March 29, 2010

Happy Spring Break

I am off for the whole week visiting Sunriver Oregon with friends. This will be my sons' last high school spring break and I am so glad to spend the extra time with him and friends. I have never been to Sunriver,OR but have heard so much about it. See you next week with photos and information on this great field trip.

March 25, 2010

Seabrook - Pacific Beach WA

In Pacific Beach, WA a new beautiful beach town has been emerging over the past several years. Over President's weekend, my family and I, drove the 2 1/2 hours from Seattle out to the WA coast to check out Seabrook. While we didn't stay at any of the Seabrook cottage rentals, we drove through the master planned community and also viewed a model home.

This idyllic community is a true coastal town just beyond the Olympic National Park, albeit, the rough Washington coast. In early February, it was 45 degrees, pouring rain and so windy you had to lean into it to walk. However, this little community oozes charm and an east coast summer living sensibility (if you could envision a warm, sunny day). There are different floor plans and ocean view or ocean front options. Also, 90% of the homes are 2nd vacation homes, while 10% live year round. The vacation home owners usually place their homes in the care of Seabrook Cottage rental management as rental homes. While they plan on continuing to add to their town center, there is currently a market, cafe and deli, post office and bike rental.

These are just a few tidbits of information. The website: is full of information. Check out this community and see if a visit there is in your future.

March 23, 2010

Glimpse into my Garden - Part I

Side Front Garden - Mid Summer

Gate to Back Side Yard Guarded by Lola

Sidewalk to Backyard Dining Area

Upper Deck

I am revving up for an all out spring/summer gardening bonanza in my yard. Of course I plan on blogging the details. So I thought I would get you started with a glimpse into my current garden. This will be a 2 or 3 part series as I try to find all of the past photos.

Photo #1: The side front yard has a long side bed with a variety of ornamental grasses and perennials. It is pretty much self maintaining but I plan on tucking in more blueberry bushes and getting rid of the lady's mantle (oh but how I am going to manage without that gorgeous chartreuse sprig of color)?

Photo #2,3: I love the weathered gray color of the rickety old gate, it will stay. Down the sidewalk to the backyard dining area, I have ferns, blue hostas, black mondo and bright green Japanese forest grass. In late June, dozens of sorbet colored peonies pop out of the monochromatic landscape. I probably won't change much along the walk, it gets very lush and I like the repetition of plants.

Photo #4: You can see the wrap around planter, probably late spring. One year I had it filled with apple blossom, cream and black colored tulips. Unfortunately, they come back weaker each year. The tulips are an early show, followed by flowering azalea and hardy fuchsia. This entire planter will undergo the most dramatic change this spring and summer. I plan on taking all of the plants out, (replanting elsewhere), and making the planter a vegetable garden. Produce production with flowering annuals tucked in and around is my goal for this planter.

Now that I have posted my garden goals, I will have to follow through and follow up with some after photos. What are your garden goals this summer?

March 22, 2010

Grammys' "Jarmoire"

To say I love storage solutions is an understatement. I like to have a place for everything and everything in its place, behind closed doors is even better. My incredibly creative mom just sent me photos of her completed garden shed to house all of her garden tools. She decided to "Brangelina" the name of a garden (jardin) closet (armoire) and deem it a "jarmoire". A storage shed this cool deserves to be named.

Using rescued doors and windows, she etched glass with a stencil design to obscure the contents of the shed. It is seven feet wide, two feet deep and eight feet high in the back. It is truly just a closet and took about four days to build!

Her inspiration was this under the eaves storage shed from Sunset Magazine:

What a great use of space, unique design and clever touches to make it her own. Great job mom!

March 18, 2010

Shed Chic

What a great day! The sun is out, spring is just around the bend, March Madness begins and my kids have their first track meet of the season! Until I head off to their meet, I will be cozied up in a sunny spot devouring this incredible book: Shed Chic by Sally Coulthard. I have touched on backyard structures in a previous Modern Shed post, but this takes additional living space to a whole new level.

Would you create a digital free haven for reading and writing, a purpose-built home office or a guest annex? So many charming possibilities are brought to light in this beautifully photographed book. There are a couple of "sheds" that I could just live in and need nothing else. Add this book to your list, you won't be disappointed.

p.s. If you read the book, I would love to know your favorite sheds. Please send me an email ( or comment on this post!

March 17, 2010

Island Cottage


I love Sundays. Whenever possible, a Sunday morning means coffee in bed with the paper. My favorite part of the paper, (I save it for last), is the Pacific Magazine. Every week it is full of fantastic articles on gardening, cooking, and northwest living.

This article about an Island Cottage on Vashon Island jumped off the page. The architects, Vandeventer + Carlander, designed a home that "speaks to the water". Just that phrase alone captured my interest, I love anything that speaks to the water. And it is a dream of ours to own a waterfront home. The views, the storage, the clean lines and open floor plan are right up my alley. At first, I thought, too stark, but as I continued to read, the homeowners describe: "Outside is a table laden with fishing poles, rods, tackle. Nearby, inner tubes and kayaks await the call to duty. River otters, seals, osprey, eagles. A boat trip over to Gig Harbor. Built-in cabinets downstairs hold the TV, Wii, a place for wine and puzzles, and Twister." That sounds like a cozy, family home to me.

What do you think about this streamlined home?

March 16, 2010

Baked Oatmeal

Three days a week I get up at the crack of dawn and join the Redmond Masters Swim group for a good hard swim workout. The same 3 days, I come straight home and whip up some sort of oatmeal breakie (translation-breakfast). To me, swimming and hot oatmeal go hand in hand. Right now, I am loving Baked Oatmeal from Quaker Oats (thanks for sharing it, mom). It is hearty and delicious, particularly when you add chopped walnuts, raisins or berries on top. Also, this recipe makes great leftovers. Simply refrigerate and reheat. Give it a try, this may become your new favorite.

Recipe and photo courtesy of:


2 cups Quick Quaker® Oats OR 2-1/4 cups Old Fashioned Quaker® Oats, uncooked
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3-1/3 cups fat-free milk
1/2 cup cup liquid egg substitute with yolk or 2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar

Heat oven to 350ยบ F. Spray 8-inch square glass baking dish with cooking spray.

In large bowl, combine oats and granulated sugar. In medium bowl, combine milk, egg substitute and vanilla; mix well. Add to oat mixture; mix well. Pour into baking dish.

Bake 40 to 45 minutes or until center jiggles slightly. Remove from oven to cooling rack.

Sprinkle brown sugar evenly over top of oatmeal. Using back of spoon, gently spread sugar into a thin layer across entire surface of oatmeal. Return to oven; bake just until sugar melts, about 2 to 3 minutes. Set oven to broil. Broil 3 inches from heat until sugar bubbles and browns slightly, 1 to 2 minutes. (Watch carefully to prevent burning. It may be necessary to turn baking dish.) Spoon into bowls to serve.

Prep Time: 15 min
Cook Time Time: 40 min

March 15, 2010

Junk Drawer

Chef Tools

Last week, I spent a few mindless hours cleaning out the kitchen drawers, as previously posted. All was going well until I hit the dreaded "junk drawer". I know that we all have junk drawers in our kitchens, bathrooms, and offices. You have to have a catch all place for items that just don't belong elsewhere. However, if you have no idea what is in your junk drawer due to, well, all the junk, it might need some clearing out.

Items I found that did not belong:
  • Hammer
  • Wrench
  • Garden shears
  • Nail polish remover
  • Athletic tape
  • 500 bobby pins, hairbands & pony tail holders

While the above items are acceptable in a junk drawer, they all have a place elsewhere in the house. Tools in the toolbox, nail polish remover and hair accessories in the kids bathroom, athletic tape in the first aid kit, etc. The basic rule is, if the item has another place, it shouldn't reside in your junk drawer.

One of my favorite organizing items for this drawer are mini-loaf pans for small items. I found a set of 4 at Chef Tools for 9.99. They are perfect for batteries, small tools, loose change, paperclips and rubberbands. Also essential is a paper tray for post-its, note paper, and scrap paper.

March 11, 2010


Not this kind:

David Beckham Armani

This kind:


What a crazy week, my friends and I all have a lot on our minds. A running inner dialogue of health, prayers, love and gratitude to those I care for has had me super antsy. If I pick up a book, I will read the same sentence over and over. Napping isn't going to happen and I already swam laps for over an hour.

So, what is my go to distraction? Drawers. And while I can, will and do pause on David Beckham "drawers", I am actually referring to mindless productivity with a controlled, sparkling outcome: cleaning out kitchen drawers. Empty, scour, throw out unnecessary items, reorganize and move on to the next.

What's your distraction therapy? Would this work for you?

March 9, 2010

Snowshoe Adventure

I am lucky to have great friends that are always up for an adventure. And yes, a snowshoe walk is an adventure in my book. A few weeks ago, a swim friend planned this outing through the Snoqualmie Pass forest service. Six of us drove 45 min. to the pass,(Cascade Mountain Range), on a beautiful, sunny day. The forest service provided the snowshoes and the ranger for a suggested donation of $20/person.

The walk was incredible as we passed through sunlit old growth forest, over melting creek beds and into clearings where we could feel the sun warming us. Ranger Pat was the perfect guide, teaching us the wonders of a winter forest throughout the hike. Did you know that snow worms existed? Live trees emit heat due to sap production? We hiked for a couple of hours stopping for lunch in an open meadow. The snow shoe hike was the perfect combination of working out, experiencing something new, discovering nature in winter and enjoying friends.

If you live in the NW and would like more information, visit: Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest-Recreational Activities.

Our next adventure: The Alcrataz Invitational Swim.

March 8, 2010

Coffee Table Alternatives

Books as table-Pottery Barn

Chunky-David Smith & Company

Trunk - HGTV

Concrete & Steel - CommuteHome

It appears that the Kilim upholstered ottomans that I featured last week, were not a big hit. How about some of these coffee table alternatives?

  • Stack of Books - looks very cool but completely throws my orderliness nerve into a tick
  • Chunky Bench - love the expanse and space but the size is so grandiose
  • Beautiful Trunk - gorgeous, decorative yet simple
  • 2 Concrete topped tables - these are definitely my favorite. I love concrete and Wendy has turned me into a decorate in pairs convert

Do you have a creative coffee table solution? Which alternative is your favorite?

March 5, 2010

Crunchy Banana Muffins

Because I have "karmacentric" ideas about food, I love this recipe for Crunchy Banana Bread. I believe in a plentiful pantry to nourish my family as well as a near obsessive desire to not waste food. This recipe uses that bunch of brown bananas, as well as the multiple bags of leftover cereal. You know, the stale crushed up remains that no one will ever eat.

Crunchy Banana Bread - Where's Mom Now That I Need Her Cookbook:

1/3 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
2 C. flake cereal remains (I use cornflakes, Honey bunches of Oats)
1 1/2 C flour
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. baking soda
3 C mashed bananas
2 T. water
1 t. vanilla

Cream oil and sugar, beat in egg. Stir in cereal. Sift together flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda, stir into cereal flake mixture. Combine bananas, water and vanilla. Stir into flour mixture. (Add 3/4 raisins or chocolate chips). Bake in greased muffins tin for 16-18 minutes at 350, until golden and springy on top.

This is my kids favorite after school snack!

March 4, 2010

A Homemade Life

First let me apologize for blog tardiness. My laptop is down with a virus and with one less computer at home, allotted blog time is limited.

I am filling a little of my extra time reading: A Homemade Life, by Molly Wizenberg. She is the genius behind one of my favorite food blogs: Orangette. The baker, homemaker side of me connects to Molly and her cooking. Recipes are woven into family stories and you quickly discover that her passion for cooking is evoked by the memories formed in the kitchen. There is a reason why they say the kitchen is the heart of your home!

I wanted to share this book with you because it's an enjoyable read, the recipes sound fantastic and you are immediately reminded of some simple concepts. My favorite one: "clean up as you go". What a great reminder to take a few moments throughout your day and tidy up as you go along = less mess in the end.

So that's all I have for today, a great book to pass along and a great reminder:

"Clean up as you go".

March 2, 2010

Kilim Ottoman

Restoration Hardware

Grand Oriental Rug Gallery

Grand Oriental Rug Gallery

Estate Sale

I know I should be happy with my giant coffee table. The perfect height, lots of storage and room on the table top for games, snacks and beverages. It has endured toddlers through teenagers and only has a few marks of wear. A little refinishing with a darker stain could revive the piece and may put it back in my good graces. I am just so bored with it.

Especially after I discovered beautiful, unique and vibrant kilim covered ottomans! Kilim rugs are flat woven, (no pile), and can be found in many different patterns and colors. While at an Estate Sale last week, I saw this beautiful ottoman upholstered with a kilim rug. Once home, I began my search for more of its kind. I have only included a few options in this post. Aren't they gorgeous? Could an kilim upholstered ottoman take the place of your coffee table?

March 1, 2010

"Furr - eliminator"

Like most homes with pets, there is fur around. Although our Havanese, Lola, doesn't shed, the cats, Pearl and Zoe do. Their favorite lounging spots are covered with their long black and white hair.

You can purchase many items for pet hair removal, special sponges, tape or vacuuming tools. Or you can try my inexpensive and foolproof tool: everyday latex gloves. Rub the glove over fur covered area and it will clump together making it easy to remove with a final step of vacuuming.