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?



Saying Goodbye to November

My herbal wreaths have faded, and I’m sitting in a world of fog. I guess that means November is gone and winter is here in earnest.

We had five days without rain last month, so when the sun comes out That Golden Glow is greatly appreciated. I came down with a cold the week before Thanksgiving–just in time for Dad’s Weekend. But me and the MR still enjoyed seeing the girls and spending time together.

We celebrated Thanksgiving with my brother and his family and are learning to be gracious and share Sweet Miss with the Fella and his family. Baby Girl was home, and we binge watched Stranger Things rather than get our tree. We’re saving that for this weekend when finals are over and Baby Girl is home for a whole month.

Besides going through lots of kleenex, I did A Little Kitchen Organization and managed to redo some chairs for Sweet Miss with The Power of Fabric.

Speaking of fabric, I’ve been anxiously waiting for some Christmas PJ flannel I ordered over Thanksgiving weekend. It’s nice to get the sale price, but it’s hard to stay patient especially on a deadline.

Another bonus of not bringing out all the Christmas decorations on Thanksgiving weekend is being able to decorate in more manageable bits. Sometimes, it’s hard to stay festive when you’re surrounded by tons of boxes.

Hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving with family and friends and looking forward to sharing the Christmas spirit with you.



A Little Kitchen Organization

With Thanksgiving over and Christmas just around the corner, I know a bit of baking is on my to-do list, and I bet it’s on yours, too. So I thought I’d share a recent, upgrade to my spice drawers.

In the last house, I had risers in the cupboard and carefully placed my spices alphabetically row upon row. It was with great care and trepidition that I’d carefully reach for a jar and hope not to knock over half-a-dozen of my carefully arranged containers. Here, in my huge kitchen, with 17–yes, count them 17– drawers, I’ve arranged my spices in drawers, on their sides, easy to find with no danger of toppling in sight.


Is this bliss? Sort of, but you know there’s always room for improvement. All the jars are different sizes, and they get all wonky. Wouldn’t it be great if they were the same size instead of a hodge-podge? It would be so neat and tidy, and they wouldn’t use up the better part of two drawers.

Well, that little jar I was using for some of our dried basil gave me a great idea. A friend’s daughter had handed out little jars of coffee and tea as a wedding favor. We had been blessed with some of the leftovers, and I’d used one of these jars to hold some herbs. These would be great for my spice drawer. Even better, when I asked where my friend had bought them, she was happy to give me 20 more.

I do like organization and get a little picky about things–just ask my family–so I started with my tried and true alphabetical plan.


This ended up much too hard to navigate: too many sizes, too many shapes, too chaotic. So I compromised by separating the jars by size and then alphabetically.


I’m rather pleased. Cost Plus World Market offers spices in little cellophane bags at reasonable prices, so I can restock my jars economically. PCC Markets are a local grocer that allows you to bring in jars and refill them, so if I’m really organized, I may try that.

I started labeling the lids with a wine glass writer but worried they would smudge if grabbed with a wet hand, so I switched to a chalk marker. I guess I’ll wait and see which one holds up the best. As I make my way through the larger containers, I’ll continue to replace them with little hex jars that are readily available on Amazon.

Spices lose their potency over time, so the little jars are another way to up the flavor in my cooking and keep me organized.

So for zero dollars, and just a little time and energy, I was able to free up a drawer and make another one oh-so much neater.

I’ll have to keep that in mind the next time I feel the urge to organize. Just a little effort can have a big pay-off.

Any organization tips to share?



Changing Perspective

Remember a few months ago when I shared an unexpected treasure of overwintered carrots in the garden? Cocoa was breathing deeply as we explored the mess, and sure enough, with a little weeding, I came across two sweet lines of carrots. Me and the MR would enjoy an early harvest. It would be wonderful.

Fast forward a few months, and nothing turned out the way I planned. I picked a few and added cooked carrots to the menu. That was a mistake. Some of the carrots had good flavor, but the cores were so tough, you couldn’t even cut through them with a knife. Others tasted like nothing at all, so it was a bit of a crap shoot deciding whether to eat them or toss them. I’m afraid the worms enjoyed more than we did.

But wouldn’t it be nice to free up some space in the garden? Maybe they just needed a little better weather to sweeten up. It was not meant to be. When I revisited the carrot patch recently, they’d gone to seed. The carrots were hairy and mangled. Perhaps I could add them to my next batch of chicken broth; the upstairs freezer is woefully empty. I put a fistful of vegetables in Cocoa’s outdoor water dish and took a second look at the tops.

These carrots are something. They’re architectural and graceful, swooping and swaying, feathery foliage topped with delicate domes. I think they deserve a little space in my home.



Sometimes you just have to shift your perspective. You see, I wasn’t trying to grow carrots—you can pick those up at the farmer’s market—I was growing lovely, one-of-a-kind bouquets.

In case you were wondering; those are kombucha bottles. My favorite comes in a plain old clear glass bottle, but when they’re out of it at the store, I pick up one of these (or a couple if Baby Girl is around). I peeled off the label, plopped in some carrot tops, and ta-da, doing dishes just got a lot more fun.

Hope you’re enjoying the first of July. 

Don’t worry, the June recap is on the way. With the girls home off-and-on, the MR’s parents visiting, trips to here and there, and all the other stuff that’s part of life, we’ve been busy. 



Saving the Planet

My sweet sister-in-law, who’s rather awesome, has been working for the last few years to raise awareness about plastic bags and their impact on our environment. She’s attended local city council meetings encouraging the banning of plastic bags. I’m not sure if the towns have followed her advice, but she’s certainly made me more mindful of how much plastic I use.

Along with remembering to bring my reusable bags to the grocery store, I’ve also tried to lessen the use of plastic in the kitchen. First I bought Bees Wrap which is basically organic cotton fabric covered in bees wax. You simply get it warm in your hands and use it like you would plastic wrap. While you can’t use it on meat, it works well on most other things. It’s not as tight a seal as plastic, but I’ve been happy with it.

So happy that I was surprised when I noticed that my set of three wraps has dwindled down to one. Baby Girl and the MR have both assured me that they would never throw these out, so it appears to be a mystery. Browsing Pinterest, I did find a tutorial on how to make your own Beeswax Cotton Wraps. And while I’ve bought the beeswax, I haven’t quite got to the making part. Perhaps now that I’ve mentioned it to you, I’ll be more motivated.

And last month while we were wandering around Sweet Miss’ downtown, we browsed the shelves of her favorite housewares store, and I noticed something else I’d been wanting to try. I find these silicone bowl covers intriguing.

Designed to look like flowers, they take the place of plastic when covering bowls and pans. I bought the large size, but a smaller one might have been a better choice. We don’t have leftovers in such large quantities any more with just the two of us.

Then on Facebook—I know I’m addicted—I saw an ad for huggable silicone vegetable covers. On Amazon I found out they even have them for avocados. I’ve ordered a variety set of these. I don’t know how many times, I’m left with half an avocado and don’t know the best way to store it.

With just a little soap and water, I’m going through a lot less plastic wrap. Maybe I won’t save the world, but each little step counts.

How are you reducing your environmental footprint?

In other news, Baby Girl—our sweet breath of spring—celebrated the big 2-0 yesterday. Knock out those finals; we can’t wait to celebrate with you in just a few days.


When you were 2, I wanted you to wear a party dress. After lots of fighting, Dad stepped and let you wear old hand-be-downs—the big softy. You had some attitude. 


Sh! It’s a Secret

Back in October, I put together care packages for my sweet college girls. Along with treats and gifts from our recent trip, I included some thankfulness cards for them to fill out for our annual Thankfulness Tree.  They could bring them home and add them to our collection.

The MR has added some very nice cards in the past, but hanging thankfulness notes on a tree isn’t really his thing.  I was figuring the tree would be kind of sparse looking by the time Thanksgiving rolled around, and I’d need them for reinforcement.

So of course when we visited last week, I asked about the cards and how they were doing.  Well one said she’d filled out a few, but the other firmly stated that with work and school, she was too busy to be thankful.  Hmm, I didn’t want to argue about thankfulness, so I didn’t point out that a little bit of it can put the stresses of life into perspective.

And I certainly didn’t mention that I hadn’t even made my Thankfulness Tree or written any notes myself.  It’s been rainy and nasty, and I haven’t wandered the woods finding just the perfect bundle of sticks covered in moss to cluster in my vase. I’d sent them all the blank cards left from last year, so I wasn’t filling them out either.

So yesterday, with a little break in the weather, I meandered down to the bottom of the meadow.  After cutting a bundle of sticks, I remembered the bush next to the driveway that always seemed to have more shapely branches in the past.  It’s not my prettiest Thankfulness Tree, but it will serve its purpose well.


I went back to Tater Tots and Jello for their free printable, and now I have some catching up to do.

So here’s my thankfulness list so far for November.

I’m thankful for:

  1. My sweet handsome man and the 24 years we’ve shared together
  2. My dad and the MR’s folks who are still living happy, active lives in their 70’s
  3. Weekends away with our sweet girls
  4. And long phone calls with them to catch up
  5. Our goofy dogs who make me laugh and keep me company
  6. My new job surrounded by yarn and the people who love it
  7. Hugs from preschoolers that make teaching Sunday school so worthwhile
  8. A roof over head in the midst of storms
  9. A loving God who cares about me
  10. Sweet friends to gather with on Wednesday mornings
  11. Museums, lunch dates, and shopping trips with friends
  12. Pedicures and laughter with people I love
  13. How my little brother always makes me smile
  14. The kindness of strangers
  15. The wonder of a baby and new life
  16. The simple pleasures every day brings

OK girls, I’m all caught up.

Hoping your life is filled with the joy of thankfulness now and every day of the year.

The Window Saga Continues

I know you’ve been waiting with baited breath to see whether the rest of the windows went in. Let me tell you, I had one sleepless night envisioning broken windows everywhere.

We had one disaster, one wrong size, and one oops we forgot, but the other 12 windows went in without a hitch.

I am oh so glad that I’m not the one lifting a hundred pounds of glass up on to the scaffolding—not one of my strengths.


The three windows we need to finish the job are all on order. In about two weeks, they’ll arrive, we’ll schedule install, and then we’ll be ready for the window films.

With any luck, that will all happen before June 24, when the film people show up on my doorstep. Until then we’ve put back the furniture and are enjoying a rustic, tape sunrise in the broken pane.

While it’s hard to tell the difference in the pictures I post, it’s really nice in real life to be looking at the view rather than the strange haze and stripes in the window.

clear doors


When you have to clear all your papers and piles off the kitchen desk so the guys can install a new window, you get to actually see how nice your desk looks when it’s white and clean.



I’m going to be more selective in what I allow to take up space in this area—yes to pretty boxes and plants, no to junk mail and clipboards.

With the Memorial Day Weekend, we’ve barbecued, played games and enjoyed spending time with Sweet Miss and her fella’ who are visiting for the long weekend.

I’ve never lived by a cemetery and was amazed the first year we moved here to see the graves decorated with flags for the holiday. We planned to stop and take pictures on the way home from the movies yesterday, but several families were gathered around graves of loved ones when we drove up.

It seemed a better choice to let you just picture in your mind small flags and crosses scattered across the hillside in remembrance of those we’ve lost.

Remembering the sweet people I’ve lost and loving those I’m with this holiday.

Happy Memorial Day to you and yours.

Thanks to Mary Kay and Linda for sharing their horrible remodeling experiences. I haven’t had to live with orange wall and explosions—yet. Your pain helped me laugh a little at my own.