It Takes Two

As in two times as long to complete a project on a house. At least. I am happy to report that we have only a few hours of detail touch up work and our decks are DONE! Remember last year? Two optimistic islanders bought a cute little house that “barely needed any work”? Ha. We started repair on the rotting deck that summer (remember this Labor day post?) and I am not so pleased to report that we were still working on it on Labor Day 2014. However, it is ALMOST DONE!

Matt being at home has been a great help. Deck progress is being made, the kitchen is cleaner, and we have more time to think about more projects. I am getting overwhelmed with prioritization though. This past spring we tackled a large interior aesthetic project…drywall repair in our living room and basement. All was great until we were washing the deck this summer and realized that the leak that caused water damage (hence the repair work…) was still a leak. So now we need to replace the door to the deck. After three quote and lots of door pricing we have decided to go the economical DIY approach. Stay tuned for details and progress reports. Hopefully this one will be quicker than the deck.

More projects to think about: random little repairs, painting the hall and office, retaining wall in the garden, car port, chicken coop. Did I mention we feel like we have no time?

In the meantime we are figuring out balance in our new routine. Job searching has been frustrating for Matt, and my boss left at work so I am readjusting as well. We are budgeting more, balancing a lot of planned weekends, and feeling the exhaustion that comes at the end of a busy summer. It takes some extra patience, extra love and lots of communication to figure it all out.

Our garden was a great success. Tons of tomatoes, 3 eggplants still to pick, Spanish beans, purple jalapenos and lots of chard, broccoli greens (good braised) and hopefully some Brussels sprouts will start appearing.

Summer Finale: Surfing with Seals

Leaves are starting to turn. That was the first observation we made as the pack mini cooper zipped down the Washington coast. Fall is in the air. This was definitely an end of summer trip.

Matt and I took five glorious days to adventure the Oregon Coast. Camping, road tripping and most of all: surfing! After two great trips to Todos Santos we were ready to legitimize ourselves as surfers and tackle local, cold water.

Months ago we picked the week, and then managed to snag 4 nights at Nehalem Bay State park for camping. Those reservations fill up WAY in advance! We loaded the car, crossed our fingers for good weather and waves and set off.

Our campsite was good. What you would expect from an RV filled state park, but it did have hot showers, running water and was a quick 5 minute walk to the beach. We were blessed with dry weather, and even two days of sunshine.

The beach walk from our site was beautiful. Miles of fine grained sand, waves and treasures to find. We had fun running from the tide changes, taking photos and dipping our toes in the freezing cold Pacific. We were planning to surf in this? Are you nuts?!

Surfing was spectacular. The first day we rented two beginner boards like what we were familiar with from Mexico. We hiked in to Short Sands beach at Oswald West State Park and bundled up in our wet suits. Fully covered except for our faces, we were totally comfortable in the water. Not even a goose bump! We tackled the waves on our beginner boards and by the second day had leveled up to a REAL epoxy hard top board. Surfers we can legitimately say we are!

There were even seals playing in the surf with us. It was incredible. We are totally hooked.

Dinners were grilled melts with tomato soup. Smore’s for dinner. We hiked out to the beach for breakfast picnics on a sand dune.

On our surf recovery day we ventured along the coast to find a lighthouse, some new beaches, more supplies and ice cream at the Tillamook factory.

Oregon, you are a stunner. We will be back for more surf soon.

Details:

Camped at: Nehalem Bay State Park

Surf rentals: Cleanline Surf (Cannon Beach)

Surf beach: Short Sands

Brown Butter Ice Cream

This weekend was full of house projects. Sometimes home ownership is exhausting. And sometimes it is stressful…Sunday was both for us. We have been working hard on our decks, and realized halfway through cleaning one that our deck door is still leaking and causing water damage in the downstairs bedroom…where we just got drywall fixed. The project list is getting reshuffled and now the focus is replacing that door and fixing the leak before fall. Sigh. It was a lot to juggle through.

But we celebrated a glorious summer weekend with fresh garden veggies and homemade ice cream. That helped.


Brown Butter Ice Cream

This ice cream is so decadent (calories in homemade ice cream don’t count, right?!) but so good. The brown sugar gives the custard base a complex caramel flavor. I imagine that it would be a cleaner “brown butter” flavor with white sugar but we loved this ice cream. The recipe I referenced called for corn starch instead of an egg but we liked this less processed approach.

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 ½ cups heavy cream
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 Tbs corn syrup
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, browned
  • vanilla
  • pinch of sea salt

Place the butter in a wide stainless steel skillet over medium heat. Let the butter melt then let it cook, swirling the pan occasionally, until the butter is quite brown and smells toasted. Remove from the heat and let cool.

Mix the milk and cream in a heavy saucepan. Whisk the sugar and corn syrup into the milk mixture in the saucepan, and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Whisk until the sugar is completely dissolved, being careful not to let the milk boil over. Simmer lightly for about 5 minutes, then temper egg yolk and whisk to combine into hot milk. Return to the heat and cook, stirring, for about one minute. Remove from the heat.

Combine the cooked milk mixture with the cooled brown butter in a blender or food processor. Carefully blend milk at high speed, adding brown butter slowly until completely mixed and emulsified. Add in the vanilla and blend for another 30 seconds.

Cool the milk and butter mixture in the fridge for at least two hours, or overnight. Freeze in your ice cream maker according to instructions. Add the salt into the ice cream maker in the last few minutes of churning.

 

Home Grown Mint Cookie Ice Cream

Last weekend we broke in our ice cream maker. It was a wedding gift and really needed to be put to good use. We perused ice cream flavors and settled on homemade mint with crushed cookies. I found a few variations and eventually make my own take. Verdict: awesome! The mint flavor of freshly extracted mint is not like store bought or mint extract…it is much earthier and floral. Perfect for enjoying after a farm fresh meal. Even better out of antique bowls.

Garden Mint Cookie Ice Cream

2 cups cream

2 cups whole milk

3 egg yolks (though next time we plan to use 5)

1 cup sugar

2 cups fresh mint leaves and flowers

1 pinch salt

Crushed oreos or other sandwich cookies (we used Newman’s Own)

1. In saucepan, combine 1 cup cream and 1 cup milk. Add mint leaves and flowers. Heat until steaming and then turn off heat. Let sit 3o mins. Then reheat to steaming and let sit another 15 mins.

2. Pour mint liquid through a strainer to remove leaves. Return liquid to saucepan.

3. Add sugar and salt to the mint mixture and heat until just steaming. Temper egg yolks and add. Stirring constantly, cook over low heat until the mixture coats the back of a spoon, about 10 mins.

4. Remove from heat and add in remaining 1 cup cream and 1 cup milk (both cold). This will stop the cooking. Put mixture in fridge for at least an hour before putting in ice cream maker.

Churn in ice cream maker for 20 mins or until nearly done. Add cookies and churn until desired consistency.

Enjoy! 

Homemade Weekend

Saturday morning, finally a weekend sleeping in at home! We went to the farmers market, came home for a pancake brunch in the back yard, then embarked on an epic array of kitchen creations. I canned some pickled beets, made homemade mint oreo ice cream (from our fresh mint!), and Matt pulled out all the stops on a huge rack of ribs. Yum yum!

This was my inaugural foray into canning. I have helped my mom in the past, read a thousand blog posts and recipes, and watched others do it, but this was ME solo canning for the first time. It probably would have gone more smoothly if I had canning tongs, and maybe read the recipe all the way through, and maybe not tried to make ice cream at the same time, and yea, a cleaner kitchen would have helped. All in all though it was a success! I prepared 3 lbs of island grown beets in a beautiful apple cider honey sauce. The canning went ok. One jar exploded through the bottom seconds after it went in the pot (still not sure why) but the other three are sitting on the counter with cleanly “pinged” lids. Success! I had a few too many beets for a 5th jar so just left those out to eat. So excited for the next canning adventure!

We are enjoying the sunshine, and time to do projects. Before the summer ends we are trying to finish the back and front deck paint, paint the rest of the garden shed, and get a few other odds and ends finished up. And we are getting chickens!!! We have been planning chickens for ages, but have not found time to make a coop (surprise surprise). Last week though a friend from grad school posted that she needed to re-home her ladies, coop and all! I jumped on it, and it sounds like we are going to get to adopt these four chucking hens!

Speaking of critters, our current kitty ladies both got baths today. Yes, baths. As in soap, water and yowling. They are pretty and fluffy and all set to snuggle though!

Our garden is in its peak. We harvested a rainbow of goodies today.

  •                 Red tomatoes (3 varieties!)
  •                 Orange/pink/red/yellow chard
  •                 Yellow cherry tomatoes
  •                 Green Spanish beans
  •                 Bright Green peppermint
  •                 Purple jalapenos

…and some dried sweet pea seeds and flowers

It is a beautiful summer weekend on the island.

 

Moving to China

Well, china dishes that is :)

When Matt and I met we each had a set of dishes. I had some ceramic blue swirly ones, he had a mismatches set of vintage 70s era patterns. Both sets have served us well but we also inherited two sets of china…one from my great Grandmother, Ease, and a set from Matt’s grandmother, Elaine.

Now it seems that most inherited china is floral or gold or really fragile or ulgy…ie: sits in a cabinet for the until Christmas, is taken out once a year, fussed over, then stored again for another year. Or just not used at all. We lucked out with two sets of china that we LOVE, so much that we decided that they will be our everyday dishes. After all, they were our grandmother’s everyday dishes so why not us?

Last night I cleaned out the two sets of old dishes to make room for the china. We carefully unpacked, stacked and organized them into the cabinet. I could not stop looking at them! Ease’s dishes are vintage Johnson Brothers blue and white while Elaine’s are solid white with a petite pattern on the edges. Together they are a perfect matched/mismatched set! And also go perfectly with some bowls we got as a wedding gift.

So bring on the meals! Bring on the dinner parties, holidays, pizza nights and oatmeal mornings. We are celebrating with family heirlooms that are just too precious and beautiful to keep locked in a cabinet.

PNW Summer Adventure: Camping, Wedding & Anniversary in the North Cascades

The moment our laundry was done it was packed up again for another weekend adventure. Towels were crammed into our beach bag, tents folded, cooler stocked…we were off for an anniversary/wedding/camping weekend in the North Cascades!

Our first stop was a visit at my parents in Ferndale. We played croquet, ate tons of food, explored the garden, visited with visiting grandparents and cousins, prepped camping meals and had some good down time. And I made pie crust. Sour cream super easy and amazingly delicious pie crust!

Early Friday morning we jumped in the car (only an hour later than planned…) and drove out Hwy 20 to North Cascades National Park. It was a glorious day for a drive! Our goal was a campsite at the Colonial Creek Campground. After one loop around the campground we began to get nervous…there were hardly any empty sites left! We managed snag a private site with HUGE trees…not exactly riverfront but still pretty nice. Our mini looked tiny next to those trees!

After setting up camp and filling water bottles we packed our for our first hike: Diablo Lake. 7.5 miles from the Diablo Dam all the way up to Ross Lake’s dam. Beautiful hike, saw only 4 other people. Perfect! We were hot and dusty from our hike, and with no showers at the sites what were we to do? Swim in the lake of course! Yes, we were a little nuts to jump in the FRIDGID glacial waters (hey, the color looks like the Caribbean!) but it felt so good!

 

Dinner was epic. Homemade buffalo kabobs with mushrooms, peppers and onions. Completed with corn on the cob, cucumber salad and champagne we have been saving from our wedding. With plastic camping wine glasses we toasted to two years of marriage!

 

The next morning we made pancakes and geared up for another hike, this time on the Thunder Creek trail. We trekked two miles along a beautiful river, crossed a bridge, and then made our way back to camp…to grab swimsuits and chacos! With our water –adventuring attire we ventured back down the path until we found a side trail to take us to the water. We waded across the wide, sparkling (ahem, FREEZING!!!) river to a beautiful rock sandbar. We splashed and swam and bodysurfed rapids until we could not feel our legs. It was SO COLD! But the sunshine was warm and we dried off quickly. Swimming in glacial rivers really makes you feel alive!

 

Refreshed and clean, we put on wedding clothes and drove over to the North Cascades Learning Center for my good friend and old apartment-mate’s wedding! Too much wine, a canoe-full of beer, lots of food, many friends I had not seen in ages, and topped off with karaoke…it was a fun night.

The next morning, not so fun. Poor Matt was cursed with a camping hangover. While he recovered I broke camp and loaded up the car for our drive back to Seattle. A quick stop at Costco for groceries, some gelato and a hot dog to share (great hangover food) filled every last space in the car. We managed to pull into the ferry line just as one was starting to load. Great timing!

As always, it felt so good to be home. We cleaned and unpacked. Watered the garden and visited with the kitties. And to celebrate our actual 2 year anniversary, we had leftover kabobs in the back yard. Matt gave me an antique sapphire necklace from the antique store on Vashon. 

Two years. It has been great. What a glorious end to an epic PNW summer weekend.