Friday, July 30, 2010

Drinking the Tweeting Kool-Aid

I have broken down. Or rather, my sister has broken me down. I am now officially on Twitter!

Find me @HouseInsideOut

A Purse For All Seasons

Wow, just realized this is my 201st post! I just knew there was a reason why I needed to buy this Queen Bee purse and coordinating wallet!

I have been looking to buy a Queen Bee design for a couple of years now, but didn't find the one that spoke to me until I was doing a little shopping in Olympia last week at Compass Rose.
Queen Bee Creations is a woman-owned handmade bag and accessories company out of Portland, Oregon. I have seen them for sale from Bellingham to San Francisco. They have been making variations of just a couple different styles of bags for years and they are simple, elegant, and I just love them. It doesn't seem as precious as some of my other purses: more down to earth and functional. I wasn't even planning on getting the wallet, but they look so good together, I really couldn't resist!

I also love that they are made in Portland. Not China, not Mexico, but Portland.

On a side note, be sure to check out Compass Rose next time you are in Olympia. I can never say enough good things about this shop. It's a sweet little shop with purses, stationery, jewelry, kitchen items, books, and many from local designers or an emphasis on being eco-friendly. I will always be thankful to them for introducing me to the great music of the Puppini Sisters. A great shop that I wish was in Tacoma!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Meditations on What Makes a Necklace Right For Someone

My sister has been visiting for a week and she is leaving tomorrow. She came in for a writing conference and book-ended her time with seeing family and friends. She has continued a trend this trip by bringing along various necklaces she has owned for many years for me to restring for her. These are necklaces that seemed right at the time and then due to various reasons---mostly length--she rarely wears them.

Last trip she brought me one bead necklace to restring for her because she wasn't happy with several of the beads. I was hoping to never see that necklace again since it took me 3 hours to restring it. And of course, there it was with the other three pieces she brought, needing to be restrung because it was the wrong length and several of the beads didn't line up to her satisfaction. I must be getting better, since this time it only took 2 hours. It is the necklace above. I removed the end beads that she didn't like and added a good length of leather to make it long enough to dangle properly without choking her.

Now, I get this. I think about this sort of thing a lot. I want each and every one of my pieces to be special enough that someone will buy it and then wear it and be happy with it. What makes someone buy jewelry? Is it because they like the piece especially or because the piece will make them look better? Is it color, shape, length, or just a non-specific something that draws people to some pieces more than others?

Below is a hand of Fatima that broke off a key chain and she wanted it made into a necklace. I decided to have a little fun with my reclaimed tin since the other pieces look fancier and more formal.
This may be something I will never figure out. Some necklaces I finish and then I wear them once, look at them for a while, and then either take apart or never wear again. Even I am not sure what I want in my own jewelry! Usually I notice that most of my friends wear the same pieces over and over again. Are we comforted by wearing something familiar that might be slightly talisman-like, or do we all lack confidence to try new things? OK, or just plain lazy?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Easy BBQ Pulled Pork Salad with Lime Vinaigrette

I usually make this pulled pork for sandwiches, but I recently started putting it on salads instead and realized it is still as delicious as ever, only much healthier.

Easy BBQ Pulled Pork Salad with Lime Vinaigrette

For the pork:
1 pork tenderloin
1 bottle beer, whatever is in your fridge!
1/2 cup catsup
1 cup bbq sauce
2 T Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup water
1-2 T chipotle Tabasco, to taste

For the salad:
1 head romaine lettuce, cut or torn into bite sized pieces
1/4 head cabbage, shredded
2 carrots, shredded
4 green onions, chopped white and light green parts
1/2 cup packed chopped cilantro

For the dressing:
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons Champagne or other preferred light colored vinegar

To serve:
1/2 cup shredded cheese, your choice

Cut pork tenderloin into 1" medallions and combine with sauce ingredients in dutch oven or other deep, heavy pan. Bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer and cook for 20-25 minutes. Remove pork with slotted spoon. Shred pork with two forks and return to sauce. Cook down another 10 minutes or so. If sauce gets too thick, you can always thin it with a touch more water.

While pork is cooking, assemble salad and dressing and then toss.

Divide salad between 2 plates. (There is usually extra.) Divide cheese between salads and top with pork. You could also add sour cream or tortilla chips around the edges.


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Cakes With (and Without) Booze

I am putting together a little cookbooking club. The idea is that several of us will cook out of the same cookbook and then get together to share our successes and failures and have a dinner party to try the favorites. I tried doing this on my own and it was lonely and it took forever to work through a cookbook.

This might end up being a column in the local newspaper, but for now, I am just cooking.

Or more specifically, I am baking. And baking. And baking.
The cookbook is called Booze Cakes and the title is pretty self-explanatory. I am making cakes with lots and lots of booze in them. Booze in the cake, booze in the frosting, booze in the whipped cream, and booze in the layers between the frosting and the cake. It's a little over the top.

For example, the two photos above feature the Top Shelf Margarita Cheesecake. Not only did I put triple sec and tequila in the batter, it is also in the whipped cream. This tasted pretty delicious, but it was super rich.

Next up, well, the same evening actually, I made the Rosemary Limoncello Cake. It was lemon overload. Lemon juice, lemon peel, limoncello in the batter and again in the glaze, plus candied lemons; we could barely taste the rosemary because there was so much lemon! This was still my favorite of the two. It has pine nuts in it too which balance a bit with the lemon and it wasn't so heavy on the fat.
Here's the Rosemary Limoncello cake I made today, only minus the Limoncello and plus fresh fruit. (Obviously.) The apricots, blackberries, and blueberries are all from our organic produce delivery. Bonus.
My sister is visiting and she doesn't drink alcohol at all, so I modified it to be sans alcohol. There is still a lot of fresh lemon juice and zest in it, so I am sure the lemon flavor will turn out just fine.
I might want to skip dinner and go straight to dessert!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Food Cart Envy

I drove down to Portland last weekend with a friend, just for a quick overnight jaunt. She was meeting up with her boyfriend who was riding in the Seattle to Portland bike ride, so she and I hung out Saturday and then I just caught the train home early Sunday afternoon. Amtrak is a delight to ride on: comfy seats-I just settled back to read my book and I was home in no time!

I know I have expressed my love of Portland numerous times here, but there is one more thing worth mentioning. (Besides the public transit, the eco-friendly living, the local food movement, the art scene, the beer and distilleries.)

The food carts.

Portland is sprinkled with food carts in little pods all over town. Everyone from around here always seem to worry about food safety, but these guys have to pass inspection just like the normal restaurants.

And it seems like Tacoma might finally be loosening its belt on the food cart debate. It has been coming along slowly, but surely, and even though they all seem to be taco trucks, at least it is a start.
And about 3/4 mile from our house is Los 3 Hermanos. It's been there well over a year, next to a scary looking E-Z Food Mart, which might be one of the reasons we have taken so long to finally go there. But it is cheap and pretty darn good. The meat can be hit or miss seasoning wise, but they have red sauce and green sauce you can add to them to bring out some more flavor.

I have heard that better taco trucks exist in Tacoma, but for $4.99 for 3 tacos plus rice and beans (that taste so good, I don't want to know how much lard is in them) and an easy 15 minute walk from our house, I say thumbs up and bring on more food carts!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Harvesting Lavender

I guess I am a little late to the game and I should have been harvesting my lavender a few weeks ago. But the heat has come so late this year, I think I am ok.

One trick I have picked up is to always tie your lavender bunches with rubber bands before you hang them up to dry. This is because as the stems dry they will shrink a little and if you use string, the lavender will fall out all over the floor.

I have 4 types of lavender in my yard and only harvested 3 of them. I am not particularly fond of the big chunky lavender. Those were a mistake when I was ordering from the nursery. I like the ones with the small, delicate flowers. This is the first year I have had white lavender and it is really lovely.

Lavender is amazing. It is drought tolerant, loves sun, smells great, and provides amazing color in the garden. I am planning on tearing out some plants in the parking strip this fall and replacing them with more lavender.

My kitchen smells divine right now until I figure out where to hang the lavender. I will harvest more tomorrow!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Throwing a Successful Dinner Party

I love throwing dinner parties and consider myself a modestly successful amateur when it comes to putting together a nice summer soiree. But, I don't think Martha will ever approve of me. My dishes don't match and the wine glasses are all different sizes and I didn't have fancy party favors that I labored umpteen hours on.

But seriously, only three components are truly necessary for a good party:

First of all, friends. Without these, you can't do much.

Second, good food. This can lead to acquaintances becoming good friends. See above. I love throwing a party where I cook everything, but with the bigger parties, there is nothing bad about having a potluck. And sometimes it can be fun to have a theme.

Finally, a sense of humor. You can't be a very good hostess if you get upset when something spills or if things don't go according to plan. We were going to a big wine tasting party this weekend at some other friend's house and they had a family emergency and couldn't hold the party. So with less than 24 hour notice, I decided to host. That meant spending all day Saturday cleaning and not being able to make the complicated fruit tart I had been planning but I would much rather be with my friends than worry about a dirty house or fancy dessert!
And that's it! Of course other items can help too.

Having a little space to spread out can feel luxurious. It took me 2 years until I found a sideboard appropriate for the space and my budget. And I still whipped out a ratty table for desserts and threw a tablecloth on it to hide the fact I do art projects on it.

Something tasty to drink helps too; especially if you call yourself a wine club! Since it was such short notice, I just told people to bring whatever suited their taste. It was a very warm day, so we ended up sampling a lot of Sauvignon Blancs, Roses, and Sangioveses.
I consider every season party season. I know a lot of people like to throw parties in summer. It is easier because you can spill out onto the deck, but if you have friends, food, and a sense of humor, what are you waiting for?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Cutest Thing Ever

OK, the following maybe the second cutest thing ever.

I want one of these.

And I am not talking about the Kong. But whoever invented the Kong must be a zillionaire by now.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

New Art Website has Launched!

My new incarnation of is up and running!
It includes my architectural mosaics, jewelry, and paintings. I also have an art blog on this site that talks about all my upcoming shows and works in progress.
Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

36 Things: Grow Garlic and Shallots

I planted the small, lovely smelling cloves in the fall and waited through rain, sleet, hail, winter, spring, and summer. Now my waiting has come to bear fruit! Or, well, garlic, that is. Growing them yourself is great because they are organic and local. Only 15 paces from the back door local. Except I had to drive to the nursery to get the starter cloves.

The shallots did not turn out so well. I tried to separate the shallots a couple of months ago and then I found out that is not what to do. They looked like they might make it; a few crying out, "I'm not dead yet!" and then the 16 year old I hired to trim our laurel trampled all over them.

So lots of garlic: at least 14 bulbs. But no shallots.

But I also harvested my first monster elephant garlic. It is technically different than normal garlic I have been told, so I am not sure if I have to dry it out for as long. I should probably do some research on that. We'll see.
The garlic was so easy, I will do it again this year for sure. But I will check pricing this time. The regular garlic is a fine price, but I picked up the elephant garlic and it had no pricing and I forgot to check when I was buying a zillion things at the nursery and the 3 were $17!!! I discovered my tragic mistake too late--the nursery doesn't accept returns on bulbs. So I planted them and they look good, but not sure if I will do that again. I will double the amount of garlic, because we go through a bulb or two a week. And I will plant the shallots in a less vulnerable place and leave them alone!

Get closer and closer on my list of 36 Things to do Before I Turn 37. Only 4 months to go!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

If You Build It, They Will Come?

We are cat people. I want to be a dog person. I think and fantasize about being a dog person, but for now I am a cat person. The idea for making a kitty condo came from the idea of a dog house. When I was growing up we had dogs and those dogs stayed outside year round in their kennel with a dog house. So why shouldn't I build a house for my cats?

Our cats are spoiled cats and spend a lot of time inside. But they frequently end up crying by the back door to be let in and 8 months out of the year it is raining and we have no awning and so when those cats come in they are usually soaking wet. So I got the brilliant idea to build a little kitty condo to put by the back door for them to hang out in when we aren't around to let them in. I even installed FLOR carpeting inside, cut up from samples I had ordered.
Three generations of male think this is a silly idea: my dad who helped me build the thing with left over wood from the shed, my husband who shook his head when I told him what I was doing, and the 16 year old who I hired to trim our laurel rolled his eyes and told me it was flat out dumb. But the 16 year old comes from a house with 13 cats (13 CATS!) and so I will forgive his negativity towards cats.
My cats aren't too sure what to make of it. Trevor's cat won't go near it. I think they just need to be acclimated. Time will only tell if this is something Trevor can use against me as yet another hare-brained idea or perhaps my stunning brilliance will reveal itself in the fact that yes, the cats love their little kitty condo.

Building a Shed: Part 3

Spent all afternoon yesterday painting the shed and very happy with the results. I still have to paint the final coat on the white trim and then I am done! The color is "Sultana" by Martha Stewart. Hope they came up with the name Sultana is beyond me. I am liking it much more than the faded moss that the house is now and that you can barely see in the right side of the picture. Maybe I will add "painting the house" to the long house to-do list.

It's funny how the space it is in was a total dead-zone before and now it is nice and functional!