Sunday, May 31, 2009

Front Door Makeover

I have been planning on painting our front door for several years now. I even went so far as to pick out the exact color that I wanted two years ago. But that is lost now and I had to go pick out a new color.

It's funny how you avoid a project because you think it is going to be tedious or difficult. But the whole thing took me less than five hours. Granted, it was pretty warm outside; I sanded it, primed it with a dark primer, and then gave it two coats before rehanging it. The next day I touched up in a few spots. I finished the look with a brass door knocker I picked up in Hawaii almost two years ago. We are cat people, so I think this knocker is highly appropriate.

I love the look of extra glossy doors and trim. This fuchsia/raspberry color makes me so happy. I did not paint this for any Feng Shui reason. I believe in Feng Shui even less than I believe in Father Christmas; I painted it this color because our house is painted olive and wanted it to reference an olive stuffed with a pimento. Nice, complimentary colors.

Only, now, the door looks so nice that the peeling trim looks far worse than it did before, so I will be moving onto outside trim painting shortly.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


When the temperatures start to creep up, I start to crave gazpacho. I originally started making gazpacho while cooking at a little vegetarian restaurant in Pioneer Square in Seattle. I have slowly modified the original recipe and made this my own over the years. It seems like a lot of ingredients, but most people who like to cook will have most of these on hand. I usually just have to pick up tomatoes and cucumbers when I am ready to make this.

Blend in small batches in food processor and transfer to larger pot for chilling for two plus hours:

2 medium cucumbers, peeled
1 large sweet onion
5 vine-ripened tomatoes (from your own garden is really best)
4 green onions
large handful parsley
large pinch fresh cilantro (optional)
1 green pepper
1 red, orange, or yellow pepper (optional)
6 cups tomato juice
juice of one lime
juice of small lemon
2 T olive oil
1 T red wine vinegar
1 T cider vinegar
1 T honey
4 cloves garlic
1 tsp dried basil
pinch of tarragon or splash of tarragon vinegar
salt and pepper
couple large dashes of Tabasco--you can also add Sriracha for more heat.

When you serve, top with big, crunchy, fresh croutons that you just made on your stove top with olive oil and garlic. Easily serves 4. Serves up to 8 as a small, delicate starter. Beautiful with a chiffonade of fresh basil on top as a garnish.

We finished the evening with this bottle of J. Scott Viognier. Not good alongside the gazpacho, but very nice on its own. It smells fruity and flowery like it is going to be sweet, (I guess I am supposed to say something like it has "floral notes")--but it is actually quite dry. Lip smacking.


Allium Vandal?

I love Alliums. Big, beautiful, firecrackers of purple flowers. They are singular. They are also singularly expensive. About $1 a bulb and they never procreate like my tulips. But they come back year after year and are the real stars of our garden in spring. I keep adding them all over the yard.

However, last year, someone kept trying to break the ones in our parking strip off of their stems. Their stems are strong and you cannot break them without shears, so the vandal left them dangling, pathetic.

Last fall I planted a couple more bulbs in that spot. I thought, well maybe if there is a larger grouping, nobody will mess with them.

I was wrong. Today, as I was working on finishing painting the living room, I looked out and only saw four Allium, not five. This time it was broken off at the bulb, but left laying on the sidewalk. We are wondering, could an Allium have too much weight and fall on it's own? If a person tried to grab it, they could have taken it. Vandal or bad luck?

Another visitor I found in our garden today:

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Farmer's Market Thursday

The downtown Tacoma Farmer's Market opened for the season today. Boy, was it packed with people and all sorts of interesting things: handmade cheeses, all natural beef jerky, glass art, recycled yarn, soup, and plants, plants, plants.

I met Trevor for lunch and we ate at my favorite stand, "Peruvian Food." I had a chicken tamale and T had a tamale/chicken kabob combo. I like their hot sauce; it's hot, but not enough to make you cry, just to make your mouth tingle.

I bought green onions, cilantro, radishes, honey, and a nice big fat loaf of Grand Central Como bread. Also, a nice pair of glass earrings from a glass fusing artist. It's really delicious honey too. I enjoyed a slice of the como bread in the afternoon that was slathered in the honey.

For dinner, we grilled sandwiches on our waffle iron, one of our favorite things to do in the summer with a waffle iron. Como bread with Horizon organic swiss cheese stuffed with the green onions and radishes from the farmer's market. Paired with Famega Vinho Verde, a nice lightly sparkling wine from Portugal. Only $6 from World Market.

Re-Do the Backyard: Part 2

OK, our excavator Courtney came in on Monday and really went to town taking out all of our sod.

We need to get out there this weekend and mark with spray paint where we want him to dig out extra for our walkway and patio.

Ran into a friend at an art opening tonight. She told me very earnestly NOT to use landscape fabric-- a) it's bad for the environment and b) it doesn't help that much against weeds.

I am torn. We are doing strictly gravel for our walkways and patio, which is very eco-friendly, not to mention cheap! Everyone I have talked to so far (including an organic landscaper) all said to use landscape fabric and now this new comment is making me pause. What, I ask you, is an alternative to landscape fabric? I also heard it is fabulous in helping with draining because you have the fabric between your larger drain rocks and the gravel on top. I am still leaning towards landscape fabric, but I am open to other suggestions.

Note the crappy fence in the back with the big blocks of wood holding it up. Our neighbors did this; the boards are screwed into the fence. If I remove them, I think the fence will fall over. These are renters. I got the name and address of the landlords off the county assessor's website but I don't know what yet to write to them:

To Whom it May Concern-
Your fence is an eyesore and we hate it and your tenants are unresponsive to requests for a solution. Please do something about that nasty fence before I burn it to the ground.
Thank you.

OK, maybe that is just my first rough draft; I need to work on it a little.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Hitting the Links

Focus today on artists I admire.

I have been using Seattle artist Barbara Dunshee's bud vases as gifts a lot lately.

I just worked with this other Barbara, Barbara De Pirro, on Earth Day. She does wonderful work with recycled materials; lately large scale installations.

I can't get enough of Banksy. Maybe someday I'll be a millionaire and able to buy one of his pieces.

I made a quiz on Facebook that mentioned Damien Hirst. And everybody said who the @$!%? is Damien Hirst? His stuff is crazy and not always that pretty to look at, but it does make for interesting conversation.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Bar Hopping

Yesterday was perfect. Like it was the perfect warm, sunny with a breeze spring day that was telling us, look, this is what the rest of summer is going to be about. So we walked down 6th ave to bar hop and progressively dine.

First stop: CORK!

Paired a Mionetto Il Prosecco with a Pear and Blue Cheese flatbread. So delicious. Their flatbreads are just Greek Style Pitas with cheese and other embellishments thrown on top but it was an extremely generous portion.

Second stop: ASADO

Decided at this point to move to cocktails because the wine at Asado is ridiculously overpriced by the glass. Had a Cachaca Sidecar paired with Chorizo Asado which was spicy chorizo grilled with onions and peppers and a chimichurri sauce on top. Very nice except for the cinnamon on the rim of the sidecar. Wasn't feeling it.

Third Stop: CROWN BAR

Dino makes super delicious cocktails out of fresh herbs and veggies. I had the gimlet with celery juice. Don't knock it til you tried it! It had amazing flavor and zing and kept you thirsty and wanting to drink more. I had two of them. Trevor had a fresh carrot something. He can't remember what was in it except the carrot juice, but it was tasty as well. We each had a grilled romaine/spicy ceasar salad. I've really been getting into the grilled salads lately.

Fourth Stop: RED HOT

Did not plan to stop here, but person sitting next to us at the Crown highly recommended it. And when we looked in and saw the pinball machine, we were goners. Spent way too much money on Pirates of the Caribbean pinball, begged a fellow customer for a quarter and then bought him and his friend a beer for being nice. I can't drink beer anymore. It gives me a crazy headache that wine and hard alcohol do not.

It was a good thing we walked.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Dark or Light in the Bedroom?

We had a big garage sale last week and got rid of our ugly dresser. (Sorry, mom.) Now I am going to be putting up closet shelving in place of the dresser. But first, I need to paint. This is the only room in the house that I have avoided painting since I bought the house 5 years ago.

I was looking at a gold to match the dark blue and gold comforter that we have, but I received negative reaction from both the husband and several of our friends. What is so wrong with a gold?

Ann suggested green, any type of green.

Heather suggested a darker color, like purple. She has a dark eggplant in her bedroom and commented that it was comforting and snug, or something like that. Her husband Rick concurred.

When I went to Miller Paint here in Tacoma, (very nice staff by the way, I highly recommend them) they were aghast at a dark color in a small room with little natural light.

My theory is if a room is small, it's going to look small no matter what you do with it.

What do you think? Dark purple (Chameleon from Devinegreen) or blue (Macaw from Devinegreen) all over or an alternative could be a dark blue or purple accent wall or just painted a third of the way up, all the way around the room like a wainscot. I am leaning ever so slightly towards the wainscot, because then I could also do an intersesting stencil around the top of it.

While taking care of the bedroom, I have also decided it is time to touch up the living room. It was done the first week I moved into the house. It is my favorite, Pumpkin Cream from Benjamin Moore.

We are obviously not afraid of color in this household. I think, life is short! At the same time, I don't like to be one of those people stuck in a rut for the rest of my life, even if it is orange. Also, the Pumpkin is looking a little dull and beat up. But I love orange. So I am brightening it up a notch and doing Cheddar in eggshell from Miller Paint. And I am going to redo the dark trim in bright glossy white for kicks.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Spinach Pesto Pasta with Turkey

I like traditional pesto, but basil is expensive and not always in season, and spinach is good for you!

Set a large pot of water to boil with 1 Tablespoon of salt. Salt is important when cooking pasta. It makes the water boil at a higher temperature and the pasta cooks faster and isn't as likely to get gummy while cooking. This is especially important when cooking angel hair pasta like in this recipe.

In your food processor, blend up 1 to 4 cloves garlic with 1/4 cup of pine nuts. We like garlic; I used 4.

Fill the processor full with spinach. Blend, and then fill it once more with spinach. It will blend down to nothing.

Then blend in 1/2 cup shredded Parmesano. Finally, gradually blend in 4-5 Tablespoons olive oil. Set aside for now.

Heat canola oil in large saute pan over medium heat. Saute one chopped onion with 2 or 3 minced garlic cloves. Add one pound of ground turkey. Stir frequently until cooked. Once cooked, add either 1/2 cup of chicken broth or 1/2 cup pasta liquid.

Your pasta should be done by this point. I cooked about 2/3rds of a box of angel hair pasta.

Place drained pasta back into pot over medium heat. Add 1/4 cup half and half and stir for 1 minute before adding in turkey and onion mix. Stir in pesto and a small handful small pine nuts. At this point you can add a little more half and half or broth if you want it more saucy. Serve with shaved parmesan on top.

Dish delish! And a million variations, whatever you can come up with. Great leftovers!

Wine Cork Display

I don't think hoarding is really in my nature, but when it comes to wine corks, I just can't throw them away. They are an endangered species. I have hundreds of them; okay, it's more like thousands. An old boss of mine gave me at least a thousand that are in a box collecting dust in the garage. (Not that we haven't contributed another several hundred.)

Occasionally, I ponder what sort of art sculpture or crafty project I could make with them, but I have never taken to any of the cork boards or trivets seen so frequently at craft shows and the like.

These little cylindrical pieces of plant matter are so comforting to roll in your fingers, they represent history. I like to look over the corks and remember the different wines we drank, the special occasions, the distinct, special evenings.

Now I am finding new ways to display them that are attracting as well. Maybe, someday, I will make a trivet. A restaurant we like in downtown Tacoma, Ravenous, has you sign the cork from the bottle you drink and then they attach them to the wall as a sort of wainscoting! Very clever, but I can safely say, we are not drinking that much! For now, I like them baskets and cages. Especially the antique egg basket, it will always get a remark at a dinner party.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Contractors Can Be So Annoying

Is it just me that whenever I am trying to get something done around my house, the contractor acts like a flake? You call to get a bid, they blow you off. Or you tell them you want to use them and then they disappear for 4 days without a trace. Then I get mad, start looking for other bids and now the contractor appears again, like nothing happened, everything fine, ready to start, but now I don't trust him. What happened to being professional and returning phonecalls? Geez.

All I want is get out back yard ripped up for a reasonable price without being jerked around. What on earth is the solution?

UPDATE: Found a new excavator, 1/3rd the price. Thanks to Shari for the Courtney recommendation. Goes to show you that you should ALWAYS get a second bid!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Hitting the Links

If you didn't know it was paint, you would think it was tile: Mosaic-Madness.

I just discovered these guys when I was researching our upcoming trip to Portland: Shelteriffic.

This interior designer is fantastic! Gives me so many ideas: David Carter.

Since our back yard is ripped up, I may have to do tomatoes in containers.

Re-Do the Backyard: Part 1

When I bought our house almost 6 years ago, it was pretty much a blank slate; a 1946 salt box in a blue collar neighborhood. Nothing special or pretty about it. Pretty plain. All grass yard. I started by tiling the bathroom, then painted the house, then tiled the kitchen, then we put in a rock wall out front and then last year we did a big remodel on the kitchen/dining room and put french doors out the back and a new Trex deck.

And now you walk out on the deck and it is, well, a little depressing at how ugly the backyard is looking. We took out a ton of laurel along the alley, we finally paid someone to trim the rest of the laurel (that will now look ugly for the next 6 months and allows us to see our neighbor's equally ugly back yard), and we finally hired a landscaper designer to help us figure out the easiest way to get all of the elements we want and help us pick out plants.

The designer was the most important element. He worked with the basic design I had already drawn out, but gave us lots of plant ideas and lots of options for walkways, pavers, etc. But most importantly, he made us realize it isn't as hard as it looks and it is within reach.

So now we are going for it, no stopping this motivation train. Last weekend we took out the old concrete stairs leading to the old back door (that is no longer there) and yesterday I hauled all of the concrete chunks out of the yard onto a trailer to be hauled away.

What is so satisfying about hard labor? I was intimidated at first to use the jackhammer. It is heavy as hell and you're afraid you'll put it right through your foot, but it is pretty fun once you get the hang of it.

And now I have an excavator coming next week to rip out all of the sod, a tree stump or two, and he is going to help us bring in gravel in the alley, build a dry well, and dig out for our patio and walkway. We are going to be doing the patio and walkways and plantings ourselves. Watch this space for our metamorphosis into a lovely garden butterfly.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Tomato Onion Tart

I love puff pastry. It is one of those secret weapons in your freezer, easy to pull out and use on short notice and never fails to impress.

This takes an hour an a half to make, but most of it is cooking times. So easy to make.

You will need:
  • one package frozen puff pastry
  • 6-8 roma tomatoes (depending on size)
  • 2 yellow onions
  • teaspoon dried basil
  • pinch of sugar
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • 1 cup imported gruyere, shredded (don't buy domestic gruyere, it tastes disgusting)
  • 1/4 cup half and half
Take your puff pastry out of the freezer, take the two sheets out of the box, separate them and put them on the counter to thaw.

Turn oven to 300. F. Slice tomatoes, crosswise, 6 slices per tomato. Spread out on parchment covered cookie sheet. Place in oven. Set timer for 45 minutes to start. Do not skip this step! A soggy tart is one too many. Roasting the tomatoes takes some of their moisture out and makes them smokier.
Halve and thinly slice onions. Warm oil over low heat. Add onions and stir, occasionally for 20 minutes. Keep the heat on the low side. You are not frying the onions, you are sweating them.

After 20 minutes or so, when they seem nice and soft, add your basil and pinch of sugar. Continue to cook for another 20-30 minutes, until they are just starting to turn golden. If you keep the heat at medium low you only need to stir every 5-10 minutes.

Check the tomatoes. You can turn them over if you wish, but I didn't bother. Once they are looking nicely roasted, take out of oven and turn oven to 450.F.

Assemble the tart:
Your puff pastry should be thawed. On the largest baking sheet you have, put the sheets side by side and overlap by 1/4 inch. Press the seam with your fingers. Press up edges of tart to make a little rim. Space tomatoes on tart and spread out onions on top.

Bake for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, mix gruyere and half and half.
After 15 minutes, take the tart out and spread the cheese mix over the tart. Slip back into oven for 6-7 minutes, until just the top is starting to turn golden.


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Jewelry Display

I've had this old, plain picture frame sitting in the hallway for something like 3 years. You know, just because you paint, mosaic, draw, etc, people just give you stuff they don't want, thinking of course, that you would love to have it! Well, somebody just gave me this frame that didn't fit any of my paintings and so it sat in the hallway. Well, we're having a big yard sale this weekend and I plan on selling my dresser so I have been slowly (painfully slowly) cleaning off the dresser and needed to do something with all of the jewelry piling up all over the place and getting tangled.

Then I remembered a jewelry display I saw online somewhere: make a jewelry display out of an old frame. Bingo!

First, I painted the frame and then added chicken wire to the back.
Then I attached a hanging wire and "s" hooks and away we go!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Mosaic Garden Medallions

This was an interesting project. The clients for this mosaic have a giant cistern collecting all of their run off and rain water right underneath their front yard. Originally there were just some fairly uninteresting wooden lids covering the access points but they wanted art to reflect all of the vines and greenery in the garden. I created some mosaic medallions on hardibacker to replace the wooden ones. Much better!

The small one is made from porcelain tiles and the large one is stained glass. I prefer the stained glass; it is so luminous.