Monday, April 25, 2011

Feast of St. Mark

Every year it seems I plan to celebrate our name days and every year I can't get it together. This year the Feast of St. Mark fell on Easter Monday so I decided to just continue the celebration one more day.
Cooking With the Saints has a San Marco Roast which I thought would be a nice departure from Easter dinner. I didn't pay enough attention when I made my shopping list because I didn't notice that I would eventually need to cube the beef chuck. I would have had the butcher do it and at the price per pound at Zupan's I didn't want to hack up good meat. I've never made a roast before, but somehow I thought that they were usually one piece of meat. I knew I had several hours to let it cook so I altered the recipe by not chopping it up.
And it worked! You know you have successfully roasted your beef when you can cut it with a serving spoon. I paired it with mashed Yukon gold potatoes and peas. Our Little Helper loves peas! I don't but I eat them just to continue his good habit. I really liked this recipe; it is seasoned with dill and yields a lot of meaty-tomatoey gravy. And it was quite easy, especially since I roasted it whole.

Easter Monday

A year ago today I went in to the RE's office for a blood draw in the morning to see if I was pregnant. I hadn't peed on a stick yet because in my opinion it was still to early to test. I was so hopeful, but would I really be lucky enough to have my first cycle of injectable drugs be successful in getting us pregnant? The day before I experienced bleeding with a shocking amount of clotting which I was convinced was my period arriving early. I cried and cried on Mr. W's shoulder.
It seemed like such a long time to wait for the results, but if was only a few hours. I have to admit it was very anticlimactic to learn you are pregnant while on the phone with a nurse. If I were using a HPT I would have done it with Mr. W so we would both know at the same time. It was a very awkward phone call. I was thrilled, but wanted to behave like a sane person; I didn't know this woman and I didn't want to share my relief and excitement with her. Perhaps if we had gone through cycle after cycle of treatment it would have been different because I would have more of a relationship with her. But as it was, I was forced to share this most joyous moment with a complete stranger.
That Easter weekend I was feeling very uncomfortable...down there, and was pretty convinced I had another UTI. When I went in for my blood draw that morning I asked them to also run a UA to see if I was correct. I had been right, so in addition to taking progesterone suppositories twice a day, I also had to start taking an antibiotic twice daily for a week. But the best news was that my pregnancy test was positive. My beta number was 42.06 and my P4 was 6.3. I was a little nervous, these numbers seemed awfully low to me. I knew there was a whole range of good numbers, but still I was hesitant to get too excited yet. I 'd have to go in for a second blood draw Wednesday morning to see if they doubled. Until then I'd scour the internet checking websites with beta numbers.
This first person I called was Mr. W of course, but again it seemed so unnatural to share this news via the telephone. We were both relieved that the fertility drugs worked the first time and we wouldn't have to go through another cycle of sticking me with needles. And finally, we're going to have a baby!!! It was time to celebrate!
I had included my mom and my grandma in the ups and downs of my doctor appointments, often times they would babysit for me, so after sharing the news with Mr. W I called them both and invited them out to a celebratory meal. Since my grandpa would be going too I selected Sayler's Old Country Kitchen. It's totally old school and the special occasion location of choice for him. What a relief to be able to toast to our success.
I considered this baby as my Easter miracle, even though he'd be due to arrive during Advent, he'd be my special little bunny.

Sunday, April 24, 2011


He is risen!
Today was a long day. We woke early so we could get reasonable seats for 9 o'clock Mass. The Christmas and Easter Only Catholics crowd the church so we have to get there so early. It is made more difficult since I am not a morning person and I am nursing. My mom met us at Mass and helped to with the children. There was an Easter egg hunt afterward but we didn't make it over to the Parish Hall in time. I felt so bad for Our Little Helper, he had such a disappointed look on his face. We decided to go straight home so that he could get his Easter basket. It was not my intention to make him wait until after church to get his candy, but there was no way we had time to do it before hand.Last night I set up all the Easter decorations and Mr. W helped me assemble the baskets. With our family of four we are filling up this mantle. The metal crucifix in the center I purchased at an antique store during our trip to Scottsdale. I wasn't specific enough when I asked Mr. W to buy two Easter lilies for me, he thought I just meant cut flowers. So I had no potted plants to put in the copper cache pots, instead I put a simple vase with the lilies on our entry table. I forget how fragrant they are!
For our brunch I made egg salad and served it on bagels, with BUTTER! Oh, how I had missed buttering my toast!
For as long as I can remember my Uncle D and Aunt T have hosted Easter. All three daughters have birthdays within a month of each other so Easter can be combined with a birthday celebration for them. This year my Aunt's family is celebrating her dad's 90th birthday on Easter so we had to make other arrangements. My grandma prepared the Easter dinner this year. I have been coming by the last few weeks setting up the table and decorating it so that she had less work to do. She made a nice ham and my Aunt R made a pretty and delicious fruit salad. I made the lamb shaped cake.
Two weeks ago my grandpa had an episode which the doctors believe was another stroke. His last one was almost 16 years ago and he has never recovered his speech. It was very scary for my Grandma, understandably. I've been a little worried the last few weeks because he's always napping when I stop by, but he is still up and about and today we took a ton of family photos and he definitely knew what was going on and was smiling and interacting with the baby. In the past he is sometimes slack jawed in photos, but today everything was working for us.
Happy Easter!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Holy Saturday

The last two days have been gorgeous. So sunny out that we can go for walks to the park and play out in the yard. The past two years I have had our Easter egg hunt on Easter Monday; I intended to repeat that but the forecast calls for rain. I though it might be nicer to have our egg hunt today while we can still enjoy the sun. I'm taking liberties here, but the prospect of dealing with the baby and the toddler alone in the rain was not desirable.I dyed the eggs myself and when they were ready Our Little Helper decorated them with religious stickers I found at the Dollar Store. I'd never been to a Dollar Store before, but a post on Catholic Icing recommended it for Catholic Lenten and Easter items. I purchased some Easter basket gifts there too. Then it was out into the garden to hide the eggs. I tried to make it a little more challenging for him this year. It worked, there were two eggs he couldn't find no matter how many times he circled the yard or how many clues we gave him. I'm not sure how I'll handle the hunt next year with two of them. I know some mothers color code the eggs. I may steal that idea!I've been holding on to some smoked salmon that my Uncle G smoked waiting for the right opportunity. In The Traditional Irish Wedding book I found a recipe for Smoked Salmon Bisque which seemed like a perfect fit for the fish and Holy Saturday. We also used some frozen salmon stock that Mr.W's brother-in-law Mr. L made when he was last out here visiting. At Mr. W's request I reserved some of the salmon from the puree so we had chunks to add texture. I was a little apprehensive, but it was the right call. It was delicious and from the chunks you could taste how sweet my Uncle's smoking was.
Because it was so lovely and warm out we decided to have dinner alfresco. Mr. W and Our Little Helper swept the deck and set up the table. It was our first (and probably last for awhile) dinner outside this year. We enjoyed ourselves and ate many servings of soup.

Good Friday

The Feast Day Cookbook says it was traditional in Germany to have spatzel and stewed fruits for Good Friday. That sound much better than the alternative of a strict fast. Years ago I had seen Marthe Stewart making spatzel by dropping the batter into boiling water and though it looked like too much work, but with only prunes as a side dish I figured it wouldn't bee too much of an undertaking. I followed the spatzel recipe in the book and found it very easy. I misunderstood how much butter to use with the bread crumbs, so I'm sure it would be even tastier.
I've never stewed fruit before so I used this Martha recipe substituting sherry for Marsala. It was very good; in fact both recipes were a hit with My Little Helper so I think this simple meal is a keeper.
I left everyone at home and went to Good Friday service alone. It is so powerful and moving which results in making me cry so it was nice to be able to give it my undivided attention.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Holy Thursday

It is already Holy Thursday and I've not made pretzels yet! I pulled out all my cookbooks on Wednesday to put together my meal plan for the rest of Holy Week and the Triduum. Much of my inspiration this year comes from Feast Day Cookbook first published in the 50s so a lot of the recipes reflect those tastes. In it they discuss dandelions being eaten on Holy Thursday as a nod to Passover's bitter herbs. Last year I made a salad; since I'm not vegan this year I decided to use the Holy Thursday Spinach recipe as a guide. I found a nice, big, fat, leafy dandelion in my grass and chopped that up with some spinach and sauteed them with shallots in butter and olive oil. It was good and not very bitter.
I couldn't find the online recipe I used in the past for pretzels so I did a combination of two others. I used this Lenten one for the ingredients and baking time but added the poaching step from this Martha Stewart one. I omitted the egg wash but they still looked great with the salt sprinkled on top. Mr. W suggested I make some letter too for Our Little Helper since he is into the alphabet these days thanks to a They Might Be Giants ABCs DVD. Both the pretzels and the greens accompanied a simple lemon pepper chicken breast for our meal. Unfortunately the timing of nursing, making dinner, eating dinner, and nursing again did not allow for me to make it to Maundy Thursday service and the washing of feet. Nursing makes it challenging to keep to schedules.
Earlier in the day, while My Little Helper was at a daycare, I took Baby Boy to Clackamas Town Center to have his picture taken with the Easter Bunny. I think these photo opportunities are kind of cheesy and feel the need to make them regular traditions. HOWEVER Mr. W had us take Our Little Helper to get a photo with Santa when he was 3 months old and I feel a lot of self imposed pressure that all children be given the same experiences. So I decided a photo at 4 months with the Easter Bunny would keep everything even; I don't ever want to be accused of being unfair. By the time Christmas comes my 1 year old will want no part of sitting on any costumed stranger's lap! We even got a smile. I think these white rabbit suits are so creepy looking.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


The F's decided to host a Seder tonight and we were happy to join them. Admittedly 3 is too young for the boys to take away much of the meaning of for Our Little Helper to see the similarities between Passover and the Last Supper. But any occasion is a good one to get together with our best friends. Mrs. F set such a pretty table using Granny's china and a tempting dish of coconut macaroons to tempt us.
We went pretty quickly through the Seder, the boys did try the bitter herbs in salt water, which had just the effect one would imagine. They were very excited about hiding the afikomen and the prospect of toys. After the bitter herbs though we were unable to get the boys to try the Hillel sandwich with the charoset and shredded horse radish, but that is one of my favorite parts of the Seder. Another thing they enjoyed was being able to stick their hands in their juice and touching their plates to symbolize the ten plagues. Who doesn't like a holiday where you are allowed to get messy?
Mr. F made a great matzo ball soup and roasted potatoes and steak for dinner. Very impressive since he decided that morning to host the Seder that night. She didn't think they would this year since she is expecting and still having some morning sickness.
This was an especially happy Passover for me because I was remembering last year's. Mr. F's mother had come to town to prepare the dinner for her family. After the meal Mrs. F, Big Mrs. F and another woman and I were talking about trying to conceive and family planning. The other two were talking about how which months they would avoid trying to conceive based upon the resulting birth month. These types of conversations among fertiles are a little upsetting to me because I'm not able to just pick a month and have it work so easily. I looked up to heaven and said, "Dear God, I will take a baby any month you will give me one!" Four days later I learned I was pregnant. In a way I like to also consider him my Passover miracle.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Palm Sunday

It is hard to believe that Lent is almost over! It seems to have gone by much quicker this year, especially considering last year I was going through my first cycle with infertility drugs. What a difference a year makes!
We had very nice weather this weekend. On Saturday I went on the Kitchen Revival Tour with Mrs. F and the weather was mostly clear and dry which was very nice for getting in and out of the car repeatedly. Mr. W was out late with his fraternity buddies, but decided that he'd get up to join us at Mass for Palm Sunday. Mass started in the field and then a procession to the church with music and everyone waving palm fronds and branches. It was very cold out, but very sunny.
Once we were home Mr. W made us blueberry pancakes with assistance from Our Little Helper and then took the boys for a walk to the playground. I used that time to work on the baby photo albums. I also made hazelnut biscotti cookies since time is running out for this Lenten season. The recipe for Quaresimali comes from Italian Holiday Cooking. In it they are described as being a Lenten cookie because they are "so hard they are a penance to eat." I made them once before for an Altar Society bake sale. At that time I didn't have the cinnamon oil, but they still tasted good. Hard, but good. I searched high and low for the oil; I was eventually able to find cinnamon extract at Sur la Table and hoped that was close enough. When I added the extract to the eggs I was overwhelmed by the aroma of cinnamon and feared for the worst. But once the beaten eggs were incorporated into the dry ingredients the smell was no longer over powering. I think it baked off too because there is a mild flavor of cinnamon in the cookies.
This was the most successful I've been at roasting and skinning filberts. 20 minutes at 350 degrees seems to do the trick. I haven't looked back at my other recipes with filberts but I assume those must either recommend a lower temperature or a shorter time baking because I never end up with all the skins easily coming completely free of the nut.
So even though biscotti is more often paired with coffee, it makes a lovely, crunchy accompaniment to tea.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Kitchen Revival Tour

Mr. & Mrs. F's Laurelhurst bungalow kitchen was last remodeled in the 60s. There is no dishwasher so they are going to do a kitchen remodel to update it and add a deck in the back yard which would be accessible from the kitchen. Although they already have a design established with Mr. Z, she and I thought it would be fun to go to this year's Kitchen Revival Tour. The tour is organized by the Architectural Heritage Center which is close to my heart because my father began his stained glass career in Oregon working for Jerry Bosco and Ben Milligan. When I was working for Craftsman Design and Renovation we had clients featured on the tour.
We left the boys with our husbands and headed out in their Smart car. We decided to start with the houses on the other side of the Willamette to a house in Beaverton. It was a 1949 Ranch, but the interior is completely Moderne. This house is so intact; the kitchens and baths are untouched and they are fabulous! The kitchen is paneled walls and ceiling in Marlite and the breakfast nook has the original chrome and glass table and upholstered banquets. A glass curio shelf divides the nook from the kitchen work space. Perfect inlaid linoleum is underfoot. The main bath is destined for, with original pink and blue Marlite paneling, floor tiles, and fixtures. The best part of this house in my opinion was the master bathroom. A fabulous chrome and Marlite dressing table and glass block. I am positively smitten! Who wouldn't want to get ready here? This house was a perfect fit for the homeowner too. Her mid-century collections and wardrobe are destined to live here. I caught another case of basement envy when I saw their basement bar. So fun! I also enjoyed the balustrade and the coved cork on the stairs.The theme this year seemed to be hex tile countertops. House after house had colorful hex tiles in some application. There were two houses on the tour by the architect Kenneth Birkemeier, the first of which was his home. Nestled on Alameda ridge on the North side of Fremont St. this 1951 mid-century brick house had an incredible view made all the more wonderful by the gorgeous overcast weather we had. I was remarking to Mrs. F what a beautiful day it was and another tour goer laughed at my Oregonian-ness. But, hey it was warmish, dry, and cloudy with a bit of sun peeking through. Anyway, while I'm not a Ranch girl, there is something to be said for floor to ceiling windows when the house has a view. The main countertops in this kitchen have been replaced at some point with a fat granite slab, although the cabinets are original. The upper bar and one of the lesser used side countertops retain their original blue hex tiles. It was in this house that I ran into a couple of former clients. Theirs was one of the kitchens we featured on the tour. The wife volunteers for the AHC so it wasn't surprising to meet them on the tour. We chatted about how I now have two sons and am busy but enjoying being a homemaker. They told me that they really missed me on their second project after I retired because things ran so smoothly on my project. I guess my replacement wasn't as organized as they would have liked. I must confess that their complement really made my day! It is so nice to be appreciated!
The second Birkemeier house was a 1949 Cape Cod with more intact kitchens and baths. Powder blue hex tiles on the kitchen counters, curio shelves, and wavy scallop trim along the crown are all original and make for an adorable workspace. I also enjoyed the light filled, adjacent breakfast nook. Another awesome pale pink and powder blue tiled bathroom has escaped destruction. The next house in Laurelhurst was my favorite. The 1913 Arts & Crafts house was under restoration by the new owners and is full of wonderful stained woodwork. The bi-swing door from the dining room leads into the most awesome depression era butler's pantry. Oh how I would love a house like this! The interior of the cabinets and the walls are paneled in Marlite. A pantry which used to house the refrigerator has been thoughtfully converted into a half bath. In the kitchen they solved the dilemma of cabinets too shallow to accommodate modern appliances by installing dishwasher drawers instead. A perfect solution because it would be a shame to lose these aqua and white tile countertops.There was one house from Sunnyside in which a back porch was converted into a breakfast nook in a very similar way to what I would do in our bungalow kitchen... the only difference is we don't have a back porch so we'd need an addition to the original footprint. The following house on the tour was a 1905 bungalow in Richmond. The house had a bizarre addition n the 1970s resulting in a very mismatched kitchen with Depression era tiled countertops with diagonal knotty pine paneled walls. The most recent remodel replicated the 1920s cabinetry, refurbished the hex tile countertops, and refinished the sink. There were some parts of the kitchen that I liked, but the whole space was still very odd; there is a view into the loft above. I do adore these swinging doors under the sink though.The last house we visited was a 1909 bungalow with Marmoleum Click flooring. I have a low opinion of DIY floating floor systems because they always sound so hollow and look so fake to me. But I was impressed with the Click, the seams were very tight and not noticeable. I was planning on a really involved design for Marmoleum in our kitchen, but would not invest in that now since we will probably move. However the DIY vinyl tiles are falling apart and must be replaced before we sell. I think the Click would be a good solution for us.
I always enjoy these glimpses into other vintage houses. I'm still not sure what the future will hold for us. If we stay I need a breakfast nook and mud room addition, if we move I need a butler's pantry. If it were plumbed I think I'd be in 7th heaven.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Upper bathroom

I finally finished painting this picture frame, which based on the newspaper dated December 12, was a project I started right at the height of my nesting spree. Now that all my first aid accessories are complete AND we have a wide angle lens, I thought I would post new photos.There are two inspirations for this bathroom. The first is this jade green color. I have been collecting first aid or Red Cross items since I bought this orange tin in high school. I keep tampons in it. Some red cross canisters lead to the purchase of the jade green First Aid book which I picked up at Stars Antique mall for $1. Several years later I found the matching First Aid kit across the street at Stars & Splendid. Mr. W bought it for me for our 2nd anniversary since it is completely stocked with all the original cotton bandages.I'll go into the saga of the tub in a minute, but when I thought about what color to paint the tub I was a bit indifferent. Then I saw an episode of How I Met Your Mother which featured Brittney Spears playing a crazy girl. In her apartment was a purple painted claw foot tub in the main room. It looked awesome, such a bold color! And then I thought about that jade green from the first aid accessories. I'll admit I was very nervous at first at how it would turn out, it is such a bright color and re-painting a tub is not fun to do once it is installed. (I was able to paint ours while it was upside down in the hallway.) The color is Benjamin Moore #__, and the walls are a lighter tone #__.
We had no plans to redo this bathroom originally. The walls were a pale yellow and the floor was a mauve VCT, not my preference, but acceptable. The slope in this room was off by about 1 1/2" in 8 ' which is pretty significant and water wouldn't completely drain in the tub which was causing the finish to fail. We decided to fix the slope by putting glides under the feet. Long story short, a leg broke off, it took us years to fix it, and when we finally got the tub and sink basin professionally refinished, Mr. W noticed how much he had scratched up the floor and ask me if I thought we ought to replace it. I jumped at the chance of course!
Here's where the second inspiration come in. I had a client with a 1920s Tudor Revival in Alameda and I was in love with their black and white hex tile floors. Theirs was long and narrow and had 3 medallions. I used their pattern as a guide and did just one medallion in the center with the same border. I bought unglazed 1" hex tiles from Daltile because they are more period appropriate. The grout is Delorean Grey. My carpenters were able to fix the slope in the floor some by building up the underlayment. The rest we fixed by having Stanley Avenue Tub drill bolts into the feet which we can adjust to get the right height, and we used nickel plated glides to protect the new floors. Our claw feet are a little unusual, even with all the tubs Stanley Avenue Tub sees, they don't lock in place. Instead gravity is what is keeping them on. To remedy that, and prevent another foot from falling off again they made a toggle bolt for the pairs of legs to keep them on. This is probably an unnecessary safety precaution, but it was worth it to us.The train rack was purchased at Rejuvenation and installed before was added the linen cabinet in the hallway. The finish is polished nickel. Now that we don't need to store all our towels here I can create a little vignette.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Spring fever!

Yesterday was gorgeous! The weather was a delightful 68 degrees. It was so nice and sunny out I kept trying to convince My Little Helper that we should go outside and play in the back yard. He didn't want to get out of his pajamas as usual. He didn't want to go on a walk either. After several hours I was able to convince him to get dressed and we made our first post winter trip into the backyard. Oh do we have some cleaning up to do!
Mr. W had left a giant pile of leaves, branches and needles in the middle which I assume was because he had run out of room in the yard debris receptacle when he was last back there in the fall. The pile was so big that I filled the container to capacity. My main goal for going back there was to relocate the two compost bins. Now that the laurels are gone I planned to place them out of sight behind the potting shed. The spot which they had occupied would be set up for the boys to dig and play trucks. I knew I could move the bins myself because Mr. W had emptied them earlier this year spreading compost around the yard.
Once I moved them, with help from My Little Helper, I sat back to nurse the baby and my mind started spinning with all the projects I need to do this year to get the yard looking nice and to make progress toward becoming a Back Yard Bird Habitat. I'm hoping that the nice weather wasn't a fluke or some April Fool's Day joke. I'm so motivated right now! If we get another day of nice weather I'm going to pull up the fabric that is in the bed by the deck. The previous owners had a sandbox there and when I dismantled it my mom and I thought it would be a good idea to mix that sand in with soil and compost. The Habitat woman suggested I take that all out. That's going to be a lot of work; I'm going to need an empty yard debris bin when I start that!
I'd love to go right out and buy some plants to fill in the bed at the rear property line, but the poison isn't working fast enough on killing the laurels, there are still shoots of new growth. I think will apply more chemicals, but we may have to grind out the stumps in the end. And I think after we return from our vacation I'll start hunting around for a door to the potting shed and have my uncle return to enclose that little out building.
For now, My Little Helper is enjoying all the dirt and playing with his gigantic sand and water table that my mother-in-law sent. How fun it will be when both boys can play in the mud together!