a picnic a week

Lane and I have decided (okay, I decided and Lane agreed) that, beginning along the vague timeline of "when it gets nice out," we are going to have at least one picnic per week.

There are no real rules to the picnic. It could be in our front yard, at the park, with friends, on Lane's lunch break, picnic dessert... whatever. The point is to be outside enjoying each others company and enjoying good food together. At least once a week.

We have had a couple trial runs. The first was about a month ago on a day that started out beautiful. However, by the time we had set up the blanket and sat down to eat we were pulling up our hoods and scarfing down our tempeh tacos so we could head out before getting caught in the rain.

We were quite entertained by a man attempting to parasail.

And even more entertained by the crowd that was quickly forming to observe his attempts.

In the end, he was not successful. And neither was our picnic, really, since we were not able to lay around leisurely in the grass soaking up the sun and enjoying the comfort of full bellies.

Our next picnic trial run was last Monday. 

We ate veggies with hummus, homemade french bread with pesto, and cheese. Oh, and green pimento stuffed olives. Yum.

...and apples for dessert.

After eating, James and I played at the playground while Lane paparazzi-ed us. 

So, my question is this: is everyone else as into picnics as I am, or is it just my compulsion to make everything into a production that leads me to love the idea of making portable food (or making non-portable food portable) and hauling it all a few blocks away from our home, only to sit on the ground and eat there, creating a big mess and, generally, even more dishes?

Even with the ridiculousness of it all, we are going to stick to a picnic a week. Who's with me?


napping in mommy and daddy's bed

"Good night you moonlight ladies...

...rock-a-bye sweet baby James...

...Deep greens and blues are the colors I choose, won't you let me go down in my dreams?...

...And rock-a-bye sweet baby James."

- James Taylor "Sweet Baby James"


springy panzanella

Spring always seems to bring surprises: a surprisingly warm day, a shockingly blue sky, a sudden and unexpected torrential downpour. Or, the unforeseen dilemma of your over-sized child who is not even two learning to climb out of his crib. Repeatedly. Until about midnight. 

Which resulted in the dreaded switch: crib to big boy bed.

We made a family Ikea trip on Saturday afternoon, which was uncharacteristically empty due to the beautiful weather. When we got home James and I headed to the park while Lane assembled the Gulliver, Vyssa, and Smila (love those Swedish names).

By the time we returned from our park trip, Lane had disassembled baby crib and put the big boy bed together. It was late and we were hungry.

Luckily, this panzanella was super easy to throw together. When we finally got around to eating it, however, it was after eight and dark outside, so the pictures are not so great. But trust me on the taste: springy, flavorful, and satisfying.

Springy Panzanella

For the vinaigrette:
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp good dijon mustard (I use Annie's organic)
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper

For the salad:
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
2 thinly sliced radishes
1 bunch asparagus, tough ends removed and steamed until barely tender, but still very crisp
1 cup chopped artichoke hearts
1/2 cup olives (I used black, Kalamata would also be delish)

For the croutons:
4 cups leftover artisan bread, cut into bite sized cubes
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
3 smashed garlic cloves
sprinkle of salt
1/4 cup shredded asiago cheese

Combine vinaigrette ingredients, whisking well. Mix in the radishes and red onions so that they are submerged in the vinaigrette. Allow to sit for an hour or so.

Take one smashed garlic clove and smear it over a baking sheet. Discard the clove.
To make the croutons, melt the butter in a large pan over medium heat. Add two of the smashed garlic cloves and cook until fragrant. Add the bread cubes and 2 tbsp olive oil. Toss to coat the bread. Sprinkle with a little salt. Discard the garlic cloves and spread bread cubes over prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle evenly with asiago cheese. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes (this a complete guess, I forgot to write down the baking time and temp!), or until cheese is melted and bread cubes are browned. Allow to cool before adding to salad.

Combine the steamed asparagus, olives, and artichoke hearts in a large bowl. Add vinaigrette and pickled onions and radishes. Toss well. Add bread cubes just before serving and toss again. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Enjoy.


the good, the bad, and the oh so ugly

We had our home inspection Wednesday which went swimmingly (especially compared to how the inspection could have gone if we had actually purchased one of the old charming houses in NE).

While we were there, I took some photos of the extreme outdated-ness so I could share them with you. Please consider this my "before" post. I desperately hope there will be an "after" not too long after we move in.

We'll start with the overwhelming amount of dark wood and the hideous fireplace with large non-remove-able mirror. Please excuse the random assortment of stuff lying around in the pictures. They are preparing to have a garage sale soon; if you are interested in anything you see I can give you the address (perhaps the large doll in the foreground of this photo? Or the strange lamps adorning either side of the mirror?) :

The kitchen is so overwhelming that I didn't know where to start taking photos. But I did snap a picture of this little guy who sits above the stove and will be keeping me company while I cook. Not creepy at all. Super appetizing:

In case you're not jealous enough yet, let's take a look at some other classy features and then work our way to the bedrooms. For starters, here is the textured wall in the living room:

And the amazing door handles. We will be replacing all of them before we move in, and selling them for a very decent price if anyone wants them. Like, free:

Nauseated yet? Wait for it...

The carpeting in two of the bedrooms upstairs:

... and the master suite. I'm calling this color "moldy moss":

Saddle up, we are now headed downstairs to the saloon. At least, that must be what the previous owners were going for:

Okay, now I will give you a few pictures that help to redeem what I have shown you so far. Here is why we bought the house:

This is the view of the reservoir behind our house from the top deck:

Here is the view of our hot tub from the top deck:

This random water fall and pond in our back yard will be drained until our children are old enough to know it is not a large puddle to jump in... but it's still nice to have:

The view of the reservoir and the humongous playground directly across the water from our house, easily accessible by way of a peaceful path around the reservoir:

So there you have it. A little sneak peak into where our minds have been lately. We have also been making home Depot and Ikea trips to price items, collect paint samples, etc. Also, my mom has been graciously donating all her decorating magazines to me. I can't believe how overwhelming it all is, and we haven't even closed on the house or started packing!

P.S. Abby, will you please move in with me for a week and help me decorate? I know that it may be a bit of an inconvenience for you, so I will compensate you with... umm... baked goods?


pesto, provolone, and sun dried tomato paninis


I don't really feel like this need a recipe. You basically put pesto, provolone cheese, and sun dried tomatoes in between two thick slices of artisan bread, and then cook them by smooshing the bread in between two hot, flat surfaces swiped with a little olive oil. If you would like more precise panini making directions, you can look here and here. After which you will realize that I apparently cannot make a panini that doesn't include provolone. Enjoy.


chipotle scalloped sweet potatoes with black beans

Dinner originally began as some chicken enchilada casserole.

I cooked and shredded the chicken. I gathered all my ingredients and read over the recipe again. And I had absolutely no desire to make it.

In my opinion, if cooking is your passion and you attempt to make a recipe that your heart just isn't into, that dish is going to taste awful. Well, maybe not awful, but certainly not amazing.

I decided I didn't want meat, and especially not meat covered with bottled salsa and cheese. But I did want spice. And veggies. This dish from Thanksgiving popped into my head, and I attempted to recreate it.

I took away the heavy cream that I remember being used in the recipe and replaced it with sour cream and milk. I also added beans for some protein so it could be a complete meal. (Although my husband still deemed it "more of a side dish." Large eye roll from me there.)

It actually turned out to be really easy, and very satisfying, with just enough heat and creaminess. The pictures, however, are not as pretty as I had imagined because someone wanted to be in all of them and was hamming it up in the background.

Chipotle Scalloped Sweet Potatoes with Black Beans

2 lb sweet potatoes, sliced very thinly (I highly recommend using the slicing blade on your food processor; it only took me about 20 minutes to figure out, and I only cut one finger...)
1 1/2 cups sour cream
2/3 cup milk
3 canned chipotle chilies (I think the ones I used were canned in adobe sauce)
large pinch salt
1 (4 oz) can diced green chilies (get the medium to hot ones, otherwise its almost pointless)
1 (14 oz) can black beans

Place sour cream, milk, chipotle chilies, and salt in a blender or food processor. Process until smooth. Pour the mixture into a bowl and mix in green chilies and black beans.

Cover the bottom of a casserole dish (mine is about 10" by 7") with a single layer of the sliced sweet potatoes. Top evenly with a thin layer of the sour cream mixture. Repeat layers until the dish is full, ending with a top layer of the sour cream mixture. Bake at 425 degrees for 45-60 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes are very soft and the liquid is bubbly (I ended up covering the dish in foil for about the last 15 minutes to increase cooking speed). Enjoy.


house hunt: accomplished.

Well folks, I cannot believe I am saying this, but we have a house! It happened late last night. In fact, we were in bed when our amazing realtor emailed to tell us that our offer was accepted!

I had a feeling this would be the one, and I received a positive sign yesterday when James and I were walking past the "free books" bin at the library and an adorable (albeit worn and stained) 1969 copy of The Little House was sitting in the pile. If you have never had the joy of reading this sweet book, it was originally written in 1942 and is about a city that grew around this little old house. The house goes to ruins, but is then transported out to the country and fixed up.

Anyway, I know I have said before that I would tell the whole house-hunting story once we finally found one, so, use the restroom, grab a beverage, and get comfortable, because it's a long one...

At first, we wanted (or thought we wanted) a house close-in Northeast Portland. Lane works on the East side, so the West side was not an option for us. We decided to establish a "no commuting over bridges" policy. We wanted at least two bedrooms with a basement or other "non-conforming space" (a popular term in the NE Ptld market) to make into an office, and perhaps a bonus room later down the road.

house #1: the one that got away
Sigh. We still talk about this house and how much we loved it. It was in Rose City, with built-ins, a big fireplace, hardwood floors, and a surprisingly open floor plan. However, it was a short-sale. But we were young and inexperienced little house hunters back in June of 2011, so we put an offer on it. At first we were outbid, but then the other buyer backed out, and so our offer was first in line. It wasn't until August that we got the call saying that the bank wanted more money. We refused to give them any more and re-submitted our same bid. Time was ticking because our landlords needed to know if we were staying or leaving. Around that time we started to think we might want something bigger a little further out, which brings me to....

house #2: the one that thankfully got away
I shudder now to think about this house. It was big and fairly nice inside, but I don't think I would have liked the neighborhood or the yard. We put a low offer on it to start negotiations, but the sellers decided to take it off the market. At this point, we had to give an answer to our landlords (who, by the way, have been saints through this whole process, thank God), so we had to cancel our offer on the short sale.

house #3: new construction
So we assumed that we would be in our rental until at least May, but we continued to watch the market closely, especially short sales and new construction, which take time. We saw a floor plan way out in Gresham that we really liked. We also really liked the idea of a brand-new house in a nice neighborhood. We put in a full-price offer. The builder was apparently out of his mind and asked if we would please write him a twenty-five thousand dollar non-refundable check before he began construction. We politely declined and decided that new construction was not for us.

house #4: very practical
Around January (or was in February? they all start running together) we began to look in a cute little neighborhood that would have been a five minute commute for Lane. The neighborhood has shops, a post office, a few parks, and a library in it. It would have been ideal for little kids because you could walk everywhere. We found a good sized, newer home, and put in an offer. After a little back-and-forth we finally met the price that the seller wanted. He suddenly had something come up on a Friday and said he would be unable to respond until Monday. Late Monday afternoon we found out that he had chosen to take it off the market. (Sound familiar? A bit like house #2?)

house #5: right behind kennedy school
This house was tiny. I mean, a shoe-box. But we liked that the basement was the same square footage as the main floor, so there was plenty of room to expand and build. There was no dining room, no garage, and one very little bathroom. But it was old and charming, and one block from a park, and three blocks from Kennedy School. Our offer was one of many, and so it took a while to get a response. In the end, we were runner-up, and someone else got it.

house #6: 31st and Alberta
No, I'm not kidding. This house was on 31st and Alberta. It was also so cute. Unfortunately, the sellers were quite aware of how desirable it was and, despite our crazy-high offer, we were again runners-up.

house #7: the one
At this point we were beginning to get a little sick of the Portland market. Everything in our price range was small, needed work, and resulted in a bidding war. I started dabbling a little in the Gresham market to see what kind of home we could get out there. Turns out, we could get a water-front property that is twice the square footage of any home in Portland.
I found this house online a week or two ago. It is big. And it backs to a reservoir, complete with ducks (and hopefully some beavers). There is a path around the reservoir that leads to a huge park with a couple fun play structures and picnic benches. But before you go thinking it is too glamorous, let me just say: it was built in '81 with no updates. We have our work cut out for us.
Lane, James, and I did a drive-by Monday on Lane's lunch break. We liked the neighborhood and the location within the neighborhood, so we called Patti to set up a showing that afternoon. What we saw was not pretty. Green and blue carpeting, wood paneling (not the funky kind, but more the yee-haw! kind), a lot of dark wood, and door knobs that Patti described as "castle-like." "More dungeon-like" I replied. She agreed.
But all-in-all, it is a house that we can grow into, and change the cosmetics to suit our style a little more. We decided to talk about it and get back to her.
Naturally, we found out Tuesday that someone else had put in an offer late Monday night. I was ready to walk away and continue our search. Thankfully, Lane was not ready to let it go. He pointed out that we would not find a house that size situated on such an ideal property again. So, we put an offer on it.

We began our house hunt thinking we would end up with something old, small and charming in the city. We ended up with big and outdated (I can't wait to show you the pictures of this place.. oh, and did I mention the lobster back splash in the kitchen?), but in a beautiful location. I guess it just goes to show that you never really know where you will end up or what you're looking for until you find it.

PS if you are in Portland or surrounding areas and need a realtor or know someone who does, I cannot recommend our realtor enough. She was so patient, so kind, and so knowledgeable about absolutely everything when it came to house hunting. She is also so good at keeping in contact with us that James often asks about her. Sometimes he will be "on the phone" and we ask him who he is talking to. "Pat-tah" (Patti) is his reply. To go to her webpage, click here.