My First Stab at Salt Block Cooking

Sometimes you get something for Christmas you’ve never even heard of. Himayalan Salt Block, huh? The Fella must think I’m a fancy chef; Sweet Miss explained how you can cook on it.

You know me; I’ll give anything a try. So last week, my new salt block spent hours in the oven curing. I set the heat at 170-degrees and then bumped it up 50 degrees every half hour until it got to 500-plus. This is not the most exciting part of the experiment, but it supposed to keep the block from breaking apart and gets it ready for cooking.

Since it’s awfully chilly out at the moment (not east coast chilly, but northwest 30-ish chilly), I decided to cook on the stovetop rather than the BBQ. Besides, I wanted the joy of using it for the first time rather than letting the MR steal all the fun.

Supposedly, you don’t even have to season your food on the salt block, that pink salt does it all for you. We had salmon, green beans, brussel sprouts, and yellow peppers.

I did add a little freshly ground pepper, and it was all quite tasty. The salmon stuck a little and was perhaps a bit thick for this cooking method. And the green beans kept rolling off the brick into the bottom of the burner–good thing I have long tongs. I did end up with a bit of a scorch mark on the bottom, but your supposed to dedicate one side for cooking and the other for heating, so maybe it was meant to be.

This might be a fun way to try teppanyaki or bulgogi right at the table. For just me and the MR one brick is perfect. If I want to start adding more people, I may need another brick. I’m going to do some more research and work on my technique.

This is definitely a fun and interesting way to make dinner. Many thanks to the Fella for such a thoughtful gift.

I wished you all a Merry Christmas, but I didn’t share much of ours. So I know you’re wondering about Christmas pjs. This year, I had a bit of a tall order. When I visited the girls in October, Sweet Miss declared that she and the Fella wanted matching pjs with beavers on them.

She’s also the one who stated emphatically years ago that she wants flannel pjs in Christmas-y colors. OK, that means beavers, red and green, in male and female appropriate print…hmmm. I found little woodland creatures gamboling about; no man I know would wear that print.

Then Kaufman Burly Beaver flannel came to the rescue. It’s kind of stretching it colorwise with only a bit of red, but hipster, bearded lumberjack beavers seemed the perfect fit for a pair of Oregon State grads living in Portland.

Baby Girl made it simple with snowflakes in red on a white background. Everyone looked great. So glad to be able to share the holiday with our kids.

 

And did I mention it was a white Christmas? This happens every 10 years or so. It’s so pretty, but I’m glad it only lasted for a few days. With all our hills, snow makes traveling quite tricky.

Today is the first day with Baby Girl back to school.  It makes for a quiet house, just me and Cocoa.

Hope your new year is starting off well. Any salt block cooking tips to share? How about other adventures in cooking I should try?

 

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Christmas in Green

The last few years—OK maybe forever—I’ve been decorating the house for Christmas in red and white and lots of sparkle. But sometimes you just want to shake things up. I could have gone with a pink-and-blue 50’s theme tree or aqua and seashells for that beachy look, but that’s just not me.

Sweet Miss and Baby Girl were home over Thanksgiving and I had them start putting all those ribbon trees I’d made on the china hutch, and it just kind of worked. Before you know it, we had santas, and snowmen, and angels scattered through our own little forest.

top-of-hutch

I like how all the little knick-knacks look like they belong nestled amongst the trees rather than random figurines on a buffet.

penguins

With this woodsy feel in mind, I thought the sparkle and glitz of past mantels would look odd. That left me with boxes of decorations on the floor and a lot of indecision. But I saw this sweet little birdy on the Target website and fell in love.

little-bird

He was supposed to come in a set of three, but they were sold out. Luckily, I found this little guy when I stopped in at the store with the MR. Later on a more leisurely shopping trip, I went to HomeGoods, and picked up some twine-covered bells and random decorative balls. Target had lovely wood snowflake lights and more nature-inspired balls to help fill out the scene. The snowflake lights glow and look quite sweet at night.

mantel

I used leftover ribbon from the trees to swag across the mantel along with some burlap ribbon I picked up at Wal-mart. I simply ran the ribbon through small rings and hung them with 3M hooks.

ribbon-swag

Bows could be used to cover the hooks and rings, but I didn’t want it to get too fussy.

The MR put his foot down when we went to the tree farm, so our tree is a little shorter (around 9-feet) this year, but it still feels like we’ve brought a bit of the forest inside.

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I’ve been decorating bit-by-bit this Christmas. The nativity set my folks made when they were newlyweds is still waiting for a spot, and the girls santa collages haven’t found wall space. But I’m giving myself a pass. I don’t have to be perfect and have my house all together all the time to enjoy this wonderful season.

Me and Baby Girl went shopping this week, and we made tasty cookies/candy with a recipe from MeeMee. If everything’s doesn’t happen, it’ll still be a great Christmas with my family. And there’s always next year.

How’s your decorating coming along? What’s a favorite thing to do this time of year?

 

 

 

A Look Back at November

It’s easy to put together a monthly recap when you’ve been out of town and haven’t posted much of anything.

If you’re ever in Seattle, I recommend checking out Chihuly Garden & Glass at the Seattle Center. The beauty and whimsy of his creations made me smile with joy. I felt like I’d dropped into a Dr. Seuss world.

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I don’t know what planet he comes from, but I’d sure like to visit. We all have errands and chores that take us hither and yon, why not Make the Most of It.

I laughed, tongue-in-cheek, about our New Lawn Ornament when the well guys got stuck in the meadow. The MR smoothed out the ruts, and next spring grass will cover the wounds.

well-truck-stuck

If only that were the worst of our well problems this month. The work they did ended up clogging some of the pipe, emptying the holding tank, overheating and then burning out the pump, resulting in no water for our housesitter while we were on the annual fishing trip to Mexico.

Perhaps we shouldn’t have any major work done just before leaving town, perhaps making sure the auto shut-off is properly installed is very important. JKA well, came out on a weekend to help our housesitter and had a new pump in by Monday comping us on labor. We ended up buying a more powerful pump, so they only charged us the difference, and our water pressure has been great. But our “free” water has cost an arm and a leg over the last five years.

While our housesitter was dealing with no water, we were watching beautiful sunsets and enjoying some heat.

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We appear to have brought a little of Mexico home with us in these Unexpected Blooms.

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We ended the month with a few days with the girls at home. I love having our family together. Our new table arrived just in time for Thanksgiving, and it was definitely Worth the Wait.

thanksgiving-table

Thanksgiving and Christmas have always been a time to gather with family and friends. I’m so glad I have these guys to make memories with.

november-collage

Don’t worry, I’ll be sharing some Christmas decorating and other wonders of the season before too long. I thought I’d end this post on a happy note. My girls are wearing their cozy knit socks—making their mama happy.

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Hope you had a fabulous November.

 

 

Worth the Wait

Last summer I mentioned we’d gone out and ordered a new dining room table and chairs. The table was available immediately, but the chairs were going to be a bit. And so we waited, and waited, and waited. I’ve mentioned before I have a problem with patience.

Lest you get the wrong idea, I’m not some crazy mega-consumer who gets new furniture at the drop of a hat. The MR bought me our last table for Christmas when I was pregnant with Baby Girl.  Seeing how she’s a sophomore in college; it’s been awhile. Over the last 20 years, that table has hosted many celebrations and joyous occasions. But since it was the only table in the house, it’s seen a whole lot of use. It’s been up-close and personal with Sharpies and glitter. There was a Spirograph incident that it’ll carry for life, and we know for certain that Ikea veneers can only handle so much scrubbing.

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It was time. Let’s also factor in the size. This table was great for an eating area in the kitchen or a small dining room. This room is 15-feet wide from the built-in buffet to the french doors, and it’s even longer length-wise.  We needed a table with some weight.

So color me happy when Leathers Furniture in Issaquah gave me a call earlier this month to say our table and chairs were in. Unfortunately, with our travel schedule, the earliest we could have them delivered was November 23. Why yes, that’s the day before Thanksgiving. We were cutting it pretty close, but the Big Guys delivery company out of Woodinville came through without a hitch. They even complimented me on all the good cooking smells.

So this Thanksgiving our small group of six gathered around this beauty.

thanksgiving-table

Thanksgiving is one of those times we all get to help in the kitchen.

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Here’s a look at the table a little less fancied up. I mean after all, we don’t live like this all the time, but then again maybe we should. That platter is looking really small. I love the grain of the wood and the the live edge.

live-edge

The table is solid wood, so even though we’re dedicated to avoiding unfortunate toy incidents, if they happen, we have options. We chose a very modern base, but the table is made to accommodate a variety of legs and other supports. So if we get tired of this choice, we can choose something more traditional.

base

The chairs are the Alfa from Bontempi Casa. We had tons of choices with these from leg color, to chair color, to upholstery. We went  medium stain on the legs with a bi-cast leather in a chocolate brown to bring out some of the table’s darker tones. The graphite back adds a nice contrast.

row-of-chairs

The chairs were a place we added some design interest without going too crazy. Another huge factor was comfort. If we’re sitting here for hours, we want our guests as well as ourselves to be comfortable. And these fit the bill.

chair

Another great feature is that the pad is removable. If we decide a different color or perhaps microfiber would be a better choice, we have alternatives. I could buy bright red for Christmas. Note: I didn’t say I was going to—that would look over-the-top—just that I could.

We went with a wood table and the wood and leather chairs in an effort to add warmth to the dining room. With the long line of counter flanked by the white cabinetry and glass of the china buffet, we thought something natural would soften it a bit.

in-situ

As you may have noticed, we have a giant tree in our great room. Our family tradition has been to cut down a Christmas tree and decorate the weekend after Thanksgiving. Since the girls both come home for the holiday, that tradition has served us well during the college years.

This year, Baby Girl had a final today (Monday), so she flew in late Wednesday and out late Friday. We were able to go to the tree farm down the hill, but a bug problem slowed decorating for a bit. Then there was dinner with my family down at Papa’s and the trip back to the airport.

christ-tree-cutting

As you can see, we still had a lot of fun.

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No, that’s not a worker at the tree farm diligently sawing away. That’s Sweet Miss’ Fella. Apparently, he didn’t hear when I called for everyone to smile. The MR was amazed at how much faster it is to cut down a tree when you have another guy around. I don’t think he’s had a turn with the saw for a few years now.

Sweet Miss and the MR decorated the tree while I was at work Saturday, and we drove her to Seattle this morning to catch the train for home. Our full house is back down to just us two.

I have the mantle, and bookcases, and windows crying out to be decorated, and boxes the MR wants me to put away. So with that I hope you all had a very happy Thanksgiving weekend with friends and family.

When do you get your tree? Fresh or frozen, errgh I mean fake?

 

 

 

 

 

Wishing You Joy & Peace

This year for our annual December trip, we took the kids to Roatan.  Yes, you heard right; it’s a small island off the coast of Hondoras—get out the map.

The last few years, we’ve spent a week in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, but we decided to try somewhere new. Baby Girl, Sweet Miss, and her Fellow joined us (after four years of hanging around, we figure he’d paid his dues).

We enjoyed sunsets, snorkeling, and that laid back tropical life for a week. Now we’re home, and we have cookies to bake, presents to wrap, and that last bit of shopping to do.  I love having a bit of down time in the midst of the hustle and bustle, but somehow I’m never as put together as I had hoped for when we get back.

Here’s wishing your Christmas is filled with joy and peace and that you’re surrounded by the people you love.

Merry Christmas from the Big White House on the Hill.

Tropical fam

 

 

Rethinking My Plan

Do you ever come up with a plan that’s going to be fabulous, you work, and work, and work, and when it’s finally done, it’s just meh?

I’ve been working on cute little ribbon Christmas trees for months.  (Remember Christmas in August?)  Well, I have 30 of those silly, little trees now.  I’d envisioned a forest of trees on the upper windows.  They’d look cozy and add a touch of whimsy to our Christmas decorations.  Instead, they’re quite underwhelming.

Trees in Window

You may be asking yourself what’s going on with the plumeria. Well, when we were decorating the house, Sweet Miss and Baby Girl focused on the tree. SM offered to work on the bookcase, and then took back that offer because I’d just go along after her and change everything. Yes, sometimes I’m that kind of person.  So I’m trying to show my strength of character and ability to let things go and leave her self-dubbed ’70s disco ball tree.   I have children; I am embracing the weirdness.

Instead of a forest of tiny trees, we have a few stragglers here and there.  We have 17 upper windows, and as it stands we don’t even have enough to replicate this meager level of fullness throughout the room.

Instead of forcing this to work, I took a deep breath and went for a change of plans.  There’s power in grouping things together.  I think the bookcase needs a little makeover for the season.  I added bits of Christmas cheer, clustered the ribbon trees on top, and it looks quite festive.

Bookcase forest

When we were decorating for the season, I realized that although this is the third official Christmas we’ve lived here, we have all new furniture and a totally different layout.  That means we’ve been figuring out all over again where to put the holiday glitz.

I’m in desperate need of a few more pillows.  Remember all my planning and goals of having everything ready ahead of time?  That’s not quite what’s happened.  I have managed to get one pair of Christmas pjs completed, but Baby Girl told me the other day that she doesn’t want pajama bottoms, she’d like a Christmas mumu.  Hmmm, I’ll get right on that.  I’m thinking it’ll resemble a nightgown rather than a Hawaiian tent dress.  Alas,the sewing machine calls.

How’s your Christmas decorating going?  Have you had to rethink your plans?

 

 

 

Thankful for November

November started and ended in the same—a weekend with our sweet girls.

Now that the kids are off to college, we’re talking about Revamping the Upstairs, but so far, it’s mostly just talk. I’ve picked up paint chips, and I’ve rearranged Sweet Miss’ old room. We had a great weekend with them wandering campus, attending a football, reliving those college days.

Back home, we were putting together food packs for kids and families dealing with hunger. One in five children in Washington are part of families struggling to put food on the table.  This is one way we’re Lending a Hand in our community.

A few weeks of rain kept me inside, so my thankfulness tree was a little late in making an appearance this year. Although I said Sh, It’s a Secret, Baby Girl caught me out.  I’d sent the girls thankfulness cards in their care packages, so she’d been filling them out before I even had the tree set up.   November is a great time to remember all the blessings in your life, and I like this tangible way of doing it.

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The branches were full by the time the month ended.

While sunshine is streaming through the windows at the moment and we’ve enjoyed a string of clear days, we’ve also had a lot of rain and wind this month. As always that results in fallen branches and sometimes downed trees.  We had four on the driveway one week.

trees

At least they were fairly small, since the chainsaw wasn’t working. And the MR came home early that day, so I didn’t have to deal with that particular joy of Country Living on my own.

My Creative Weekend spilled over into our Thanksgiving celebration when I forced the guests to make angels out of roving.  Actually, other people were putting the pressure on to participate.  Roving Angels I do believe there’s a learning curve. The MR’s looked a lot like Rocky if he were an angel, and my neice’s definitely came from peasant stock.  It was good practice for this weekend when I’m helping people make them at the local knit shop.

I had a question about the knit shop. So yes, I have started working at Quintessential Knits in Duvall two afternoons a week. I’m basically a salesclerk ready to answer questions and sell yarn.  Next year, I hope to lead some classes on blocking and finishing. It’s a low-key job in a cozy, friendly shop with lots of nice people that gets me out of the house.

Now for all the behind the scenes stuff that didn’t make it into a post.  The MR, his dad, my dad, and one of my brothers all went fishing down in beautiful Cabo San Lucas.  They were after marlin but had to settle for mahi mahi which makes for really good eating.

Dad

I haven’t seen my dad smiling like that in a long time.  The MR came home without catching anything, but he’s already making plans for next year.

For Thanksgiving we hosted an eclectic mix of friends and family numbering 15.  I learned all sorts of lessons/reminders:

  • It’s a lot less stressful to iron the napkins the week before instead of the day of your event.
  • Check your tablecloths to make sure they don’t clash with the new area rug you bought last January.  The week of Thanksgiving, a lot of stores will be running low.
  • Count those water glasses before the big day.  Just because you should have 18, doesn’t mean you do. Glasses have a way of breaking over the years.

I bought flowers and the MR bought flowers; poor communications led to tiny bouquets in canning jars tied with ribbon scattered down the tables along with candles and gourds.

The table

We ran our dining room table and the folding table together, so no one was relegated to the “kids’ table”.  My dad showed up with tiny bobbing turkeys from his trip to Mexico.  The MR brought home a handful of bobbing animals, too.  Those soft-hearted men can’t say no to the sweet, little children selling them.

Table setting

Thanksgiving weekend wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the tree farm. We tried a new place (Ronnei’s) that we hadn’t been to before.  It was just down the hill from our house and had a ton of really tall trees.  We were going for medium-sized, but somehow we ended up with huge.  When your tree dwarfs your over 6-foot husband, it might be really big.

Tree Farm

Sweet Miss’ Fella made short work of cutting it down.

The Fella

And we were home in plenty of time to watch the Oregon Civil War.  Baby Girl’s Ducks beat Sweet Miss and her Fella’s Beavers, but it was a good fight.

Sunday, they returned to school and life went back to the new normal.

The Girls

In just a few weeks, they’ll be home for the Christmas holidays and all sorts of excitement.  I’m looking forward to more adventures.

How was your November?