Lights out.

We lost power last night following a snowy windstorm on a freezing day.  We built a roaring fire, cooked a pile of pasta and fresh veggies and sausage, and the kids whittled by candlelight. There is a beauty to these long moments of pause. No music, no phones, no computers, no movies. Just the sound of a crackling fire and the shuffling footsteps of the dogs.

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Snow falling on my writing studio.

(NOTE: *NEVER* cook inside on a camp stove unless it’s incredibly well-ventilated–people do indeed die from this method of cooking due to carbon monoxide poisoning, so please don’t copy this example unless all your windows are open and you use it only briefly.)

A Frittata for Quinn

We have a brand new neighbor. She’s two weeks old. We have been eagerly gathering small trinkets for her ever since she arrived. Today we got to meet her! So we packed up our little gifts–a bay leaf bouquet for good luck; watercolor cards and ladybug painted rocks from the kids; a darling little turquoise onesie from a local store; and a potato-leek-rosemary frittata made with the eggs our chickens gave us this morning.

Frittatas are incredibly easy to make. They’re tasty and hearty, and one of our favorite ways to enjoy a savory egg dish any time of the day.

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Chickens
Photos by Brian Thompson

After gathering eggs on our sunny, frosty morning, we washed about a dozen, cracked them, and set them aside.

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We use a lot of butter in this household. I prefer Kerrygold salted butter because it has great flavor for cooking and baking. You can find it at Costco and Trader Joe’s at significant discounts. It keeps forever and can be frozen, so don’t fear buying in bulk.

So, if you’re following our method, add a generous chunk of butter, a good drizzle of olive oil, and fresh rosemary from our yard–all in the bottom of a cast iron pan. Then let it melt and muddle together over medium heat.

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Scrub and chop one large leek. You could use any type of onion, or shallots, and add garlic or additional herbs. I left the whites of the leeks whole, and chopped nearly the entirety of the green bits (except the tougher, frayed ends) into smaller pieces.

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Sprinkle leeks with sea salt and cracked black pepper, and stir to coat in butter and oil. I use a hoity-toity flake sea salt that dissolves evenly. Let leeks cook slowly until are soft.

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While the leeks simmer, shave about 5 medium fingerling potatoes using the large setting of a cheese grater, or cut very thinly with a good knife. I could have used our mandoline, but the cheese grater was faster given the size of the potatoes and the job.

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Add the potatoes to the leeks. Cover and stir periodically. I also added plenty of salt to taste, as both potatoes and eggs are a pretty blank slate for flavor additions.

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Finally, gently whisk the eggs with a fork about 7-10 times. You don’t want to over-mix. The slight separation of egg and yolk adds additional flavor and texture to the final product, and the bright yellow yolk alongside the pure white is quite pretty. If you look closely at the surface of the fork, below, you’ll see a ribbon appearance to the egg mixture, showing the separation of white and yolk.

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Add a pinch of salt, a sprinkle of black pepper, and a handful of chopped parsley and about a teaspoon of additional chopped fresh rosemary. You can use a variety of other favorite herbs at this point. Chopped sage or thyme would be great additions.

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Pour the egg mixture into the pan, covering the potato-leek mixture completely.

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Turn the heat to low (on my stove, I toggled between 2 and 3), and cover the pan to let it cook slowly from the outside in. It took about 10 minutes from raw to final, but I checked periodically to make sure nothing was burning. Don’t overcook. You want to just cook through until nothing is runny, and the center is firm.

Here’s the final product. Do you see the mottled yolks and whites? They offer a great change in texture and flavor as you dig in–especially the thicker, buttery bits of solid yolk. To test for doneness, gently tilt the pan in a circle to ensure that the egg mixture is solid and no liquid remains.

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Serve hot, if you can, although frittatas are notoriously easy to store and serve throughout the week for breakfast, lunch, snack, or dinner. We’ll often serve frittata alongside a winter kale salad and sauteed mushrooms. Shaved Parmesan and buttered toast optional.

Today, on this sunny Sunday, we bundled up in coats and hats and left the house like a small parade: The kids with their watercolor cards and painted rocks, Brian with the bay leaf bouquet, and me with our small food offering.

And we arrived at our neighbors’ house and were welcomed in to celebrate just about the best feeling in the world: A small, newborn baby, who cooed and sighed and snuggled in our arms for hours.

Lucky shoes & Smurfette pants.

Folks who know me well know that I’m pretty no-nonsense about clothes and style. I like thrift stores. Nordstrom Rack. Old Navy. Ross. Small local shops. Anywhere with very few crowds. I used to only shop at Banana Republic when I was a working professional, and it was only because the store was small and near my house, and because the clothes were basic. That’s about how I roll. I don’t like frills. My hair is curly enough to add plenty of frill to everything, so maybe that’s why I try to just wear basic stuff. And I like things that will last a long time so I don’t have to shop more than every few years.

Even talking about all of this makes me uncomfortable. Maybe it’s because I just don’t like to make a fuss about it at all. And here I am posting an entire blog post about it.

It’s not that I don’t have an appreciation for style, because I totally do. I ogle all my well-heeled friends and admire their shiny glamour. I love well-made threads. It’s just not my specialty. I’m a boots-and-jeans girl. With a white or black top. I buy a different black top every couple years and wear it every time we go out. (Which, given that we’re parents of young kids, and we live on an island, is, oh, to summarize, not often at all.)

All that being said, I do love treasure hunting. I have a minor obsession with two of our local antique and thrift stores. One of them is very small and it’s awesome because anything you buy there benefits Children’s Hospital and research. Even though the store is small, it has a ton of rotating items for the home and family. It’s not expensive. I don’t have to drive far to get there. And it’s for a good cause. I’ve found everything from art pieces to fun vases to killer jeans there.

The other day, I came back from an appointment in Seattle and stopped by on my way home. And I found these! Cute, cute, cute brown leather Born ankle boots with wood-style soles and zippers, and a pair of blue corduroy jeans-style pants that are super soft, and, well, blue, which is a color kick I am clearly into given that I now have a blue coffee table, blue pants, and want to paint our front door the same blue…And I got my fancy new shoes for $30 and my pants for $12. And oddly enough the boots match the color of my purse. So maybe I have style after all? Island style, sure, but island style nonetheless? Ha!

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Paired with my new fleece jacket that feels like a blanket, and my new wool hat, both on sale at our local outdoor adventure store, and I feel like a queen. I’m all bundled up. I’m sooooo warm. I’m so quintessentially Northwest that I might as well just go grab my fishing gear and hang out in our canoe with my Aeropressed locally roasted coffee and a microbrew. Given that I already have mud on my boots, I’m just going to dig up a geoduck and call it a day.

And every time I wear my boots, I get to think about how they benefited a child who needs essential care.

I’m going to call these my lucky boots.

Farmhouse Kitchen Remodel.

Last year, as we prepared to remodel our 1901 farmhouse kitchen, I read a blog post about the kitchen remodel process. The woman who wrote it was so incredibly organized that she warned everyone to be prepared because they might have to go 4 days without a sink.

People, we went four months without a sink.

There are a whole lot of reasons for this, and the main reason ended up having nothing to do with our remodel and everything to do with our horrific summer. Because of our summer, I did not do an uber-organized, wonderfully micro-managed spreadsheet approach to our kitchen. But. We love our kitchen. It’s exactly what we wanted it to be. It just took awhile to get there (and we’re not quite finished–nearly there). And life happens. It isn’t predictable. So here’s some truth from our little farmhouse kitchen remodel, which is just a tiny piece of the pie compared to all the perspectives out there. Hang in here anyway.

We worked with my father-in-law, who is an architect, with our neighbor, also an architect, and with our wonderful one-man contracting team, to design it as we went. And, it turns out, we are those people who are relatively incapable of making decisions without SEEING the design in person. So we’d look at plans and think “Yes! That’s perfect!” and then we’d see it play out in person and think “No! That isn’t what we want at all!” Our design-as-you-go approach is not for the faint of heart, but it worked for us.

There were a few key things that we stumbled upon while designing “in real life” that ended up mattering the most to us:

  1. Natural light. This became increasingly important as we removed the refrigerator and old pantry and suddenly saw the light change in our kitchen. Without the blocky big shape of a fridge and by removing our upper cabinets, our small kitchen felt huge and bright. The light communication between rooms was so profound that we decided we’d skip upper cabinets altogether and add open shelves instead. This choice might drive someone else crazy, but we are really happy with our space-in-progress.
  2. Open space. We wanted our kitchen to be easy to move around in, and easy to “hang out” in. If the music was playing and a great dance song came on, we wanted to be able to boogie around without bumping into counters and cabinets.
  3. Safety. We have two younger kids who like to cook. After a lot of debate, we decided that we’d nix installing a gas stove because I’d never be able to sleep in on a weekend if I was worried my daughter was going to set her long curly hair on fire while scrambling eggs. This is totally a personal choice.
  4. Timelessness. We wanted to walk into our kitchen and feel like it belonged in a 1901 farmhouse. I didn’t want it to feel overly modern or surprising. For lack of a better phrase, we wanted to preserve the space. And we never wanted to remodel it again. Which meant that it needed to completely stand the test of time and be made out of durable, resilient surfaces and products.

So, without further ado, here is a rundown of our kitchen before we remodeled. This is what it looked like in our real estate listing. It was adorable. We loved the stained glass window. But the 1980s-era remodel sliding cabinet doors fell off every time we opened them, and the stove burners were so crooked that we couldn’t cook eggs because they would slide too much. The counters were mismatched, both in surface and in size. And the floor, while perfectly serviceable, was made out of stick-on vinyl. (For the record, I love this kind of floor solution–so much, in fact, that I used it in our first house in Seattle. But it didn’t work in this kitchen because the floor was uneven and soft in places and I wondered what was going on beneath the surface). Here it is:

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So the first thing we did was remove all the cabinets and appliances, and redo the floor. This, by the way, is completely backward. You should never do the floor first. But that’s what we did. And it ended up being essential for us to be able to fix problems. Because, well, this was a 117-year-old floor. And when all was said and done, and the vinyl flooring was removed, it looked like this:

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So I was glad that we were able to fix the rot, the mess, and the structure, before re-flooring over it. Which took some work. And then the flooring team came in and threaded everything into our existing main floor in an intuitive way:

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And then refinished the whole house with wood filler (minus a final sanding and refinishing, which will happen later), and it looked like this:

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And then we began the work of designing the new layout by combining the original kitchen (which included the space around the sink, above) with the eat-in area (which included the little pop-out area with windows, to the left, above).

And for awhile everything in our front yard looked like this:

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And this is where we cooked all summer long–on our front porch, using a Coleman Stove for everything from morning coffee to evening pasta:

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And we fixed the walls and added insulation where there was none before:

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And then we tried to figure out where all the cabinets should go. We found *exactly* the cabinets we were craving…on Craig’s List. Our contractor arrived one morning and said, “Order these today, if you can!” and we did.

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We went to Tukwila, inspected the cabinets and found them to be just great, bought them, and brought them home to lay out all over the kitchen. And we saved BUCKETS OF MONEY.

I am laughing now at how many times we stood in this space together, while poor Brian moved these white shaker cabinets around. So many times. More than I can count. But then again, it’s Brian, after all, and he is patient and kind. We had a lot of disagreements about placement. I think that’s what happens when you have two people trying to design a space when both parties happen to care A LOT about how a space feels. But, it was OK. I mean, it was summer. He was super tan. And, well, to be honest, people, he looks like this, so why wouldn’t I be perfectly fine just kinda apologizing for my indecision while he sighed and then shuffled things around our kitchen ONE MORE TIME??? (Clearly, this is my favorite picture of him. I plan to post it all over the place.)

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At long last, we ordered our farmhouse sink, and it really was a much-anticipated, amazing, OH MY GAWD moment when I realized I might be able to do my dishes in a sink instead of the bathtub. At this point, four months in, it could have been any sink. I didn’t even care what it looked like. But Brian managed to find a good one AND it was on sale AND it was impossible to install AND FINALLY IT WORKED and I love it:

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And then then it was August 21, 2017, and the total eclipse happened and we had windows! Light! Action!

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I made an Eclipse Cake to celebrate, but it required no oven since we didn’t have one, and basically involved a store-bought chocolate cake with fresh berries and whipped cream, but it was a hit nonetheless:

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And then, for the love of all things wonderful and beautiful, we made decisions. We drove to Everett one day and bought a beautiful $600 Wood-Welded Michigan maple countertop for our kitchen island that Brian found at an antique store. We took our kids there, and while it was a very long, hot drive over water and hills, we thought we were pretty lucky to find it because we knew we’d use it–there will be lots of chopping, pickling, cooking on this island countertop in the years ahead–plenty of room for at least 8 kind bodies to stand around and discuss life while chopping veggies on this solid plank of maple–please, come join us this summer! Here it is, fully stamped to prove its worth:

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And at long last, we figured out where to put the cabinets. And we added an oven. We also finally added our retrofitted stove. And it just kinda blew me away because one of my dearest island friends had connected me with it, and we had an island metalworking team bring it back to life, and once it was set here, it felt like it belonged in our new kitchen:

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And then we took a picture that wasn’t complete chaos and dirt–OK, a lot of chaos, but nothing like before–plus, look! A shiny new fridge! A DISHWASHER! AND A STOVE that works beautifully!

So. That’s phase 1, as it turns out. There are final photos coming soon–maybe in about a month? Final shelving, painted shiplap, the whole decorated shenanigans of plates and cups and bowls and all that whatnot—and windowsills.

What do you think? Aside from the obvious budget blasts and all the things that a good remodeling plan would have avoided, this post is, at the very least, completely honest.

I wish I could describe the morning light in this kitchen. I wish I could transport you here and make you tea and coffee and an omelette. Come visit!

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DIY: That annoying teething table.

I love our dog. She’s one of the best decisions we ever made. And when Luna was a puppy, she was so darn cute that she could get away with doing nearly everything and our hearts still melted. Eventually, around 5 months old, she began to lose all her pointy puppy teeth, which meant that she chewed anything in her path that had texture–chew sticks (obviously), bones, sticks, rocks, shells, toys, Legos, stuffed animals, pillows. She left tiny teeth all over the house. I would find them stuck to my socks or lodged in a shoe. And then she upped her ante, slowly and cavalierly noshing off the right hand fingers of my daughter’s American Girl doll, the heel of one of my favorite pair of shoes, and then, finally, she discovered her piece de resistance: our living room coffee table. One day I returned home to find her systematically destroying the edge of it with a look of sheer, devilish delight as sawdust piled up below her little snout.

It’s been about two years since she polished off the edge of our table.  I didn’t blame her too much for it. I was grumpy, sure, but I had to admit that it wasn’t all her fault. It was looking a little rough for wear anyway. Our kids had banged hammers and sticks and toys on the edges when they were toddlers, and we rarely used coasters anymore so there were plenty of little rings and marks along the top. But buying a new one didn’t feel appropriate because we’re remodeling our kitchen, our living room is still in a state of flux, and I am characteristically not one to run out and buy anything new unless I’m certain it’s something I’ll want to look at for the rest of my life. But still. Looking at the chipped edges, destroyed corners, and scratched surface made me grumpy. Sort of like annoying music playing in the background that you try to live with but eventually realize is giving you a headache. It was becoming an eyesore that I was tired of ignoring. So instead of taking it to the nearest thrift store or giving it away to a friend, I decided to drag it out to our driveway and paint it.

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First I sanded it. Which was admittedly really therapeutic. It’s cathartic to sand down the surface of wood and prep it for something else.

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After cleaning it off, I spray painted it a warm gray, and then let it dry for a few days. Our kids said it looked like a slug during this stage.

Then, I added two coats of Benjamin Moore Arborcoat Deck & Siding Semi-Solid stain in Spellbound. I had to wait till it stopped raining to do my final step, which was to attack it with a power sander. This was pretty fun. I’ve never distressed a table before so I didn’t know what to expect. I focused on the edges and tried to reveal a bit of the gray and some of the wood beneath the blue.

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After Brian and I dragged it into the house and set it up, I decided I liked it. Blue is a tricky color to work with, but I like this one–it’s a mix of beachy blue and farmhouse blue, and I liked it a lot better once it was sanded down a bit. Even though I think we’ll still build or buy something else eventually for our main room that kinda ties in with the kitchen and dining area, this will work great in the basement when we turn that into the family room/hangout area extraordinaire. But mainly I love that it’s clean. There aren’t any more big stains or doggie teeth marks. It was a completely easy, drama-free, couple-hour, $20 project that I wish I’d done years ago. And as I was working on it I had an aha! moment when I realized I could paint it any color I want. Anytime. So, who knows. Maybe I’ll make it white or green or black or grey. And then sand it all down and reveal different colors as the years go by. In any case, this table is staying with us till death do us part.

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What do you think? Do you like it?

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Buckets. Of. LIFE.

We’re coming up on 14 years of marriage on February 14th. It’s been 22 years since our first date. 15 years since my husband asked me to marry him on a sunny Valentine’s Day off the California coast.

There has been a lot of life in between then and now. A lot of buckets. A lot of happiness and a lot of trials. A lot of in-betweens and big decisions and small moments. A lot of coffee and breakfasts. A lot of spending evenings perched like bookends on our couch discussing The Next Big Steps.

And I hope there will be a lot more to follow. Hopefully more blessings than hardships, more happiness than sadness, more good than bad.

Here’s to some kind of wonderful love in your life today and tomorrow and forever after.

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Endorphin blast.

We woke this morning to riotous springtime birdsong and sun–precious, blessed sun–blasting through our bedroom window. Our rooster was crowing his head off, surprising even himself with his bantam lung power, I am sure. The poor girls trapped in the henhouse were pretty grumpy when the kids finally arrived to let them out. We gathered our cups of strong coffee, gathered our 14  large eggs for our Saturday breakfast, and headed outside to inspect this glorious day.

Crocus were literally plunging from the earth and growing before our eyes. I swear it. The kids’ squeals of “Look! A snowbell!” Or “Look! Buds on the trees!” Or “Mom! Dad!! COME LOOK! It’s a FOREST OF FLOWERS!” were the kind of happy squeals that set the tone for all kinds of gratitude, the kind you can feel in your bones and wish you could preserve for the next gloomy, haunting, dark, deary, muddy winter day (how’s that for a ton o’ murky adjectives?) that we all know will meet us again soon–maybe even tomorrow.

So you have to grab it while you can. That’s how it works around here. Dust off the mud, cast off the moss. Soak in the sun with every fiber of your being.

Brooks was so excited he painted his face and has been roaring around shouting like a fierce monster.

Every time we found another sign of spring, the kids proclaimed that magic was afoot. I had to agree. This day. As I write this, the neighborhood kids have gathered here and their screaming laughter is drifting through the windows. I’ve cleaned my kitchen till it sparkles. We are planning a fine menu tonight including ginger-mint kale salad from the garden and cobbler with summer’s frozen blackberries and maple-spiced whipped cream. Yep. This is the life.

I keep thinking about that wonderful, childhood passage in Frog & Toad All Year when Frog tells Toad all about his exhausting journey searching for the corner around which spring would be. He traveled through snow and harsh weather and found nothing, until, as he says, he nearly gave up:

“You must have been tired,” said Toad.
“I was tired,” said Frog, “and it started to rain. I went back home. When I got there,” said Frog, “I found another corner. It was the corner of my house.”
“Did you go around it?” asked Toad.
“I went around that corner, too,” said Frog.
“What did you see?” asked Toad.
“I saw the sun coming out,” said Frog. “I saw birds sitting and singing in a tree. I saw my
mother and father working in their garden. I saw flowers in the garden.”
“You found it!” cried Toad.
“Yes,” said Frog. “I was very happy. I had found the corner that spring was just around,”

So, from our sun-kissed, water-drenched piece of paradise to yours, we wish you a happy weekend and an early touch of Spring!

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