Fall Vacation Reflection

What is it about vacations that make being home feel so good? We have been on the road more than usual this fall. A September wedding in Big Sur wrapped up the final 12 days of summer with an epic surf road trip. Less than two week later we were flying across the country for a French Canadian dose of fall color in Quebec. Both trips were amazing, and totally different.

Road trip to Big Sur took us along Hwy 101 and 1: the classic West Coast adventure. Our mini cooper was crammed full of camping gear, food, wetsuits, wedding clothes and our two boards strapped to the roof. It was quite a sight and so much fun to pull off. 2600+ miles took us to some amazing views, great surf, with friends and family along the way. Nik and Nora’s wedding was quite the event as well and we felt like honored guests for the intimate, luxury event.

The week we were home felt the total opposite. Rushed and frantic and too much to do. We harvested tomatoes, made and froze sauce, rebuilt the chicken coop roof and added a new outdoor run. The rain was coming so we battened down the hatches and prepared our little farm for another spell away. I did my best to catch up at work while simultaneously preparing projects for more “out of office” responses in my absence. The house projects received zero attention.

But then the magic of travel happened again and all those unfinished project and work worries were 3000 miles away. On free tickets from last year’s bumped flight, we flew into Montreal and made our home in a little bohemian apartment for the next 4 days. We ate bread and cheese and pate for dinner almost every night, and found pastries for breakfast and lunch. We explored the city through all modes of transit: on foot, by bike share, metro and bus. One night we went out for a fancy dinner. We asked for a recommendation at the trendy butcher shop where we had found excellent terrine. Their sister restaurant was just around the corner and exactly what we wanted for a nice night out.

On Sunday we took a bus to Quebec City on the peak day of fall color. It was incredible, and quite a different experience from fall in the Pacific Northwest. The trees were on fire! How did we like Quebec City? That first afternoon of exploring literally brought me to tears. Multiple times. It was that beautiful and special feeling. The clouds and sky and light were perfect to see the city for the first time.

The rest of our 6 day Canadian adventure took us all around and through Quebec City. We rented a car 2 days to seek out fall colors (and more pastries and coffee). We ate and explored and ate and explored, calling another little Airbnb apartment home. We rarely find places we may want to live (we really do love Vashon) but were totally smitten with Ile d’Orleans. If we ever need to move that is on the list.

Now we are home. It took us a few weeks to really settle back in. We came home to a house swimming in tomatoes salvaged from the late season storms. Picking corn and cuddling our kitties that missed us tons. We dug out the rest of the garden and planted cover crops. We are settling back into the routine. Matt is finding his tools and picking up projects. I am figuring out my daily commute to the city. Life is returning to normal just as the days really settle into fall.

Date Cake with Broiled Coconut Caramel Topping

Monday night dinner needed dessert. In our fridge we had two huge boxes of really good dates. So I googled date cake. I love sticky date pudding but wanted something simpler. I found a recipe, tweaked it a bit, and came up with this. It far exceeded expectations and will be part of our usual rotation from now on.

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Cake

  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 2 cups dates, pitted and chopped
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup white or coconut sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Topping

  • 4 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9 inch square pan. In a saucepan, combine water and dates. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in baking soda. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together 1/2 cup butter and 3/4 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Beat in the flour, salt and date mixture. Pour batter into prepared pan.
  3. Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove cake from oven, and set oven to Broil.
  4. Make Topping: In a saucepan, melt 4 tablespoons coconut oil. Stir in brown sugar, cream and chopped nuts. Spread mixture over warm cake and place under broiler until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Watch carefully – it burns easily under the broiler.

 

Seaglass for Climate Change Awareness

Last November I launched into a new phase of my artistic career: seaglass mobiles. In January I launched my Etsy shop and in June applied for my first art show.

This past week I was featured in the Museum of Northwest Art’s SURGE Climate Change Awareness show. It was an honor to be a part of this wonderful exhibit both with beauty and a purpose.

My piece was the largest I have made (so far!) 8 feet long and 6 feet tall! That is a lot of glass. For this particular project I crowd sourced seaglass from collectors around the world to further enhance the message of impact. All of us love to collect, and are directly impacted by the rising and changing seas and tides.

Adventures in Canning: Italian Prune Plum Jam

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Last weekend we brought home a huge box of fresh picked Italian plums. This weekend I decided to try my hand at canning plum jam. Result? Awesome.

I initially decided that I did not need nearly as many plums as I had, and gave them away to two women in the community. It seriously made my day to share this bounty. The downside…I gave away more than I wanted! I quickly learned that plums do not go NEARLY as far once they are jammed and canned as one would expect. Rookie error. Luckily we found two other sources of plums on the island so another batch will be happening this week.

I learned so tips for this jam, including macerating cut plums overnight and a different low sugar pectin. Both gleaned from this recipe. The resulting product in the BEST jam ever! I recommend these extra steps. We ate our first batch (the frothy skimmings) with fresh homemade bread in the backyard with guests that afternoon. Perfect summer treat we will enjoy for months to come.

Italian Prune Plum Jam

Makes 5 pint jars of jam

Start with:
8 lbs plums (pitted, quartered with skins on)
3 lbs sugar
mix together and macerate overnight in the fridge in glass bowl. the mixture should be soupy and sugar melted with plum juice.
Pour sugar/plum mixture into pot, and cook until fruit is soft. Smash hot fruit through china cap or food mill to remove skins.
Return to pot and add:
2Tbs Pomona universal pectin (seriously the best kind. Go find it now)
2 Tbs calcium water (mix found in pectin box)
1/2 cup lemon juice
Cook until thick and bubbly. Skim off froth (save this in a pyrex container to eat right away, not pretty but still yummy!)
Ladle into hot, sterilized jars and process 20 minutes per water bath instructions.

Vashon Island Wedding Recap    

Turning an idea into reality is really quite an inspiring activity. We took our lovely house with a too-small kitchen, came up with a plan, and knocked out some walls. Better location for a fireplace? Underway. Bigger garden? Check. Matt and I are feeling like an unstoppable duo, even if it means our plate is pretty darn full.

Full, but could handle more…so comes yet another off the cuff idea: event planning! We have always talked about how well our skill sets aligned to run events. Matt has killer kitchen skills, catering experience and an eye for detail and logistics. I love dealing with ideas and vision and people. Perfect combo for a wedding planning team. It was always a hypothetical idea until this spring when the opportunity to help a couple plan and execute their Vashon island wedding. They were in LA and needed some local contacts to run and help source things…and so our trial event was born!

For months now we have been their go-to contacts. Receiving shipments, sourcing products, and also expanding our scope to be event producers, caterers and designers. Matt took on appetizers for 200 guests, building a chuppah for their ceremony and designed a beautiful theme around vintage silver platters.

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Finally the event was here. Last weekend we worked our tails off, found 4 amazing helpers and pulled off a wonderfully perfect wedding. Lights and bunting ran above two long banquet tables and the party went well into the night. It was beyond rewarding to execute every last detail above and beyond the expectations of the bride and groom, have ideal weather, friendly helpful guests and make some great island contacts. We are still riding the high from how great it was!

So yes, this trial event was a success, and we are moving forward with making it part of our already busy repertoire as a side gig with the goal of doing 5-7 events each year. We have a website ready to launch as soon as we come up with the right name. Suggestions welcome!

 

Perfect PDX Surf Weekend

A few months ago we were searching for a couple to join us at the coast for a weekend of yurting and surfing. After texting and emailing everyone we knew, it was my parents that ended up coming with us and it was a lot of fun. The practice of reaching out generated a lot of fun conversations through, and sparked my friend Emily and her husband Ryan to say “we can’t go, but let’s get something on the calendar!” and we did! We set aside a late July weekend and before we knew it, it was here. We made plans to do a quick weekend trip to Portland and tacked on a surf day in Manzanita. Result: seriously one of the best trips ever!

Now, let’s backtrack a bit. Emily and I had actually only ever met 3 times prior, but had always instantly hit it off. Matt and Ryan were added to the mix last time we hung out, at a mutual friend’s wedding over two years ago (!) but we all clicked so well that it was not had to imagine that this trip would be awesome.

Matt and I woke up early, strapped our surf board to the roof of the car and hopped on a 7:30 ferry to Southworth (super sneaky bonus of living on Vashon…no I-5 to get to the coast!) and were walking down the trail to Short Sands by noon. We love this beach and had surfed on a prior trip, but this time the conditions were perfect. No current at all. Great clean sets of gentle but largeish waves. We both caught some amazing rides. We rented 1 board (we are in the market for a second for us) and switched back and forth with ours. The water was clear and warm (for PNW standards) and we were in the water until after 5PM surfing until we could surf no more.

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A week prior we snagged an opening at Nehalem Bay State Park campground (super crowded campsite, but free hot showers and easy access to the beach) and set up camp. We got a pizza and salad to go at Marzanos and ate it on the beach while watching the sun go down. Then we slept; exhausted from a full day in the water.

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By 7:30 the next morning we had packed up and left with the rest of the campground still asleep. Breakfast was coffee and chocolate chip zucchini bread on the beach, we checked out Indian Beach at Ecola State Park to kill 20 minutes while the surf shop opened, returned out board and hit the road to Portland.

Emily and Ryan welcomed us to their sweet new house in the St. Johns neighborhood of Portland, and then we headed out for a full day of adventure, food and good conversation. As I mentioned, we really do not know each other that well, and it was so refreshing to have a full day to learn more about each other! We hit up all four quadrants of Portland and so much good food.

Stop 1: ¿Por Que No? for tacos. This hole in the wall gem was awesome. Matt and I shared 5 different tacos and ate them like wine tasting…lightest to darkest starting with the pescado and ending with smoky barbacoa. My favorite? Carnitas. So good!

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Stop 2: Saturday Market. What is there to say about the Saturday Market? Art vendors, food trucks, promenade along the river? Great time to just be outdoors in Portland. Emily and I both picked up some local art and the husbands talked about beer…which took us to our next stop…

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Stop 3: Bridgeport Brewery for some summertime refreshment. Let’s just say 20oz glasses of IPA in the summer made us all a little extra happy and it was nice that Emily is pregnant and happy to be our DD. Lots and lots of laughter and stories over beers drummed up conversation about dinner (aka more food!) and the idea of sushi. Emily got a glint in her eye and hatched a plan to take us to another neighborhood.

Stop 4: Saburo’s Sushi. Hole in the wall, nothing fancy from the outside…except that usually it has at least a 90 minute wait. We lucked out with a 20 minute wait. BEST SUSHI EVER! Huge rolls, super fresh, reasonably priced. We tried 5 or 6 different rolls and had leftovers. Leftovers from sushi? That NEVER happens! Real crab in the California roll even. We will be back.

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Stop 5: game shop #1 and #2 to buy Settlers of Catan.

Stop 6: attempted Salt and Straw ice cream but saw the line and just went home to play games!

After an evening of games we crashed, and the next morning went for breakfast and then parted ways. It was so much fun to catch up with Ryan and Emily and see their beautiful city.

Matt and I had a few more to-dos in town…unfortunately checking out the surf shops for used boards was out since they are closed Sunday (boo!). What was a success was revisiting Sat and Straw. Ice cream right after breakfast? Why not! That is what road trips are for right?!

We waltzed in at 11:08am (no line!) and tried ~10 different flavors. I settled on VEGAN mint coconut chocolate whoopee pie. Seriously amazing and possibly some of the best ice cream I have ever had…and totally vegan/dairy free! We were impressed. Matt had excellent bourbon coffee and salted caramel swirl. We sat in the sunshine and enjoyed our ice cream. Perfect end to a weekend.

The drive back to Vashon was pretty painless. Sneaking up to Southworth and skipping I-5 is the way to go. Pulled up just in time for a boat and was home by 4:00. Awesome weekend…and cannot wait to go back to Portland!

House Renovation Updates

What makes it a remodel vs a renovation? I was thinking of that in the middle of drafting this post.

Well, whatever it is, we are in the middle of it! This weekend we really hit some major strides and milestones. I unpacked all the plastic sheeting in the kitchen…that has been up since we took the wall down in February! We decided that there were enough steps between now and actually demoing the backsplash and counters that we could use our stove and hood for a while. Major horray for not cooking on a hot plate for awhile!

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We are also making huge changes in the living room. Matt has the fireplace (new hearth, mantle) framed out and covered in plywood. Brick veneer has been selected and is on order. We ordered sample tile for the kitchen and are narrowing it down. The table saw from the Tool Library has been working hard in the driveway and Matt is getting lots of practice. Next up: cabinets and cubbies for the kitchen! And a new light, and, and and…the list goes on!

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Two thirds of our potatoes are harvested, garlic is curing in the laundry room, bush beans are coming in by the handful and the Spanish beans are less than a week away from first harvest. Kale is going bonkers but areas are plagued by powdery mildew (boo!), and zucchini has been rolling in for breakfast, dinner and chocolate chip zucchini bread. Raspberries are a daily treat. And we have so many sweet peas for bouquets everywhere. We are in harvest time and it feels amazing.

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While the rest of the country is facing a massive heat wave, the temps this year have been much lower and wetter. It is a welcome break from last summer. The grass is even still green!

And we are working on a name for our little farm. A few names have come up, but we are trying really hard to make it just right.

Happy July…we are already counting down the days till fall vacations arrive! Better get moving on these house projects…or renovations whatever they are called.