2015, a very very late recap

I started this post back in 2016, and finally got around to adding the photos 2 years later. So here you go a recap from my year as it occurred 3 years ago. It sure was a good one!

January

Due to my job, I got rather invested in the Seahawks and their fight to the Superbowl. Mainly because the longer they played the more opportunity my nonprofit had to fundraise.
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Alex and I went out to eat (probably for brunch, probably where there was coffee).
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We enjoyed the chance to babysit the youngest of our friends’ daughters. It was great fun to get some solo time with her and see Alex show off his future father skills.
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At some point this was my grocery list, I don’t know what I was planning on making, but I am sure it was tasty.
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February

Spent two evenings creating the adventures of Seda, a half-ling ranger, and her wolf, Akela. With the help of a cleric and a warrior, we successfully found, stole, and destroyed the crown of the long dead Lich-king.
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Reached level 7 of Ingress.
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Got to cuddle this ridiculous puppy thanks to my former co-worker Erin.
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March

Ate brunch with Alex at Volunteer Park Cafe and then walked around the Arboretum to look at signs of spring.
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Went to Olympia to tell lawmakers to fund emergency food programs. Also spent time looking at the cherry blossoms.
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Alex purchased a long-a-waited desktop computer. He was very happy about it.
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Went to the Pacific Science Center with Alex to escape a dreary weekend, mainly hung out in the butterfly garden.
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April

Got a new iPhone 6, giant computing power that fits in my pocket. Main use? Taking pictures.
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Went on a weekend getaway with Alex to Ocean Shores. Walked along cold beaches, made food that didn’t require an oven and lived in a tiny cabin 10 ft away from a hot tub = fun weekend. The more time I spend with Alex, the more I am convinced that I married an amazing person.
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Lindsay and I’s office amarylis bloomed!
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Alex and I went to hear Neil Gaimen speak at the University of Washington. Gaimen speaks as intelligently as he writes, or in other words quite well.
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Jenn, Katie and I made pretty smelling spa things. One out of three was very successful, but mostly I liked the time spent with these fun women.
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May

Seattle attempted to demonstrate just how many colors it could jam into one season
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My family came to visit!
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My friends came to visit!
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David and Sarah got married (While the highlight is truly the lovely ceremony that reflected their deep appreciating for community based activism, the main thing people talk about is the llamas).
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I went on a hike with family and one adorable dog.
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I started a tiny porch garden.
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June

I went strawberry picking with Katie, Jenn and kids. It was hot, but very delicious.
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I ate a burger at Miller’s Guild that will be included in my top ten list of things ever eaten.
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Alex and I joined up with Hedgehog friends from across the country and spent a long weekend in Cape Cod. The house was delightfully old, the beach was fantastically close, and the weather was mostly perfection. Side note: My friends seem to have only very adorable children.
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Celebrated various birthdays with the Peterson family women by eating and drinking our way through a lavish high tea.
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July

The sad departure of a friend at work brought about Bacon Hor-d’oeves day which was salty, fatty and completely delicious.
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I took the bus down to Portland to visit Meryl. Portland was in a heatwave, so we spent most of our time chatting, drinking iced coffee and seeking out air conditioning.
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We also spent one day hanging out and swimming in the nearby river – a completely lovely day.
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I reached level 8 of Ingress.
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Jenn and I hosted a baby shower for Katie and Bryan, for which we mainly focused on creating a spread of very tasty food. Highlights include the various tea sandwiches, Jenn’s Tres Dulce cake and my lavender creme brûlée.
2015-07-26 14.08.13
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My amazing former co-worker Zan helped me get my very own signed photo of the Chef from Battlestar Galactica. #Nerdpoints
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August

Alex and I got very into making delicious protein salads like this one.
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I finally finished my contribution to a group knitting project – a Tardis themed baby blanket for Katie and Bryan’s baby.
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I ate homemade s’mores with my co-workers.
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I was offered a long awaited dream job – librarian and after much discussion with Alex made plans to move back to the Midwest. (No photo)

I baked a blueberry peach pie.
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I discovered an old macro cover for my iPhone and proceeded to take lots of extreme close-up photos around the apartment.
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Katie, Jenn and I enjoyed a celebratory (and final (for a while!)) ladies night by having dinner at a fancy waterfront restaurant.
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Alex and I “got sick” so we could spend the day savoring one last ferry ride around Seattle.
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We indulged in one giant weekend of RPG, trying to make up for the fact that we didn’t know when we would be able to play again. Battles were fought, Akela died a noble death, experience was gained, and so much fun was had.
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I reached level 9 of Ingress.
2015-08-31 14.16.00

September

I harvested the tiny red fruits of my porch plant labor and my spider plant decided to have lots of babies.
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Meryl came up for a visit and we talked, ate, laughed, Ingressed, talked, walked and laughed some more. Meryl is such a gem, I miss her lots.
2015-09-12 10.06.15
I went to my first ever Steampunk Tea and Painting Garden Party in costume and painted an owl. Somehow during my three years at my last job, many of my co-workers became dear friends.
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A baby was born! It was truly incredible to see such a tiny new life, only 24 hours old and to see two of my favorite people step up and become outstanding parents.
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David and Sarah treated us to an incredible meal at a fancy restaurant. We caught up on life and ate lots of tiny amazing food. This was dessert.
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While packing for our move, I found some outstanding old newspaper clippings that attest to both my extreme neediness and my brother’s early start to activism.
2015-09-17 18.21.45
As part of our farewell (for now) tour of Seattle, we spent the day at the zoo with our friends and their amazing daughters. It is very true that zoos are more fun with children along.
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After a feverish week of goodbyes, packing and much hecticness, Alex and I hooked up rented Uhaul and trailer and started our 5 day journey across the country.
2015-09-23 09.09.03
After a 16 hour first day, we took it a bit easier and traveled through Yellowstone on Alex’s birthday.
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Alex indulged my childhood love of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books and we spent one night and part of a day exploring the tiny town of De Smet, South Dakota.
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We finally arrived in Goshen, tired and ready to say goodbye to our Uhaul. My parents welcomed us with open arms and plenty of help with the process of unloading.
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Being back in the Midwest means getting to see several of dearest girl friends more regularly. This makes me very happy.
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October

On Oct. 1, I fulfilled a dream I first started to have back in 2006 and got my first full-fledged librarian job. While changing careers is always hard, I am excited to say this job continues to inspire me and make me excited to grow in new ways.
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After our arrival in town, my parents promptly left on a week long vacation, so Alex and I took care of their chickens for the week.
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Another favorite of my fall was getting to see my younger brother Jonathan more regularly and get to meet his really awesome girlfriend.
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While Seattle will always win in terms of mountains and water, the Midwest really takes the cake in autumn.
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A quick weekend trip up to Evanston brought with it fun city adventures and more time with Jess, who is always incredible to hang out with. This also brought about my first visit back to the Chicago Botanic Garden is probably over 5 years. It was as lovely as I remembered.
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November

Part of the advantage of living closer to the middle of the country is that one can easily take a day off of work and make a quick trip east to attend a cousin’s wedding. So good (if all to brief) to see family. (No photo)

The Midwest delivered a spectacular first snow of the year. 6 or so fluffy white inches and one very gleeful Norwegian husband.
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Another highlight was the indulgent Saturday spent with girlfriends watching all of the previous three Hunger Games movies in anticipation of the release of the final one. Fun was had by all. (No Photo)

Thanks to our interest in cooking and disinterest in choosing only one kind of cranberry sauce, Thanksgiving was an expansive feast including three different red (or pink) dishes.
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I reached level 10 on Ingress.
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Family fun also included a game of disc golf, whereupon the four non-Jonathan members of the family attempted to beat the frisbee king at his own game by playing together on one team. We were unsuccessful.
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Jonathan’s dog Mathilde is the cutest.
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December

I love living closer to more of my family. Now all that we need to do is find a way to bring Tim and Charlotte a bit closer to this part of the country.
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My growing appreciation for my new co-workers reached new heights with Ugly Christmas Sweater Day.
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Winter means seeing a lot more sunrises, this is not always a bad thing.
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We decorated the christmas tree with my parents.
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My co-workers are intelligent, dedicated and also incredibly goofy.
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Alex and traveled for the week of Christmas to Seattle where babies were cooed over, dear friends were hugged, coffee was imbibed, chats were had, food was eaten, presents were opened, family was enjoyed, and then we flew back to Goshen to celebrate Christmas in Goshen.
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Bagels were baked, sweaters were knit, games (oh so many games) were played, food was cooked, presents were exchanged and lots of laughter.
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We finished up our time together with a day trip to Chicago on the train.
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Salad Monday

A major point in favor of marriage (or shacking up with the awesome person of your choice) is how you sometimes have dinner waiting for you when you get home. Tonight was one of those nights for me – lucky duck. While this is not as seasonally apt as it was when we ate it 2-3 times a week this past summer, this basic salad with seared pork, feta cheese and delicious aged balsamic vinaigrette is a classic fav for both Alex and me.
Delicious salad

Comfort food and cast iron

I forgot to post this yesterday right up until I was falling asleep. So instead you will get two blog posts today.

Chicken Gravy with Biscuits
(A recipe made up by Abby on the fly, feel free to adapt accordingly)

chicken pot pie

 Ingredients

  • a leftover roast chicken
  • 1 onion
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 bell pepper (although celery would be great here too)
  • some frozen peas (Alex kindly pointed out that I forgot this key component
  • butter
  • flour
  • salt
  • pepper
  • spices that sound good (I used oregano, thyme, tarragon, and a pinch of paprika)
  • milk
  • water
  • biscuit recipe

A convoluted set of directions

Okay start off by picking all of the remaining chicken off of the roast chicken placing it off to the side. Take the remaining chicken bones and such and put them in a put with enough water to full cover them. Get this to a medium boil.

This is where the cast iron comes into the scene. Heat it to medium and add a splash of cooking oil or butter. Dice the vegetables and sauté them until the onion is translucent. Lightly chop up the leftover chicken and add that to the pan.

Next comes the gravy. Turn the heat down to medium low. Then take a nice pat of butter and add it to the mixture. Then dump a similar amount of flour (I used 2-3 tablespoons) into the pan. Stir quickly and thoroughly to give the flour time to get absorbed by the butter. The mixture should look sticky and mostly absorbed into the vegetables and meat.

Now add milk, I started with 1 cup and eventually ended up adding 3 cups. Stir after each addition. Let this simmer for a few minutes and then start adding your salt, pepper and other seasonings.

Depending on the thickness of this and your own whimsical preferences, add a ladle-full or two from the simmering stock pot on the back burner. Continue tweaking and tasting until the gravy is perfect.

Now times for the biscuits. Turn your oven on to 425 degrees. Make your favorite biscuit recipe. Once the biscuit dough is ready tear it into small bits and place on top of the gravy mixture. You want the gravy to be completely covered.

Pop into the oven for 15-20 minutes. Once the biscuit tops are all nicely browned take it out and allow to cool for an additional 10 minutes. Then enjoy

P.S. Once your chicken stock has released all its tasty goodness, strain, pour into a glass container and freeze for the winter ahead.

 

Pomegranate Walnut Chicken

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Ever since I first had this dish at an Iranian restaurant with Tim and Charletta many years ago, I have been obsessed with this chicken stew dish. In fact, part of the fun of having a blog that goes back for over 10 years is that you can find my first reference to this dish back in August 2010. Despite being a little time consuming, this is a dish I have literally made twice on one week (it makes for a great meal for presenting to guests). However, it had been quite some time since, I had made it, so this afternoon I decided to give it another shot.

You can find the recipe here and I will say it is great as is, however because I almost always end up tweaking things as I go, below are a few notes.

  1. The meat in this flexible. I didn’t have enough chicken on hand, so I threw in some pork. I think this would also be fun to turn vegetarian, with perhaps butternut squash, or maybe chickpeas?
  2. The only hard to find ingredient in this is the pomegranate molasses. I found mine at Whole Foods, although your local co-op or natural food store would also probably be good options.
  3. I was also out of chicken broth for this, so I used beef broth instead and it tasted fine.
  4. Another fun addition is to throw in a couple of splashes of pomegranate juice when you add the ground walnuts.
  5. Don’t skip toasting the walnuts, you want the richness of flavor, believe me.
  6. However, feel free to reduce the final 1 hour simmer time. I really only simmered for 15 minutes past the 30 minute meat simmer and it tasted delicious.
  7. Also I think rice is really the way to go with this one in terms of sides. I tried quinoa this time and you really want a more absorbent starch with this meal.

There, now you have all you need to make a sumptuous autumn/winter dish.

December catch-up

I had really intended to keep blogging right into December. Maybe not every day or anything, but at least a 3 times a week or so. But hey, you can obviously tell that didn’t happen, so no use dwelling on that.

So what is happening right now in this life that seems to be roaring on in an ever accelerating pace? Well the first week of December, I mainly remember for its theme of catch up time with friends. Monday I edited wedding photos for Katie, which was a fun project in figuring out what I can do in Photoshop and a chance to get nostalgic about a weekend that is already almost 6 months ago! Tuesday was spent going over a paper (which was so good!) for Jess, her big final for her penultimate semester of grad school. Wednesday and Thursday were spent having long overdue catch-up video sessions with Steph and Becca, respectively. I never seem to do as good a job as I would like in staying up to date with friends and seem to have gotten progressively worse at email over the past few years, so I am glad to take any chance I can to reconnect with friends I don’t see that often.

The next week was also pretty full on every week night, a chat with Jess, a visit to Alex’s house, book club, Pathfinder and a chat with my parents filled up Monday through Friday. And while this is veering into deep nerd territory, the Pathfinder session was especially memorable because I got one step closer to my dream of having my half-ling ranger character – Seda – become a wolf-rider. Our party was trudging through the forest on a our way back from a mission into the fey territory, when we encountered a dire wolf, who had just killed a she-wolf. My half-elf companion, Alana (aka Katie) made short work of the dire wolf (in fact, I think she crited on it?) and then low and behold the she-wolf had left behind a litter of 4 wolf pups! Now all I have to do is domesticate them and get to level four, then I can become of the wolf rider of my character’s dreams!

Thumbprint cookies

In other news, I am flummoxed completely by the idea that Christmas is a mere 9 days away. I feel like I kind of missed out on being very festive this year. Neither Alex or I ended up feeling like we had the energy to get a tree this year and when I tried to turn on our christmas lights (still up from last year in an attempt to “creatively light our living room”) only half of them would even turn on. So other than my spree of cookie baking from a week and half ago and my continuous playing of Christmas music since Dec 1st, I haven’t done much to celebrate the season. But on Friday (after Alex’s last day of student teaching!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) we have made plans to go look at other people’s Christmas decorations in a neighborhood known for its high electric bill in December, so maybe that will help me feel a bit less like this season of Advent has flown by unacknowledged.

Hamsgiving 2: Electric Boogaloo

Yesterday was so much fun, that Alex and decided to replicate much of it. However this round, we were much more productive and actually cleaned most of the apartment and cooked a Hamsgiving meal of spiral-cut ham, scalloped potatoes, stuffing, peas and salad.

The feast

Katie and Bryan came over a little after noon bringing with them a happy cornish hen for Katie and scrumptious pumpkin pie for dessert.

Alex carves the ham of Hamsgiving

After stuffing our faces we had a relaxing afternoon playing a new drinking related game that Katie and Bryan brought with them. I don’t remember the name, but basically you played a character with a unique deck and compete to try to get your fellow players to pass out from drinking. Very fun, luck based game, with a smidgeon of strategy thrown in.

Then we pulled out an old favorite – Elder Sign and worked to defeat Ithaqua, an ice monster who toke away one stamina from an investigator bold enough to use a spell or special item. While we did have two characters die, we managed to hold the monsters at bay for another few decades.

Getting ready to make some stuffing

I was also realizing that this 4 day break is the longest time I have had off of work AND been at home in probably close to 2 years. It is truly lovely to have two back to back relaxing lazy days and still have a whole weekend ahead of me.

Foggy locks on the way to Thanksgiving dinner

Home from work past 9pm….

….means photo post!

Although what kept me out late was in fact a very fun work-related free delicious dinner at Cafe Flora, so I am not really complaining. Just tired and ready for bed. So here you go, a photo of the deconstructed pumpkin paneer curry I had for dinner. Very tasty, although not pictured are my two favorites that were shared with the table yam fries and pumpkin creme brûlée. Katie – we need to get your blow torch off the bleachers and back into the game!

Pumpkin Curry from Cafe Flora

Green Bean Casserole

Tonight was a busy one in that I made two batches of Green Bean Casserole, one for a work post-Thanksgiving potluck tomorrow and another for a potluck and play event with Alex’s family.
Green Bean Casserole I
The first I made using Alton Brown’s tried and true Best Ever Green Bean Casserole which was fun because I got to make my own “fried” onions (not fried, but baked at high temperature after receiving a coating of flour and bread crumbs), make mushroom sauce out of real mushrooms instead of the stuff from the can.
Green Bean Casserole II
The second is the same recipe, but without the garlic or onions due to some food allergies. Instead of the onions I just used some lightly buttered bread crumbs. Thanks to my planned attendance at both of these potlucks I will get to taste both, so let the taste testing begin! Oh and if you are more of the visual recipe type, try out this handy-dandy video where Alton Brown shows you how to make green bean casserole.

Then deciding, that for some reason, I hadn’t gotten the kitchen messy enough, I decided that the staff potluck really needed something pumpkin themed too (no one signed up for a dessert!), so I whipped up one of my favorite go-to recipes – Nutty Pumpkin Bread from the Simply in Season. Unfortunately both loaves are still in the oven, so no pictures of that one. But I can say that I do what I do to most deficient pumpkin recipes, and added a handful of chocolate chips. Thankfully Alex has agreed to stay up and take the loaves out of the oven, so with that, I will be heading to bed.

 

Wonderful day with friends and a waffle recipe

What a day! From making waffles during a relaxed morning, to a deeply enjoyable 5 mile walk with Sarah and Mark, to cutting up veggies for my contribution to Alex’s family Thanksgiving to now being so full of delicious food that even the sight of more of seems incredibly unappealing, it has been a truly enjoyable day.

To help illustrate these events here are the photos to prove it:

Mark and I sampled the free baby cupcakes from Cupcake Royale

Mark and I sampled the free baby cupcakes from Cupcake Royale

Sarah and Mark at the Locks

Sarah and Mark at the Locks

The Olympics were visible

The Olympics were visible

Sarah and Mark on the other side of the locks

Sarah and Mark on the other side of the locks

Abby and Alex at the locks

Abby and Alex at the locks

The healthy hors d'oeuvres Alex and I put together for Thanksgiving.

The healthy hors d’oeuvres Alex and I put together for Thanksgiving.

And just in case you were wondering about those waffles, here’s the recipe (courtesy of the wonderful Becca who got them from one of her many cookbooks).

Amazing Overnight (Quinoa) Waffles

Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 t yeast
3 T sugar
1/2 t salt
2 c milk
6 T unsalted butter
1 large egg
1 1/2 c cooked quinoa

Directions
1) Combine the flour, yeast, sugar, and salt in a medium-sized bowl. Add the milk, and whisk until blended. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap, and let stand overnight at room temperature.
2) In the morning, preheat the waffle iron and melt the butter. Beat the egg in a small, separate bowl, then beat it into the batter along with the melted butter. Add the quinoa.
3) Lightly spray the hot waffle iron on both the top and bottom surfaces with nonstick spray, and rub on a little butter. Add just enough batter to cover the cooking surface–approximately 2/3 cup for each waffle.
4) Cook 2-3 minutes, depending on your waffle iron. Don’t overbake–you want it crisp and brown but not too dark. It’s okay to peek.
5) Serve hot with your chosen toppings. (I recommend the odd, but delicious combo of maple syrup, plain yogurt, peanut butter and perhaps part of a banana)

Wine, Washington and excellent company

Apologies for my short and as of yet unexplained blog post from yesterday. As for the hint about Katie’s blog, you will have to go ask herself about that one. But as for why I was posting at 11:50pm, much of that has to do with having a spectacularly full day yesterday. Doing what, you might ask? Well wine-tasting in Eastern Washington with friends from book club. And since a picture is worth a 1,000 words, here’s a glimpse into what the lovely day.

On the way to wine-tasting in Wenatchee, good way to spend a Saturday!

Grapes waiting to be pressed

Processing grapes

The barrel room

Wine-tasting ladies

Happiness in my mouth

The prefect getaway car

Liz and Michelle just found the perfect get-a-way vehicle!

Me an the fall scenary

Obligatory pumpkin

Team Snaggletooth

Fall colors