30 August 2015

Oh my gosh! You guys, we bought a house!!

This month has been one of the more hectic months of my life.  Homebuying has been a rollercoaster for us.  The Portland market is insane and houses pop on and then off the market within 48 hours, so it's been a lot of quick decisions, offers made, outbids...then the inspections, structural engineering consults, funding, paperwork...but finally we made it through and it's official!  This beautiful home is ours!

The past couple of days, we've slowly moved some boxes and painted the whole main floor (with the help of an army of my amazing friends).   It's a really exciting and also nervewracking time for us.   With our budget and this Portland housing boom, we had to move further from our usual comfort zone in the city, so there is lots to explore and a change of scenery to get used to! Stay tuned for more photos and some exciting projects!

Jam Sessions: Use your fruit scraps to make vodka!

06 August 2015

As I am sure you all know, I love to make jams and pickles and preserve pretty much anything I can get my hands on.  There is something truly amazing about taking the sweet, perfect flavors of the season and capturing them for whole year.

The only downside about using lots and lots of fruit is that occasionally I find myself with lots and lots of waste.  Compost is an option for those food scraps, but I have found an even better option for all of my scraps - infusing vodka!

No need to use whole fruit when making infused vodka.  The peels, hulls, pits, and seeds are perfect for infusions!

Here are a few examples:

Strawberries:  When you are hulling strawberries, there is a ton of flavor left in the stem and bits of fruit, so just cut off the tops and fill up a mason jar with those tops.  Fill with vodka.  Let sit for about 5 days and strain.  Perfect berry vodka!

Pineapple skins & pineapple core:  My very favorite kind of vodka at the moment!  Pineapples in particular have a ton of waste, so this is the perfect way to use it.  Infuse for about 1-2 weeks for a nice strong pineapple pop.

Peach skin: The easiest way to peel peaches for jam is to cut an X in the bottom, dip into boiling water for about 2 minutes and then hit them with an ice bath, the skin will rub right off.  After you've done this, there is still a lot of flavor left in the skins even they don't look so pretty, so toss them in with vodka for about a week and you will have a beautiful start to summer cocktails.

Apple peels:  These are perfect to infuse into whisky or burbon with a cinnamon stick for a perfect holiday gift.  Infuse for about 5 days.

Your possibilities are pretty endless and the cocktails will be flowing!

Friday Fancies!

24 July 2015

Happy Friday!  It's been a really crazy week at work at at home.  My husband and I are starting wheels in motion to look into buying our first home.  It's a long, wild road in front of us, but it's exciting to see homebuying on the horizon.  It's just a full time job to look!

Diving the Hol Chan Marine Reserve in Belize

13 July 2015

Who says second isn't good enough?  Sure, we've all heard about the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, but if Australia is out of your price range (or you just don't want to fly for 18+ hours)...look no further than Central America! The snorkeling and diving in Belize is really world class and it's something you should not miss. The Belize Barrier Reef is the second largest in the world. It is home to over 100 coral species, 500+species of fish, and hundreds of invertebrate species.

One of my main draws that lead me to Belize was the search for the majestic whale shark.  In the spring months, the southern Belize reef is the spawning zone for whale sharks.  It was my dream to be able to swim with them.  Even though I tried, it wasn't mean to be this time.   Even though the whale shark eluded me this time, I did get to have some amazing underwarter experiences in the reef!

I chose our hotel in part because it was the home to the tour company - Tsunami Adventures.  It was a fantastic choice.  The hotel was affordable, beautiful, and right on the water...everything I could have hoped for in paradise.  Tsunami Adventures was a perfect choice as well.  They took care of everything for us and gave us an unforgettable day!

We set sail on our boat with our captain and tour guide and small group (8 of us total) and headed into the sea!  It was our second day in Belize and what an amazing introduction to the country.

Our first stop was within the Hol Chan Marine Reserve.  As soon as we arrived there, it started storming.  Pouring down rain, but we persevered and our fearless guide explained that was just part of living in Belize and guided us into the water.  The first glance into this underwater world was pure magic. Even though dark clouds loomed, the world underneath us seemed so unaware of it and vibrant fish and corals danced below us.  Eventually the storm let up, but the dance below kept my full attention.

Next stop was a visit to a popular sea turtle watching spot.  I came face to face with a hundred year old sea turtle!

From sea turtles to Shark and Ray Alley.  Maybe my favorite spot!  The nurse sharks are harmless, but absolutely beautiful.  I've never been so close to a shark before!  My favorite thing was just watching the rays move through the water - they were so graceful and seem to just fly through the water (see the video below!).

Disclaimer: I'll be honest, I struggled a little with this magic moment - the sharks come up to the boats because they know that they will be fed and each of the boats threw snacks overboard so that their groups could get up close and personal.  I don't think I did enough research before I left about this and I was torn about the situation because feeding wild animals can be a really unethical practice.  As always, I advise you do your own research.

The last dive stop was the Coral Gardens.  It seemed like an endless space of alien terrain full of so many types of corals.  Every inch was just full of little creatures hiding out and making their homes there.  I was completely enthralled in the adventure of the coral reef.

On the way back to the hotel, we took a beautiful slow ride around the mangroves on the northern side of the island with a glass of rum punch.  We got to take a different perspective of the island and hear stories from our captain about what it was like to grow up there.  We also had a surprise visit with a dolphin mama and baby and our captain happily went out of our way to create some wake for them so we could watch them surface.  

Belize was full of a lot of really breathtaking moments, but this day on the water was definitely one of my favorite days there.  

Although video is not my strong suit, I got some fun underwater video that I managed to stitch together and capture some of the beautiful movement:

Easy Homemade Ricotta: 5 Simple Steps

06 July 2015

Easy Homemade Ricotta

Homemade ricotta is kind of a game changer.  It is much better than anything you can get in the store and it is really easy to make...like addictively easy.  There is no need for super fancy special equipment and ingredients - you probably have all of it in your kitchen already!  If you've ever dreamed of making your very own homemade cheese, this is the perfect place to start!

What you need:
1/2 gallon of milk (I prefer organic. Pasteurized milk is fine, but be sure avoid UHT ultra-pasteurized because it will not allow the curds to set up)
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice, 1/3 cup distilled white vinegar, OR 1/2 teaspoon citric acid (all of these will work just fine, so whatever you have on hand)
1 teaspoon salt

A large stockpot
candy thermometer
slotted spoon
cheese cloth
large mixing bowl

Here are the 5 simple steps to making perfect ricotta cheese:
Easy Homemade Ricotta

  1. Warm the milk to 200°F : Try not to let it boil, but just get a foamy heat going. 
  2. Add acid: Remove the milk from heat and add your acid of choice (lemon juice, vinegar, or citric acid) + salt.  Stir to combine.

    Easy Homemade Ricotta

  3. Sit for 10 minutes: After about 10 minutes of sitting undisturbed (no stirring!), the milk will start to separate into curds (the white chunks) and whey (thin, yellow, watery liquid).  Use your slotted spoon to lift a bit of the curd and if you still see a lot of unseparated milk, you can add an a bit more acid (1 T lemon, 1 T vinegar, OR 1/4 t critic acid) and give it a few more minutes.
    Easy Homemade Ricotta
  4. Strain: Set up a strainer over a bowl and line it with cheese cloth.  Carefully scoop the large curds out with the slotted spoon and into the strainer and then pour the rest of the contents of the pot through the strainer.
    Easy Homemade Ricotta
  5. Drain: Let the ricotta sit and drain out the whey for 10 minutes to an hour - depending on how dry you like your ricotta.
Easy Homemade Ricotta

That's it! You've made beautiful homemade ricotta! Add to pasta, make a dip, or just serve it on toast with a bit of honey!

You can also very easily take one more step to make your ricotta into a more sturdy farmers cheese or paneer. All you need to do is twist up the cheese cloth and add weight and give it a few more hours to fully dry out and solidify a bit.

32 before 32

17 February 2015

I started this list a few months ago right after my 31st birthday.  It's been a bit of a work in progress, but I'm really optimistic about being able to cross many of these amazing things off the list in the next 10 months before I turn 32!

32 before 32

1. Have my ear surgery with a happy and supported recovery
2. Swim with whale sharks
3. See a bioluminescent bay
4. Take a glass blowing class
5. Visit a manatee sanctuary
6. Explore Mayan ruins
7. Learn a traditional Belizian dish
8. Take at least two trips to new places
9. Make bagels from scratch
10. Finish an embroidery project
11. Attend Chocolatefest 2015
12. Host a themed party
13. Have brunch at: Beast, Roman Candle, and Olympic Provisions
14. Send a surprise gift to a friend
15. Find a new therapist that I can grow with
16. Grow my savings account by at least 25%
17. Make fruit wine from scratch
18. See the Painted Hills
19. Teach a canning class
20. Learn to scuba dive
21. Prioritize friendships that matter
22. Rent a house on the coast or mountains for a girls weekend
23. Plant a fall garden
24. Clean out my closet and donate
25. Write 3 guest blog posts (Maybe for YOU?! Get in touch!)
26. Rebrand my blog
27. Wear a dress every day for 2 full weeks
28. Start the process of buying my first home
29. Pay off all my debts
30. View a meteor shower
31. Set up my perfect bar cart for the house
32. Use my 32nd birthday as an excuse to travel somewhere new

I'm headed to Belize in just 6 short weeks to swim with whale sharks, learn scuba diving, and exploring Myan ruins!  I absolutely can't wait for this trip!

What are your plans/goals for the year?

A Perfect Tea Party.

09 February 2015

I often feel that sometimes my life lacks ceremony. I don't have a lot of family or cultural tradition of my own. I grew up in a culture of fast moving convenience and it seems that life leaves little room to stop and celebrate and embrace moments. This weekend, I had one of those rare perfect afternoons with just the right balance of cheesy and sweet celebratory tradition. And better yet, I got to do it with the amazing company of a long time friend (visit her at Ponyboy Press & Cedar Chest!)

We arrived at Myrtle's Tea House just in time for our 1pm reservation and were seated right by the window. It's was a dreary day, but the warmth of the little house filled with beautiful vintage tea pots and tea cups made the rain melt away.

We selected our tea from a list of what felt like hundreds of amazing options.

The pots arrived and we delicately added our dainty little sugar cubes from the gold gilded bowl.

We were each served a darling plate filled with 8 little perfect bites, fresh fruit, a crudite, and a warm tea cup full of homemade soup.

Next, we choose our next pot of dessert tea - I went with a chocolate rose. It was served with a beautiful assortment of tiny desserts. The tiny heartshaped fresh from the oven scone with strawberry butter was my favorite.

After tea, we visited the sweet little shop and pursued the antique tea cups, teas, and series of tea mystery books (did you know that was even a thing?! So cute!)

What cute ceremonious thing do you guys do?

Goodbye 2014, Hello 2015!

31 December 2014

Well, it's about that time for a cliche year end wrap up post!  2014 had a rough start with a major, scary surgery and leaving the security of full time employment, but I'm really proud to say that it turned around and really turned out to be full of exciting adventures, connecting with friends and family, and lots of beautifully perfect moments.  There was some heartbreak in there as well, but overall - it was exactly the kind thriving life I intended it to be.

Here are my highlights of 2014:

  • + Left a job that was draining me.   
  • + Had brain surgery and recovered with a lot of support from my amazing husband and friends. 
  • + Took an amazing trip to Thailand by myself and learn a lot about strength and independence while visiting an elephant sanctuary, falling in love with night markets, cuddling full grown tigers, learning to cook Thai cuisine, snorkeling the Adaman Sea, celebrating Songkran, & so much more!
  • + Found an great new job and got to travel to NYC twice and train and connect with amazing coworkers.  Helped open a brand new office.
  • + Completed the 100 Happy Days challenge
  • + Co-hosted a bridal shower & got to stand beside a beautiful couple as they said their vows.
  • + Took in two foster kittens, 2 foster puppies, and one adult foster dog. 
  • + Spent 4th of July at the Oregon Coast with on of my best friends and her beautiful family.  
  • + Spent a night in a sweet airstream trailer on a goat cheese farm and finally got to see Crater Lake.  
  • + Did a lot of wine tastings in beautiful locations.  
  • + Saw Joan Jett at the Oregon State Fair with good friends.  
  • + Harvested food and made lovely meals from my garden. 
  • + Lost someone who was near and dear to my heart and learned new ways to mourn.  
  • + Visited my parent's in their new home in North Carolina and connected with my extended family. 
  • +Went bungee jumping.  

This New Year's Eve finds me at a 180 from where I was one year ago.  I'm less afraid of the future and I am feeling more in control of my life than ever before.  I'm deeply aware that life is always going to be a series of highs and lows and perfection is a myth.  I'm staying optimistic about the new year and I can't wait to make it my own.

I'm setting intentions for 2015 to be a year of adventure and love.

In 2015 hope to...
Keep working towards growth - set tangible goals for home buying, learn new things, and say yes to adventures
Take more time to appreciate my life as it is - send more letters, show gratitude for the people I love, and take time to enjoy the present moments
Do things that scare me - try new recipes, go on adventures, and redefine my comfort zone.

What are you looking back on or looking forward to today?

Happy Holidays!

25 December 2014

Hope you all are having a wonderful day & celebrating the season in your own way!  From my home to yours, I'm wishing you a very happy holiday season!

Gingerbread Cupcakes with Egg Nog Frosting

16 December 2014


Who doesn't love baking around the holidays?!  Cold days warmed by a hot oven and the smell of treats wafting through the house - that is my kind of day.  These cupcakes are a lovely burst of all my favorite flavors of the holidays - moist, spiced cupcake with creamy, rich eggnog frosting...in short -perfection.

Gingerbread Cupcakes with Egg Nog Frosting
makes about 12 full sized cupcakes or 24 minis

Gingerbread Cupcakes:
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup softened butter 
1/2 cup molasses
2 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 cup water

Preheat the oven to 375°F.  With an electric mixer, beat the sugar, butter, molasses and eggs on medium speed.  Slowly stir in flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, the allspice.  Finally, mix in the water to thin the batter a bit. Spoon the cups about 3/4 full. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Egg Nog Frosting:
1/2 cup softened butter (1 stick)
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/3 cup eggnog
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Whisk butter in an electric mixer and add powdered sugar, 1/2 cup at a time until full combined.  Keep whisking while adding egg nog and spices.

gingerbread cupcakes with egg nog frostingServe the cupcakes with a little sprinkle of nutmeg and a whole lot of holiday cheer!

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