wanted to make something bright and not too gender-specific. I feel like I’m digging myself into a hole right now. I’ll stop typing.

And a little something for her five-year-old twin daughters, as well — I made these from this tutorial, just changing a few of the details. Super quick and fun to stitch up! I stuck a toonie in each of the pockets.

I also whipped up this small quilt. It’s basically one giant log cabin block, which means that it came together in about an hour. I used handprinted fabrics from India, and just hoped that the overall effect wouldn’t be too busy. I think it’s okay, though. Hopefully someday soon there’ll be a brown-skinned, red-haired baby crawling on this quilt.

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Speaking of babies, look at this huge suck. He crawled into Mark’s lap while Mark was working the other day and refused to budge. Also, we have now succumbed to him getting on the bed with us. We are pathetic. BUT LOOK AT THIS FACE!

These days: more quilting, blackberry buttermilk muffins, irises, a stack of beautiful craft magazines from the UK (courtesy of a very sweet cousin). Life is happening. What a gift.

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